News & Politics

M Street Bike Lane Is “Weeks” Away From Completion, City Says

“It’ll be done when it’s done,” says the head of the city’s bicycle planning operation.

DDOT officials showed off the blueprint for the M St. bike lane last May. Eleven months later, it's finally nearing completion. Photograph by Melissa Romero.

The District Department of Transportation says it is two to three weeks away from finishing a long-awaited bike lane through downtown DC along M St., NW, nearly a year after it was supposed to be constructed.

The lane, designed to run between 14th and 28th streets in one of the most congested parts of the city, was supposed to be constructed last summer, but was held up after businesses along the planned route complained that a bike lane would restrict their patrons’ ability to find parking. With the exception of one block the lane will be protected by flexible posts and moving the right-hand parking lane into the street.

The M St. bike lane is meant to be the westbound companion to the route that runs along L St., but its more complex design sparked many complaints last summer, forcing DDOT to alter the design. The route will be unprotected between 15th and 16th streets to accommodate Metropolitan AME Church, which convinced city officials that removing a travel lane from M St. and restricting parking even further would impede its large Sunday crowds. (The owner of Camelot Show Bar, a strip club a few blocks down, made a similar appeal, but was unsuccessful.)

Cyclists are encouraged that there is finally some progress on the 1.4 mile bike route, but are understandably wary of DDOT’s latest estimates on the project, which has been planned since the 2005 publication of the city’s Bicycle Master Plan.

“DDOT kind of gets halfway through these projects and doesn’t communicate to cyclists and to drivers,” says Greg Billing, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association’s advocacy coordinator.

So far, road crews have painted most of the white lines demarkating the bike lane, but still need to construct the barricades, post new road signs, and alert drivers that their parking options are about to change.

“It’ll be done when it’s done,” says Jim Sebastian, DDOT’s bicycle program coordinator.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.