MEMBER NEWS DIGEST - THE LATEST AND GREATEST FROM OUR MEMBERS' BLOGS
One topic that needs more attention in the realm of city-building and urbanism is how cities can become more attractive to families, rather than the temporary life stage of 20-somethings. A couple member blogs cover this issue well, including Rational Urbanism and Family Friendly Cities. I find these topics particularly compelling, given my life stage and desire to raise a family in a walkable neighborhood.
Family Friendly Cities was recently featured in The Seattle Times, in an article about the tough balancing act new parents face in Seattle. In a response, a local radio host argues that making automobility more difficult renders the Mayor of Seattle's transportation plan anti-family; in a rejoinder, Bradley Calvert of Family Friendly Cities had this to say:
Overscheduling our children is a result of underwhelming communities, and eliminates the impromptu opportunities that build social character and imagination in our children. Rather than demanding more lanes to flee their current communities, families should be demanding access to communities that offer more.
Powerful stuff. I may be biased, but I think family friendly cities is one of the most important, yet most overlooked topics in this realm. At least that was my impression from attending my first full CNU in Dallas - I searched the program book for the words "family", "children", and "kid" and only came up with two hits, neither on the topic. It's clear millennials are choosing walkable places in higher proportions than previous generations, which is all well and good. But will our cities be places for all, and hold onto these young parents to a greater degree than in the past? It's up to us. I want to see more emphasis here.
If you ride your bike often enough, you may have had a threatening encounter or two with a driver (or worse). My most unpleasant encounter was when a driver suddenly slowed to my pace, rode alongside me, rolled a window down and admonished me for not riding on the sidewalk (I was in a marked bike lane). Downright scary. In "The Notion of Social Cycling", Thomas Crone of NextSTL writes about his experience as a newbie commuting cyclist and some of the difficulties in riding in our auto-dominated environment. But rather than taking the reactive, aggressive approach that some cyclists adopt, he asks what he can do to engender better relations between himself and motorists:
So, I’m asking. Is it just this weird for me? Is it this way for you, other cyclists in this town? Or am I just living in a pattern, in which a behavior’s boomeranging a bit?
My response since that kid flipped a spent smoke at me has been simple. Wave more. Smile more. Nod more. Say “hello” more. The mix of responses is, in fact, a real mix. There are some blank stares, but a lot of positive vibes come back, too. Sometimes, the look or comment is a quizzical one, the person surprised that another human being’s taken a moment to acknowledge that shared space between.
Be smart out there. This isn't a call to abandon common sense or safety. But if you're a cyclist who has developed an angry, aggressive attitude in the face of threats from drivers, perhaps it is worth reexamining this attitude to understand whether it may be instigating some of these negative behaviors of drivers.
While on the topic of Strong Citizens, Dave exemplifies one with his efforts in Petaluma, CA. A Petaluma Urban Chat has gotten underway, with Chuck getting involved in a video chat for the group as well. Work remains to be done changing the minds of local council members, however.
With much of the electorate focused on the continual expansion of infrastructure, elected officials are unwilling to hear a message that we need to rethink our approach to built improvements. And the public works officials whose jobs are dependent on building more infrastructure are no different. As 18th century Jewish rabbi Baal Shem Tov, phrased it “Fear builds walls to bar the light."
But perhaps the wall isn't so sturdy as we might imagine? Here is Dave Alden again:
Thus, it was unexpected when Paul Trombino, the head of the Iowa Department of Transportation, publicly admitted that his state has more highway infrastructure than the public is likely willing to maintain. He further called for a difficult but necessary conversation about how and where to reduce previously constructed infrastructure... the Trombino acknowledgement of what Strong Towns has been arguing may have been a turning point.
As Strong Towns advocates, we are catalysts for change, and the metaphorical walls that our institutions have erected against change are being chipped away. In some areas that change may seem slow to come, but change can happen dramatically in other areas. That's the nature of complex systems. Keep chipping away at change, Strong Towns advocates.
Elsewhere this week:
- Chicago's Bloomingdale Trail finished its one month anniversary since opening, and Bruce Nesmith gives a proper photo tour of the trail and a brief history of Chicago and its close-in neighborhoods
- Why do we build this way? Steven Shultis of Rational Urbanism channels his inner James Howard Kunstler in excoriating the American strip mall experience, in contrast to more pure and more American summer pastimes that seem to be in short supply these days.