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My Two Cents: Bethesda’s Worst Street?

By Joseph Hawkins

Wednesday - 11/6/2013, 10:35am  ET

Joseph HawkinsMy Two Cents is a weekly opinion column from Bethesda resident Joseph Hawkins. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BethesdaNow.com.

Would a three-foot wedding cake survive a trip down Dorset Avenue?

I’ve lived in Bethesda since 1984. But I’ve driven the street of Bethesda since the 60’s. As a teen working for Karl’s Caterers, when I wasn’t washing dishes, pots, and pans, I made deliveries throughout Bethesda. I wonder. Would one of Karl’s three-foot wedding cakes survive a trip down Dorset today?

(History note: Karl’s Caterers was founded and owned by the late Karl Snellenberg, a German immigrant. During the 60’s and until his death in 1972, Snellenberg ran a deli-like restaurant in Woodley Park, a deli-bakery on Connecticut Avenue across the street from Politics and Prose Bookstores, and another deli-like restaurant located in the Westbard Shopping Center — the current location of the Fashion Craft Cleaners.)

Dorset Avenue is roughly a mile-long street running between Wisconsin Avenue and River Road in Bethesda and Chevy Chase. If you’re driving, biking or walking out of Friendship Heights and headed north on Wisconsin, you enter Dorset through the Town of Somerset (on the west side of Wisconsin). If you’re driving, biking or walking out of Tenleytown (DC) and headed west on River Road, you enter Dorset through the subdivision of Kenwood (on the north side of River Road).

Would one of Karl’s three-foot wedding cakes survive a trip down Dorset today? Sure it would, but I’m also certain that the 16Speed bump sign along Dorset Avenue speed bumps and seven stop signs along a Dorset delivery route would shake things up a little.

This definitely would be one of those Somerset/Kenwood deliveries where the baker is put on stand-by and ready to swoop in for repairs (oh the secrets of caterers, something is always getting repaired — but that’s another column).

When I first thought about penning a Dorset Avenue column, I was going to say that with its 16 speed bumps, it was “the absolute worst street in Bethesda.”

But when I recently drove Dorset to count speed bumps and stop signs, I changed my mind. I still think there is overkill with the number of speed bumps. At Dorset and Warwick Place, for example, there are both stop signs and speed bumps together. Okay, I’m stopped—what’s the point to the speed bumps?

And why did I change my mind?

Because in the big-picture, more good results from slowing cars down than having cars exceed speed limits on neighborhood streets. And besides, when I introduced this column, I promised that what I said would be all about making Bethesda better. Trashing Dorset serves no useful purpose. And so, I still think Dorset is a great scenic short-cut even when driving 15-20 miles per hour (my wife thinks my short-cut are anything but short, but that also is another column).

And if the Town of Somerset is going to fight for its Capello Park green space on Wisconsin (County people claim no extra right-of-way would be taken for a bus rapid transit route) feel free to call me up and ask for donation. That’s a cause worth a donation.

Joseph Hawkins is a longtime Bethesda resident who remembers when there was no Capital Crescent Trail. He works full-time for an employee-owned social science research firm located Montgomery County. He is a D.C. native and for nearly 10 years, he wrote a regular column for the Montgomery Journal. He also has essays and editorials published in Education Week, the Washington Post, and Teaching Tolerance Magazine. He is a serious live music fan and is committed to checking out some live act at least once a month.