Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Worldwide Car-Free Day is Thursday, 9/22

Worldwide Car-free day is September 22. Cities across the globe are organizing events and pledges to encourage their citizens to get out of their cars and consider other modes of transportation. Bicycle Friendly Communities are getting in on this global action. Washington, D.C. has a pledge with prizes and events. Corvallis, Oregon is participating too.

To find out about Worldwide Car-Free day, visit worldcarfree.net. Daily bike commuters and those trying to to go car-free for just one day are encouraged to register.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Want to be a Bicycle Friendly Community?

Do you think your community is bicycle friendly? Are you curious about what it takes to be among the most bike-friendly cities like Boulder, Portland and Davis, CA?

Currently there are but five Missouri communities that have Bicycle Friendly recognition from the League of American Bicyclists. These are Columbia (silver), Kansas City, Springfield and St. Louis (all bronze). Lee's Summit got an Honorable Mention nod. These communities went through a process of self-evaluation of how supportive they are when it comes to getting around on two wheels.

Often policy, infrastructure and practices that support bicycling mutually reinforce the walking and wheeling environment.

Check out who is on the list of Bicycle Friendly Communities. Then check out the process on how to get started. Even if there is very little now in your community in terms of bicycle lanes, racks and Livable Streets policy look on the bright side: you can only get better!

See you in the streets,

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What to say to your city councilperson

Tell your city councilperson facts why livable streets matter to you.
Every single time I meet with or e-mail my City Council person it is about a biking and walking issue. Generally, I want him to get us more infrastructure that allows me, my wife and our neighbors to safely use active transportation where we live. My councilman wouldn't know what to think if I came to him to talk about anything unrelated to livable streets. Maybe I'll surprise him sometime...

You may or may not be like me. How often do you communicate your wishes for traffic calming, healthy neighborhoods and transit connections to your local elected officials? (Maybe I ought to back up a step and ask if you know who your city councilperson even is? When are his or her office hours?) When you talk to your councilperson are you representing yourself or are you part of something bigger? I don't mean the human race here rather are you part of a local bicycle-pedestrian advocacy group, senior center or PTA/PTO.

If you go it alone when you talk to your councilperson do you have data to back you up? If you are part of a larger group do you have a common message? Missouri Livable Streets has developed a set of livable streets talking points. Check them out and see what resonates with you. By the way, the research to support each talking point can be found starting on page 41 of our full Livable Streets Advocacy Guide.

Why use talking points when advocating for more livable streets? If you are advocating for more traffic safety for pedestrians in your neighborhood it is great to be able to say that 51% of the American population walks at some point in the year. How about backing up your request for sidewalk extensions by dropping the fact that more than 15% of walkers walk more than 2 miles. Sadly, almost 5,000 Americans died while walking in 2009. This kind of data makes your case for livable streets all the more powerful.

Talking about funding makes a powerful statement, too. Many local governments in Missouri and elsewhere are in a tight financial spot right now. After you make the case for more sidewalks or bicycle paths or transit connections in your community you can show your elected official the money by downloading and printing a copy of our livable streets funding sources.

Thanks for reading. See you in the streets, Trevor

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Livable streets connect to transit

Yesterday, I got educated when I expected to give some education.

The Missouri Public Transit Association is the statewide group for transit operators. They meet annually at a conference center. This year they were generous enough to let me organize and facilitate a conference panel about how transit needs livable streets. The panel was me, the PedNet Coalition's Sam Robinson, Citizens for Modern Transit's Seth Teel and Larry Magill.

You'll notice that Larry doesn't have an association. He told me when I introduced him that we could be there as the Chair of the Camden County Senior Tax Board. That doesn't really say who he is though.

Larry is a 60-something crusader on wheels. He wowed me and the others in the room with tales of this ongoing efforts to make his adopted Ozark hometown more accessible for seniors and those in wheelchairs. Larry uses a wheelchair as a result of mobility issues related to a childhood case of polio. He talked about how transit has come a long way from his days having to be lifted onto and off of his bus. This was when he went to the Crippled School in Kansas City. That's what it was called.

Larry reminded us that years after the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law there is still much to be done to make public and retail spaces universally accessible. We saw pictures of Larry navigating various doors, ramps, curbs and transit vehicles within the Lake of the Ozarks region. I must say: when the information comes at you from someone who is impacted most by livable streets it hits home. Without a sidewalk or a curb Larry can't get into that building.

As livable streets advocates we need to get better at telling our stories. We need to talk to our city councils and be honest about why we need better sidewalks, bicycle facilities and access for all. These elected folks are the ones who officially decide when and where and how a street gets build. They have the power to make local streets more livable. Stories from the likes of Larry Magill and from the rest of us can have significant and sometimes rapid impact on how walkable, bikable and livable our streets are.