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'Open streets' | Push to open some DC roads to pedestrians and cyclists only

Montgomery County and New York City have already taken similar actions to give residents room to exercise during the coronavirus crisis.

WASHINGTON — As D.C. continues to battle the coronavirus, some people are calling on District officials to close down some local streets.

D.C. resident Katy Lang wrote Mayor Muriel Bowser, the D.C. Council, and DDOT Director Jeff Marootian a letter asking for them to consider opening select streets to pedestrian and bicycle traffic on April 3. 

In the letter, Lang said the practice would give D.C. residents the ability to effectively socially distance while exercising outdoors.

"This will give people space to pass safely," she said. "We understand some streets must remain clear for vehicle traffic but many neighborhood streets can be people-only with few impacts, especially since vehicle volumes are significantly reduced," the letter reads.

RELATED: Amid financial impacts from COVID-19, Bowser launches new District Economic Recovery Team

Seven hundred people have onto Lang's letter, whos said current conditions some pedestrians face are unsafe.

"Our sidewalks are four-to-five feet wide and if you are trying to pass people with six feet of space, you are having to step into the roadway, into an active roadway," she said.

Lang's idea is not without precedent in the country.

New York City, the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis, has already tested it out.

"Open streets," New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo said during a press conference. "People want to walk. They want to go out and get some air." 

Montgomery County Parks also announced plans to open up several sections of Sligo Creek Parkway to pedestrians from Friday 9 a.m. to Sunday at 6 p.m. 

Those sections of the road include:

  • University Boulevard West to Dennis Avenue
  • Dennis Avenue to Forest Glen Road
  • Piney Branch Avenue to Maple Avenue
  • Maple Avenue to Old Carroll Avenue

As for D.C., Mayor Bowser said during a recent press conference she is still not convinced opening local streets would be the best decision for the District.

RELATED: Schools could still be closed next fall and winter, warns Maryland's state superintendent

"I think if we shut down a street, you will [next] be asking me why are so many people on the street," she said.

Lang said she believes government officials are looking at the matter the wrong way.

"I think people in government, including the Mayor, have an idea of open streets as a festival, and it's not," she said. "It's about rebalancing our street space for the way that people are traveling." 

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