Major Strides Building DC’s Low Stress Network
2022 was a big year in expanding DC’s Low Stress Network! WABA continued our citywide campaign to build DC’s Low Stress Network. This campaign builds support and buy-in for a connected, safe, and low-stress network of biking and walking streets that get people where they need to go. This year, through campaigns, action alerts, and persistent organizing we built demand and showed up to support DDOT completing 3.8 miles of new protected bike lanes, beginning construction on 7.8 miles, and completing planning on another 3.3 miles, now awaiting construction.
What is WABA’s Low Stress Network Campaign?
This citywide campaign is fueled by and led by community advocates working together to show the demand for safe streets in their neighborhood and on their commute. Though our network vision is citywide, actually building it out happens at the neighborhood level, block by block and street by street.
Through conversation and participation in community discussions, advocates build relationships, understanding, and trust with their local elected representatives and neighborhood stakeholders. Local support for safe streets projects is essential to getting changes in the ground and keeping the network expanding. It helps city planners take on the difficult, but necessary, projects that stitch the network together. And with continued engagement with DC’s Councilmembers and city officials, neighborhood advocates are working together to build consensus for serious change to city policy, budget priorities, and traffic safety laws.
Our Low Stress Network campaign is distributed, putting neighborhood advocates at the helm. Any small group of community advocates with a shared vision for improving a street for biking and walking can start a campaign and take ownership of a piece of the network. WABA staff offer support with advice, strategy, advocacy tools, meeting spaces, connections to volunteers, and communications resources to build, launch, and win a campaign for safer, more inclusive streets. Street by street, the network grows.
In 2022, volunteer advocates led nearly a dozen individual campaigns for pieces of the Low Stress Network, continuing existing campaigns and launching new ones. These campaigns made significant strides in building and showing local support for pieces of the DC’s Low Stress Network. Here are some highlights.
Q and R St. NE/NW PBL
In May 2022, Ward 2 advocates launched a campaign to upgrade Q and R St to a low-stress, protected bike lane from Dupont Circle to the Metropolitan Branch Trail plus other safety upgrades. Months of careful preparation and research ensured that this campaign launched with a firm strategy, a compelling story, and alignment with key stakeholders. Within a few short months, the campaign collected more than 1,100 petition signatures in support, resolutions calling for DDOT action from 3 advisory neighborhood commissions representing the corridor, and letters of support from community groups. The campaign leaders recently met with DDOT to explore a potential scope of work and timeline for next steps.
I (Eye) St. SE/SW
Following on the success of the 4th St. SW protected bike lanes in 2020, advocates in Southwest DC and Navy Yard launched a campaign to support a nascent DDOT plan for protected bike lanes and other safety upgrades to I St from 7th St. SW to 3rd St. SE. They launched a petition, honed the message, and spread the word, earning more than 500 signatures in support from local residents. And, over the course of 2022, advocates turned out to community meetings again and again to remind elected representatives about the need for a connected low-stress bicycle network, traffic safety improvements, and a shift in street design priorities. Thanks to this campaign, the design is done, and we expect DDOT to install this project in Spring 2023.
8th St. NE PBL
Ever since the Metropolitan Branch Trail was completed to 8th St. NE in Edgewood, planners, community leaders, and advocates have been working to link it to the next section of off-street trail at Monroe St with a low-stress, protected bike lane on 8th. After a major setback in 2021 which put the 0.5 mile project on hold, Ward 5 advocates, lead by Ward 5 For All, a partner group, quickly penned a response letter and recruited more than 1,000 signatures calling for DDOT to finish this project without delay. In 2022, this campaign activated trail users and neighbors to make the case for the safe street project. DDOT issued a final notice of intent and installation is expected in spring 2023.
9th St. NW Safety Project
In spring of 2015, the District Department of Transportation kicked off its Eastern Downtown Protected Bike Lane Feasibility Study, beginning one of the longest, and most contentious public debates over a street safety project of the last decade. From the beginning, WABA focused on the need for a continuous, low-stress, corridor for safe biking and walking and the very personal, human toll of delaying action. We worked with neighbors, workers, and employers across the corridor to bring their experiences into the planning discussions to demand a design that puts safety and people first. For more than six years, countless waves of public meetings and near cancellation of the project, we kept pushing, bringing new advocates in, and considering new strategies.
In 2021, the work finally paid off as Mayor Bowser announced that the project would move forward to final design and installation. Working closely with community advocates up and down 9th St, we turned people out to even more ANC meetings, discussions, and comment periods to make sure the design brough serious safety benefits to everyone who uses 9th St. Thanks to this work, the project has support from all four ANCs on the corridor. DDOT released the final plan for comment in summer 2022 and began installation in November. The project will be substantially complete soon.
Bringing Advocates Together
In 2022, while still grappling with the impacts of the pandemic, we created spaces to bring advocates together to collaborate on campaigns, learn, and take action with many options to participate and grow.
- Monthly Advocate Meetups – Every month, we hosted a virtual meetup for advocates across the city to meet each other, get caught up on big opportunities, and learn how to plug into or start a campaign in their community. We used this space to offer training on advocacy skills, workshop campaign strategy, review legislation before the DC Council, and coordinate tactics among campaigns. Most importantly, small breakout groups created space for advocates to find agreement on priorities, launch new campaigns for pieces of the low stress network, and a structure for welcoming new people in.
- Low Stress Network Newsletter – Every two months, advocates received a rundown of recent campaign milestones, upcoming events to get involved, and quick, low-lift actions to support campaigns. The newsletter highlights opportunities for major change in DC and showcases some of the amazing progress from advocate-lead campaigns.
- Google Groups – To help people stay in touch, share geographically relevant information, each ward has an email group.
- Discord – This year, we launched a new online community platform on Discord to share information, encourage action, and build community. It offers discussion rooms for collaborating on campaigns and ward-specific topics, allowing advocates to easily opt in (or out) of rooms based on their location and interests.
- Advocate Office Hours – We offer weekly office hours to meet with individual advocates or small groups to answer questions and workshop campaigns. One on one sessions are critical to supporting our amazing volunteer advocates and their campaigns.
- Supporting Partner Organizations & Groups – Our organizing structure completements the incredible network of neighborhood advocacy groups and the many ways that people work together towards a common safe streets or community cause. This past year, we supported and amplified campaigns lead by the Ward 3 Bicycle Advocates, Ward 5 for All, DC Families for Safe Streets, and People’s Alliance for Rock Creek.
These projects, completed construction in 2022, are the result of years of city planning, organizing, action alerts, public meetings, and persistent action from community advocates.
|5th St & Park Pl NW||1.1 mi||Part of a north-south one-way bikeway pair linking Grant Circle to the MacMillan Reservoir and the new Brookland to Columbia Heights crosstown lanes.|
|9th / Florida / Sherman Ave||0.4 mi||Protected bike lane connecting Cardozo and Howard University to Shaw’s new 9th St. bikeway|
|19th St. NW||0.2 mi||The first piece of a north-south protected bike lane in Kingman Park with extensions coming soon.|
|Monroe St. NE||0.2 mi||A continuous protected bike lane from 12th NE to Michigan Ave NE. A new Michigan Ave sidepath (coming soon) will complete a crosstown link from Brookland to Columbia Heights.|
|Nebraska Ave NW||0.6 mi||A sidepath connecting Tenleytown to American University and the New Mexico Ave NW PBL coming next spring.|
|Potomac Ave and First St SE||0.3 mi||Protected bike lane upgrade connecting National1 mis Park, Audi Field, and the new Frederick Douglass Bridge|
|Virginia Ave NW||1 mi||This protected bike lane linking the Rock Creek Park Trail, Roosevelt Bridge trail, G St. protected bike lanes, and the National Mall is nearly complete|
|4th St. SW PBL||0.5 mi||Protected bike lane upgrade connecting P St. SW to I St SW and the National Mall|
|9th St. NW Protected Bike Lane||1.5 mi||A substantial traffic calming, pedestrian safety, and protected bike lane project|
|C St & North Carolina Ave NE||1 mi||A complete street rebuild to repurpose excess driving lanes for vastly improved sidewalks, safe intersections, and gold-standard protected bike lanes from Lincoln Park to the Anacostia River Trail finishing in 2023|
|Florida Ave NE PBL||1.3 mi||A complete street rebuild to repurpose extra driving lanes for wider sidewalks, permanent, hardened protected bike lanes, safer intersections, and street trees finishing in 2024|
|Kenyon St NW||0.4 mi||A protected bike lane from 11th St. to Warder St extends the NW crosstown bikeway linking Brookland to to Columbia Heights|
|Minnesota Ave SE||0.6 mi||A bus priority and bike safety project that adds protected bike lanes around Fort Dupont Park|
|New Jersey Ave NW||0.4 mi||Traffic calming and protected bike lane extension of existing lanes to connect Q, R and T St. bike lanes towards downtown|
|Pennsylvania Ave SE PBL & Bus Priority Lanes||1.3 mi||This major traffic calming project will add bus priority lanes, bus boarding platforms, protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety improvements to Pennsylvania Ave from 2nd St. SE to Barney Circle. Phase 1 will complete protected bike lanes to 13th St. SE in Spring 2023.|
|Warder St and 7th St NW||0.8 mi||The second half of a north-south one-way bikeway pair linking Grant Circle and Park View to the new Brookland to Columbia Heights crosstown bikeway|
Approved & Awaiting Installation
These projects are through the public engagement and design phases and will be installed soon.
|8th St. NE PBL||0.5 mi||A protected bike lane and traffic calming project to close an on-street gap in the multi-use Metropolitan Branch Trail|
|I (Eye) St. SE/SW PBL||1.1 mi||This project will upgrade the existing I (eye) St bike lanes and improve intersections for pedestrians. Installation scheduled for spring 2023.|
|Kansas Ave NE PBL||0.5 mi||This short protected bike lane will close the most stressful gap in the existing Kansas Ave bike lanes near Blair Road and create a connection to the future Metropolitan Branch Trail. Installation expected in 2023.|
|New Mexico Ave / Tunlaw Rd NW PBL||1.2 mi||Thanks to the leadership of the Ward 3 Bicycle Advocates (W3BA) and two years of advocate participation in community discussion, this project has the support of both ANCs it passes through and will be installed in Spring 2023.|
In 2023, our campaign to build DC’s Low Stress Network continues with community advocates at the helm. We will continue long-term work to reimagine Q and R St. NE and NW into a low stress connection from the Met Branch Trail to Dupont Circle. We will continue making the case for and defend DC’s plan for the Connecticut Avenue NW redesign. We have campaigns in the works for needed safety improvements on Taylor Rd and Harewood Rd connecting Wards 4 and 5. And DDOT has plans for more than 20 miles of new low stress improvements moving through the planning process.
But a major focus in 2023, will go to the limits of the existing low stress network, especially in Wards 7 and 8 where the network of streets make walking and biking prohibitively stressful and unsafe. We will be working with neighborhood advocates to kick off campaigns in Ward 7 and Ward 8, driven by local needs and local vision. Expect more detail in January.