100 signatures reached
To: The Mayor and City Council of Takoma Park, MD
Petition to give traffic lanes and parking spaces to pedestrians, buses, and restaurants
Dear Mayor Stewart and Members of the Council,
During this time of social distancing, we all need more space and easier ways to participate in education, community, and the economy. This is especially true for vulnerable neighbors, people with disabilities, essential workers, and small business owners. Please use parking areas and traffic lanes to make space for pedestrians, cyclists, buses, and restaurant tables. And please provide increased public transit and high-speed public internet service.
Many other cities are allowing their pedestrians and small business owners to reclaim public spaces.(1) Takoma Park should be a world leader in facilitating community during the COVID-19 crisis.
1. Please convert traffic lanes and parking spaces to space for children, pedestrians, cyclists, and businesses.
To the maximum extent possible we urge everyone to stay home and stay safe. But many people need to go out, whether for work, exercise, or to buy food or medicine.
But during this time of social distancing, pedestrians need more space to keep a safe distance from one another. Children need more space to play. Restaurants in Takoma Park need more space to keep their customers and staff safe.
We know that Takoma Park has begun closing Sligo Creek Parkway more frequently and plans to close one lane of Laurel Avenue downtown. We urge you to do more, and more quickly.
Many of our sidewalks are too small to accommodate all foot traffic and other uses in ordinary times. When social distancing is necessary for safety and outdoor activity is one of few ways people can get exercise, our existing space for pedestrians is unacceptably small.
It is time to open more streets to pedestrians and cyclists and to allow businesses to use streets and parking spaces for commerce.
2. Please provide better public transit and support internet access to make it safer for Takoma Park residents to work, get medical care, buy essential goods, and participate in our communities.
Expanding public transit: Despite social distancing measures, many community members must venture out for work, medicine, or other needs. In addition, many people are avoiding medical care as much as possible until they urgently need it, making it critical that they be able to reach medical facilities quickly.
Now more than ever, it is time to ensure that public transit service is plentiful and reliable. By plentiful, we mean that service should be frequent and buses and bus stops should be uncrowded. The city should develop Circulator buses connecting all parts of the community to transit, essential goods, and public services. It also should work with RideOn to create dedicated bus lanes where it is possible and, where it is not, to provide stronger service to medical centers and areas worst affected by COVID-19. The city can also ease burdens on public transit by facilitating walking and cycling, as discussed above.
Supporting internet access: We also urge you to provide free or heavily subsidized internet service, focusing on access for those with lower incomes, so that all Takoma Park residents can participate equally in education, online communities, and economic activity.
During normal times, the city and county governments provide buses for children to attend school and maintain streets, sidewalks, and other public spaces for commerce, cultural events, and social gatherings. During a time of social distancing, Takoma Park should act quickly to ensure that all residents have access to the space where so much of this activity has moved — online.
Why is this important?
These measures will help maintain what we love about Takoma Park and build toward the future we want. As former New York City transportation head Janette Sadik-Khan said, “Cities that seize this moment to make it easier for people to walk, bike and take public transport will prosper after this pandemic and not simply recover from it.”(2) We call your attention to the following benefits of the steps urged by this petition:
Supporting the local economy: Restaurants need outdoor space for tables, and people in Takoma Park need safe avenues to re-enter society and work and buy in our economy. When people can’t move through neighborhoods to buy groceries or pick up takeout, less money is going to our small businesses. The same is true of internet access, as many local businesses have moved to selling goods online and providing contact-less pickup.
Maintaining clean air: Everybody deserves clean air. It’s key to staying healthy, enjoying the beautiful outdoors, getting exercise, and waving to neighbors, all while doing our part to stay six feet away. Air pollution from fossil fuels is a major contributor to avoidable illness and death in the U.S.,(3) and neighborhoods with poor air quality have a 15% higher death rate from COVID-19 than neighborhoods with cleaner air.(4) During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all benefiting from cleaner air not just in the most obvious ways, but also in health improvements that will become clearer over time and with academic study. We should do as much as possible to retain and extend these benefits after this crisis ends, not go back to business-as-usual pollution of our own air.
Creating community: Strong community is critical to making it through the COVID-19 crisis with as much mental, physical, and economic health as possible. It is even more important for taking care of the most vulnerable residents of Takoma Park, whose needs are more likely to go unnoticed and unassisted in the absence of a strong community. By turning over some traffic lanes and parking spaces to people and by supporting internet access, we will be able to see neighbors, friends and family safely, from a distance, both outdoors and indoors.
Addressing climate change: Improving public transit and providing more ways to walk and bike safely will help us achieve the goals of Takoma Park’s recent climate emergency resolution by hastening the phaseout of the dirty fossil fuels that are causing an increasing cascade of climate crises.(5) Many of the changes we urge could be maintained even after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
Increasing shade availability: This summer, there will be fewer places for people to cool down, as pools, libraries, and other public buildings will either be closed or be open with limited access due to social distancing. Providing additional public space will allow people to use more of the shade provided by Takoma Park’s trees.
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During this pandemic, we are losing too many of the people, places, and businesses we love. The pandemic and the climate crisis both call us to strengthen our community and to care for and support one another. This crisis is far from over, and we must band together to save what we love.
Thank you for your leadership,
Residents of Takoma Park