Zoning Commission Chairman: No One Bikes to the Grocery Store

The Babe’s Billiards saga continued last night with a hearing before the Zoning Commission, which adjourned after several hours and will continue Monday. As usual, there was a contingent of neighbors opposed to the parking-free Tenleytown development, and the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission reiterated its support for the plan. With ANC backing, odds of approval for the project are high, given recent commission decisions on requests for exemptions from the minimum parking requirements.

But there was one line that made advocates of the carless development nervous, and it came from Zoning Commission Chairman Anthony Hood. Responding to the notion that people in the transit-friendly area could get around by means other than a car, Hood said that no one rides a bike to the grocery store.

“I’m also concerned about what we’re creating up here,” Hood said. “Case in point: bicycles. I don’t make fun of bicycle racks. But you know, I say this all the time: Some of us who are riding bikes now will not be riding bikes later. And then also, we need to make sure we balance the development we do in this city for all, ’cause I havent seen too many people go to the grocery store and come back with their groceries on a bicycle.”

That led a few audience members to interject that yes, in fact, they did grocery shop by bike, including Commissioner Peter May, who said, “I’ll call you out. You can watch.” It also led Cheryl Cort, director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, to tweet:

#babes DC Zoning hrg: Chair Hood said that no one grocery shops by bicycle. Testified under oath that I do! Who else does?

Dozens of people replied that they do. I do, too. And I know I’m far from the only one; every time I visit the Columbia Heights Giant—or really just about any other supermarket in town—the bike racks outside are full or nearly full.

“He was expressing skepticism that people can really rely on bicycling or walking or alternatives to driving a car to go grocery shopping,” says someone who was present at last night’s meeting but asked not to be named. “He said, ‘Well I’m concerned about the future. Is this going to meet the future needs for people living in our city?’ And all of us sitting there thought, ‘Well he’s the one who’s backward-looking.'”

It’s worth noting that the proposed development does not include a grocery store, though there’s a Whole Foods and a Safeway located nearby.

Update: Hood replies by email:

I guess from the testimony all was not true. I just said that I don’t see many people with a lot of bags shopping by bike. The transcript is better to get from the hearing to get my actual comments. I would suggest you contact OZ for any and all additional information about pending cases. I can always talk after the order is written. Thanks for understanding.

Update November 4: Video of the hearing has been posted online; using this video, I updated this post with quotes from the hearing.

I’m told the transcript will be available in about ten days.

Rendering courtesy of The Bond at Tenley. Read the original story here.