As residents and road users, we find it incomprehensible that a solution to prevent bicycle tires from becoming lodged in the the streetcar rails has yet to be found. Since they were installed, the streetcar rails have been detrimental to bicyclists and pedestrians alike. Even before the rails were laid, this issue was brought to the attention of the city and planners.
On June 23, 2018, Malik Habib’s bicycle tire got caught in the tracks of the DC Streetcar on H Street NE, just east of the Hopscotch Bridge. He flipped over his handlebars, and was killed by a charter bus. Weeks later, the BikeDC community came together for a memorial ride at this location, where we demanded that the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) install flange fillers to help prevent future bicyclist crashes. In addition to this tragedy, numerous bicyclists and pedestrians have fallen prey to the streetcar rails, so much so a local bike shop keeps a first aid kit on hand specifically to patch up these injuries.
At the time of the ride, DDOT told us flange fillers were not a short-term option, but the agency would look into it. They promised to study flange filler options at their railyard over the winter. To date, we have not officially heard what filler options were studied or the outcome. Instead, DDOT added some paint and flexible delineator posts to channel people on bicycles onto the contraflow lane on G Street NE. What we know, however, is the streetcar rails on H Street continue to be a hazard to cyclists and pedestrians.
We need a solution that would protect the lives of people who want or need to bike on H Street. Even with alternative bike routes on G and I Streets, people on bicycles visit and patronize businesses on H Street, and bicyclists may legally ride on H Street for as long or as short as they like. Some bicyclists might not even realize alternate routes are available.
With the Benning Road Expansion is on the horizon, it is more critical than ever for us to find streetcar rails that are safe for bicyclists and pedestrians. As of 2014, 38% of Ward 7 residents did not own a car. A streetcar would improve mobility for many residents of Ward 7, and anything we can do to get people out of cars is a good thing, but let's make our streetcar system as safe as it can be.
Now we urge DDOT to do whatever it takes to find a satisfactory street design solution to make the DC Streetcar rails safer for all road users. We can’t afford another death because of our unsafe infrastructure.
cc:Jeff Marootian, DDOT DirectorCharles Allen, Ward 6 CouncilmemberVincent Gray, Ward 7 CouncilmemberMary Cheh, Ward 3 Councilmember and Transportation Committee ChairDeputy Mayor Donahue Vision Zero Director Linda Bailey