In most parts of the District, very few people regularly commute on bicycles. From the Friendship Heights neighborhood in upper Northwest to Congress Heights in Southeast to dozens of other neighborhoods that dot the city, less than 2 percent of people report regular bike commutes.
In all, about 3.5 percent of people commute to work by bicycle in the city, according to 2009 to 2013 data from the American Community Survey.
But in three D.C. neighborhoods — Bloomingdale, Petworth and Mount Pleasant — more than 20 percent of people are commuting on two wheels, according to data compiled by the District’s Department of Transportation — a finding that Greater Greater Washington first wrote about. Neighborhoods in the center of the city, unsurprisingly, see higher cycling commute rates than those on the outskirts.
DDOT presented these statistics in a community meeting Saturday about a controversial proposal to build a protected bike lane connecting Shaw to downtown that could cut into nearby churches’ parking spaces. The debate has become about more than bike lanes, unearthing simmering tensions in a part of the city with a strong African American history that has rapidly gentrified in the past decade.
The map above can provide fodder to those on both sides of the argument.
On one hand, it illustrates the demand for such bike lanes. Many cyclists in the Petworth/Park View areas and Bloomingdale — neighborhoods on the eastern part of the city’s Northwest quadrant — would benefit from the protected bike lanes if they are commuting to downtown.
On the other hand, African-American church leaders argue that bike lanes would serve the city’s new, young residents at the expense of older black residents who rely on the neighborhoods’ parking spaces. Petworth and Bloomingdale are neighborhoods filled with new bars, restaurants, yoga studios, skyrocketing real estate prices and, well, gentrifiers. There are no clear statistics showing who in the neighborhood is commuting to work, but changing demographics in neighborhoods like these help fuel the churches’ fears that they might be pushed out to the suburbs.
Between 2000 and 2010, the black population in Bloomingdale and surrounding neighborhoods dropped from 92 to 70 percent. In Petworth and its surrounding neighborhoods, including Brightwood and Crestwood, the black population dropped from 77 to 61 percent in that period.
There are, of course, many arguments that can be gleaned from this map. More bike infrastructure could spur ridership across all demographics of the city, including in the outskirts of downtown. There are statistics showing that, nationwide, poor people are more likely to commute on bikes than rich people, so suggesting that bike lanes only serve only young, affluent new residents may be inaccurate.
Still, if you’re looking to understand why these proposed bike lanes have packed community meetings, this map helps to explain the impassioned stances on both sides of this not-so-mundane bike lane debate.