The ANC 2B is holding a meeting on June 30 with DDOT specific to the 20th and 21st Street NW Protected Bike Lane and the 17th Street Protected Bike Lanes. Both projects have been before the ANC 2B before, but DDOT has made significant updates to both plans since the last time they were before the ANC.
20th and 21st Streets NW
I am happy there is progress with the 20th and 21st Street NW Protected Bike Lane, but there is a very notable omission from DDOT’s latest plan: it does have a bike lane between Massachusetts and Connecticut. In other words, if you’re biking on R Street from 17th towards Foggy Bottom, once you get to Connecticut there is no logical safe way to get to the protected bike lane. And there isn’t a logical pathway for bicyclists connecting from Wards 1 and 3.
I understand there is complexities with a protected bike lane north of Massachusetts on 20th Street, but an alternative or proposed solution should exist. At first glance with this latest proposal, the safest route from 17th and R would be to go to 21st then south on 21st and not use the bike lane. Going northbound on 20th, once you reach Massachusetts, there is a gap to get to Q Street back to 17th. This protected connectivity was the number one concern you provided to me on this project. I’ll continue to advocate for this at the commission level. I am still open to using 21st Street for the entirety of this bikeway as it provides a more contiguous route, is safer for those coming from Wards 1 and 3, does not severely impact residential parking, and connects more properly with the bike lanes on Q and R. If the project stays on 20th Street, DDOT should provide a solution north of Massachusetts.
17th Street NW
My prior newsletter has background on this project. A number of questions have been raised between that newsletter and now:
Q: What about a shared street concept?
Many safe street advocates as well as some board members of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association have been floating the idea of converting 17th Street into a shared street where pedestrians and bicyclists can use the entirety of the street in either direction, and vehicles are limited by time of day, limited by vehicle type, and/or barriers and planters are placed in a manner that forces vehicles to navigate slowly around them. Think of the Wharf, or Eastern Market on weekends, or many city centres of European cities. There are a lot of different examples and implementations. While these concepts are appealing, and something I personally support and some businesses support, 17th Street is considered a minor arterial and some businesses on 17th Street continue to depend on regular vehicle parking throughout the day and for employees in the evenings. A shared street concept can also be at odds with the daily freight requirements 17th Street businesses need. Some key merchants on 17th have expressed outright opposition to the shared street concept.
I see the current proposal before us as step towards providing people more space and optimizing and slowing vehicle traffic while working to maintain many of the needs of businesses.
Q: What about parking and freight needs? There are a lot of trucks!
In DDOT’s plan, there are two lanes dedicated to parking, loading zones, and pickup and dropoff areas, and one lane dedicated to through traffic for cars and trucks. One of the needs is to accommodate the freight needs at peak times so the through vehicle lane isn’t blocked. The status quo effectively already has one lane of through traffic during weekday mornings as trucks block traffic lanes and the bike lane, so this is an effort to organize this chaos in a much safer and more coherent manner.
The temporary sidewalk extensions are also showing in real-time a way this can work: the eastern lane next to the temporary walkway is being used by loading and unloading and short-term parking while the western lane next to the bike lane is being used as a through lane.
Later this summer, after the feedback period, DDOT will be incorporating the feedback they received and following up with businesses to best match curbside programming to match the various needs. For example, they’re already aware of the specific parking, loading and unloading needs of True Value on 17th, and know that they need to fully understand the turning radius needs of trucks using the Safeway loading dock and situations where Safeway has more than one vehicle unloading. Those are just two of the needs identified they know they must solve, and they hope to learn more in this feedback process.
Q: What has the feedback been like so far from neighbors?
Almost everyone I talk to wants a more pedestrian- and bike-friendly 17th Street. Many support the project as-is and see it as a step in the right direction, especially after being told for years protected bike infrastructure was coming to 17th Street. Some would prefer no cars on 17th Street at all and have it closed off on weekends, at a minimum, to be bike and pedestrians only. Some want more of a shared street concept. There are two or three people I’m aware of who are more interested in having a fight! Thankfully, most everyone has been receptive, if not outright positive, and has a shared, mutual interest in making this work for all.
Q: What do businesses think (outside of the freight needs)?
In general, if a business benefits from having a more pedestrian traffic and having a bicyclist friendly environment instead of a street that prioritizes car traffic, this is great for them overall. Everyone wants a more revitalized 17th Street and having it be more attractive for people to walk and bike in helps. If a business depends more on people coming in by car or truck and parking on 17th Street to patronize the business, there are potentially more challenges. There’s a balance that needs to be struck.
Q: What are the next steps?
This week, provide me with your feedback at this email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or email your commissioner. This is, by far, the best way to have your thoughts, ideas, support, and concerns heard about this project and have them potentially integrated into a resolution by the ANC 2B. You can also call me: 612-747-2217. You can also email DDOT directly (17th, 20th/21st).
June 30: The ANC 2B will have a meeting with DDOT and the public dedicated to the 20th and 21st Street Bike Lanes and the 17th Street. This is the meeting to attend if you want to hear directly from DDOT and to participate in a public meeting dedicated to this topic. No votes are expected to take place, but feedback will be taken by DDOT and the ANC 2B and time is being allocated for everyone to be heard who wants to participate in this way.
July 8: The ANC 2B’s regular meeting will have the 17th Street project on the agenda and potentially the 20th and 21st Streets project with the rest of its normal agenda items. It is anticipated the draft motion(s) created from the feedback received, including from the June 30 meeting, will be voted on, and then converted to a letter to DDOT.
Note that the ANC 2B does not make any decisions about the bike lanes, it is just feedback that by law must be taken by DDOT with “great weight,” which means they should agree with it or explain in writing why they don’t.
On June 18, there was a Stead Recreation Center Community Meeting hosted by the Department of Parks and Recreation and Department of General Services, regarding upgrades to Stead Park. The slides have not been uploaded to the project site yet, but Commissioner Randy Downs captured them in a thread on Twitter, which provides a glimpse of the latest concept design. If you use Stead Park, bookmark the project site for updates (I anticipate the full slides will be available this week), and please take this survey being conducted by the Department of General Services: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/K8DRVGL
This morning begins “Phase Two” of the reopening, which includes different guidelines for restaurants, gyms, transit, public spaces, and more. The official guidance is here: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/phasetwo