Reader Suggested Friday Question of the Day – Would NYC’s Summer Streets Program Work in DC?

NYC Summer Streets – Park & 52nd, originally uploaded by wonggawei.

“Dear PoP,

I recently read about NYC’s Summer Streets event, where the NYC DOT completely closes Park Avenue from Central Park to the Brooklyn Bridge to automobile traffic for three Saturdays during August. It allows walkers, runners, and bikers to have complete use of several miles of Park Avenue without having to worry about cars getting in the way. It looks and sounds like a great idea. I’m curious to ask your readers if this concept might work in DC, and which street they think would be a good one to close…while not screwing up automobile traffic around the city too much. My suggestion is P Street, from Wisconsin Ave all the way to North Capital St, because it traverses many neighborhoods and is not too hilly. Although the two circles it intersects could pose a problem. What do you think? A link is below:

What a cool program. I definitely think it could work in DC. If they can close Park Avenue in NYC then we could def. close a street for a few days on the weekend over the summer. I think P Street is a great recommendation. I think they could also probably do U Street from 18th to 7th Street, NW. I actually think it would be cool if they did Pennsylvania Ave from the Capitol to the White House. What do you guys think?

30 Comment

  • i love this concept but i don’t think we have enough traffic on weekends or concentration of residents to make it really worth doing on weekends. maybe 17th between N and T, 18th through Adams Morgan, and M in Georgetown would make sense.

    the street we do close, Beach Drive, is definitely the best choice and is absolutely awesome for biking, walking, etc on weekends.

  • Don’t we do this already over on Beach Drive?

  • Sure it would work, we have some of the greatest bike networks in the world!

    I think we need to consider permanently closing one of the east/west streets (one south of U St and one north of U St) to cars and turn into nice crosstown bike/ped thoroughfare, complete with cafes and public gardens and fountains, perhaps with a Nice, France or Cinque Terre flare.

    Did you hear that K St NW is going to be completely redeveloped with 3 bus lanes in the middle and no more side parking with possibly wider sidewalks?? Holy moly. I wonder what will happen to all the old Elms?

  • Actually, for a while i’ve been thinking to make 16th st for buses and bikes only. Also Georgia Ave.

  • Public Bike Access for all who live up at the top of the hill — free gravity downhill to work in the am, weeeeee. Metro workers return the bikes to the northern highlands each evening by last train or bus.

    16th, Georgia, and North Capitol!

    They should have put in parallel bike/ped tunnels when they built metro.!

    The bike station at Union Station looks nearly ready for launch, cool structure or not? Who got the bike rental contract?

  • I’ve heard that a lot of streets here can not be closed due to the fact that many of them are technically ‘Federal Highways’. This was the excuse tossed out by some in DDOT when the idea of closing 18th St. in Adams Morgan came up years ago. Combine that with the need to reroute WMATA [they don’t deal with change well], and Police/Fire/EMS and you have something that just makes city officials want to go hide in a corner and cry.

    The city is trying some sort of event like this, but it’s in a relatively little used park in SE:

  • Well, this is mildly ironic…

    As ontarioroader mentions, we are doing “Feet in the Street” at Ft Dupont Park. DC initialy looked at Kansas Ave, but there was a backlash from the local Petworth ANC:

    If you want this, let your reps know next time!

  • I am convinced some of you are crazy… Thor, are you seriously suggesting they shut down Georgia Avenue or 16th Street permanently to automobiles? That’s a terrible idea for more reasons than I have time to list.

    Also, Beach Drive is closed on weekends specifically to allow for a car-free bike ride. Before we suggest closing any major thoroughfares, you all should try it.

    And Fort Dupont Park is definitely not a “little used park”. There are always cook-outs, family events, concerts, etc in that park. On most Saturdays, people rush to get table space. It can also be permitted out.

  • I think this would be great. It could also be an event for people to meet other like minded people for jogging partners, biking, or whatever. A lot of my friends don’t exercise and its not as much fun if you are doing it by yourself.

  • hello! they already do this on beach drive!

  • Considering the amount of whining people do about having 1 block of 7th st ne in capitol hill closed on saturday and sunday, I would imagine there would be insane amounts of complaining. I dont even understand it, My guess is that people are much more likely to stop at shops and restaurants when they are walking, as opposed to driving.

  • Wellll… I could see why cyclists would really want something like this, but I think we already have enough trails + beach drive and generally a lot of areas conducive to cycling. Obviously if you’re going to cycle to these trails then yes, this seems like a good idea, but really? You’re going to have to ride on a non-closed roadway at some point. I think something like this would work better during the work week, but no one wants to see a thoroughfare closed during rush hour. Wait for a better bike lane system, then we’ll all be happy.

  • As others have noted we have this every single weekend year round. Beach Drive is closed for five miles from 7 AM Saturday until 7 PM Sunday.

  • saf

    I think it is an awful idea. Yes, I walk and take transit WAY more than I drive, but still. Our roads are messed up enough already, much of that due to Secret Service and Capitol Police randomly closing things. Add in the random weekend closures, and you just have a recipe for gridlock and total frustration.

    Logical closings, ok, I could go for that, but that is not what we have and as long as the feds run roughshod over so much of our infrastructure, that is not what we will get.

  • NO!!! Closing any street in DC is a terrible idea. Not everyone lives in tightly packed downtown where you can walk everywhere. Many people, due to their stupid jobs moving to the suburban boonies to save money, need the very roads you suggest putting out of commission and yes, some of us work on weekends. There are many of us who can only run major errands on the weekend and with the red line screwed up and half of Beach Drive closed already this would be a major hardship. Many more people drive than bike. This is a major fact so get over it. There are elderly, delivery people, emergency vehicles and workers who need to move through DC quickly. Shutting down these routes for a select few is ridiculous.

  • Maybe we should check with PoP’s attorney about this.

  • 16 street would be absolutely wonderful.

    I live up at the top of the hill, and when I chugging up there I often think how it would be nice to get a little traverse going.

  • having experience with what happens on the weekends in downtown DC when the roads are closed for a parade, race, festival, etc., this would likely not be a great idea. downtown DC is also a tourist attraction, and so traffic downtown on the weekends is just as bad as during the weekdays.

    DC’s streets are so criss-crossed, that it might not be such a great idea.

    But also, Beach Drive, it’s more than enough, and much nicer than a city street. You almost forget you’re in a city.

  • For one thing, we can use the current closure of Beach Drive better! Right now there is no public transportation there, so the only way to access it is by bike or car – and parking on nice weekends is often full.

    We need a shuttle bus between Columbia Heights & Cleveland Park Metro stations so that non-driving parents with kids, and non-bikers can get there. The sad fact is, the demographic currently using Beach drive is very homogenous. I’ve taken kids from my neighborhood (Columbia Heights) who have no idea the park even exists!

    Also, some vendors would be nice – drinks, sandwichs, ice cream. I know it is a National park and there would be miles of red tape – but why not?

    Still, Beach Drive is a very different environment than an urban pedestrian zone with shops and cafes. I would love to see that, but fear it is far too civilized.

  • beach drive runs very near to 16th street – how hard is it to get to 16th street on public transportation (or foot)?

  • Victorian, we do not need any vendors dumping their trash or shuttle buses belching their fumes in Rock Creek Park. Part of the attraction of the park is that its a quiet forrest in the city. The trash you find in the creek is bad enough. If you want food, do like everyone else and pack a picnic. There are plenty of benches or bring a blanket and spread it on the ground. The demographic is nowhere near as homogenous as you think. People share rides or walk the trails and manage to get there and make a day of it. If you don’t have a car directions are on their website: The Friendship Heights Metro is the closest to the Nature Center. Take the E-2, E-3 bus to the intersection of Glover & Military Rd. Get off, look to your left and follow the trail up to the Nature Center.

    The Van Ness Station is the closest metro stop to Peirce Mill, but it is still about a mile away. From Van Ness, walk south on Connecticut Avenue to Tilden Street and make a left. Follow Tilden to the bottom of the hill and the mill is on your left.

    Foggy Bottom is the closest metro stop to the Old Stone House, from there walk north to Washington Circle and take Pennsylvania Ave. west to the Old Stone House, about a 1/2 mile

  • saf

    Victoriam – here’s a very good discussion of why NPS won’t let you have that stuff. (short version – because that is how it has ALWAYS been!)

  • MK – actually the closest/best access Metro station to the park & Pierce Mill is Cleveland park. Walk 1 block north and turn right directly into the park on the Melvin Hazen trail. From there it is about 1/2 mile to Pierce Mill, on a lovely cool wooded trail, not along a road like from Van Ness. Van Ness is about the worst option – And Foggy Bottom is just nuts!

    Now try doing this with a few kids under 5! Rock Creek & Beach Drive are at the bottom of a huge hill from 16th st., the nature center, or any current public transportation access point. That means after your hike/bike whatever on Beach Drive, you have to hike a very steep uphill mile back.

    Fine if you are young, fit and unencumbered by strollers, little bikes, diaper bags & picnic stuff for 5, or if you are elderly and walk with a cane, have limited vision or other mobility issues.

    I’ve been hiking, runing, walking, skiing & picnicing on every trail in the park 2-3 times a week for 20+ years, so it isn’t what I “think” but what I see – a sadly under utilized uniquie and beautiful national park that I want to share with more people.

  • Victorian, I grew up about 2 blocks from the place. I love the fact that you ski it. So few people do.

  • Victoria – There is this crazy form of public transportation known as a taxi cab… give it a shot.
    There are vendors in the park… its called the zoo!

  • umm, there is a shuttle bus between CH and Cleveland Park. The circulator runs every 10 minutes.

  • People – please look on a map. See where the weekend closed portions of Beach drive are. See where the Circulator actually goes. See where the zoo is. Why the hostility toward new ideas?

    And yes, a taxi cab is a pretty crazy form of public transportation for people on a small fixed income. Round trip taxi fare for my friend & 2 kids from Sherman Ave. would be $20.50. That is almost one week’s food budget.

    As for me, I actually have a car.

  • Then you can drive her and charge her $5, she could get another job, wait until her kids are older so it is less of a burden to get them there. Or you could be a good friend and drive her there yourself.

    Why don’t you try and come up with the amount of money it would cost to run a special bus on the weekends, paying a driver (overtime if the city does it), bus, fuel, etc… you can start a non-profit and take care of it yourself, raise the money.

    Hostility toward new ideas that waste more money, which will ultimately result in more taxes (as we’ve just experienced).

  • Thank you for posting this question. I had no idea a city like NYC does this. I have very little experience traveling in NYC, but I would assume it’s not as much as a car city as DC.

    Personal experience in DC (as a driver) I could see this put into effect on non-major roads. 16th St, Georgia Ave, Wisc Ave and Conn Ave – absolutely not. Those roads are major by ways in and out of the city. But as the point has already been brought up Beach Drive is already used for this on a weekly basis (rather than as every three times a year in NYC).

    There are tons of bike paths for recreational bikers to use. I am assuming in NYC the people taking advantage of this is for recreational use only, rather than trying to get from point A to B for errands?

  • This is too easy. Just make it easier to get to Beach Drive on the weekends. Step one would be advertising it: posters, flyers, newspaper ads, bus & subway cards….So many people don’t know about this. Spread the word!!

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