Photo: Bill AdlerThe west side of Connecticut Avenue in Cleveland Park is wide and lined with sidewalk cafés. The east side was once the same way, and could be again.
Connecticut Avenue's west side is a pleasure to walk along, and has inviting outdoor cafés. The east side is crowded, cramped and pedestrian-unfriendly. Two people can barely walk abreast on the narrow sidewalk. The service lane is confusing and dangerous. All because misguided urban planners decided in the 1960s to destroy a sidewalk to make a parking lot.
Some suggest that the businesses on this strip can't survive without the service lane and its 17 parking spaces. But every other commercial strip on Connecticut Avenue is able to thrive without a service lane. These businesses are just steps away from a Metro entrance, and are served by a rear alley that would allow people to drop off and pick up heavy items. The nearby Sam's parking lot almost always has space available. Making this area appealing and walkable would attract people in larger numbers, benefiting all of the businesses in the area.
This service lane was a big mistake, but it can be fixed. Imagine what a beautiful and vibrant public space this could be, with room for walking, sidewalk cafés, shade trees, flowers, and benches.
Sign the petition now to ask our elected representatives to restore this vital piece of the Connecticut Avenue boulevard to its original state.
Cleveland Park's "Main Street" was originally designed with broad, pleasant sidewalks on both sides. Cars parked along the curb, and pedestrians walked on the sidewalk, just like they still do today throughout the rest of the city.
Image: HistoricAerials.comThe original design for this stretch of Connecticut Avenue, shown in this 1957 aerial view, included broad, symmetrical sidewalks on either side.
Image: Historical Society of Washington, D.C.These photographs from 1949 show the original sidewalk, about 13 years before it was destroyed. Above: The corner of Connecticut and Ordway, currently home to Dino Restaurant, Suntrust Bank, and Brookville Market.
Image: Historical Society of Washington, D.C.Looking down the intact sidewalk. The Peoples Drug Store is where the CVS is now.
1. The current layout is strange, unsafe, and unappealing.
Photo: Bill AdlerA blind man is forced off the crowded sidewalk into the service lane.
Image: Bing MapsClick here for a larger birds-eye view of the area.
In the early sixties, Washington DC was being hollowed out as people fled for the suburbs. This was before Metro, and city planners were committed to creating an automotive utopia where convenience for drivers was everything. Cleveland Park's citizens had to fight off a proposal to run a freeway down Reno Road, which would have razed a wide swath of the neighborhood and carved it in two; other areas didn't escape that fate. Throughout the city, graceful mansions were replaced with parking lots. Rural farmland and beautiful urban buildings alike were turned into suburban-style strip malls, the latest retail innovation.
In 1962, the same year that the Connecticut Avenue streetcars were shut down, the wide sidewalk on this block was dug up to make room for parking. Less than one quarter of the sidewalk was left for pedestrians; the remaining 3/4 of the space was divided up into an access lane, an inner row of curbside parking, and a median separating the lane from the avenue.
Illustration: Herb CaudillThis diagram shows the current configuration, which wastes some of the most valuable real estate in DC. The sidewalk is too narrow, the median is not really useful to anyone. Click to see larger (PDF)
This may have seemed like a good idea at a time at a time when public transit was poor or nonexistent, but it's completely inappropriate for what's become a vibrant urban neighborhood served by a metro stop.
It's no longer even legal to build a strip mall in the District of Columbia: The Zoning Commission forbids parking spaces between storefronts and the sidewalk — even on private property, let alone in public space. The service lane configuration would never be approved if it were proposed today.
2. Back-in angled parking would be expensive and inappropriate alongside a busy urban avenue.
A frequently proposed option is to replace the row of parallel parking alongside Connecticut Avenue, along with the median, with back-in angled parking. This approach would result in roughly the same number of parking spaces and a much wider sidewalk for pedestrians - seemingly a win-win.
Unfortunately, this proposal would be very expensive to implement (more than $6 million according to DDOT). Why? Because there's a lot of infrastructure embedded in the median that would have to be relocated at great expense: Metro vents, five brand-new historically appropriate streetlamps, a fire hydrant, and so on. And there are a number of mature trees that would have to be cut down.
Image: Google MapsRepurposing the space currently occupied by the median is difficult because it currently houses trees, streetlights, Metro vents, and a fire hydrant. Click to see full image
DDOT has been unenthusiastic about the angled parking approach in the past, and for good reason. It's not really appropriate for a busy thoroughfare just outside downtown of a big city.
And it's not exactly been a resounding success where it's been tried elsewhere. Adams Morgan's back-in angled parking is being replaced by DDOT with traditional parallel curbside parking, in order to provide for wider sidewalks and a more welcoming streetscape.
3. Sharing the entire sidewalk with parked and moving cars would take the weirdness to a whole new level.
Photo: Bill AdlerIf the shared road is a good idea, should we let vehicles drive and park on the sidewalk on this side of Connecticut as well?
Another possibility, proposed on the Cleveland Park listserv:
In a shared road, our sharply defined curbs on either side of our service lane would be replaced by a very graduated decline from the sidewalk level to the road level. There is not a hard boundary between what is walking space and what is vehicular space. ... One would imagine that this creates dangers for pedestrians, but in practice cars naturally slow down to accommodate the pedestrians. There need not be any loss of parking spaces if this concept is applied to our service lane, the designated areas for parking could remain.
Shared roads make sense in cases where you need to provide occasional vehicle access to otherwise pedestrian-only areas; many college campuses have spaces that are configured this way. Some European towns have deliberately blurred the boundaries between pedestrian areas and roads in their historic centers, primarily as a traffic calming device.
In this context, though, this idea doesn't make a lot of sense. According to DDOT, it would be expensive. It doesn't solve any of the problem's we're trying to address. And imagine walking down that block with a family, trying to corral little kids while cars are trying to parallel park on the sidewalk they're "sharing" with us. For that matter, do you want to be the driver looking for a spot to park on the sidewalk while zoo-bound kids swarm around you? Sounds like a nightmare for everyone involved.
If the whole cars-and-trucks-on-sidewalks thing is a good idea, maybe we should let cars and delivery vehicles park and drive on the Uptown's sidewalk, or in front of Medium Rare and Cacao? Or on the sidewalks in Woodley Park or Dupont Circle, or on Columbia Avenue or Pennsylvania Avenue?
The service lane is already unusual and confusing. This scheme would take the weirdness to a whole new level, at the cost of millions of dollars, without improving anything.
4. Replacing the curbside parking along Connecticut with cut-ins would result in much fewer spaces overall.
Another proposal is to replace the off-peak parking along Connecticut Avenue with all-day parking by cutting spaces into the median. This would respond to the demand for parking in front of these shops during rush hour.
Unfortunately, it would be expensive for the same reasons as option 3 — all the median's infrastructure would have to be relocated.
Alternatively, we could work around the existing trees, vents, etc. But this would yield at most a dozen or so spots along the entire block, resulting in a significant reduction in the number of spaces available.
5. Back to the future: Let's restore the neighborhood designers' original vision.
Image: Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
We wish this was a sidewalk: A recent poll on the Cleveland Park listserv showed lopsided support (more than 2 to 1) for replacing the service lane with a wide sidewalk.
You can help us spread the word by liking us on Facebook:
Sometimes the simplest solution is best.
We all know what a wide sidewalk looks like — we can just cross the street and see how this space was intended to be configured. Simply restoring the sidewalk to its original condition is by far the least expensive option on the table, and the most sensible.
Illustration: Herb CaudillThe most straightforward and least expensive approach is to just put the sidewalk back the way it was before the service lane was created. Click to see larger (PDF)
All of us in Cleveland Park want our local shops to thrive. Restoring the sidewalk would eliminate just one parking spot per business on this strip, and would more than make up for it by being more attractive to people.
For a commercial corridor that's right on top of a metro station, delivering more pedestrians to merchants is a smarter strategy than delivering more drivers. We can only accommodate so many cars, with or without this service lane; whereas the number of pedestrians we could accommodate is practically unlimited.
Comparable commercial strips in Woodley Park, Dupont Circle, Kalorama Triangle, and other neighborhoods thrive without surface parking lots. There's no reason why ours can't as well.
Photo: M.V. JantzenWith Metro just steps away, why focus on maximizing automobile traffic to our local businesses?
In the end, the question is whether we want this to be the kind of drive-through commercial area where people come, do their business, and leave — the Rockville Pike strip-mall model that results in alienating, unfriendly public spaces — or the kind of urban neighborhood where people come and spend time because it's fun and beautiful and accommodating to humans.
Cheap and abundant "Shop-N-Go" parking will never be our comparative advantage, nor should it be. Let's leave that to the suburbs, and focus on making this a lively, walkable, and human-centered place where people actually want to be.
If you agree, please sign the petition now to ask our elected representatives to restore this vital piece of the Connecticut Avenue boulevard to its original state.
Video: Matt Bevilacqua, Washington City Paper, June 24, 2011 This video gives a true sense of how unpleasant the current configuration is for pedestrians. The cameraman negotiates his way around strollers and shopping carts, is forced into the traffic lane three times, and witnesses a cyclist's close call.
What probably took a few months back in the 1960s to destroy will probably take years to reverse, but we should keep trying. If the city can close the street at Dupont Circle on Sundays for the FreshFarm Market, no reason they can't close this silly service lane at Cleveland Park on weekends so folks can enjoy some safe window shopping, strolling, and outdoor dining. But eventually, the only course of action worth taking is to brick up the service lane once and for all.
I agree that widening the sidewalk will bring more business and a better feel to the neighborhood. It will be more harmonious.
The service lane is a pedestrian safety hazard, and is not accessible to people in wheelchairs. Restore the sidewalk to its 1940s dimensions to make the sidewalk safe and pedestrian friendly.
The cars drive too fast down the service lane and the sidewalk is far too narrow for the amount of pedestrian traffic. Restore the sidewalk now!
Please make the street safer for all users on this stretch of Connecticut. Besides making it safer, this would make the area that much more livable and businesses, especially restaurants and bars, would see an increase in customers.
The sidewalk situation is dangerous - a wheelchair meets a stroller and someone has to use the street! More and more people use CP Metro station to visit the Zoo and large groups completely fill the sidewalk and others are forced into the access road.
A sidewalk that interacts more with pedestrians and less with parked cars (when there is a parking lot just down the street) would be a boon for Cleveland Park (and there is no excuse not to with the amount of transit in the neighborhood).
I think this would be a fantastic improvement to the street scape in this lovely neighborhood.
Any perceived loss in business revenue from people not being able to park within feet of the stores will be more than made up for by encouraging people, like me, and pretty much everyone I know, to hang out in a nice pedestrian friendly sitting area. This brings business. How many examples do you need?
This service lane might have seemed like a good idea in the 1960's, but what we're learning from Columbia Heights is that wide sidewalks, outdoor seating and other streetscape amenities are what really makes a place great and attracts people.
I have lived in various parts of the neighborhood for 15 years, and have avoided the businesses along that stretch because the sidewalk is too narrow. I can't be the only one.
I used to live in the neighborhood, and plan to someday go back. I think this is a terrific idea.
In addition, many of the "facts" associated with maintaining the status quo are based on no data. For example, merchants claim that their businesses would be significantly harmed by removal of the service lane, but there have been no studies about the percentage of drivers versus pedestrians that make up the customer base, or even a count of how many cars park on the service road on a typical day. Good public policy is made on the basis of empirical evidence, not uninformed opinion. The data available suggests that the neighborhood would be better off with the service road removed.
Thanks for bringing momentum to this important discussion for our neighborhood's livability!
Cleveland Park is home. Younger people do not step aside to allow one to pass on the narrow sidewalk. I have stepped in the street many times. It is dangerous. A boulevard would be beautiful.
As a District resident and frequent visitor to Cleveland Park, both by car and as a pedestrian, I wholeheartedly endorse this petition.
I often pass by this section of CT Ave, but rarely venture to park in the side street. I can never tell if there is parking (unless it is first thing in the morning) and I don't want to get stuck in there with someone trying to park ahead of me on either side. Plus it is really unpleasant to walk on the cramped sidewalk. Too bad, because there are some nice stores there that I would patronize more.
Almost got run over by a car in the service lane, because was pushed off the narrow sidewalk by someone (by accident of course)
Walking along the East side of Connecticut Ave in Cleveland Park is completely dangerous. I can't count the number of times I've been forced off the sidewalk by large groups as a car barrels down the service lane behind me. Surely the local businesses would benefit from sidewalk seating much more than from an extra 25 parking spaces. Additionally, the CP businesses would benefit much more from a more pedestrian-friendly (and downhill) route to the zoo for tourists and families than having them miss all of the Woodley Park shops by heading north from the Metro. The WP/Zoo/Adams-Morgan signage decision has never made any sense to me at all. Tourists spend money, and they have no chance to do that walking to/from the WP Metro and bypassing the shops south of the metro.
The Cleveland Park service lane drives me nuts. I often find myself walking in it because of the lack of space on the actual sidewalk. I know parking is scarce in Cleveland Park, but no one is going to go bankrupt because we took out 25 spaces.
This is a no-brainer.
With a Metro station nearby, this antiquated use of precious sidewalk space is even more irrelevant. As the petition suggests, this service lane is dangerous and a public health and safety issue. Let's make Cleveland Park more welcoming and less dominated by vehicles.
A great idea!
Let's preference people and community over cars. This will make our neighborhood so much more wholesome and family-friendly! Like when I used to visit my grandfather in Italy, we would take a stroll after dinner. Great idea.
Yes! I have been saying this for years.
After reading many of the arguments for and against the service lane, I feel strongly that CP would be a better community without it. Walking on the crowded sidewalk with a stroller is next to impossible making it a very unfriendly place for families. Also having lived in the area for almost ten years--I can count, on one hand, the number of times I have actually been able to find parking in the service lane. The handful of spots provided by the service lane is not worth all of the potential wider, more pedestrian/community-friendly sidewalks would provide.
I support better, bigger sidewalks and less parking in Cleveland Park due to its excellent public transit.
I've experienced the danger of this tiny strip many times, be it frequenting the bars and restaurants, or the Uptown. It's gots ta go!
With an increase in new and exciting retail in Cleveland Park, like Medium Rare and Cacao, that service lane is an obstacle to creating an even livelier streetscape in Cleveland Park. Please get rid of it.
We have a five year old and visit the National Zoo quite a lot. Cleveland Park for lunch afterwards is always in the plans. We naturally are drawn to the other side of Conn. Ave because of the inviting streetscape. A full size sidewalk should have been done years ago!
While I reside in Bethesda, I visit Cleveland Park regularly for dinner, etc. I hate the parking lane. Get rid of it.
Reduce the parking burden by finding a way to encourage and/or incentivize people to take the metro. (Homeowner and third-generation CP resident.)
Turning the Service Road on Connecticut into a wide, pedestrian friendly sidewalk would improve the business climate along this section of Connecticut. By making this strip more walkable, people will be able to move easily between cafes and retail stores. This will not only increase business to the bars and restaurants, but also to other establishments here.
I used to live in the Parkway Apartments in Cleveland Park, in the Foreign Service now and abroad for a few years, but when I come back I really hope this sidewalk becomes a reality.
I frequently run along this stretch of Connecticut Avenue. The sidewalk is not wide enough to accommodate any reasonable amount of foot traffic and having 10 parking spaces could not possibly bring much business to area less than a block from a Metro station.
Please, please, please restore a wide sidewalk! That side is so congested with a dangerous mix of pedestrians and cars. Cleveland Park would be an even more beautiful neighborhood without that crowded parking area.
I have changed my mind and want to vote for restoring the Connecticut Avenue Boulevard.
People first. We are so much more important than cars.
Great initiative to improve the quality of life in our community.
I lived in the area for 20 years, my mom has for over 40, and our daughter does now. I can personally attest to the fact that the service roadway is not the best way to use that area. I think commerce would flourish and the area would look better with a pedestrian-friendly sidewalk.
The thought of sidewalk cafes is very appealing to me, and I would imagine a host of other people. And if people eat in a neighborhood, they will shop in a neighborhood. The rest of Connecticut Ave. can survive without a service lane, and I don't see why this area is any different.
I haaate the service lane and all its awkwardness.
Widen the sidewalk, eliminate the unnecessary and unattractive parking lane, and I think both residents and business owners will be pleased with the results.
Mr T in DC
I don't understand how that service lane has lasted this long. No other retail corridor along Connecticut has such a strip-mall parking lot in front of it. The funny thing is that if this service lane weren't there already, nobody would even begin to suggest that the existing street-front businesses be bulldozed to make way for one. The idea that we have to keep something because that's the way its "always" been is fallacious.
Parking itself also induces its own demand. For every person who demands the right to park as a necessity there are 10 people in that lot who parked there, not because Metro/biking/walking isn't possible for them, but simply because parking is available.
Restoring the sidewalk makes most sense and business owners on that strip should be in huge favor, especially those with potential sidewalk cafes. I always thought the service lane was peculiar when comparing CP to other CT Ave neighborhoods.
Almost got run-over there last weekend, after bumping into someone because the sidewalk was so narrow and falling into the service lane. People who frequent the shops will still do so if the parking is removed, making it a sidewalk is a terrific idea.
As a CP resident, I would prefer a sidewalk so that I don't have to constantly step in to the street to avoid groups on the narrow sidewalk - especially during "zoo season." Sidewalk seating for the local restaurants is a side benefit.
I don't see how retail would be hurt. By adding 12 sidewalk cafes, benches, bike racks, plantings and trees, you will be attracting a lot more people to the strip than before. 25 less cars, but a lot more people by foot, bike, transit. More people coming to dine equals more people coming to shop. The sidewalk would probably be wide enough to incorporate some sort of fountain or sculptures. Wide enough to host a farmers market too. So long as market rates are charged for available parking there will always be turnover and spaces available for those that have to drive. I imagine if/when it happens people will wonder why they didn't change it back sooner.
I am a resident of Cleveland Park, currently on assignment out of the country, but this issue is near and dear to my heart.
Without fail as the lanes on Connecticut Avenue shift for rush hour, a car will crash at either Macomb and CT Ave or Ordway and CT Ave. This has become such a regular occurrence I don’t even need to set my alarm clock in the mmakeorning. I am honestly amazed that drivers, hanging essentially a U turn from south bound CT Ave onto the service lane running northbound, have not struck and killed anyone. Beyond the confusing traffic pattern that the service lane creates, the sidewalk through this area is simply narrowed too much to safely accommodate pedestrians, joggers, bikers, moms with strollers, school groups, people with grocery bags, etc. …
I’m very proud of my neighborhood and although this commercial district is zoned for the primary needs of local residents, I know the vibrancy of my neighborhood exists because of its’ ability to attract non-local patrons. Cleveland Park does not end at an arbitrarily drawn line, residents from Dupont to American University can easily access our neighborhood via multiple modes of transportation and their business should be welcomed with the best neighborhood we can provide. …
If you are one of the few people who truly needs to drive to access Cleveland Park there will continue to be spaces available (would be more if we got approval for performance parking) even without the service lane present. It’s important to remember that this is not suburbia.
Is the fear of change higher in Cleveland Park than other neighborhoods? I'm not sure. But what I am sure about is that there's nothing special about Cleveland Park or that block that requires a service lane.
… There is enough density on Connecticut Avenue, with the large scale residential between each of the low-rise commercial strips, to support the businesses without the 25 or so cars the service lane accommodates. The poor choices made in that era should not be preserved for future generations to endure.
The portion of Cleveland Park along Connecticut Ave is quite urban given the number of large apartment and condo buildings and metro access. Furthermore, businesses along Connecticut that are north of Cleveland Park seem to do just fine without a service lane, and they are certainly less urban.
My opinion is that we don't need to go in search of new parking to replace the handful of spaces that would be lost by removing the service lane. I say that as a Mount Pleasant resident that uses the service lane often, but only because it's there. If parking becomes harder I will just stop driving and take the bus or Capital Bikeshare. I suspect there are plenty like me who are not adverse to transit but will drive if you make it convenient for us.
You may alienate a few patrons who just refuse to take transit, but by eliminating the service lane you will be making CP an infinitely more attractive place to shop, eat, and linger. If anything there will be a bump in patronage to the strip and plenty more room to accommodate them. Shopkeepers should remember that diners are shoppers too and not fall victim to the usual fear mongering.
Right now I use the service lane most often to pick up Vace’s Pizza. No shopping going on for those trips. Eliminate the service lane and Vace’s can get outdoor seating and maybe serve draft beers too. I'll happily bus over and make an evening of it then. See a movie and do some shopping. …
If we do close the street for a weekend to test the waters then steps should be taken to temporarily activate the space as it would be if it becomes permanent. Arrange a farmers market? Rent some temporary seating for the restaurants to set up outdoor areas. Otherwise a trial run could do more harm than good as people just stand around in the drab closed service lane wondering if the change is worth it.
But I must say I find it odd that we even have to "test" a service-lane free sidewalk when they are the norm in every other neighborhood in the city. By all accounts we have been "testing" the service lane in CP for 40 years and the result is that it's a major failure. Hence why they weren't adopted anywhere else.
That service lane is such a waste of space. Not only does it not even provide a lot of parking, but it also makes crossing Connecticut very dangerous. Replace the service lane parking with on-street parking in the main travel lanes (rush hour exceptions, of course). Make the service lane into a wide sidewalk, capable of supporting cafes, and other sidewalk space, just like across the street by Uptown Theatre.
Those who don't want a wide sidewalk couch their opposition with phrases like it's "interconnected to other problems and must be decided as part of a comprehensive plan" and "it is the type of problem that gets more complex the more you examine it." It's not complicated at all. Just look at Connecticut Avenue from the White House to Chevy Chase Circle. No service lanes. Nada. Not a single one. And nobody is asking for anywhere else. Why? Because narrow sidewalks impede pedestrians, because they are ugly, because they stymie local businesses (foot traffic is much better for most local businesses than cars), because they are not historic, because they are pedestrian dangers. What makes this one block strip in Cleveland Park so special that the service lane needs to be preserved? Nothing, except the fear of change.
Of course, any given individual might not be able to park if there are fewer spaces … But if the sidewalk is made larger, there will be more people walking, which translates into more shoppers.
My first year in DC, I lived on Ordway in a sublet in CP. The most persuasive argument for getting rid of the access road is safety. The entrance and exit to the service road are both 5 way intersections that have high accident rates. There's a reason that CP is a perpetual traffic snarl. The idea that locals use those parking spots is a myth. Locals know to stay the hell out of their cars in the neighborhood.
As for the vacuum issue. People can pick-up/drop-off at the back door in the alley. Or some of the spaces on Conn ave can be designated as a 15 minute drop off zone.
I live just south of Cleveland Park - and I agree, that section of Connecticut Avenue is very poorly designed. I signed the petition. I think residents would adjust - they could park along Connecticut.
… Count me among the Cleveland Park residents in favor of closing the access road on Connecticut Avenue. That sidewalk is a nightmare. Plus, savvy tourist families have figured out that if you go to the zoo via the CP Metro, you don't have to walk uphill with your stroller (and it's always on the east side of Connecticut).
The Cleveland Park service road on the east side of Connecticut Avenue should be restored to sidewalk use, for several reasons. The first is safety. Currently the sidewalk is barely wide enough in places for pedestrians to pass each other. … I have seen baby strollers diverted into the service lane because the sidewalks are not wide enough. Also, eliminating the service lane would improve the unsafe pedestrian crossing where the lane ends at Ordway and Connecticut. Second, the service road is not a great parking solution today. There is no room to pass, so vehicles back up, while one vehicle waits for another to pull out of a parking space. The third is that a wider sidewalk would enhance the pedestrian experience and the neighborhood streetscape.
The service lane along Connecticut Ave in Cleveland Park should be closed. The sidewalk is barely wide enough to accommodate two-way single-file foot traffic. … Businesses along that stretch claim they'll lose out if they lose the street parking there. But when I lived in the neighborhood I avoided the businesses on that side of the street because it was such a tight squeeze - not just with the other pedestrians but with the cars passing within a couple of feet of me.
I have lived in the neighborhood for 15 years, and I avoid the businesses along that stretch because I find the sidewalk too narrow and annoying to navigate, especially evenings and weekends.
Or maybe those who park on the service road should consider some other way of getting around besides their car. Walking, for instance. Or biking. Or taking a bus. Or taking a train. Cleveland Park isn't, you know, Gainesville or Damascus. It's an urban neighborhood that is extraordinarily walkable and well-served by public transit.
… [This is] a problem that can and should be fixed. And as anyone who's walked the service lane sidewalk knows, things are a lot worse on weekends. But there are a lot of other reasons to make the sidewalk wider. It's the historic way things were. The service lane isn't historic at all. And this is an historic district. A wide sidewalk is a lot more visually pleasing than a line of cars. I walk along the service lane a lot and I'm often treated to cars honking at other cars that have stopped to wait for somebody who's run into a store for "just a second."
The great thing about this proposal is that it can be tested thoroughly for free. ... Just block the access road for a week or two and see what happens to the businesses, see how hard it actually is to find parking, see how nice it is for pedestrians, let restaurants put out a few tables and see how it works. Let’s TRY it.
I live near the intersection of Connecticut and Macomb, and the service road confounds many drivers, and is therefore a safety issue -- for pedestrians as well as vehicle drivers. …
I see and hear many accidents and near misses many times every week at the intersection, and the majority seem to involve the service lane in some manner. What I know for sure is that more drivers than you'd imagine get confused by the service road and do crazy and unsafe things, like bottom out on the median strip, which they somehow do not see when turning left onto the service road from Macomb east-bound or Connecticut Avenue south-bound, thus nearly hitting pedestrians waiting to cross Connecticut Avenue (the pedestrians always save themselves by fleeing in the face of the oncoming car), or they hit other cars while somehow being confused by the presence of the service lane. There is an entire public safety issue with the service lane that is not being addressed in this discussion or in city planning vis-à-vis this service lane.
It'd be terrific to see the community addressing this.
As far as the service lane's usefulness for parking to do errands is concerned -- you just can't count on it, especially during rush hour. It's even iffy at other times of the day. So if you're planning to shop for food and must have parking, the Brookville isn't your best bet for a supermarket. Chances are that there *won't* be a space in the service lane where and when you want one. There are other nearby supermarkets (the Newark Street Giant, the Van Ness Giant) that have ample parking lots, and you can even push your grocery cart right to your car. The same goes for drycleaners -- there are plenty of others that are also a close drive and have better parking than on the Connecticut Avenue strip.
For parking the service lane is unreliable at best. It would be much better to make it wider for pedestrians, parents pushing strollers, people in wheelchairs, outdoor cafes, and other non-car uses.
In the agency where I work, the words "careful and considered process" and "balancing perspectives," are euphemisms for "we'll kill this by dragging it out forever." … Give widening the sidewalk a try and let experience be our teacher. If it's a mistake, we can fix it. And the try it/see-if-it-works/fix-it-if-we-must cycle can happen a heck of a lot faster than trying to achieve "the best possible descision" through endless talk.
From the point of view of the merchants along the strip, the question is whether the loss of business from reduced automobile traffic would be offset by a gain in business from increased foot traffic. Personally, I'd like to think it would be …
I like the idea of testing out the proposal by temporarily closing off the access road, but I'm concerned that the results of such a test would be unfairly skewed against it. The loss of business from reduced automobile traffic would be more or less immediate, while any gain from increased foot traffic would be only gradual as people found themselves attracted to the new configuration over time. Unfortunately landscaping improvements … could not realistically be part of a test. Nor would the restaurants be likely to transform themselves instantly into outdoor cafés for just a few days or weeks. After all, they would have to buy outdoor tables, chairs, and umbrellas without knowing how much real use they would ever be able to get out of them.
Let's not just consider the additional sidewalk space to be for outdoor seating for restaurants. What if we added grassy areas, flowers, trees, and public benches and tables? It's a regular occurrence that I grab slices from Vace and think, "Wouldn't it be great to have somewhere to sit and eat?" Getting people out of their cars and onto the sidewalks to interact with their neighbors is always a good thing and should be encouraged. Additional foot traffic is not only good for local businesses but it also improves safety in the area.
I think fixing the sidewalk would help our merchants as well as our safety. The narrow sidewalk makes it hard for me to understand why we would want to rebrand our metro stop to reflect the proximity to the zoo. Even though the distance to the zoo is just as short as from Woodley, and even though the grade is flat, I have to believe it's much tougher for a family with a stroller to reach the zoo from the Cleveland Park metro on a weekend than from Woodley.
I don't really understand the need for the separated pickup/drop off lane (it seems that almost all other retail strips manage without).
Not only is the service road itself taking up space on what was once a wide sidewalk but it contributes to the hazardous intersection at the corner of Ordway and Conn. crossing on all corners. My daughter who is in a wheelchair cannot use that side of Conn. easily and safely as she can the side where the Uptown theater is.
I think this is the worst situation that we face on that strip of Conn. And I don't see why we have to continue to do so. We should put it back the way it originally was to match the other side of the street.
Eliminating the service lane would return to Connecticut Avenue to its earlier days. … An added benefit would be that the dangerous intersections at Ordway and Macomb would be more manageable without that lane.
It would be the most wonderful thing to widen that sidewalk (making it the same as every other sidewalk on Connecticut Avenue from Calvert to Chevy Chase Circle) so that the restaurants could have outdoor cafes. Tonight was a beautiful night and I dined at Alero outside, but it would be terrific if one could eat outdoors at the new Tackle Box, Lavandou, Spices or any of the other restaurants on the east side.
I'm amazed that so many people find the service lane convenient. You all must have much better luck than I. I've lived in Cleveland Park almost two years, and not once found a parking spot along there. I suspect during the day there may be more availability, but when I get home from work I would not call it convenient in any way. I've given up trying to use it and instead do what any able-bodied person living in an urban area within a half mile of shops should be prepared to do: I park the car and walk.
Cleveland Park is a neighborhood friendly to people with visual impairments and hopefully those in wheelchairs. Let's make it even friendlier to all "foot" traffic by widening the sidewalk.
We've talked a lot about outdoor cafes, but that's not the main advantage of turning the service lane into a wide sidewalk. In fact, I'd be happy if all that happened would be that we got a wider sidewalk. Have you ever seen somebody in a wheelchair try to navigate that very narrow sidewalk? I have, and it's not easy to do. Pedestrians frequently step off the sidewalk and into the service lane because the sidewalk is too narrow. The benefit of a wider sidewalk isn't that we might get some outdoor cafes, it's that we would have a safer, easier to walk on, and a more visually pleasing neighborhood. The service lane is not part of historic Cleveland Park. It was created decades ago during our car mania phase. We should restore the Connecticut Avenue strip to its original broad design.
The decision about whether or not the service lane should be replaced by a wide boulevard should not be the sole property of "established neighborhood organizations, community consultations and technical expertise, as well as the appropriate government agencies." A lot of people aren't members of or can't join various neighborhood groups because they don't live within the organization's boundaries. A lot of people can't attend regular meetings due to family commitments or work. Limiting discussion keeps a lot of people from both being informed about what's going on and participating in the debate.
Converting the service lane to a wide boulevard would restore Connecticut Avenue to its historic charm. It should be done.
Having nearly been hit by a car zooming into the service lane, while I was waiting to cross the street at Macomb and Connecticut, I feel strongly that it is a terrible choice. Another poster made the observation that boatloads of pedestrians with kids, strollers, wheelchairs (although most of these people logically prefer the other side of the street) -- many coming directly from the subway -- crowd along that portion of the sidewalk. When crowded, many people are obliged to leave the sidewalk and walk in the service lane. Surely that is a hazard. Also, far too many drivers struggle to make the left-hand parallel parking, causing auto congestion and driver irritation. All in all, the service lane's time has come and gone.
We should really take heed of a simple adage in city planning: If you design something that is suitable for cars (a service lane) you attract cars; if you design something that is suitable for people (wider sidewalks), you attract people.
If the service lane was removed long term benefits to businesses include: increased foot traffic, increased outdoor restaurant seating, additional sidewalk benches, and improved streetside aesthetics to name a few. Long term benefits to Cleveland Park include: improved neighborhood aesthetics, improved traffic flow on the corner of Connecticut and Ordway, and additional party space for Cleveland Park Day to name a few.
I firmly believe that Cleveland Park has tremendous momentum with the recent expansion of Palena, the addition of Tackle Box, Medium Rare, Ripple, Cacao, and (hopefully) Chipotle. Removing the service lane would be a great next step for the long term progress of our neighborhood.
A previous time this issue was discussed on the listserv, someone came up with the great idea of having a month-long period where on weekends the service lane were to be closed to motor vehicles and opened to outdoor cafes. This would allow folks to experience Cleveland Park's Main Street like it hasn't been experienced in a long time.
I like this idea and think the neighborhood and business community should consider a pilot program like this. If it's successful, extending it throughout the warmer months on weekends would be a logical next step. Sounds like it could have some great potential.
I understand and value the service lane, but it's truly ugly and the Cleveland Park shopping area will never be attractive as long as the service lane is there.
Compare the Cleveland Park shopping/restaurant area with lower Bethesda, which is charming, lively and vibrant. It's also a great, safe place for teens and pre-teens to hang out on weekends, and in the early evening, parents with young kids stroll around. Personally, I always prefer to go to Bethesda for a weekend dinner and movie -- it's vibrant, pedestrian friendly, and almost every restaurant has outdoor seating, which is heaven on evenings when the weather is good. It's truly a community downtown. It also has several large parking lots that are a great source of revenue for the municipality.
Cleveland Park is a fantastic community and it deserves a fantastic shopping and restaurant area that has all the charm of our friendly neighbors in Bethesda.
And with regard to parking for handicapped, someone mentioned the parking spots behind the stores, which could be exclusively for handicapped or someone picking up something heavy or unwieldy like a vacuum cleaner.
Eliminating the service lane would very likely increase business for many stores -- not reduce business. It goes without saying that having outdoor seating would increase business for the restaurants on that side of Connecticut Avenue: Restaurants benefit from April through October, our outdoor seating season. Other businesses would benefit from increased pedestrian traffic. Economic predictions are a tricky thing, of course, so one can't say that all businesses would benefit at all hours of the day from more pedestrian traffic, but the more people there are, the more money there is to be spent.
The service lane is also ugly, and aesthetics matter. Wide sidewalks are much more attractive than service lanes -- just look at the west side of Connecticut Avenue for proof of that. The prettier Cleveland Park is, the better it is, too.
Cleveland Park shines on Cleveland Park Day, in large part because the service lane is closed and we can all enjoy the benefits of a wide boulevard. It would be great if we could have that pedestrian-friendly atmosphere every day.
By the way some people are talking, you'd think the service road had abundant parking and constant turnover. If someone told me they were planning on driving to Cleveland Park during rush hour in order to pick up dry cleaning, I'd tell them they are nuts if they expect to find a parking space without circling for 20 minutes. At peak times, the service road just doesn't get the rapid turnover that people assume. And during non-peak times (middle of the day on weekdays) one can also park on Conn Ave.
I mean, how many people really drive to Brookville Market? I would guess that over 90% of their sales are to people who arrived on foot. If one needed to drive for groceries, prescriptions, dry cleaning, and an ATM, they are probably going to Van Ness where they can park in the underground garage for free (with ticket validation).
One of the problems … is the prevailing "cars first, pedestrians second" attitude. This line of thinking may work in the suburbs, but not in the city. While cars have their place, the future isn't in automobile transport and more parking; it's in bike lanes, pedestrian friendly areas, and public transportation.
… [The sidewalk] is still far too narrow to accommodate the foot traffic on a regular day, let alone a beautiful summer day when everyone is out and hundreds of tourists are streaming through on their way to the zoo (thanks, Metro). I have been frustrated by the inability to walk along the strip doing errands or getting to the Metro because the sidewalk is so narrow at places due to signs, planters, garbage cans, etc. I have seen dangerous situations where people step off (or are forced off) the sidewalk - sometimes into the path of oncoming traffic on the service lane. This is a particular problem for older or mobility-impaired persons. As an able-bodied young person, I myself have often stumbled on the utility covers, graduated ramps that run perpendicular to the flow of traffic and areas that are very, very deteriorated and crumbling. The aesthetics are also lacking -- all the trees are on the other side of the service lane, leaving our commercial strip bare and without shade or shelter.
Wouldn't residents, visitors and businesses alike benefit from a wider, more uniform sidewalk where people can stroll, window shop, and read menus in order to choose a restaurant? Could we consider removing the parking lane (gasp!) on the left side of the service lane to afford us a wider, more attractive sidewalk with a few small trees?
I, among many other people, have had my life endangered at the corner of Conn. & Ordway more than once over the past 30 years I've lived here. Some situations have been more dangerous than others, but they all could have provided personal injury.
I am a senior citizen and I certainly don't see the Service Road as a "necessary convenience" under any circumstances! For goodness sakes. ... If anything, it's a hindrance. The narrow sidewalk on the East side of Conn. Avenue is an inconvenience, and the Service Road is the same. Today the walking traffic on the sidewalk was very heavy most of the afternoon and walking was VERY difficult in both directions. People were forced off the sidewalk into the Service Road at times by the crowded conditions and vied with cars using the road at the same time. I assure you there were both unhappy walkers and car drivers because of the situation.
I believe that the sooner the Service Road goes, the situation currently faced by walkers (especially senior citizens) will be made safer and more convenient.
The crosswalks at both Ordway and Macomb Streets are hazardous, in large part because of the service lane. Cars entering and leaving the lane often come in close contact with people trying to cross the street. Pedestrians are also often forced to walk in the service lane because the narrow sidewalk is just too crowded. The service lane is an unnecessary, and uniquely Cleveland Park, hazard. The service lane isn't even historic -- it was created during the pro-car mania of the 1960s. I vote for safety: get rid of the service lane.
If you haven't already, please sign the petition now, asking our elected officials to restore this sidewalk. It only takes a moment.