GM wrote back in July that the city was mounting a downright feeble response to the Coronavirus in terms of making the streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Specifically, GM was writing how unlike many other cities that were taking dramatic steps to redesignate large stretches of road to non-motorized vehicle-use, DC was merely establishing a handful of “slow streets”. It was, in GM’s words, better than nothing, but not by much.
Two months later, and this wan effort has yet to make a single appearance in Georgetown. Although, as GM reported, the city had been exploring introducing some slow streets to Georgetown, none have been formally proposed, let alone implemented.
Slow streets would make a good addition to the various “streateries” around Georgetown (i.e. the outdoor dining in the street). It’s not feasible to introduce slow streets to Wisconsin Ave. (where a bunch of these streateries are located), but there is absolutely no reason not to introduce slow streets to other corners of Georgetown. N St. should absolutely be one spot, for example. With Martin’s, Georgetown Cafe, and the soon to open Foxtrot Market all along this stretch, we should be reducing auto traffic there as much as possible. (GM would personally like to see it made one-way, with half the street closed entirely to traffic).
Water St. should be another spot. We should discourage (if not prohibit) all auto-traffic west of Potomac St. on Water. It is incredibly dangerous with cars racing down this stretch looking for free parking, not finding it, and doing a three-point-turn to race back the other direction. And all this takes place with thousands of people pouring into and out of the Capital Crescent Trail all trying not to be run over by Virginians and Marylanders searching for any parking they don’t have to pay for.
33rd and 34th Streets also should be set up as slow streets, in GM’s opinion. Too many drivers use these streets as a short-cut and speed as a result. These streets should be closed to through traffic.
Some of these ideas might be a little too much. Some might cause unforeseen consequences. We should try them and pull them back if they don’t work. But we’ll never even get that far because Mayor Bowser simply does display even an ounce of desire to do more than the absolute bare minimum when it comes to traffic safety.
Traffic fatalities in DC are up 69% as of today versus last year (27 to 16). Let that sink in. Nine more people are dead this year due to traffic violence despite there being a huge drop off of actual traffic due to the pandemic. Empty streets have merely led to more speeding. It’s clear, like a noxious gas, aggressive driving will fill in any space it’s given. It’s incumbent on us to give it as little space as possible.
Slow streets remain a weak response to this crisis, but at least it’s a response. Sadly the mayor doesn’t think we merit even that much.