Letter to members of ANC 1C about the Columbia Road project

Sent to members of ANC 1C, the Advisory Neighborhood Commission for Adams Morgan.

Dear Commissioner:

I see that the Columbia Road Bus Priority Project is on the agenda for tonight’s ANC meeting.

Many thanks to the ANC for its work in support of this project, and especially for shifting what started as a bus-focused design to a broader solution that protects pedestrians and bicyclists. I trust that the commission will continue to push for a safer, better-performing Columbia Road. I am particularly encouraged to see that DDOT will install a protected bike lane and, also, redesign the Harvard/Columbia/16th intersection to ease eastbound bus movements.

I am sure that the commission will hear many complaints about how taking parking will injure local merchants. You should know that these concerns are not grounded in fact. A mountain of evidence shows that retail sales usually rise after the installation of bike lanes. A few examples:

Note, also, that DDOT’s plan protects loading zones.

The District’s long-term transportation planning has long recognized the need for these new facilities. MoveDC places Columbia Road in the Bicycle Priority Network and the Transit Priority Network. The intersection of Columbia/18th/Adams Mill went on a DDOT list of high-crash intersections back in 2015 and somehow has seen minimal improvement since then. This is a vital part of the city’s bike lane system, making connections within Adams Morgan, serving as one of the very few vital east-west links, and as a gateway to Mt. Pleasant.

Columbia Road itself sees frequent bus delays and an unacceptable number of injuries to people on bikes. DDOT’s own project documentation notes that bike crashes on this corridor follow mostly from drivers opening doors or pulling through the unprotected bike lane—failure modes that a protected bike lane would prevent. Better stop spacing, intersection changes, and, of course, the bus lane promise improvements for transit riders.

In a minor issue, the plan converts the 2700 block of Ontario Rd. NW into one-way northbound. I walk or bike through there every day. I avoid it when driving, whenever possible, because of the short signal phase, congestion caused by illegally-parked cars, and the awkward signal timing farther east, at 16th/Harvard/Columbia. Ontario Road jogs, north and south of Columbia, making the intersection unnecessarily complicated. Whatever choice DDOT makes will be ungainly.

David Ramos

  1. Daniel Arancibia et al., “Measuring the Local Economic Impacts of Replacing On-Street Parking With Bike Lanes: A Toronto (Canada) Case Study,” Journal of the American Planning Association 85, no. 4 (October 2, 2019): 463–81, https://doi.org/10.1080/01944363.2019.1638816

  2. Jesse Coburn, “Business Grew After Controversial Bike Lane Installed, Data Show,” StreetsBlog NYC, September 30, 2022, https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2022/09/30/business-grew-on-queens-street-after-controversial-bike-lane-installed-data-show

  3. Jamey M. B. Volker and Susan Handy, “Economic Impacts on Local Businesses of Investments in Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure: A Review of the Evidence,” Transport Reviews 41, no. 4 (July 4, 2021): 401–31, https://doi.org/10.1080/01441647.2021.1912849