I recently took the 15th St. NW Contraflow bike lane here in DC and I wanted to share my thoughts on the issue.
Put aside the fact that the word yield and turn were intially painted on the pavement incorrectly, the lane definitely has potential and added benefits to the acceptance of a more diverse bike network in the city.
-- Physically Seperated Bike Lane - The bike going south on 15th is physically seperated by the parked vehicles. This creates a safer riding experience, especially going against the flow of traffic.
-- The fact that it's there - Given it's a test run, I am glad that they are trying this out. It has proven effective in other cities and countries, why not do it here in the capital.
-- Another alternative route for bicyclists to take.
-- Issue of fluidity and connectedness to the rest of the bike network - The lane runs from U St. to Massachusetts. Unfortunately, the existing bike network of routes do not actively connect you to this contraflow lane, which deters ridership usage. The route needs to connect up to V St. in order for it to connect to the V St. bike lane going East.
-- Visibility - The lane is there, yes. It is marked with flexible yellow posts, yes. There is signage, yes. However, the lane blends in with the road too much. I believe the bike lane should be painted green in order for it to be more visible and have drivers be aware that something is going on there and to think and look twice before they turn into one of the letter streets.
All in all, we need to keep this. People will learn to adapt to the new lane and the fact that it reduced traffic flow to two lanes. Bicyclists need more options on the road and to foster a greater importance of bringing the streets back to the people and not being just car-centric.