Second walk the length of Maple, 1/23/2019, minor update 1/28/2019

Posted on January 23, 2019

I am convinced that the people pushing for MAC development haven’t actually spent much time walking or biking on Maple.  They keep saying silly things like “Maple should be more walkable”, when in fact, objectively, Maple is about as walkable as it gets.   And even sillier things like, we need broad sidewalks along Maple.  When, in fact, the sidewalks are perfectly adequate now, other than the irregular surface created by the bricks.  Which they are going to add to.

Ever since I have lived in Vienna, I have made it a point to walk along Maple.  Sometimes just for exercise, but more typically, to get somewhere.  To run errands without getting in a car.

So now I occasionally walk the length of Maple and count the number of pedestrians that I pass as I walk.  Just to get across the point that, although Maple is quite walkable, few choose to walk down it.

Today, 1/23/2019, 3:30 PM, about 45 degrees, light wind, mostly cloudy skies.  First nice day in quite a while.  On my 2+ mile round trip from Wade Hampton and Maple to East Street and Maple, and back, I passed a grand total oftwo people.  Or about one person per mile.

Edit:  And on Friday 1/25/2019, 4 PM walk down the length of Maple– partly cloudy, about 45 degrees — I passed a total of 9 people, or fewer than one person per 1000 feet.

(By contrast, I passed a total of 12 on my walk on 12/31/2018.  Or maybe one person every 1000 feet.)

There are plenty of reasons not to walk down Maple, but the car traffic is the dominant one.  Maple gets about 33,000 vehicles a day — about one-fourth the traffic load of I-66.  It’s just unpleasant, no matter how you slice it.  It’s noisy, and you never escape the smell and taste of diesel exhaust.  It’s almost certainly unhealthful.  I tried to get this point across by explaining why Maple Avenue is never going to be anything like Mosaic District.  The traffic is the reason.

So Maple is, to be clear, a dis-amenity.  It’s something you avoid if you can, and you use it for purely utilitarian reasons — to get from Point A to Point B.  The whole point of walking down Maple is to get somewhere nice — as opposed to being on Maple.

So, to me, the idea used to sell MAC — that many individuals will choose to stroll down Maple — that it will become this walker’s paradise, and require broad sidewalks to deal with the crowds — is just absurd beyond all reason.   And so when I see my Town predicating part of redevelopment based on this notion, I just have to say, I have no idea why they keep saying this, but it clearly bears no relationship to reality.

But perhaps I see it this way because I, in fact, routinely walk the length of Maple.  Maybe some of the advocates for MAC zoning should try that.