Five Favorites: Complete Streets

Photo courtesy of
‘Mount Pleasant and National Baptist Church, Bike lane in foreground’
courtesy of ‘tedeytan’

Just this week, DDOT adopted a complete streets policy that encourages streets that accommodate all users– motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, and transit users.  This marks a shift from the auto-centric planning that has long dominated transportation planning throughout the country.  Even though DC is slightly late with its policy (168 jurisdictions already have complete streets policies on record), there are already so many great streets in the District that are fantastic examples of complete streets.  So here’s a list of our five favorite complete streets in the District.

Photo courtesy of
‘Day 80: Capitol Hill Sunset’
courtesy of ‘InspirationDC’

Number 5: East Capitol Street
Not only does East Capitol Street have a beautiful view of the Capitol framed by trees, it’s also a lovely street to travel on. Lots of sidewalks, well-marked bike lanes, bus stops, and just two lanes of traffic make this street a pleasure to walk or bike along. The surrounding Capitol Hill neighborhood and the proximity of Lincoln Park make this stretch even more beautiful.

Photo courtesy of
‘Go Skate Day’
courtesy of ‘maxedaperture’

Number 4: 14th Street
The stretch of 14th Street from Thomas Circle through U Street up to Columbia Heights is another great example of a complete street.  There are bike lanes in both directions from Thomas Circle to U Street (and several Capital Bikeshare stations along the corridor), pretty wide sidewalks, and lots of great transit service (the 52/53/54 line serves the street, along with the Adams Morgan-McPherson Square Circulator).  It does have a tendency to turn into gridlock near K Street as people block the box during rush hour, but otherwise it’s a pretty great street for all users.

Photo courtesy of
‘Cowboys in the Street’
courtesy of ‘M.V. Jantzen’

Number 3: 7th Street
DC’s downtown has come alive in the past decade with all the development along 7th Street NW.  And it’s a great street for just about everyone– there’s a shared bike/bus lane (even though that restriction seems to be ignored a lot of the time), nice looking brick sidewalks, plenty of crosswalks, and of course a Barnes dance that lets pedestrians take over the intersection at 7th and H.  And with so much activity on the street at just about any hour, it’s a pleasant place to be.  And there’s so much energy.  Tom says, “I love the different textures that run along that stretch… I love the energy around Verizon Center on a game night.  To see the Caps faithful descend like a red mob, it’s really amazing.  I love the Friendship Arch at H Street, and the shuttle that takes you off to H Street.  There’s a lot to love on that street.”

Photo courtesy of
‘Pennsylvania Avenue’
courtesy of ‘Rob Shenk’

Number 2: Pennsylvania Avenue
The most well-known street in the District also happens to be a great example of a complete street.  Pennsylvania Avenue has a prominent cycle track for cyclists, wide sidewalks on either end to accommodate pedestrians, lots of bus stops to accommodate transit users, and lots of lanes to accommodate motorists.  It’s a great place to walk, with tree-lined streets (seriously, look at all the trees in the photo above!), benches for sitting, a beautiful view, and plenty of attractions like museums and restaurants.

Photo courtesy of
‘Room & Board T Street NW’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

Number 1: Any Number of Awesome Neighborhood Streets
Some of the best streets for bikes and pedestrians aren’t the big streets and avenues listed above, they’re the smaller neighborhood streets around the District that you walk and bike on every day.  Brittany loves Kilbourne Place NW in Mount Pleasant, saying “You can easily walk/bike, there is a gentle hill to it, not too many cars, lots of trees. Very ‘neighborhood’ feel.”  I’m partial to Q Street and R Street in Dupont, which both have great bike lanes, brick sidewalks, and lots of shady trees. They’re perfect neighborhood streets that prioritize pedestrians and cyclists while still accommodating cars.  Calvert Street in Adams Morgan is another great street, with its bike lanes and wide sidewalks and several bus routes.

DC is home to lots of great streets that accommodate everyone, from our big avenues to our one-way side streets.  And while Pennsylvania Avenue has it all, many neighborhood tree-lined streets with bike lanes, sidewalks, and bus stops do too.  DDOT’s policy is a step in the right direction to ensure that all of DC’s streets, no matter what size they are, are safe and comfortable for all users.

Shannon grew up in the greater DC area/Maryland suburbs, went to Virginia for college and grad school (go Hoos!), and settled in DC in 2006. She’s an urban planner who loves transit (why yes, that is her dressed as a Metro pylon for Halloween), cities, and all things DC. Email her at Shannon (at)!

8 thoughts on “Five Favorites: Complete Streets

  1. I know this has been a hot topic in other threads, and I just can’t resist. Look again at all those beautiful pictures of DC streets. Notice something about each of them?

    No overhanging traffic lights, no telephone poles, no hanging utility wires, and (yeah here it comes) no overhead center lane trolley power lines.

    oh well…

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  3. I love all these streets too, and the bike lanes in DC, but wish that drivers realized how dangerous it is when they use it as a parking spot or passing lane. The streets would be much better with more cooperation…

  4. On the flipside, Stephanie – it’d be great if cyclists followed the same rules as cars if they want to play in traffic.

  5. Just saying…Looking forward to giving up a pen-width of my sightline for the much greater benefit of streetcars. Can’t even see the wire from a distance. Bring ’em on!