Three years of planning to add bike and bus lanes on Washington DC’s K Street and Connecticut Avenue is at risk of going down the drain.
The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) originally planned to remove the street’s service lands to make room for two dedicated bus lanes in the center, flanked by a bike lane on either side, one in each direction. This would leave two lanes for cars in the opposite direction.
However, many commercial realtors have fought against the plan and begged DC’s mayor to drop the project, citing that the changes could further add congestion to the area, making it harder for people to go to work, and major road construction in a downtown business district could hurt retain businesses in the area.
These arguments have worked, as the DDOT has announced they are changing the plans. They will now remove plans to construct bike lanes on K Street and will instead make changes to the bike lanes on the adjacent street –L Street.
The announcement leaves the Washington Area Bicyclist Association disappointed. The organization’s manager, Garrett Hennigan, says that these 11th-hour changes have “threw out a lot of the processes that got us here, a lot of the public input and stakeholders who have been weighing in since 2019 and even before that” (Loria, 2023).
“To say they were throwing everything to the curb and moving ahead with a new plan was quite surprising,” he added.
For Construction weighs in on the DDOT change of plans and what could be the real reason behind the pushback of planned multi-modal transport in the busy part of the city.
The article says that despite research showing that multi-modal transport improves economic conditions for local businesses, including raising foot traffic, it is still facing frequent resistance.
Consumer demand is changing. In the 1900s, when US consumers wanted independent transportation, the rise in building car-centric road infrastructure and cars went hand in hand.
Now, they want more mobility options, including public transport, walking, or cycling to work, and the market and government policies should also accommodate this.
A study published in the peer-reviewed journal Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice shows a decreasing driving trend in younger populations. Millennials drive 8% less than Gen X and 9% less than younger baby boomers.
The article also cited how removing e-mobility solutions like e-bikes and e-scooters, aimed to ease congestions and commuter times in the notoriously congested city of Atlanta, Georgia, has increased travel hours for Atlantans. That extra time on the road costs drivers millions of dollars in time lost.
A 2022 study also revealed that banning “micro-mobility” correlates with increased transit times, congestion, and emissions.
Regarding the argument that bike lanes will negatively impact retailers, the article says that this might be true in the short term due to the disruptions caused by major road construction. People commuting from the suburbs will be most impacted by this.
However, in the long term, a multi-modal transportation system could make living and working in the area much more attractive, especially to young professionals.
The space for a single car that often carries one person could accommodate up to eight scooters or bikes, increasing the number of people visiting retail shops, businesses, and restaurants in the area.
“People want to have access to what cities offer in terms of opportunity, entertainment, and infrastructure, but they also want to be able to navigate that environment on better terms.”
With all the benefits that multi-modal transport could bring to the city, what might be the reasons behind the pushbacks?
Bill Klehm, CEO of the e-mobility company “ebliss”, says, “A lot of times, certain property owners don’t want to make the needed changes or improvements.”
Klehm continued – “They don’t want to change how the pattern works. The infrastructure was placed when the car was the standard, and now, as the car is becoming less of the standard, everybody is fighting because they don’t want to change because every time there’s change, there’s potential for loss.”
Another reason would be the amount of work needed to achieve the plans.
Bill Miller, the principal of Miller Walker Retail Real Estate, might have said the quiet part out loud. “You start digging up the entire street, relocating all the utilities on K Street. It’s a three-year construction project,” he said.
The article notes that the city’s decision to back down on its original plans despite knowing it will respond to what residents want shows a shortsighted perspective.
Constructing bike lanes in cities provides multiple mobility options or multi-modal transport for residents to get from A to B, which is seeing a growing demand to cater to the changing lifestyles of today and in the future.
The article mentions that the original plan is forward-looking and offers a more sustainable road infrastructure path for the future.
Loria, K. (2023, April 24). DC Considers Changes to Planned Downtown Bike Lanes After CRE Pushback. Commercial Observer. Retrieved from https://commercialobserver.com/2023/04/dc-considers-changes-to-planned-downtown-bike-lanes-after-cre-protests/
Noel, B. (2023 May 2). The Controversy Over Building Bike Lanes Isn’t What You Think. For Construction. Retrieved from https://www.forconstructionpros.com/infrastructure/article/22847643/the-controversy-over-building-bike-lanes-isnt-what-you-think
Zhang, M., & Li, Y. (2022). Generational travel patterns in the United States: New insights from eight national travel surveys. Transportation research part A: policy and practice, 156, 1-13.
Asensio, O. I., Apablaza, C. Z., Lawson, M. C., Chen, E. W., & Horner, S. J. (2022). Impacts of micromobility on car displacement with evidence from a natural experiment and geofencing policy. Nature Energy, 7(11), 1100-1108.