The design firm Gensler’s solution to a problematic sidewalk is really just a piece of tempered glass – and maybe some additional caution signs.
The area has several untreated sidewalks, serving as a combination of public sculpture and travel path. Gensler’s second proposal, which includes roughly 26 linear feet of netting at each end, would provide more separation between pedestrians and the vehicle traffic.
“We evaluated the neighborhood conditions, the city requirements and the need for modification,” said Lars Bruun from Gensler, in an email to The Washington Post. “Our proposal serves the requirements of the current and future design of this area, but integrates the design of the existing sidewalks very well.”
Gensler’s proposal clearly includes explicit warning signs about the automobile traffic. It also highlights measures to protect pedestrians, such as speed bumps, concrete barriers and smaller traffic switches to avoid the “very narrow, high traffic areas along [the sidewalk] south of Third Street and Prospect Street.”
While the sidewalk is undisturbed – with no bollards or walkways intended to stop vehicles from moving – the project also includes scaffolding. It appears that scaffolding would continue between the netting and the current footings, and so it’s impossible to know exactly how this would be used in practice, if the proposal moves forward. (The Post has a request for comment from the public works department.)
What’s most surprising, though, is that design proposals such as these aren’t standard. The Post surveyed bollard projects around the city. The Capital Bikeshare project on Pennsylvania Avenue is 50 feet long and has a bollard system. The mall on the National Mall has similar structures. Indeed, the pavement on Eighth Street Southeast just outside the Hirshhorn Museum is actually painted with white and black lines intended to prevent cars from moving through the intersection.
While bollards and concrete barriers are standard elements in several District projects, there are far fewer for Washingtonians who experience bike riding. In total, the Post counted two bollards in Washington, one in Rockville and one in Rockville Hills.
“As one of the most dynamic transportation environments in the nation, the District looks for innovative and sustainable solutions to ensure our walkways remain safe for both pedestrians and bicyclists,” D.C. Department of Transportation spokesman Nathan Barr told The Post in an email. “We will continue to evaluate and consider any ideas that may improve the safety of our streets.”