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Georgetown Intersections, Corridors Rank High for Bicycle Crashes

Data from 2008-2010 ranks one M Street intersections in the top 10 for frequency of crashes.

Crash data from 2008-2010 released by the District Department of Transportation adds numerical support for what many DC area cyclists already know: biking in the city can be dangerous. Georgetown is no exception.

Local blog The Wash Cycle recently shared the DDOT data online. Read that report here.

While the increasingly popular 14th Street corridor boasts the lion's share of the top 10 most crash-prone intersections, Georgetown's M and 31st Streets intersection is in a four-way tie for ninth place. When you look at Georgetown's major transportation corridors, namely M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, the crash numbers are more stark.

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During the data period the intersection of 31st and M Streets NW had a reported five crashes, resulting in three injuries. Several other intersections along M Street in Georgetown had multiple reported crashes. In all the M Street corridor in Georgetown had 21 reported crashes between 2008 and 2010.

Location # Crashes # Injuries Disabling Injuries M & 31st Streets NW 5 3 0 M & 29th Streets NW 4 2 0 M & 33rd Streets NW 3 3 2 M St. & Wisconsin Ave. NW 3 2 1 M & Potomac Streets NW
2 0 0 M & Thomas Jefferson Streets NW 2 2 0 M & 30th Streets NW 1 1 0 M St. & Banks Aly. NW 1 1 1 TOTAL 21 14 4

M Street is not alone. Along the Wisconsin Avenue NW corridor from Water Street NW to Whitehaven Parkway NW there were 18 reported crashes during the data period from 2008 to 2010.

Even side streets in Georgetown saw their fair share; there were four reported crashes along 30th Street NW at intersections from K to R Streets NW.

DDOT uses crash data as one of many factors that help determine where to install bike lanes. Though Jim Sebastian, a DDOT transportation planner, cautioned against putting too much emphasis on the raw number of crashes.

Instead, when possible, DDOT looks at the "number of crashes divided by the number of bike trips going through the intersections." A corridor with high bike traffic is more like to have a higher raw number of crashes, but that does not mean intersections along that section are any more dangerous than intersections elsewhere.

And bike lanes are not always the best solution. There are no bike lanes on Wisconsin Avenue NW or M Street NW in Georgetown. 

Even though the crash data might suggest that a safer bike route like a bike lane on M Street or Wisconsin Avenue might be worth exploring, space becomes an issue.

"We just don’t have the space always for bicycle lanes," said DDOT's Bike Director Jim Sebastian in an interview with Patch.

Georgetown's grid pattern of streets also makes the side streets safer for bike traffic, explained Sebastian. In Georgetown, DDOT installed north and south bike lanes on 33rd and 34th Streets, NW to help with the flow of bike traffic.

"A lot of cyclists are not going to be willing to take M Street," he added.

In addition to using the data to determine if a bike lane is a good option, DDOT recently used crash data to pick intersections to paint green to draw attention to merge zones, where bikes and vehicles often collide.

Another method DDOT has implemented to reduce crashes is the Cycletrack, which can be seen in various forms on Pennsylvania Avenue, L Street and soon on a segment of M Street NW.

“I think it’s no accident that we’re seeing a healthy increase in cycling in the District,” added Mayor Gray in a press release about the new L Street Cycletrack. “The safer you make cycling, the more people will choose to bike.”

The M Street cycletrack will not solve the crash problem for M Street in Georgetown—the cycletrack will stop at 29th Street NW, just as you enter Georgetown.

Do you feel safe biking in Georgetown? Do you take a route to avoid M Street and Wisconsin Avenue?

Shaun Courtney January 08, 2013 at 06:42 PM
Thanks for your comments, mh. I asked DDOT what sort of changes might be feasible to make M Street safer for bikers. While Jim Sebastian did not think that green paint at the intersection would work at Wisconsin and M, he said it might be feasible elsewhere. Do you think it would make a difference? -SC
GNR B January 08, 2013 at 10:58 PM
I don't know about M Street, but the bikers I've seen on Wisconsin pretty much ride properly, using the no-parking curb lane and riding behind buses. However, if they want to talk about 30th Street and most other 4-way intersections in residential Georgetown, that's a different story all together. I would guess that maybe 1 out of 4 bikes actually slows down at an intersection, maybe even stops. The rest just fly through. So I'd love to know about the accidents on 30th and if these were regular commuters - bikers with helmets, safety gear like lights and reflective clothes, or casual bikers on the rental bikes.
RNM January 09, 2013 at 03:57 AM
Sure we may cross an intersection when traffic is clear...we are not scofflaws. Um, rationalizing when one follows traffic laws is amusing. Sure people make mistakes, but you just owned up to picking and choosing when you follow laws. I am highly respectful of everyone on e road be they car, bus, bike, pedestrian...but most folks seem too preoccupied with their myopic self interests. They are offended when you don't want to stop in traffic while they pose a family photo in front of Feorgetown Cupcake...they are frustrated when you turn with an arrow and they opt to ride through tht intersection because they can't see that you have an arrow. Common sense would be great but many of the bikers and city planner types I know advocating for more and more changes for bikers not to share but get their own lanes seems more like religion than common sense.
mh January 09, 2013 at 04:23 AM
@Shaun- I'm not sure how much of a difference the green paint makes. The cycle tracks make a huge noticeable difference, but the green paint--probably marginal at best, though I'll leave that one to the experts at DDOT. I understand space is already very constrained on that segment of M St, so I don't anticipate that there's any chance for bike lanes on M, so green paint is probably the best that can be done given the space constraints.
lsf January 09, 2013 at 05:24 AM
I drive through Georgetown regularly, for years, and I can count on one hand the number of bikers I see follow the laws. In particular the lack of acknowledgment for the stop signs. They fly through, often right as I am stopping for them. Bikers, sorry, but you actually have laws you need to follow. I get infuriated at bikers more than I do car drivers now in Georgetown. That says something given how badly car driver behave there.

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