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)