Greater Greater Washington

DDOT sidewalk gap policy has gaps of its own

Sidewalks are a network to get us from one place to another, just like roads. But the procedures DDOT uses to identify and fill sidewalk gaps take a piecemeal approach that sets up barriers to completing the network.


Photo by the author.

Currently, DDOT requires that 51% of households on a single block approve the addition of a sidewalk, and that the neighborhood ANC file a corresponding resolution. If we consider sidewalks to be roadways for pedestrians, then we need to treat them as such. The default position should be that neighbors have to put forth the effort to oppose a sidewalk, instead requiring supporters to petition for one.

In other words: If folks wanted a sidewalk, they would contact DDOT, and those who opposed it would have to organize against it. The community would have to jump through fewer hoops to get a sidewalk built.

The DC Council's Priority Sidewalk Assurance Act of 2010 moves us in this direction, but DDOT needs to update its procedures.

Iona's Pedestrian Advocacy Project has studied the issue and has come up with a set of proposed procedures. In addition, we will request that DDOT develop a 5-year plan to fill sidewalk gaps in priority areas throughout the District of Columbia, as part of the agency budget to be presented to the Council during its budget approval process this spring.

  1. Sidewalk gaps shall be filled on both sides of all "main streets," defined as those that have on-going traffic throughout the day and require pedestrians to walk in the street or cross at unsafe locations to a sidewalk.
  2. Sidewalk gaps shall be filled on at least one side of the street on roadways under construction, as specified in Section 2 (a) of the Priority Sidewalk Assurance Act of 2010, and on roadway segments for which residents have petitioned for sidewalks.
  3. Sidewalk gaps shall be filled on at least one side of the street within one-quarter mile of priority areas: schools, recreation and park facilities, and transit stops.
  4. For streets within priority areas not undergoing construction, 75% of residents on a block may petition NOT to have a sidewalk. The ANC for the area shall consider the petition and forward its recommendation to DDOT. DDOT shall determine whether the absence of a sidewalk presents a pedestrian safety issue or conflicts with an ADA requirement that cannot be resolved without a sidewalk.
  5. For those streets that do not have a sidewalk on either side due to engineering issues: If the residents have petitioned for no sidewalks and their request is approved by DDOT, the speed limit on that street will be lowered to 15 MPH.
  6. Residents may submit petitions to the ANC at any time to register their opposition to a sidewalk on their block.
  7. DDOT will notify all residents of these new procedures.
  8. DDOT will keep a record, including the dates, of these petitions on their website for five years, after which they will no longer be in force.
  9. DDOT will update the sidewalk gap map as gaps are filled.
What do you think? You can rate and comment on these procedures on a survey we have set up. Please do so by March 1st, so we can consider your input and include it when the pedestrian advocacy group presents the proposals to DDOT at the end of March.

Cross-posted at Forest Hills Connection.

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Marlene Berlin is a community activist who has lived in DC since 1975. She chairs Connecticut Avenue Pedestrian Action as the pedestrian advocate for Iona Senior Services, staffs the DC Senior Advisory Council on transportation issues, and is Vice-Chair of the DC Pedestrian Advisory Council. Most mornings, you can find her out on her daily walk trying to get across the street safely. 

Comments

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Bravo. The arguments I have encountered in opposition to sidewalks have ranged from lame to outrageous. Public space for public good is the default, and DDOT policies ought to reflect it!

by Andrew on Feb 1, 2013 11:35 am • linkreport

"Currently, DDOT requires that 51% of households on a single block approve the addition of a sidewalk, and that the neighborhood ANC file a corresponding resolution. If we consider sidewalks to be roadways for pedestrians, then we need to treat them as such. The default position should be that neighbors have to put forth the effort to oppose a sidewalk, instead requiring supporters to petition for one."

I could not have put it any better myself. New suggested procedures look good as well. In fact, maybe all existing or potential sidewalks should have a LOS measurement like roads!

by Alan B. on Feb 1, 2013 11:38 am • linkreport

I recognized that photo instantly!

That's the stretch of Albemarle between 38th and 39th Streets, NW that I walked every single day to head to the Metro or bus in Tenleytown back when I lived in the area. That part of Albemarle has a sidewalk on the south side, but I never understood why a sidewalk wasn't built on the other side, especially considering the Tenley metro exit just a few blocks up is on that same side, and there was a sidewalk east of 38th. People would stick to their side and walk on people's lawns, tree roots, and occasional stretches, actually walk into the street as they headed east on Albemarle from the Metro.

This street is definitely a good candidate for sidewalk expansion.

by Greggums Sr. on Feb 1, 2013 12:50 pm • linkreport

" Bravo. The arguments I have encountered in opposition to sidewalks have ranged from lame to outrageous. Public space for public good is the default, and DDOT policies ought to reflect it! "

True. As likewise true with the silliness of not completing the Washington, D.C. freeways.

by Douglas Andrew Willinger on Feb 1, 2013 2:22 pm • linkreport

If you can tolerate the weather DC is one of the most walkable cities in the US. We should be very careful when trying to ram more pavement in to our neighborhoods. Thousands of trees in DC rely on their current root area arrangement. Covering the current roots or worse carving down through the root bed 8-12 inches will kill many of them. Creating loopy sidewalks to suit every arborist and save trees is a major eyesore and leads to more injuries. It is obvious where we need pavement along routes ravaged by foot traffic over decades but let us not pave when there is no great demand. Occasional foot traffic over grass and roots is natural. On the other hand, not having pavement is probably violating someone’s civil rights so kiss all the roadside trees good bye.

by AlexK on Feb 2, 2013 8:01 am • linkreport

As above, there needs to be a considered approach. You are virtually certain to kill any established tree within a few feet of a new sidewalk, and it will take decades to replace it. Now, what might make sense is to have the arborists let DDOT know when trees are removed, because it would make a lot of sense to put in sidewalk before new trees are planted. This will result in some dippy short sidewalk segments, but over time (with commitment) they could be stitched together.

by Mike on Feb 4, 2013 7:30 am • linkreport

Lots of people with mobility issues can't just walk over the grass. Also it can get really unpleasant when it's wet and muddy. If you want to save the trees why not give up some street pavement.

by Alan B. on Feb 4, 2013 8:38 am • linkreport

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