And now, as a community, we can. The DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) is studying whether and how to improve the operations and safety of Connecticut Avenue. We have a chance to not only make our road infrastructure safer for everyone, but do it in a way that benefits business, community, and the environment. On February 23rd, DDOT presented us with several concepts for our neighborhood, but only one viable concept fulfills the promise of Complete Streets.
A Complete Street is “a road that is designed to be safe for drivers; bicyclists; transit vehicles and users; and pedestrians of all ages and abilities,” A complete street concept understands that all modes of transport are essential for a thriving community, but one mode should not be prioritized over another. Right now, the streets in Cleveland Park prioritize cars over any other mode of transport. In fact, they are prioritized so much that bicyclists, scooters, and pedestrians, especially those that are disabled and elderly, often have to share a small sidewalk. This prioritization of cars thus makes the road infrastructure dangerous for everyone. Anyone who has tried to walk from the Broadmoor to the Uptown knows that the Porter and Connecticut intersection is designed primarily for cars, with long wait times and confusing crosswalks left for the other people who are on the street.
To make Connecticut Avenue a Complete Street, we don’t have to ban cars, we don’t even have to get rid of large amounts of parking, we just need to reduce the number of lanes dedicated to the commuters who drive through our community and give us back some of our public space. And this is where Concept C shines (Figure 1).
Concept C first gets rid of the dangerous reversible lanes designed primarily for commuters and not for our community. According to DDOT, while reversible lanes are active only 15% of the time, 44% of the total crashes occur when they are active (page 53 here). The first step towards making our roads safer is by getting rid of reversible lanes. It also benefits traffic flow, as there will be no rush-hour parking violations and confusing use of reversible lanes.
Second, Concept C takes one lane of traffic away and provides us with protected bicycle lanes. This not only shifts the current lopsided balance away from cars and provides a safe space for people who bike or use scooters, but it also makes our sidewalks safer as well. As outlined in another post, protected bicycle lanes make our streets better for everyone, by also allowing pedestrians to cross the street with less exposure to traffic. Further, Concept C provides elevated bus islands that don’t block traffic during rush hour and allow safe loading and unloading of passengers as seen in Figure 1.