Photo courtesy of BYT.
Last weekend was the phenomenal French Market on Book Hill. It was the event’s tenth anniversary and was the best one yet. With luck, an innovation from this year will point the way towards more street fairs in Georgetown: wider sidewalks.
If there’s one thing most people agree on it’s that Georgetown’s sidewalks on M and Wisconsin are far too narrow. GM would love a permanent fix whereby most, if not all, parking on M is taken away to widen the brick sidewalks. But that would be a huge and expensive project, possible someday perhaps but not anytime soon.
The French Market demonstrated, however, how we can temporarily widen the sidewalks with fantastic results. As you can see above, the city removed parking on Wisconsin Ave. and set up fences between the pedestrians and the traffic. Thus essentially doubling the width of the sidewalk.
Crowding was always a problem with the French Market, but extra space substantially reduced that.
The city has traditionally been reluctant to shut down only part of the road. It cites the greater risk to pedestrians from possibly intermingling with traffic. But the French Market’s success should demonstrate that it is a good tool that should have wider use.
A long time ago GM floated the idea of shutting M St. down completely on summer afternoons. That’s probably too radical of an idea. But why not eliminate parking on M St. every weekend and set up these fences? Hell, maybe we could shift traffic over one lane and shut down two lanes on one side. That would give enough space for outdoor vendors, benches and umbrellas. A veritable Times Square.
It’s worth just trying it a few times to see how people like it. Removing parking on M would have a minuscule effect on overall parking, particularly if the BID succeeds in getting more visitors to use the many garages below M St.
And if after a few years this trial run is successful, then we will be all the better position to convince the city to make the change permanent.