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

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