Late fixes finished as Penn. Ave. bike lane opens

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Local,Joey Flechas

After missing last month's Ride To Work Day because of a design revision, the bike lane in the center of Pennsylvania Avenue is now ready for use after the District Department of Transportation took a month to slim it down.

The opening was scheduled to occur mid-May, with the original design granting bicyclists a 7-foot-wide lane running down the center of Pennsylvania Avenue, with a 3-foot buffer zone.

The plan drew criticism from AAA Mid-Atlantic, mainly over the issue of creating more traffic congestion by eliminating lanes.

According to the District Department of Transportation, concerns about safety and confused motorists wandering into the bike lanes led to the revision.

"We really want to emphasize motorists sharing the road from now on," said Karyn Le Blanc, director of communications for the DDOT.

The lane has been narrowed to be five feet in most places, essentially inhabiting the median, with areas near stone pedestrian refuges slimming down to 4.5 feet. Much of the lane keeps the same-size buffer zone, but some areas are so tight that flex posts have been installed instead.

In some places, the skinnier bike lane gives drivers back a lane they would have lost under the first plan.

About 25 cyclists pedaled to the dedication of the lane Tuesday afternoon, where Mayor Adrian Fenty spoke in front of the Old Post Office Pavilion, saying the new lane is a symbol of America's dedication to cleaner transportation.

"This country is catching up to our European neighbors in their commitment to bicycling," he said.

Among the cyclists was D.C. resident Marissa Payne, who had some reservations about the new lane.

"I'm terrified, to be honest," she said, half-laughing. "Drivers here are very inconsistent with following the law."

She said she feels the lane is needed, but she thinks it would be better to mark it with brighter colors so the current white lines don't confuse drivers.

The bike lane is part of a 12-month pilot program through which the DDOT will monitor the usage and effectiveness of the lane, and make adjustments as needed.

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