Over the past few years I’ve learned how design impacts the social aspects of cities. Lately I’ve come across many new organizations promoting bike and pedestrian friendly streets, as well as complete-street development. Who doesn’t desire living in a sociable place where it is easy and safe to walk or bike to nearby amenities? Millions travel across the globe to popular destinations where food and attractions are within walking or biking distance, or is easy to get to through mass transit. But, why can’t we have that here? Why can’t I have that in my neighborhood? Why should I have to drive 20 minutes to get to a park downtown?
There are many reasons why we can’t do a lot of things in car-centric cities. For now, I’ll focus on what I’m planning on doing to improve my neighborhood. We can’t always wait for politics to try to implement a one-size-fits-all strategy. Sometimes it’s best to take the initiative to something you’re familiar with, in my case my neighborhood. In my early years, children used to own the streets; skating, building small bike ramps, drawing with chalk, and running in the rain. As we grew up and more houses went up, it became a less hospitable place for anyone. The nearest mini-park is a 40 minute walk, and an unsafe 15 minute bike ride.
Tonight I started drafting a few options for bike and pedestrian friendly streets in my neighborhood. They are narrow streets that barely contain two-way traffic. I’ve noticed that many drive at least 30mph and sometimes race through at faster speeds as there is no speed signage. Within the first hour of drafting I drew a couple of options that I hadn’t thought of before. Along with that I’ve begun to organize what will be necessary to implement the changes; meeting with the civic club, organizing phases of educating the community, a new community website, researching standards and codes, sharing case-study information, etc. This is only the starting point. The ultimate goals is that more ideas, such as neighborhood festivals and events begin to emerge so that we may become a true community. I hope it becomes a great addition and homage to other great examples of community initiatives that have come before. As friends join in this effort, I’ll be glad to return the help and knowledge to their communities.