Bike, Pedestrian, and DDOT Budget Oversight Hearings Scheduled

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Why hasn't the District Government built or maintained this or that bike infrastructure?

Ask them yourself.

The Council of the District of Columbia has posted its Performance Oversight hearings schedule for the Fiscal Year 2016-2017 Approved Budget for the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), D.C. Bicycle Advisory Council (DCBAC), and Pedestrian Advisory Council.

Hearings for these agencies are scheduled for Monday, March 13, 2017 at 11am in the fifth floor Council Chambers, room 500, within the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

The agencies will make presentations before the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, chaired by Council member Mary Cheh (Ward 3). Oversight hearings give residents the opportunity to ask bike or transportation-specific questions, like why the 6th Street NW protected lanes are taking so long or why vehicles continue to make u-turns on Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

The Oversight hearings provide a forum for Council and the public to ask questions regarding the current operations of District Government agencies like DDOT, committees, and other government organizations during the current fiscal year, which began October 1, 2016 and provide information about successes (and failures) during the prior year.

The hearings also provides an opportunity for residents to submit testimony on bicycling-related issues before Council. DDOT representatives will be present and may answer questions about the District's bicycle-related policies or address concerns or certain community needs.

Testifying before Council also helps you become an advocate for more bicycle infrastructure. Council members, or their staff, may ask questions about your issue and direct government witnesses to explain it or take corrective action.

While advocates always ask people to testify, they rarely explain what that entails. As BikeSpecific has testified a few times before, it has some thoughts on what to expect. If you are ready to testify for the first time, great. Below are some tips:

  • Sign up now. Contact Aukima Benjamin at 724-8062 or e-mail her at  She coordinates with the the Committee on Transportation and the Environment.
  • The Panel. Once the Committee chair begins the hearing and provides opening remarks, she will empanel witnesses by calling out names and having them sit at a table placed in front of the dais. There can be several panels depending on the total number of speakers. Sometimes, organizations go first, then public witnesses, then government witnesses. The panel table has up to 4 microphones and sometimes a pitcher of water. Have a drink.

    When called, make sure you turn the microphone on and bring it within about 12 inches of your mouth. Say your name, speak normally. If they can't hear you, make sure the microphone is on and closer to you. When you're done speaking, turn the microphone off.

    At the center of the witness table, their are 3 lights: green (keep talking), yellow (you've got less than 30 seconds), and red (times up and electronic buzzing will commence). They may give you a few more seconds to finish your thought but don't press your luck.
  • Written testimony. Council encourages, but does not require, the submission of written testimony in advance of the hearing, typically three business days before. If you do not submit written testimony beforehand, Council requests that you bring 10 copies with you to the hearing so that they can circulate it among the members and staff.

    If you read what you write, practice reading it. Do this to ensure that you don't go over time and sometimes written statements sounds strange or cause you to stumble when spoken. The hearing will be televised live on the District's Cable channel. Tell your friends and warm up the VCR.
  • Watch your time. While written testimony can be longer, your oral testimony must be under 3 minutes as they can be strict with regard to time. Those representing organizations tend to have more time, up to 5 minutes. So if you represent a group, you'll have extra time to make your case.

    Generally, public witnesses are have 3 minutes to voice concerns or praise. Most witnesses read from their written testimony while more experienced speakers tend to highlight particular points so that they have time to discuss them later.
  • You are not the only person with questions. Typically after the panel has made their statements, Council members may ask follow up questions. The Committee Chair begins first. The questions are usually asked in the same order as witness statements. Once the Committee Chair has completed asking her questions, she will ask if members of the committee have questions. If it's an issue they value, council members may ask more than one question or may ask your thoughts on what someone else says at the witness table. If the Council members don't ask questions, don't be offended, time may be an issue. Rarely, Council members who are not member of the Committee may participate. Lucky you.
  • Cannot make the hearing. Not everyone is capable of attending due to work or they are out of the area. Council accepts written testimony now and up to two days after the end of the hearing.

    The DCBAC also encourages you to submit comments to it directly. As they will be testifying as an entity of the government, you can contact them about what they've done or let them know if you've experienced issues while biking. Last year's Council oversight hearing submission documents for DCBAC as well as other agencies under the purview of the Transportation committee provide insight into what issues are generally discussed.
  • Talking in front of large crowds isn't my thing. Hearings are open to the public so if you have issues with public speaking, the option of just sitting in the hearing room may be for you. As the hearing will be shown live, having a full room shows the Council members and the public the importance of bicycling. Also, attendance is important for the public witnesses, as it lets them know that you have their back.
  • No need to freak out. This process can be intimidating. Relax. Hundreds of people of all ages are public witnesses so it's really not that hard. Talk about what you know, don't talk about what you don't. For most public witnesses, the process is not adversarial so be cordial and topical. Council and government agencies really want to know what almost all of you think - but keep it about transportation. If you need to talk about boxing and wrestling, there's a hearing for that...
For those who want to testify but don't know where to begin, below is a sample copy of a witness hearing statement or testimony. Depending on how quickly you read, two and a half pages equals about 3 minutes.