Open Streets Opens Eyes

mural over 7th St
Mural over 7th and Rhode Island AV NW in Washington, DC

7th and Rhode Island Avenue NW in Washington, DC, is one of those intersections where you do not want to linger. It’s a traffic sewer, where two major thoroughfares for Maryland commuters collide in a chaotic and dangerous fashion. Whether you’re on foot, bike or car, it demands complete attention, lest you get sideswiped by a reckless driver running a red light.

I live eight blocks away and arrange my travels to avoid this intersection. Most of the time, I’m on my bike, so I pick alternate routes, even if they take me way out of my way. If I’m walking, I rarely go in that direction, because I don’t like cars roaring past me as I’m on a narrow sidewalk.

On Saturday, I biked through the intersection with a smile on my face. The reason was Open Streets 7th Street, where 1.5 miles of 7th St NW was closed to cars and open to people. It was a one-day street party, filled with fun and games for all ages. I checked out a new DDOT electric bus, ate a free popsicle, watched a spin class in the street, listened to go-go music and saw a constant parade of friends on foot and two wheels.

Without the constant danger of cars, you have a chance to pick your head up and look around. For example, on Saturday I noticed, for the first time, Jake’s Tavern in Shaw. Apparently they’ve been there for a couple of years. During this time, I’ve walked and biked right by the bar without noticing it because my attention was stolen by rampaging autos.

Pictured above is a beautiful mural at 7th and Rhode Island Av NW, above the old 7-11. How long has it been there? Months? Years? I don’t know. When I go through this intersection, my focus is at street level, warily eying distracted drivers for crazed maneuvers.

But coasting through the intersection on Saturday, with just people around me, I suddenly saw this mural. I was able to stop and look around the city, like it was meant to be experienced.

Open Streets 7th Street was just a single day. And only six hours of that. Drivers own the road for the remaining 364 days and 18 hours a year.

But during this brief spell, Open Streets opened my eyes to the beauty of Washington, DC, and demonstrated the old truth that cities are for people, not cars.

Author: Joe Flood

Joe Flood is a writer, photographer and web person from Washington, DC. The author of several novels, Joe won the City Paper Fiction Competition in 2020. In his free time, he enjoys wandering about the city taking photos.

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