Monday, September 24, 2012

Why I support Livable Streets

As astute readers may have noticed,  I'm signed up to participate in the Bike for Life ride next weekend to raise money for the Livable Streets Alliance.
I started getting interested in bicycle advocacy about three years ago after two years of commuting in Boston.  At that time, I felt like the viewpoints of slow(er) transportation bikers or women weren't necessarily being represented in the public planning process. When I first started going to public meetings, it felt like there were lots of men in dayglo gortex, and a lot of them felt that riding in the lane was a fine solution for everyone.  They couldn't really understand that a slower rider wouldn't feel comfortable riding in fast moving traffic, and they thought that I was being impractical and unsafe by riding in a dress or heels.

After a while, I found my way to the Livable Streets Alliance as an organization which seemed like a good match to my advocacy goals.   Livable Streets are streets that are safe and comfortable for 8 year olds and for 80 year olds.  They are comfortable for people walking, driving or riding bicycles, parents with strollers, joggers and flauneurs.   They are good for local businesses, and create dense and vibrant urban communities.  I volunteer as a member of their Advocacy committee- a group of freelance advocates who email each other and get together to share ideas and resources.  I spend evenings going to meetings (often summarized on this blog), write letters, and canvass for signatures to further these goals.

 LSA was founded by a transportation engineer who believed that streets were public spaces that shouldn't necessarily be ceded to the purpose of moving cars as quickly as possible.  It has created a coalition of bicyclists, walkers, people with physical disabilities and transit users; public health officials environmentalists, social justice advocates and progressive engineers and planners, all who believe that streets and cities are about people, not just cars.

 We believe that cities and regions need to turn away from the outmoded view that cars are the only real form of transportation, and consider all the ways that people get around in making planning decisions.  Livable Streets Alliance takes a unique approach of trying to work cooperatively with local and regional governments.  Many advocates have an adversarial relationship with their official counterparts, following successful campaigns with more strident demands instead of thanks and encouragement.  LSA strives to provide resources, technical advice and common sense solutions to help governments provide the best and most balanced streets possible.

Livable Streets Alliance has had some notable successes so far-  the bike lanes on the BU bridge, and the planned bike lanes on the Museum Bridge are highlights.   We've helped in the planning of bike lanes on Anderson and Longfellow bridge, and hope to achieve cycletracks on Western and River Street bridges.   We're also working to repair communities damaged by urban freeways.   We, along with many others lobbied for the Casey overpass to be removed in favor of an at-grade solution with better bike-ped connections to the Emerald Necklace.  We're pushing to begin the process of removing the McCarthy Overpass which slashes through Somerville, and the Bowker Overpass which divides Back Bay.  We're also working to convince the legislature to establish a more secure financial future for the MBTA, which provides mobility for the entire region.

Livable Streets Alliance relies on dedicated volunteers.  However we need funding for a small fulltime staff, equipment, office space and fliers and informational materials.   Donations raised through the Bike for Life fundraiser will help us do more to promote the interests of active transportation and public transportation in upcoming years.

I hope that you'll consider supporting me, or becoming a member of LSA, or both.   The button at the lower right of this page takes you to my fund raising page.  If you support the ideas of Livable Streets and the work they do going to meetings, contacting town engineers, and elected officials, I hope you'll consider making a donation.

1 comment:

  1. I'm coming to the thought that streets that are ADA compliant or safe for the elderly are streets that are safe for everyone. If planners, city officials, and the government won't do it for cyclists, I bet they'll do it for a different demographic. And then not just cyclists win, but everyone. Kudos on your volunteering, and keep us posted on future successes!