WASHINGTON - The debate over Connecticut's bike lanes has reached a fever pitch after simmering throughout the summer, and city officials are anticipated to make final decisions soon.
Protesters gathered outside Cleveland Park’s historic business District by Connecticut Ave. and Ordway St. Northwest on Tuesday, calling for the whole project to be scrapped.
Those same protesters recently rallied against a notice of intent issued to change parking meters on the 3300 – 3400 block of Connecticut Ave. Northwest from 2-hour to 30-minute spaces.
District DDOT Spokesperson German Vigil told FOX 5 via email, that the change would "encourage parking turnover and improve customer availability for the businesses in this area."
It’s a separate issue from the larger Connecticut Ave. study. However, many are lumping it into one major battle over bike lanes.
"Chris at the frame shop, the place is closing down after 53 years. They survived everything. They can’t survive not having parking out front. It is just another blow," said PJ Freitag sarcastically.
Freitag, as the general manager of Fat Pete’s Barbeque, is among the business managers and owners vehemently against the proposed changes. He told FOX 5 Cleveland Park’s businesses were hit hard this year because of it.
"The whole reason why this has always been busy and why it’s had rush hour: the downtown jobs. We are literally on a one-way trip to being Detroit because of the fact that we don’t have the people coming out like they used to," Freitag said. "It’s been everything. The bike lanes are a perfect example of Bowser not understanding what’s going on in the city … I get cussed out daily ‘cause the fact that there is no parking already – and now you’re going to take away even more parking by doing the bike lane. You already decided we don’t get the service lane back. So, I’ve got delivery drivers who are like, 'I don’t even want to come here.'"
Sauleh Siddiqui, the elected neighborhood leader for ANC 3C05 told FOX 5, "The primary concern for the community, us, the people who live here, is the safety of all of us – our kids, our elderly neighbors, all of us who use this space. The fact is having a six-lane highway in front of the home makes it very, very, very dangerous."
Over on 14th Street, you see cyclists regularly weaving in and out of traffic lanes, trying to avoid vehicles double-parked in those unprotected bike lanes. Traffic slows as drivers try to avoid the bikers – and double-parked vehicles with workers trying to unload.
DDOT first initiated The Connecticut Ave. Multimodal Safety Improvement Project back in 2019, looking at a nearly three-mile stretch: Connecticut Ave. NW from Legation Street to Calvert Street. Two years ago, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser approved a "Concept C" design, which already removed peak-hour reversible lanes and brought down the speed limit from 35 to 30 miles per hour.
Next up is implementing protected bike lanes, and DDOT is separately reviewing whether to change meter limits.
FOX 5 spoke with Ward 3 Councilmember Matt Frumin, who was meeting business owners on Wednesday after the Tuesday protest. He still wants bike lines but wants them done in a way that benefits businesses and residents.
The council member agrees with the complaint that bike lanes are going to slow traffic.
"One of the reasons why people looked at putting bike lanes on Connecticut Avenue was the slow traffic on Connecticut Avenue," Frumin said. "It’s been a high-crash area. It’s a safety issue. So, it’s both a criticism of the idea and a reason for the idea to slow traffic on Connecticut Ave. Now you can’t do that to a point where it’s unreasonable and it really is an impediment to really getting downtown. But the analysis has been that it won’t be such an impediment."
DDOT is supposed to be going over bike lane "refinements," so it’s not clear what final designs they’re going with, but public meetings are expected this fall.
Meanwhile, ANC Commissioner Siddiqui told FOX 5 that his Advisory Neighborhood Commission is voting on the parking changes at a Sept. 18 meeting. DDOT says residents can also email their input to Conn-Aveemail@example.com.