I explain why your street sucks. An email newsletter about the policies and people that shape DC's streets. By Gordon Chaffin. Weekdays at 3 PM ET.

Lime's New Scooter: Finally, a Capable Transportation Tool

Street Justice Newsletter: Vol 1, Edition 8 (1/16/2019)

Welcome to the Street Justice Newsletter

This is a daily newsletter produced by Gordon Chaffin, a journalist in Washington, DC. I cover transportation and urban planning in DC, MD, and VA to explain what is happening in the street and why. You can subscribe for free or pay a small fee to help me make this my full time job.


If You Crowdfund a Snow Blower, I Will Clear the Bike Lanes

DC-area authorities are doing a poor to terrible job clearing bike lanes and sidewalks. DDOT did an okay job clearing the on-street cycletracks and some of the trails, but the curbside bike lanes without protection/barriers have snow pushed into them or parked cars prevented clearing. Residents and businesses are supposed to clear and salt sidewalks in front of their properties, but even when that happens, what of the sidewalks fronting land that is vacant or has distant ownership? What of the sidewalks on bridges?

As it is, DC’s many shared trails are only cleared because of volunteers. The National Park Service is responsible for the Mount Vernon Trail, and they’re shut down. So, the “Friends of…” non-profit had volunteers clearing it. The Capital Crescent Trail parallel to the C&O Canal Trail and further North into MoCo is NPS jurisdiction too.

If y’all crowdfund a snow blower, I will clear bike lanes and neglected sidewalks in the DC area. I’m not kidding. It has to be a cordless, electric snow blower like this one. I don’t use internal combustion engines. I will clear the places that you’re complaining to the government about. I’ll do it for free. I’ll ride the Metro with my snow blower to your neighborhood and clear your sidewalks and bike lanes.

I could also use some salt/kitty litter to melt the ice. Please buy me some animal-safe stuff like "Safe Paws” or “Green Gobbler.” Again, I’m not kidding. You can help me buy these things on my Amazon Wish List. I don’t own a shovel. I broke my broom clearing my neighbor’s stairs on Sunday.

Lime’s New Scooter Impresses at TransportationCamp 2019

Lime, an electric scooter, electric bike, and regular bike sharing company now worth $2 billion, brought their new scooter model to TransportationCamp 2019. As some of you know, my primary transportation tool is the electric Ojo scooter pictured above. I’ve used it 5-8 times per week for 5 months now, in 25 degree and 85 degree weather. I’ve also spoken with Ojo’s engineering staff about their scooter — sharing insights from the last 2 years of bike- and scooter-share in DC — and I’ve done reporting on Bird’s scooters. So, I have lots of scooter design thoughts.

At TranspoCamp, Lime’s Maggie Gendron (in the black coat below) was nice enough to speak with me at length about her company’s new scooter. I think it’s a game-changer.

Lime’s 3rd model is the first fleet scooter I’ve seen that I would ride more than a block. It’s not a 2000-era Razer scooter with roller blade wheels and an electric motor. I didn’t bring my Yo-Yo (I should’ve!) to measure it, but the wheels are wider and have proper tires on them. The fork has shocks along with a plastic cable management channel pushing hydraulic fluid to the disc brakes.

The rear wheel includes a 750W electric motor capable of 20 mph. Given DC and other cities’ various speed limits, Lime is using software to limit speed. So, the DC fleet models will all have the same limit, no matter where you take them. The alternative solution would be to let the scooter determine top speed with each model’s GPS. That’s called “geo-fencing” and it can be applied to also make scooters inoperable in specific locations like National Parks. Boo, NPS! BOO!

DC’s speed limit is 10 mph, which makes these scooters basically useless as functional transportation tools. That is too slow for riders to travel safely on the street and still too fast for pedestrians to really feel safe about sharing sidewalks with them. People walk about 3-4 mph, but the scooters would be unbalanceable (that’s a word now) lower than 7-8 mph.

A note on the choice of hydraulic disc brakes: that’s key. My red scooter cruises at 20 mph and it has wheels of approximately the same diameter. But, my scooter weighs 65 pounds. These Lime 3.0’s probably weigh half that. A critical point of failure my scooter has is that it uses cable-based disc brakes and cheap plastic calipers (the mounting where cable force changes to braking force at the wheel).

I’ve had to replace the rear brake caliper on my Ojo twice via parts order and bike shop repair. It’s not an expensive fix — $50ish — but I’d rather pay $200-$300 to have brakes which properly withstand the force of 65 pounds plus running-is-hard-in-the-winter-so-I’m-a-bit-heavy Gordon. (Plus, Gordon’s tripods and stuff.) In retrospect, and in my next mobility vehicle purchase, I will demand hydraulic disc brakes with housings at the wheel where the caliper isn’t exposed and vulnerable to rattling from the road and kinetic force of braking when it’s zero Celcius or lower. Good on Lime

Lime put the internal battery pack into the floor, which lowers the center of gravity, making the scooter easier to ride on mixed terrain and steering kind of like a bike or surf board. My Ojo’s internal battery is also in the floorboard, and the act of steering is mostly a lean and applying light torque to the handlebar. It’s a 30 second adjustment for even novice bike riders and then you’re gyrating your ass around like Mary J Blige to make all your turns.

Maggie mentioned that Lime discussed using a removable, swappable battery to keep their fleet charged up in the field, but decided the tech/engineering wasn’t ready yet. Lime has the pedal-assist electric bikes (Lime-e, or Limey!), so it seems reasonable they’ll minimize and flatten the batteries to accomodate the geometry of a scooter. Also, as Maggie and I discussed, making the battery housing easier to access for swapping also makes it easier to steal or vandalize.

I will say that swappable batteries are necessary for medium- to high-density neighborhoods where most people don’t have a garage. At my apartment building, I have to use a 100 ft, contractor-grade, heavy duty, weather impenetrable extension cord to charge my Ojo. In all future mobility vehicles, I will require a removable battery to charge indoors at a normal 120V outlet. They look like briefcases in most cases and have shoulder straps to carry into the office!

I didn’t ask about timeline to fleet introduction (again, I should’ve!), but I hope soon in DC areas. Maggie said the new model costs basically the same as the old, crappy one. So, Lime seems to be betting the new ones last longer—and therefore pay off the fixed cost of manufacture before the units poop out. Bird seems to both think they can make their scooters cheaper and last longer. That depreciation/marginal value intersection point is the key to sustainability as companies. I think Lime’s gambit is more likely to work. Bird’s new Zero is less capable than Lime’s 3.0 spec.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, Lime’s 3.0 has a tab throttle on the right handle and a lever bake on the left handle. There’s a bell. It makes a nice sound.

Another observation I have from DC’s recent snowstorm: local TV news is so focused on cars and suburbs.

The DC broadcast affiliates, and I would guess the same for the NYC stations, cover snow as a driving impediment. They cover car traffic assuming that everyone gets to work in their car. But, 40% of DC residents don’t own a car. And the DC stations only mention WMATA Metrorail delays in passing. Despite DC being filled with people who commute via transit, DC TV news stations allocate time and write their TelePrompter text with dominance on car travel.

I know lots of people live in the suburbs, and they’re more likely to use cars for all their transportation trips. But, local TV news produces their broadcasts like it’s 1976 and all of DC’s residents commute into the District with a car, leave the city at 5 PM, and all the recreational action happens in some Del Ray park. The WJLA-TV anchors said yesterday “on my drive in” to preface a snow clearing from roads sentence. WJLA’s studio is in downtown Rossyln; it’s one of the most transit-rich spots in all of NoVA. For the love of all that is Holy, stop assuming commuters are drivers by definition.

DC TV News Production Choices Perpetuate “It’s Unsafe” Perception of NE DC, East of the River, and PG County

Local TV news do a lot of live-shots in Northwest and Upper Northwest when the stories are about traffic delays and weather. But most of their live-shots about crime and public safety are in Wards 5, 7, and 8, plus PG County. Lots of crime happens there, sure. But, where you choose to spend precious little airtime creates impressions in viewers’ minds. You could to a live-shot of traffic along Benning Road NE, East Capitol SE, Pennsylvania Ave SE, etc. People commute there, too. The point is: what you choose to emphasize shows your bias and makes viewers think that mode/place is the only thing that matters or happens in that context. Viewers will just associate gun deaths with Northeast or East of the River.


This Week’s Reporting Plan (Bold = I’ll Be Attending)

DDOT Extends Comment Period on 20th/21st/22nd Bike Lanes

Street Justice Newsletter: Vol 1, Edition 7 (1/15/2019)

Welcome to the Street Justice Newsletter

This is a daily newsletter produced by Gordon Chaffin, a journalist in Washington, DC. I cover transportation and urban planning in DC, MD, and VA to explain what is happening in the street and why. You can subscribe for free or pay a small fee to help me make this my full time job.


My writing yesterday was sub-par. My apologies. I’m burning the candle and both ends with this newsletter: trying to both network and promote it aggressively while also attending as many events as possible in person. All I’m doing right now is sleeping, exercising, and working on this thing. I need to remember that this enterprise will rise or fall on my writing and reporting. Also, maybe Donald Trump could tweet about it.

DDOT Extends Comment Period for 20th/21st/22nd Street NW Bike Lanes.

Today, DDOT extended the public comment period for the agency’s North/South bike lane project in NW that would connect the National Mall with Dupont Circle through the West End, via 20th, 21st, or 22nd Streets Northwest. The deadline was January 6th and now the public has until Wednesday, February 13th.

As I wrote last week, ANC 2B (Dupont Circle) held a marathon meeting last week in which the Commissioners reached an impasse on a motion to recommended contraflow lanes on 21st, but residents who showed up at the meeting had consensus that 20th was better because it removed less resident parking. in 2018, DDOT held two public meetings that were widely publicized on social media and the affected community.

Reacting on Twitter, ANC 2B Commissioner Randy Downs, Chair of 2B’s Transportation Committee and author of last week’s 21st St contraflow motion, said “ANC 2B will be weighing in on the project either at our Feb 13 regular meeting or a special meeting before then. Details coming soon.” Downs added, “Taking into account the feedback from the ANC 2B meeting, I’m working on a proposal that will hopefully unify the community & build momentum for the project. Details forthcoming.”

My Interview with Megan Kanagy, DDOT’s West End Bike Lane Project Leader

With this news, I reached out to Megan Kanagy, DDOT’s West End Bike Lane Project Leader. I was able to fit a quick phone interview (OneDrive Link) in with her and DDOT Public Information Officer Terry Owens. My apologies for some microphone feedback when Megan or Terry talk. My phone and digital audio recorder were interfering with each other. I’ve got to find a better way to record phone calls…

Paraphrased Takeaways from my Interview with Kanagy:

  • DDOT extended the deadline because ANC 2B couldn’t pass a resolution last week offering a recommendation. “We wanted to make sure they had the opportunity to do so,” said Kanagy. DDOT chose February 13 specifically because that’s the date of 2B’s next regular Monthly Meeting.

  • ANC 2B and ANC 2A (Foggy Bottom/West End) represent the areas through which these lanes may traverse. ANC 2A will discuss these lanes at their meeting tomorrow (1/16).

  • DDOT has received hundreds of comments on the project and wants to give more people time to weigh in.

  • DDOT does not have a preferred design at this point. The current public comment period is to help DDOT determine where they would like to go.

  • Parking loss numbers at this phase of the project are “an estimate based on what the length of a traditional or typical parking space is, and then looking at the total length of a given block.” DDOT’s consulting team did “a planning-level inventory of the existing parking, something that DDOT already has, … but something that we went out and field verified.” “It is a planning level understanding of the corridor. In the design phase, that will get more refined.”

  • Percentage numbers have nothing to do with progression along the project timeline. We’re currently in “the 10% design phase.” Managy said the next steps are 30%, 65%, and then final design. Maybe that last one is 100% phase. But, these are jargon-y planning milestones. Making sense is no predictor of terms. Anyway, when you hear the project is 10% after 6ish months of public discussion, don’t think we’re 90% more months (54) to go before the project is done.

  • With these lanes, DDOT is “trying to provide a safe option comfortable for cyclists of all ages and abilities, connecting between the Dupont Circle neighborhood and the National Mall.” All ages and abilities is codespeak for: this isn’t going to be something that only experienced, veteran cyclists would use.

  • DDOT is willing to consider designs which use parts of two different streets. “We have from the beginning of this project been talking about the option of a jog. We were discussing a jog initially farther South, because 20th and 22nd streets don’t connect to the National Mall.”

  • DDOT is open to a contraflow lane, by it’s “less protected.” “It has less impact on parking mid-block.”

  • DDOT is aware of unsafe Northern termini at each design. Managy said R & Q Streets NW provide the best East/West connections, and they’re accessible from the North/South designs, but there isn’t a clear way to get further North from the Connecticut/Florida intersection. I would personally be fine riding on Connecticut, but nearly everyone else wouldn’t be comfortable there.

  • DDOT points to page two of this PDF, which has pluses and minuses for using each of the three roads.

  • DDOT has funding to complete the 30% Design and Environmental Documentation (2019-2020) but Kanagy is not sure whether or how they have funding to complete the project by their goal: 2021-2022.

Opposition to These Lanes is *Not* Organized

There were a lot of people at last week’s ANC 2B meeting who live in the neighborhood and opposed bike lanes along 21st Street. But, my reporting suggests those angry residents don’t have consensus or organization. A few folks, including resident Nick DelleDonne, were passing around a sheet at the 2B meeting where residents signed on. 80 or so people signed, according to one of the most vocal opponents. But, I don’t know what those people signed up to say, and I don’t think they do, either.

I spoke with DelleDonne a few minutes ago, and he wasn’t sure where bike lane opponents should even sign up to receive more information. Maybe, Hear Us Now? Delledonne’s fellow organizer, a woman who said at 2B she was “70. I’ve been driving since I was 17. And I’ve seen a cyclist stopping at a stop sign exactly twice,” suggested you contact KeepDupontGreen[AT]gmail. Or, you can email Nick at delledonne.n[AT]gmail.

Google “‘Hear Us Now’ washington dc” and you get Autism rallies. Keep Dupont Green is an anti-development petition Delledonne and others organized to oppose a moderately sized apartment building in their neighborhood.

There is no evidence an organized opposition exists to these bike lanes. The only evidence I have points me to a community meeting where a few motivated neighbors spread misleading flyers around their hood and got record turnout to defend their on-street parking. Other than that, who knows what those 80 or so really want. Maybe, they’d compromise much more than Delledonne?

Correction on U.S. Transit Agency Totals

Yesterday, I said there are about 1,000 transit agencies in the U.S. , with most operating bus services. I need to clarify that. There are 1,139 transit agencies in the U.S. which operate bus services. I got mixed up reading this table (p. 8). By comparison, 27 operate commuter rail, 15 operate heavy rail, and 23 operate light rail. (Shout out to Phoenix’s Valley Metro light rail! Tempe in the house!) For even better context: 6,346 “Demand Response” services operate across America. The American Public Transit Association says Demand Response “includes non-profit providers of service for seniors and persons with disabilities. [And it] includes demand response taxi service.”

In short, American public transportation is largely the Dial-a-Ride community bus service that your grandma might use and almost all the local taxpayers haven’t heard of. 93 percent of American public transit networks offer those short, ADA-compliant buses. Only 17 percent of American transit systems offer buses, only four percent offer commuter buses, and 0.2 percent offer bus rapid transit. 0.9 percent of America’s transit systems offer any kind of rail service. That’s including streetcars and two freaking monorails. There are about as many ferry services in the U.S. as there are rail transit services. Boats, people. Boats.

So, American public transit is nearly all buses of some kind. A giant amount of monetary and environmental good would be done by converting those fleets to battery-electric and jacking up renewable shares in the energy grid. These are all data from APTA’s 2017 public transit factbook.


This Week’s Reporting Plan (Bold = I’ll Be Attending)

California is Kicking Y’alls’ Ass on Electrification of Buses

Street Justice Newsletter: Vol 1, Edition 6 (1/14/2019)

Welcome to the Street Justice Newsletter

This is a daily newsletter produced by Gordon Chaffin, a journalist in Washington, DC. I cover transportation and urban planning in DC, MD, and VA to explain what is happening in the street and why. You can subscribe for free or pay a small fee to help me make this my full time job.


Remember to read through to the end today. I put together quick updates last week that I didn’t mention in previous reports. I plan on doing a recap like this every Monday. I’m going to work really hard so that you, the reader, don’t miss anything in DC transportation news.

Transportation Camp 2019 Was Fun

I had a late night Friday and getting up early Saturday morning was the last thing I wanted to do. I would not have gone to this if was more than a few blocks from my apartment, but it was and I’m all in with this newsletter trying to make it a sustainable job, so there I went!

On Saturday, I attended TranspoCamp 2019: “TransportationCamp DC brings together … 500 thinkers and doers in the fields of transportation and technology. It’s not your traditional conference. In addition to talks and presentations from big names in the field, the heart of TransportationCamp is sessions and activities led by attendees themselves.” About 50 percent of the attendees were from outside the DC region.

The Camp happens the day before TRBAM starts — the Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board. Where TranspoCamp includes big-picture thinking, light research presentations, and discussion-heavy sessions, TRBAM is a more-technical and academic conference focused on field practitioners.

TRBAM is more formal and there’s more of a trade show vibe. I do not buy train seats or the carpet that goes on them. So, less of a reason for me to attend. It’s also $750-$1K, compared to TranspoCamp’s $50. So, LOL, maybe I’ll go next year if this newsletter generates enough revenue where I can buy groceries and attend cool, nerdy things. I may also request a press pass next time…

California is Kicking Y’alls’ Ass on Electrification of Buses

I’ve written before about electrification of bus transit fleets. There are about 1,100 transit agencies in the United States operating buses, 200 in California alone, and most of those agencies are bus-only systems. The buses are fueled either by diesel, diesel hybrid (mild hybrid tech like the Prius), compressed natural gas (CNG), or —increasingly—battery-electric (BEB) or plug-in hybrid.

I attended a presentation [PDF Slides Here] by the Union of Concerned Scientists, who recently succeeded in lobbying California to mandate all bus purchases after 2029 to be battery-electric. The state legislation allows transit agencies to replace older buses in their normal life cycle. Given that turnover, California pledges to run only electric buses by 2040. The Los Angeles Metro system, by far the largest fleet operator of transit buses in California, has pledged to run only electric buses by 2030.

Jimmy O’Dea from UCS described their life-cycle cost-analysis of battery-electric buses. It showed that, even accounting for the increased monetary cost of of electric buses, the electric buses are cheaper in the long-run. O’Dea says it only takes one year of BEB operation to recoup the additional emissions costs that come from manufacturing a big battery than a diesel or CNG bus. I’m guessing they run these buses with 75-125 kW batteries.

As many frequently question in EV discussions, BEBs produce fewer tailpipe emissions after accounting for emissions of electricity to charge. California’s average mix of electricity is both expensive compared to other states and only-middle of the pack on renewables. So, other states that move to EV buses — including DC’s cheaper power prices — will benefit more from the transition to BEBs. Even in the worst grid mix of the United States (think CO, with coal dominance), BEBs get better MPG than diesel buses.

Currently, DC’s WMATA operates 14 BEBs within the Circulator routes. There’s a charging station that I know of in Anacostia along South Capitol.

O’Dea said state policy is key to getting state level policymakers to buy-in. In California, they already have a Carbon Cap and Trade system which generates revenue for clean-fuel tax credits and other capital financing programs that bridge the additional CapEx burden of BEB and EV purchases.

For nerds like me who have lots of EV interest and knowledge, here’s a fun tidbit. In the beginning of BEB introduction, Manufacturers and operators focused on fast-charging speeds (50kW+) so that low ranges (75-100 mi) could be mitigated by mid-shift 15-minute charging sessions. However, O’Dea says newer models have long enough ranges to go a whole shift and operators are moving to a fleet management model where they set up buses for longer, slower charging sessions (6-8 kW at 220/240V).

Also, in case you’re wondering whether EVs and BEBs are pushing manufacturing employment overseas, you should know that these transit agencies and bus manufacturers have “Buy American” requirements. 75 percent of bus parts have to be made in America, which is a bar that increases over time. That’s according to O’Dea.

In Other News…

DC Area Gets 7-12 Inches of Snow Over the Weekend

We got our first snow of 2019 in DC and it’s a legit business-halter up to Michigan standards. 6-12 inches fell across the region. I got 9.5. Here are a few observations from the snow day:

  • Snowfall provides a canvas onto which drivers prove how much road space is not necessary for safe car travel. Nearly all intersections could have bigger curbs and pedestrian islands (“neckdowns”). People drive over the snow, but only use the space they need, so all the space that still has snow is not necessary for the cars and should be reclaimed for other street users. Hence, the term, “sneckdowns.” Aaron Landry, ANC2B Commissioner, highlighted a bunch of examples from yesterday in DC.

  • Given several days to a week of notice for a snowstorm, DC government will quickly clear cycling and pedestrian pathways. That’s a good sign: cycling and pedestrian paths are utilitarian transportation facilities which need clearing as fast as roads. People bike commute and walk to work in DC. A lot. Even in the winter.

  • The National Park Service, which is closed as part of the partial Federal Government shutdown, has returned to snow clearing after three weeks without maintenance. NPS workers aren’t being paid for their work.

  • DC residents spend a lot of time criticizing each other for not clearing the sidewalk in front of their house (that’s DC law; Arlington too), but spent little time critiquing fellow drivers’ use of bike lanes and pedestrian facilities for (temporary) parking. It’s frustrating to see how context-dependent people are: it takes a snow storm for people to consider the safety and needs of people who walk instead of drive.

  • Again, given the early notice, DDOT pre-treated roads in Edgewood and Brookland. I saw a few posts from others in DC region that snowfall didn’t stick on streets for a long time compared to other surfaces. Which means they salted well. Good job!

News from Last Week…

Capital Bikeshare Station Opens up at corner of 11th & C Streets SE

“ANC 6B supported and, yesterday, DDOT installed a Bikeshare station at 11th/C SE over the objections of neighbors. Why? Let's go to the Maps! Before, there's a giant void in the heatmap of installed station at 11th/C. Afterward? Not so much." said ANC 6B06 (Capitol Hill SE) Commissioner Corey Holman. Holman adds, “Next void to fill: Congressional Cemetery.”

  • Not A Single ANC7E (Benning Ridge/Capitol View) Resident Listed Parking as Their Highest Concern

  • DDOT Will Present About 4th/Cedar/Blair Intersection at ANC 4B (Takoma/Lamond Riggs) Meeting

  • Residents Opposed a Bikeshare Station at Grant Circle, But There May Be Majority Support from ANC 4C (Petworth) to Put Station on Illinois Ave NW

  • ANC 1B Supported a Permit to Update the Curb Cut at 1844 3rd St NW

  • ANC 6C (H Street NE/Capitol Hill NE) Supported Mayor Bowser’s Right Turn on Red Restriction


This Week’s Reporting Plan (Bold = I’ll Be Attending)

ANC 2B Residents Want a 20th Street Bike Lane

Street Justice Newsletter: Vol 1, Edition 5 (1/11/2019)

Welcome to the Street Justice Newsletter

This is a daily newsletter produced by Gordon Chaffin, a journalist in Washington, DC. I cover transportation and urban planning in DC, MD, and VA to explain what is happening in the street and why. You can subscribe for free or pay a small fee to help me make this my full time job.


As I wrote yesterday, I attended Wednesday’s marathon ANC 2B meeting discussing proposed North/South bike lanes on either 20th, 21st, or 22nd Streets. You can listen to the entire bike lane discussion here (OneDrive Link). I produced this and all the recordings featured in Street Justice.

I sent a request for comment and informational questions to Megan Kanagy, DDOT’s lead bike planner on the project, but she was unable to respond before today’s publication time. I hope to chat with her next week to get clarity on the project’s next steps and how much more input ANC 2B and its residents may have. I was also referred to a DDOT Public Information Officer, from whomst I got an Out-of-Office saying they’re gone until Monday.

I’m sharing the behind-the-scenes reporting process because I think it helps journalists re-build trust with readers. Also, this newsletter has value because I intend to produce something more than a facsimile of WaPo, DCist, or GGWash write-ups. I’m both going to be more accessible and thorough than them. You’re going to have more confidence in my reporting because I won’t hide anything from you. Of course, feel free to skip over procedural notes if you just want the upshot of each report.

ANC 2B Residents Want a 20th Street Bike Lane

While 2B Commissioners left themselves too little time to coordinate a motion supporting any bike lane design proposed by DDOT, a majority of public speakers preferred the 20th Street NW lane to 21st. DDOT’s existing 20th Street design doesn’t connect to the Mall on the South end and stops South of the Florida/Connecticut Ave intersection where the 21st St design reaches.

The reasons for resident preference for 20th Street is primarily that 20th is four lanes — two travel, two parking — between Pennsylvania and New Hampshire Avenues NW. By comparison, 21st Street is mostly three lanes — one Northbound travel, and parking on either side. So, DDOT’s 21st Street design would remove one curbside parking lane from C St NW all the way to Florida Ave.

You can look at parking loses by counting spots, but that debate is fruitless. Residents at this meeting, including folks who know nothing of street planning but have the time to hand count the spots, won’t believe any spot loss number DDOT claims. They’ll think it’s orders of magnitude too low.

Consult the DDOT design and you see the 20th Street design also eliminates parking on one side of the street, for the entirety of the route. But, as a dozen or more 21st Street residents pointed out: it’s already a wider street. That’s only strictly true. More accurately: 20th is wider than 21st on more blocks. But, 20th is also 3 lanes in many places. Also, and this is the real takeaway: 21st Street has a lot more single-family home residential housing, whose owners and occupants came out in force to oppose their loss of on-street parking.

Residents did cape up for the local businesses who “need” and “depend on” curbside parking for patrons and deliveries. But, no business owners spoke — other than the Phillips Collection CFO. Her museum is on 21st Street, so she jumped on the 20th Street bandwagon too. For political intents and purposes, resident on-street parking is more important than parking losses of businesses. Or, at least, residents will more fervently oppose their parking loss. Also, there’s a data-driven reason for biz complaints here to fall on deaf ears: businesses massively overestimate the number of patrons who arrive by car and patrons who arrive on foot or bike spend more money.

ANC Commissioner 2B06 Mike Silverstein, a resident of 20th Street, volunteered to support the resident consensus for 20th Street bike lanes even though that design would remove some parking on his block. To get the bike lane all the way from the Mall to Florida Avenue, North of the Circle, some residents supported jogging the lane over to 21st Street. After the lane goes North of the blocks where residents park, of course.

DDOT Gave Plenty of Notice and Is *Not* Moving Fast on West End Bike Lanes

An almost universal complaint from residents was that they weren’t properly informed of DDOT’s potential changes to their neighborhood and that DDOT was rushing this. This is false. DDOT held two public meetings in 2018, at which significant public feedback was welcomed and design changes were made to the project. DDOT’s website for their PBL efforts in DC put up all the project and meeting materials, they sent press releases and media advisories around, they hung door knockers along the proposed routes.

This “nobody told me” complaint is extremely common in government work. Extremely busy staffers do as much as they can to get the word out: listservs, releases, email blasts, social media posts. I’ve done a lot of that work as a digital marketing and social media staffer. 99 percent of the time, governments put great effort into letting stakeholders know. But, people always — ALWAYS! — complain because they personally missed the 6,578 different marketing efforts.

Nick DelleDonne — pictured below at the very left of the frame — a former ANC 2B Commissioner and anti-change apparatchik had put out fear mongering flyers with misleading and incorrect information. While many in that 2B meeting were organized and attended based on cyclist communities in DC, a greater number of folks in the room were spun up by DelleDone and a few others who spent the entire meeting insulting pro-bike lane speakers while the latter talked. I stood next to the malcontents the whole meeting and the comments were a blend of you’re not welcome on my street and incorrect assertions.

People Won’t Give Up Their Parking (Without a Fight)

These discussions ultimately come down to which efforts have the political will. It’s true — from all the data in the world, for 50 years — that street safety improves by adding bike lanes, reducing car speeds, and removing parking to reduce car dependency to reduce vehicle miles traveled. But safety is one single objective among other objectives in policymaking.

It’s political reality that residents feel entitled to parking in the public right of way. 3-4 generations of policy and culture reproduced that assumption. It’s true that 2B residents live in maybe the most transit-rich neighborhood in all of DC. It’s true that 2B homeowners sit on $1MM-$2MM of home equity. But, they’re not going to give up their cars and they feel (understandably) like car-dependent living is what they’ve been promised for 50 years. It doesn’t help that many of these 2B residents do need cars for health reasons. Of course, they could use Uber/Lyft to go to the grocery store and doctor, and their cars sit empty stored on a public street 95%+ of the time.

In the end, whoever gets angriest and threatens politicians the most with electoral retribution wins. That’s my conclusion after 10 years of working in politics, local public policy, and journalism. There’s a war outside in the streets nobody’s safe from.


This Week’s Reporting Plan (Bold = I’ll Be Attending)

ANC 2B Reaches Impasse on Bike Lanes Connecting Mall with Dupont

Street Justice Newsletter: Vol 1, Edition 4 (1/10/2019)

Welcome to the Street Justice Newsletter

This is a daily newsletter produced by Gordon Chaffin, a journalist in Washington, DC. I cover transportation and urban planning in DC, MD, and VA to explain what is happening in the street and why. You can subscribe for free or pay a small fee to help me make this my full time job.


I overslept this morning after covering last night’s 4-hour ANC 2B meeting, so I’m going to save analysis on the bike lane issue for tomorrow’s edition. I probably should’ve taken a nap during the early part of the meeting like the woman pictured above, but there wasn’t much room to lay down and the Commission was considering interesting Alcohol and Zoning requests.

The meeting gaveled in at 7PM and the bike lane discussion didn’t start until 8:50 PM. The scooter ride over and back was freezing AF but the meeting was standing room only, probably breaking fire code, and hotter than all Hell. I have never been so cold and so hot in one single night. I didn’t get home via scooter until 11:30 PM and I was doing dishes until 1 AM because my roommates load the dishwasher without so much as rinsing their dirty tableware.

The takeaway:

Bombarded by hours of conflicting community feedback, leaving only minutes for motions, amendments, and votes before they were kicked out of the room Johns Hopkins offers them for free, Commissioners of ANC 2B (Dupont Circle) were unable to offer feedback Wednesday to DDOT on the agency’s proposed West End Bike Lanes.

As I wrote in December, community members have been weighing in on cycle facilities that would go along 20th, 21st, or 22nd Streets NW. Once chosen, one of those three alternatives will connect the National Mall with Dupont Circle. DDOT held the public comment period open until last Sunday, January 6th, but ANC 2B had their deliberation tonight. The commissioners assumed a tardy recommendation would be considered given DDOT’s obligation to give ANC recommendations “great weight.”

But, as the Commission learned from 125 minutes of public comments, residents and other stakeholders had little consensus beyond distaste for the attempted compromise motion on the table: an unprotected, contraflow bike lane on 21st St. In the end, Chair Daniel Warwick was only able to pass a motion tabling the issue before adjourning the meeting and hustling us all out of the room. Minutes prior, security waved Warwick into a side room where, one assumes, he was sternly reminded to get the bleep out.

It’s unclear if the ANC will have another, open to the public, chance to weigh in on the project’s big picture, even if conversations with DDOT could occur at the staff level in private meetings. While the project is 10% complete and in the design phase, DDOT has been holding public meetings since May 2018 and anti-bike lane speakers at the meeting widely misunderstood how much leverage they have in delaying DDOT.

DDOT certainly cares about public input, but their staff of expert street planners can generally do whatever they want to meet the public policy objectives they have. The train is leaving the station on this project and residents incorrectly assume the conductor has to hold while they criticize the coupling choices. A gentleman next to me in the closing minutes of the meeting shouted “fake deadlines…phony process.”

That gentleman’s expression captures my despair at listening to mis- and uninformed public comments for hours. He distributed the handheld microphone the whole night, with ANC 2A01 Commissioner Patrick Kennedy manning the other mic.


This Week’s Reporting Plan (Bold = I’ll Be Attending)

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