GGW Article Highlights Uptown Pedestrian Dangers

On Thursday, Greater Greater Washington editor George Kevin Johnson published a troubling report on the dangerous walkways that members of two Shepherd Park area synagogues have to travel to get from their homes to their places of worship.  In accordance to their religious beliefs, these residents cannot drive cars on their sabbath.  Neighbors walking through the community on their way to Ohev Sholom and Tifereth Israel are a familiar sight.  As the report noted however, some of those seemingly peaceful walks carry a hidden risk.

The article stated:

Residents I talked to spoke of an obstacle course of unprotected precipices, uneven pathways, and tree branches that jut onto the street, obstructing their path and view. Some sidewalks have telephone poles and stop signs set in the middle. Other areas have craters where pavement once was.

It goes on to describe several areas with poorly maintained sidewalks or no sidewalk at all, like Portal Drive NW.

Sidewalk along West Beach Drive
West Beach Drive’s disappearing sidewalk
Fenwich Branch
The Fenwick Branch of Rock Creek is slowly eroding the sidewalk along West Beach Drive. Several large trees have already fallen.

Members of Ohev Sholom have been proactive about communicating with Councilmember Brandon Todd’s Office, the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the National Park Service. Their Pedestrian Safety Committee has tracked walkability issues in the area like the unsafe sidewalks and the notorious 16th Street Circle at Colesville Road. Despite their efforts, permanent solutions have yet to materialize.

Aspen Street NW Sidewalk

These pedestrian challenges are reminiscent of the concerns regarding Aspen Street NW, adjacent to the Walter Reed development.  There, the north side of the street barely had a sidewalk at all a few years ago.  DDOT installed a temporary and non-ADA-compliant walkway a few years ago. This coincided with the opening of the DC International School.  But as you can see from this photo, that makeshift pathway extends onto the roadbed for portion of the street, with protection provided by concrete barriers.  DDOT has plans to widen Aspen Street and install a hiker/biker path along Aspen Street.

Aspen Street Barrier
Does this look safe to you?

Ironically, nearby neighbors and some local preservationists have resisted those plans. There are two utility sheds in the pathway of the improvement which some consider to be contributing elements to the Walter Reed site’s historic status. As a consequence, some people prefer a narrower fix which leaves the sheds in place but removes an eight-foot green space buffer and a protective parking lane from a crucial stretch of the street.

Takoma Junction

There are several other dangerous walkways in our area.  The intersection at Cedar St, 4th St and Blair Road NW is another tricky crossing that comes to mind.  Even as an athletic adult, I need to use a bit a skill to cross that corner in one piece.  Imagine the challenge for our seniors or some of the many children of the neighborhood.

Fortunately, the construction of a fix for this intersection is scheduled to begin soon.

Bottom Line

Mayor Bowser and her administration have set the ambitious goal of eliminating fatalities and serious injuries to travelers of our transportation system by the year 2024. But even in our small corner of the city, there are plenty of opportunities for safety improvements.

Residents have a role to play as well. As users of the system, influencers public policy and watchdogs of implementation, we have the responsibility set traveler safety higher in our order of priorities.  While the Ward 4 Livability Studies are good tools for identifying the problems, they offer no guarantee of corrective action. We must continue to strongly advocate for transportation solutions that protect our families and neighbors.

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