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.