Jul 14, 2023 - News

Pedestrians win battle over Cleveland Park service lane

The renovated Cleveland Park service lane, with a "detour" sign and construction barricades

The new Cleveland Park service lane. Photo: Cuneyt Dil/Axios

The service lane along the Cleveland Park corridor will remain closed to cars for the foreseeable future in the latest win for pedestrians over the future of D.C. streets.

Why it matters: Banning cars on this iconic commercial strip has created tension between pedestrians who want more legroom and businesses that want customer parking.

Driving the news: D.C.'s Department of Transportation told community leaders in Cleveland Park last month that the service lane along Connecticut Avenue will remain closed to vehicles unless the decision is revisited.

  • The focus of the closure β€” which runs roughly one block and is lined with restaurants, bars, a bank, and a pottery shop β€” is to "optimize pedestrian access," DDOT wrote in a letter to neighborhood leaders.

Zoom in: The space, which advisory neighborhood commissioner Tammy Gordon jokingly calls the "Cleveland Park promenade," will be used for pop-ups, restaurant patios, and other community activities, Gordon tells Axios.

  • The farmer's market will eventually move to the service lane from the other side of the street, she adds.

Flashback: The service lane was first closed to vehicles in March 2020 as sidewalks were extended to accommodate outdoor seating in the throes of the pandemic.

State of play: The service lane was recently remade with concrete pavement and raised to be level with the sidewalk. But much of it is still blocked by construction barriers and the landscaping isn’t complete.

  • It may take another three to four months until it's ready for use, neighborhood leaders tell Axios.
  • At the same time, crews are carving up several intersections from Macomb to Porter streets on Connecticut Avenue for additional pedestrian safety improvements, along with flood-prevention measures.

What they're saying: Several businesses, some of which have also been fighting the city over bicycle lanes on Connecticut Avenue, are upset with the service lane's closure to cars.

  • "It will be livelier for the neighborhood if we have outdoor dining there. But I'm also mindful of the fact it will take a lot of parking spots away," restaurateur Ashok Bajaj, who owns Sababa on the strip, tells Axios.

πŸ’‘ His compromise: Open it for parking during the day and close it in the evening for pedestrians and restaurants.

What we're watching: The service lane closure coincides with the new enforcement of 30-minute parking on Connecticut Avenue β€” an effort to encourage quick stops at nearby businesses. That enforcement will begin by the end of the summer.

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