‘Save our businesses’: Bike lane plans draw protesters to Connecticut Avenue

A small band of protesters turned out during the Tuesday evening commute on Connecticut Avenue in Cleveland Park. The demonstrators are opposing the D.C. Department of Transportation’s plan to install protected bike lanes on each side of the street from Woodley Park to Chevy Chase.

Wearing bright yellow T-shirts, the demonstrators gathered across the street from the Uptown Theater, trying to rally support from drivers passing by.

“Save our businesses! They need customer parking,” a demonstrator shouted into a bull horn as others held up signs toward the passing traffic.

“If you take two of the lanes out, dedicated for bike lanes, you’re going to cause more of a traffic problem, a safety problem, all kinds of problems and we’re against that,” said Ronald Kahn, a resident of Chevy Chase.

The protest was organized by a group calling itself Save Connecticut Avenue.

“What happens is that if you put in curbside protected bike lanes on each side, that means no vehicle can pull up to a curb. So, what does that mean? Buses will stop in one of the two lanes going north or south and bus passengers will have to load onto the buses crossing the bike lanes. It’s going to be a mess,” said Lee Mayer, president of Save Connecticut Avenue.

Mayer pointed to the line of cars heading northbound with the afternoon commute just getting underway.

“If you look at two lanes and it’s bumper to bumper and it’s only 4:15, can you imagine if there was only one through lane? And where are the service vehicles going to park? There’s no accommodation. They’ve reduced the number of loading zones and the loading zones will be on one side of the street only. So if you own a business on the wrong side of the street, what’s going to happen?” said Mayer.

People in yellow T-shirts protest the proposed bike lanes for Connecticut Avue in Cleveland Park. One woman holds a sign that reads “No Bike Lanes on Conn Ave.” (WTOP/Dick Uliano)

But some bicyclists watched the protest and disagreed with its goals.

“I think that a bike lane on Connecticut Avenue is an incredibly important asset that improves safety for all people on the road. And so that includes pedestrians, that includes people who are on bicycles like myself, that includes people who are in cars and it improves the safety of the road,” said Robin Watkins, a resident of Northwest D.C. who stopped her e-bike to speak out.

Watkins went on, “It’s an incredibly important way for people to get to work, school, shops and businesses, places that they need to get to in their everyday lives.”

Ezra Deutsch-Feldman, a D.C. resident and bicyclist, said he thinks the bike lanes would make navigating streets easier for drivers, too.

“They’re a good idea because they’ll make the street safer for everyone and they’ll make it nicer for everyone, not only the bicyclists who use the lanes, but it will be better for the drivers because they don’t have to worry about dodging around the cyclists that are there. … By giving everybody their own space, it makes it safer for everyone,” said Deutsch-Feldman.

The D.C. Department of Transportation said Mayor Muriel Bowser has selected the plan to install bike lines on each side of Connecticut Avenue from Calvert Street to Legation Street. It would also add other features intended to improve safety, including curb extensions and pedestrian refuge stands.

However, the project has not yet been scheduled for construction.

Bicyclists say the lanes are extremely necessary to boost safety. Their opponents argue that the city’s plan will remove about 470 parking spaces and reduce safety for pedestrians, who, for example, will be required to cross active bike lanes with vehicles in order to board buses that can no longer stop at the curb.

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Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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