On Jan. 10, DC Dept. of Transportation (DDOT) Transportation Planner Jamee Ernst briefed Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6D on the “SW/SE I Street Safety Project,” otherwise known as the I Street protected bike lanes.
Now in preliminary and at 30 percent concept planning, final designs are expected in the spring of 2022 date. DDOT expects to issue a Notice of Intent (NOI) this spring. Construction is planned for this fall.
Designed to increase bike use by installing protected bike lanes, the project spans I Street from Seventh Street SE to Seventh Street SW.
But commissioners said the plans do not take into account actual conditions on the ground. Taking DDOT to task, Chair Edward Daniels pointed out the difficulties created by the installation of protected bike lanes on New Jersey Avenue and First Street SE. No allowance was made for parcel deliveries, which are made at the front entrances of residential buildings and retail establishments.
Unloading trucks, he pointed out, often block an entire lane of traffic due to the lack of curbside parking created by the installation of protected bike lanes, Daniels stated. This creates real safety concerns due to the obstruction of sight lines for drivers on these roads, he pointed out.
“DDOT creates fires by installing these bike lanes and then tries to put them out,” Daniels stated in an exasperated tone. He accused the agency of ignoring the commission’s input in its bike lanes plans entirely.
The issue of I Street protected bike lanes had been previously discussed at the commission’s March 2021 meeting. DDOT Community Engagement Specialist Andrew DeFrank briefed the commission on plans for the I Street Bike Lane.
Originally, the project called for the replacement of all parking on the northern side of I Street from Seventh Street SE to Seventh Street SW by two protected bike lanes. This would remove over 150 parking spaces. See the original plan here.
DDOT, DeFrank stated at the March meeting, had changed its thinking about the project. After re-measuring the street, agency engineers discovered there was sufficient roadway to situate protected bike lanes between the curb and parked cars, DeFrank said. The agency now planned to install protected bike lanes on the north and south sides of the street between the parking lane and the curb instead of a double track on the north side.
The new plan, he said in March, preserved current parking from Third Street west to Seventh Street SW. 48 spaces would still be removed between South Capitol and Third Street SW. 20 of these are residential spaces and another 28 are currently metered parking.
The overview provided by Ernst in January 2022 appeared at odds with DeFrank’s earlier pledge. In response to a query from Commissioner Jared Weiss (6D02), she stated that all parking would be entirely removed on the westbound side of I Street from South Capitol to Seventh Street SW. When pressed by Weiss, Ernst was unable to say out many total spots would be eliminated.
Ernst did address concerns raised by Amidon-Bowen Elementary School (401 I St. SW) parents and from commissioners regarding the plans impact on the school’s I Street pickup/drop-off zone. The current situation, Ernst stated, would be preserved with an unprotected bike lane and parking next to the curb.
However, a protected bike lane would be installed along the south side of the street next to Westminster Church (400 I St. SW). DDOT was working with the developers of the Westminster Church project to address any concerns about the bike lane’s impact, she said.
Plans Called ‘Ageist’
Both Commissioners Marjorie Lightman (6D01) and Frederica (6D05) Kramer said DDOT is being ‘ageist’ in making bike lane plans. “I do not see a single vehicle [on these bike lanes] that is useful for a senior to use,” Lightman stated. “The assumption that everyone is going to be on two wheels is ageist and wrong,” added Kramer.
“Your analysis of I Street is no better than one conducted by a high school student,” Lightman stated. “Have you not walked the street? Every single section has a unique set of conditions.”
The agency is treating I Street as thoroughfare rather than a neighborhood street, Lightman said. Citing a laundry list of developments, the school and the churches impacted by the plan, she pointed out the conditions of every block are different and suggested that DDOT do a street-by-street analysis.
Lightman suggested that DDOT step back from the plan, and start by involving the community. “I am absolutely appalled that you have come to a public meeting to share projections that you are going to implement over the next 12 months,” she said.
Ernst pledged to return to the commission to present her agency’s plans as they mature.