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  • Jessica Lowry

    How much do you care about walkable, safe streets?

    Most of us have a lot of good ideas, but few of us take the time to attend community meetings at City Hall. Without your input it's really hard for city planners to design streets with you in mind. A good idea becomes great when it's put into action.

    Key to the Street is a service you access using your cell phone. You participate by visiting a mobile website or calling a toll-free number. The City of Austin is ready to pilot this service in a real city planning project, but we need your help to make this happen.

    Every aspect of Key to the Street is built for you. Follow this link to learn more: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jeslowry/key-to-the-street-the-future-of-urban-design

  • Mark Nixon

    When you ask what role politics has influencing the economy, environment, & culture, imagine what kind of landscape we would have today had the Eisenhower administration passed the Interstate Rail Act in 1956(instead of the Interstate Highway Act). When you consider global warming, childhood diabetes/obesity, income stratification you might conclude we need public design ideas that avoid these problems. Our task is to make urban planning fun & a big part of the next economy.
    Any hope for anyone trying to connect voter/taxpayer/small business interests with public design ideas that reflect the ideals of our democracy is to get average citizens understand their role as public designers.
    By now most Americans understand some of the design failures of sprawl. To some extent we allowed design of the built environment to be heavily influenced by short term market forces(including the politics protecting the status quo - big oil, big auto, corporate franchise America). The difficult job ahead of us is getting America to say no to auto transit land use design(sprawl) & yes to a sustainable future.
    Suggested reading: "The Option of Urbanism" Leinberger, "The Great Inversion" Ehrenhalt, "The End of the Suburbs" Gallagher, "Walkable City" Speck

    • Jessica Lowry

      Thanks for your comments and reading recommendations!

      I just finished reading Ken Greenberg's book Walking Home and now I'm reading The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs

  • Kerry L.

    There is a great organization called City Repair in Portland, OR that's doing some really creative and inspirational work on building community and reconnecting people to each other in cities. Very much echos some of the sentiments of this piece. And it's great to see that it's already happening!

    http://cityrepair.org/

    • Jackie Ramirez

      Thank you for sharing Kerry, I highly suggest you post this as "something to learn" for the rest of the GOOD Health Community to see. Feel free to follow me and the Health Hub at GOOD.is/health

  • Marie-emmanuelle Oliver

    I live in Mexico City, distances are really big in the city and I think it is important to connect better neighbourhoods between each other. I think it would simplify a lot relations between people. It is important to put "walking" as a real option in Mexico City. We have to demand and establish an organization and collaboration between citizens and also with the city hall for better and larger sidewalks, better lighting when it's dark. The city is over-polluted, we have to stop using cars for really small distances, improve public transport. Also, if more people are on the streets and walk, security will increase. The situation of being alone in a street will decrease, naturally. Plus, Mexico is the country with the highest rate of childhood obesity... Streets for pedestrians could resolve problems of human relations, health, security and pollution.

    • Jackie Ramirez

      Very well said Marie-Emmanuelle, I am from Guadalajara and the same is true although Mexico City is even more populated therefore the issues are a bit tougher to tackle but not impossible.

      Welcome to GOOD, feel free to follow me and the Health hub at GOOD.is/health to continue expressing your opinion on related matters, either through commenting or posting about innovative solutions to these type of problems.

  • Kumar Manish

    :lovely piece and beautifully expressed. In India, we are facing the same problem. Pedestrians and cyclists are worst sufferers. Cities should be first for its people than cars. We all are forgetting that walk is to human, just like fish is to swim and bird is to fly. Cities should be walkable. Love to get connected with you !

    • Jackie Ramirez

      Very true Kumar. Are you in India?

  • Catarina Guimaraes

    Yes! I completely agree and think about this constantly... Unfortunately this change will have to happen in a very gradual way. People's needs have quickly grown to depend on a non-human scale city. Over-population is the main reason why this occurred. City centers were very crowded and eventually lead to the formation of suburbs, and consequently the necessity for cars. To me, an easy solution would be to start creating various city centers throughout the larger city, concentrating groups of people in different neighborhoods (which have begun to disappear), this would call for human-scale streets and the absolute need for cars would vanish.

    This all follows under the development of effective public transportation systems, which will diminish the number of cars from in the world, leaving only the necessary for accessibility issues (my ultimate dream). It is a very complex subject, but it is possible to achieve. The first step, at least for me, would be to bring back the neighborhood life, and start to create human spaces that will make people appreciate where they live, and feel proud of their surroundings. Creating city microcosms within the larger forever-growing "big city" will not only solve urban density issues, but also reduce the need for long-distance displacement of people.

    • Jackie Ramirez

      Thank you Catarina, I think that's an excellent goal and I think all this is leading us to think how we can all get in room (either physically or virtually) and talk about what needs to happen to create or revitalize spaces, where we can start and how we can move towards action. You are all bringing up fantastic points and know that we at GOOD are listening and getting to work. You are all being a part of the beginning stages of change. Thanks for weighing in.

  • pulecz

    Check out The Human Scale. Brilliant documentary on the subject.

    • Jackie Ramirez

      Thanks for the share, looking fwd to watching it

  • cmhrach

    I agree wholeheartedly, and while I agree with the message, I think we need to be careful where we place the "blame" and whom we need to "tell." City planners get it - but they're not usually the ones in charge of designing public streets. It's often the public works departments, city engineering departments, or even state or county DOTs responsible for street design. These are the folks most responsible who need to hear this information the most, and are usually the groups most pressured to make transportation decisions based on transportation model data and cost first and foremost.

    Where city planners do bear responsibility is starting an educated conversation. In our professional lives, we often find ourselves "preaching to the choir" - we get it, but we need to educate not only our colleagues in engineering and public works departments, but also the citizenry.

    City planners are trained to avoid imposing their will on the citizens for whom they plan - that was the mistake of the urban renewal-riddled 1950s and 1960s. Now, we're trained to communicate information to help communities and decision makers make decisions they can defend to their constituents. We need to show, not tell.

    Bottom line - this is a big deal, and while city planners don't deserve the bad rap, they're uniquely suited to address the problem. Let's just watch our messaging.

    • Jackie Ramirez

      Hi, good point. Thanks for bringing this up. These long form articles are meant to stir up these type of conversations and help each other add value to our arguments to make environments more livable and walkable. We are starting to see the trend of Public Health Departments working with City Planners but Jessica and you make a good point, it isn't just up to the City Planners and they need all of our help to convince stakeholders. So the question now is who do we need to invite to the party/conversation to build more walkable and bikable cities/neighborhoods besides public works departments, engineers, and citizens? I'm very interested in making this happen and helping members like you collaborate to take this issue further.

      • Jessica Lowry

        I'm really blown away by everyone's comments and shared perspectives on this entire comments stream.

        Bringing more voices to the table for discussion is exactly what needs to happen. Historically you hear from all the usual suspects, but rarely from average citizens who experience the bulk of walkability issues.

        This is the starting place for how I started to envision Key to the Street and how a virtual service could facilitate organic, on-going discussions in cities all over the world. Because it's not just what we can learn from each other locally, but also; what can we learn globally?

        Because as others have mentioned, this issue will not be solved overnight and most likely not in our lifetime. The groundwork we lay down now will build streets that enable our children and their children to access safer, more walkable streets.

    • Jessica Lowry

      I totally agree and that's why I state in the article that city planners get it and that we need to support them by signing the petition so they have more statistical data when they're in a position to defend favoring pedestrians to drivers.

      I've been working with The City of Austin, and specifically with the Public Works Department, to understand how I can support them.

      This problem isn't simple and requires a lot of voices from a broad range of experts.

        • Jessica Lowry

          I have heard of these types of things, but I've never witnessed them personally. I'd like to see more walking groups like Critical Mass - I totally support cyclists, but if anyone should be taking back the streets it's pedestrians.

  • tani P.

    So much yes! When I moved from NYC to Atlanta by far the biggest adjustment was the lack of walkability. ATL is making strides to change that (see the Beltline project connecting neighborhoods), but it has a ways to go.