Motorists are used to traffic coming to a standstill to make way for the president’s motorcade in downtown D.C., but it now appears that extra security measures also are taking a toll on pedestrians and bicyclists visiting the public areas around the White House.
Access to portions of the sidewalk on Pennsylvania Avenue has been closed off recently while the National Park Service fortifies the fence around the White House to prevent people from climbing over it. And last week, when there were reports of gunshots inside Washington Navy Yard, Pennsylvania Avenue plaza and Lafayette Park were closed to the public.
Such closures affect scores of residents and visitors who frequent the park and the plaza, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) said. And, when they are extended and happen without any notice, they are unacceptable.
In a letter to the heads of the Secret Service and National Park Service, Norton said she understands that threats to the White House require temporary closures, “but these closures should not be lengthy or without reason.”
Norton has argued that the streets and public spaces around the White House, including Lafayette Park, Pennsylvania Avenue and 17th and 15th streets are “First Amendment protected areas” and shouldn’t be closed to the public.
She said the closures force bicycles onto “heavily used, congested sidewalks.” She wants to meet with the agencies to discuss the impact of the closures and the safety risks associated with blocking off travelers on foot and two wheels.
“Considering the importance of this pedestrian and bike thoroughfare, workers, residents, and tourists need advance notice of alternative routes in the event that access to the Pennsylvania Avenue plaza and Lafayette Park area is cut off,” she said.
Word of the closures is often spread via Twitter.