Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending the Genesee-Finger Lakes Active Transportation Summit. The insufferable references to Spiderman aside, it was a very informative and thought provoking day. It was a bit of a lovefest, but I caught a lot of information about where Rochester is in terms of bikability and walkability. And as I was there as part of my job, I was able to put a lot of the info into the context of disability rights as well.
I even was impressed enough by one of the speakers, Jeff Olson, to buy his e-book online: The Third Mode: Towards a Green Society. I'm looking forward to reading his work.
The main gist of the event was: making sure our city is more bike-friendly and walking-friendly means people will be healthier, our economy will be supported and everyone will be better off. Children were a big part of this theme. Our kids are not allowed and/or it's not safe for them to bike and walk to school. This was brought up by almost every speaker.
I would love to see our kids bike and walk to school, but more bike lanes and curb cuts are not going to get it done.
First of all, our push to eliminate neighborhood schools means kids using Active Transportation to get to school is out. Even our elementary kids are bussed across town. While I'm not running for School Board, I am an advocate of neighborhood schools for a number of reasons. There are some folks who will disagree with me and I would encourage those people to engage me and the rest of the community on this site and in person. For now, I'm pointing out that the lack of neighborhood schools prevents our kids from walking and biking to school - both of which actually benefit learning.
But there is another adult-made barrier to our kids using Active Transportation. Our police department has a publicly stated policy, in the name of "safety" to harass any young, black males on bicycles. I am against this policy for a number of reasons and I will explain these reasons in a future post, but the point is, we're not going to get kids riding bikes to and from school if they know the police will be stopping and searching them.
Overall, I liked most of what I heard at GFLATS. Emphasizing Active Transportation is in line with my emphasis on community, locally-owned businesses and family asset building. The affects Active Transportation has on public health is indisputable. But unless the different parts of our City government start working with each other, we will just be biking or walking in a circle. Again.
When elected, I will not only work to speed along the City's bike plan, but I will make sure there are not negating factors.