Protected bike lanes could be coming to our Main Street and that’s good for everyone. I’m not a cyclist but am I hopeful for the opportunity to transform Connecticut Avenue into a more complete street making it safer, more pleasant for residents and beneficial to our businesses, and you should be too.
The case for bike lanes is clear for cyclists or those who want to cycle more. But what about for those of us who aren’t braving the dangers of biking through speeding and lane-changing traffic? When it comes to DDOT’s proposed Concept C, which removes the reversible lanes and adds bike lanes and buffers on either side of the street, there are real benefits for everyone that we should examine.
Safety, a key driver for the Connecticut Avenue study, is best met through Concept C. The first reason for safety improvement is the elimination of the dangerously confusing reversible lanes. Crash data indicates spikes in collisions at the times of the lane change over. Add tourists and Zoo-goers to the mix of commuters trying to get to work or home, and the results are predictable.
Concept C gives additional safety benefits to pedestrians. Any community meeting about neighborhood mobility will find residents complaining about bikes and scooters on the sidewalks. Getting these wheeled vehicles off the sidewalks, the only current place where they may be safely used, and into protected lanes makes for a safer and less stressful walk, especially for kids, seniors and the disabled.
Pedestrians will also benefit from shorter distances crossing Connecticut Avenue. Buffered bike lanes will provide a pedestrian refuge at many intersections and make crossing the sixty-foot wide boulevard less stressful.
The reduction of lanes will also calm traffic along the corridor, which adds to our quality of life. More lanes means more speeding. As we have seen during the pandemic, when cars have open space and multiple lanes, they tend to speed and drive with less caution. The lane reduction, and the resulting calmer traffic, benefits the people who live here.
Drivers and buses will also benefit from the new configuration offered by Concept C through reduced conflict with other road users. Today, driver-cyclist interactions where no bike lanes exist are stressful for both, slowing buses and drivers abruptly changing lanes. Defining a space for bikes makes for less friction and frustration. The Concept C configuration also allows for better traffic flow by adding more dedicated left turn lanes which will allow for fewer back-ups and lane changing even though there will be an overall reduction of car lanes during rush hours.
Our businesses will also benefit from 24/7 dedicated loading, pick-up/drop-off and parking in our commercial areas on one side of the street. This adds critical loading during rush hours where no parking was allowed pre-COVID. It can also provide needed pick-up and drop-off space and short-term customer parking. That means there will be a net increase in parking at the times when businesses need it most. Bike lanes also bring more people to our businesses without the burden of limited automobile parking, boosting our businesses. A recent multi-city study across the U.S. by Portland State University found that, “despite longstanding popular belief, bicycle lanes can actually improve business.”
Let’s also not forget that encouraging more of us to bike rather than drive is good for everyone’s health and our environment. Transportation contributes 40% of carbon emissions in D.C. Fewer car trips, as we have seen during COVID, results in cleaner air and reduces our carbon footprint.
As someone whose family walks the Connecticut Ave corridor multiple times a day, these changes are a real benefit to our quality of life, even if I never become an avid cyclist myself. I hope the community can get behind Concept C and urge DDOT to adopt it. Send an email to your ANC commissioner and to the DDOT project team (Conn-Avefirstname.lastname@example.org) and let them know you think Concept C is a win for our neighborhood.
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