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Community Reacts as DDOT Halts Plans for Protected Bike Lanes on Connecticut Avenue

District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Chief Sharon Kershbaum announced Thursday, April 11, plans to proceed with The Connecticut Avenue Multimodal Safety Improvement Project without protected bike lanes.

The proposed bike lanes have been a source of controversy for years as DDOT and the community have engaged in discussion about the impacts of bike lane installation along a three mile section of the corridor.

Connecticut Avenue NW is currently a six lane roadway. Proponents of the project say that bike lane installation would help slow traffic flow and keep cyclists safe while opposition notes public safety concerns about emergency response vehicle access and the road’s use an an evacuation route.

In response to the announcement, the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA) circulated a petition that encourages DDOT and DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) to move forward with plans to install a bike lane along the corridor. As of Wednesday morning, more than 3,500 people had signed the petition.

The organization said the bike lanes serve as a “key opportunity to transform the corridor and help the city reach its climate goals by reducing the number of trips made by car” noting “near-unanimous support” from the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) over three terms.

WABA Advocacy Director Jeremiah Lowery said the organization was “shocked” at Bowser’s change from support to opposition. “According to the data it’s still one of the highest crash corridors,” Lowry said. “So data hasn’t changed, but the Mayor’s opinion has.”

The decision to cancel the bike lanes, Lowery argued, will “put lives at risk.” WABA hopes that the petition will serve as a mechanism for residents to raise their concerns to Bowser and DDOT.

“There’s a significant number of DC residents are extremely upset with this decision,” Lowery noted. “And this is one of many ways we want to ensure that our voices are heard.”

Other community organizations, including the DC Safe Streets Coalition, called the announcement a “big victory.” Organizer Nick DelleDonne expressed optimism about the future of the corridor without bike lanes.

“To install protected bike lanes [along Connecticut Avenue NW] would eat up the street and cause mayhem for regular automobile and truck traffic,” DelleDonne said.

DelleDonne emphasized that the coalition is “not against bikers or biking” but noted a need for increased regulation from the city to ensure the safety of cyclists, motorists and pedestrians sharing the road.

“The bikers are reckless in their riding through the streets and they cause hazards,” DelleDonne said. “It’s the only mode of transit in the city that is not regulated, and they need to follow the same rules that everybody else follows.”

President of Save Connecticut Avenue, Lee Mayer, also expressed relief about the project’s cancellation. Mayer said their opposition is primarily due to public safety concerns related to emergency response and evacuation for vehicles. He noted that the police union has spoken out publicly against the installation of the bike lanes.

“Bike lanes on Connecticut Avenue would slow emergency responders and create dangerous interactions between drivers, cyclists and pedestrians,” Mayer said.
Mayer emphasized that bike lanes are important for cyclists in other areas of the city, but held that the Connecticut Avenue corridor is unsuitable for these changes.
“It’s important to note that we are not against all bike lanes but they should be on streets that make sense,” Mayer said. “The ones designed for Connecticut Avenue make no sense. We say “all roads don’t need all modes.” 
Visit ddot.dc.gov for more information about the Connecticut Avenue Multimodal Safety Improvement Project.

Sarah Payne is a reporter for Capital Community News. She can be reached at sarahp@hillrag.com.

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