Robb after DDOT's protected bicycle lanes project public meeting. West End Library, 2301 L St NW, Washington, DC. Image by M.V. Jantzen used with permission.

Robb Dooling is a particularly engaged urbanist. He’s a member of DC’s Multimodal Accessibility Advisory Council, which advocates for better transit and public spaces for people with disabilities. In 2018, he was elected to serve as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for 6C06 in NoMa and Old City. He earned accolades as GGWash Urbanist Hero of the Week (along with others) for giving up his ANC parking pass.

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Robb stepped off his bike to answer some questions about urbanism and GGWash.

Growing up car-centric

My childhood home in Nebraska has a Walk Score of 17 because it was ensconced in suburbia and all schools, parks, and other destinations required a long walk. [Editor’s note - Walk Score measures how walkable a neighborhood is to daily necessities. 100 means very walkable, 0 means completely car-dependent.] More often than not, I depended on somebody else to drive me to and from extracurricular activities and play dates.

I briefly lived in Cape Canaveral, Florida, where I recognized the negative impacts of having no transportation options besides driving or carpooling. NASA's Kennedy Space Center has no public transportation or employee shuttles and all workers must drive to and from the complex every day.

Finding a hub for a bike-centered life

I am excessively proud of NoMa BID’s survey showing that 86% of my neighbors commute car-free. I chose to live in NoMa because of proximity to both the Deaf community and downtown DC as well as the First Street NE cycletrack, which has facilitated me biking to work every day since January 2017 and many bike adventures since May 2015.

Using ANC powers for the greater good

Other ANCs for the Union Station area (ANC 6C) and I are working to further improve the percentage of residents commuting car-free throughout our ANC and not just NoMa. In February 2019, we unanimously passed a resolution asking DDOT to implement the K St NE Road Diet this year. This project would replace 42 on-street parking spaces with sidewalk extensions and bicycle lanes, which would be an incredible win for sustainable transportation, Vision Zero, and the goal to create an east-west bicycle route eventually stretching all the way from Mount Vernon Square to 12th St NE. I want to thank Sarah Dachos, Keya Chatterjee, and other neighbors who spoke up for humane streets at our ANC meetings.

Urbanist nerds unite!

I love that GGWash hosts geekiness of all stripes. The day this hodgepodge of library trivia came out, I was raving to friends about how thorough this article was and how it displayed an “amazing level of nerdiness” as well as a superb research effort. Kudos to author DW Rowlands.

GGWash was a passport to Metro

I started reading GGWash in 2014 because I became obsessed with Metro after several months of using it to travel to my first job, IKEA in Greenbelt, and other destinations. I was entranced with how much easier it was to travel to local destinations for the first time in my life and I wanted everybody to have the same opportunity. This desire evolved into my passions for urbanism, sustainable transportation, and local politics.

Inspired by tactical urbanism

Janette Sadik-Khan, who pursued widespread tactical urbanism as commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, demonstrates political courage badly needed in DC today. Our city government is too afraid to pursue tactical urbanism even when pressed repeatedly and witnessing DC Department of Transformation projects, which is a shame. These differences in political courage have contributed to the differing trends of traffic deaths increasing in DC while they are decreasing in New York City year-over-year.

Showing up for better street design
In 2018, sustainable transportation activists and I visited the sites of multiple traffic fatalities throughout DC and urged the DC government to do better, whether through memorial rides mourning deceased cyclists, writing GGWash articles to advocate better street design, or translating requests for DDOT into American Sign Language in order to amplify them.

Where to find me afterhours

The Wundergarten outdoor bar and beer garden at 1101 First St NE consists of heated tents, picnic tables, and lawn games occupying what used to be parking spaces. Wundergarten is a fixture of NoMa, where people from all over the city and I celebrate birthdays, plan urbanist activism, and go on dates. All neighborhoods should consider using public space for the greater good rather than storage of private vehicles.

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We welcome you to join the GGWash Neighborhood Membership program, which starts at just $5/month and gives you access to our online discussion forum, along with other benefits. Join today!

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Jane Fiegen Green is the Development Director at Greater Greater Washington. With a PhD in history and a background in association management for a scholarly society of historians, she works to bring sustainable revenue streams to support GGWash’s news and advocacy. She lives in the Pentagon City neighborhood of Arlington with her husband and son.