Ten percent of all trips originating in the Shaw neighborhood are by bicycle. That is more than double the average bicycle mode share for the District. Yet, the best corridors for getting to destinations north and south of Shaw are streets with multiple lanes, high speeds, and aggressive driving. Safe places for people to bike are sorely needed throughout the city, and Shaw is no exception. And when streets are safe for bicyclists, they are safer for pedestrians and motorists.
Last year, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) went through a lengthy public comment process to select a preferred alternative out of four possible streets for a protected north/south bike lane through Shaw. Thousands of citizens participated, and the majority spoke up in favor of bike lanes on 6th or 9th streets NW.
According to the project timeline, a preferred alternative for this project was supposed to have been selected a full year ago— in April 2016. In February 2017, fully ten months past that deadline, DDOT announced that, rather than selecting just one of the alternatives, they were moving two alternatives to 30% design, a process that it says could take up to 9 months. Final design and construction of the selected alternative could take another 12 to 18 months.
DC is a city that has committed to completely eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries, all while increasing the number of people who walk, bike and take transit, and accommodating an influx of 800+ new residents every month who need transit options other than their personal automobiles to get around. Yet important projects like this one, which would help accomplish all of those goals, are being slow-walked to the finish line, if not in danger of being scrapped entirely.
In the time it has taken DDOT to issue a “final” report on the initial study, more than 19 people were hurt in crashes in the study area. (We don’t know the actual number because crash data has only been made publicly available through May of 2016). This is unacceptable. Can we wait until the Summer of 2019 for a safe route through Shaw?
We need this project to be built on a faster timeline than what DDOT is projecting, or hundreds of other people could get hurt while the city delays. Or, we need DDOT to build both of the final alternatives currently moving to 30% design, not just one. Both 6th and 9th streets are dangerous for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers. People need to travel to locations on both. A protected bike lane on 6th St may give bicyclists a safe place to ride, but doesn’t make 9th street easier for elementary school kids or senior citizens to cross, or calm traffic for neighbors, and vice versa.
Street calming and safe places to bicycle through Shaw will induce DC residents to take more of their trips and commutes by foot and bike. Making the streets more hospitable for pedestrians and bicyclists will help local businesses and improve health outcomes for residents. And, incidentally, it would help DDOT start to catch up on the five miles of protected bike lanes each year they need to build to meet their 20 year goals. (They have been nowhere near that target in the past three years.)
Tell Mayor Bowser: No more delays. Build protected bike lanes through Shaw. Build both final alternatives. Build them faster than currently planned.