Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that DDOT will be moving forward on the next stage of planning for protected bike lanes on Connecticut Ave. The move endorsing DDOT’s “Concept C” is victory for many residents in Ward 3 who have been advocating for safer streets.
Concept C was a choice that evolved from a comprehensive public engagement process that sought to achieve several key goals:
- end the dangerous reversible lanes
- add protected bike lanes
- provide parking/loading at the commercial areas
- improve pedestrian safety at street crossings
- ensure bus service is uninterrupted
- slow car traffic
In what was perhaps the most successful DDOT public engagement process in memory, likely enhanced by the virtual meeting experience, record numbers of residents participated in multiple meetings with DDOT staff at civic associations, advocacy groups like ours, and ANCs. Questions were asked by people who had not only read the studies DDOT produced on traffic flow and route diversions, but offered critique of their methodology. For example, the traffic model did not account for “mode shift,” the opting for a bike or transit instead of driving. DDOT knows this will happen, but does not have models to account for it. The studies also only measured roadway success through a metric called “Level of Service,” which is determined only from a driver point of view, not other road users. Hopefully these metrics will be reoriented away from auto-centrism to a view that prioritizes Vision Zero and the reduction of vehicle miles traveled, both stated goals of the District.
Earlier this spring, unanimous votes of support for Concept C came from ANC’s 3E, 3F and 3/4 G. ANC 3C voted 7-2 in favor of Concept C, leaving Nancy MacWood and Vicki Gersten as the only two ANC commissioners out of 24 in the region that did not vote in favor of Concept C. Rarely do you see such broad level of local support for such a major change in a road pattern. Once implemented, the 3 mile stretch of Connecticut Ave will be the the first significant protected bike lane in Ward 3. And with an expected 3,200 cyclists using the lanes per day by year five, the Connecticut Ave bike lanes will be the highest trafficked on-street cycle infrastructure in the District.
Throughout the process, Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh has been a strong advocate of protected bike lanes on Connecticut Ave, and of Concept C when it became an option. As the chair of the Council’s Transportation committee, her voice carries more weight than others.
Yet despite this overwhelming support, DDOT hesitated to make a decision on Concept C for nearly six months. On December 15th, Mayor Bowser took to social media to announce her strong support for the plan, saying, “It was clear that this design best meets the needs of our city and moves us closer to a greener DC, a safer DC, and a DC that is less reliant on cars.”
These aren’t easy decisions for elected officials. If you would like to see more bold actions that prioritize pedestrians and cyclists over cars, send a note of thanks to Mayor Bowser (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Mary Cheh (email@example.com), and to ANC commissioners who supported this plan.
The next step is getting into the finer details of how the street layout would work block to block. Mary Cheh included $2.2 million in the current budget for this work to begin as soon as an RFP can be issued and procurement decision made. The design phase will need as much or more public input than the concept phase. There will be efforts to shrink the widths of bike lanes and buffers and other “edits” that will undermine the overall effect of the effort. Stay tuned for call for action from CPSG!
It is expected that the design phase will take somewhere around 18 mounts to complete. Cleveland Park is about to embark on an 18 month project to right-size storm water drainage infrastructure and revamp the streetscape. Ideally the redesign of the Avenue can coincide with the completion of the streetscape project.
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