Image from Google Street View.

DDOT wants to help people on bikes traverse R Street in Eckington with sharrows and a one-block contraflow lane. ANC commissioner Sylvia Pinkney is organizing a petition to oppose the project, but some of her fellow commissioners and neighbors don’t share her distaste.

R Street has an existing bike lane west of Florida Avenue, but there is a gap in Eckington, where people biking use R Street to access the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

Most of R in Eckington is 2-way, with one lane each way and parking on each side. In these areas, DDOT plans just to add “sharrows,” the shared-lane markings that remind drivers that people biking are allowed to ride in the lane (though legally this is true whether or not the markings exist.)

For one small block between 2nd and 3rd Streets NE, R Street is one-way eastbound. It’s wide enough for two lanes, but two lanes aren’t really necessary. DDOT is suggesting replacing one of those with a contraflow lane, between the parking and the sidewalk. It will be painted green.

Segment of project from Eckington Place to 3rd Street, NE.

Drivers have to go one block out of the way, to Randolph Place NE, if they want to go west through this area (or take a different route). But this is not good for people on bikes since it requires going up a fairly substantial hill around McKinley High and then down again. Also, people riding on the Met Branch Trail know R Street is a way to get all the way across town, while many people aren’t so familiar with Randolph Place.

However, ANC Commissioner Sylvia Pinkney is organizing against the lane. Pinkney’s district is just to the west, covering R between 2nd and North Capitol. She is also the commissioner who led the charge against the Youth Build Public Charter School.

In an email to neighbors, Pinkney announced her opposition to both the bike lane and the sharrows.

The community struggled for five years to obtain speed humps to slow the traffic on R Street. Between the construction trucks, Fed Ex trucks, buses, local community traffic, and every driver that chooses to cut through R street to avoid Florida Avenue and access North Capitol Street, R Street has become a dangerous heavily traveled thoroughfare.

It is because R Street NE is dangerous, heavily traveled, and not wide enough for a bike lane, that the meeting participants agreed that bike lanes and symbols should not be installed on R Street. If R Street is not wide enough for a bike lane it is not safe for bikers.

There are several secondary streets in Eckington that lead to the bike trail.  I am certain R Street is the most heavily travelled, most dangerous, and the narrowest of them all.

Pinkney’s concern for cyclists’ safety is touching, but misplaced. There really aren’t other decent routes. One of the multiple readers who wrote in about this issue said,

I live on the unit block of S Street NE, and take that street to work every day. There is no other way to get to the R Street bike lane without going on North Capital, Florida Ave or Rhode Island Ave, so how does disallowing sharrows make me safer?

Putting in the bike lane would actually help neighbors who want traffic calmed. If this street becomes an even more common bike route, the many people riding in the lane will force drivers to slow down and give the street more of a feeling of a low-speed neighborhood street than a high-speed thoroughfare. Likewise, the contraflow lane will narrow the 200 block, also calming traffic.

First-term ANC Commissioner Tim Clark, whose campaign platform included making Eckington safer for cyclists, is enthusiastic about the proposal. He wrote in an email,

Some people’s belief that the community would outright object to the lanes is based on a common misconception that people in our community don’t embrace cyclists or bike lanes. I myself found this not to be true when I spent 3 days canvassing the 200 block of R. Street. In fact, it’s very far from the truth.

So far I’ve had only one resident to object to the plan. Many of the residents where more than willing to share the road with bikers and felt it would make the street a lot safer. They only asked that the lane be kept to the outside of their cars to avoid any possible property damage. ...

My residents are supportive of the plan and making our community safer for all pedestrians. With the massive NoMa West project and increased residential growth over the last couple of years, our roads have become increasingly crowded, which has encouraged more residents to bike.  R Street is also one of the only east-to-west connectors for bikers in the city, so there’s a need to make the commute safer.

If you live in the area or frequently ride or drive through Eckington, please email the ANC members and DDOT’s Mike Goodno to register your support for the project.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.