PoP-Ed. – Don’t Pave Over the Service Lane in Cleveland Park by Neal Gross


Ed. Note: We previously discussed whether or not the service lane should be converted into a pedestrian boulevard back in 2011.

PoP-Ed. posts may be submitted via email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail please include PoP-Ed. in the subject line.

DDOT proposes to PAVE OVER the safety Service Lane in Cleveland Park:

Honestly, folks, this issue has been abundantly addressed and firmly rejected in the past by the neighbors, merchants, visitors and everyone who values safety from high-speed Conn Ave.

The proponents know well that elderly, disabled, infants, toddlers, and general citizens, be they CP residents or visitors, are safer, at less risk, with less anxiety and fear, and overall more conveniently served by this virtually essential Service Lane.

Safer: because we don’t have to exit a car adjacent to fast moving Connecticut Ave traffic, and likewise at less risk both on foot or in a car because while in the service lane we are protected by the mini-island, small as it is, but so advantageous. Has anyone tried to unload a wheelchair bound passenger from a car at the outside curb lane on Connecticut Ave, with traffic going by? And what about the driver’s safety just opening the door?

More conveniently served: because with nearly 30 parking spaces turning over regularly during the day and evening, and especially as the only source of parking during Rush Hours, what are the proponents of TOTAL PAVE OVER proposing we do if we choose to patronize the merchants during those hours?

For those who are concerned about the “safety” of pedestrians on the “narrow sidewalk” allegedly inconvenienced by having to step into the street, please notice how narrow the passageway is just one short block north between the curb and the Metro escalator half-walls, actually on both east and west side of the Avenue. Narrowness itself is not the issue. Cars using the Service Lane are travelling so slowly, there is ample availability for both cars and pedestrians. Has anyone figured out that the HAWK light in the middle of the 3300-3400 block just recently installed is basically to serve those who find the West side desolate and wanting, and were so eager to risk their lives to cross the Avenue to get to the more fascinating, more desirable, more ample East side precisely because of the presence of the Service Lane which is the key to the vigor of that entire block.

Perhaps the proponents are suggesting that the merchants can survive with only those who walk, bike or take the Metrorail/Bus. Let me say that I may be able to walk to the shops, but I am not about to carry 2 sleeves of 12 Cokes home from the sales at CVS with or without the 18-36 roll packs of Charmin, let alone the 40-packs of Pampers and a couple of cans of Enfamil – either on foot or on Metrorail or a bus. Without parking, that merchant strip, as vital and inviting as it is, will dry up and perish.

Why would anyone want this? The point is even if we eliminated all patronage except from those who can walk or Metro/Bus, the very essence of CP would disappear. And why shouldn’t CP be a destination for residents of a wider and wider circle: all the quadrants of DC, and what about the diversity brought in from MD, VA, and farther. Yes, many of them still use cars, as do nearby CP, Woodley Park, Van Ness, Forest Hills, Friendship, etc., residents who find CP very attractive and need their cars [even used minimally] to function as essential in their daily lives. Preventing them from accessing CP by eliminating the parking, subjecting them to additional risk, inconvenience, anxiety, nuisance and expense does not raise the quality of life for anyone, even those who are so anti-car that they preserve their off street parking spaces completely unused.

Not only should we not support this dead-end colossal waste of taxpayer funds DDOT study, for any of its options, we need to tell DDOT that this service lane is a precious, modern, life-giving, effective CP asset and we want them to keep their hands off one of the most valuable resources anywhere in DC.

Yes, a quick note to [email protected] (ideas @ CPtransportationstudy.com) saying that you want to keep that Service Lane as is so the quality of life in CP is retained as a special, unique and convenient place.

This is not merely for the merchants. This is for the people. Us. All of Us. Let’s speak up and stop this attempt to reduce the quality of our lives. Keep the Service Lane.

Neal Gross
A local fan of the Service Lane
More information: email keepclevelandparking(at)gmail.com

46 Comment

  • is this a joke?

    • I think so. This was the tip-off line for me: “this service lane is a precious, modern, life-giving, effective CP asset and we want them to keep their hands off one of the most valuable resources anywhere in DC.”.

      Life giving? Most valuable resource anywhere in DC?

      Must be a joke. Though I do like that little side road, service lane, whatever it’s called.

  • I AGREE! What a waste of money, the only people it would serve would be commuters coming in from Maryland. It’s time to put DC first. If DDOT has extra cash to burn and want to do some work in Cleveland Park or Northweest, how about fixing some of the terrible roads? Anyone ever drive on Reno, 38th Street, Brandywine, or Wisconsin? Seriously, I’ve never seen roads so bad anywhere, with the exception of maybe Detroit and Bolivia.

    • did you actually read the arguments?

    • I drive on Reno all the time, and the road is doing quite fine, thank you. Could it be better? Sure, but what couldn’t? You’re use of hyperbole isn’t helping your cause.

    • Hahahaha! “Terrible” roads in upper NW? I suspect you haven’t done much driving in the less-wealthy parts of NW, not to mention the other quadrants.

  • If you tuned the driving part of the service lane into sidewalk and put diagonal parking in it would be a win for everyone.

    • would it though? the OP can’t even be trusted to open his/her door while cars drive by, do you really think s/he is competent enough to back out of diagonal parking?

    • Having people try to either back in or back out of a diagonal parking space on Connecticut Avenue would be a disaster of epic proportions

    • I thought this was the best of the original proposals, as well. Diagonal parking on Connecticut would have the added benefit of a traffic calming effect.

  • No offense, but this entire post seems like subjective rambling aimed at justifying the author’s strongly held opinion on the matter. Taken to their logical conclusions, all of his arguments suggest that the design of sidewalks and streets in every other neighborhood in DC: (1) is unsafe for pedestrians, the disabled, and drivers exiting vehicles and (2) discourages customers from frequenting the stores, bars and restaurants there. Uh, I think Woodley Park, (large stretches of) Dupont Circle, Georgetown, and Logan Circle disprove the latter argument. Indeed, two of those neighborhoods have commercial strips on Connecticut Avenue. As for the former argument, I think a long history of urban street design around the world is sufficient refutation.

  • There are so many instances of false logic that I don’t know where to begin other than to suggest the author take a critical thinking course and try again.

  • Get rid of the service lane so the sidewalks are wide enough for the pedestrian traffic, make the space wide enough for al fresco dining, and do away with the parking on this service lane since it is so limited to begin with. As a local resident I want this service lane to be turned into a sidewalk so badly!

  • Yeah, so greater greater washington had a more inclusive write up on this a while back. This op-ed is very one-sided.


    Personally, I’m for more pedestrian access. That sidewalk is a pain, and that service lane is just dangerous, but… I only go up there once in a great while.

  • Isn’t the service lane already paved? I think some additional tree boxes and street furniture would be nice. This should be titled “don’t un-pave and plant trees and install benches for people in the paved service lane”

  • Anyone who puts safety in quotation marks when referring to keeping pedestrians safe should have their drivers license permanently revoked.

  • This letter looks long-winded and poorly written but I agree the service lane should stay. It’s a really nice little shopping center because of that service lane, and will completely suck if they remove it.

  • As a resident of Cleveland Park, I fully support the pave over. We need outside seating to bring a cafe style setting into our neighborhood. Losing 24 parking spots is not a big deal. I am really tired of the residents who live off CT avenue dictating their will on those who do live on CT ave. This area should have less parking and more high desnsity buildings to support the Metro. Waiting for the proposal to pave over Sam’s next!

    • whats Sam’s?

      • The strip mall in which Palena, Petco, etc.resides. That parking lot should be a park!

        • it’s the most historic thing in CP!

          • I think they just mean the parking lot, not Sam’s.

          • Yeah, that’s probably not going away anytime soon. I think that some parking is definitely useful for a neighborhood like CP, but I don’t think the loss of those parking spots along that service lane would be a big deal. Besides, putting angle parking along Connecticut Avenue would restore many of the spots lost by removing the service lane.

    • Yeah, Sam’s should also have 8 stories of residential units added above. Wasted, non-dense space around a Metro. Almost as bad as the nit wits in Tenleytown.

    • You also need more restaurants in general, something that won’t happen because there’s a moratorium on new ones. My feeling is the two items should be linked–lift the moratorium, get the lane paved.

      • why more restaurants? i don’t get it. There are a dozen or more on this block. How many restaurants do we need? Maybe we can just hold existing restaurants to a higher standard instead of tossing money at anything with a door, and then we wont have so many crappy ones? I don’t really care about the lane one way or another. Pretty stupid to have this much dedicated parking outside of a bunch of places selling alcohol though – makes it to easy to get in your car and go before you’ve decided if you had one too many.

  • OP is right! Look at the ghost town that 14th Street has become. Not a single service lane in sight and the businesses are withering away. Soon it will be vacant, boarded up properties and everyone will have to drive to Glen Burnie for their 50-pack of toilet paper.

  • One: the original poster did not really present a very reasoned or researched view of the question. I think there are reasonable issues to discuss (as was done in the 2011 discussion).

    Personally, I lived in CP for 3 years, and found that tiny sidewalk annoying on a regular basis. I’d be curious about traffic/pedestrian safety statistics, as the current configuration seems unsafe, but have no data (or even anecdotes) to back that up. Having said that, the back alley does look really awkward for delivery trucks, and I’d also be curious about how much business comes in due to the parking in front.

    My only-somewhat-thought-out compromise, temporary measure would be to close the street to vehicle traffic on certain days and certain hours, and see how that works: maybe Fri-Sun from 9 am to midnight. That allows delivery vehicles to come during the week (and weekend early morning hours), but opens up the sidewalk to seating and pedestrian traffic during prime weekend and evening-dining hours…


  • -1 for hyperbole
    -2 close minded
    if it really is satire, then -1 on top of that for not being particularly funny. Watch some Jon Stewart for better satire.

  • I’ve lived in CP for a few years now. I disagree with the author’s argument and am very much in favor of some kind of resolution to the current setup. I’m most inclined towards a larger sidewalk.

    Also, I don’t believe the hype about how damaging removing the service lane will be for businesses or people in search of parking. Finding parking in the service lane during the busy times is very challenging. Finding parking in the service lane during less busy times is easy. However, it’s just as easy to park on Connecticut or on one of the many side streets during that time.

    I would also like to note that hundreds of CP residents are very much in favor of doing away with the service lane. The author’s assertion that is a settled matter is totally incorrect.

  • If he lane is removed, parking indent into Conn. Ave would be a good idea.

  • What a joke. It’s clear that improving the walkability of that strip would help the businesses thrive. See, for example, here: http://www.lgc.org/freepub/community_design/factsheets/walk_to_money.html. Saying that the businesses need the parking is just NIMBY myopia at its finest.

  • When I first read about “paving over” the service lane, I was totally with this writer. I thought: No more traffic lanes! But unless I am mistaken, the proposal is really to expand the pedestrian walk. If this is correct, then one must seriously question the integrity of this writer. Turning a roadway into a pedestrian way is no more “paving over” than turning a forest into a farm is “greening.”

    That he makes so much of the safety advantages of the current scenario is also dubious. Multiple lanes of traffic, bordered by narrow pedestrian walks, creates many more chances for vehicle/pedestrian accidents than consolidated vehicle traffic on Connecticut Avenue.

    Really, this all sounds like camouflage for local businesses that are unnecessarily worried about their customers’ ease of parking. I, for one, would be more likely to shop on that strip if the sidewalk was more pleasant. Fewer cars and curbs would help.

  • This ‘writer’ leaves this identical article throughout numerous websites and the Cleveland Park listserve. He very (in-eloquently) makes his argument but his views do NOT represent the majority of Cleveland park residents. I agree that paving over the lane would help the commercial strip (which feels dangerous now) -why in an urban area are we letting cars take control over what should be a pedestrian area? Take the metro or a walk and leave your car behind.

  • We definitely need to turn the service lane into a wider sidewalk. Create something nice like in this TedTalk http://www.ted.com/talks/janette_sadik_khan_new_york_s_streets_not_so_mean_any_more.html

  • I know it’s sacrilegious to discuss commuter traffic, but the difference here is the concentration of pedestrian activity next to a very wide stretch of Connecticut Avenue that happens to be a major commuter route to the North. It seems to be as wide as K Street – and I think its the reason it got similar treatment to begin with. Traffic moves pretty fast along here. I’m not sure how well it would work to remove the service lane and have people parking or otherwise along here. Traffic “calming” measures here – as noble as they are – can lead to a bunch of other problems. I know we’d all like to screw car commuters but there comes a point where you do have to address reality.

    • Sound like the “reality” is speeding cars. I propose addressing that with speed cameras.

      • Totally agree with this. I have yet to hear a good argument as to why commuters (or any drivers) should be allowed to speed through neighborhoods like this.

  • Couldn’t agree with you more. I have lived in this neighborhood for 21 years, and while at times I wish the sidewalk were a little wider, don’t have a problem with it. Walking in the service lane when there aren’t cars coming seems to work out fine. If you just HAVE to walk 3 abreast with your stroller, use the WEST side of the block, there is even a special crossing for exactly that purpose.

    While the restaurants and Uptown theater are nice, what makes this part of CP such a nice place to live is access to “neighborhood sustaining” retail. A place to get your pictures framed, appliances fixed, jewelery worked on, get your clothes cleaned, etc., These places won’t continue to thrive if a large portion of their access is removed.

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