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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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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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Seeking Transportation and Finding Art

If you spend more than an hour with me, you quickly learn that I am a transportation nerd. Even when I go on vacation, I cannot stop myself from observing how people move. In July 2016, I traveled to Colombia with a DC-based church for a mission trip. I traveled to Colombia a few days earlier than the rest of the team because I wanted to see Mio, the public transportation system in Cali. Yes, my entire purpose for going to Cali was to see public transportation.

My first day in Cali, I set out on foot to find Mio. As I was walking down the street, I noticed a ten story mural. I did not want to stop and look, because I was on a mission to get to Mio. Eventually, I navigated my way to the main Mio route. When I saw the route, I witness that Mio does not operate in a bus lane. It operates in A BUS STREET. There was an entire street dedicated to the bus in a relatively narrow street curb to curb. I was as emotional as a five-year-old seeing Mickey Mouse for the first time.

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The challenge of Mio is that the ridership is so high, every bus was stuffed to the gills. Even though I came to Cali to experience the public transportation system first hand, when the bus doors opened and I was faced with the mass of people, I decided to pass. I do not do well in overcrowded situations.  With my plans to ride foiled, I walked back to the ten story mural.

After taking in the mural and all of its intricate details, I noticed another one not far away. I started walking toward the second mural. Then I noticed more. Needless to say I ended up on an adventure around the city to find the murals, which people in Cali call graffiti. I explored Cali by foot for several hours hunting for murals.  Here are some of my favorites:

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After getting back to my hotel, the experience reminded me about the importance of public art in cities. Murals, sculptures, and other forms of public art create a sense of place that, in supporting the community’s creativity, encourages walkability.  In the Ten Principles for Building Healthy Places, the Urban Land Institute found public art slows cars and make streets more attractive for shoppers and pedestrians. Other places can follow Cali’s example of encouraging murals as a tool for encouraging walking.

 

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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