Pellerin: Washington shows Ottawa how great public spaces can work

By Brigitte Pellerin, Ottawa Citizen, April 26, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. — There is nothing like a few days in America’s capital to make you appreciate the meaning of the words “public space.” And as with every time I visit this fine city, I find myself asking, Why can’t we do this in Ottawa?

Washington, at least the historical and touristy part of it, is full of public spaces. It’s full of cars, transit buses, taxis, bikes, tour buses, dock-less scooters and even Segways. But somehow, the folks who planned this space in the District of Columbia managed to make it a priority for people on foot to appreciate the architecture, history, monuments and museums like few other cities I’ve visited have ever managed.

If you start at the Capitol building and look all the way to the Lincoln Memorial, you will see a vast expanse of green open spaces lined on both sides by one museum after another. You will see some vehicular traffic in there, too, along with hop-on-hop-off tourist chariots and food trucks. But if you decide to walk from one end of the Mall to the other, and you definitely should, you will find it remarkably easy to feel both completely at home and perfectly safe, provided you don’t decide to jaywalk in the few spots where you have to cross a street open to cars.

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