Ward 8 and its residents have finally entered the new millennium, joining the ranks of those in the District’s other seven wards with the recent installment of bike lanes — pathways that didn’t exist less than five years ago based on District Department of Transportation (DDOT) figures.
But not everyone in Southeast is celebrating including one resident who lives along Alabama Avenue where the lanes have been placed who told ABC7 reporter Sam Ford during a June 11 on-air interview, “It’s an insult to the people.”
For longtime residents, many of whom are elderly and/or handicapped, the inclusion of bike lanes has reduced the amount of on-street parking spaces which means that some must look for places on other streets — a challenge for those with mobility issues as well as a potential problem with safety for older folks who are concerned about walking several blocks alone to get home after parking their car. Local Black churches have also lodged their objections citing the reduction of available parking for members. But as the saying goes, “the beat goes on.”
The District under Mayor Bowser’s directive has followed examples of other cities by changing frequented boulevards as more people use bicycles as a means of transportation. Citizens were invited to participate in dialogues with DDOT and city officials about bike lanes but we have the feeling that the decision had already been made and believe that very few people showed up to express their thoughts.
D.C.’s Director of Transportation Jeff Marootian notes that there have been six deaths along the corridor in the last five years and with safety being tantamount, it became incumbent to redesign streets so that drivers would be forced to reduce their speeds and to increase safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.
However, surveys conducted in the past four years indicate that only a small percentage of residents East of the River, specifically those in Ward 8, either walk or bike to work. So, why the push for bike lanes? Opponents say it’s just another example of gentrification.
Of course, we agree with making streets safer for everyone — motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists alike. Still, we wonder if those who do not favor or want bike lanes in their communities may have a point. Perhaps what we’re witnessing is a change that may yield few benefits for today’s residents but rather tomorrow’s — residents of the future who will be younger and, if the trend continues, white.