Photo by League of Michigan Bicyclists on Flickr.
On Monday, DDOT Director Gabe Klein signed a Complete Streets policy. The policy, effective immediately, states in part that DDOT projects “shall accommodate the safety and convenience of all users.”
When it comes to DDOT projects, bicyclists and pedestrians are now officially on equal footing with other modes. Please thank Director Klein, Mayor Fenty and Council Chairman Gray for this policy.
While certain corridors will continue to give priority to some modes over others, and some facilities, such as interstate highways or non-motorized trails, exclude certain modes by law, the policy emphasizes that “connectivity throughout the network for users of all modes is essential” and requires that “all transportation and other public space projects shall… ensure that all users, especially the most vulnerable, can travel safely, conveniently and efficiently within the right of way.”
While it won’t lead to a bike lane and a sidewalk on every street, this policy requires DDOT to do more than simply consider the movement of automobiles, and gives residents and advocates another tool if the agency’s projects don’t live up to its own standards.
Most importantly, the policy requires that pedestrian, bicycle and transit Level of Service (LOS) measurements be used to ensure that projects provide sufficient accommodation for all users. It also requires that projects “consider environmental enhancements” such as stormwater runoff, tree space and planting areas, use of recycled materials and energy efficiency.
The District has been slow to adopt a Complete Streets policy, especially when compared to other jurisdictions in our region. According to the National Complete Streets Coalition, there are already similar policies enacted by statute in Montgomery County and statewide in Maryland. In addition, policies have been adopted by Rockville, Arlington County and the Virginia Department of Transportation. Alexandria is also close to passing an ordinance that would enact a Complete Streets policy.
It’s also notable that this is a departmental policy enacted by the agency’s director. Although it has much the same impact, it is different than a bill passed by the Council and signed by the Mayor, such as the Sidewalk Assurance Act, which requires DDOT to provide sidewalks on all streets that are built or reconstructed, with some exceptions. This law went into effect September 24.
The new Complete Streets policy is important, especially in a city where nearly 40 percent of residents — and a much higher percentage in low-income neighborhoods — do not live in households with automobiles and so rely on bicycling, walking and transit. Although DDOT has been ahead of many other departments of transportation in our region when it comes to equitably accommodating bicyclists and pedestrians, residents can’t simply rely on the goodwill of agency staff. This policy helps support these values and allows advocates to ensure that standards are being met.
Cross-posted at Quick Release, the blog of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.