Photo by the author.

Sidewalks are a network to get us from one place to another, just like roads. But the procedures DDOT uses to identify and fill sidewalk gaps take a piecemeal approach that sets up barriers to completing the network.

Currently, DDOT requires that 51% of households on a single block approve the addition of a sidewalk, and that the neighborhood ANC file a corresponding resolution. If we consider sidewalks to be roadways for pedestrians, then we need to treat them as such. The default position should be that neighbors have to put forth the effort to oppose a sidewalk, instead requiring supporters to petition for one.

In other words: If folks wanted a sidewalk, they would contact DDOT, and those who opposed it would have to organize against it. The community would have to jump through fewer hoops to get a sidewalk built.

The DC Council’s Priority Sidewalk Assurance Act of 2010 moves us in this direction, but DDOT needs to update its procedures.

Iona’s Pedestrian Advocacy Project has studied the issue and has come up with a set of proposed procedures. In addition, we will request that DDOT develop a 5-year plan to fill sidewalk gaps in priority areas throughout the District of Columbia, as part of the agency budget to be presented to the Council during its budget approval process this spring.

  1. Sidewalk gaps shall be filled on both sides of all “main streets,” defined as those that have on-going traffic throughout the day and require pedestrians to walk in the street or cross at unsafe locations to a sidewalk.
  2. Sidewalk gaps shall be filled on at least one side of the street on roadways under construction, as specified in Section 2 (a) of the Priority Sidewalk Assurance Act of 2010, and on roadway segments for which residents have petitioned for sidewalks.
  3. Sidewalk gaps shall be filled on at least one side of the street within one-quarter mile of priority areas: schools, recreation and park facilities, and transit stops.
  4. For streets within priority areas not undergoing construction, 75% of residents on a block may petition NOT to have a sidewalk. The ANC for the area shall consider the petition and forward its recommendation to DDOT. DDOT shall determine whether the absence of a sidewalk presents a pedestrian safety issue or conflicts with an ADA requirement that cannot be resolved without a sidewalk.
  5. For those streets that do not have a sidewalk on either side due to engineering issues: If the residents have petitioned for no sidewalks and their request is approved by DDOT, the speed limit on that street will be lowered to 15 MPH.
  6. Residents may submit petitions to the ANC at any time to register their opposition to a sidewalk on their block.
  7. DDOT will notify all residents of these new procedures.
  8. DDOT will keep a record, including the dates, of these petitions on their website for five years, after which they will no longer be in force.
  9. DDOT will update the sidewalk gap map as gaps are filled.

What do you think? You can rate and comment on these procedures on a survey we have set up. Please do so by March 1st, so we can consider your input and include it when the pedestrian advocacy group presents the proposals to DDOT at the end of March.

Cross-posted at Forest Hills Connection.

Tagged: dc, ddot, sidewalks, ward 3

Marlene Berlin is a community activist who has lived in DC since 1975. She is the editor of Forest Hills Connection, which covers the Forest Hills/Van Ness/North Cleveland Park communities. She is also on the Van Ness Main Street board.