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Shaw Businesses Respond to 9th Street Cycletrack Announcement




Shaw businesses fear that plans to reduce parking and impose rush hour parking restrictions on the 1900 block of 9th Street, often referred to as Little Ethiopia, will cripple and even extinguish their small, independent businesses, already struggling due to more than a year of pandemic closures and other safety measures, according to Shaw Main Streets, the nonprofit organization that has been supporting the revitalization of central Shaw since 2003.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) announced on Friday, May 28, 2021 that the agency is moving forward with construcitng the proposed 9th Street Cycletrack. The details of proposed changes to 9th Street have never been formally presented to business owners and residents of 9th Street, but DDOT officials showed the plans to Shaw Main Streets staff in late 2019 and early 2020, seeking input on the controversial proposal. The project has received significant opposition from Shaw churches and others that have been briefed on the plans.  Attempts by DC Council members to force Mayor Bowser and DDOT to move forward with the project in 2019 and 2020 failed to gain the support of a majority of Councilmembers. It is not known what caused the mayor and DDOT to move forward with the project at this time.

“No one wants to see bicyclists injured or killed on our streets,” said Alexander M. Padro, Executive Director of Shaw Main Streets. “But the plans, which no business owners have been shown, need to be modified in order to avoid a business bloodbath.”

The portion of 9th Street known as Little Ethiopia faces the most dramatic impacts from the cycletrack. Traffic and double-parking on the 1900 block of 9th Street, NW are constant during business hours, which extend until the early morning hours because of the high number of restaurants, bars and nightclubs on the block that operate until 3:00 AM, 4:00 AM on holidays.

Restaurants with parklets, who have been told that they would be able to continue to operate these outdoor spaces for a year after the end of the pandemic in order to help their struggling businesses recoup some of their losses, are despairing the loss of revenue that the parklets are currently producing. There are seven parklet now in operation on 9th Street between Massachusetts and Florida Avenues. Several other applications are in the process of being submitted. Many businesses and residents have advocated for the parklets and streateries to become permanent.

“After the devastating year of COVID, Unconventional Diner and other businesses on the east side of 9th street are now faced with more devastating news - the loss of our beloved and economically essential outdoor dining space to make way for bicycle lanes,” said Eric Eden, co-owner of Unconventional Diner, which has the largest parklet on 9th Street, with 80 seats.  “While we appreciate the environmental benefits of alternative transportation, we are baffled by the city’s plan to drop to one, north-bound vehicular lane on our super busy and blossoming street. As more and more DC residents and visitors use ride shares, we wonder where do Uber/Lyft drivers drop passengers? Does all north-bound traffic now stop to wait for pickups and drop-offs? And what are the CO2  impacts of this new congestion? As business owners who live and work in the District, we ask that the powers that be carefully consider the economic impact - likely in the millions of dollars - to our businesses and the loss of sales tax from those sales. More studies and more community outreach are in order.  We believe that there’s surely a solution that allows for cyclists, business owners and vehicular traffic to safely and efficiently coexist.”         

“The cycletrack will devastate Little Ethiopia,” said Alan Ebert, Executive Director of the 9th Street Business Association, representing businesses on the 1900 block of 9th Street, NW. “We don’t understand how such a dramatic change could be imposed on our businesses without anyone being shown the plans in advance. At best, the cycletrack should start at T Street. At minimum, the parking restrictions need to be reduced. Otherwise, businesses will be forced to close.”

Neighborhood residents also have concerns about the number of tractor trailers that cross the route of the proposed cycletrack, including those servicing the Washington Convention Center and City Market at O, as well as several garage entrances. Some have suggested 11th Street would be a safer route, and would avoid the negative impact on businesses.

“It’s time for DDOT to release the detailed construction drawings that they’ve previously refused to make public, so that all Shaw stakeholders, including businesses, residents, and churches can see for themselves what the 9th Street cycletrack’s impact on their operations and lives will represent,“ Padro declared. “A single lane of traffic northbound, no rush hour parking when restaurant and bar patrons start arriving at 5:00PM, and the loss of current diagonal parking during church services on Sundays have to be balanced against the need for cyclist safety. If this project is going forward, everyone who lives and works on 9th Street needs to have the opportunity to weigh in and have their concerns addressed.,”

About Shaw Main Streets

Shaw Main Streets was established in 2003 to encourage and support economic revitalization and historic preservation along central Shaw’s 6th, 7th, 9th and 11th Street, NW commercial corridors.  The organization has attracted and supported over 400 new businesses to the central Shaw commercial district, resulting in the creation of thousands of new permanent jobs. Over $3 Billion in commercial and residential development have been facilitated by Shaw Main Streets’ efforts. Shaw Main Streets has developed two mobile apps promoting neighborhood businesses, DineinShaw and ShopinShaw, available for both the Android and iphone platforms. Shaw Main Streets is a designated DC Main Streets program and is funded in part by the Department of Small and Local Business Development, Muriel E. Bowser, Mayor.

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