What is placemaking, and how do you measure its progress? If placemaking is a value, an ineffable coming-to being for a place like E. 4th and W. 25th streets that make it attractive, is it possible to dissect it order to replicate it? For community developers, it's a very real question. While placemaking smacks of wonkish urban planner speak, local group Neighborhood Progress, Inc. is exploring what makes it tick. Linda Warren says NPI, a funder and a planner, is interested in devising a set of metrics for placemaking, and wonders what transportation-related investments are the most important. Is it bike lanes created, road width, crash statistics or something similarly tangible that factors in to how Cleveland re-designs streets to invite the good kind of infill development.
* * *
Next time your aggressive uncle goes all redfaced that no one bikes and why spend money, Portland bike advocate Elly Blue advises, “let the ad hominim attack go by, lay down some facts, and walk away.”
Blue says economics makes the Conservative’s case for cities to invest seriously in biking.
“When you ride a bike, you’re actually putting money back in to the system. When you drive a car, you’re costing the system $3,000 a year,” she says, citing data from Canadian economist Todd Litman. Litman quantifies how bikes put much less strain on roads.
A study of a separated bike lane, aka cycle track, built in New York in 2007 found a 50% increase in retail sales on that stretch (compared with 3% increase citywide), she said. Crashes also decreased by 50 percent.
Blue talks about the equity for bike investments in cities with high concentrations of poverty. “If you live in a low income neighborhood, you’re less likely to have walkable streets. Streets that feel safe.”
Transportation framed as a civil rights issue would question how much value the $8 million per mile of rural freeway (Source: Michigan DOT) would bring to highly populated urban areas.
“If you had the political machinations lined up and the public support, Cleveland could be the best bike city in the U.S.,” Blue told a group at the Ohio City Bike CoOp.
“What was invested in Portland was actually miniscule.”
Portland has invested $65 million since 2008 in its bike system, creating 150 miles of bike lanes.
The devil’s advocates in the house argued that Cleveland isn’t like Portland.
Bike Cleveland director Jacob Van Sickle argued that “Cities like Portland and Minneapolis are just making roads more comfortable and safe for everyone.” NPI President, Joel Ratner, urged Blue and the bike advocates in the room to move the discussion to a bigger venue, like the City Club. “If the decision makers don’t show up, the civil engineers will not get it prioritized.”
Van Sickle says his group and NAACP are planning a transportation equity summit in June.
* * *
“It is an awe-inspiring sight to see hundreds of bicycles parked in front of these schools. It sends a powerful message about the huge impact youth can have on the community with the simple act of riding a bike,” said Scott Cowan, owner of Century Cycles on the 1,183 students in Rocky River, Bay Village and Medina who participated this week in Bike to School Day.
* * *
Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11) this week introduced the Let’s Grow Act of 2013 to support sustainable agriculture activities in American cities while improving access to healthy food for underserved communities. The legislation addresses the epidemic of hunger and the high rate of childhood obesity with expansion and modernization of proven programs such as The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.
"This bill encourages Americans to live healthier lives by focusing on locally grown, fresh foods. It provides incentives for non-traditional farming, which are especially important in urban areas including Cleveland, and gives agricultural entrepreneurs the support they need to grow and build successful enterprises," said Congresswoman Fudge.
"We must do more to improve nutrition for a generation of children, many of whom are estimated to have shorter life expectancies than their parents due to poor health. This comprehensive legislation will allow low-income families and seniors access to healthier foods and improve their diets, relieving some of the stress on our current health care system. With thousands of acres of vacant property due to the foreclosure crisis as well as a recession that hit middle class families hard, this measure also strengthens the ability of cities to convert abandoned properties for agricultural uses and enhance economic recovery in distressed areas."