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DC councilmembers push for Beach Drive to remain closed to cars

Six council members jointly proposed a resolution to the council asking that the National Park Service permanently close upper Beach Drive to car traffic.

WASHINGTON — Six D.C. councilmembers proposed a resolution to the DC Council calling on the National Park Service to close a section of Beach Drive to car traffic, in order to allow it to continue being used by pedestrians. The upper portion of Beach Drive NW has been closed to cars since April 11, 2020 in order to allow District residents to use the road for socially distanced exercise during the pandemic. 

"The pandemic has given cities across the world a once in a lifetime chance to rethink how public spaces are used and how they may be repurposed to best benefit residents," councilmembers wrote in a resolution to the Council. 

Councilmembers Mary Cheh, Janeese Lewis George, Anita Bonds, Brianne Nadeau, Brooke Pinto and Charles Allen have jointly proposed the "Sense of the Council Resolution Requesting the National Park Service Permanently Close Beach Drive to Cars Resolution of 2021."

"We have seen an unprecedented level of recklessness on our streets: speeding, running of red lights and stop signs, dangerous road play by vehicles, and consequent deaths and injuries," Cheh tweeted. "Our streets are not safe. They are not safe for children or pedestrians or cyclists."

According to MPD data, there have been 15 traffic fatalities in the District so far this year -- an 88% increase from this time last year. On Saturday, an elderly man and woman were hit and killed by the driver of a pickup truck at Hains Point. A relative of one victim told WUSA9 the pair were friends and co-workers who walked in the park often for exercise.  

RELATED: Closed walkways force pedestrians into the road at Hains Point. Now, two people are dead

Cheh said she's working to organize a roundtable discussion with the District Department of Transportation and the National Park Service to: 

  • Determine what road/bike lane/sidewalk safety improvements can be implemented immediately
  • Examine Vision Zero's efficacy
  • Highlight urgent need to fully fund B23-0288 in the upcoming budget 

In April 2020, the National Park Service and the United States Park Police closed three sections of upper Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park and roads in Anacostia Park and Fort Dupont Park to cars so that residents could use the roads for exercise.

In August and September 2020, volunteers were recruited to count the breakdown of who was using Beach Drive while it was closed to car traffic. According to the People's Alliance for Rock Creek (PARC) the road averaged 529 users per hour. 

Here's the percentage breakdown:

  • 62% cyclists
  • 18% runners
  • 20% other pedestrians (including with strollers and dogs)

RELATED: 'Vision Zero failed my friend' | Renewed push for safer DC streets after cyclist killed

D.C. resident Keya Chatterjee, a climate activist with Arm in Arm DC, circulated an online petition urging District officials to give even more traffic lanes to pedestrians, buses, and restaurants.

“I think this is a moment for us to reimagine things in a different way," she said. "And honestly, we can't go back."

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