Construction of M Street Cycle Track Might Not Happen This Year

Rain, community complaints, and other delays are stalling the overdue bike lane through downtown DC.

By: Benjamin Freed

At first, the District Department of Transportation told bicycle commuters that a much-needed east-to-west commuter bike route was supposed to be finished in August. Then it pushed the debut back to October. Now it’s October 29, and Washington’s cycling community is asking: Just where is the M Street cycle track?

A year ago, the District Department of Transportation completed an eastbound lane running along L Street, Northwest, to serve downtown bike commuters, but its westbound counterpart, connecting Thomas Circle to Georgetown, has been stalled with little explanation from city officials. Last week, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association filed a Freedom of Information Act request last week demanding some answers.

In resposnse, city officials blame the delays on rain. “Rain three weeks ago set it back,” says Reggie Sanders, a DDOT spokesman.

A more credible response is that the M Street track, which would give cyclists a barricaded route along one of the city's most clogged streets, has been a contentious issue. It was first proposed in 2005, but only seemed to be becoming a reality this year.

In August, when it became apparent there would be delays, DDOT announced the block between 15th and 16th streets would lose the barriers protecting cyclists from car traffic after the Metropolitan AME Church complained that a bike lane would cost parking spots. The owner of Camelot Show Bar, a strip club a few blocks down, voiced similar concerns, though the strip club did not get the same kind of exemptions as the historic church.

Now more than two months after the bike lane’s original scheduled completion, Sanders says the review process is still ongoing, though he says it will be completed soon. Whether the track can be installed in 2013 remains murky.

“While our construction season is starting to wind down, we are hopeful that we can still complete the project this year,” he says. Assuming, of course, the skies remain clear.