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Community Clashes as DDOT Prepares to Install K Street Bike Lanes

The emergency no parking signs taped to trees and street lights along the 600 and 700 blocks on K Street NE mark the end of the months-long debate about the bike lane extension along the street. 

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) confirmed Thursday that the work is scheduled to begin the week of Dec. 18. Project construction will take two to three days and involve restriping the roadway and the installation of curbside signage. 

DDOT says the project will help close two gaps in the K Street lanes. From DDOT NOI-23-161-PSD, July 20, 2023.

The K Street Bike Project 

DDOT says the extension project will close a 0.06 mile gap in a 2.7 mile nearly continuous section of continuous bike lanes between Seventh Street NW and New York Avenue NE. The project will also serve as a traffic calming measure along the corridor. 

This corridor has been “identified as a priority bike route in [the] MoveDC long-range transportation plan” according to DDOT and will become part of a larger network of bike lanes throughout the city. 

The installation of the new bike lane will require the removal of all 23 parking spaces along the south side of the 600 block and an additional six spaces along the 700 block of K Street NE. 

Public Engagement Concerns 

Neighbors, ANC commissioners and DDOT have engaged through email, discussions and petitions since the notice of intent (NOI) was initially issued on July 20 regarding the proposed bike lane. DDOT reported receiving more than 60 public comments in support of the project before comments were closed Aug. 31.

But, while some residents are enthusiastic about the bike lane extension, others oppose the extension and feel that their voices have not been heard.

After neighbors received paper copies of DDOT’s NOI at their residences on Aug. 25, more than 50 signatures were collected in opposition to the project before the agency’s Aug. 31 feedback deadline. A group of neighbors sent a petition to DDOT and DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) expressing concern about the project and requesting that DDOT present other options. 

In the fall, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6C voted to support the project. They also sent a letter of support for a reserved parking space for a disabled resident, provided it did not impede the extension of the bike lane. ANC 6A also voted in support of the project. 

One resident, who has lived on the street for 10 years, expressed disappointment both in the outcome and the process. In addition to a lack of communication with DDOT, the resident said that the virtual format of ANC meetings “silences a lot of the community residents’ feedback,” the resident stated. 

“We have been left out in the dark [and] we have not had any engagement to build a collaborative community based response,” the resident said. “This whole experience has been very disappointing.” 

ANC 6A Vice Chair Keya Chatterjee (6A01) spoke about her involvement with bike lane advocacy which dates back to 2019. Chatterjee and many of her neighbors organized weekly bike rides, walks and picnics in support of the bike lane. She described the installation of the lanes as a “life or death issue” citing multiple cyclists’ deaths along the corridor. 

“There’s much more support than there is opposition, but sometimes the opposition is so vitriolic that the supporters are honestly a little bit afraid to admit that they’re part of the silent majority,” Chatterjee said of the discourse. 

“As elected officials, our highest priority here is to protect the children,” Chatterjee said. 

ANC 6C Commissioner Christy Kwan (6C01) noted that the commission has historically supported traffic safety measures along this corridor and described how ANC 6C is working with residents to address safety concerns, particularly within the alley. 

“We are listening,” Kwan said. “I think we just disagree on how public space should be used.” 

Neighbors Divided 

Among the objections to the project, removal of all along the 600 block and additional six spaces along the 700 block of K Street NE remain of significant concern. Many residents, particularly the elderly, those in opposition say, primarily live on the ground floor of their homes and rely heavily on the easily accessible street parking in order to access their vehicles as well as public and medical transportation. 

“It’s very infuriating, because this disproportionately impacts elderly residents,” one resident said. “To see their community change without their input is disappointing to say the least.” 

Other neighbors were relieved to see the project moving forward. Joal, who has lived in the community with his family for more than a decade, believes that a “less car-centric” neighborhood would be safer. “I deployed to Al Anbar province in Iraq as a Marine where I conducted about 100 dismounted combat patrols, but I think the closest I’ve come to getting killed was on my bike in this neighborhood,” he said. 

Another resident who has lived in the neighborhood for nearly 60 years expressed frustration, saying that the project will prevent access to their homes from the south side of the street. They called the project proposal “not a viable option” for residents. 

The longtime resident also raised concern about the spillover of cars and traffic into adjacent streets, crime in the alleyways and pedestrian safety along the street.

“I think what happens too, is it gets pushed down to a very basic message about parking, and I think it does this issue a disservice,” the resident stated. “It is much bigger than that.” 

Sarah Payne is a reporter for Capital Community News. She can be reached at sarahp@hillrag.com.

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