Updated: Jan. 21, 2019 at 8:25 p.m.
A local governing group debated bike lanes and traffic safety at its first meeting of the year Wednesday.
The Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission passed legislation calling on the District Department of Transportation to move forward with plans for a new bike lane through campus and improve traffic safety by banning right turns on red lights at some intersections.
Bike lane plans
Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution asking DDOT to continue developing plans for a possible bike lane on 20th or 21st streets.
The resolution calls on DDOT to stop considering a 22nd Street bike lane as an option to connect Dupont Circle and the National Mall. Commissioners outlined advantages and disadvantages of adding the bike lane on both 20th and 21st streets and asked DDOT to create more advanced designs addressing their concerns.
Adding a lane on 20th Street would provide more biking options close to large federal office buildings in Foggy Bottom but would also disrupt curb parking alongside The York Apartments and Francis Scott Key Hall, commissioners wrote.
The 21st Street proposal would place the bike lane in the middle of campus, making the route more accessible to students and University employees. But the lane would also prompt “strong objections” from residents of Monroe House, a condominium on the 500 block of 21st Street, who could lose street parking spaces, according to the resolution.
“For the foregoing reasons, the Commission is unable to provide a recommendation at this time as to where it would prefer that the protected bike lane ‘jog’ from 20th to 21st Street in order to complete the facility,” commissioners wrote.
DDOT officials have been debating the location of the bike lane for years after first discussing possible plans in summer 2016. The department presented initial plans in July 2017, and city official met with Foggy Bottom residents last month to solicit feedback on the bike lane.
James Harnett, a junior and ANC commissioner, said he supports adding a bike lane to 21st Street because the plan allow students to carefully travel to the National Mall from campus.
“It’s a location where a lot of students like to spend time and this will help them feel like, especially during rush hour when drivers are very hazardous, they have an opportunity to get safely down to the mall,” Harnett said.
Banning turns on red
The ANC also passed a resolution that backs DDOT’s plans to prohibit turns at 11 intersections in Foggy Bottom, like 21st and K streets NW and Washington Circle and New Hampshire Avenue NW.
Commissioners suggested adding additional intersections at H and 21st streets NW, H and 20th streets NW and F and 20th streets NW.
Harnett said in an interview Monday that DDOT officials reached out to the ANC last month for suggestions on other intersections to ban rights on red in Ward 2. He said that while he supports DDOT’s efforts to make roads safer for pedestrians and bikers, banning turns on red will not completely eliminate pedestrian fatalities because it is currently unclear how city officials plan to enforce the ban when it goes into effect.
“This project is just a piece of the puzzle in trying to make the roads safer for people who aren’t protected by a two-ton hunk of steel and making sure that bikers and people that are just walking around the neighborhood, people walking to and from the Metro, stay safe,” Harnett said.
At the meeting, community members supported the banned turns but voiced concerns about how well DDOT would enforce the ban.
Marina Streznewski, the president of the Foggy Bottom Association, said there has been a sign on 25th and K streets NW for “ages” prohibiting right turns that is frequently ignored by drivers.
“It is ignored at least 50 percent of the time,” Streznewski said. “None of this is going to be that helpful if there isn’t enforcement, and I wonder what the plan is for enforcement.”
Commissioners unanimously voted William Kennedy Smith, who previously served as chairman, and Patrick Kennedy, who served as vice chairperson, to stay in their roles. Philip Schrefer was also unanimously voted on to stay in his role as secretary.
This post was updated to reflect the following corrections:
A previous headline incorrectly identified the two streets that the ANC has called on DDOT to develop bike plans for. It is now correct. The Hatchet also incorrectly reported that Commissioner James Harnett supports a bike lane on either 20th or 21st streets. He support a lane on 21st Street. We regret these errors.