Friday, December 7, 2012

Transportation policy begins with you, bike advocates!

Look closely for my neatly folded Brompton; recognize the Dahon?
First things first.  My semester is almost over!  One more paper to do, to be completed, with two of my classmates, is due at the end of next week then I'm free for the next three weeks.  I'll be recovering from knee surgery for most of that time but I'm looking forward to a chance to catch up on the lives of other bloggers and do some reading I never to around to this semester.

Cousin Angie and partner in crime.
Since I paced myself with respect to my last school assignments, I had time last night to attend the City of Phoenix Bicycle Initiative Subcommittee meeting at City Hall.  Ma cousine Angie met me there.  Just a couple of ladies on folding bikes exercising our civic duty to keep informed about what's going on with bicycle infrastructure in our city.  Streets Transportation staff presented on Phoenix's street classification system as it relates to bike infrastructure and other facilities and provided updates on the latest installation of bike corrals, bike lanes and multi-use paths and pedestrian bridges around town.

The big takeaway for me was that the challenges of extending and enhancing bicycle infrastructure in Phoenix is not only that of funding but of overcoming physical barriers imposed by decades of city planning that prioritized car culture.  In most cases, current and forward planning does not allow physically, financially or politically to rip out the in-place infrastructure, built up over some 40 - 50 years (probably much more) and put in  the outstanding bike and pedestrian infrastructure that alt transportation advocates and readers of this and other bicycle blogs dream of.  Especially when we live in a country (and certainly in Arizona) where ideas like community, collective responsibility and public good are viewed a threat to freedom and liberty and the path to community tyranny.  The fact is that a lot of people love their cars and don't think a bicycle is a viable transportation option.

For those of you who have not had the good fortune of being a public employee, news of a "road diet" or the elimination of curbside parking spaces for the installation of almost always are followed by angry phone calls and emails from business and property owners worried the financial impact of change, and people convinced the government is trying to take away their cars.  Occasionally, they result in threats of violence against elected officials and city staff.  I am not joking; this was going on long before the "Tea Party" crowd started shouting down politial candidates at public forums.

So what's a transportation cyclist who values locking up to an elegant bike corral next to her office more than shelling out $500 a year to park five blocks away to do?  Well, Grasshopper, consider the art of patience. Portland and Copenhagen weren't built in a day - and let's face it, they had the advantage of a much more collectivist-minded populace.  We need to be attending and participating in public meetings and forums on transportation and community planning.   City and county websites post the dates and staff really do want your input.  Probably a dozen people showed up for last night's Bicycle Initiative Subcommittee meeting, and that's not including staff and committee members.  In the world of public meetings, that's actually pretty good attendance.  And people asked questions and gave comment.  What else can you do?  Invite other potentially interested people to attend.  I invited three, and two of them showed up.  What else can you do?   Well, you, and I, can send emails to your elected officials and let them know how and why you support bike lanes and other alternative transit options.  I tend to focus on dollars and cents issues.  Biking saves me money.  When we bike to the Suns games, the money we save in parking is spent at nearby restaurants after the game.  The money I save on gas supports local artists, boutique owners and coffee shops.  Finally, we can all be a constant P.R. campaign for city cycling.  Without fail, people notice how happy I look on my bike.  Someone, mostly perfect strangers, remarks on that very thing to me nearly every day.  A couple of times a week, including last night after the meeting while Angie and I were waiting for the train with our bikes, someone asks me about how I like getting around by bike.  Love it, I say.  It's usually the best part of my day.  And it's true.  I'll never know how many seeds I've planted in the last four years but I certain that there have been one or two.

So, I'm done with my little soap box for the moment.  Just thought I'd share some thoughts from last night.  I learned Mayor Greg Stanton is leading a community bike ride on Saturday, December 8 beginning at 4 p.m.  I have a policy paper to work on but I might just go if I have the time.  The plan is to stop at the Phoenix Museum of Art and end at Indian School Road..  Helmets are required but hey, there will be food carts!


David Bickford said...

Thanks for the report. I had this on my calendar for the last week of November and then learned the day of the event that it had been cancelled. Somehow, I never heard about the rescheduled date in early December.

She Rides a Bike said...

David, the very next day I pedaled up behind Joe Perez at a red light on 3rd Street. We had a very nice conversation about the link between public transit and transportation cycling and it's big piece of the puzzle. We need to be active promoters of both.

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