This morning Gil Peñaloso gave a great presentation titled “Creating Livable Communities for Everyone“. It was a partnership with the UO student group LiveMove, LTD, the City of Eugene and several sponsoring businesses and organizations. He spoke about what it takes to create a great livable and vibrant city. Guess what, it involves more kids walking and biking! It means building a city where kids 8 years old and senior citizens 80 years old feel safe and comfortable moving about the city by walking, biking or taking transit. While this isn’t news to us he shared some inspiring words to motivate those in the audience to continue our work to create that city. He talked about the real problem not being money, space or other resources but political will and leadership.
I highly recommend watching his video (or catching him tonight 5-7pm at the Downtown LCC building as part of the LiveMove student group’s speaker series). My wish is that every city council member, local elected official and city staff leader would watch this video and become inspired to take action now.
One of the ideas Gil spoke about that resonated as we work towards improving our city for families to walk and bike more often is the idea that we need to stop working towards consensus on every decision. We need to take the bold steps to make the change that will create healthier communities. We need to listen but then we need to take action now that is for the greater good rather than delayed action that is mediocre for everyone.
To get more kids walking and biking again we need separated bike facilities, connected sidewalks and better crossings. We need to start at the core of our city and connect what we already have.
It’s not about if we have the money, the plans or the space to do it. It’s about the political will. It’s about the leadership to push to make it happen.
One vision of a bold step I’m inspired to continue pushing that relates to this talk? Let’s build the High Street Active Transportation Corridor. By creating a separated two way bike facility and running path down High Street we could link the Amazon Path to the River Path with a separate, safe and comfortable facility for people to walk, run, bike and connect on. This corridor would serve to connect:
- The Amazon Path to the Ruth Bascom River Path
- Our Ridgeline to our River
- Our youth with our senior citizens (Roosevelt & South with Campbell Center)
- People to their new City Hall (on High)
- Our different parks and recreational opportunities (Amazon Park and Pool, Hilyard Center, River Play, Alton Baker, Spencer Butte, Skinner Butte, etc.)
- An active transportation corridor through our downtown
- With a facility being discussed on 13th to connect UO to Downtown
- With each other
Making this connection is already part of our Pedestrian Bicycle Master Plan, which will be adopted as part of our Transportation System Plan. It also aligns with almost all of the City of Eugene’s seven pillars of Envision Eugene, especially planning for climate change and energy resiliency, promoting compact urban development and efficient transportation options, and enhancing natural resources and neighborhood livability. We know it’s something that can and should be done. We just need leaders to make it happen. Elected official guiding staff to implement it, staff open and willing to make it work and citizens pushing to make it happen.
We have the vision on many great projects. We know that complete streets, like a more walkable and bikeable South Willamette street, are needed. That shouldn’t even be a bold decision. Being bold on South Willamette would mean doing something completely different like separated bike facilities on the street, wide sidewalks, reduced speeds and more. Not doing anything shouldn’t even be part of the discussion. The street does NOT meet the needs of anyone not in a car with the current design. We shouldn’t rebuild it the way it is just because a select few think it’s better for them. Period. The “option three” of bike lanes on the street and a center turn lane will improve it for everyone (walkers, bikers & drivers) but it isn’t going to get us to the 8-80 level of service. So let’s choose projects that WILL inspire us to build a better city. All of our energy should be going into bold projects to make our city better for everyone. Let’s start building Eugene and Springfield so an 8 year old can easily walk to school easily. Let’s start building a bike network where biking is the safe, convenient and easy choice. It’s going to take bold leadership and brave community members to make it happen but we can do it!
Thanks Gil for the inspiring talk.