September 27, 2011 - 9:16 am

Bikeshare expansion passes over LeDroit Park

Capital Bikeshare at the WWII Mem.

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.
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December 01, 2010 - 9:29 pm

New Condos Coming to Shaw and 14th Street

Florida Avenue elevation for Douglas Development's proposal for 2221 Fourteenth Street NW

The monthly meeting of ANC1B will be on Thursday, December 2 at 7pm in the Reeves Building at Fourteenth and U Streets NW.  Here are some of the highlights from the agenda:

Development/Public Space

The commission will likely support the zoning relief application for 2221 14th Street NW (image above).  In a rare residential foray, Douglas Development seeks to build a condo building at the southeast corner of Fourteenth Street and Florida Avenue.  The company is seeking support for several variances and special exceptions, mostly regarding the roof structure, rear setback, and parking requirements.  View the designs and zoning application.

The commission is also likely to lend its support to the Arts District Branding Project, which is developing graphic banners (sample at right) to hang from lights posts along Fourteenth Street and U Street.  The banner is part of a $200,000 city-funded branding project to enhance the marketing and identity of the arts district that stretches along Fourteenth Street from Rhode Island Avenue to Florida Avenue and along U Street from Seventeenth Street to Seventh Street.

DDOT prefers that private groups obtain ANC support before the agency permits groups to hang banners on poles for 90 – 180 days.  After the 180-day term, the banners remain up until another group wishes to use the poles or until the group removes them.

Also on the agenda is the District-owned Parcel 39 at the southwest corner of Eighth and T Streets in Shaw.  The site is currently a parking lot, but Mayor Fenty, in the waning days of his mayoralty, is seeking to sell the lot to a development team with plans to construct a four-unit condo building.  The sale price, or proposed sales price, has not yet been disclosed.

Alcohol Licenses

Two licensees are looking to modify their licenses:

Alero Restaurant & Lounge (1301 U Street) looks to amend its Class C license to include a 44-seat sidewalk café serving alcohol from 11:30 am to 1 am Sunday through Saturday.

Nearby, the Islander Caribbean Restaurant & Lounge (1201 U Street) wants to extend its hours and expand to the second floor.  Currently their hours are Sunday 10 am- 2 am and Thursday-Saturday 10 am-2 am.  They propose these new hours: Sunday through Saturday, 6 am-4 am with alcohol served Sunday 10 am-2 am, Monday-Thursday 8 am-2 am, and Friday – Saturday 8 am-3 am.

The commission will likely renew the following licenses as a formality:

  • Duffy’s Irish Restaurant (2106 Vermont Avenue)
  • Hominy/Bohemian Caverns (2001 11th Street)
  • Dickson Wine (903 U Street)
  • Velvet Lounge (915 U Street)
  • Indulj (1208 U Street)
  • Desperados Pizza (1342 U Street)
  • Patty Boom Boom (1359 U Street)
  • Marvin (2007 14th Street)
  • The Gibson (2009 14th Street)
  • Café Collage (1346 T Street)
  • Jin (2017 14th Street)
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November 08, 2010 - 8:46 am

Sharing in LeDroit Park

Pick a Bike

Construction is still moving along at the park on the site of the former Gage-Eckington School. In addition to the dog park, playground equipment, picnic tables, and field, there are two more amenities on their way to the site: bike sharing and car sharing. DDOT’s assistance in integrating both car sharing spaces and its own Capital Bikeshare (CaBi) system is a good example of collaboration between different city agencies.

ZipCar is a subscription service that places cars throughout several cities worldwide and rents the cars to members by the hour. The rental fee includes the cost of gas and insurance and each car has a reserved “home” parking space to which it must be returned at the end of the reservation. These spaces are in public streets, public alleys and in private parking lots and garages.

We occasionally rent ZipCars when we need to haul heavy items or need to travel to transit-inaccessible destinations. This arrangement is far cheaper than owning a car and relieves us of the normal hassles of car ownership, e.g. parking, maintenance, washing, fuel costs, and insurance costs.

CaBi is another subscription service and is a joint venture between DDOT and Arlington County. CaBi bikes are parked at numerous racks throughout DC and Arlington and more are on the way. A member inserts his key into the bike dock and the bike unlocks. The member has 30 minutes to ride the bike for free before returning it to any dock in DC or Arlington.  CaBi is perfect for short one-way trips and we routinely use the CaBi station at Seventh and T Streets to commute to work downtown.  It’s also useful for occasional trips to Whole Foods or Dupont Circle, which are just minutes away by bike.

Both bike sharing and car sharing benefit residents who don’t even use the services. The existence of these services reduces the pressure to own a car and thus reduces the parking demand placed on our streets. For those who would live car-less regardless of these services, it provides us with two more mobility options located close to home.  Bike sharing and car sharing are welcome additions to the park site.

Photo: “Pick a Bike” by M. V. Jantzen

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August 11, 2010 - 6:04 am

New Contraflow Lanes Open on New Hampshire Ave

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).

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July 23, 2010 - 1:30 pm

Barry Blocking the Park

Yesterday Councilmember Marion Barry (D – Ward 8) issued a disapproval motion to block the contract for the new park here in LeDroit Park.  Mr. Barry couldn’t even bother to issue an explanation for meddling in a Ward One park and Councilmember Jim Graham is duly upset.  Contracts over $1 million must be submitted to the Council and such contracts are approved if the Council takes no action within a certain number of days.  Mr. Barry’s procedural move will delay the project by at least 45 days until the Council reconvenes in September and can vote on the motion.

Mr. Barry also issued another mysterious disapproval resolution yesterday to block DDOT’s consolidation of its offices into one building near Nats Stadium.  Mr. Barry was stripped of his chairmanship in March after it was revealed last July that he was issuing do-nothing city contracts to his girlfriend.  Our sources tell us that since then he has taken to generously sprinkling disapproval measures for projects throughout the District in a desperate move to show that he still matters.

The park can still move forward without the extra delay if Mr. Barry is convinced— likely with an old-school lobbying effort— to withdraw his motion.  It’s a pity, though, that important government projects are subject to the whims of childish councilmembers.  It should not take yet another lobbying effort to get this park built.

In a city that decries Congressional meddling in local affairs, it’s truly ironic that a desperately need Ward One project is put on hold by a councilmember we didn’t even elect.

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May 16, 2010 - 3:07 pm

Barnes Dance Barn Dance

Several whimsical Washingtonians staged a Barnes Dance Barn Dance at Seventh and H Streets in Chinatown on Friday.  (see video above)

DDOT installed the new Barnes Dance crossing late last week and is studying the effectiveness of installing such configurations at some of the city’s busier intersections.

The setup in Chinatown provides three light cycles: one for H Street, one for Seventh Street, and one cycle during which pedestrians may cross whichever way they choose, even diagonally through the intersection.  The Chinatown Barnes Dance differs slightly from a traditional Barnes Dance in two ways:

  1. Cars may not turn at any time.  A traditional Barnes Dance provides right-turn arrows during the streets’ respective green cycles.
  2. Pedestrians in Chinatown may cross with traffic in addition to the all-pedestrian cycle.

These variations prioritize pedestrian crossings, a priority in line with DDOT’s goal of enhancing pedestrian transportation in the District.

Some in Georgetown are hoping the DDOT installs a similar “dance” at Wisconsin Avenue and M Street.  Greater Greater Washington disagrees with that potential site, as several unique factors render that part of Georgetown unsuitable for a Barnes Dance.

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January 21, 2010 - 7:42 am

Flashback 1958: U & Ninth Streets

Yesterday we featured a flashback of an intersection near the 9:30 Club.  Well, now we’re at Florida Avenue, Ninth Street, and U Street in 1958.  Again, the photo is from DDOT’s historical archive.

The “Washington globe” streetlights, still manufactured today haven’t changed much from their 1958 predecessors, but the street signs have changed in style from a black-on-white serifed typeface to a white-on-green sans-serif typeface. 

The DC Housing Finance Agency has replaced the building hosting Uptown Billiards.  The building at the opposite corner, soon to be the Brixton Pub, appears to have been occupied in 1958.  The emergency call box has been reoriented and fixed up somewhat and the traffic lights now extend over the roadway slightly.  The crosswalks in 1958 were barely marked on the pavement.

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January 20, 2010 - 8:26 am

Flashback 1958: Florida Avenue & V Street

DDOT’s historical photo archive contains this photo taken at Florida Avenue, Ninth Street, and V Street in 1958.

Here is the same view today.

Today one of the gas stations is gone, but several high-rises dot the skyline.

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January 17, 2010 - 5:41 pm

Lane Champlain

Photo by M.V. Jantzen

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.

Champlain Street and vicinity. The blue line marks the northwestern edge of the L'Enfant Plan

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.

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January 09, 2010 - 3:21 pm

Bars, Bikes, and Buildings

300 Block of Elm Street

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.

Bar Fights

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.

Home Again

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.

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