Can we have a protected bike lane yet?

Ten percent of all trips originating in the Shaw neighborhood are by bicycle. That is more than double the average bicycle mode share for the District. Yet, the best corridors for getting to destinations north and south of Shaw are streets with multiple lanes, high speeds, and aggressive driving. Safe places for people to bike are sorely needed throughout the city, and Shaw is no exception. And when streets are safe for bicyclists, they are safer for pedestrians and motorists.

Last year, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) went through a lengthy public comment process to select a preferred alternative out of four possible streets for a protected north/south bike lane through Shaw. Thousands of citizens participated, and the majority spoke up in favor of bike lanes on 6th or 9th streets NW.

According to the project timeline, a preferred alternative for this project was supposed to have been selected a full year ago— in April 2016. In February 2017, fully ten months past that deadline, DDOT announced that, rather than selecting just one of the alternatives, they were moving two alternatives to 30% design, a process that it says could take up to 9 months. Final design and construction of the selected alternative could take another 12 to 18 months.

Take Action

DC is a city that has committed to completely eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries, all while increasing the number of people who walk, bike and take transit, and accommodating an influx of 800+ new residents every month who need transit options other than their personal automobiles to get around. Yet important projects like this one, which would help accomplish all of those goals, are being slow-walked to the finish line, if not in danger of being scrapped entirely.

In the time it has taken DDOT to issue a “final” report on the initial study, more than 19 people were hurt in crashes in the study area. (We don’t know the actual number because crash data has only been made publicly available through May of 2016). This is unacceptable. Can we wait until the Summer of 2019 for a safe route through Shaw?

Take Action

We need this project to be built on a faster timeline than what DDOT is projecting, or hundreds of other people could get hurt while the city delays. Or, we need DDOT to build both of the final alternatives currently moving to 30% design, not just one. Both 6th and 9th streets are dangerous for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers. People need to travel to locations on both. A protected bike lane on 6th St may give bicyclists a safe place to ride, but doesn’t make 9th street easier for elementary school kids or senior citizens to cross, or calm traffic for neighbors, and vice versa.

Street calming and safe places to bicycle through Shaw will induce DC residents to take more of their trips and commutes by foot and bike. Making the streets more hospitable for pedestrians and bicyclists will help local businesses and improve health outcomes for residents. And, incidentally, it would help DDOT start to catch up on the five miles of protected bike lanes each year they need to build to meet their 20 year goals. (They have been nowhere near that target in the past three years.)

Tell Mayor Bowser: No more delays. Build protected bike lanes through Shaw. Build both final alternatives. Build them faster than currently planned.

Is Mayor Bowser delaying the Shaw protected bike lane?

Biking on 6th St NW: Currently a stressful experience.

Last fall, WABA members and supporters submitted thousands of comments to Mayor Bowser and the District Department of Transportation  in support of building a protected bike lane through Shaw to downtown. Eleven local businesses in Shaw signed on to a letter of support for the project, and nearly 100 residents took the time on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in February to show up in person to the project’s public meeting to demonstrate support and present testimony on what being able to ride around Shaw on a protected bike lane would mean to them. 

Sources tell us that DDOT has recommended one of the four build alternatives and is ready to move forward, but the project has been sitting in the Mayor’s office waiting for a green light.  The original timeline for selecting a preferred alternative for the project was April 2016.  

DDOT and the project study team should be commended for the thorough technical analysis and extensive community outreach that went into this project. The four build alternatives that have been presented to the public represent a more than fair compromise by maintaining up to 95% of on-street residential and Sunday church parking spots, minimizing impacts to traffic, and installing critical pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements. DDOT is recommending a win-win-win.  

The reality is that travel through the Shaw corridor is not as safe as it could or should be. In 2014 alone, 49 people were struck by vehicles while walking and biking along streets in the bike lane project study area. In 2015, 25 people were struck by vehicles on 6th and 9th St. In the first six months of 2016 (the period for which crash data is available), 19 people were struck by vehicles on those streets. These figures represent only those incidents that were reported to police and caused injury, so presumably the actual crash rate is much higher.

Even with the Mayor’s immediate approval of the Eastern Downtown protected bike lane preferred alternative, it would still take up to a year of additional design, engineering, and construction planning before the bike lanes could be built. As the crash statistics above clearly show, people are regularly coming to harm on these streets. This is preventable and we cannot afford further delays.


WABA has sent a formal letter to Mayor Bowser requesting that she allow the Eastern Downtown project to move forward. You can read the letter here. If you would like to add your voice, please contact the Mayor and tell her that we have waited long enough for safe streets in Shaw.

Here is some contact information for Mayor Bowser:

Email: eom@dc.gov

Twitter: @MayorBowser

Facebook: MayorMurielBowser

 

Outpouring of community support for Eastern Downtown Protected Bike Lane project


The second public meeting for the Eastern Downtown bike lane project was a welcome change from the first, and contained good news:  According to the latest data from the project study team, the bike lane would—at most— affect 190 of 1,800 metered spaces and 10 out of 230 Sunday angled spaces. Traffic time increases would vary from three minutes to upwards of 20, depending on the alternative, and under the third alternative, morning traffic waits would actually decrease.

If you weren’t able to make it, here’s what you missed:

The temporary event bike racks DDOT provided were overflowing, with a bike locked up to every signpost and fence within two blocks of the building, as WABA supporters from the community came out in force on a sunny Saturday afternoon.  Around 300 people attended the meeting total. At least half were there to support the project. Regardless of their position on the project, every person who walked in the door got a warm greeting from a WABA volunteer, and a bright green sticker that said “Safe Streets.” They also got a flyer for bike camp and a coupon for a free WABA city cycling class.

DDOT displayed new information about the project on presentation boards outside the  meeting space, and DDOT staff circulated through the open house to answer questions. The meeting itself was professionally facilitated; everyone in attendance agreed in advance to listen respectfully and to keep their testimony to within the allotted time (2 minutes for individuals, 5 minutes for organizations).

DDOT Director Dormsjo opened the meeting by walking through the project planning process, the goals of the project, and emphasizing that DDOT leadership was there at the meeting to listen. Indeed, a panel consisting of of Mr. Dormsjo, DDOT Deputy Director, Associate Director of Planning, Policy and Sustainability and several other high-level leaders of DDOT sat at the front of the room for the duration of the meeting to listen to the testimony of the 50 people who signed up to speak. Only 8 of the 50 speakers opposed the project.

People from all walks of life, ages, genders, races, income brackets and levels of experience on a bicycle testified in favor of the project, demonstrating the wide range of people who ride, the reasons they ride, and their desire to be safe while doing so.

The tone of all participants was decidedly respectful. Though there was still disagreement about the project, it was civil.

A big thank you to WABA members and supporters who turned out big for safe streets. Together, we have shifted the conversation from “Should we do this?” to “Which alternative makes most sense?” and we did that by showing the incredible diversity of the people who benefit from safe streets and why they matter, on a personal level, to all of us. We still have work to do in the upcoming months to get this project across the finish line, but the balance has started to shift.

Click here to check out the list of businesses in the area who support the project.

Next up: if you live in the project study area, please attend your upcoming ANC meeting and ask for a resolution of support for the project.

March 1, 2016 — ANC 6E Meeting (11 blocks in project area)
March 2, 2016 — ANC 2F Meeting ( 5 blocks in project area on 9th)
March 3, 2016 — ANC 1B Meeting (2 blocks in project area 6th & 9th)
March 14, 2016 — ANC 2C Meeting (9 blocks in study area)

Look up your ANC here.

If you’d like to join the group of WABA volunteers working to build support for this project, email advocacy@waba.org and we’ll get you plugged in.

Shaw Businesses Support Safe Streets

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Since October, our staff, along with a growing team of committed volunteers, have been out on the streets of Shaw, building support for Safe Streets as part of the Eastern Downtown Protected Bike Lane Study. In conversations with commuters, shoppers and residents on 6th and 9th streets we have found strong support for safe streets and heard more than enough concerns about speeding traffic, dangerous intersections and the frustrations of sharing the road between people walking, biking and driving. Danger and frustration are not great for business, so we are pleased to find that many businesses support Safe Streets in Shaw.

We want to recognize and especially thank a number of community businesses leaders for their support of protected bike lanes and related traffic calming for Shaw’s 6th and 9th streets.  Each recognizes that safe streets that accommodate and protect all ways of getting around are important for any community and necessary for bringing customers and employees to their stores. They know that protected bike lanes mean business.

We are pleased to have the support of the following businesses.

Busboys and Poets – 1025 5th St NW
Calabash Tea – 1847 7th St NW
Chrome – 1924 8th St NW
Frank and Oak – 1924 8th St NW
Pizza D’oro – 717 T St NW
Lettie Gooch Boutique – 1921 8th St NW
Right Proper Brewing Company – 624 T St NW
Rito Loco – 606 Florida Ave NW
Steven Alan -1924 8th Street NW
Uprising Muffins – 1817 7th St NW
Wanda’s on 7th – 1851 7th St NW

Read the full letter of support here.

As we continue reaching out to businesses in the busy Shaw to downtown corridor, we look forward to adding to our business support. Do you have a favorite business not on this list? Ask them if they support the project or send them our way.

Second public meeting for the Shaw Protected Bike lane project– coming up

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More than 1700 people have urged city officials to move forward with plans to calm traffic and install protected bike lanes from Florida Ave to Pennsylvania Ave on 6th or 9th St NW. Unfortunately, not everyone in the community is on board yet. If we want protected bike lanes through Shaw, we have to show strong support for this project every step of the way. DDOT will hold a second public meeting to hear feedback about this project this Saturday, February 6th from 12pm-4pm at KIPP DC (421 P St NW).

This week, we got a sneak preview of the project updates DDOT will present at the meeting.  The results are promising: many new potential miles of protected bike lanes with minimal impacts to parking and traffic flow. The proposals reflect our request that DDOT find a compromise that preserves the safety goals of the project while addressing community concerns.

Here are just a few ways this project will make DC a better place to live:

1. DC’s kids need safe places to play. Did you know the D.C. Public School system now teaches every second grader to ride a bike? That means thousands of six and seven year olds every year, eager to use their new skills, ride with their families, and explore their neighborhoods. These kids deserve to be safe when they head out to school and to play.

2. Low-income people need a safe, reliable mode of transportation.  Bicycling costs a fraction of transit fares and virtually nothing when compared with the cost of driving. Reliable transportation improves employment prospects, reduces transportation expenses, and frees up money to be spent on other needs, such as housing and education.

3. Everyone benefits from bike lanes. More protected bike lanes mean more people choosing to get around by bike—which improves traffic flow and parking options for those who choose to drive, and reduces crowding on public transit. 
 More protected bike lanes mean fewer roadway conflicts between vehicles and bikes, fewer people riding on the sidewalk, cars traveling at safer speeds, and shorter street crossings for pedestrians—which is especially important for our children, the elderly, and the mobility-impaired.



4. 83% of residents around the 15th street cycletrack consider it a valuable neighborhood asset.  The 15th St protected bike lanes see 300-400 users per hour during peak times. When they opened, the number of people riding bikes on sidewalks on 15th street immediately fell by an average of 56 percent, making the sidewalks safer for pedestrians.

Everyone should be safe on our streets, no matter how they choose to get around. Protected bike lanes can help.

Let’s get these bike lanes built.

Submit comments in support of the project here.

 

Proposed bike lanes in Shaw facing noisy opposition


Update 1/21/2016: DDOT will host a second public meeting to share more detailed analysis and another chance to gather input on the project. This project needs your story. Safe streets for biking and walking benefit the whole community.

Attend the public meeting to speak up for safe streets


 

DDOT held a community open house last night designed to share information and garner feedback about four options for protected north/south bike lanes in the eastern part of DC, on 6th Street or 9th Street NW.  Several neighborhood churches packed the room with congregants to oppose the proposals.  WABA was there too, with many supporters—local residents who would use these safer lanes in their neighborhood every day.

It was not the respectful public discussion that we might have hoped for.  Folks who patiently waited their turn to speak had to shout over booing, sneering and cat-callers asking how long the speaker had lived in the neighborhood. WABA members and bike lane supporters left feeling understandably frustrated at being shouted down by people who seemed unwilling to listen to, let alone consider, another point of view.

We want to be clear that we want the vibrant, historic institutions that have made and sustained these communities to stay here.  But we also think that no one should be hurt or killed on the road for lack of better infrastructure. These objectives are not mutually exclusive.  Last night, WABA’s Executive Director Greg Billing stated in front of the full room that he will sit down with any member of the objecting community who is willing to have a conversation with him to seek a solution that works for everyone. We hope he will get some takers.

Read why WABA supports protected bike lanes connecting Shaw to downtown.

A few things to keep in mind moving forward:

  1. As DDOT officials repeatedly emphasized, this was simply one opportunity for the community to give feedback in a much broader decision-making process.  There was no vote taken at the meeting. Nothing was determined at the meeting at all except that there was a need for another meeting in a larger venue to accommodate everyone who wants to be part of the discussion. Another way to show support for the bike lane project, available to all residents, is to leave comments on the project’s website.  DDOT’s job is to consider the safety and transportation needs of the city and ALL of its residents as a whole, not merely those who yell the loudest.
  2. Concerns about gentrification and dislocation are valid, but should not be aired in a proxy battle over bike lanes. DC is a rapidly growing city. Growth has brought changes to the character of local neighborhoods. Not everyone is comfortable with or happy about that change.  There is a level of anger and fear in these discussions that goes much deeper than any conversation about parking spaces and bike lanes can account for. This points to the need for a much broader and more direct conversation to take place; one that DDOT and bicycle advocates are not the best equipped to facilitate.  City leaders need to step up and take this on directly.
  3. No one should die or be injured, simply because they had to use a road to get where they were going. The reality is that 6th St NW is not as safe as it could be, or as it should be for people who walk, bike and drive.  In 2014 alone, 12 bicyclists and 16 pedestrians were struck by vehicles on the stretch of 6th Street under discussion in the DDOT proposals, and 7 pedestrians and 14 cyclists were struck on 9th St.  These figures represent only those incidents that were reported to police and caused injury, so presumably the actual crash rate is much higher.  Our elected leaders, including Mayor Bowser, and DDOT Director Dormsjo, have committed to Vision Zero, to end ALL roadway fatalities.  This means that as a city, as a matter of policy, we are designing streets that prioritize safety over convenience. We want ALL our roads to be so well-designed and so safe that no one will be hurt or killed while using them.
  4.  If we make exceptions road-by-road to preserve the status-quo, Vision Zero won’t work. Everyone seems to agree with Vision Zero until talk turns to making changes on a specific street.  Installing protected bike lanes on 6th or 9th street is an example of how we achieve Vision Zero one street at a time. Road diets shorten crosswalks and discourage speeding; protected bike lanes create dedicated, separate spaces for cars and bikes, significantly lowering crash rates.

Keep your eyes on your inboxes for updates and action alerts as this moves forward.  If you care about this project, we will need your involvement in the coming weeks.

Attend the public meeting to speak up for safe streets

And if you haven’t already this week: Join WABA or renew your membership.  Your support directly funds our advocacy efforts on issues like this.

Let’s build protected bike lanes on 6th St NW!

There’s been a lot of press in the past few days about a local church’s threat to sue the city over proposed protected bike lanes on 6th Street NW.

Here’s the Background.

In February 2015, as part of MoveDC, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) began a multi-step process to create a north/south protected bike lane linking the eastern part of DC from the Ledroit Park/Howard/Shaw neighborhoods to Pennsylvania Avenue and downtown.  While there are multiple east-west dedicated bike lanes across the city, currently, the only contiguous north-south protected lane is 15th Street NW.

In the first phase of the process, DDOT considered each of the streets from 4th through 9th for the bike lane project.  4th and 8th Streets were eliminated because they were not continuous to downtown. 7th Street was deemed a “high impact” option, because of a host of factors, including transit operations, events, and loading zones.  From there, DDOT put together 4 preliminary design options for 5th, 6th, and 9th Streets.  DDOT is now at the end of a 3-month multi-stakeholder outreach and feedback process to affected communities along the proposed bicycle corridor. DDOT officials have met independently with every church along the corridor.

This objection is about parking spaces.

The United House of Prayer objects to the bike lane proposal because it would reduce some (not all!) of the parking space available near the church.  Currently, on Sundays, the city allows diagonal back-in parking on 6th Street between P Street and L Street.  The proposed plan would modify parking on the west side of 6th Street to the standard parallel parking found throughout the city.  In a letter to the Director of DDOT, UHOP’s lawyer claimed the plan infringed upon the church’s “constitutionally protected rights of religious freedom and equal protection of the laws.”

While the magnitude of this claim strikes us as rather extraordinary in the context of a bike lane project, we will leave the Constitutional law arguments to the experts.

What we do know: 6th Street NW needs a safe place for people on bicycles.

1.  There is a huge demand for a safe bike route linking the eastern part of DC north to south. Initial studies show that more than 10% of commutes from the U Street and Shaw neighborhoods are made by bike. And if people who want to bike felt safer on the roads, this percentage would almost certainly increase. (For a point of reference, approximately 300-400 cyclists/hour use the 15th street protected bike lane during peak hours).

2. Safe bike routes make getting around and living in the city more affordable for low-income residents and those who can’t afford the expenses associated with car ownership, like fuel, registration, insurance, maintenance, and repairs.

3.  Reducing traffic lanes can make streets safer for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists alike.  Moving to fewer lanes—right-sizing the road—will shorten crosswalks for pedestrians and encourage safer driving speeds at or below the speed limit.

4.  WABA learned from a recent Freedom of Information Act Request to the Metropolitan Police Department that in 2014 alone, 12 crashes involving bicycles and motor vehicles occurred on 6th St NW between Florida Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue with enough significant injury or damage to property to warrant a police report. This number does not include unreported crashes, or crashes that did not result in a police report.

5. CityMarket at O (on 8th Street) has more than 200 secure parking spaces available every day.

6.  The Mt. Vernon/Convention Center Metro (with direct service to Maryland and Virginia suburbs) is one block away on 7th Street NW.

7.  Creating circuitous detours around any single objecting party ignores the way people on bikes travel, as well as the goals of the project, which already considered those routes in a broader, city-wide context, and eliminated parallel street routes for legitimate planning and safety reasons.

8. 6th Street carries less than 20,000 cars per day, as measured by DDOT in multiple locations, which is acceptable under Federal Highway Administration guidelines for reducing the number of travel lanes.

To show your support for protected bike lanes on 6th street:

  1. Attend a public meeting.  DDOT will hold an open house for public input this Thursday, Oct. 22 from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. at the Watha D Daniel/Shaw branch of the D.C. Public Library.  We recommend getting there early; space will be limited.
  2. Write a letter of support to the Bike Lane Study Project Team.
  3. Become a WABA member or renew your membership.  Our members provide the resources to engage in campaigns for safer streets.  If you join or renew this week during our membership drive, you’ll also get an awesome “Stress Less” t-shirt!