My Two Cents: Smart Growth Advocates Must Think Bigger

My 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

Joseph HawkinsA few smart growth folks seem to be under the impression that I’m not in favor of their agendas to put people — pedestrians and bikers — before automobiles. Wrong!

Yes, in this column I have criticized the smart growth advocates. I do so out of nothing but love. I also think I’m trying to push these advocates to think bigger.

I know this is not an original idea. I’m sure others have said it before me. But one way to think bigger is to push for complete street closures in certain parts of downtown Bethesda. Yes, that means the streets are closed to all automobiles.

Art by Alison WilliamsonHow can pedestrians and bikers move around in safety when they must compete with vehicles? They can’t.

Look at the cartoon of our biker — struggling to cross Wisconsin Avenue at Old Georgetown Road — probably coming from the Safeway on Old Georgetown. Wouldn’t this “smart” guy be better off without cars?  Of course he would.

Now, hell would freeze over before Montgomery County would close Old Georgetown at Wisconsin. Not happening. But realistically, aren’t there sections of downtown that could be closed to all vehicle traffic? Of course there are and after closing these sections off to cars, I believe life would continue just fine. Trust me, we’d adjust.

And so here’s one proposal. Let’s close Bethesda Avenue, beginning at Wisconsin Avenue, all the way down to Arlington Road.

Art by Alison WilliamsonOr close Elm Street, beginning at Wisconsin Avenue, all the way down to Arlington Road. Or let’s get really bold and close both off to automobiles.

Really what is stopping us from thinking bigger?

(Hey Joe, how would customers get to the Honda dealership if you closed Bethesda Avenue? Or how would drivers get into that Elm Street Parking Garage?  

Great questions!

Make the Honda people move or create some ingenious back door alleyway that moves customers out and onto Arlington Road without using Bethesda Avenue. And tear down that Elm Street Garage and build a huge green space and park.

(I hate the Elm Street Garage with a passion — I’ll help tear it down!)  

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.

Art by Alison Williamson

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