In much of the neighborhood, it’s not terribly difficult to maintain a six-foot physical distance from our fellow pedestrians, or kids on bikes and scooters. The solution can be as simple as stepping into the street.
However, even with the drop in vehicle traffic, that solution is less appealing on Connecticut Avenue, for example. Or Reno Road.
And this method of practicing social distancing won’t be as practical as shutdowns lift and traffic increases. “Collector” streets like Linnean, Albemarle, Van Ness and Tilden will bring more drivers to the main arterials. Brandywine and Albemarle will carry more traffic from Broad Branch Road to Connecticut Avenue. The sidewalks on these streets, usually three to six feet wide, will then pose a further social-distancing challenge to those trying to get around on foot.
In April, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that DDOT would extend sidewalks near essential businesses in all eight wards. The Connecticut Avenue service lane in Cleveland Park, now closed to vehicle traffic, is one example of that.
It seems to us that the mayor’s focus on sidewalks outside of businesses areas is too narrow. People who wish to walk to these places will encounter narrow sidewalks that will require walking in roadways to maintain social distancing. If this is not factored into planning, car use could ratchet up.
The mayor is asking residents to send their ideas for sidewalk extensions in commercial areas to their local advisory neighborhood commissions (ANCs). We’re lending ANC 3F a hand.
In our questionnaire (linked here and embedded below), we encourage you to go beyond business districts and consider neighborhood streets that see more foot traffic and could use some social-distancing help from DDOT. And we encourage you to fill out the questionnaire by May 14th so the Streets and Sidewalks Committee has the information to present at the May 21st ANC 3F meeting. But it will remain open after that.
Just as this virus is pushing us to see new possibilities in how we live, work and shop, it will require a new paradigm and more flexible use of our roadways.