Flooding, student behavior, and Capital Bikeshare are on the agenda for Tuesday’s civic association meeting. The meeting will be on Tuesday, September 25 at 7 pm in the basement of the Florida Avenue Baptist Church.
Here’s the full agenda:
- Howard University’s plan to address student behavior in off-campus housing
- An updates from the Flooding Task Force
- The new Capital Bikeshare station coming to LeDroit Park
- Public Safety in our neighborhood: How to keep our streets safe and clean
- Neighborhood events and activities
Everyone is encouraged to attend.
LeDroit Park Civic Association President and ANC 1B01 candidate Marc Morgan has confirmed that our neighborhood is on the short list to receive one of the 15 new Capital Bikeshare stations this fall. The station will likely go at the Park at LeDroit on the Elm Street side.
The District and Arlington continue to buy stations and expand the system, filling in more gaps throughout the densest parts of both jurisdictions. Sure, we don’t quite match the richly bespeckled station density of Montréal or Paris, but local annual budgets include capital line items to purchase more stations.
Despite the fact the system is approaching its second birthday, many news outlets misunderstand the purpose of the system. The annual fee of $75 allows subscribers to rent the bikes at no additional charge for an unlimited number of 30-minute trips.
The 30-minute free period— there’s a charge for longer trips— is supposed to discourage riders from taking out the bikes for hours on end. In fact, the intended purpose is not joy-riding around town, but to facilitate trips that are slightly too long to walk and slightly too short for driving or transit.
For instance, I find CaBi to be to most convenient way to get between LeDroit Park and Dupont Circle. No need to wait for buses or trains, no need to transfer at Gallery Place, no need to hunt for parking.
Stations already exist near LeDroit Park, at 7th and T Streets NW and at First Street and Rhode Island Avenue NW. The new station will finally put LeDroit Park on the CaBi map.
An email exchange on the neighborhood listserv discussed lobbying DDOT to install a Capital Bikeshare station in the neighborhood. When DDOT, which oversees the bikesharing system, published its expansion plans for last year, we noted that the system had made it to the neighborhood’s periphery, but not its center.
But where could we fit a CaBi station in LeDroit Park? As one neighbor rightly noted, LeDroit Park’s sidewalks are typically too narrow to accomodate bikeshare stations. Indeed, most of the neighborhood’s sidewalks cannot accommodate bike states while maintaining the minimum 4-foot clearance for wheelchairs. Another neighbor suggested installing a station at the Park at LeDroit, which is District-managed property.
However, the easiest answer is sitting right under our wheels: the street!
In several tough places, DDOT has wisely moved the bikeshare stations into the parking lane. In the 600 square feet of public space it takes residents to park three cars, residents can dock 22 bikes. If managing scare public space means optimizing its use for the greatest number of residents, a bikeshare station is a clear winner in efficiency.
Capital Bikeshare, the District’s smashingly successful bikesharing system, will expand this fall. Unfortunately, the expansion plans for this fall exclude LeDroit Park.
The District and Arlington launched the system a year ago with 14 stations in Arlington and 100 in the District. This fall, DDOT will add 34 stations in the District. In our area, DDOT will add a station by the Shaw Library and another at 1st Street NW and Rhode Island Avenue NW in Bloomingdale.
These additions should help alleviate the pressure placed on the existing stations at 7th & T Streets NW in Shaw and at Florida Avenue and R Street NW in Bloomingdale. Currently, LeDroiters and Bloomingdalers compete to use these two stations and thus frequently leave the stations empty or full during rushhour.
Last week DDOT Director Terry Bellamy announced that the district will add 50 stations early next year. We hope that in this new round DDOT focuses more attention on LeDroit Park and other neighborhoods in ANC 1B.
For instance, a Capital Bikeshare station could easily go in at the Park at LeDroit’s south entrance at 3rd and Elm Streets NW. This location is central to the neighborhood and could bring some extra eyes to the park throughout the day.
Outside of LeDroit Park, there is a noticeable station gap in the northern reaches of Bloomingdale and around Cardozo High School.
Capital Bikeshare is particuarly successful in our part of DC for several reasons:
- Car ownership is relatively low compared to the rest of the nation, region, and city. This inclines people to bike more.
- Parking is particularly difficult on many neighborhood streets, thus making cycling more attractive.
- The historical development of this area has permitted the close proximity of commercial uses to residential uses. This means trips to shops and restaurants are short and easily made by bike.
- Downtown is a short ride away and biking is often faster than taking the bus.
DDOT just activated the new contraflow bike lanes on the two blocks of New Hampshire Avenue connecting from U Street. Cyclists traveling against the flow of car traffic now have separate lanes in which to travel all the way to the crossroads of U Street, Sixteenth Street, and New Hampshire Avenue.
At the intersection, DDOT has installed special bike traffic lights to allow cyclists to cross into the bike-boxes ahead of the queues of car traffic waiting on Sixteenth Street. (See the green bike-boxes ahead of the stop lines in the diagram above.)
This is a pilot project for DDOT and there are a few kinks to work out. First, the bike signals are not placed in ideal positions. Look carefully at southwest corner of the diagram above. Notice that a cyclist stopped at the stop line on New Hampshire Avenue does not directly face a bike signal. The cyclist must know to look to the right and to look up to heights that are unusual for bike signage. In much of the world, bike signals are placed five to seven feet above the ground. Even if the signals cannot be located to other poles, lowering them on their existing poles could help.
Second, there are induction loops embedded in the pavement to sense a waiting cyclist but there’s no indication that cyclists should wait exactly at the stop line in order to trip the sensor. While filming, we pulled to the curb to stop and failed to trip the sensor.
This is merely the first step in DDOT’s plan to reconfigure the intersection, which suffers a high number of pedestrian injuries. Until now, these two blocks of New Hampshire Avenue have been the missing link between New Hampshire Avenue and Sixteenth Street and the bike lanes on T and V Streets (eastbound and westbound, respectively).
Among the nicest features of LeDroit Park are its walkability and its proximity to downtown. We can bike downtown to work in 15 minutes, or if it’s raining, take the bus or the metro and be there in 25 minutes. The restaurants, shops, and bars along U Street are only a short walk away.
The notion that it is easy to live in LeDroit Park without a car consistently confounds many suburbanites, but our variety of transportation options is no accident.
Our neighborhood is just outside the original L’Enfant city. In L’Enfant’s time, the main form of transportation was the human foot, so a city designed from scratch, like Washington, had to be relatively flat, like Washington, and compact, like Washington. Horse-drawn streetcars made commuting across the city easier, and electric streetcars eased the daily climb to neighborhoods like Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant.
After World War II, housing construction exploded, particularly suburban housing construction. The suburban housing model was— and, for the most part, still is— based on several main principles, most significantly, the uniformity of housing sizes (usually large) and the separation of residential and commercial uses. Both larger lots and the separation of uses create longer distances between any two points, requiring a greater effort to go between home, work, and the grocery store.
These longer distances between daily destinations made walking impractical and the lower population densities made public transit financially unsustainable. The only solution was the private automobile, which, coincidentally, benefited from massive government subsidies in the form of highway building and a subsidized oil infrastructure and industry.
LeDroit Park was founded in 1873 and the first wave of single-family and duplex houses designed by James McGill soon followed. The second housing wave brought rowhouses to LeDroit Park, but most of the neighborhood was finished in the early twentieth century long before the dominance of the automobile.
Notice this 1908 photo of the 400 block of U Street in LeDroit Park. You’ll see four people, but only one car.
It’s no coincidence that our neighborhood’s founding, long before the automobile age, relates to its walkability and abundance of transit options. In fact, when we look at the regional Census data, we find a strong relationship between the age of the housing stock and the rate of households without a car.
The only other factor that might influence the rate of carlessness is income, but the closeness of the carless rate and the pre-war housing stock rate is too glaring to ignore. There are plenty of middle-class people in Washington who choose to forgo a private car and the age of the neighborhood may be a strong indication of just how easy it is to live without a car.
The driver of a car intentionally hit a cyclist at First Street and Florida Avenue NW in Bloomingdale, TheWashCycle reports. The victim wrote:
Around 5:50 PM [Wednesday] I was riding along First St. NW with other commuters. We crossed over Florida Ave and a car came in behind me, horn continuously on, and accelerated into my rear wheel knocking me to the ground. The driver then got out of the car and yelled some obscenity at me. He got back into his car and left the scene.
I ended up with a few bruises and bumps but luckily no serious injury, but my rear wheel was destroyed along with my saddle, still not sure about the frame. Although there were seven plus witnesses, we were only able to get a partial license plate. We did get a great description of the car. The police arrived on the scene and took all the witness statements, etc and the incident will be filed as a hit and run.
Using a vehicle as a weapon is a serious crime. It’s also important to remember that cyclists and drivers are equally entitled to use the streets of the city.
The District recently renovated and reopened Champlain Street to cars under the Marie Reed Center. The new street is one-way southbound for cars and includes a northbound contraflow bike lane. The reopened street will improve street connectivity between Adams Morgan and the U Street corridor. Currently, much of the car traffic is forced onto Ontario Road on the east and Eighteenth Street on the west.
The northbound contraflow bike lane will connect nicely to the westbound bike lane on V Street (mapped below). Though bicycles are entitled to ride on all District streets, LeDroit residents who prefer bike lanes will find a more relaxed route along V Street (from Vermont Avenue) westward to Florida Avenue, then northward on Champlain Street.
The roadway just south of the Marie Reed Center has been renamed Champlain Street to signify its continuation from the north. Its old namesake, Old Morgan School Place, has since been shortened from its former L-shape to its one remaining block between the Reed Center and the PEPCO substation.
We applaud DDOT and Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who spearheaded the reopening, for accommodating cyclists and connecting the street grids. Connected streets alleviate traffic jams as they provide more alternatives routes when the main streets become unexpectedly crowded.
Highlights from Thursday’s monthly meeting of ANC1B: New restaurants and lounges are on their way to U Street. Office construction in the District may be hurting, but neo-Victorian townhouses will replace an old parking lot on Vermont Avenue. Fifteenth Street’s protected bike lane will finally enter Ward 1.
Several commissioners bickered over the process of approving liquor licenses— in this case a procedural dispute— but the commission relented and took no further action on Cuckoo Marans and the U Street Music Hall, both of which we wrote about earlier. The ANC typically protests all new licenses officially as a means to goad applicants to reach voluntary agreements with the ANC. These voluntary agreements tend to be less permissive than the District’s standing liquor laws.
In new business, a new liquor license applicant presented his plans for Café Society, which he billed as an affordable and upscale (oxymoron?) steakhouse that will feature steaks (of course) and local produce. The 139-seat steakhouse will occupy the ground floor and upper floors (and a roof terrace) of the newly renovated building on the northeast corner of Fourteenth and U Streets. Cuckoo Marans will occupy the basement of the same building.
Against the Grain
DDOT sought and received the ANC’s support for extending the Fifteenth Street southbound contraflow bike lane from U Street northward to the foot of Meridian Hill at W Street. Fifteenth Street is one-way northbound from Massachusetts Avenue on the edge of downtown all the way up to Columbia Heights. Though one resident complained of renegade cyclists disobeying traffic laws, the ANC voted to support the lane anyway. Commissioner Brianne Nadeau (ANC1B05 - Meridan Hill) expressed her desire to see the lane extended all the way up Meridian Hill to Euclid Street, but DDOT is not seeking that extension just yet, though they seem to be studying it, if informally.
When DDOT began installing the contraflow lane in November, Councilmember Jim Graham (D – Ward 1) flipped out at DDOT’s alleged inadequate notification of his constituents. In response DDOT built the lane along Fifteenth Street in Ward 2, but stopped at Ward 1′s boundary at U Street. A chastened DDOT now has the ANC’s approval.
A local developer and his architect presented plans to build three townhouses (two units each) on the south side of the parking lot at T Street and Vermont Avenue. The architect displayed several handsome elevation drawings, all in a Victorian style, that match the rich neighboring architecture. Each of the three townhouses will feature alley-accessible garages. The developer will also replace the existing concrete sidewalk with brick, our favorite paving material. The north side of the parking lot will also be redeveloped as part of a separate project.