Opinion: Zero Vision DDOT?

Is DDOT Short-Sighted in Implementing Bike Lanes?

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The District’s Department of Transportation (DDOT) is showing itself to be short-sighted, arrogant, and inequitable in the well-being of the whole of the community in its redesign of the 1300 block of North Carolina Ave. NE.

What is happening is an 11th hour, post-game revision of the C Street NE Implementation Project (www.cstne.com).  Originally and rightfully envisioned as a project “to improve safety, comfort for all right-of-way users while ensuring improved connectivity and mobility for all modes within and through the area,” now, late in the process, DDOT is attempting to change the plans and story of the C Street NE Implementation Project, with limited transparency and without adequate analysis, meaningful public input, or consideration of the needs of all members of the community.

At its inception, the project had been scoped, mapped, surveyed, and designed with project limits that extended along C Street NE from 22nd Street NE to 14th Street NE.  Extensive community input was solicited through a series of well-publicized public meetings. The final design, released in 2014, did not include the 1300 block of North Carolina Ave NE.

Documentation of DDOT’s decision-making process is not publicly available, but neighbors who participated in the initial process remember that it was considered redundant (given other bike infrastructure a block away) and not advantageous to cyclists (as the terminus would be the multi-modal traffic mixing bowl that surrounds Lincoln Park).

The block experiences a steady flow and morning rush-hour cluster of cars, bikes, trucks, buses, pedestrians, children coming and going to Maury Elementary, and is bookended by two active churches with near daily events (before Covid).  Focused solely on cyclists, they are now strong-arming hundreds of residents, church congregants, and others to choose one of two plans to accommodate the addition of two bike lanes on this block. In brief, the options are to have a single, westbound travel lane and retain parking on both sides of the block, or to keep two-way traffic and lose all the parking from the street’s south side (approx. 35 spaces)—an exceptionally frustrating, insensitive option because:

  • It pushes competition for parking onto neighboring blocks (removing 35 parking spaces does not mean 35 cars are magically off the road and no one wants to fight for a parking space with a neighbor).
  • It greatly inconveniences those with mobility issues e.g., a family with a disabled child.
  • It inhibits residents – particularly the elderly – from going out to enjoy the city because they fear coming home at night. Having to walk on darkened streets searching for parking blocks…yes, blocks away, in an area experiencing a crime surge that the city has not been able to stop,
  • It encourages further gentrification and less equity. Capitol Hill should not become more of a “boutique bourgeois” neighborhood. There are still residents who do not have the economic luxury of choosing alternative modes of transportation, those who need their car for work or rely on it to live their life.
  • It is simply not needed.

DDOT’s alternative one-way plan (removing the right hand, east-bound turn lane from 13th street) has not been subjected to serious analysis to evaluate the inevitable “domino effect” of rerouting traffic onto neighboring streets. With so many streets already one-way, drivers would have to navigate circuitous routes with multiple additional traffic lights and congestion. Also extremely troubling is the prospect of speeding. Respected studies show that one-way streets encourage this unsafe behavior, already a problem on this block because it is a heavily trafficked morning commuter route with drivers racing from light to light.

Finding both alternatives unacceptable, over 200 residents of this and other nearby blocks responded with proposed compromise solutions that serve all interests, but which are not being given serious consideration. They’ve asked that no action be taken until the C Street project has been completed so that proper traffic studies can be undertaken – to no avail. They have been mischaracterized by the bicycle lobby as anti-bike. Nothing could be farther from the truth; many residents are avid cyclists, and the proffered compromises include bike lanes.

This block is not alone in the city but just the latest target of an agency and city administration that is tone deaf to the residents to whom they report.  Hill residents, no matter their needed or preferred mode of transportation, are adversely impacted by DDOT’s herky-jerky leadership. We are students, businesses, bike riders, drivers, exercise walkers, families, the young, the old and all of us rely on efficient and safe transport. We are happy to share and do not appreciate being bullied. We are not being listened to. DDOT, it is time that you hear us!

Mark Grace is an  avid cyclist and a resident of the 1300 block of North Carolina Ave. NE.

A differing opinion is offered by ANC 6A Commissioner Amber Gove in her opinion piece, published here.