From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., pedestrians and bicyclists will be free to use the roadway and enjoy activities — from salsa lessons to yoga and health screenings — between Missouri Avenue NW and Barry Place.
This is the District’s entry into the “Open Streets” movement, which has been embraced by cities around the world in recent years. Open Streets programs vary from city to city. Some have made it a monthly affair, while others are transitioning to permanently restricting car traffic on some streets to reduce pollution and promote healthier lifestyles.
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) described Saturday’s event as an opportunity “to reimagine public roads as community spaces.” Her administration has hinted at the prospect of eventually creating permanent car-free zones across the city.
“Together, at a fun, family-friendly event, we can explore the benefits of having fewer cars on our roads,” Bowser said when she announced the event this summer.
The District has already taken steps to discourage car use and encourage walking, biking and scooter use. It has turned space from travel lanes into bike and bus lanes, and it has removed parking spaces and raised fees, actions that have drawn backlash from some drivers, businesses and residents. But others say the District has been too slow to follow major cities that are opening streets to people by closing them to vehicles.
Edinburgh, Scotland, this year began closing a number of streets to motorized vehicles one Sunday a month to allow the public to enjoy the historic area on foot or bike. Paris, which has also experimented with car-free Sundays, has pushed for creating car-free zones and last month held a citywide car-free day. Barcelona has made headlines with its reorganization of some streets into superblocks, creating pedestrian-centric neighborhoods with playgrounds at intersections.
New York City on Thursday banned most cars from 14th Street, one of Manhattan’s busiest crosstown routes, to essentially create a busway. Buses and delivery trucks are still allowed, and a greater share of the road is available for use by pedestrians.
In the District, Saturday’s event will feel like a street festival, with people walking, bicycling, roller-skating, doing yoga and dancing. Some bike groups are planning rides from various points of the city to the event, and Capital Bikeshare will be offering free rides.
Parking restrictions will be in effect along Georgia Avenue between midnight and 5 p.m. Drivers should avoid the area, as detours will be in place and cars will not be able to cross Georgia Avenue between Barry Place and Missouri Avenue NW from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Officials are inviting residents to join Open Streets, using public transportation and some of the other modes, such as bikes and scooters, to get there. Bike and scooter corrals will be located at various points along the three-mile route. The Georgia Avenue-Petworth and the Shaw-Howard University Metro stations on the Green and Yellow lines are closest to the event. Several bus lines, including the 70, serve the area, but bus riders should expect some detours.
In Petworth, some residents are planning an after-party. Others are already lamenting that the event will be too short and not big enough.
“Maybe we should have Open Streets on the entire length of [Georgia] Avenue,” bike activist Rachel Maisler tweeted Wednesday.
Greg Billing, who has been advocating for Open Streets events for five years, said the four-hour event is a good start to introducing the concept to residents and thinking of more ambitious ways to create car-free zones.
“We will see on Saturday whether people want more,” he said. “Open Streets is the first introduction of what streets could look like with fewer cars. It can be the first step in that direction.”
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