Archive for November, 2016

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Livable, Walkable, Poopable?

On November 17th, the National Capital Chapter of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professional‘s (APBP) hosted a Night on Biking, Walking, Streets and Cities. As one of the speakers, APBP asked each of us to give a fun and lively presentation related to walking, biking, streets, urban design, or city building. To ensure a fun evening, we were asked not to give a presentation on a topic that we know well or is part of our professional brand. For me, that ruled out transportation and equity, biking and equity, public engagement and equity, and, well, equity.

The presentations ranged from how to destress on trails to using ice cream shops as indicator for placemaking. For my presentation, I “borrowed” my dear friend Tommy Well’s campaign slogan ‘Building a Livable and Walkable DC’. However, I added ‘Poopable’. The main focus of my presentation was the challenge of finding places for my dog to poop in my walkable neighborhood.

Below is a video of my presentation. The last 40 seconds are missing, but the important points were included.

Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.

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The Urbanist Utopia of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood Image When you have a young child, you interact with certain parts of culture that you wouldn’t otherwise, in my case I’m talking about a cartoon show geared towards toddlers. From time to time my toddler and I watch “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”, which is an extension of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, created to teach social and emotional intelligence to kids. As a planner through and through, while watching this with my toddler, I realized the land of “Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood” struck me as a pseudo urban utopia. One must suspend a few key aspects of reality such as the main character is a talking tiger to really make this ‘land of make believe’ a possibility. However, here’s my analysis of the neighborhood in the show about what makes it an idealistic urban/suburban form with supporting services.

Transportation
The residents of the neighborhood travel around on a vehicle they call “Trolley”, which is actually closer to a bus as it has no rails and no overhead wires, but it is a heritage-style vehicle similar to those in San Francisco. It is a beloved part of the neighborhood. Trolley provides on demand, point-to-point service based on voice activation. Think personal rapid transit with an artificial intelligence twist. Everyone has front-door service that provides as one-seat ride to their destination. Further, this transit exists in conjunction with in-home real-time updates. (Photo) The town is pedestrian friendly and safe because there are no single occupant vehicles on the funfetti-patterned, winding roads. The only vehicles that we see regularly are Trolley, a postal worker (Mr. McFeeley) on his “Speedy Delivery” mail delivery bike, and even more rare is Mr. McFeeley’s mail delivery truck. Mode share is primarily skewed towards transit, followed by pedestrian trips. This is largely a product of the land use and urban form. The Vision Zero game is strong here. Low population aside, the streets are low volume, quiet, and safe. Imagine if actual cities prioritized transit, biking, walking, and wheeling.

Land Use
The downtown core of the neighborhood has all of the necessary amenities and services (healthcare center, grocery store, restaurant, etc.) that you would need in a utopia. Each of these are low scale buildings that I assume as mixed use for housing of the business owners. There’s even farm just outside of the urban core for livestock as well as a continuous source of food in the enchanted garden that the community maintains. The housing type varies from a multifamily housing development in a tree, to a castle housing the neighborhood officials, to a modest beachfront hut (Daniel and Family). A school is just outside of the urban core of the neighborhood, but still connected to it with plenty of green space for the kids to play. The urban form is ripe with some of Kevin Lynch’s Five Elements: paths of the streets, edges seen in the separation of the urban core and residential surroundings, and nodes such as the clock factory. In many ways this neighborhood also resembles a garden city or suburb with its centralized enchanted garden, urban core nearby surrounded by a park and ring road, with houses and their respective lands just outside of the ring road, and open space and forests beyond.

Economy and Government
From what I’ve gathered, the chief exports are artisan clocks and crayons. Imports and exports seem to be handled by the mail man/postal worker. They focus on a “speedy delivery” model which magically transmits orders which shows up almost instantly after deciding an item is needed. There are no orders or paperwork to process your item. Think Amazon Prime mixed with Amazon Echo, but your package shows up right after you say you need, say a broom, out loud. One could make the connection that Grandpere Tiger, who lives on a boat, and is only in town from time to time could be the long distance shipper/exporter of these products. However as a whole, the neighborhood is largely a service economy with artisan and small manufacturing.

Jobs are varied and all provide services to one another. Occupations include librarian (X the Owl), government (King Friday), child care worker (teacher Harriet), factory owner and operator (Lady Elaine), music store owner and musician (Stan the music man), Family Doctor (Dr. Anna), Neighborhood Baker (Baker Aker), Tinkerer and clock maker (Dad Tiger), stay at home mom (Mom Tiger), dance teacher (Henrietta Pussycat), mail worker Mr. McFeeley. Also in order to make the royal family more accessible, Prince Tuesday, the older brother of Daniel’s playmate, holds a variety of odd jobs including a grocery shop worker, farm worker, child care assistant, and part time babysitter. The neighborhood is governed by a royal family, which would suggest a monarchy. However, it is democratic in leadership as evidenced by King Friday holding a vote on what new feature to add to the playground. Everyone, including every child using the playground, got to vote. The decision reflected the popular vote.

Community Character
In the neighborhood, social capital is high, such as everyone supports one another and no visible money is exchanged. Everyone has a hand in parenting the children, it truly takes a village. All of the parents are on the same page when it comes to parenting style and they reinforce each other’s lessons. Demographically speaking, it is diverse in terms of race/ethnicity/species, and family type. There are single mothers, non-traditional family types. Where else would tigers, cats, owls, and humans live in harmony?

All of this is an important step for children across the country to see as a role model. Along with the emotional development lessons, the show is teaching a new generation to appreciate transit accessible, walkable, diverse communities where people know and support their neighbors. You can’t be what you can’t see. For adults and us in the planning community, it also gives a very strong vision of what safe streets look like, what neighborhoods can be, what access to food and transit really mean, how urban cores can support the people that live nearby. This doesn’t have to be as perfect as the show, but it also doesn’t have to stay in the realm of make believe.

Christine E. Mayeur is an urban planner with a unique set of skills and interests. She has been called a “renaissance woman” by her coworkers and is interested in all things creative and challenging. Christine uses her history of working with communities through grass-roots organizations along with her planning skills to help plan transportation systems that meet the needs of all users. 

 

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What is Inclusion?

In 2016, I have given talks of various lengths about transportation/urban planning and equity. Over my career, I have found that when people hear the words diversity and inclusion they default to race and income, often confounding the two. For example, I hear people mention low-income, minority communities. However, as we work on different project and I grow as a professional, I have learned that diversity and inclusion does include race and income as well as other factors. In transportation, I believe that a system that is diverse and inclusive gives everyone independence, options, and assurance that they can get to point A to B safely, timely, and reliably.

On Friday November 4, 2016, I had the privilege of being the keynote at the Annual Harrisonburg & Rockingham Bike-Walk Summit. This year’s theme was “Stronger Together: Building an Inclusive Biking and Walking Community”. As the keynote, I framed the conversation and provided food for thought. The afternoon sessions where small group discussions of how to take my talking points and apply it in the Harrisonburg & Rockingham County context.

Here are some points that I shared with them to consider when building an inclusive biking and walking community.

  1. Be inclusive of persons with disabilities: Often when talking about biking and walking, persons with disabilities are excluded. There are opportunities to include persons with disabilities in active transportation. For example, the organization that I co-founded, Black Women Bike, has visually impaired women that ride with us. We use a tandem bike and a pilot, which is a sighted person.
  2. Engage non-traditional partners: One way to accomplish this is engaging non-traditional partners in transportation planning. For the District’s multimodal plan, moveDC, we engaged advocates that serve low income, homeless, veteran advocates, youth, immigrants, disability/mobility, and LGBTQ populations.
  3. Use images that reflect the community: Photos and images are an easy way to make people feel included. Often on marketing materials the person biking or walking is a fit, young adult. If there is diversity, it is what I call the United Colors of Benneton diversity, which is one person of each race, but they are young models. Photos should reflect the diversity of the community including race/ethnicity, age, abilities, size, shape, professions, and neighborhoods. One way to get photos is to set up a group on a photo sharing website to crowdsource from the community.
  4. Don’t fight, invite: In my work with Nspiregreen and Black Women Bike, I’ve heard all the arguments against “cyclists”. I’ve learned not to fight. Instead, I invite them on a bike ride. Every time I’ve done this it has disarmed people. What I’ve realized is that some people perceive biking as something that is for young, physically fit people. The root feeling is exclusion. After describing how they can bike despite age and physical ability, people are curious and start asking more questions.
  5. Take meetings to the streets: The best way to engage people is to go to the streets. This could include farmer’s markets, bus stops, transit stations, events, festivals, and the literal street corner.

After hearing the report out from the interaction sessions at the summit, I was able to respond and leave everyone with final thoughts. The take home message from the day is that diversity and inclusion has to be intentional, authentic, and built into the planning process versus trying to retrofit after the fact. Diversity describes who is in the room during the planning process.  Inclusion is when people feel heard, they were part of the process, and the outcomes meet the needs of their community.

Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.

 





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