Safe Routes to Schools
Look them up! These are two concepts about rebuilding street plans to accomodate all modes of transportation in a safe and efficeint way in order to create healthy vital communities. Sounds great.
The key is making these plans an accessible resource for everyone not only the people who have access to them. The ideas are great, but too often neighborhood improvements and re-defining spaces to make them accessible are retro-fitted to “developing” areas with money, population and “a say in things”. Many times the communities and neighborhoods that could benefit most from these developments are left out of the picture. As we plunge deeper into economic, environmental and social crisis we also re-evaluate our dependency on resources and things that exasperate these circumstances. One of the best ways of providing information to effectively evaluate these circumstances is through education.
Fender Bender believes strongly in education as a transformative tool and an essential investment in any community. It’s as important to be sure these plans and concepts are available to low income “undeveloped” and low population areas as it is to places that are “investable”. True investment is when people who live in the community feel that it is their community. There is no greater investment in a building, neighborhood or city than ones that come from the people who live right in it. Creating a sense of ownership, safety and engagement on a level that activates and fosters healthy relationships with one another are lasting and sustainable investments.
Once upon a time much of Detroit was designed through the eyes of the automotive industry (a car reliant society) as well as the idea that Detroit would exist as the Greatest American City forever. It was extravagant and gluttonous. Extra wide streets were built to host a gigantic population and the export of war machines developed by Ford for WWI and II. Motorized mobility made incentive for people to plan routes and streets for that sort of travel. Currently, the wide streets, lack of foresight and the city’s vast size, combined with population decline and other obstacles have contributed to serve division of neighborhoods both physically and economically. Strong communities have been broken up numerous times at the cost of a new highway entrance or because neighborhood and street maintainance has stopped. Though we may continue to live in unmaintained areas out of neccessity, it makes daily activities like leaving for work on unplowed streets in six inches of snow to catch a bus at a stop maybe a mile away feel defeating. These divides also fragment the power of people in numbers and the strength that comes from a unified group. Unified groups create confidence and have a greater voice to participate in change. When strong communities have been scattered and re-puzzled to opposite ends of the city multiple times how are solid bonds to form with one another? Detroit has routinely suffered from economic gutting and displacement, weakening our ability to form alliances that would allow citizens to create a Detroit they want to be a part of. Transportation, mobility and short-sighted street/neighborhood planning has played a major role in this deconstruction. We can and deserve to be a part of the reconstruction.
In re-thinking the development of neighborhoods, including housing and street layout there are many things to consider. School placement in relation to the student body that will attend the school is one aspect. Where will access to healthy foods be available? Do we want to grow our own food or go to the grocery or both? What about healthcare facilities and public spaces such as parks and greenways that provide foundations that help us connect to our bodies and lives in active ways? What kind of healthcare is needed? The list goes on and on. It is certain in our modern world that transportation and mobility is necessary to make any of these services available and accessible to the public. A big part of this is learning to use what we have in place already to create what we want. How do we turn a four lane one-way into a two lane two-way with a grassy medium of trees and cross-walks for bicycles, walkers and handicap to get around easily and safely? We need to look at what routes we currently use and how to improve them, or make undesirable travel paths into ones we want to travel. These are basic questions that each of us can think about and find solutions for.
Can you think of other questions or concerns about transportation and mobility that would be important to ask when considering how to address the way we get around in the city? What are important improvements for you to see happen in your neighborhood? Be it physical or asthetic…fruit trees, flowers, a stop sign, speed bumps, sidewalk repair, crossing guards, etc.
Write back and let us know what you think! Or respond with a question for us to think about. We would love to begin an open forum of conversation including your opinions and ideas and how you want to be involved in planning the future of Detroit.