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.

2 minute read

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

View of Mount Hood at golden hour with Happy Valley, Oregon homes in foreground.

Clackamas County Votes to Allow ADUs, Residential RVs

County officials hope the zoning changes will help boost the housing supply in the region.

June 18, 2024 - Mountain Times

Single-family homes in a suburban neighborhood in Florida.

New Florida Law Curbs HOA Power

The legislation seeks to cut down on ‘absurd’ citations for low-level violations.

June 16, 2024 - The Guardian

Aerial view of intersection in New York City with yellow cabs and zebra crosswalks.

Planners’ Complicity in Excessive Traffic Deaths

Professor Wes Marshall’s provocatively-titled new book, "Killed by a Traffic Engineer," has stimulated fierce debates. Are his criticisms justified? Let’s examine the degree that traffic engineers contribute to avoidable traffic deaths.

June 13, 2024 - Todd Litman

Scooters Portland

Report: Municipal Fees and Taxes Hinder Shared Micromobility Adoption

City taxes and fees on shared bikes and scooters are, on average, much higher per mile than similar taxes on cars.

45 minutes ago - Streetsblog USA

Wildfire burning at night on hillsides next to Lake Elsinore, California.

California Faces Early Surge in Wildfires

Summer is just beginning, but wildfires in California have already burned more than 90,000 acres.

1 hour ago - Los Angeles Times

Solar panels in a green field

Solar Industry Growing Fast, but is Hampered by Aging Grid

One of solar’s biggest challenges is getting the energy where it needs to go.

2 hours ago - NBC Washington

City Planner I

Department of Housing and Community Development

City Planner II

Department of Housing and Community Development

City Planner Supervisor

Department of Housing and Community Development

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.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.