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back of the envelope (actually printer cover sheet) calculation pre-second cup of coffee suggests that placing as suggested may be pretty close to 2x many wheelbases with a 1.5 foot space between each Zebra: in other words a car could pretty easily get at least the front wheels through without even going over them while executing the illegal u-turn. Hope that second cup of coffee proves me wrong....

We were told last night at NPS Penn Ave meeting that DDOT has full control of street right of way, so CFA input would be advisory only. There is no excuse for further delay on implementing effective safety measures on Penn Ave.

The meeting last night sponsored by the NCPC included a presentation by the NPS about their proposal to use a non-profit agency -- significantly hinted to be the Downtown Business Improvement District or BID -- to administer/coordinate the maintenance and operation of PA Ave. The NPS rep kicked off the meeting by saying that this new proposal had nothing to do with bicycling safety, that transport safety on the roadway was DC's jurisdiction. She implied that the large number of cyclists in attendance were sort of misinformed about whether this meeting would address bike safety issues on the roadway. However, bu the end of the meeting, it was very clear that NPS and the fine arts commission wanted to retain a very strong influence on the character of the roadway, and that any changes should be approved by them -- that they certainly expected to approve any safety fixes.

My impressions from the meeting follow. Note, I haven't done any journalistic due diligence to get names, confirm quotes, clarify etc. Others who attended the meeting may wish to expand/correct.

First, the NPS presentation was extremely murky. NPS has jurisdiction over the sidewalks, parks and furnishings along the route. DC has jurisdiction of the roadway for transport purposes. NPS seems to want the BID to provide day-to-day maintenance and upkeep services, and eyes on the ground to coordinate repairs and improvements. They suggested that the BID could act as an intermediary, helping groups get permits from DC and NPS for events (Bike DC?) and coordinate repairs and improvements with DC and NPS as needed. I believe the idea is that NPS is essentially throwing up its hands on its ability to take PA ave to the next steps that were laid out in the original PA Ave Development Corp vision, including making the avenue a more commercially and social vibrant space, and making it less of a barrier between the government/monumental side and the downtown. NPS explained that their mission doesn't typically go beyond preservation and conservation, and that much of the PA Ave Development Corp's vision was beyond their scope in many respects. The idea was that having the downtown BID be more formally involved, it could help go the next steps and reduce frustrations with NPS processes not really suited for urban and community development.

Like I said, how all this would work was quite unclear, but in general, my impression was: So far, so good.

However, in the questioning, folks from WABA, local bike shops etc. asked about the bike lane safety, and specifically, whether, if DC truly had jurisdiction over the roadway, whether they could go ahead and reinstall barriers to prevent illegal u-turns.

The answers seemed to be that NPS, the fine arts commissions and other stakeholders wanted veto power over such improvements, and certainly expected to have an "advise and consent" function as stakeholders of the avenue. So while they seemed to say the DC had jurisdiction and that they couldn't legally prevent DC from making safety improvements, they certainly expected to be consulted and expected that DC wouldn't do anything without their approval.

Got it? DC can do what it wants to improve safety. Except they can't. Sort of.

So the guy from the mayor's office who said on one of the TV news reports that DC couldn't improve safety for bikes on the avenue because it would be illegal and that would be breaking the law was apparently wrong. (Also, a candidate for douche of the week?) DC does, according to last night's presentation, seem to have the jurisdiction to make safety improvements.

However, NPS and the fine arts commission seemed to imply that even if they didn't have absolute veto power over DC's ability to make safety changes, that they certainly expected full consultation and that DC wouldn't do anything without their approval. The implication was that if DC did make bike lane improvements without their sign off, that DC would face some consequence, although what the consequence would be wasn't clear.

Overall, I was pleased that NPS was considering handing over some responsibility for the road to the BID, because the BID might have a lot more money and know-how, and energy to continue to improve the avenue in all dimensions. However, it still seems like DC and the feds are pointing across each other over who has responsibility for the needed safety improvements.

In my opinion, what really needs to happen for PA Ave to be a truly grand ceremonial avenue, as envisioned by past and current plans, is to go back to 3 traffic lanes instead of 4 in most place, and re-separate the median bike lanes like they were originally. That would allow the avenue to breathe, give pedestrians more haven space without conflicting with bikes, and provide plenty of space to design high-quality and view enhancing anti u-turn barriers. -Jeff

Thanks for the report.

A great report yes. Extremely consistent with the slides NPS prepared: it was clear the jurisdictional EA etc... were totally mum on the cycle track, uturns etc... and made no mention whatsoever of the Fine Arts Commission.

Pedro Ribeiro's "we can't just go breaking the law" statement was pretty antagonistic, on top of being wrong. It seemed to belittle the fundamental questions and marginalize the people concerned with them, which is not compatible with the positions we've heard from the mayor, most council members, the DC DOT, and the MPD - among others.

What I heard last night sounded much more reasonable than I expected, and only retained quite understandable reservations that naturally come with a focus area that (currently) involves at least eight agencies. While NPS and NCPC would certainly have strong concerns if DC intended to implement plans that aren't compatible with other goals for the Pennsylvania Avenue Historic Site/Area/District/whatever, (I'll paraphrase just a little, but the statement was pretty close to this):

"DC has full authority over everything that happens in the roadway, and can do anything short of selling it."

Full stop.

The Penn Ave bike lanes reads like Mayor Gray not wanting to be seen as too pro-biking, too much like Fenty. Mayors are usually happy to flex some muscle.

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