- Leafy pedestrian paradise. (Photo: DDOT)
The District of Columbia wants to turn the city into a pedestrian's delight. What does a walkable city require? Accessibility, transit, safe spaces, and especially good streets, sidewalks, and sights worth looking at. These sights include eye-pleasing storefronts, perhaps a well-crafted median, and of course a glimpse of greenery, of nature, of trees and flowers.
Expect plenty of that to come in the next few months. The District Department of Transportation has trumpeted its plans to plant 3,540 trees across the city's eight wards from November till May, and now, as we look toward the new year of 2012, seems like the right time to stop, appreciate, and look forward to the plants to come. Its Urban Forestry Administration lets us see how it will change the face of Washington, D.C. and even lets residents adopt some of the trees.
What I especially like is DDOT's online tree map, which lets us examine exactly where all of the planned thousands of trees will be planted. What species of trees will enliven and drop leaves on your neighborhood? Check the map here:
You may want to check the larger version of the map when scanning the D.C. blocks.
"Young trees are watered by contractors and staff with critical support from residents, businesses, and organizations who adopt public trees through the Canopy Keepers program," according to DDOT. "Adoptees receive a free watering tub for every tree adopted."
Critical to a pedestrian-friendly city is the wise, vibrant use of public space. From the National Mall to alleys to sidewalks to the major hubs and intersections and circles, our public spaces matter, and a few trees can make all the difference in perception. Nothing made this clearer to me than a recent drive through parts of Old North St. Louis in Missouri. I've seen the neighborhood in the past but after a year and a half living in D.C., the sight still had the power to shock me with how empty it is, despite recent EPA-recognized efforts to salvage the neighborhood. Houses are boarded up everywhere, crumbling and in disrepair. Long fields of urban prairie divide devastated building from devastated building. The vision at times borders on apocalyptic.
Trees are not a silver bullet in the quest to create an open, safe pedestrian culture and are not without long-term challenges. They need watering and can impact sidewalks. But they're a good start. The District has also begun paying more attention to our alleyways and launched the Green Alley Initiative, meant to better manage the storm water that falls there. We have new bike lanes planned. The city helped encourage the creation of 100 banners devoted to tree conservation. There's the Great Streets projects and the Connecticut Avenue medians. There's the simple virtue of a better, safer traffic light and crossing. I've seen portions of middle Georgia Avenue come to life in different ways.
2012 is nearly here, and the new year has potential to make D.C. a great city for pedestrians more than ever.