This past Sunday, DC held its first ever Open Streets event along Georgia Ave. from Howard University to Petworth. For the event, the city completely closed the road to cars from 10 am to 2 pm. Even the cross streets were car free. For those few hours, you could walk three miles along Georgia Ave.–enjoying dozens and dozens of tents, vendors, and events–and not once have to look over your shoulder for a car. It was a wonderful experiment for how a city can be when you take cars out of the equation.
Could we replicate that in Georgetown? Shutting M St. completely to cars for a few hours would be nice; and the Marine Corp Marathon demonstrates that it can be done without total pandemonium. But that’s just half a mile. To replicate the unworldly effect of this weekend’s event in Georgetown, only Wisconsin Ave. would do.
You would probably have to start it at M St., to keep a good east-west route open for vehicular traffic. Three miles up would put you in Tenleytown:
There are a couple drawbacks to doing it this way. Obviously there are difficulties in shutting such a huge swath of the city to cross traffic from cars. But it was managed with Georgia Ave. and for the most part most of the neighborhoods along this route would still have a way “out” in a car during the event. Cutting off Massachusetts Ave. would be a challenge, but not insurmountable. But a larger difficulty is that much of this stretch is primarily residential. Part of the appeal of Georgia Ave. is that it is a commercial route just about the whole way. And, of course, Wisconsin Ave. includes a huge hill for a large part of it.
But there are positives too. Think how pleasant it would be to walk down from Tenleytown, through the new Cathedral Commons development, past National Cathedral, through Glover Park and ending at Georgetown. All without a single car passing you by.
The Georgia Ave. Open Streets was fantastic. But it should just be the start. We’ve got to continue pushing the notion across the city that the city doesn’t belong to cars, it belongs to people. Someday Wisconsin Ave. could be proof of that too.