Amsterdam Falafelshop in Adams Morgan by Adam Ross licensed under Creative Commons.

Adams Morgan’s Advisory Neighboorhood Commission (ANC) recently passed a resolution in favor of three new Capital Bikeshare stations in the neighborhood, despite pressure from the local Business Improvement District (BID) to not install one at 2424 18th Street NW. The Adams Morgan BID and 30 other signees expressed worry about losing three parking spaces, and argued other bikeshare stations could be expanded instead.

Cyclists on Twitter quickly identified many of the signatories, some calling for boycotts, others calling instead for education of the business owners. DC Amsterdam Falafelshop, which signed the letter along with other local businesses, defended the move: “We do not oppose bike share! We simply oppose the placing of this particular station in these particular street parking spaces.”

On Wednesday, June 5, ANC 1C passed a resolution in support of adding new bikeshare stations to Adams Morgan, including the contentious station at 2424 18th Street NW.

While the 6-1 vote was decisive, the issue almost didn’t come to the floor. It barely survived a 3-4 vote to table the resolution and not put it on the agenda. A major source of opposition came from the Adams Morgan BID, which had gathered the signatures of 30 different businesses to oppose this particular station on 18th Street.

The letter calls for DDOT to nix this station and possibly expand other nearby ones instead, and to consider adding a pick-up drop off zone. It claims that bikeshare riders will be in the way of delivery trucks that will come to the soon-to-be Wawa at the proposed location, will interfere with other pedestrian traffic, and will also take away three metered parking spaces.

As cyclists began tweeting about the letter, Amsterdam Falafelshop responded:

The irony was not lost on Twitter.

Amsterdam Falafelshop claims that DDOT “took the easiest and most beneficial option for them” and wasn’t considering other alternatives. But DDOT has considered other locations for additional bikeshare stations, and decided that these three are optimal.

In a letter to the ANC, Greg Matlesky, Bicycle Program Specialist at the agency, gives a detailed account of why 13 of the ANC’s suggestions for other bikeshare station locations don’t work. The letter includes an analysis of simply expanding nearby existing stations. In one case, the station can’t be expanded without infringing on the entrance of the nearby business, and in another the expansion would only be a few docks, as opposed to 19 new ones at the proposed station on 18th Street NW.

The Adams Morgan BID responded on Twitter:

We are strong supporters of #bikedc and have worked with @DDOTDC for years on increasing availability of @bikeshare and racks in AdMo. We help plan @biketoworkday & run one of the largest pit stops in DC. We love bicycles and bicyclists and want them to be plentiful and safe.

The petition we submitted was to reconsider the location of the @bikeshare station, not to oppose it. Please remember that two years ago two @DCPoliceDept bike officers were seriously injured by a vehicle at almost this exact same spot.

We believe we can work with @DDOTDC, @AdamsMorganANC, and the #bikedc community to find a solution that meets the increased demand for more @bikeshare locations and also addresses the concerns of the business community.

It’s clear Amsterdam Falafelshop and the protesting businesses resent being characterized as anti bike-access. They seem to think they’re proposing a win-win with alternate locations that allow the stations without removing parking. But alternatives that take space from pedestrians aren’t the way to go.

As one of the areas of the city most heavy with foot-traffic, Adams Morgan’s recent sidewalk widening project was a major win for a corridor that often grew dangerously crowded and saw pedestrians spillover into the street. Clawing back some of that important space for three parking spots reinforces the dangerous logic that cars should be the first priority and all other street users should fight for whatever scraps are left.

Additionally, for many urbanists the refrain “We support x, but just not here” is a tough sell. We’ve heard that one before when it comes to issues like affordable housing, bike lanes, tall buildings, or even just new buildings. The other argument about losing customers because of losing parking is hard to understand as well: Three car parking spots for 19 bike parking spots seems like an improvement!

Multiple studies show that prioritizing bicycle parking over car parking is good for urban neighborhoods, especially walkable ones like Adams Morgan. That makes it doubly surprising that the BID helped organize the protest effort. Conflicts with delivery trucks is an issue Adams Morgan and other neighborhoods have long grappled with, and the new planned pick-up drop-off areas are meant to help alleviate those issues.

Image by Alison Lee.

Despite the outcry, it’s likely that DDOT will continue with its plans for a new bikeshare station on 18th Street NW.

Correction: This article previously stated that 30 businesses had signed the Adams Morgan BID letter. There were 30 signees.