A bicycle advocate, a city engineer and a lobbiest walk into a room…
…what do you get? A glimpse of the action at the League of Michigan Bicyclists Bike Summit in Lansing last Saturday. You might also get some complete streets. That was a key theme to this year’s summit and how to move the group’s direction beyond the public impression of just representing sport cyclists. Andy Clarke, Executive Director of the League of American Bicyclists, asked as much in his keynote address; what can the league do to assist all bicycle riders-children, the elderly, families as well as the Lycra clad?
One role the above two groups aim to fill is facilitating the connections between regions while providing advocacy and education tools for citizen advocates. LMB Associate Director, John Lindenmayer is the main link between the two groups. In an email exchange after the summit, he replied about the role.
“Over half of the Summit attendees attended the Complete Streets workshop. It just goes to show that the time is ripe for this issue.”
“Complete Streets is at the top of LMB’s advocacy agenda. As opposed to fighting for improved bicycle facilities, road by road, or even town by town, Michigan needs a comprehensive policy that will make accommodating bicyclists a routine practice whenever roadwork is done. ”
Michigan cities go for complete approach
Represented at the summit were people from Jackson, Flint, Midland, Detroit and Lansing, cities that have made strides towards changing local policies towards adopting complete streets.
In some sense, they are in the same boat as Traverse City where a dis-connect exists between what the public has repeatedly asked for and what is being implemented. Our local efforts are repeatedly weakened by vague policy, entrenched ways of doing business and lack of understanding of what it takes to make a city a home that values people and ‘place’ while still providing for sensible use of motorized vehicles.
Other Michigan cities might even have an advantage; many people I met from other cities see this as a friendly competition for attracting new businesses, young entrepreneurs and specific grant money. Northern Michigan might just be too comfortable to be bold and aggressive.
For example, the city of Lansing needs to be held up as a model for passing a complete street ordinance last August. The ordinance was a result of over a year’s worth of feet-on-the-pavement education and signature collecting. In the Complete Streets panel discussion, Jessica Yorko explained the process of developing the ordinance, wide public support and the Walk and Bike Lansing! task force with citizen groups, neighborhood associations, Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council, LMB and others. They currently have AARP of Michigan fully on-board doing a sidewalk & street survey for walkability measures of the city.
After collecting nearly 5000 signatures with the intention of by-passing the city council and going directly to a referendum on the ordinance, the Lansing complete street ordinance (doc) was passed unanimously by a previously reluctant city council. They’re change of heart can be attributed directly to some of the old guard championing the energy and interests of the younger generation, but also just a heavy dose of common sense prevailing at the right moment.
Now, Lansing is working to achieve a non-motorized plan and network to carry the ordinance to implementation; directly involved and outspoken in support of this effort is the city’s traffic engineer, Andy Kilpatrick. His presentation at the bike summit was a what’s-what from the perspective of a city engineer. He described the particular obstacles he faces everyday in trying to implement more walkable and bike-able streets. Besides insight into the profession, he was clear in stating that at a certain point city residents need to get serious in finding, and supporting, candidates who share their vision for more inclusive streets. For him, a supportive council his job much easier.
(2011 for Traverse City commission, but there are current openings on the planning commission)
Recognize your allies, strengthen the network, remove obstacles
Which leads to the advice from the another presentation: Improving your advocacy skills. Jean Doss of J. Doss Consulting shared her never die attitude, her 10 Commandments of Public Policy Advocacy and made it very clear that at certain times it is crucial that you either “change their minds or change their faces“. She lobbys in the capital, but was clear that the rules of politics are similar no matter the level.
There was more, but this post is already too long. Congratulations to the League of Michigan Bicyclists, Michigan Complete Streets and host Peckham , Inc. for a successful day. There was plenty presented to spin the wheels further along.
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