Saturday, December 26, 2009

What is Balanced Transportation?

It has been said that Peter Furth was ousted from his seat on Brookline's Transportation Board because he was "too focused on bicycles". Not even getting into the truth about Professor Furth's bona fide credentials as a world class transportation engineer, let's just stop for a minute and think about what saying that someone is "too focused on bicycles" to be on the Transportation Board means.

Bicycles are one form of transportation. A very efficient, inexpensive, accessible and non-polluting one at that. In fact, it's fair to say that we have become so biased in our view that we think myopically, assuming that "transportation" is code speak for moving cars. Can we imagine someone saying "he's too focused on cars"? By articulating how to improve conditions for bicycling, we are making an effort to nudge our thinking a bit. Our community could improve if we viewed our public streets as a community asset and amenity meant to be used in a way that promotes access, safety and livability. This means looking holistically at the needs of the those in a car, those on foot, those riding a bike, and those riding the bus and train. How do all those moving parts interact with one another?, with their environment? and how can we best provide access between to all possible origins and destinations for the benefit of the greatest number of people in the most efficient manner? We need to think about the mobility needs of all members of our community. To speak about the needs of bicyclist's is to try to broaden our thinking to include accommodating other forms of transportation besides the automobile. And so, it is in fact an act of bringing balance to the board to have a member who has such a broad perspective already and with the experience and expertise to speak for the needs of bicyclists, pedestrians, transit riders and drivers.

When it comes to trying to achieve "balance" between an auto and a bicycle or pedestrian, it's a bit like talking about the "balance" between an innocent deer in the woods and a hunter with a rifle. The safety equation is heavily skewed in favor of the one with the weapon. In this case, the automobile. I read a recent article about an AARP survey of aging drivers. In a setting where complete dependence on the automobile is subsidized and fostered, it is understandable that elders fear the isolation and reduced opportunities for an active life that giving up driving entails. When asked about whether or not they considered walking an appropriate alternative to driving, the most frequent reason given for not thinking it was, was a lack of safety! Elders can no longer drive safely, yet they fear for their life as a pedestrian. This is a direct result of designing our streets and intersections to facilitate the maximum movement of cars instead of focusing on making it safe (let alone pleasant) to cross the street on foot.

At a time when obesity related health issues and the direct health implications of climate change threaten our very existence, you would think we would want to do everything we can to make it safe and enjoyable to walk and bike, whenever these modes might be a via alternative. What those who fear these accommodations don't realize is that it is not an all or nothing proposition, but rather a case of providing a viable choice for those who might wish to choose it if it were available. While many argue that accommodating bicyclists and pedestrians is catering to the "fringe few" this is a disingenuous argument. How can we gauge the "market demand" for something that doesn't even exist in the market place? Bicycle safety increases dramatically the more bicyclists there are.

It can also be said that Peter Furth does have a balanced viewpoint, or more importantly a realistic viewpoint, understanding and having expertise in all modes of transportation engineering. He has studied how people get around, around the world, and it is this breadth of understanding that allows him to see the potential for doing things better in Brookline. The changes he has advocated for in Brookline, and the one that apparently cost him his seat on the Board, was extremely modest, and he helped work towards a compromise when objections were raised. And yet those who favor the status quo above all else have made their wishes known and gotten him booted off the board. By the way, I think Bill Schwartz will be a fine addition to the Board, but a seat could have been found for him when a vacancy opened up, it did not have to be at the expense of someone of Peter's talents who was willing to serve.

It is also disappointing to contemplate the broader implications of the move to ouster Professor Furth. Here we have someone with a great deal of professional skill and expertise who volunteers their time and energies, but in making an attempt to apply themselves, arouses a few vocal opponents. This, despite the fact that the Transportation Board, Mr. Furth included, worked very hard to listen to and accommodate all concerns. The result, he is removed. This, I am afraid, does not encourage those who have valuable insights to contribute to step up and volunteer.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Brookline Community Foundation has a new website, that focuses on generating social capital. Local groups can post their organizations profiles, listings and events. There is a master calendar and various ways to search. My group, the Friends of the Minot Rose Garden uses it. Community members interested in finding out about volunteer opportunities or interesting things to do have a one stop shop. Check it out!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Car-Sharing and Brookline: a Perfect Match

Wheels When You Want Them. Actually, I think a more accurate slogan might be, wheels when you need them. It's a subtle difference, but it gets at the heart of why Zipcar members drive so much less than private auto owners.

3,300 residents of Brookline rely on ZipCars. Why is there a demand for car sharing in Brookline? In short, our residential density and proximity to business centers make transit, walking and biking viable transportation alternatives. Roughly one half of our resident work force gets to work without driving. More than half of the non-work travel is accomplished without a car as well. As a result, many only need to use a car occasionally. Using a shared car for that trip makes perfect sense. Car sharing enables car shedding.

For many the option to give up one or more of their vehicles has meant the difference between being able to live in Brookline or being forced to leave. Freeing themselves from the heavy burdens of car ownership, car share users save both time and money that can be better spent locally. Significantly, users have more resources to put towards housing costs. CSO’s are particularly beneficial to residents of North Brookline, where off-street parking is at a premium and efforts to accommodate private vehicle ownership has had serious negative consequences. We’ve struggled with the paving over of our lawns and green spaces, seen the negative consequences to new housing design, incurred significant additional costs for parking and dealt with severe traffic impacts. Car sharing helps address all of these concerns, by reducing both parking demand and vehicle traffic.

How does car sharing reduce vehicle traffic? Not having that private vehicle in the driveway increases an individual’s use of transit, walking and biking. If we must plan ahead and pay for each car trip we take, we will only use a car when it is the best choice, rather than the convenient or habitual choice. Choosing instead to walk, bike or take transit when we can. They are easier. We don't have to reserve in advance, we don't have to pay by the hour and we don't have to be back on time. Zipcar membership promotes "conscious transportation consumption". These effects have been repeatedly documented in many cities with car sharing. Less traffic has the synergistic effect of making it more pleasant to walk and bike for everyone.

Concerns have been raised about the potential for oppressive impacts from CSO vehicles. Zipcar has been in Brookline since 2001. Today there are 78 cars at 34 sites. 59 of these vehicles have been located in residential zones without any problems or complaints. This track record gives us plenty of evidence showing how comfortably CSO’s can be accommodated throughout town. Concerns about heavy site-specific traffic from CSO vehicles are unfounded. In fact, Brookline’s zipcars are used an average of 1.5 times per day, which is analogous to a privately owned vehicle. Worries about displacing private parking seem counter-intuitive. Car-sharing reduces parking demand, with each CSO vehicle accommodating more than 40 members, many of whom got rid of or avoided acquiring a personal vehicle. As for the rowdy zipsters in the night, irresponsible zipcar members will not be members for long. ZipCar is careful to ensure its drivers are safe and responsible and you must be 21 to join. The average age of Brookline’s zipcar users is 38.

Allowing CSO’s in Brookline brings many benefits to our neighborhoods, the environment, our economy and lifestyle. Article 13 has been crafted to legalize existing CSO locations and brings oversight and input to the process of creating new sites. Car sharing reduces reliance on automobiles while retaining mobility, making it an important piece of a more sustainable transportation future for Brookline. Zipcar membership allows us to jettison our privately owned automobile. Many of us living in Brookline are lucky enough to not really need a car f

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What's With the Gray Box?

It's hard to miss the unique new structures going up around the former Presbyterian Church on the corner of Harvard Street and Pierce Street. These days, lots of folks passing through Brookline Village or visiting Town Hall, Pierce School or the Library stop dead in their tracks and gaze up at the strange, almost windowless gray cube that seems to almost float, detached from its surroundings, hugging the sidewalk. The exterior material appears to be something with a matte finish that resembles cardboard and despite its cube-like visage, its shape actually includes a jaunty angle or two.

We learn from the sign posted on the corner of Harvard and Pierce that this is part of the new Community Center addition for the Korean Church at this site. In addition to the gray cube the site design includes an extensive concrete wall surrounding a "plaza" and an overly large modern structure with anti-angled roof next to a house on Holden St., right across the street from Town Hall. The illustrations from the project boards, while giving the improbable bird's-eye viewing angle, nevertheless, illustrate something of the finished products. (I digress here to note that these types of presentation views fail to offer any insight whatsoever as to what the buildings will look like from the point of view of a person walking past on the sidewalk, or from down the street or for that matter driving past. Therefore, those charged with reviewing the proposal must be able to read the plans and drawings and envisage the resulting experience for themselves).

It is hard to see how these structures "fit" into the context of their surroundings. While this is not a blanket condemnation of modern architecture, I have to say there was no attempt to design the buildings or to design the site layout in a way that would in any way create a pleasing street scape or pedestrian experience. In fact, I don't think the building's users will find much delight here either, considering all that harsh concrete, lack of windows and strangely shaped interior space. As a pedestrian on Harvard St. we are confronted with a form molded concrete wall, getting taller as we proceed southward until it is eye level or higher before we get to the cube, which seems strangely shoved to the sidewalk's edge, despite the lack of structural bulk between it and the church building. Walking along Pierce Street, as the new formed concrete wall begins, we are treated to what seems destined to become a large electrical service box (the base for the box is there now), placed right in the former front lawn of the existing church building.

As for the Holden St. side of the project. Imagine living in that house next to the seemingly massive, wedged-in-there oddly angled building. It appears that this structure too will have a similar exterior material. What was once a residential setting has become something else altogether. This structure no more relates to the church than it does to the house on the other side of it. It seems to be deliberately designed to be as distinct as possible. Are we dealing with Brookline's own version of a "starachitect". An attempt by a singular personality to make waves by creating a structure so unique that it can't be ignored? Why would we want that here, in this closely knit setting of historic homes, businesses and public buildings?

The cube itself is a monolithic presence, kind of like a big stereo speaker in a room of antique furniture, as we look across the street to the fine historic red brick buildings, with their inviting doors and windows, fine detailing and timeless simplicity. It would have been entirely possible to design a modern structure that nonetheless fit in this setting. Had it had some elements remotely in common with the structures in the vicinity, namely the original church, the house on Holden, or the brick buildings on Harvard, be it materials, height, massing, roof height and angle, the rhythm of windows, shape, form, etc. But these structures have none of these.

Just what is that material that the cube is made of? I believe the architect said it was a colored "cementitious" material, but I must say it doesn't look as if it will weather very well.

So how did this project get approval? Our zoning ordinance includes special consideration for building proposals on Harvard St., calling for additional design review. This is obviously in recognition of the need to "get it right" when it comes to designing for this prime Brookline Village location. The zoning for the site is G 2.0 which allows a building floor area that is twice the lot area, a maximum height of 45 ft. and has no set back or open space requirements. So, almost anything could meet the bare minimum of the zoning, hence the need for the design review and one of its key standards, "Relation of Buildings to the Form of the Streetscape and Neighborhood" which states that the proposed development shall be consistent with the use, scale, yard setbacks and architecture of existing buildings and the overall streetscape of the surrounding area.

When I asked a Planning Board member about this project, I was told that this development was brought to us courtesy of the Dover Amendment. The Dover Amendment (M.G.L. Chapter 40A Section 3) is a state law that states that "No zoning ordinance or by-law shall prohibit, regulate or restrict the use of land or structures for religious purposes or for educational purposes on land owned or leased by the commonwealth or any of its agencies, subdivisions or bodies politic or by a religious sect or denomination, or by a nonprofit educational corporation; provided, however, that such land or structures may be subject to reasonable regulations concerning the bulk and height of structures and determining yard sizes, lot area, setbacks, open space, parking and building coverage requirements."

As I understand it, the main purpose behind the Dover amendment is to disallow local governments the option of denying (or making such restrictive requirements that it amounts to a denial) building permits to churches and educational institutions. It is assumed that this is needed to counterbalance the preferential treatment that local government permitting bodies might bestow on taxable developments over non-profits. As in the case of affordable housing, it is thought that the competition between local communities for tax dollars creates a disincentive for allowing the publicly beneficial or necessary functions that non-profits bring. It is a blunt club trying to even the playing field. There have also been arguments made that the Dover amendment is needed to prevent discrimination against certain faiths or ethnic groups, etc. As with most laws, the true meaning is derived through case law as those left to interpret its meaning become embroiled in disputes about the meaning of various aspects, such as whether or not the building is "integral to the mission" of the educational institution or just how "unregulated" does the project have to be. The give and take between local governments and religious and educational institutions wishing to build and expand has of course led to a continuous parsing of the finer points of interpretation of this bit of legal code.

A question in this case might be are the "community center" buildings that comprise the church expansion "integral to the exercise of their religion"? The house of worship already exists. These buildings are to accommodate various community functions. If they are not integral to the practice of their religion, than they would not be protected under the Dover Amendment and their design could be made to comply with the above mentioned design standards.

These buildings probably do meet those limited elements of our zoning code that can be regulated under Dover, (height, bulk, lot coverage, etc.). However, it is nonetheless common for towns to seek dialogue and review on project proposals.

In the case of this project the architect was asked to appear before our Planning Board for a "courtesy" design review. Amazingly enough, it turns out that for the most part, our Board members said they liked the design. I doubt seriously that our Board members were able to conceive in their minds eye the way this project actually looks from the various angles we are destined to experience it, such as what the concrete wall will be like to walk next too for half a block, or how "detached", ill-placed and odd the cube looks from the perspective of the pedestrian walking on Harvard. Had they done so, I would hope they would have realized just how "out of context" and frankly ridiculous this project really is, and armed with that visage of the future, they might have tried to negotiate for a better design, or looked into the question of Dover applicability a bit more robustly.

Here is what our Planning Board members said about this project's design, as quoted from the minutes of their 04/18/07 meeting with Brian Healy, the project's architect.

"Linda Hamlin said she likes the modern design of the building, and
appreciates the strategy to address adjacent buildings in the residential
and commercial areas. Linda Hamlin said she is concerned about the
concrete wall along Harvard Street, and replacing the existing stone wall,
in regards to maintenance and friendliness. Brian Healy said he
understands her concerns with the wall, and says he will do mock-ups to
select the best design. Linda Hamlin asked about the windows on the east
elevation. Brian Healy clarified, and showed the Board the plans and
elevations. Steve asked about the height of the wall. Brian Healy said
it will be from 3’ to 5’ in height. Steve said he also appreciates a
modern design, but has also shares Linda Hamlin’s concerns about the
concrete wall. Steven Heikin said he does not feel the design addresses
the residential and commercial contexts of the two streetscapes. Kenneth
Goldstein said he likes the design on Harvard Street, but feels the design
on Holden Street elevation does not address the residential character of
the street.

Jerome Kampler said he is not a fan of modern architecture. Jerome
Kampler said he was concerned the house on Holden Street would see a
concrete wall out of their north windows. Kenneth Goldstein agreed, and
said the addition is not residential in character. Jerome Kampler asked
why they weren’t taking advantage of the windows on the south side. Brian
Healy said they wanted to better utilize the play of light within the
chapel by keeping the wall dark.

Linda Hamlin said she felt the building scale was appropriate considering
the institutional nature of the area. Jerome Kampler said he felt no
residential neighbor would want to open a window and see a blank concrete

The architect has been described to me as "arrogant", and it may be that, because of the Dover protections, the Town would not have been able to gain any concessions on this unfortunate design. But I would have liked to think that our public servants (planning board, town councel, planning staff, etc.) would have more clearly seen that this design was a negative for the village and pursued all avenues to seek a better result. I don't think that happened and now we are stuck with it for a very long time.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Under Surveillance

The debate in Brookline over whether or not to accept 24/7 video surveillance of our "Critical Infrastructure" as a part of the nine-community Metro Boston Homeland Security Region has been far reaching and intense. For some, the issue has brought to the fore and highlighted deep seated beliefs about the nature of freedom in a democratic society, the role of government, the nature of the "threat", the potential for mistakes and abuse, the paralyzing effects of fear and whether or not cameras add to or alleviate this effect, and the need to safeguard civil liberties.
Still others focus more prosaically on questions such as whether or not the cameras will be useful for their intended purpose, the potential for application for other purposes good and bad, the true costs now and in the future of the "system", the opportunity costs of dedicating police resources to surveillance and not other types of policing, and wondering about the possibility of a meaningful assessment of the program during the 1-yr trial period. And then there are those who simply do not wish to second guess our Police Chief.

It is this later motivation which I believe has trumped the considerations of our Selectmen so far. After all they are the ones who have to work very closely with the Chief and must rely on his cooperation and good will to "get the job done" in the exemplary manner we have come to expect. Avoidance of conflict is not, however, a good enough reason to impose a critical infrastructure with such far reaching ramifications onto the citizens of Brookline without careful consideration of all the tough questions nor without accounting for the general feelings of unease this proposition has engendered. This is after all the way we approach all other difficult decision making. Other department heads must undergo similar questioning and scrutiny without taking it either personally or holding a grudge, it comes with the territory.

What is most interesting to me is the general mindset this debate has tended to reveal, in terms of how people view the idea of Homeland Security and whether or not people have a critical skepticism about the motives and effectiveness of programs originating from the Department of Homeland Security. Some see the world in terms of all its potential dangers and seek to deploy all available tools to combat these threats, even to the point of not questioning their true efficacy, finding comfort in the fact that they have done all that they can. Their thinking runs along the lines of, "Imagine if something terrible happened and we could have prevented it, or someone may have been helped, if we had the cameras, I would never forgive myself if I was responsible for the lack of cameras." It kind of reminds me of those who wish to employ all possible life prolonging medical technology at the end of life, just in case...

On the other end of the spectrum are those whose worst nightmare is the harassment, accusation or imprisonment by the government, or police, of an innocent victim who whether or not they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time or were simply acting a bit "different" were nonetheless identified as a "suspect". The culture of fear run amok. On a more subtle level many are concerned with the general culture of conformity and suppression of freedom caused by the threat of this occurrence. For these individuals, the cameras simply heighten the general feelings of paranoia running rampant today and perpetuate the dissolution of our feelings of trust and human connection. The opposite of fostering community.

For those who see the cameras as protection, those who see danger in surveillance are seen as "crazy radicals or those who have something to hide". For those who see the cameras as a threat to civil liberties, those who see the cameras as protection are pinning their hopes on a flawed and false "techno fix" and have been duped into a dangerous mind set of trusting "government protection against unseen threats".

To me one critical fact about this question, especially as it relates to our relationship with our Police Chief is that this is a system designed and financed by entities beyond the Town. We can argue until the cows come home about whether or not cameras may or may not help solve crimes (its been pretty conclusively shown they do not prevent crime). That's not the point, because this system was designed to aid in the evacuation of Boston and everything about it, from the choice of cameras to the data system to the camera's locations have determined with that in mind. The fact that our Chief has tried to make use of the cameras for other things is commendable, but not very convincing. Repeatedly at various hearings and forums, in response to citizen's concerns about being under surveillance in public areas, the Chief has said "the cameras are simply pointing in the middle of the road". If this is the case then, how can they be truly useful for solving crimes? We have been told that the camera's are "our cameras and under our control". However, when asked if then we could locate the cameras wherever we wanted, the Chief answered no.

Had we been presented with a well designed surveillance plan arising out of a spontaneous need and developed to address specific problems in Brookline, (identified by our Police, that was not a blanket 24/7 surveillance of public areas), I believe we would be having a much different conversation. However, that is not the case. As is obvious, these cameras are not free. The decision to "refer to Committee" so very popular in Brookline is, in this case only a way to defer making a decision. The task of truly evaluating both the tangible and intangible potential costs and benefits of this system are beyond the capabilities of this and just about any other possible committee.

For many, our local crime problems could be better addressed through increased patrolling, including officers on foot or bike and better lighting, not remote surveillance. A greater police presence with face to face interaction would add to citizens feelings of safety and security.

The Chief clearly has our safety and well-being in mind, no one doubts this. He also wishes to avail himself of the latest technology and is loathe to turn down such a "gift", or to become a "non-complying" community within the consortium. However, this is a decision whose impacts have such far reaching repercussions that the burden of that decision must be borne by us. Brookline has a long history of independence and we should not be afraid to exercise that choice once more.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Lessons From Bogata

Once again, an inspiring urban leader has come to Boston. Enrique Penalosa, former mayor of Bogata, Columbia held forth at multiple speaking engagements last week, thanks to the Livable Streets Alliance, Walk Boston and the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy. As with Nicky Gavron, the former deputy mayor of London who I saw speak last year, there was much food for thought as we heard about the farsighted transformations realized by this remarkable urban leader.

The capacity crowd filled the Rabb Lecture Hall as Mr. Penalosa began his presentation. Distilling things down to their essence, he was able to convey, not just the mechanics of his remarkable public transportation and urban planning vision, but the basic philosophy that underpins his view of cities, how they function and what makes them livable. The fundamentals he presented have relevance anywhere and we would all do well to remember them as we plan and make policy in our own communities.

In London, all policies and plans flowed from a single driving principal, namely to make London the city of the future by planning for sustainability in all sectors. Every possible program, expenditure and policy was held to this metric and every effort was made to mutually support initiatives through multiple means. This type of single-minded purpose, which in practice, becomes the homing beacon for a wide-ranging and mutually supporting set of initiatives is very much like the process that miraculously surfaced in Bogota. The transformation of Bogota from a city of despair and desperation to one of hope and optimism was based on holistic, practical, bottom-up thinking and carried forth by a series of strong charismatic leaders.

Mr. Penalosa's vision emanates from a what he calls "Urban Happiness", which could best be summarized as a "people first" perspective. To understand how to achieve urban happiness we first had to come to grips with a few basic truths, which Penalosa proceeded to lay bare with simplicity and clarity. Each of them providing a theoretical foundation for the next:

1. Adam Smith doesn't work in cities.

In other words, everyone working to maximize their own benefit doesn't equal the best outcome for the public at large. To redress this balance is government's job. Those with little income or resources also lack political power, which is why "democracy" alone, does not work to the advantage of the disadvantaged. In the end, maximizing the benefit of all brings the greatest amount of prosperity to the community by raising standards of education, human potential fulfillment, health and contentment.

2. There is a basic conflict between people and cars in a city.

How is it that we accept as normal the constant threat to our lives, our children's lives and our freedom of movement from the automobile? Given free reign, the car took over the most congested, and once pedestrian dominated spaces of our villages, central cities and neighborhoods. In developing countries the inequality of this is even more pronounced, as the percentage who own cars is very small, yet their tyranny over the environment is no less total. The answer is not to give everyone cars. As populations increase, density increases, infrastructure and land costs are prohibitive, the environmental and energy costs laid bare etc. the "American sprawl" model is revealed to be a domed strategy. Practical mass transit solutions are essential. A variety of modes, all given equal weight, dignity and investment are necessary to ensure continued circulation, public health, equity, access and preservation of a public life.
In our relatively recent history, we have allowed the private automobile to dominate and harass all forms of life. Cars aren't necessarily bad, but they belong some places and not others. People are social beings and we have allowed the automobile to destroy our public life.

3. Our greatest public spaces are our sidewalks.

How easy it is to take this vital resource for granted, yet, when is it that we "run into" our neighbor? Do you get to stop to chat when you are whizzing by in your car? Do you get to have unexpected encounters when all your social exchanges must be planned ahead of time or worse occur via the mediated environment of the computer screen? If we don't have pleasant walking environments to "draw us out of our houses" and give us a reason to spend time in the presence of others, how will be feel a part of our community? How will we be exposed to diversity and retain our humanity and humility?

4. The way to judge the success of a building is whether or not it creates a pleasing experience for the pedestrian.

How many architectural models get evaluated from the "birds eye" perspective? Or how many drawings of buildings get presented to planning boards that show a building in isolation from the perspective of a passenger in a car in the middle of the road? What do these models and drawings tell us about the experience of that building as we walk past it? Nothing. The pedestrian environment is about details, scale, feeling comfortably protected yet not closed in. We have plenty of examples of pleasant pedestrian environments here in Brookline, thanks to our historic commercial areas. Too bad new building designers can't seem to internalize and utilize these lessons.

5. Cities are for people.

While trees and other natural elements are very welcome and soften the hard edges of the city, cities are about human interaction. As many studies have shown, (most notably by William Whyte and Jan Gehl) people are attracted to places where other people are. We might want to sit in the shade under a tree, but we want to be able to see everyone there, we won't go sit with our back to the "action". To put it simply, having a plaza, in the European sense of the word makes more sense than trying to recreate a forest in the city. Like the automobile, this is a case of having the appropriate environment in the appropriate place. When we need isolation, quiet and communion with nature in a different way, we go elsewhere, to our sanctuaries, national parks, etc. In the city, we enjoy liveliness.

6. People behave the way they are treated.

A better way to put this might be that when people are treated with respect, they are free to respect themselves and each other. By concentrating on providing services, facilities, parks, etc.that benefit all members of society, you help equalize opportunities and improve conditions for the community as a whole. This also extends to the psychological and cultural transformation that occurs when you elevate the pedestrian or bicyclist by protecting them and making it easy for them to enjoy getting around, rather than what is the usual case of treating the person on foot or bike as an obstacle to the car and making them feel not only threatened physically, but psychologically and socially inferior.

7. We are all equal in the public realm.

By mixing in public places, we are better able to remember our essential equality. Also, being exposed to diversity in a non-threatening way can help us remain open to new ideas and new ways of being. This is a fundamental principle that F.L. Olmsted believed in too. By providing public parks that were equally enjoyable to all classes and gave access to activities and settings that before had only been the province of elites, he hoped to ease tensions between classes and help integrate new immigrant populations into the community. This access was, Olmsted believed a fundamentally humanizing and health giving force that was a right and necessity for modern life. He also believed it was a key element to maintaining a functioning democracy.

8. Pedestrians and Bicyclists are not second class citizens and they deserve infrastructure investment, not making do.

After seeing Mr. Penalosa's slides of those wide dedicated bike lanes and separate walking paths, that were obviously carefully laid out to gently curve, provide views and access between key public facilities I could not help but contrast that with what we have here. How many fine days did I struggle to access the narrow strip of the Charles River Bike Path, just to get some exercise and a glimpse of the river...For most of the way, the bike path is bordered by Storrow Drive with its roaring cars, and the path itself is packed with cyclist, walkers, dog walkers, skaters, baby strollers, tourists, etc. it is an obstacle course because of the mix of users, so much so that one cannot really ride freely. Yet for this bit of scenery and access we are grateful. Everywhere else, it is only constant vigilance that keeps us from getting killed and we put up with it.....

9. If pedestrian and bicycling facilities are provided, people will use and enjoy them.

Many transportation professionals still view pedestrians and bicyclists as an after thought and do not plan roadways, sidewalks, intersections or new developments with them in mind. Some of this is just institutional inertia, some political will from the car driving public, but it becomes a chicken and the egg kind of problem. While the numbers are small, it seems easy to treat the pedestrians and bicyclists as an after thought, however, this is a self-fulfilling proposition. If facilities are built and planning done to make environments that are pleasant and safe to use, people will flock to use them. This has been proven through the ciclovia events, or "car-free" days that were sponsored in Bogota and other cities. Here we have our Sunday closing of Memorial Drive and our Bike Beacon St. day. When a facility is given over to bikes and people they happily take advantage! It becomes a question of shifting the balance in how we allocate what is a public resource, and an increasing valuable public resource at that, our streets and sidewalks. It is not an all or nothing proposition, but the balance is so far skewed towards auto use that just moving it a bit seems a momentous undertaking.

10. Waterfronts should be made available to the public and enjoyed by all. Not for roads, cars or private access.

Water is precious and soothing and in a city especially waterfronts can be the most beautiful settings. Unfortunately, highway engineers like to route roads next to rivers, etc. because the land is available and there are no intersections. This has cut off access to many cities most precious resource and we must take it back. In Paris they even bring in truck loads of sand and put up beach umbrellas on the roadway next to the Seine to create a "beach" in the summer and the citizens flock to it. Public access to water ways must be protected through laws as well, which prohibit the closing of beach access, etc.

One wonders how Mr. Penalosa and his predecessors where able to gather the necessary political support to begin their visionary reforms. But we are grateful for the example it has given us of enlightened leadership and planning.