Unsafe Bike Lanes Need Addressing

ANC 6C Report

260

All six ANC commissioners: Christine Healey (6C01), Karen Wirt (6C02), Jay Adelstein (6C03), Mark Eckenwiler (6C04), Joel Kelty (6C05) and Drew Courtney (6C06) were in attendance.

At the April 14 meeting of the ANC 6C, commissioners discussed the development of bike lanes on K Street NE and community concerns surrounding cyclist safety and an update to NOMA public parks.

Cyclist Safety and Bike Lanes
Transportation and Public Space Committee Chair Christy Kwan spoke about the recent development and construction on the bike lanes on K Street NE. The project goes down K Street from First St NE westward to Seventh St NE.

Kwan said that while the committee is pleased to see development that will allow bikers to bike safely from the neighborhood to Mount Vernon Square and downtown, there are some safety concerns that have not yet been addressed by the District Department of Transportation (DDOT).

“There are several concerns,” Kwan said. “Mostly about the intersection of First St,. and K St. NE and needing a protected intersection since that’s the intersection of two major travel routes. There has not been any recent movement from DDOT to figure out what are the safe biking routes underneath the rail bridge (100 block of K St. NE).”

Kwan emphasized that these bike lane concerns have been raised multiple times in the past in the outreach and comment period for these projects. The ANC’s main concern is vehicles turning across the bike lanes at the present traffic light.

Additionally, Kwan said she has received feedback from community members raising concerns about the lanes being blocked or inaccessible.

Community member Tim echoed these concerns about the blocking of lanes. He emphasized that parked cars are blocking the bike lanes forcing cyclists to merge with traffic, make cycling “more dangerous than if there were no bike lanes at all” for cyclists.

“The bike lanes that are supposedly protected in the northeast portion between North Capital St. and First St., I find blocked even more often than the unprotected version,” Tim said. “I just didn’t want it to go unnoted that the only problem is with unprotected portions; it’s really with the whole thing.”

The ANC 6B and 6C unanimously voted to send a letter to recommend that a robust protected intersection underneath the rail bridge (100 block of K St. NE) be built; to study the changes of the traffic flow; to consider solutions such as new or different traffic light signals for cars to maximize public safety for walkers and cyclists; to implement a loading zone near a child care facility on the 200 block of K Street NE; and to convert the unprotected bike lanes on K St. NE into protected lanes, as well as to implement floating bus islands to ensure cyclist safety.

NOMA Parks Update
The NOMA Parks Foundation will implement three new development programs during the upcoming months to be completed by the end of the calendar year. These projects include the installation of outdoor seating benches in the area, an underpass lighting project and an open park space.

The lighting exhibit will be displayed under the (K street) overpass and will feature projector reflected art along the walls of the 430-foot tunnel. The art is expected to change approximately every six months, and the District has plans to work collaboratively with Humanities DC, local and international artists to fill the space.

The Swampoodle II park (Third and L streets NE), situated just north of the Swampoodle dog park and playground, is expected to be constructed this year. The plans show that this park will be a passive park space with benches, chairs, tables and a large lawn space with Astroturf, a type of artificial grass. There will also be a recycled shipping container to be used for community storage space or food and drink distribution at various events.

The ANC did not vote on the NOMA park update, but the Environment, Parks, and Events Committee expressed support for these plans. Commissioner Kelty, however, expressed concern about the potential toxicity of the artificial grass in the park.

Additional Items

  • The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) released a notice of intent to expand the hours of a commercial loading zone on First St. NE across from Union Station, a one-hour zone available 24/7. The ANC plans to send a letter in response to this notice and to CC the Department of Public Works (DPW) and parking enforcement manager Johnny Gaither, noting support of the initiative and emphasizing that DDOT and DPW need to closely coordinate with these changes.
  • Two Board of Zoning adjustment (BZA) applications were discussed, one at (1165 Third St. NE) which is an application for special exceptions from lot occupancy requirements and rear yard requirements to construct a three-story rear addition that was previously rejected by the ANC. There have been “significant” changes made to the application since its opposition in the ANC, and the Planning, Zoning and Economic Development (PZE) committee recommended that Commissioner Eckenwiler and Commissioner Courtney be appointed as witnesses to appear before the BZA committee.
  • The second BZA application at (1173 Third St. NE) was also formerly opposed by the ANC and was revised. The proposal’s opposition came as a result of a failure to comply with the requirements of regulations for special exceptions, among other issues. The PZE committee recommends Commissioner Eckenwiler and Commissioner Courtney serve as authorized as witnesses before the BZA in the next hearing on April 28.
  • Wunder Garten (1101 First St NE) requested permission to extend its operating hours and open earlier in the morning for both corporate events and sports game viewing. The Alcohol Beverage Licencing (ABL) Committee recommended that chair Steve O’Neil be authorized to renegotiate the settlement agreement for Wunder Garten.

The next meeting of ANC 6C is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, May 12 via Webex. Visit anc6c.org for a link to join their monthly meetings or for more information about the commission.

Sarah Payne is a History and Neuroscience student at The University of Michigan interning with HillRag. She writes for and serves as an assistant news editor for Michigan’s student newspaper, The Michigan Daily. You can reach her at sarahp@hillrag.com.