Safeway’s Curb Cuts


The New Social Safeway

The New Social Safeway

As described earlier, the Social Safeway as it currently exists isn’t long for this world. They have put forward a dramatic new design whereby the whole building will be moved up to front Wisconsin. However, Safeway plans to keep the same ingress and egress. DDOT may have something to say about that though. Will there be one or two driveways for Social Safeway, Mark II? More after the jump:

As covered in depth over at GGW, DDOT has adopted a progressive stance towards curb cuts, which are where a driveway crosses a sidewalk. As seen below, Safeway currently has two curb cuts:


Curb cuts in red

Curb cuts in red

Generally speaking, curb cuts are not desirable. They are dangerous because they involve drivers and pedestrians sharing the same space, frequently without any crossing lights. Moreover, they are unsightly and contribute to a sense that “this space is for cars, not people”.

For these reasons, DDOT has taken a newly critical view of curb cuts. As GGW reported, whenever a building is renovated, the landowner needs to reapply to DDOT to maintain any existing curb cuts.

GM supports DDOT’s approach to curb cuts. Many curb cuts proliferated in our city under administrations that were not particularly sensitive to what goes into good urban design. To the extent that construction like Safeway’s offers DDOT a chance to approach the issue anew, it’s wise to take that opportunity since it likely won’t come again for decades.

So that said, should DDOT push a one driveway solution on Safeway? At Tuesday’s ANC meeting, Safeway representatives came to request ANC support in keeping both driveways notwithstanding DDOT’s new approach. Not terribly surprisingly, the ANC passed a motion unanimously in Safeway’s favor.

In GM’s opinion, to simply keep the two driveways as is would be a lost opportunity. The current situation is not preferable. The south driveway is governed by a traffic light that allows only a few cars out at a time (that is unless cars stopped going north of Wisconsin aren’t blocking the exit). The brick wall lining the sidewalk seriously limits visibility for both drivers and pedestrians and there is no signal specifically alerting pedestrians that the cars leaving Safeway have the green light.

The north exit is not much better. The visibility problems continue. Further, there is no traffic signal so most of the time it is only useful for drivers heading north on Wisconsin.

For these reasons, neither of these exits could serve all drivers: taking a left from the north exit is difficult and the south exit would get backed up if it were the only way out.

Keeping the current two exits (with some improvements to visibility) is only really an adequate solution. A complete reengineering of the way traffic flows through Wisconsin, Safeway, and 34th St. is necessary. Ultimately, a well designed traffic system could support a single exit for Safeway (and thus a single undesirable curb cut). Just look at Whole Foods. while it may get backed up a bit more than Safeway, the overall traffic flow is well designed and in the meantime only one curb cut is necessary For that reason, GM recommends that if DDOT does insist on a single curb cut for Safeway that the move be part of a radical redesign of the traffic flow for that intersection. If no radical changes are in the offing, then two exits ought to remain.

One last thought: would it be completely impossible for traffic to be directed behind the British School to Whitehaven? It seems that that would be legally and logistically difficult, but would it be impossible?



Filed under Development

3 responses to “Safeway’s Curb Cuts

  1. 34th St

    The new no-left turn signs from NB Wisconsin onto SB 34th St are a real problem for residents above R Street on 34th.

    The only option now is for us to go on an 8 block detour down R, up 35 (which is in terrible shape), down Whitehaven, down Wisconsin, and finally onto 34th.

    Whose idea was this???

  2. of course, rerouting traffic onto whitehaven would make safeway unhappy, because their entrance would lose all of those captive eyeballs on wisconsin.

  3. Pingback: DC Metrocentric » Linked: Around Town

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