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Useful Community Plus
August 15, 2019
In This Issue: Updating Your Thinking on Safe Routes to School; Resources on Pedestrian Safety, Downtown Retail, Gentrification, U.N. Sustainable Development Goals; Plenty of New Website Material This Month
Can the Children Walk or Bicycle to School Safely?
Making sure that children can walk or ride bicycles to school should be a priority for every community. We think this helps establish the habit of observing the neighborhood and its endless changes, as well as developing an eye for issues and opportunities close to home.
Safe neighborhoods, free of crime and war, are part of the picture. Families that can survive without involving the children in hunting for food or safe water for hours every day are essential to getting kids to school safely. But we notice that many people feel powerless to influence those potential deterrents to school attendance and use of so-called active transportation to arrive there. Thus we wanted to call attention to what is more do-able for many communities and volunteers.
In the U.S., this program has been called Safe Routes to School and has been funded to some extent under that name since 2006. Now some of the lessons are clear. A community seeking safe walking and bicycling routes to school must focus on all six E's: engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, evaluation, and equity.
You might involve your public works department in engineering safer intersections, building sidewalks and bike lanes, and designing skinnier roads and wider bridges. Your police department may need to monitor speeding or rolling stops at particular locations. You may need to teach drivers that actually some children still walk to school! Another community might want to assure that kids in less prosperous neighborhoods enjoy the same protections as wealthier neighborhoods.
Suburban communities that were built without sidewalks may present a particular challenge, but one that can be resolved with long-range planning for a more walkable community for all age groups. Drivers have been enjoying priority for a long time, but many social, civic, public health, and technology trends are converging to suggest this is a great time to concentrate on walkability.
One very simple starter idea is the walking school bus. Enlist a couple of parents, one for the head of the line and one for the rear. Find kids from the same neighborhood and organize a little route so that a procession can build by walking by homes to "pick up" kids along the way until you reach school. Everyone gets some exercise and fresh air to start the day.
Some of you can identify relatively simple and inexpensive solutions. We suggest that you go ahead with implementing those locally, as safe walking and bicycling are likely to be part of the juggling that will occur as transportation bill reauthorization must occur or be postponed in 2020.
A Few Articles We Found IntriguingWe found this article applicable broadly to pedestrian safety, not just safety of school children. It uses three cities as case studies.
If you find yourselves struggling with downtown retail prosperity, check out this helpful article. (If you have as much retail as you'd like, others would like to know how you did that!)
For a useful perspective on gentrification, check out this article. It points out there is no need for hysteria in slow market cities, and but that this is a real and imminent danger in hot real estate market cities. However, the big point is that the remedy is the same: equitable development.
We found a a good update for all of us on the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, how we are not even remotely meeting them, and how world poverty is now concentrated in Africa. Our overuse of our global environmental resources is leading to the lack of sustainability of the global prosperity gains that have been made everywhere else.
New On the Useful Community Development Website This MonthThis month we wrote a timely article on ideas for your autumn community newsletter. Pass this on to your neighborhood association or homeowners association newsletter editor.
Then we have been busy answering many questions from site visitors. Send your own question by visiting the community development question page.
Here are the new articles based on visitor questions:
Code Enforcement Singling Me Out
As always, feel free to contact us. See you next month.
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