by Bob Summersgill
Forest Hills and northern Connecticut Avenue have limited access to bicycle facilities. This hurts bicyclists, including our children, but also pedestrians and drivers.
Bicyclists routinely use the sidewalks – as they are legally allowed to do – because our roads are not safe for them. Conflicts with pedestrians are inevitable. To get bikes off the sidewalks, they need a safe place to ride in the road. Bike lanes and cycle tracks allow bicyclists to ride safely, and keep bikes out of traffic. Bike lanes also make bicyclists more predictable and easier for drivers to see.
This is only one piece of a greater transportation puzzle. With a net increase of 1,000 people moving into D.C. every month, we need to make sure that all modes of transportation are safe and accessible. If they all arrive with cars, it will only add to congestion. So we want to make sure that everyone who doesn’t need to drive can walk, bike, Metro, or bus if they so choose. This means more reliable Metro, more frequent and regular buses, access to light rail, safe and accessible bike lanes, and most importantly: places to walk to.
There are a few things that we can do, with limited impact on existing roads. First, we can complete sidewalk connections so we can walk to school, work, Metro, and shopping and dining in our commercial areas. Street crossings need to be better designed for safety. We need to have safe and desirable places to walk. And eliminating pedestrian traffic deaths and injuries should be a high priority for the District.
Access to other neighborhoods, especially east and west of us, is important to growing our city. Circulator buses could connect the Wisconsin Avenue, Connecticut Avenue, 16th Street, and Georgia Avenue areas. This would help us get to more places, and help people get to our businesses. Bus Rapid Transit and express buses, especially during rush hours, could help make upper Connecticut Avenue more accessible, and valuable to commuters and others who want to get downtown. Metro, short of building more lines between neighborhoods, is nearing capacity, and we may not be able to grow it much further. Light rail, such as the street cars soon to be traveling on H Street, is something to explore for long-term replacement of buses and hundreds of cars on Connecticut Avenue.
But it could be. At the east end of Albemarle Street, there is a steep stretch of scrub between two embassies’ chain link fences, which is DDOT land.
If we could put stairs there, with adjacent ramps to walk bicycles up and down, Forest Hills could be connected safely to Broad Branch Road for cyclists. There is a similar staircase at the end of the Metropolitan Branch Trail on L street.
If the rebuilt Broad Branch Road can also connect bicyclists with the Rock Creek trail system, we will greatly expand our access to the park, and in turn, increase the value of our homes. Albemarle, or some other street, also needs to be redesigned to safely take bicycles from Forest Hills to Tenleytown.
We should be welcoming each new resident who chooses not to drive, and make it as easy as possible for them to get to our businesses and downtown as easily as possible. The first steps are relatively easy and inexpensive. But we need to make sure these ideas get through the District Department of Transportation (DDOT). MoveDC is the program DDOT is using to solicit public input on designing the District’s master transportation plan. Forest Hills should not be neglected in that plan. Please go to their events and their website and share your vision of how to grow our transportation system.
Bob Summersgill is a commissioner in ANC 3F. He bikes or uses Metro to get to work.