Photo by auntjojo on Flickr.

If walking is sometimes frustrating and sometimes dangerous for most citizens, it is especially so for senior citizens. Marlene Berlin is leading a pedestrian initiative for IONA Senior Services, and she and many individual senior citizens testified today at the DC Council’s DDOT oversight hearing. Berlin lives in Ward Three and walks as her “primary mode of transportation. She said,

Both Wards Three and Four have areas of the highest concentrations of seniors in the city. These areas are convenient to business hubs such as Cleveland Park, Van Ness Center, Tenleytown, Chevy Chase and Friendship Heights, meaning they are of walkable distances and connect to mass transit. ...

Now, next to automobiles, walking is the most frequently used mode of transportation by all age groups. So you would think, in a city where congestion, air pollution, obesity and diabetes are problems, we would focus on making walking as easy and safe as possible. Well, quite the contrary. There is a war out there against walkers, and when we are vital and do not have to deal with any disability, we do not have a clue what it is like. ...

The environment for the older walker in this country is hazardous. She is safer in a car than on the streets. And when you talk to older folks about what it’s like for them on the streets in the district, it sounds like a war zone. Cars do not stop for pedestrians. Cars turn into pedestrians at signalized crosswalks. Cars barrel down on pedestrians in legitimate crosswalks, honking their horns for pedestrians to move out of their way.


Berlin specifically wants to see longer crossing times at many key intersections, especially on Connecticut and Wisconsin. She also criticized the lack of sidewalks in many parts of Wards Three and Four. In Barnaby Woods, for example, there is no sidewalk on many blocks connecting to the area’s one bus line or at some bus stops.

Finally, Berlin and Mount Pleasant ANC Commissioner Phil Lepanto both recommended creating a Pedestrian Advisory Council, similar to the existing Bicycle Advisory Council. That Council, Berlin said, would “tackle the major issues of changing the culture of driving in DC.”

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle.