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

 

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!