KELSEY DICKEY / THE EAGLE
The District is adding bike lanes to several area streets in an attempt to increase bicycle safety in the city.
The closest lanes to campus will be on the 15th Street corridor between U Street and Massachusetts Avenue. They are planned to continue from Massachusetts onto Nebraska Avenue, from Main Campus to Tenley, according to District Department of Transportation.
Carol Foster, an AU student and head of the AU Bike Lending program, spoke about the difficulties for bicyclists near campus.
“The streets are busy, drivers are aggressive and sidewalks are too bumpy and narrow to share with pedestrians,” she said in an e-mail. “AU’s neighborhood is a beautiful place, but many students still feel uncomfortable riding bikes through the area.”
The situation could change in the near future.
“With bike lanes, bicyclists have a safe place to ride,” she said. “Without them, however, pedestrians don’t want them on the sidewalks and cars don’t want them on the roads.”
Michelle Dromgold, a senior in the School of International Service and an avid bicyclist, said she is excited about the new plan but also has concerns about its success.
“The bike lane on the 15th Street corridor has the potential to transform the city for bicycling,” she said in an e-mail. “However, new and existing bike lanes often only last for a short distance, and they begin and end on busy stretches of roads that lack bike lanes or a safe place for bicyclists to ride. These changes must be accompanied by a larger strategic plan for improving biking in the city.”
Dromgold said she thinks the promotion of bike lanes in the city needs to be accompanied by a shift in the mentality of both D.C. bicyclists and drivers.
“The change in mentality of both cyclists and drivers must be undergone to ensure the safety of bicyclists, and should be promoted to change the overall attitude towards biking.”
She said signaling turns, wearing helmets and sharing the road could help to secure the change in bike safety in the city.
Foster will be touring the proposed bike lanes with Director of Sustainability Chris O’Brien, Sustainability Coordinator Lindsay Madeira and a member of the District city government on Wednesday, Dec. 9. While Foster currently chooses to ride her bike regardless of the uncomfortable biking conditions near campus, she says the absence of safe bike lanes can definitely be a deterrent for other students to use a bicycle.
D.C.’s Smartbike program is another method that has been introduced throughout the city in order to promote bicycling and enhance the public transportation system. The new, automated sharing program, which will allow people to rent a bicycle from multiple docking points around the city, is highly anticipated by Dromgold.
“With the ease and convenience of renting a bike for a short one-way or round-trip ride, additional promotion should be used to encourage the use of the program to ensure that it is more accessible to the public,” Dromgold said.
Foster also finds this new program to be an important addition to D.C.’s transportation system.
“I am really happy that D.C. is the first American city to get [the program],” Foster said. “It is a great sustainable initiative that I hope keeps catching on in cities across the country.”