New York Avenue NE. Not a good place for a stroll. Image by Google Maps.

Plans are underway to make a car-oriented stretch of New York Avenue NE and its surrounding streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. The most visible element of the project will be new bike infrastructure in the area, but residents are also concerned about making it easier to walk along the street. That’s a big priority for the District Department of Transportation as well.

If you’re not traveling by car, New York Avenue is in rough shape. Trees and utility poles spring up all over the narrow sidewalks, which ride up against a busy, high-speed street where signals don’t allow much time to cross.

New York Avenue's existing conditions. Click for a larger version. Image by DDOT.

Bikes are a focus, but not the only focus

To kick off its New York Avenue Streetscape and Trail Project, DDOT collected feedback from residents that focused in large part on potential bike facilities along the street. After I wrote about those proposals, some GGWash commenters took it to mean bikes would be the project’s priority.

Voted4Kodos: As a resident of Ivy City I'm much more concerned with making it safer to walk and cross than I am with biking. Biking is fine, but I want to see it walkable first.

RL3: I am a cyclist and a cycling advocate and I can tell you that based on the survey questions and the presentation material that the focus is on Bike infrastructure and not on pedestrian walking infrastructure or on fixing traffic issues.

But the large number of bike-related questions on DDOT’s survey shouldn’t discourage those hoping for better pedestrian facilities along New York Avenue NE. This project is about pedestrians as much as it is cyclists. It will focus on sidewalks, streetlights, plantings, trees, benches, public art, and other public space improvements.

“This project really is about everything,” said Kate Youngbluth, who is managing the project. “From walking, biking, scootering… however you’re going on New York Avenue.”

“The feedback survey, given online and at the meeting, had a lot of bike facility questions because there are different alternatives for how to better accommodate cyclists on the corridor,” said DDOT Pedestrian Program Coordinator George Branyan. “Improving the pedestrian facilities is really much more straightforward—new sidewalks where they are missing, wider sidewalks, ADA ramps, etc.”

Residents want better sidewalks, and they’re letting DDOT know

In response to DDOT’s survey, residents were vocal about the need for better sidewalks along the street. One part of the survey asked how they would divide $35—using stickers “worth” $5, $10, and $15—to improve the corridor. Residents overwhelmingly put their money toward sidewalks.

Image by DDOT.

In other parts of the survey, residents also requested longer crossing times at intersections, removing utility poles from the center of paths, widening sidewalks, and putting sidewalks in where they currently don’t exist at all. Another common theme: requests for traffic-calming measures that will lower speeds and make New York Avenue NE even safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

“These are much-needed improvements, and we fully support them,” said Jacob Mason, a spokesperson for All Walks DC. “As part of a once-in-a-generation revisioning of this street, we hope DDOT goes much further towards creating a safe and comfortable walking environment.”’

Mason’s ideas for how DDOT can make this stretch of New York Avenue safer and friendlier for pedestrians echoes the responses given on DDOT’s survey.

“To create a more comfortable and useful walking environment, we hope to see more buffer between sidewalks and heavy traffic streets, as well as better connections to other walking paths, such as to the MET Branch Trail,” Mason explained.

“Safety measures include reducing crossing distances, improving crossing visibility, creating more frequent crossing opportunities, reducing pedestrian wait times at traffic signals, and working to reduce traffic speeds and volumes, all of which have been shown to support economic activity, and improve safety, and are important to achieving the important Vision Zero goals set forth by the Bowser administration.”

Next steps for New York Avenue NE

DDOT will hold another open house to present options for the redesign along New York Avenue on April 25 from 6 to 8 pm at the Holiday Inn Express on Bladensburg Road NE. The concepts will be based on feedback received from the survey, and DDOT will collect further feedback to use as they prepare to hold a third meeting on the project this summer.