Everything Is Different, Nothing Has Changed
I’m reminded of this after Tuesday’s election results, because everyday is different and nothing is ever assured. As a result of the GOP retaking of the House with help from the accent of the anti-planners, which I assume many Tea-Party candidates are, there are possibly some real negative impacts on issues like health care, education, global warming, the environment and the survival of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Or, not.
Those are beyond the scope of this post, but regarding the concern for public spaces, active transportation and smart, efficient, balanced transportation networks there are a couple of trends working in our favor, both nationally and locally. Mind you, that is difficult for me to write; I’m a pessimist at heart. At a certain level, speaking for northern Michigan at least, the optimism only arises because the cause for intentional design of public space already has systemic layers stacked against it, namely: financial constraints, bureaucratic rules & guidelines, and personnel still perusing status-quo solutions. We can only improve.
Another reason I’m optimistic, the numbers are in our favor, both in support and financially. Financially, and I’ve mentioned it before, if your goal is less government spending and increased property values, you need to favor a balanced approach to infrastructure. The director of the Bikes Belong Coalition, Tim Blumenthal pointed it our yesterday in an interview with Bike Portland. He said, “if this election was all about people saying ‘we want smaller, more efficient government’ than bicycling should be a higher priority.“
He was commenting on the election and making the case for active transportation. To do so, and to take his comments farther, complete streets advocates need to sharpen their financial understanding of and arguments for investing in active and public transportation, which across the board we clearly support…
Keep It Hyper-Local
There are real concerns over the new House leadership’s rhetoric. Much of it echoes anti-active transportation ideologies and the coming debate over high-speed rail. Still, politicians have an amazing ability to come together when it comes to protecting and designing their hometown. From wanting to spend public money wisely & locally, to helping constituents spend more time with family, friends and community instead of time commuting to work or working simply to pay the bills, people have very similar desires. This is less clear on the national scale, but locally we only have to look at the effort of Rep. Wayne Schmidt (R) in moving the state to adopting a Complete Streets policy to see that livable communities has bi-partisan appeal.
As well, the numbers are in favor of investing in increased mode-share, again, both nationally and locally. Whomever is in power, the United States (and Michigan) will be investing in more passenger rail, public transportation, smarter (read: not more; not wider) roads/streets, complete streets and public spaces that encourage neighborhood living. It is going to happen. The choice for political leaders is: do they want to lead the change or bring up the rear.
More importantly, the question for citizens is, what are you going to do to support the effort? It’s not enough to say you want more bikable/walkable neighborhoods, all of us need to vote with our feet. Walking to vote is the least we can do, now, just like on Monday, is the time to vote with our actions.
Walk it, Bike it, Bus it and Drive it-slow. (And, speak out).
- Just How Bad Were the Midterms for Climate and the Environment? (Good.is)
- Ray LaHood: “People want out of their cars.” (Video from 2010 Bike Summit)
- MDOT Director Kirk Steudle Letter to Staff about Complete Streets (M-Bike.org)
- National Bike Leaders Weigh In On Tumultuous Elections (BikePortland.org)
- The Full Cost of Automobile Transportation (fabb-bikes.blogspot.com)
- Future of Transportation National Survey (2010) (T4America.org)
- Fred Barnes: Americans Mainly Want to Stay in Their Cars (StreetsBlog.org)
- Coercing People Out of Their Cars:The road to hell is paved with bike paths. (WeeklyStandard.com)
- Congressman John Boehner and Bicycle Infrastructure (BikeLeague.org)
- For Advocates of Alternative Transportation, A Difficult Election Day (thetransportpolitic.com)
- The Fiscal Argument for Transportation Reform (StreetsBlog.org)
- Americans Prefer to Spend More on Mass Transit & Highway Maintenance, Less on New Roads (SmartGrowthAmerica.org)
- Grand Vision Land Use: Values Survey