Blizzards and Walkability

IMG_4202While much of the nation is probably tired of hearing about the blizzard in Washington DC this past weekend, the reality of its impact and lengthy clean up are still being felt. For me the most dramatic lesson from the storm was to see the difference in impacts for walkable verses car dependent neighborhoods.

With two feet of snow covering our roads, sidewalks and train tracks Saturday we were only left with what we could trek to.  Thankfully in downtown Silver Spring that left quite a few options, including a nearby homeless shelter desperately in need of volunteers. While friends and family in the suburbs hunkered down and waited for snow plows, we were able to walk around the neighborhood, run to the grocery store downstairs and even serve a few meals at Shepherds Table. Throughout Friday night, even through Sunday afternoon our neighborhood took on a new light hearted feel as people took to walking in the streets, which had been cleared long before our sidewalks. I saw parents and children making snowmen in front of apartment buildings and our local coffee shop that remained open even had a few sleds outside. A few friendly snowball fights even broke out.

IMG_4174IMG_4178Although much has already been written by planners about how snow highlights the weaknesses in suburban road design, it can’t helped but be repeated as schools and offices across Northern Virginia and parts of Maryland suffer long delays in reopening days after the snow storm. I also realize that this pace of clean up is further exacerbated by the lack of infrastructure DC has to deal with such volumes of snow compared to our more experienced northern neighbors of New York and Boston. Once the snow has fallen though, I am thankful to live in our community, walking distance from many shops and resources as well as places that help others in need.

I couldn’t have been more thankful to live in a walkable community than over the past five days.


All photos were taken by the author.


One comment

  1. I’ve been thinking the same thing lately. We’re in DC, and although some local businesses shut down for a few days, a few always stayed open. Most of our neighbors were good about cleaning off sidewalks, so it was very easy to hike around with the dogs and see what there was to see. I loved the feeling of camaraderie with everyone else digging their houses (and cars) out. But I also loved the feeling that our neighborhood was somehow cut off from everywhere else, in a good way. Once Metro shut down and driving was dangerous, I think it made me slow down and feel more connected to what we had right in front of us (rather than considering where we were going to go for weekend plans and so on).

    In DC’s defense, the city really did an amazing job of clearing off the roads. I know some people were griping, but yesterday most of the side streets around me got cleared, and that was just three days after a major snow fall that would have given any city a headache (I’m from Chicago, so speak from some experience). I know Arlington and some of the other counties are experiencing things quite differently, though! Glad you had a positive experience and enjoyed yourself 🙂

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