On Tuesday afternoon, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser gave a speech about her second term agenda that included some meaningful statements about making streets safer. In one spot though, some people in the crowd apparently booed when she suggested reducing car dependence.
Bowser even floats “taking cars off of 16th Street.” The crowds somewhat jeers, so she moves on. She also floats “car-free days” on certain corridors on certain days. Crowd again somewhat boos.
— Martin Austermuhle (@maustermuhle) January 15, 2019
The mayor was right to suggest these things and deserves applause instead.
Vision Zero advocates have been pushing the mayor and the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to be more aggressive about road safety. Sustainable transportation advocates have been pushing for better bus service, bicycle and walking infrastructure, and shared mobility. While a few lines in a speech are just the beginning, it's meaningful for the mayor to speak out about these issues, most of all because it sends a signal to the people inside the government that this is important.
Bowser said DC needs to “get creative” about transportation and set a goal of everyone getting to work or school in 30 minutes. This is a great goal, because many people's trips are longer, particularly east of the Anacostia River. Of course, it's important for that to be able to happen with options other than driving.
She plans to increase the number of police officers to 4,000, up from 3,800 today, with a focus on “car-free” officers on foot, bike, Segway, and scooter. In an organizational update, DDOT and the Department of Energy and the Environment (DOEE) will move under a new Deputy Mayor for Operations and Infrastructure.
Speaking of Vision Zero, DDOT has hired Linda Bailey, head of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), to run DDOT's new Office of Vision Zero. Bailey will coordinate efforts to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries for people walking, biking, and driving. Before joining NACTO, she led federal policy outreach for the New York City Department of Transportation and helped form its Vision Zero program. She's a great catch for DDOT and could help super-charge this effort.
All of this is worthy of some applause, not the scattered jeers and boos that a few people gave Bowser for suggesting we reduce car dependence and follow cities around the world with car-free Open Streets events from time to time during nice weather.
Most of us weren't in that room (I wasn't), but if we were, we would have clapped at these lines. Please take a moment to send the mayor some claps now, to show her that these ideas aren't unpopular with DC residents.