Learning from D.C.'s Slow Streets Programs

"Slow streets" is a popular concept, but residents and community advocates say officials have to do more to make implementation effective and equitable.

June 15, 2021, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

With restricted access to most indoor spaces, the humble street got a lot of attention over the last year as cities reallocated right-of-way to pedestrians and public seating. Liz Farmer of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy writes about Washington, D.C.'s experiment with "slow streets," a program which included 26 miles of road in the district. "While the concept of slow streets was generally well received," Farmer says, "its implementation in Washington and other cities was sometimes rocky—and sparked much-needed discussions about equity, access, and planning."

At a public hearing, residents expressed support for the concept, but disappointment at the execution. "Concerns included a lack of connectivity—among the slow streets themselves and between the streets and other destinations—as well as logistical aspects like traffic enforcement and signage." Residents also expressed concern that communities of color are being left out of the programs, partly due to local mistrust of programs seen as harbingers of displacement.

"The lessons surfacing in DC, which cover issues ranging from transportation inequities to signage logistics, could also be valuable to other cities that are initiating or expanding slow streets projects this year, from Nashville, Tennessee, to Omaha, Nebraska." One important lesson, according to Jessie Grogan, associate director of Reduced Poverty and Spatial Inequality at the Lincoln Institute, "is that cities need to be more intentional about the purpose of the streets in the first place—then design accordingly. 'If you want to get people from point A to B without getting in cars, then how do you do that safely for people walking or biking?'"

Thursday, June 3, 2021 in Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

Street-level view of sharrow symbol on asphalt with parked car in background

How Sharrows Became Cycling’s Most Hated Symbol

Originally designed as a low-cost way to encourage safer road sharing between bikes and cars, the sharrow has become a symbol of the lack of commitment to protected bike infrastructure in many cities.

August 2, 2022 - Denverite

A image of the World's Columbian Exposition overlayed with a picture of Keanu Reeves in the rain from the movie Point Break.

Keanu Reeves Set to Play Daniel Burnham in ‘The Devil in the White City’

Planning is going to get a new level of star power as a limited series adaptation of The Devil in the White City gets ready for television screens in 2024.

August 8, 2022 - Reel Chicago

View from middle of street in downtown Telluride, Colorado with mountains in background

Marrying Urban Identity and Economic Prosperity

A new book posits that truly successful communities have a strong economic base and a firmly rooted sense of place.

August 5, 2022 - Governing

Dallas Freeways

A How-To for ‘Freeway Fighters’

Ten recommendations for effective freeway removal advocacy.

51 minutes ago - Strong Towns

Rendering of elevated rail ine

Miami Rapid Transit Project Moves Forward

The county completed the draft environmental impact study for a monorail and people mover planned as part of its rapid transit system.

1 hour ago - The Next Miami

Cars lined up on a street with fire burning in background

Fire Evacuation Planning at the Community Level

Wildfire planning often focuses on individual buildings, but little guidance exists for effective citywide evacuation planning.

August 10 - The Atlantic

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.