The Bicycle Transportation Alliance: A healthy vision

By Rob Sadowsky, Contributing Columnist

We’re excited to introduce you to Healthy Streetbeat, a new monthly column for Street Roots written by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA). Our contributors are Rob Sadowsky, executive director, and Margaux Mennesson, communications director. Over the next few months we will be sharing our thoughts about traffic justice, healthy streets, and other transportation issues that affect our community.

Every day on our streets, there are acts that constitute a violent and anti-social assault on life, health and community. Our transportation system and our driving culture cause crashes that result in the loss of life and property. You might typically read about traffic accidents, when vehicles collide with other vehicles, with people walking, with people biking. These are not accidents. We believe that they can be prevented through improved engineering, through improved training and education, and through increased enforcement of laws.

Our streets are suffering. They are unhealthy. We are afraid to go near them. We are afraid to let our kids go near them. We feel safer when we are protected by several tons of steel. We think walking or biking is too dangerous, not worth the risk. We fear for our personal safety, the safety of our kids, of our friends.

Let us share our vision. We envision a healthy street where a loving couple can walk through their neighborhood on the sidewalk holding hands, young toddler in tow, without concern for how they will cross the next intersection.  We imagine a healthy street that is filled with people of all ages, colors and backgrounds riding bikes that emit no greenhouse gases. We envision a healthy neighborhood where people walk to school and to the grocery store, with an occasional motor vehicle (burning clean fuel, of course) arriving to deliver a large piece of furniture.  A healthy street is one that’s accessible by transit, so that the toddler’s elderly grandparent can easily get around to do their daily errands or meet their bird-watching club in a nearby park.

A healthy street is part of a system, and a healthy system has interlinking parts.  That system includes parks, schools, business centers and libraries. The system flows smoothly between all its interlinking parts so people can move around it no matter if the starting point or the destination is in a dense urban neighborhood or a tree-lined suburban neighborhood.

We need to work to transform our unhealthy streets into healthy streets. We must focus on improving safety of the whole street environment through strategies such as speed reduction and building better biking and walking infrastructures. We must teach everyone safe driving behaviors, biking behaviors, and walking behaviors through early education and ongoing training of road users. We must learn how to safely prevent crashes from occurring in the first place.

To build healthier streets, to tackle the problems that have led to this unjust traffic environment, we need to engage all users of the road and all parts of our society. Underserved communities bear a disproportionate share of the burden of our current transportation system: There are more crashes, fatalities, and serious injuries, and the consequences of a crash are greater. More people are uninsured, so even minor traffic incidents can lead to long-term health and financial effects.

We are hopeful and optimistic that we can make a big difference in this environment.  We will use this column to showcase successful stories and best practices that other communities have used to reduce crashes and redesign streets to make them truly healthy.

We will only realize this vision of healthy streets within a healthy transportation system with many partners, and we’ll use this column to showcase some of the great work our partners have embarked upon.  We’ll also share how readers can become engaged and involved in this work.  Let us know how we’re doing, share with us what you’d like us to cover.  Join us on our travels.

2 responses to “The Bicycle Transportation Alliance: A healthy vision

  1. So how do we make living car-lite super cool?

  2. Pingback: Healthy Streetbeat: A New Monthly Column in Street Roots | BTA Oregon

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