by JS O’Brien
WASHINGTON – Washington mayor Adrian M. Fenty announced today that his city will soon issue interested motorists the US’s first pedestrian hunting license (PHL).Â The new license will allow drivers to collide with pedestrians anywhere within the District of Columbia on a prepaid basis.
Unlike most hunting licenses, which charge a single fee, the PHL will allow motorists to deposit as much money as they like in a prepaid account.Â They may then run down pedestrians for $50 each, up to the account limit.
“In no way do I want to give the impression that there is an absolute bag limit on the PHL,” said Fenty in a morning news conference at the Mayflower Hotel.Â “Drivers may, at any time, deposit money in their accounts to increase those limits.Â If you can afford the bodywork and the after-collision detailing, you can take as many pedestrians as you like.”
Simon Waxman, DC commissioner of parks and roads, says there are plans to make the PHL more convenient for drivers in the future.
“We’ll use the initial revenue from the PHLs to build transponder readers all over the city,” Waxman said. “That way, any motorist can open an account.Â If he exceeds his pedestrian limit based on the current funds in the account, we’ll automatically charge his credit card.”
Washington has a well-deserved reputation for being a difficult city to navigate.Â A system of hub-and-spoke avenues overlaid on a normal grid, which was designed for horse-and-buggy traffic, often produces gridlock and road rage.Â Wide walks in portions of the city encourage citizens and visitors to be pedestrians, who further complicate traffic patterns with their insistence on walking across crowded thoroughfares when they have the right-of-way.Â Not surprisingly, reaction to the new PHLs among DC motorists was overwhelmingly positive.
“I just bought a hybrid,” said Ukela Broadbeam, 38, a lobbyist for Sickem and Botts.Â “The electric motor is really, really quiet.Â I’m going to name it â€˜Silent Death.'”
Bernie Harzenooble, 45, an attorney for Billum & Partners, feels the PHL will benefit the District of Columbia, as a whole.
“People just amble across the streets here,” he said.Â “Hey, they’re not walking on Harvard Square any more, you know?Â I’m going to bet that peds get a whole lot quicker in the near future.”
Fenty said that revenue generated by the new PHLs, once the transponder readers are installed, will be used to beautify K Street, adding more trees, bars, and cafes.Â He cautioned that initial revenues may not be as high as some would like them to be.
“We’ll be doing away with tickets for failing to yield the right of way,” Fenty said.Â “So, we’ll be losing that revenue, entirely.Â But we think prepaying will eventually double, or maybe even triple, pedestrian-collision-related receipts.”
Fenty said that the name of the license is not final.Â Republicans are said to be introducing a bill calling for it to be named for Robert Novak, the conservative pundit andÂ renowned pedestrian hunter.Â Regardless, the new PHLs are expected to be available for purchase by November of 2008.