Students need to advocate change on H Street before it’s too late

Crossing H Street between the Marvin Center and Gelman Library is akin to playing a very dangerous version of dodgeball. Students have to constantly be on the lookout for cars coming their way from both directions as they go along the shortcut to and from Gelman without a crosswalk. This might not have been a large issue a few years ago, but with the booming food truck business on campus, major safety concerns have skyrocketed.

An increasing number of food trucks park along both sides of the two-way street, making it congested and hard to navigate for people and vehicles alike. This ongoing issue, along with students jaywalking and the street being too narrow for two cars to travel side-by-side with food trucks parked on both sides, has led to increased traffic problems and safety hazards. This led community leaders to bring up this issue at the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting last month. The best way to solve this issue is by relocating some of the food trucks to a more convenient area and limiting the amount of trucks that can be on the street. Students should also advocate turning H Street into a one-way street by speaking in public comment and bringing it up to commissioners during monthly ANC meetings.

There has already been two accidents at this intersection back in 2003 and once again in 2011, showing that this is not a new issue. On top of those accidents, there have been numerous close calls, with students just narrowly avoiding passing vehicles. I’ve personally experienced this several times during my two and a half years here. I would try peering around a food truck to see if it was safe to cross, and a car would speed by – only missing me by a hair. I can’t help but feel lucky to be in one piece after so many close calls during my time here, a concern that is shared by too many students.

There are already students working on the issue. Most prominently, James Harnett – who is running for a position on the ANC – is advocating the building of an additional H Street walkway in the middle of the road. This motion can be beneficial because it would give students an easier time crossing the street. Student organizations, like the Student Association and the Residence Hall Association, are also trying to work with the ANC to come up with solutions to decrease the safety concerns on H Street.

But simply building an additional walkway for students is not enough to resolve the issue. We also need to pay attention to the increased congestion on the street. Even with more walkways, the issue of food trucks being parked on both sides of the street will still be present. The best way to resolve this is by relocating some food trucks to another street, such as 22nd Street, which is a one-way street where the food truck Rolling Cow has already relocated to from its previous position on H Street. Although there is a lottery for prime parking spots in D.C. for food trucks, it doesn’t help the situation since only a certain number of owners can win. Currently, food trucks are allowed to park wherever as long as they follow the rules regarding the parking spot, or they can apply for a renewable permit for certain spots.

We shouldn’t leave the heavy lifting to just these student organizations. Students themselves should become more involved by attending ANC meetings to advocate for more walkways or turning H Street into a one-way street. If students can offer alternative solutions, then they should go and share them at a meeting. Foggy Bottom is not just where our school is located. It’s where we will grow and live for most of the year until graduation, and it also impacts the future generations of students. We should be involved in the local community and neighborhood committees like ANC.

A major concern for food truck owners is the loss of business by relocating, but, as seen by Rolling Cow’s long lines after moving, their business has only increased. Not only will relocating the food trucks decrease the congestion on H Street, it will also make walking across the street safer for students. But if the resolutions proposed cannot be passed, then students must keep a lookout when crossing. Food trucks must be more mindful regarding their placement and think of the students who are trying to walk across H Street, before it’s too late.

Raisa Choudhury, a junior majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

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