Greater Greater Washington

Posts about Eckington

Development


Plans seek to keep Mid City East affordable

The neighborhoods north of Union Station are one of the last affordable, walkable areas close to downtown DC. Can an area change for the better while keeping prices low? That's what DC's trying to figure out with the Mid City East Small Area Plan and Livability Study.


Typical rowhouses in Bloomingdale. Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

As U Street to the west and NoMa to the east have boomed, the Mid City East neighborhoods of LeDroit Park, Bloomingdale, Truxton Circle, Sursum Corda, and Eckington remain a relatively affordable option. However, as million-dollar houses pop up, neighbors want to secure the diversity and affordability that lend the neighborhoods their character.

Since January, the DC Office of Planning (OP) and District Department of Transportation (DDOT) have been studying these neighborhoods and have released their draft recommendations for comment. The results here may provide lessons for what happens in similarly transitioning DC neighborhoods like Hill East or Anacostia, or Columbia Pike in Arlington.

The planning process kicked off in April. Through public meetings, informal office hours, and a collaboration website, neighbors have asked for a greater variety of housing and retail options, less concentration of social services, better use of vacant land and marginal land. They also want a re-think of the commuter arteries that divide the neighborhoods, Florida, Rhode Island, and New York avenues, and North Capitol Street.


Neighbors' vision as captured by an illustrator during the April 27 kickoff meeting.

Planners recommend reopening streets, preserving single-family homes

OP and DDOT spent the summer developing their respective Small Area Plan and Livability Study around the neighbors' input and released their draft recommendations September 26. OP's Small Area Plan is also based on a detailed survey of the area's built, natural, and human resources and their physical and economic connections to the rest of the District.

Based on these inputs, OP recommends focusing on North Capitol Street to take advantage of its emerging mix of creative, retail, and restaurant businesses and still-vacant lots in key locations. Among the recommendations are increases in density along the street, requirements that planned-unit developments include space for retail, and a deck over a sunken portion of the roadway between T Street and Rhode Island Avenue.

More broadly, OP would also like to open a handful of neighborhood streets to reconnect the street grid and solicit proposals to turn two vacant schools into an innovation campus.

To address neighbors' other concerns, OP recommends organizing local groups to promote preservation, walkability, and the upkeep of local parks. Through these changes, OP would promote affordable housing by giving developers incentives to build more affordable units while maintaining the current stock. But OP also recommends strengthening the zoning code "to preserve the availability of the current supply of single family housing stock" in Mid City East, which by constraining supply would seem to increase prices.


DDOT's analysis of crashes in the Mid City East area. The numbers in the yellow circles represent numbers of victims (injuries and deaths).

DDOT's Livability Study, the other component of the joint effort, further took into account neighborhood travel patterns and the state of the existing streets. DDOT's data show that crashes are no accident along the area's major arterials, with hundreds of people injured and several killed over a three-year period. DDOT proposes to improve safety by removing slip lanes and widening median refuges at major intersections and lowering speed on neighborhood-serving streets through wider sidewalks, curb extensions, and mini-roundabouts at intersections.


DDOT's proposal for stormwater management through pervious pavement in alleys (red) and tree box filters (green).

Both OP and DDOT are stressing sustainability after heavy rains overwhelmed sewers and flooded in recent years. Although a stormwater storage tunnel for the neighborhood is already in the works as part of the Clean Rivers Project, DDOT also proposes to install pervious pavement and other green infrastructure designed to keep water from entering the sewer system in the first place. As part of its most ambitious proposal, DDOT would install permeable paving in about half of Mid City East's alleys and divert stormwater to sidewalk tree boxes on about a dozen streets.

Will the vision be realized?

Are OP's and DDOT's recommendations bold enough to keep the Mid City East neighborhoods on an inclusive, sustainable path that makes the most of nearby development while preserving local character? There are few large projects; instead, OP and DDOT want to make the best use of the area's current assets and encourage neighbors to help themselves through better resident and business collaboration.

The streetscape improvements and the North Capitol Street deck, though welcome, would not change the balance between commuters and residents along the major arterials. Intersection improvements would help bridge the gaps across Florida, New York, and North Capitol, but without a clearer plan for pedestrian and bicycle circulation and connections to other neighborhoods, moving across the area will still be difficult.

What do you think about the draft recommendations? Will they help the area achieve an inclusive, sustainable future? Please leave your ideas in the comments or stop in at OP and DDOT's office hours today between 6-7:30 pm at Big Bear Café at 1700 1st Street NW.

Events


Events roundup: School's out (almost)

Thanks to everyone who came to our resurrected happy hour Wednesday night! Still hungry for more conversation? Over the next 2 weeks, you can learn about pedestrian safety in Montgomery County and DC, talk about the future of Prince George's and Tysons Corner, and hear about the intersection of food and smart growth.


Photo by Dan Reed on Flickr.

Take it outside in MoCo: Tomorrow, join the Action Committee for Transit and the Coalition for Smarter Growth for an al fresco discussion of pedestrian safety and transit at Fenton Street Market. We'll promote ACT's new website, SafeWalktoSchool.com, let kids draw their favorite ways to get to school, and chat about ways to improve county transit, like the Purple Line and BRT. Join us from 10 am to 12:30 pm at the market, located at the corner of Ellsworth Drive and Fenton Street in Silver Spring.

After the jump: events in Bloomingdale, Tysons, Montgomery Village, College Park, Anacostia, and Trinidad.

Mobile design workshop in Mid-City East: If you spend time in Bloomingdale, Eckington, LeDroit Park, or Truxton Circle, DDOT and the Office of Planning want to hear from you. They've rented a ZipVan and will move around the area hosting "design on the fly" sessions all day on Saturday and Wednesday as part of a study on ways to improve pedestrian and bicycle access.

You'll find the workshop at a variety of locations, including the Bloomingdale Farmers' Market, along the Metropolitan Branch Trail, and outside Dunbar and McKinley high schools. For more details and times, visit the Mid-City East study website.

Evolving transportation in Fairfax: Learn about how the county's transportation network has changed over time at an event hosted by Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova, the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, and the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations.

It's this Wednesday, June 12 from 7:30-9:30 pm at the (very swanky) Angelika Film Center at 2911 District Avenue in Merrifield, not far from the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station. For more information or to RSVP, visit the chairman's website.

The return of M-83: No, the French electronic band isn't playing here, but Montgomery County has restarted work on Midcounty Highway Extended, also known as M-83, a proposed highway between Montgomery Village and Clarksburg. The Department of Transportation and Montgomery Village Foundation are hosting a public meeting on the controversial highway next Thursday, June 13 from 7:30 to 9:00 pm at the North Creek Community Center, located at 20125 Arrowhead Road in Montgomery Village.

Get schooled on Prince George's future: Planners in Prince George's County want to encourage more walkable neighborhoods and transit-oriented development, and they'd like to talk to you about it. They're holding a town meeting next Saturday, June 15 at the University of Maryland from 9 am to 1 pm and will serve free breakfast. You can register here or visit their website for more information.

Also:

This month, contributor John Muller will give 2 tours of Old Anacostia with a focus on the life of Frederick Douglass, who made his home there. The tours are this Saturday, June 8 and Saturday, June 22 from 11am-12:30pm, and tickets are $25. For more info visit the event's website.

Planners and developers in Tysons Corner will give an update on ongoing development and transportation projects at an open house this Tuesday, June 11 from 7-9 pm at Westbriar Elementary School, 1741 Pine Valley Drive in Tysons Corner.

The Historic Anacostia Block Association will hear presentations from the Office of Planning on future development in that area, including St. Elizabeth's East Campus and the Big K site, this Thursday, June 13 at 7pm at the UPO, 1649 Good Hope Road SE.

DDOT's studying ways to improve pedestrian and bike safety along Florida Avenue NE. They're hosting their first public meeting Wednesday, June 19 from 7 to 9 pm in Chapel Hall at Gallaudet University, 800 Florida Avenue NE.

Join food critics and restaurateurs for "Food in the City," a panel discussion hosted by Smart Growth America on the intersection of smart growth and DC's growing food community. The event's on Thursday, June 20 from 6-8 pm at Union Market, 1309 5th Street NE. For more information, visit their website.

History


Ride the 82 streetcar from 5th & G to Branchville

Thanks to video posted on YouTube, we can take a historic ride on the DC Transit 82 streetcar line from 5th & G (near what is now WMATA headquarters) all the way to the Branchville neighborhood of College Park.

Between downtown and the northern end of the line at Branchville, the streetcar passes through Eckington, Mount Rainier, Hyattsville, Riverdale, and College Park.

It's difficult to determine the exact date of this film because it was posted without a source cited. However, the streetcars are all sporting DC Transit livery. Before July 1956, the system was known as Capital Transit. It also has to be before January 1962, because that's when the streetcar system closed in DC.

We can actually narrow the dates a little more because the 80 (North Capitol Street) and 82 (Rhode Island Avenue) lines were discontinued on September 7, 1958.

Here is a map of the route the streetcar takes in this film:


Image from Google Maps.

There are a few interesting things along the route visible in the video.

At 0:48, the streetcar takes a "private right-of-way" between New York Avenue and Eckington Place. Today, this is the Wendy's in "Dave Thomas Circle," at New York and Florida Avenues.

A little farther up the route, at 1:58, you see the T Street "plow pit," where the car changed from using underground conduit to overhead wire. The bridge in the background is the T Street bridge over what is now the WMATA Brentwood Yard.

Starting at 10:18, the line begins to cross the Cafritz property in Riverdale Park. This section of the line will be converted into an extension of the College Park Trolley Trail whenever the site is developed.

At 11:20, the streetcar begins running on what is now the College Park Trolley Trail, and it continues on what is now the trail until the end of the film.

At 12:15, the trolley comes to a grade crossing of a spur of the B&O Railroad which was used to deliver coal to the University of Maryland. That right-of-way is now used for Paint Branch Parkway. Just north of that crossing (at 12:25), the streetcar crosses a tributary of Paint Branch Creek on a bridge that is is still used to carry the Trolley Trail.

At 14:18, the trolley arrives at the Branchville Loop, where Greenbelt Road, Rhode Island Avenue, and University Boulevard intersect. The narrator mentions that the line used to run further north along what is now Rhode Island Avenue. As late as 1948, the 82 line was still running as far north as Beltsville. However, the line used to run all the way to Main Street in Laurel, at the far northern end of Prince George's County.

What else do you notice in the film?

Development


Better access to RI Ave Metro would help communities

Despite being one of the original stations in the Metro system, the Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood station hasn't reached the potential of so many others because of a lack of connections into the nearby communities. Simply improving pedestrian access to the station will invigorate otherwise disconnected neighborhoods.


Photo by robin.elaine on Flickr.

In 1976, designers created a park and ride station, with pedestrians and pedestrian connections to surrounding neighborhoods as an afterthought. Although it straddles 4 neighborhoods (Brentwood, Edgewood, Eckington, and Brookland), the station barely connects with 2, and it stands nearly 50 feet above Rhode Island Avenue.

The high elevation and a lack of neighborhood connections hinders the neighborhoods around the station from developing into the vibrant communities they could be.


Access points to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro. Image modified from Google Maps.

Today, there are only 3 ways of accessing the station:

  • The bus bays next to the former parking lot (labeled 1 on the map)
  • A winding pedestrian bridge (labeled 2)
  • A (temporarily closed) four-story staircase from Rhode Island Avenue (labeled 3)
Plans are in the works for an additional pedestrian and bicycle bridge (labeled 4), which will connect the station with the Rhode Island Avenue Center mall and the Metropolitan Branch Trail. Although this will improve station access, another connection is needed for the areas southwest of the station.

Riders from nearby Eckington must trek up Rhode Island Avenue, under an overpass on a narrow sidewalk where cars speed by, then go up the ramp or stairs to reach the station. Even for residents closest to the station, the circuitous walk can take up to 15 minutes and makes rail a less-appealing option for riders.

A ramp should be built from the station, across the CSX tracks and down W Street to better connect the station with Eckington (labeled 5 on the map). This will enable residents to access the station more readily and will lay the groundwork for future improvements along 5th Street NE.

In its vision for the Rhode Island Avenue corridor, the DC Office of Planning suggests turning the area around the rail overpass and 5th Street into a mixed-use district, containing shops, offices, and new residential structures. The report also calls for a new connection to the station, running along the 600 block of W Street NE (which is currently used as an alley for nearby warehouses) toward the station (labeled 6 5 on the map).

Making another pedestrian connection to the station would create a sense of neighborhood cohesiveness that does not currently exist, and help surrounding neighborhoods grow and prosper.

Development


Pop-up stores could be key to Rhode Island Ave rebirth

Once a bustling district, Rhode Island Avenue NE is currently home to little more than series of boarded-up shops, storefront churches and vacant lots. Pop-up stores, which have been appearing elsewhere in DC, could prove to be a great remedy for the area's economy and an excellent starting point for turning the neighborhood around.


Photo by ZanyShani on Flickr.

In the first half of the twentieth century, Rhode Island Avenue was a busy streetcar thoroughfare, connecting downtown DC with streetcar suburbs of Mt. Rainier, Maryland. This route supported a diverse cadre of businesses, from restaurants to small boutique shops.

However, the removal of the streetcar in the 1960s, coupled with an increase in crime, led the once great avenue down an unfortunate path.

In recent decades, small business have all but disappeared from the area, and in recent years, even larger establishments, such as the National Wholesale Liquidators and the Safeway at the Rhode Island Avenue Center strip mall have closed their doors.

With only a few tenants left, the mall's sprawling parking lots never exceed 50% capacity, even on weekends. Indeed, the lot's landlord even offers "commuter parking" for the nearby Rhode Island Avenue Metro station.

The former Safeway, closed in 2010, has stood vacant, with little sign of activity, for over a year. When it closed, the grocery chain noted that the location had been unprofitable for over 10 years. Grocery stores serve as important community anchors and allow other forms of retail to flourish nearby. This is especially true for this strip mall, which is detached from the surrounding streets and neighborhoods.

Rhode Island Avenue north of Brentwood fares no better. Despite stretches that see over 30,000 vehicles per day, businesses along the avenue are anything but diverse. Sit-down restaurants tend to avoid this part of town, despite plenty of potential customers. The only new food establishments to open recently are a Rita's Custard Shop and a breakfast/brunch-only diner.

Nearby residents lament the lack of retail, but although the area has no shortage of space for new businesses to move in, the high upfront costs of opening shop coupled with the neighborhood's reputation pose an enormous to traditional establishments that might even consider the area as their base. In "up and coming" neighborhoods, entrepreneurs may be hesitant to open businesses despite low rents and high traffic volumes. Many business owners don't want to be roped into a long-term lease if the future of the neighborhood remains uncertain.

With lower operating costs and a greater dependence on readily available, affordable property, pop-up stores might prove to be a great option for Rhode Island Avenue. And, the so-called pop-up businesses might already have some examples to follow in Northeast.

In the Rhode Island Avenue Center, a car-wash and Mr. P's BBQ truck have set-up shop and attract a loyal following of both locals and visitors. On weekends, impromptu flea markets appear and attract residents from Edgewood and other close-by neighborhoods.

Within the vacant former Safeway space, an indoor flea or farmers' market might fit in nicely, especially in cooler weather. Since Safeway's departure last year, residents of nearby Edgewood and Eckington have had to travel to the Brentwood Giant to get groceries; adding an indoor, semi-permanent farmers' market might make their lives a little easier (and tastier).

On the other side of town, in Mt. Pleasant, an ingenious concept called the "Temporium" made use of underutilized retail space on Mt. Pleasant Street NW. Despite being a temporary facility, the space attracted 6,800 visitors and made over $31,000 in sales the last month it was open.

However, before significant development can occur on Rhode Island Avenue, the corridor needs to see some substantial improvements to the area's transportation infrastructure. Currently, the Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood metro station serves the area, but it lacks adequate neighborhood access.

There are plans to build a ramp across the CSX/MARC/Amtrak line, which would eliminate the circuitous walk or perilous rail crossing to the shopping center and could begin construction in 2012. DDOT has also included Rhode Island Avenue in its Phase II streetcar plan, but this addition should be preceded with a Circulator route or other frequent bus service.

Eventually, the entire corridor will need to adopt a comprehensive plan (such as the one produced during the Fenty administration by the DC Planning Office), but, in the meantime, short-term solutions, such as pop-up stores, exist to improve the livability of the area and make the neighborhoods that surround it more appealing.

Bicycling


DDOT seeks community input on R Street bike improvements

The R Street NW bike lane is an important east-west thoroughfare for cyclists in DC, stretching from Massachusetts Avenue NW to Florida Avenue NW. The only gap remaining is 6 blocks between Florida Avenue and the Metropolitan Branch Trail. DDOT hopes to fill this gap soon.


Photo by nolantreadway on Flickr.

On Saturday morning, local ANC Commissioners hosted representatives from DDOT to meet with residents of Eckington and Bloomingdale to discuss their proposal to complete the direct connection for cyclists between the MBT and Rock Creek Park.

The proposal calls for a combination of sharrows and protected bike lanes between Florida Avenue and the MBT along R Street. According to DDOT representatives, the choice of sharrows, rather than bike lanes, was one of necessity because much of R Street through Bloomingdale and Eckington carries two-way traffic rather than one-way, rendering the street too narrow to incorporate bike lanes.

R Street is one-way eastbound on the block between 2nd Street NE and 3rd Street NE. Westbound cyclists cannot legally remain on R Street, and either have to go out of their way, or bike on the sidewalk here. The proposal calls for a separated contraflow bike lane on this block. This design is similar to that of 15th Street NW, where a lane of parking provides a buffer between cyclists and traffic.

Segment of project from Eckington Place to 3rd Street, NE.

One goal of this project is to increase safety for both cyclists and drivers, especially for drivers on southbound 2nd Street NE, where the column of parked cars would obscure their ability to see oncoming cyclists.

Among residents in attendance, the proposal for sharrows along R Street was uncontroversial. Residents noted the unobtrusive nature of the markings, a sample of which was displayed by DDOT representatives, and that the sharrows will provide another welcome impetus for motorists in the area to slow down and be mindful of bicyclists and pedestrians (speed humps are already installed on this stretch of R Street).


Photo by nolantreadway on Flickr.

Of more concern to the gathered residents was the overall traffic volume in the neighborhood, particularly the truck traffic emanating from industrial areas along the MBT and railroad tracks, as well as from the FedEx facility at Florida and New York Avenues NE.

The ANC Commissioners present spoke of past agreements with these companies to limit the use of local streets for through-traffic, and how those agreements have been forgotten or ignored over the years. They also noted the difficultly of imposing weight-restrictions on R Street because of its status as a major east-west route and collector street.

Ultimately, attendees and DDOT representatives recognized the value of sharrows is more symbolic than physical. Unlike separated bike lanes, sharrows don't provide any physical protection to cyclists, who are still vulnerable to dooring or being squeezed by traffic.

Still, the sharrows provide an important psychological benefit, letting drivers know bicyclists are present and have a right to the road, and letting cyclists know they are welcome on the street.

As the next step in their process for community input and approval, DDOT will present at an upcoming ANC meeting. The ANC may hold a vote on the issue, though such a vote is not required for DDOT to move forward.

If approved, the project itself will be relatively inexpensive. Each sharrow marking runs about $75 and costs another $75 to install. Approximately two markings in each direction will be installed per block. Barring significant opposition within the community, DDOT representatives estimated the project could be completed before Thanksgiving.

Government


Ward 5 needs more, smaller ANC's

The Ward 5 Redistricting Task Force recently began the process of deciding if and how to redraw the ward's Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs). The task force should create more ANC's with fewer Single Member Districts (SMDs) in each.

SMDs are the individual districts that make up each ANC. Each SMD serves around 2,000 constituents. Commissioners are unpaid, non partisan, and elected to 2-year terms.

Every ward has their ANCs arranged slightly differently. The most common set up is 4 or 5 commissions with fewer than 10 SMDs in each. For example, Ward 7 has 5 commissions, each consisting of 7 SMDs.

Currently, Ward 5 has only 3 ANCs, each with 12 SMDs. This is problematic because each covers a large geographic area, encompassing a wide range of neighborhoods with vastly different characteristics and needs.


Current ANC boundaries.

A more responsive system could be created by revising ANCs to be based on historic neighborhood boundaries, future economic development prospects, and common-sense issues of geography. This would improve local governance by ensuring that commissioners were voting on issues that they were engaged in and would impact their constituents. It would also make it easier for interested citizens to attend meetings and get involved in local government.

ANC's should comprise neighborhood clusters that are near each other and have similar densities and zoning characteristics.

For example, ANC 5C includes some of Ward 5's most densely populated neighborhoods along the North Capitol Street corridor, sparsely populated areas around the Armed Forces Retirement Home, and most of Catholic University. These neighborhoods have little in common and cover an area almost 3 miles from north to south.

This variation is problematic when the whole ANC votes on something that will in reality only impact a few SMDs. The controversy over Big Bear Cafe's attempts to secure a liquor license pitted commissioners from miles away against supportive commissioners from the neighborhood.

Issues can also arise when commissioners deal with changes or challenges from areas outside their borders that do not affect the larger ANC. For instance, the Eckington and Truxton Circle neighborhoods in ANC 5C are located very close to development in the newly branded NoMa neighborhood. They have to deal with related economic development and housing issues that will have little impact on 5C commissioners from farther north.

Many of the problems inherent in ANC5C's makeup could be solved by reducing its size and moving its northern most SMD's to another commission. A better, smaller ANC 5C could look like this:


Image by the author. Click for interactive map.

Similarly, the neighborhoods of Trinidad and Carver-Langston in ANC 5B, located north of Florida Ave and Benning Road, NE are part of the rapid economic development based around the H Street corridor. But ANC 5B stretches for miles towards the Maryland border. It includes the National Arboretum, and has several SMDs clustered around Rhode Island Avenue, NE.

These areas have different economic centers and geographies. It makes little sense for them to be involved in each other's parochial decisions.

These issues can be solved by creating a smaller ANC representing Trinidad, Carver-Langston, Ivy City and Gallaudet University:


Image by the author. Click for interactive map.

As currently constituted, several of Ward 5's economic corridors, historic neighborhoods and institutions are split between multiple ANCs. This makes it difficult to create coherent and effective policy.

Catholic University, the surrounding neighborhood of Brookland, and its main street of 12th Street are currently split between three ANCs. The nearby Rhode Island Avenue corridor also touches three separate commissions. Creating one ANC to encompass Catholic University, Brookland and neighborhoods to the north and south of Rhode Island Avenue, NE would allow local leaders to make smart decisions about the future of this area without undue outside influence.


Image by the author. Click for interactive map.

These examples do not form a complete plan for redrawing Ward 5's ANCs. But they do show that the existing commissions can be broken down in a more logical and effective manner.

The three ANCs in Ward 5 are vast. The current setup does not make participation in local politics easy for anyone, but it is especially problematic for seniors, people with small children and those without cars or easy access to transit.

Ward 5 isn't the only ward considering more, smaller ANCs. In Ward 1, which is currently divided into 4 commisions, ANC 1A and 1B each have 11 commissioners. 1B would now grow to 13 commissioners if its borders don't change. Kent Boese has proposed adding a 5th ANC in Ward 1, giving each 6-9 SMDs.

Creating smaller ANCs will make it easier for regular citizens to get involved in local affairs. This line of thinking appeared at the first task force meeting when members suggested that citizens will be more likely to attend meetings if they know it will be a short trip from their house.

The Ward 5 Redistricting Task Force has a chance to improve governance and get more people involved when making their recommendations. They should move forward by creating more ANCs and decreasing the size of the existing commissions.

Their next meeting will be held on Wednesday, August 24 at the 5th District Police Station, 1805 Bladensburg Road NE. Visit the Ward 5 Redistricting Task Force's blog for more information.

Events


Join GGW at Anacostia Community Museum & Art Gallery

Greater Greater Washington invites you to a Sunday afternoon tour of the Smithsonian's Anacostia Community Museum and the Anacostia Art Gallery on July 10.


Anacostia Community Museum. Photo from Congress Heights on the Rise.

Other events coming up include the Kidical Mass bike ride, a gathering on Met Branch Trail safety, a streetcar happy hour, and Arlington's Capital Bikeshare expansion meeting.

For the Anacostia day, we will meet at the museum at noon for a brown-bag lunch and networking hour. From 1-3 pm we will divide into two groups for a guided tour of the museum and the art gallery.

Space is limited, so registration is required for tours. RSVP here.

The Anacostia Community Museum is located at 1901 Fort Place SE. The W2 and W3 buses from the Anacostia Metro Station stop across the street from the museum. There is also a free shuttle from the National Mall.

This Saturday, June 18, is Kidical Mass, the monthly family-friendly bike ride. This month's starts at Turkey Thicket Recreation Center in Brookland at 10:30 and heads up to Mt. Rainier for a pool party. For those farther south, there will be a bike caravan going from Capitol Hill and stopping in Bloomingdale, Eckington, and Edgewood.

There are two great transportation-related events on Wednesday, June 22. From 4 to 7 pm is a Met Branch Trail safety open house at the 4th and S pocket park along the trail, organized by GGW contributor and Rails-to-Trails coordinator Stephen Miller. MPD and DDOT officials will talk with riders about recent safety and dispatching problems on the trail.

The Guardian Angels are also organizing trail safety patrols, and will talk with trail users at the event. They need people to sign up to patrol, which you can do at the event or online.

After that, bike or ride Metro (because the streetcar isn't yet running) over to the Sierra Club's streetcar happy hour at Ray's the Steaks, 3905 Dix St. NE by the Minnesota Avenue Metro, starting at 6 pm.

Finally, Arlington's meeting on CaBi expansion is Monday, June 27, 7 pm at the Arlington county offices at 2100 Clarendon Blvd, Cherry and Dogwood conference rooms.

You can find these and other events on the Greater Greater Washington calendar. If there's something else we should know about, send it to events@ggwash.org and we'll get it added.

Bicycling


DDOT proposes Eckington bike lane, commissioner opposes

DDOT wants to help people on bikes traverse R Street in Eckington with sharrows and a one-block contraflow lane. ANC commissioner Sylvia Pinkney is organizing a petition to oppose the project, but some of her fellow commissioners and neighbors don't share her distaste.


Image from Google Street View.

R Street has an existing bike lane west of Florida Avenue, but there is a gap in Eckington, where people biking use R Street to access the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

Most of R in Eckington is 2-way, with one lane each way and parking on each side. In these areas, DDOT plans just to add "sharrows," the shared-lane markings that remind drivers that people biking are allowed to ride in the lane (though legally this is true whether or not the markings exist.)

For one small block between 2nd and 3rd Streets NE, R Street is one-way eastbound. It's wide enough for two lanes, but two lanes aren't really necessary. DDOT is suggesting replacing one of those with a contraflow lane, between the parking and the sidewalk. It will be painted green.

Segment of project from Eckington Place to 3rd Street, NE.

Drivers have to go one block out of the way, to Randolph Place NE, if they want to go west through this area (or take a different route). But this is not good for people on bikes since it requires going up a fairly substantial hill around McKinley High and then down again. Also, people riding on the Met Branch Trail know R Street is a way to get all the way across town, while many people aren't so familiar with Randolph Place.

However, ANC Commissioner Sylvia Pinkney is organizing against the lane. Pinkney's district is just to the west, covering R between 2nd and North Capitol. She is also the commissioner who led the charge against the Youth Build Public Charter School.

In an email to neighbors, Pinkney announced her opposition to both the bike lane and the sharrows.

The community struggled for five years to obtain speed humps to slow the traffic on R Street. Between the construction trucks, Fed Ex trucks, buses, local community traffic, and every driver that chooses to cut through R street to avoid Florida Avenue and access North Capitol Street, R Street has become a dangerous heavily traveled thoroughfare.

It is because R Street NE is dangerous, heavily traveled, and not wide enough for a bike lane, that the meeting participants agreed that bike lanes and symbols should not be installed on R Street. If R Street is not wide enough for a bike lane it is not safe for bikers.

There are several secondary streets in Eckington that lead to the bike trail. I am certain R Street is the most heavily travelled, most dangerous, and the narrowest of them all.

Pinkney's concern for cyclists' safety is touching, but misplaced. There really aren't other decent routes. One of the multiple readers who wrote in about this issue said,
I live on the unit block of S Street NE, and take that street to work every day. There is no other way to get to the R Street bike lane without going on North Capital, Florida Ave or Rhode Island Ave, so how does disallowing sharrows make me safer?
Putting in the bike lane would actually help neighbors who want traffic calmed. If this street becomes an even more common bike route, the many people riding in the lane will force drivers to slow down and give the street more of a feeling of a low-speed neighborhood street than a high-speed thoroughfare. Likewise, the contraflow lane will narrow the 200 block, also calming traffic.

First-term ANC Commissioner Tim Clark, whose campaign platform included making Eckington safer for cyclists, is enthusiastic about the proposal. He wrote in an email,

Some people's belief that the community would outright object to the lanes is based on a common misconception that people in our community don't embrace cyclists or bike lanes. I myself found this not to be true when I spent 3 days canvassing the 200 block of R. Street. In fact, it's very far from the truth.

So far I've had only one resident to object to the plan. Many of the residents where more than willing to share the road with bikers and felt it would make the street a lot safer. They only asked that the lane be kept to the outside of their cars to avoid any possible property damage. ...

My residents are supportive of the plan and making our community safer for all pedestrians. With the massive NoMa West project and increased residential growth over the last couple of years, our roads have become increasingly crowded, which has encouraged more residents to bike. R Street is also one of the only east-to-west connectors for bikers in the city, so there's a need to make the commute safer.

If you live in the area or frequently ride or drive through Eckington, please email the ANC members and DDOT's Mike Goodno to register your support for the project.

Development


I Wish This Were... in Bloomingdale/Eckington/Truxton Circle

Forward-thinking New Orleanians started putting stickers on abandoned buildings and other places they wish were more than they are.

Borrowing the idea, minus the physical tagging of properties, we bring you the first installment of "I Wish This Were...", where GGW contributors imagine a better use for vacant properties and poorly-conceived public spaces in the DC area.

This one focuses on the Bloomingdale, Eckington and Truxton Circle neighborhoods of Northwest and Northeast DC. All photos by the author, who is a Bloomingdale resident.

Local developer Brian Brown almost came to agreement with two restauranteurs to turn this lovely late 19th-century firehouse, at the northwest corner of North Capitol St and Quincy Pl NW, into a 2-story bar and restaurant. Both deals fell through due to lack of financing. Let us hope that a committed investor comes forward.

This site of a former Esso service station at the northwest corner of Florida Ave and North Capitol St NW, behind "Truxton Park," has been vacant for many years as developers have been unwilling to pay to decontaminate the site. A 3 or 4-story affordable apartment building with a neighborhood grocery or shop on the ground floor would be ideally suited for this prime real estate at the junction of two heavily-used Metrobus lines.

The DC government owns this lot at Florida Avenue and Q Street NW and condemned the boarded-up building (which appears to have had retail space) in August 2009. OECD reports that 'affordable housing' is planned here. Homes here should be architecturally similar to the rowhouses to the right (west), perhaps with retail or office space mixed in. The rooftop of a 2-story building here would afford a view of the Capitol and Washington Monument.

The District or a developer should transform this "L'Enfant wedge" at Florida Avenue & R Street NW into a welcoming space similar to the one with the LeDroit Park gate at Florida & T Street NW.

As I recently suggested, imagine this mini-highway decked over to become a tree-lined plaza framing the view of the Capitol dome.

Bloomingdale already boasts some fine examples of smart urban design:


Crispus Attucks Park

Big Bear Cafe

Timor Bodega (locally-owned organic grocery)

Picturesque Victorian rowhouses on tree-lined streets.
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