One of the issues that exists in my neighborhood is what amounts to a hard to navigate three-way intersection between 5th street, L street, and New York Avenue. This separates the people who live in the rowhouses immediately north of New York Avenue from the supermarket and other retail that’s in the ground floor of the condo building I life in immediately south of NY Ave, and it separates us in the building from the Metro station a few blocks away.
The community, including our neighborhood association, has been pushing DDOT for a number of changes to the area. One thing we’d like to see is for them to take down the freeway-style signs on New York Avenue. And another is to increase the amount of time pedestrians are given to cross the street. DDOT has responded to the queries about that and they’re saying ‘no’. And beneath all the verbiage in their reply, what they’re saying comes down to the basic point that if you gave pedestrians more time to cross New York Avenue, that would slow New York Avenue traffic. Which seems fair enough. But by the same token, if you slowed New York Avenue traffic down, you’d make it easier to cross the street.
Management of a city involves hundreds — if not thousands — of these little decisions. Do we do what’s best for people on foot, or what’s best for people in cars? Since tilting policy on behalf of pedestrians rather than drivers is distributively progressive — the poor are less likely than the rich to own cars, especially in a place like DC — and environmentally beneficially and good for public health, I don’t see it as a very difficult choice. But not only did DDOT not make the pro-pedestrian choice, they don’t even really seem to see it as a choice. They just take it for granted that their job is to maximize the flow of vehicle traffic along New York Avenue. The rest of us just live in the neighborhood.