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Planning Musings

Mayor Bowser: Keep K St. and Connecticut Ave Bike Lanes

1300 Block of K Street NW in April 2022

Below is a letter that I emailed to Mayor Bowser on April 18, 2023 after recent reports that the Administration is wavering on installing planned protected bike lanes on Connecticut Ave NW and K Street NW.

I’m troubled by the recent Bisnow article which suggests that feedback from certain property owners has convinced your Administration to delay or cancel planned protected bike lanes on K Street NW and Connecticut Avenue NW. I urge you to ignore these naysayers and implement the designs with protected bike lanes as presented to the community.

I live just a couple blocks north of K Street and I frequently walk on the street to Franklin Park, patronize cafes like Baker’s Daughter, enter the McPherson Square Metro, or catch the Circulator. Heading in the opposite direction, I see the value of the K Street bike lanes east of Mt. Vernon Square by using Capital Bikeshare on them to reach the Kaiser Permanente offices in NoMa. Previously, I lived in Forest Hills at the intersection of Connecticut Ave NW and Nebraska Ave NW and have friends who live in Woodley Park and Cleveland Park whom I visit regularly. I’ve participated in both planning processes, and I strongly support the most recent designs that showed protected bike lanes on each corridor.[1],[2]

Downtown and the retail neighborhoods along Connecticut Ave NW are struggling compared to 14th Street NW, NoMa, Union Market, the Wharf, Navy Yard, Mt. Pleasant, Barrack’s Row, and Eastern Market. Some of the property owners quoted in the Bisnow article claim forcefully that the presence of bike lanes would further degrade the commercial environment in Downtown and Connecticut Ave. However, their thriving peers do not cater to cars first.

Studies show that property owners routinely overestimate the percentage of their patrons who arrive by car. In 2019, Portland State University researchers evaluated the economic effects of bicycle and pedestrian street improvements along 14 corridors in six cities: Indianapolis, Memphis, Minneapolis, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle; finding that retail benefited from the active transportation infrastructure in at least nine cases with no effects found in two and three cases having mixed results. The Downtown BID understands this evidence and has proposed reinvigorating 7th Street NW by prioritizing people on foot, transit, and bikes in their new Chinatown Corridor Study.

The COVID-19 pandemic upended many features of city life. Doubling down on anachronistic, car first street designs will not return these two streets to their halcyon days. Adding residents to Downtown, as you have prioritized, is a necessary but insufficient step. Let’s do more and follow lessons from thriving corridors in DC and beyond who have shown that we need to start focusing on people first, because any place worth visiting is not going to be easy to drive to (or park at).

[1] Connecticut Avenue NW Reversable Lane Safety and Operations Study

[2] K Street Transitway



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