The dispute over a proposed bike lane project spilled onto Connecticut Avenue during rush hour today as advocates and opponents sought to promote their positions on an issue that has pitted Cleveland Park residents against each other.
Holding big, colorful signs, more than a dozen people rallied about two hours on the 3400 block of Connecticut Avenue to protest the city’s plan to add protected bike lanes on the road. They were soon joined by a smaller group of counter protestors voicing support for the project.
The proposed bike lanes would be part of larger changes envisioned for the 2.7-mile stretch of Connecticut Avenue between Cleveland Park and Chevy Chase. According to the District’s Department of Transportation’s website, the project’s goals and benefits include reducing crashes and enhancing safety for all roadway users.
Lee Mayer, the president of Save Connecticut Avenue, an organization that opposes the city’s plan, said the protest’s purpose is to spread his organization’s main message: “No bike lanes on Connecticut Avenue.”
Too Dangerous for Bikes.
“Riding a bike on Connecticut Avenue is way too dangerous,” Mayer said. “This organization is not against bike lanes. We’re just against them in this area.”
Mayer said his organization has been protesting the project since 2019, with members even starting a petition against it last year. He said bike lanes on Connecticut Avenue would not be safe for drivers, pedestrians, and even cyclists.
“Protected bike lanes aren’t protected where there are intersections and driveways,” he said. “We are even worried about cyclists, even though they don’t want to listen.”
Ron Kahn, a member of Save Connecticut Avenue, opposes the bike lane project. He said he came from his home in Chevy Chase, Md. to stand with protesters, adding that government officials are not considering the input of residents.
“We are fighting DDOT because their planning process is very flawed,” Kahn said. “They do not consider the input of citizens, especially the elderly. They just make decisions and don’t communicate.”
Sheryl Barnes, a long-time Cleveland Park resident, said the project could impact her day-to-day. She said she had to implement changes into her routine due to current construction projects going on in the area.
“I don’t shop here anymore,” Barnes said, pointing to the businesses along the crosswalk. “I live down the street, and I used to come here. Now, it’s very difficult to get parking, so I don’t do it anymore.”
Bikers Buy Stuff.
“This project has been going on for the past 4 years,” said Steve Seelig, a member of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.
The Washington Area Bicyclist Association founded the “I Bike, I Buy Stuff” campaign to promote support for the bike lane project. According to its website, the campaign focuses on reminding business owners on Connecticut Avenue that many of their customers are people who bike.
Standing a few feet away from the Save Connecticut Avenue members, Seelig said he came out to the area on his bike to speak out against the organization’s members. He said the implementation of a bike lane in the area will keep commuters safe, including himself.
“I’m a senior citizen! I ride my bike!” he said. “The notion that elderly people are somehow disadvantaged by having bike lanes is just a false statement. If there is not a bike lane here, I won’t be able to do it.”
Avni Gokser, a cyclist from the area and supporter of the project, said it is important to have a bike lane on a busy street like Connecticut Avenue.
“I’ve been riding in this area for almost 40 years,” Gokser said. “It is important to have a bike lane in this area.”
DDOT plans to have the concept designs for the project finalized by fall of 2o23. Seelig said his group will keep pushing for the project to move forward.
“This our street. We live here and we want it to be safer,” he said. “We want there to be a bike lane so everyone has a safe place to be.”
More than 100 miles of protected bike lanes now exist throughout the District, according to the mayor’s website.