To the Editor:
City hall is seriously considering turning Union Street into a “shared street” where automobiles, tour buses, and bicycles will comingle with pedestrians. Has city hall lost its marbles?
A tour bus weighs 10 tons, an SUV 2 tons, and even a compact car weighs a ton, versus me, a pedestrian, weighing [more than I should at] 165 lbs, 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 the motor vehicles off the pedestrian sidewalk. Even bicyclists, who typically have more gall than brains as they blow through stop signs, weave in and out of traffic, etc., are beginning to figure out that they need bicycle trails, bollards, parked cars (such as the 15th Street “cycle track”), or other bicycle lane separators which the District of Columbia 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 “doored” beats getting run over. Imagine throwing bicycles in with both pedestrians and motor vehicles simultaneously in a narrow street with little maneuvering room!
The wealthy merchants who built Union Street with slave labor early in the early days of the American republic built it for horse-drawn carriages with a 4-foot-8-half-inch axle, a dimension copied from Roman chariots and abided faithfully for 2 millennia in land transport — even railroad standard gauge (WMATA’s MetroRail and the country’s intercity passenger and freight railroads) is 4-feet-8-half-inches — 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 lbs of stuff into a 5-lb sack, where are these automobiles with their 6-foot wheelbases going to fit on a street designed for carriages’ 4-foot-8-half-inch axles? Where two carriages could pass, two automobiles or buses with wider wheelbases cannot. The two motor vehicles are not going 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 Euille personally autograph it?