A street, or rather “encounter zone,” in Rome.

Well, here’s a novel idea (first brought to my attention by Greater, Greater Washington): Mount Pleasant’s ANC 1D would like to turn Mount Pleasant Street into a “‘pedestrian encounter zone,’ sharply reducing traffic speeds, and prohibiting the use of the street for through traffic.”

An ANC resolution reads: “European cities have had great success with “encounter zones”, where pedestrians are given priority, and are allowed to cross streets whereever they want, and motor vehicle drivers are required to yield to them. This creates an environment of very slow-moving traffic, and a relaxed atmosphere where people on foot have priority, and can use the area for human activities.”

The group has passed a resolution advising the District Department of Transportation to “undertake the conversion.” But according to commissioner Phil Lepanto, no one is under the illusion that this process is going to be quick and straightforward.

“This is the start of a conversation with the neighborhood about how this would actually look,” says Lepanto. For example: Car traffic. Business owners may be inclined to keep through traffic and add more parking spots—-not discourage cars from venturing onto the street. But Lepanto says the vision for the “pedestrian encounter zone” favors fewer cars with passengers quickly picking up and dropping off items or parking and hanging around for a while, rather than simply using the street to cut through the neighborhood.

In Lepanto’s mind, the ANC’s next step should be to schedule some kind of forum to better explain the idea and help build support for it. That could mean “inviting someone from Greater, Greater, Washington and maybe a DDOT planner, like Jim Sebastian, to come and talk about how cool the idea would be.”

“We want to see if we can be innovative and see if this is something that would work in America,” says Lepanto. “We would really have to push. Where it goes in terms of DDOT saying ‘yeah, we really want to do this too’—I think that’s a long way off.”

Image by Kmohman, Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License