By Rachel Maisler
Last week more than a dozen Petworth residents convened at the Library to discuss how our community could successfully host one of DC’s first open streets initiatives next spring. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) and the DC Office of Planning secured a grant for a creative placemaking project and are planning an open streets event in Petworth in Spring 2017.
Open streets are a source of civic pride in communities all over the world. From Bogota’s weekly Ciclovia to New York City’s Summer Streets, open streets transform the way people interact with public spaces.
Petworth's placemaking project would curb vehicular traffic along a designated route for an entire day, opening the streets exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists. This would create a space for neighbors to interact in a unique, but familiar setting. The city is currently reviewing three different street options for Petworth.
The street closures are reason for celebration, music, physical activity and movement via human-powered modes of transportation, like bicycling, skateboarding or walking. While New York’s program is relatively young, Bogota has been celebrating Ciclovia every Sunday since 1974.
“Open streets are a tool for positive community development and investment. They teach about active transportation and encourage people to thing about public space in a new way,” WABA Events Manager Michelle Cleveland told Petworth News.
Participants at the community meeting included residents, as well and neighborhood business and faith leaders. Together, they harnessed the spirit of the initiative and shared ideas about how to make this project a success. From yoga in the street to live music, art installations to bike safety classes, the group shared nearly two dozen activity ideas for the event. The group also stressed the importance of ensuring all members of the community have access to the event.
“Petworth is your quintessential DC neighborhood, complete withan undeniable history and a limitless future,” said Charles Brown, a consultant for the project from Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. “It is extremely diverse, inclusive and home to some of the most amazing people in all of DC.”
Cleveland added, “The feeling of complete freedom and joy you feel when walking down the middle of the street that is open just to people is unlike anything else, and that feeling connects neighbors with each other, with public space, and with their city in an empowering way.”
(Author’s note: I’ve participated Cilcovia, and it was incredible.)