Greater Greater Washington

On the calendar: Biking west, retail/zoning north, buses east

There's an important meeting about bike lanes on New Mexico Avenue tonight. Other upcoming meetings discuss retail on upper 14th Street, the Montgomery zoning rewrite, and buses east of the Anacostia River.


New Mexico Avenue. Image from Google Street View.

Tonight, ANC 3D, which spans from American University to the Potomac River, will discuss several transportation and planning issues, including safety at Ward Circle, the Georgetown campus plan, and speeding cars on Foxhall Road.

One of the most controversial is the proposed bike lanes on New Mexico Avenue, which the ANC voted to oppose in January. Their objections centered around reducing "bicycle and car conflicts," which makes little sense as bike lanes reduce conflicts, unless they really mean that they don't want anyone bicycling in the area.

Hopefully bike planner Jim Sebastian will be able to explain the value of this project to the commissioners. This recommendation was part of the Glover Park Transportation Study. Glover Park is in the adjacent ANC 3B, but the lanes would extend into 3D.

If you live in the area, it would be helpful to go voice your opinions about this topic. ANC commissioners listen more to individual local residents than you might think. One person who lives in the neighborhood participating on a semi-regular basis can change a lot of minds.

The meeting starts at 7 at Sibley Hospital, in the new Medical Building, 5215 Loughboro Road, NW.

Speaking of bike lanes, WABA is responding to Jack Evans' criticisms of the 15th Street bike lane by going to enjoy and appreciate it on Friday.

In Arlington, the Bicycle Advisory Council is hosting a film screening about European bicycle facilities, followed by a public discussion. That's Monday, March 7, in the auditorium of the Arlington central library, 1015 N. Quincy St. Doors open at 6:30 and the film starts at 7.

Montgomery County planning director Rollin Stanley is speaking about their zoning rewrite at Tuesday's monthly meeting of the Action Committee for Transit. The meeting is March 8, 7:30 pm at the Silver Spring Center, 8818 Georgia Ave.

Next Thursday, March 10, is the latest meeting for the Office of Planning's study of revitalizing retail in the Ward 4 portion of 14th Street, above Spring Road. That meeting is 6:30-8:30 pm at West Education Campus, 1338 Farragut St, NW.

Finally, that Saturday, Tommy Wells will speak to residents of Ward 7 about ways to improve bus service in the area. GGW contributors Veronica Davis and Kelsi Bracmort have written about the issues before, and are involved in organizing this event.

The meeting is March 12th, 11 am-12:30 pm at the Department of Employment Services, 4058 Minnesota Ave NE, in the large conference room on the 5th floor. DOES is very close to the Minnesota Avenue Metro.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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One you missed: several bicycle and bike-related items will be discussed at tonight's Alexandria Transportation Commission meeting. Including the reintroduction of a Complete Streets resolution for the city. On top of that, the executive director of the National Complete Streets Coalition will be speaking at a commission workshop prior to the normal meeting time.

by Froggie on Mar 2, 2011 4:47 pm • linkreport

ANC commissioners listen more to individual local residents than you might think. One person who lives in the neighborhood participating on a semi-regular basis can change a lot of minds.

Unless you're a student, that is. But then, a student isn't considered a real resident.

Just ask ANC Commissioner and Georgetown student Jake Sticka; when Ed Solomon chaired the ANC2E meeting in January, he referred to ANC reps as "Commissioner Birch, Commissioner Jones," etc., except for Mr. Sticka, whom he called "Jack." Jake does not go by "Jack."

by Dizzy on Mar 2, 2011 5:16 pm • linkreport

There's a little more explanation of the ANC's reasoning on the bike lane in their letter to DDOT.

http://bit.ly/gAnfDM

by ah on Mar 2, 2011 5:23 pm • linkreport

What a joke. Basically their argument boils down to we just don't want it, because we need room for the buses and delivery trucks? There are a limited number of ways to get to this area via bike, New Mexico and Wisconsin are pretty much the only 2 choices. Boo ANC3D

by Chris R on Mar 2, 2011 5:42 pm • linkreport

ANC 3D's letter contains a lot of words, but I don't see any substance behind the fear. What kind of conflicts do they see arising from a bike lane on a wide suburban street? How would making cycling a more comfortable option complicate AU's expansion, instead of easing demand for motorized vehicles? Is there really a serious scarcity of parking in that area?

Also, I don't know where the "Cathedral Street" mentioned in the ANC's letter is.

by Neil Flanagan on Mar 2, 2011 6:28 pm • linkreport

@Neil - I assume your identification of the error regarding Cathedral *Avenue* is in jest . . .

As for the substance, at the meeting the same concerns were expressed (I am summarizing from memory, and do not vouch for the logic of the statements, although I hope have presented them accurately):

1) The road is too narrow to support a bike lane, in addition to the two existing parking lanes and two driving lanes.

2) This is particularly true near the intersection of Nebraska Avenue, where there are turn lanes and a bus stop.

3) There are many driveways onto New Mexico, particularly near the office buildings/stores, and parked cars already make visibility for drivers exiting those driveways limited. Having to turn across a bike lane will make it even more difficult. AU's plans for new buildings where the Nebraska Ave. parking lot are calls for an underground garage entrance/exit, which will also be a problem.

4) Delivery trucks double park in front of the office buildings, which means they would park in the bike lane (surprise!), requiring bikes to go into the car lanes.

5) The bike lanes would take away 13 parking spaces, and parking is already tight in the area.

6) As a general matter, putting bicyclists into bike lanes makes them less safe and increases the possibility of bike-car conflicts.

One commissioner pointed out that because New Mexico is not safe for bikes now, he often bikes up 44th street instead, or on the sidewalk. He believed a bike lane would lead cyclists to bike on New Mexico instead of side streets, reducing safety.

Another commissioner pointed out that her previous experience includes stopping a $1M bike lane project.

No further vote was taken, but there was strong sentiment that the ANC wanted to learn from DDOT how to register its strong opposition to the bike lane and essentially to stop it from happening. Several residents spoke in opposition, echoing these concerns. One person from ANC3B spoke in favor of the lane, as did I.

Unfortunately, Jim Sebastian from DDOY didn't do the best job in making the case for the bike lane. He was a bit on his heels because apparently DDOT had previously sent a letter suggesting that the bike lane was a done deal. The commissioners don't take kindly to their prerogatives to block things being circumvented. He also did not make a strong case for the bike lane itself--the main argument for it was that DC is installing bike lanes and this seemed to be a good opportunity to add some more bike lanes. He made no mention of the Glover Park transportation study, or how the lane would interconnect with other bike lanes. He had no data to support the need for a bike lane in this area (e.g., some study of the number of users), although they did estimate 100 riders/day use that stretch of New Mexico. He also presented no strong counterarguments to the safety points, such as information about improved safety created by other bike lanes (if such data exist). He also had not distributed a plan/diagram in advance of the meeting, which could have allowed for more study and opportunity to address specific concerns rather than generalized fears based on speculation. Finally, he did not explain any coordination that may exist between the bike lane and addressing other traffic issues in the area, including Ward Circle (discussed earlier at the meeting), the intersection of New Mexico and Nebraska (which is a mess already from vehicle and pedestrian traffic), and New Mexico generally (which is too wide in places, leading to lane jockeying in places).

Anyway, I'd be happy to mock all of the supposed justifications for opposing the bike lane, but I'll let others undertake that entertaining chore.

by ah on Mar 2, 2011 9:45 pm • linkreport

Yes, those 13 parking spots are so precious when every residential development and commercial development has a plethora of surface and garage parking.

3D is the poster child for whiny selfishness in an ANC, spearheaded by its current fearless leader.

by William on Mar 2, 2011 10:26 pm • linkreport

My favorite is number 6, by creating a bike lane we will increase the potential of bike/car conflicts because bikes that were previously in the street anyway will now have their conflict meters jump up several notches. Lines that clearly delineate "bikes go here" is somehow less safe than nothing of the sort.

by Canaan on Mar 2, 2011 10:47 pm • linkreport

Ah, thanks for elaborating.

It's disappointing to see DDOT drop the ball on this one. These arguments are bizarre and could be rebutted easily. The lack of a diagram or map is absurd. With errors like like the mislabeled Cathedral Avenue, it sounds almost like they don't know much about the road they're describing.

by Neil Flanagan on Mar 3, 2011 6:51 am • linkreport

@Neil - That was my impression. I don't want to say New Mexico Avenue is "unique" but it is certainly fair to say that it has some characteristics that might not be obvious to someone who doesn't drive/bike/walk on it regularly, and I'm not sure DDOT made much effort to investigate and address those peculiarities.

On the other hand they aren't obviously obstacles to a bike lane and if there were not neighborhood objections it could have moved forward without a hitch. The real issue is that once it was clear there was community concern (whether or not justified) is that DDOT didn't then go think more carefully about these possible issues and have responses/explanation/solutions.

by ah on Mar 3, 2011 9:18 am • linkreport

@William - I will note that I found it remarkable that after hearing 5 or 6 neighbors in opposition without interruption or interjection by the ANC chair (or others), when I spoke in favor of the lane, I was interrupted by my third sentence to point out concerns over parking reductions. It lent a real air of kabuki as if I wasn't playing the part right.

by ah on Mar 3, 2011 9:22 am • linkreport

I'm sure there is a way to blame Dave Alpert for endorsing Gray which then led to DDOT doing a crap job on outreach.

But isn't that what every local group has said -- they are upset that bikes lanes just SHOW up one day.

I was up near New Mexico the other day and was thinking of taking CaBi back. Ended up not doing it because it was a nice day and I continued on to Wisconsin. What is the sidewalk condition there?

by charlie on Mar 3, 2011 9:41 am • linkreport

The sidewalks on New Mexico are pretty bad.. one side is narrow and has a fair number of pedestrians, and the other side is unusable.

by Phil on Mar 3, 2011 9:59 am • linkreport

I'm not suggesting sidewalk riding, but what are the cost estimates of a bike lane -- including the loss of parking vs. a quality repave of a sidewalk?

by charlie on Mar 3, 2011 10:11 am • linkreport

RE: bike lanes and conflicts

I guess it depends on what is meant by "conflicts". Traffic engineers seem to use the word differently from the typical vernacular. Bike lanes likely increase conflicts with traffic crossing the bike lane and, according to their design, perhaps at intersections.

Certainly if a cyclist is in the bike lane, passing drivers are less delayed and there is less conflict. But if a bike lane is present and a cyclist using the through lane, it likely increases conflict. Although I recall that this is a climbing lane which almost certainly reduces conflict.

by Geof Gee on Mar 3, 2011 10:27 am • linkreport

@Charlie -- DDOT did not have cost estimates either. He did point out that it was "only paint"--there were not going to be dividers, etc. He did not say whether it would be part of an overall restriping of New Mexico there, which is definitely needed because of other existing problems (indeed, I'm not sure they had thought about that either--total silos at DDOT: not sure the bike people talk the the traffic people much). There was of course no estimate of revenue loss from meters.

While the sidewalks there are not in great shape (actually parts were redone recently) the bigger problem is that there *is* a legitimate safety issue there. The sidewalks particularly in front of the commercial buildings have a lot of pedestrians walking between buildings or from parking to the build entrance. The curb cuts/driveways require care in walking, and there's a really nasty parking lot exit with a light for cars but no pedestrian signal.

by ah on Mar 3, 2011 10:29 am • linkreport

Cities such as DC should not have bike lanes or even allow bicycles on public streets. The streets are too narrow,the circles confusing, and with the amount of drivers from not only other states but other countries, it creates chaos. Plus the vast majority of bikers do not obey the laws as required. The ANC is right in this issue and I support them.

by sick of 'em on Mar 3, 2011 11:03 am • linkreport

Perhaps we should not have vehicles or allow them on public streets then, since the same arguments hold just as true for vehicles as well as for bikes...

by Froggie on Mar 3, 2011 11:22 am • linkreport

Cities such as DC should not even allow cars on public streets. The streets are too narrow,the circles confusing, and with the amount of pedestrians from not only other states but other countries, it creates chaos. Plus the vast majority of drivers do not obey the laws as required.

by KG on Mar 3, 2011 11:25 am • linkreport

Froggie, you beat me to it!

by KG on Mar 3, 2011 11:25 am • linkreport

I think DDOT did do a very thorough analysis of New Mexico Ave as part of the Glover Park transportation study. As I recall they found a serious speeding problem on the steep portion of New Mexico and recommended treatments to slow traffic and to improve bike safety by providing a bike lane in only the uphill. There were also some traffic operation improvements at some spots and pedestrian safety improvements. It seems these issues may not have been discussed last night unfortunately which may have deflated the off base arguments which sound more like NIMBY reactions.

by Joe on Mar 3, 2011 12:31 pm • linkreport

@Joe - the Glover Park study focused on the part of New Mexico closest to Glover Park (basically south of Cathedral Avenue, with a focus on South of Garfield Street).

The GP report did suggest some modifications at the Garfield/New Mexico intersection to calm traffic there. The ANC Commissioners expressed concern about those and asked whether they were part of the bike lane project, which DDOT said they were not. Oddly enough, despite the apparent opposition to the proposed traffic calming measures there, the next item on the agenda was a proposal for a traffic calming study on Foxhall that the Commission enthusiastically endorsed/supported.

by ah on Mar 3, 2011 1:25 pm • linkreport

The streets are too narrow

Uh, what?

by Neil Flanagan on Mar 3, 2011 1:41 pm • linkreport

ah,

Usually Mike Goodno, who handles bike lanes, finds out about repavings and, if bike lanes are planned as part of the bike master plan or another plan, then makes sure they're included. In my experience, he didn't always find out until it was too late, but that has happened less often since Gabe Klein came in. Adding bike lanes as roads are repaved is way cheaper, but it means they get built somewhat at random.

by David C on Mar 3, 2011 10:41 pm • linkreport

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