Monday, December 21, 2009

Contested Streets

The following video was linked to over at Copenhaginize. This video is part of the Contested Streets documentary from Transportation Alternatives.



I found the following quote very interesting:

They never put out a big Master Plan. Let's make a lot of pedestrian space. Let's make a lot of bicycle lanes. Let's take a lot of parking out of the city. Let's narrow all the traffic streets. NEVER! Because if you did that in one plan, you would loose the election right now. Because nobody would believe that it would work.

What they have done in this city (Copenhagen) is that they have taken little steps every year for 40 years. And there is a fantastic difference between what it was then and what it is now.

As we all look forward to the changes in the US transportation balance and a increase in other modes of travel (including bikes, pedestrian, and mass transit), we need to temper our desires for instant radical change. Until people start to see the benefits of a more balanced transportation system, and the benefits of complete streets, it will be difficult for them to believe the truth of many of assertions we so often make. However, we also need to keep the pressure on our elected officials and city planners to start making some changes in these areas to see what works and doesn't work in our cities.

UPDATE: We don't want anyone to be confused by the statement above. You can see in the comments that not everyone understood what we were trying to say. We all need to continue working to get the city of Omaha to make changes to the Omaha transportation system that better support bikes and pedestrians. We just don't want anyone to be discouraged by the lack of "instant radical change".

8 comments:

erik said...

advocacy organizations don't ask for half-fixes, they argue for the ideal and compromise at the halfway point.

you're not a political entity running for office, you're a group which desires to represent and support the needs of transportation and recreational cyclists.

don't sell the worthwhile efforts of cyclists across the country to get master plans, and other big ideas, short. they work, and they work all over our country, when it comes to going from nothing to something. goodness, you guys were just talking about how awesome your master plan in east O is.

once you have a system in place that can support more than a barely countable mode-share, then let's talk about letting the process unfold organically. right now, that isn't the case (as it was in copenhagen, which simply has responded to the needs of cyclists as they have arised since the 70s when things began to change).

you're an advocate, and that's not a popular-vote politician.

i'm beginning to think that omaha needs an independent bicycle coalition funded by its members. just like most every city that can demonstrate good modeshare, the two aren't coincidental. i say this with all admiration for those fighting the fight right now, but the gloves do need to come off at times. i'm afraid city funded organizations must remain too politically neutral (or conservative, in the case of transportationally-retroactive omaha that lacks even a department of transportation in the first place)

please now, I'll enjoy to read the strawman attacks that will ensue, as they always do. Label me a leftist or naive, and enjoy riding paths that don't get plowed in a non-place where people don't understand your right to the road.

we need powerful advocacy to stem the tide, it isn't going to change without people voicing the unpopular, yet scientifically demonstrated, realities.

right now, omaha desperately needs a bicycle master plan that is a part of a larger effort to stem the sprawl which is going to undo it (like your hero city of portland, no doubt, did--with the active support of radicalized planners and officials whose policy was "it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission"*)

*that quote is straight out of cycling revolution.

Biker Bob said...

wow... and here I was trying to encourage people not to get discouraged that we can't do the hole thing "instant radical change" in one day.

"you're not a political entity running for office, you're a group which desires to represent and support the needs of transportation and recreational cyclists."

Correct, but the people that make the decisions that will change Omaha for the better are elected officials and city employees. Do we expect them to make decisions that will end their political career? Right now they have no political backing for making the hard choices. That needs to change, and we are working on that change.

"don't sell the worthwhile efforts of cyclists across the country to get master plans, and other big ideas, short. they work, and they work all over our country, when it comes to going from nothing to something. goodness, you guys were just talking about how awesome your master plan in east O is."

Where in the world did you come up with that idea. Exactly how am I selling anyone short. BTW...Omaha does not have a master plan. NODO does have a similar plan, but it does not map out specifically any of the changes that a balanced transportation plan and livable streets plan might include. My OPINION is that we need one, but we also need some political will built up behind such a plan before it will get any traction.

"once you have a system in place that can support more than a barely countable mode-share, then let's talk about letting the process unfold organically. right now, that isn't the case ..."

I am 100% behind pushing aggressively for said system. I am also NOT advocating for letting the system develop organically any time soon. Again, you need to stop putting words in my mouth.

"you're an advocate, and that's not a popular-vote politician."

Huh... did I say I am a politician? What I AM saying is that politicians ARE involved in the process of making the changes we desire?

"i'm beginning to think that omaha needs an independent bicycle coalition funded by its members..."

Stay tuned.

"strawman attacks"... take a close look at your comment. The straw man is already laying in pieces in the field.

Erik, you have good ideas and you are passionate about the topic. This is good. But your approach needs some work.

You also need to keep in mind that there is a lot more going on in Omaha for transportation advocacy than what you see on this blog. That will be changing in the near term.

AOJules said...

Bob is correct - there are many things going on many levels here...and even more coming down the pike if a major grant application gets funded (we'll know in January).

I'm especially intrigued by the statement that "advocacy organizations don't ask for half-fixes, they argue for the ideal and compromise at the halfway point." Uh, isn't "asking for a half-fix" and "settling for a compromise at the half way point" the same thing? I'm not sure that is my definition of advocacy.

This is a marathon, not a sprint - a marathon in perpetuity. I would say that Omaha has found its stride and has settled into a nice pace, while positioning itself to be ready to kick it up a notch when the opportunity is right.

There is a reason that we are on the radar screen of some of the nation's top bike/ped advocacy organizations. They know us, they take our calls, they reach out to us. They believe that we are on the right track, they are lifting us up as an example to other cities that want to join the cause.

We're looking forward to a nice long run in 2010 - we may have to slow down and stretch every now and again, but we're good to go.

erik said...

the quote you presented, as representative of the a take-home message from this video, tells us that bicycle master plans aren't necessary.

it's a misrepresentation of what is needed in america to reduce it to such a level.

i've listened to two conferences given by jan gehl, one about oakland, the other about san francisco. he lauds the bicycle master plans. those are two cities who have radical effective member based advocacy organizations who are never satisfied with the pathetic gifts of the state. they push continually, and advocate "beyond their membership" to throw significant political weight against issues that are not popular.

right now, as an example, they are working to get a bridge toll increase to fund a bike path addition on the west span of the bay bridge.

my point is that radical dialogue is what makes this possible, and omaha sorely leans hard conservative on all issues related to bicycling. it's a sad thing, but we can't enter the debate in such a climate with an already compromised vision.

this website is YOUR voice, but it's also the voice of cyclists. when city leaders read that sort of thing, they're going to discount you. I'm amazed such rhetoric is the public face of our bicycle advocacy work.

and you're right that i'm frustrated, very frustrated, by the fact that we as a city can't get our shit together. i take shit all the time for voicing what should be the dominant voice of cyclists here (just as it is in places like portland, minneapolis, etc).

I RESPECT WHAT YOU'RE DOING, at the same time your methodology seems way too submissive if you hope to overcome the landed interests which dominate our city.

i hope to one day understand fully the organizational means in which to best catalyze a cycling revolution in omaha. Right now, I do know that master plans are the lynchpin of city's which are able to ensure things get done for cyclists given in the United Statesian framework of transportation development.

Synthesis through compromise happens after antithesis of opposing views. If you start with huge demands, and you can passionately advocate the just why of those demands, then you will get much more in any political process. That's what I'm doing here, because I refuse to water down or colloquialize the demonstrated fact that OUR CAUSE IS JUST.

erik said...

there are a few grammatical errors i missed. i think my point still is clear, but sorry.

GetActive said...

Just an FYI, Activate Omaha has been working with those in City Planning and Public Works for a while now. These individuals recognize the importance of having a master plan that includes all modes of transportation. Such a thing doesn't just happen by magic...it does cost money. We have been requesting it be done, the City knows it needs to be done, and together we are searching for a way to make it happen.
With support from our community and a partnership with both the City of Omaha and MAPA, we have created a position and found the funds to hire Omaha's first Balanced Transportation Manager. This will be huge for the City of Omaha. Once the position is filled, I foresee many changes happening.
It's not that we are just sitting back being submissive. We've decided to work together with the City and the cycling community, as a partnership, to get things done. It may not be the way other cities are forging ahead...but it's how we've decided to approach it AND it's working. Improvements are being made, are being planned, and we are doing this without the political will. Once we build a constituency and can show that people care, there will be no stopping us!

erik said...

again. much love and respect to all you involved with activate omaha and bike omaha.

you serve a wonderful role.

i wonder however, if another player is needed.

let me illustrate my fear one last time, and then bid you all a happy holiday.

These are simply imagined numbers, i'm only using them for analogy to more complicated topics.

Right now, I see activate omaha asking for 25% of the ideal. The city (and its illustrious department of roads) asks for 0% -- you compromise and net 12.5.

That's wonderful, but we have how many blocks with bicycle lanes after years of such work? 7?

The voice of the city's active transportation users needs to push continually for the 100%, even if it's unpopular. It will shift the point of compromise much further to your interests, to continue the silly number game above -- 50%.

Moderate requests result in development asymptotic to a point far short of the sort of significant realizations we need.

Where is activate omaha's public statement about the impact of the proposed beltway as it relates latent demand and induced traffic volume? I don't see it, but we need a voice that fights for the big picture.

With that, let the storm tonight be mild and your holiday breaks be restful. Please don't take significant offense at what I'm saying, I take the role of dialectics seriously, and this debate must be expanded. It would be a shame if there weren't idealist demands existent at all.

Biker Bob said...

Dave Reinarz, cycling advocate

"There is alot to say about master plans and change in the transportation system.

The bicycle advocates I have talked to from other parts of the country say that it is imperative to become part of the planning process and get things for cycling and pedestrians and mass transit in the master plan. You can't get things built using city dollars and federal matching funds unless they are in the plan. You advocate for everything and hope to get some things in the plan.

Over a period of years, as the facilities and enhancements are utilized by the public to an ever-increasing degree, more things are added to the plan and implemented. This is what has happened with the metro paved trail system. Now, everbody uses these trails, developers want trails, the various government divisions are used to funding trails. The same will happen with bike lanes, lane diets, mass transit improvements, new sidewalks.

Having said that, it is my experience, based on living in and around Omaha since the mid-60's,that property development interests and construction companies have a high degree of influence on what goes into planning and what modifications are made to planning over time. Neighborhood associations/business district groups have gained influence recently. Citizens who want to move away from the auto-centric transportation model need to network with these groups to help build a new vision of how a city operates. Right now, you can't close streets or put bike lanes on major arterials or build sophisticated transit park & ride stations because the development interests don't have the vision. I believe the citizenry will switch modes as soon as convenient and safe alternatives are on the ground. There is precedent for this in cities in the US and around the globe.

Here are some other things to consider. You have to want to live in a vibrant, sustainable city where you regularly interact, face to face, with other people. The necessities of life should be locally produced and distributed and be available within reasonable distances by foot, bike, or bus. If you live away from the city core, you should leave your car on the outskirts and travel in the city by other means. Living more simply and consuming less of the world's resources, is not just the goal but the logical outcome of these changes.
"