Opinion Your Views — 07 December 2012
Pedestrians lose out in shared-street concept

By Dino Drudi, Alexandria

To the editor:

City Hall is seriously considering turning Union Street into a shared street where automobiles, tour buses and bicycles will commingle with pedestrians? Has City Hall lost its marbles?

A tour bus weighs 10 tons; an SUV two tons; and even a compact car weighs a ton. Then there’s me, a pedestrian, weighing — more than I should — at 165 pounds, and City Hall thinks it’s perfectly OK for me to share the street with traffic? With merely a painted line to protect me? The only thing protecting pedestrians from motor vehicles is the curb, which keeps them off the sidewalk.

Even cyclists, typically blessed with more gall than brains — blowing through stop signs and weaving in and out of traffic — are beginning to figure out they need trails or other bicycle-lane separators, which the District is pioneering, to keep them safe from traffic. They are lately demanding more bicycle lanes because they have figured out they need to be separated from motor vehicles and that getting hit by a door beats getting run over. Imagine throwing bicycles in with pedestrians and motor vehicles in a narrow street with little maneuvering room.

The wealthy merchants who built Union Street with slave labor in the early days of the American republic built it for horse-drawn carriages, a dimension copied from Roman chariots and abided faithfully for two millennia in land transport. At least until some set of fools in Detroit decided to give automobiles and trucks wider 6-foot wheelbases.

In keeping with City Hall’s modus operandi of trying to stuff 10 pounds of stuff into a 5-pound sack, where are these automobiles going to fit on a street designed for carriages’ narrower axles? Where two carriages could pass, two automobiles or buses with wider wheelbases cannot. The two motor vehicles are not going to sideswipe each other. Instead, without a curb to keep them in the roadbed, they will crowd out and squish the pedestrians.

Why not just paint bull’s-eyes on every pedestrian on this shared street and have Mayor Bill Euille personally autograph it?

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