>A Sensible Solution?

>This Halloween in Georgetown, the rain kept more than the usual number of revellers off of M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, the two main commercial streets in the old Georgian village which I happen to call home. Nevertheless, though not nearly as bad as I have seen it in past years, there was still something of a crush of pedestrians at each of the four corners of this major intersection. On weekends, the situation can become highly dangerous, as flocks of shoppers try to squeeze onto narrow sidewalks laid out in the 18th century for far fewer people to use, while heavy vehicles like trucks, buses, and SUV’s come roaring past.

Today the redoubtable Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has opened a new x-crossing at Oxford Circus, the chamfered intersection of Oxford Street and Regent Street in the heart of the West End, where I used to live. Anyone who has been to London knows that this crossing, which is not only the home of the shopping district but also houses a major Underground station, can be an absolute nightmare to try to cross; one can see some before and after images on The Evening Standard’s article from about a year ago, when this project of renovation took shape. During the Christmas shopping season, it reminded me quite a bit of M and Wisconsin at its worst, only on a somewhat larger scale. The project, which included a widening of sidewalks and installation of better lighting on the major streets, simply makes good economic and safety sense: if traffic is halted and pedestrians can cross through the center and from all four corners simultaneously, the result will be a decrease in injuries, traffic accidents, and a safe release of bottlenecks.

Could something similar be proposed for Georgetown? Anyone trying to head north across from the SE corner of M and Wisconsin, for example, knows how the present signal system is an invitation to injury. The right turn signal for vehicles coming up Wisconsin to turn onto M is given first, before the pedestrian walk signal begins, and I have seen countless pedestrians step into the intersection without realizing that there is oncoming traffic behind them. A successful launching of this scheme in Georgetown might have the added benefit of the city considering the same solution at other major pedestrian/traffic crossings in the city, as well as the consideration of whether a Metro station could, in fact, be slipped in safely, somewhere behind the old Riggs (now PNC) Farmers and Mechanics Bank.

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