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Open Streets ~ continued from November 2019 issue pdf page 1

History

The first Open Streets event took place in 1974 in Bogota, Columbia. Now more than 400 cities throughout the world are participating — 122 in the U.S., including, for example (in addition to now DC), Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, Atlanta, Ft. Collins, Charlotte, San Francisco, Los Angeles.

photo—courtesy District Bridges.

It is expensive to close roads. Los Angeles devoted $4 million to fund 17 open streets. It is estimated that one event can cost from $10,000 to $70,000 (which San Francisco spends.) Economists have discovered that this event is “cost beneficial,” possibly costing $1.36 per person.

Reaction of DC Residents and Businesses

Retired Business person Travis in an email exchange expressed a negative view, commenting, “This seems to be a poor decision to close down an important street causing delays and inconvenience. Where is the common sense?”

Also by email, Columbia Heights Resident Kerry offered a mixed assessment: “Not sure what the goal was for this first Open Streets on Georgia Ave. It was convenient to walk to the Petworth Farmers Market at Georgia Ave., 9th and Upshur without having to dodge traffic and panhandlers. It appeared to be geared towards childrens activities with a few things for children to do. Yes, a busy traffic artery was shut down but I think it was a fair trade-off to walk about the neighborhood. For the next one I would like to see more opportunities given to the local businesses on Georgia Ave. to be able to promote their businesses so local residents become familiar with those businesses.”

photo—courtesy District Bridges.

And another mixed assessment was shared through email by Park View fesident and ANC 1A 09 Commissioner Michael Wray: “Open Streets was a fantastic inaugural event and I’m thrilled that Georgia Avenue was chosen, as it is my nearest cross street after all. I would like to see this as a regular and frequent event, but observed that it required a heavy security presence which may be a cost impediment. The city will need to address this in order to truly open our streets more often.”

And there were also residents who were very enthusiastic, like Otis Place NW, resident Jay who wrote in an email, “I was amazed by the number of people who attended, and we discovered several new businesses during our walk on Georgia Avenue. I’d love it if this were a monthly event.”

photo—courtesy District Bridges.

Max Zuckerman of Georgia Avenue’s Colony Club emailed that “[w]e had a great time at the Open Streets event. Our businesses definitely benefited quite a bit. We’d love  to make it a regular event.”

Former Columbia Heights Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Betty Pair said that she “thought it was great that they had provided for little people interactive things to do (as well as the usual bounce house), they had big people stuff (like the spinning class!) and a bike repair station. I loved all of it, and the mood of everyone was UP! I rode my bike up and down Georgia Avenue, even stopping at the Upshur Fresh Market.”

Conclusion

At-Large Council Member Elissa Silverman concludes, “Open Streets illustrates why we shouldn’t be divided by race, age, or income when it comes to making our streets safer. As a cyclist, walker and public transit user, I look forward to future Open Streets events and continue to support implementing policies toward Vision Zero that meet the needs of every resident. We need to make investments in every ward to ensure this happens.”

photo—courtesy District Bridges.

The Open Streets program seems to be here to stay. “We believe that every municipality, no matter the size, can benefit from open streets”; it is a global movement and the North American Open Street Project is ready to provide technical assistance.

[Editor’s Note:] The neighborhoods in this part of Northwest have been the subject of several highly informative articles by our senior writer since 2013 and it is recommended that clicking on the links to the five listed below will provide much additional context:

■ “Park View Neighborhood Sizzles; Residents Enjoy Georgia Avenue’s New Eateries and Other Amenities” — click here.

■ “Upshur Street, NW Has Become a Bustling Corridor” — click here.

■ “Columbia Heights Transitions from Rural to Urban Reflecting DC’ Growth” – click here.

■ “North Columbia Heights Losing Churches as Demographics Evolve, Though Some Stay” — click here.

* Senior writerLarry Ray has served on Advisory Neighborhood Commissions for both Dupont Circle and Columbia Heights. He also has served as president of the North Columbia Heights Citizens Association. Presently, he serves as the liaison for DC Next Door-Columbia Heights.

Copyright © 2019 InTowner Publishing Corp. & Larry Ray. All rights reserved.

[accompanying photos to be added shortly]