Lessons Learned From Wisconsin Avenue (Bethesda Beat)

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I think of Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Bethesda as a moat stocked with alligators: too perilous to cross on foot. Typically, I walk to downtown Bethesda from my nearby home to do errands, attend meetings, dine out or see a movie. Yet I drive to do those same things along Wisconsin, which used to be Bethesda’s main street. In 16 years of living within walking distance of Wisconsin Avenue, I’ve rarely crossed the busy thoroughfare on foot. I never thought much about why, other than the obvious: too much traffic. Then I met Heather Arnold.

Arnold, 46, is a partner at Streetsense, the international design and strategic planning firm based in Bethesda. I recently called Arnold to interview her about something else. She happened to mention that when the firm moved its offices from the east side of Wisconsin to Bethesda Metro Center, on the west, Arnold and many of her colleagues found a new go-to coffee shop, even though their old favorite was only about a block away. They didn’t want to walk across Wisconsin. Unlike me, Arnold knew precisely why.

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