Greater Greater Washington

Posts by Veronica Davis

Veronica O. Davis, PE, has experience in planning transportation, urban areas, civil infrastructure, and communities. She co-owns Nspiregreen, LLC, an environmental consulting company in DC. She is also the co-founder of Black Women Bike DC, which strives to increase the number of Black women and girls biking for fun, health, wellness, and transportation. 

Around Potomac Avenue Metro, an oval, a square, or a triangle

The intersection around Potomac Avenue Metrorail station needs to accommodate pedestrians, almost a dozen bus routes, heavy traffic, cyclists, and more. DDOT is proposing three options for redesigning this intersection and creating a usable park in the center.


The Ellipse Park design. Rendering from DDOT.

Since 2006, several proposals have emerged for modernizing the Pennsylvania and Potomac intersection, an increasingly important transit hub for Wards 6, 7 and 8. It's a particularly tricky spot because while there's a high demand for walking through the intersection, the current design does not prioritize pedestrians. In addition, the intersection is home to a Metrorail station and multiple bus stops, which necessitates designing for bus turning radii and transfers between buses and Metro.

Three designs for the intersection, and what they have in common

The three design options DDOT is considering are a Triangle Park, Rectangle Park, and Ellipse Park. Each shares the goals of prioritizing pedestrian safety and creating a usable park space in the median of Pennsylvania.

While pedestrians are supposed to cross at the intersection, the "desire line" through the median makes it clear that pedestrians are crossing mid-block, which is unsafe. Recognizing pedestrians' preferred path, all three proposals include adding a signalized intersection to allow pedestrians to cross through the median.


The existing intersection Pennsylvania and Potomac Avenues. Photo from Google Maps.

Of the three designs, the Ellipse Park is the best fit for Pennsylvania and Potomac's array of needs.


The Triangle Park design. Rendering from DDOT.

The Ellipse Park is the best of the three designs

For starters, if a park is going to be inviting it needs to have enough large space to feel distinct from the road median. The Ellipse Park would create more green space than the other two options34,300 square feet, to be exact. The Triangle Park would only create 25,000 square feet of space, and by wedging grassy areas between traffic lanes, it wouldn't be much better than what's there now. And the Rectangle Park, while more unified, would create only 500 more square feet than the Triangle Park.

The Ellipse Park is the only proposal that would reduce the number of bus stops from five to four, which would cut down on pedestrians dashing from the Metro or a different bus stop to catch a bus. The Triangle design creates a situation where people transferring from 30s buses to the Metro would need to cross more roads than in the other designs, and while the Rectangle Park wouldn't have this problem, it doesn't have the Ellipse's pedestrian refuge for people walking south across Pennsylvania.

Finally, both the Ellipse and Rectangle parks would reduce the number of lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue, currently at four in each direction, down to three. The Ellipse Park, however, has curb extensions, which gives the appearance of less roadway than Rectangle Park.


The Rectangle Park design. Rendering from DDOT.

Whichever design wins out certainly won't be without its challenges. The National Park Services, the agency that would be responsible for maintaining them, has a mixed record when it comes to caring for these kinds of small civic spaces, which is cause for concern when it comes to both the Ellipse and Rectangle parks' proposed tree linings that would serve as buffers between park visitors and passing automobiles.

As the area around Pennsylvania and Potomac continues to grow, new and current residents alike deserve transportation design that enhances their safety and convenience. The proposed Ellipse Park is the best way to go because it will create the most park space and make bus-to-rail travel easiest in addition to reducing car lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue.

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Remembering Marion Barry

People around the nation who've never met Marion Barry nevertheless have strong opinions about him as a symbol of an era in DC, but he was also a man who touched many lives in many different ways. Our contributors look back at their memories of the "Mayor for Life."


Photo by Tom Bridge on Flickr.

Nick Keenan: I first saw him in person in the late 1990's. I was living in Shaw, the Convention Center was in the planning stages, and it was hugely controversial. There had been a series of public meetings which had grown increasingly heated, and the last one had ended in a near-riot after about ten minutes.

I still remember the president of the civic association standing on a table and blowing a whistle, trying to restore order (why he had brought a whistle to the meeting remains a mystery). Allen Lew had brought a detailed 3D model to the meeting, and I remember him scurrying out, obviously relieved and somewhat surprised that his expensive model had escaped the angry crowd.

It was against this backdrop that Marion Barry came into the neighborhood a few weeks later, to talk with us about the Convention Center.

He had an almost magical effect on the crowd. His charisma was obvious. The crowd was generally hostile, but he won them over. "We're not going to get anywhere," he started, "with people yelling at each other. I'm going to have an assistant hand out cards, and if you have a question or a comment write it on a card, and I will read them all."

And like that, it was over. People had come for a raucous meeting, but they were going to get a bunch of questions read off cards. Or course he never did read all of the questions, but it didn't matter. The Convention Center was approved a few months later.

Veronica Davis: My most vivid memory of Marion Barry was at the Ward 7 Economic Development Summit held last year. He sat next to me at the table as we discussed the future of Ward 7. This was my first time being able to have a one-on-one conversation with him about development. Although I disagreed with some of his ideas, I did not interrupt him. I sat there quietly listening to him and learning from him.

Marion Barry and I both had a hobby of live tweeting the TV show Scandal. One episode he and I were having a Twitter conversation trying to guess the mole. After giving my theory, he tweeted back "Now you're thinking politically." Granted, it was only Twitter, but I felt as if he had given me a gold star.

A common description throughout all the tributes to Marion Barry is he was a complex man. Despite his faults, he was fascinating and above all charming. There were times I found myself as one of his critics and others I was one of his defenders. He was indeed complex. There is no doubt he will be remembered as a legend.

John Muller: Growing up in the periphery of Washington City, I heard constant chatter of "Mary and Barry." It was not until grade school I understood "Marion Barry" was one person, the powerful and controversial Mayor of DC. Years later, as a local journalist I found myself covering Barry as the Ward 8 Councilmember.

Two memories particularly stand out that speak to the pathos of how and why Barry was near universally beloved in Ward 8. While putting the finishing touches on a story years ago about the Big K saga for East of the River I got a call from Barry around 9:30 pm. "John, I hear you're writing about Big K. I gotta get in that story." We spoke for 30 minutes. I obliged his request.

Last year as Barry entered one of the hundreds of community meetings I've covered, He saw me hanging near the back and offered his hand. "Congratulations on your book, John. We need to do a better job of honoring Frederick Douglass. You've done a great thing for this community."

To be recognized by Barry was, for the fleetingness of moments, to be caught up in his star-crossed relationship with Washington City. For many of the last, lost and least in our city who struggle with issues of illiteracy, employment, substance abuse, and housing Barry's mere acknowledgement of their existence was enough to overlook his personal demons and the failure of city leadershipoften his leadershipto change circumstances of their lives.

Brent Bolin: I had crossed paths with Barry a few times in my Anacostia River work, but we activists were turning up the heat on the issue of remediating toxics in the river and scheduled a press conference for the week before the 2010 primary. We stood on one of the toxic sites on the banks of the river and challenged all of the councilmembers to sign a pledge that by the end of their terms there would be a plan in place to deal with the toxics (knowing the actual remediation would take years and years).

Ironically most electeds were just down the river at a Yards Park event, and then a few came upstream to our press conferenceChairman Gray, Marion Barry, Tommy Wells, and Harry Thomas. The press conference was on a dirt lot literally on the riverbank with a few cars parked along the side, and as a group of us waited for officials and press to arrive a Jaguar pulls up and parks smack in the middle of the site.

I was standing some distance away at angle thinking, who the heck is parking in the middle of the event? And then of course the Mayor For Life nonchalantly gets out of the car (even more nonchalantly than he parked) and starts chatting folks up like he owns the place (because he does). And here's the kicker sure to please the GGW crowd: a few minutes later Tommy Wells rolled up on his bike. The contrasting arrivals make me chuckle to this day.

Mr. Barry was coming off a serious illness and I'd heard some people say he had lost a step as a result, but as we talked I found him sharp as could be, and funny, and he really knew a lot about the river. I emailed the below picture to pretty much everyone.


Photo by Brent Bolin.

And you: Did you interact with Marion Barry personally as more than just a legend, an icon, a caricature, or a symbol? Post your recollections in the comments.

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Offbeat pedestrian and bike signs in Panama

Panama's capital, Panama City, lacks pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, but the country has some pretty amusing signage. For example, there's this "pedestrian" sign. Perhaps we should all be aware of bootylicious robots.


All photos by the author.

My personal favorite was this jogger sign. If a jogger ran past me with that physique, I would drive slower.


Jogger sign

I didn't see any bike lanes or people biking around the city, but the "Respect It" signs are all over the city.


"Respect It."

Crossing the street in Panama requires courage and attitude of a honey badger. Literally, you have to look straight and walk across without any hesitation or risk getting hit. Everyone ignored the pedestrian signals.

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Were you there when the region was still building Metro?

My dad worked for the Urban Mass Transportation Authority, now the Federal Transit Administration, in the late 1970s. As a result, my family went on several tours of the new transit system. My mom recently brought me this promotional item from a tour in 1980 or 1981.

The text says,

I saw partially completed stations with:
  • Free floating mezzanines standing clear of the walls
  • Installations for edge-platform lights which will dim and brighten to signal the approach of quiet Metro trains
  • Air conditioning ducts and public address speaker openings
  • Train halls long enough to hold the Washington Monument on its side with 45 feet left over
  • Direct sight lines and open visibility with no columns to block my view
  • Huge coffered station arches to be painted with indirect light from below the platforms
  • Acoustical panels being installed to quiet the stations
  • Floating slabs resting on elastomer pads to quiet train noise and vibration from the surroundings
It took me ___ minutes to walk it. By train, the same trip will take ___ minutes.
Were you there? Any other readers have cool photos or souvenirs from this era? Send them to info@ggwash.org!
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When condo bylaws prohibit bike parking

The bylaws of older condominium associations often hinder the ability for communities to evolve as the needs of residents change. Some condo associations grapple with this issue as more residents start to ride bicycles.


Photo by Jeffrey Beall on Flickr.

Matt Johnson rents a condo in Greenbelt. His condo association's rules prohibit storing bikes on balconies. But there's nowhere else to store them outside; there are no bike racks outside anywhere.

They do have a "bike room" in the basement. It is completely unmarked; Matt just assumed it was an electrical closet for the first 3 years he lived there. After the building captain mentioned it to Matt, he went and looked inside.

There are no bike racks or any other elements to which it is possible to lock a bike. It's a big square room with cinderblock walls. Most of the room is full of junk from other residents, just stacked in there, no organization whatsoever. It looks like the only thing not stored in that room are bikes.

Instead, Matt keeps his bike in the dining nook during the warmer months. Whenever he and Ryan have guests over or during the winter, he moves it to their storage locker (also in the basement). It barely fits inside.

Even if they had a bike room, Matt probably wouldn't use it, because having to carry it up and down a bunch of stairs and going through 2 locked doors (for which each unit gets only 1 key) would inhibit daily use of his bike.

Veronica finds high hurdles to change her condo bylaws

When Veronica was president of her condo board in Fairfax Village, in DC's Ward 7, she looked into adding bike racks in their parking lot. However, the association's bylaws, written in 1974, prevent storing bikes outside:

Co-owner shall not place or cause to be placed in the public hallways, walkway, driveways, parking areas or other Common Elements any bicycles, furniture, packages or objects of any kind. The public hallways, walkways and driveways shall be used for no purpose other than for normal transit through them.
Once that was a no-go, she looked at the possibility of converting a basement space into a bike room. However, the same provision includes "other Common Elements." Another section of the bylaws has a half page definition of "Common Elements," which includes basements.

Amending the association's bylaws would require approval by two-thirds of owners at a meeting called specifically for that purpose. That's not an insurmountable task, but it would take a significant effort to get that percentage of owners at a meeting.

Given all of their other projects such as the community garden, bike parking fell to the bottom of the list. Fortunately, unlike with Matt's condo, most (if not all) of the residents that have bikes either own a garage unit or store them in a neighbor's garage unit.

DC's proposed new bike parking regulations might trump the bylaws, at least for some condos in the District. It's unclear if they would affect Veronica's condo, since the regulations only apply to buildings of 8 units or more, and Veronica's is 3 separate structures of 6 units, all connected together with plumbing. We emailed DDOT yesterday to find out, but hadn't heard a definitive answer by posting time.

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Hillcrest residents turn tennis courts into gardens

Vacant for years, the tennis courts at the Fairfax Village condominium in Hillcrest were choked with weeds and litter. Last week, residents and volunteers came together to transform it into a community garden and gathering space.


Residents and volunteers prepare the site to build a raised garden bed. All photos by the author.

Hillcrest, located in Ward 7, is a quiet suburban neighborhood that the City Paper nicknamed "Lawn and Order." But the two tennis courts at Fairfax Village, located on Southern Avenue SE, have been derelict for the last decade. The courts are overgrown with trees and weeds and filled with litter.

The original plan was to sell the land to builder IDS Homes, who wanted to build single-family homes there, but the deal fell through. Neighbors, community leaders and ANC Commissioner Robert A. Jordan, had another idea: turn it into community space.


Plans for the community garden.

One court will be used for community events, such as outdoor movies. Thanks to a grant from the District Department of the Environment, the other court will be transformed into a community garden. The plans include two raised garden beds, a gazebo in the middle, and fruit trees on the perimeter.

Earlier this year, workers removed the tennis court's surface and crushed its subsurface concrete, which will be reused to build a retaining wall for the raised garden beds. Here's what the site looked like without the tennis court:

Last Saturday, we had a community day at the garden. Volunteers from Fairfax Village, the Anacostia Watershed Society, and Georgetown University toiled away to build the retaining wall, remove overgrowth from the stairs, and add mulch. Youth from the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) and Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) led many of the tasks.


Fairfax Village neighbors being trained to lead tasks.

SYEP and DYRS youth will continue to build the community garden throughout the summer, but we hope to have more community work days during the planting season. This community garden has been two years in the making, and we are excited to reap the rewards when it is complete.

For more photos, visit Life in the Village.

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What would fix Pennsylvania and Potomac?

It's confusing and inconvenient to cross the intersection of Pennsylvania and Potomac Avenues on foot, to get to and from the Potomac Avenue Metro station. Could a different intersection design work better?


Two early concept designs for the intersection.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) kicked off an environmental study of the intersection with a public meeting Thursday night. This was the first of 3 meetings they will hold this year. They've also posted their presentation online.

Last week's was a "scoping meeting," the required first meeting of a NEPA process. Next, the team will develop alternatives, present them to the public, review their impacts, have public agencies review the draft document, and present a third time.


The intersection today, with sidewalks in red and parkland in green.

Redesign would accommodate crossing straight through

According to the study team, many people end up crossing straight through the intersection, and have worn a "desire line" in the median. They are crossing between signals, however, which may not be very safe. The team plans to design the intersection to help people cross safely in the direction they want to.

A prior study proposed rebuilding the intersection as a square, which would include crosswalks directly through the center from the Metro. However, that concept design hadn't gone through engineering review, and included turns too sharp for buses, Geoff Hatchard reported from the meeting.


2006 concept for a square.

The presentation has two concept sketches for the intersection. One would make Potomac Avenue end on each side at a T-intersection with Pennsylvania, and another would build an oval, though smaller and rounder than the one in the 2006 concept.

These sketches don't show crosswalks across Pennsylvania Avenue except in the center, but the planners explained in person that they will indeed include marked crosswalks at every intersection. That's important, especially since by DC law, every place a street meets another is a legal crosswalk, whether or not there are stripes.

Factors to consider in the design

The team stressed that these are not the final options, just early concepts, and they will refine and develop them more throughout the next phase of the process. As they do, here are some concepts they should keep in mind:

Traffic calming: One of the ways to make this intersection safer for pedestrians is to slow down the vehicles. DC recently installed a speed camera Pennsylvania Ave between 12th and 13th, which is a little over one block to the west. However, cars still speed through this stretch of road. The alternatives should include engineering solutions that will calm the traffic.

Seamless transit connections: This intersection has a Metro station and is a major bus transfer hub. Many of the pedestrians in this area are trying to transfer between buses or bus and Metro. The current configuration usually leads pedestrians to dash across Pennsylvania Ave to catch a bus. The proposed alternatives should consider bus stop locations.

Location of the CaBi station: When DDOT designed the original "square" concept, the Capital Bikeshare program didn't exist. The station is currently located on the southwest corner of Pennsylvania and Potomac Ave.

One of the residents at the meeting pointed out that the current location is awkward if a rider wants to go westbound on Pennsylvania Ave. Also, people taking CaBi to or from the Metro have to cross Pennsylvania to reach the station. DDOT should consider where to locate the bikeshare station to make it as easy as possible to access the bikes and to help riders enter the flow of traffic safely.

Cyclist safety: One of the proposed concepts is a traffic oval. The engineers on this project explained that the traffic ovals are a method to calm traffic. While that may be the case from a technical perspective, traffic circles and ovals can be a cyclist's worst nightmare, especially when there aren't any identified bike lanes. In trying to address pedestrian safety, DDOT should not create unsafe conditions for cyclists.

Connect projects on both sides of the river: Another NEPA process is underway for reconfiguring the Minnesota Avenue-Pennyslvania Avenue intersection, immediately east of the Anacostia River. A NEPA process for Barney Circle, on the immediate west side of the Anacostia River, will start later this month. DDOT needs to make sure as these projects progress, the designs connect communities on both side of the river.

Rethink the Kiss-and-Ride: The Potomac Avenue Metro Station has a Kiss-and-Ride area that adds to the pedestrian-vehicle conflicts in this intersection. Stations in urban neighborhoods generally don't have Kiss-and-Rides, and this might be the time to remove it.

What will happen with green space? The National Park Service controls the current median of Pennsylvania Avenue, and would likely control the larger green space if DDOT chooses an oval-type design, Brian McEntee reported from the meeting. However, NPS does not have the resources to maintain its small parks around DC very well, and regulations often inhibit actively programming the space for the neighborhood.

This was a primary concern of many people at the meeting, McEntee said. Many worried this would create a dead space without any activity. Some suggested a playground; NPS rules have interfered with efforts to build a playground downtown as well.

DDOT will present its alternatives at the second public meeting sometime this spring.

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Lessons from biking in Detroit

Although people may not associate Detroit with biking, there are a few things Washington can learn from the Motor City. I recently got to ride 2 new trails that include features which could work well in our region.


Photo by Dave Hogg on Flickr.

The Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance and the Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative recently invited me to Detroit for a bike tour and to talk about biking in the nation's capital. My tour guide, Todd Scott of Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance, showed me the Detroit Riverwalk and the Dequindre Cut Greenway, a rails to trails project in the heart of Detroit.

Detroit is still in the beginning phases of building a bike infrastructure, their trails already sport some excellent features.

Separate bicycles and pedestrians

The trail is wide enough for a bike lane in each direction plus a wide pedestrian lane. For the most part, everyone stayed in their allotted space. I was on the trail during the middle of a weekday, so I can't speak for when the trail is busy on a weekend.


Dequindre Cut Greenway. All photos by the author.

Make wayfinding and signage clear

Immediately I noticed the signage along the trail. Below is the sign at the beginning of the trail that serves as wayfinding and provides the rules of the trail.


Sign at the entrance of the Dequindre Cut.

The trail mile/kilometer markers are spaced every 0.1 mile. In the background there are banners on the lights. I didn't get a good photo of them, but they say things like "play," "bike," and "fun."


Mile Markers along Dequindre Cut.

Incorporate public art

Public art gives an area a sense of place. There are murals all along the Dequindre Cut on the walls and bridge underpasses. Some range from graffiti to elaborate works of art. This mural was my favorite.

Ensure security and safety

I saw security guards patrolling the trails. In addition, there are emergency lights about every 200 feet along the trail. They have security cameras and an emergency button.

I really enjoyed the bike tour of Detroit. They have aggressive plans to implement new bike infrastructure, including a new bike sharing program. If they can keep expanding the system, bicycling could become a real travel option for a great many Detroit residents.

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Riverwalk will connect communities and the Anacostia River

Cyclists and runners, nature lovers, communities in DC's Ward 7, residents of Prince George's County, and the Anacostia River will all gain from the final segment of the Anacostia River trail network. An impressive lineup of elected officials and agency heads from DC and Prince George's County gathered yesterday to unveil the segment's design.


North end of trail at Bladensburg Park. All photos from the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative.

When completed in 2014, this trail alignment, segment 9 on the below map, will run from Benning Road north to the Maryland border. It will complete a crucial link between the District's Anacostia Riverwalk Trail and Maryland's Anacostia Tributary Trail system.

In April of this year, DDOT completed a bicycle and pedestrian bridge over the CSX tracks on the west side of the Anacostia River, which creates a seamless connection between M Street SE/11th Street SE and Benning Road NE. The bridge on the east side is scheduled to open the end of this year. It will close the missing link between Anacostia Park and Benning Road NE. Both appear on the map as segment 11.


Map of the trail's complete and planned segments.

Completing this trail network is exciting for a lot of different reasons.

It connects DC and Maryland, uniting our communities. Once complete, the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail will connect 16 different waterfront communities in DC and Maryland.

Not only will the continuous trail create recreation opportunities, but it creates a potential bike commuter route. For example, if a cyclist wants to bike from the Sousa Bridge (at Pennsylvania Ave SE) to the Bladensburg Waterfront today it would require a daunting excursion through local roads, including biking on Bladensburg Road.


Pedestrian bridge over tidal gut, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.

It advances local and regional transportation goals. In anticipation of the transportation challenges that come with the DC region's expected population and job growth, local and regional governments have developed aggressive goals to facilitate alternative modes of transportation. For example, the Region Forward Plan seeks to create a "transportation system that maximizes community connectivity and walkability, and minimizes ecological harm to the Region and world beyond." Completing the ART system creates a safe environment for pedestrians and cyclists, which moves the Region Forward Plan closer to fruition.


Crossing below Amtrak bridge.

It gives some Ward 7 neighborhoods access to parkland. As exciting as it is to think that people from all over the metro area will rediscover the Anacostia River, one of the best outcomes of this new trail segment is the access it will provide for the Ward 7 communities east of the river, but west of DC-295, to park lands and the river. (Note: the Kingman Park neighborhood of Ward 7 is west of the river).

Ironically, the National Park Service ownership along the Anacostia effectively "walls off" the river for communities like Mayfair Mansions and Kenilworth-Parkside. The new trail will provide new access routes into the park lands from the communities that surround them. Residents who have suffered living along a polluted Anacostia should certainly be among the first to reap the rewards of a clean river.


Aerial view of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.

One challenge that still remains is connecting the remaining local communities east of 295 to the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. Even once completed, 295 still cuts of access to the majority of residents living in Ward 7 and Ward 8.

It provides access to a beautiful section of the Anacostia River that is currently reachable only from the water. The biggest challenge facing the Anacostia River restoration is countering widely held beliefs that the river is a dirty place to avoid.

Make no mistake, there's a lot of work left to be done before we have an Anacostia River that is safe for swimming and fishing. But even now it is a place of surprising beauty where people can walk, see wildlife, and seek solace in the heart of the city. This final trail segment will make these recreational uses possible in the most natural and hardest to access portion of the river.


Entrance to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.

Right now, at most a few hundred people enjoy this section of the river in any given yearrowers, kayakers, and others who can access the river by water. The new trail segment will take the number of people exposed to the beauty of the Anacostia River to tens of thousands yearly. More people that see and know the river means more people who care about its restoration.

The last several years have been unprecedented in terms of restoration progress, and we can consolidate and build on that momentum. We'll need to if we are to reach DDOE's goal of a swimmable and fishable river by 2032.

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Small changes could make crossing Sousa Bridge safer

Anyone who has walked or biked across the Sousa Bridge, which carries Pennsylvania Avenue over the Anacostia River, knows that it is one of the most dangerous bridge crossings in DC. DDOT needs to make this route safer, but in the meantime, it and NPS can make an alternate route through Anacostia Park more efficient and desirable.


Photo by GeraldFittipaldi on Flickr.

When you bike or walk across the Sousa bridge, you have 3 options when you arrive east of the Anacostia River. The 2 most-used, and also most hazardous, are the sidewalks on each side of Pennsylvania Avenue, which require crossing multiple 295 on and off-ramps.

All 5 ramp crossings have poor sight lines. Motorists can't see pedestrians or bicyclists wanting to cross and pedestrians. In addition, pedestrians and bicyclists waiting to cross can't always judge the speed of motorists on the ramps. The map below shows the dangerous crossings that pedestrians and cyclists face:


Dangerous ped/bike conflict areas. Click to enlarge.

The best solution would be to make the sidewalks one each side of the bridge actually safe for pedestrians and cyclists. Unfortunately, that's almost impossible without actually reconfiguring the interchange to make it less like a cloverleaf.

The current curb ramps are very narrow and line up with sharp turns on the adjoining sidewalks, which is not ADA compliant. Cyclists can't easily navigate them. Fixing these would also help.

Meanwhile, there's a viable, and only slightly longer, third option: a bike and pedestrian work-around through Anacostia Park.


An alternate route. Click to enlarge.

While this option seems like the safest route on a map, it is not without its share of challenges. DDOT and NPS could make this safer and more inviting, and perhaps make it a more popular option.

1. Improve wayfinding at the entrance to the path


All photos by GeraldFittipaldi on Flickr.

There is a bike route sign at the start of the path. The sign is not visible if you are traveling eastbound on the bridge, as depicted in the photo above.

DDOT recently added wayfinding signs in Anacostia Park. However, if you aren't familiar with the area, it appears the path will only take you into the park. DDOT and NPS should consider adding a map at the entrance that shows how to access Pennsylvania Avenue SE via the park.

2. Repair the path

Having biked down this path, it is not a comfortable ride. The cracks and bumps on top of the steep slope can be intimidating for novice bicyclists. It's also dangerous for pedestrians with baby strollers.

In response, bicyclists have developed their own solution, and most going to the park prefer their carved path over the official one. This worn desire path has been here for years.

3. Make the area under the DC-295 bridges inviting

Once bicyclists and pedestrians enter the park, they must go under 3 bridge spans for 295. The sidewalks are in need of repair, and that could be a good first step. Another important element for cyclists would be replacing the in-line grates that can catch wheels and cause a cyclist to crash.

The bigger concern is the lack of adequate lighting along Nicholson Street SE and underneath the bridges. These photos were taken during the day. At night it is even darker. Brighter lighting and murals can enliven the area and make this route safer and more attractive.

The current interchange is really not designed to be safe for pedestrians and cyclists, and in the long run needs to be replaced with one that is more befitting its location in an urban area. Perhaps when the 11th Street Bridge is complete, some of the traffic from this area will relocate, but that alone won't solve the pedestrian and bicycle safety problem on the Sousa Bridge.

In the meantime, there are safety improvements that do not require expensive engineering solutions. DDOT and NPS can work together to make these low-cost aesthetic improvements throughout Anacostia Park to ultimately provide a safer route for pedestrians and bicyclists.

All photos are by Gerald Fittipaldi, P.E., a civil engineer from New Jersey, who met with me to discuss challenges to biking east of the Anacostia River. For additional photos, visit his DC - East of the Anacostia River album on Flickr.

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