In May, a series of incomprehensible tragedies happened in the City of Portland and the surrounding region – vehicles hitting, hurting, maiming and killing people walking and riding bicycles. One crash after another.
By Katharine Bierce, Sara Zimmerman, and Norma Tassy
Can rural roads be good places to walk and bicycle? Why yes, they certainly can! My daughters got their first bicycles when they were five or six. They loved the bikes – but they couldn’t ride them. Because the streets in our small city were a little too busy for crazily uncoordinated families with bicycles and small children, we would drag ourselves, the girls, and the bikes over to the park every couple weeks. We would run around awkwardly holding the bicycle seats and trying to prevent the girls from crashing to the ground. While this did succeed in providing the whole family with
"It is just not safe to let my child walk or ride their bike to school." So said respondents from the initial survey that the PTA of Linwood Elementary in Milwaukie, Oregon, sent out last spring. They didn’t know that 'Safe Routes to School' – with capital letters – existed. But they knew something was not right, and they wanted to fix it.
The technologies drawing attention are user-centric that allow both users and providers to interact and share information about the transportation network. Active transportation and Safe Routes to Schools advocates should care about these trends because they are expanding transportation options, promoting active lifestyles and tipping the political scales towards multi-modalism in planning and implementation.The digital space is using the influx of information (i.e. big data) to find patterns and efficiencies in the transportation system. These mobile and web applications are facilitating supportive programs and policies for walking, bicycling and Safe Routes to School, even when active transportation is not the immediate focus of mobile and web applications. Safe Routes to School supporters will be able to better partner with transportation agencies, organizations and advocates, if they stay alert to the culture changes that technology is causing within transportation.
First, I posit that ride and car-sharing services will bolster walkable and bikeable communities. I see many ways that students and families will be supported and encouraged to be car-free or car-limited with more reliable alternative networks, such as ride and car-share, cross jurisdictional bicycle and pedestrian networks and public transportation. Ridesharing mobile applications like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar are booming and flipped the script on taxi and car services and local job creation. Users of ride share applications can name their price for trips with Lyft and benefit (or suffer) with surge pricing with Uber. Potentially communities benefits in the strengthening of ride and car-share through crowdsourcing affordability and flexibility. Paratransit riders - usually the elderly and persons with disability - are also frequent users of ride-shares. Additionally, car sharing companies like Zipcar allow drivers to rent a car by the hour, where prices include insurance and maintenance. Personally, I know families that would benefit from having better access to alternative networks to get children to school and after-school activities. One family in particular was forced to give up their car free lifestyle when the local Zipcar location was closed. These technologies are means to fill in the transportation gaps for communities and families.
The Portland, Oregon region, in many regards, is ahead of the curve when it comes to active transportation. The “Bike Bill” (ORS 366.514), passed more than 40 years ago by the Oregon Legislature in 1971, requires the inclusion of facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists wherever a road, street or highway is built or rebuilt.
In early November 2013, the San Bernardino Association of Governments (SANBAG) board adopted a historic Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) (Item 7) with the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). The MOU commits the two agencies to working together on projects related to the implementation of the 2012 Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy (RTP/SCS). While the RTP/SCS is mandated by SB 375, state legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through trying land use and transportation planning in the RTP process, the MOU is strictly voluntary.
The MOU between SCAG and SANBAG demonstrates both agencies’ commitment to the policies, projects and strategies set forth in the 2012 RTP/SCS. It is important for County Transportation Commissions (CTCs) to show commitment to implementation of plans and policies.
Specific planning projects are included in SANBAG’s MOU that will transform San Bernardino County into a more walkable and bikeable place, improve the public health outcomes of its residents and help increase the number of children walking and bicycling to school. The MOU incorporates items recommended in the San Bernardino Active Transportation Vision, statistics and policy recommendations developed by stakeholders from San Bernardino County, including SANBAG staff, San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, Omnitrans, Safe Routes Partnership, American Lung Association, MoveIE and Inland Empire Bicycle Alliance.