Building Bridges


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Barry Watkins, 4/17/2015

I’m going to have to apologize for something. I have been too hard on some of the players in the development process, and I see the need to change my tone. In many of my writings on this blog and elsewhere I have criticized particular developers, I have taken pot-shots at traffic engineers in general, and I have thrown accusations at public officials. In recent days I have started realizing that these things just aren’t good. Criticizing these people, though it has been fun, has been a counter-productive course at times. I have failed to build bridges with the very people who we need desperately to work with us on improving walkability and bikeability in our county, and for this I am truly sorry! Can you all please forgive me?

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A couple things have led up to me making this realization and apology. I’ve been reading “How to Engage Your Transportation Agency” by The Project for Public Spaces and have gotten some good clues from that. Concerning transportation engineers in particular, one of the things we might be tempted to forget is that they are usually doing the best they can with the tools they have been given. It’s not their fault that there’s no funding for sidewalks or that a particular stretch of road has too narrow of a right-of-way to put a sidewalk in. Seriously. Policy-makers also can be an easy target of contempt when we see a lack of good city planning, but how many of our local policy-makers are trained in city planning or have even been exposed to the latest walkable design concepts? Not too many! Developers? Same things. In fact, the system that governs what developers are even allowed to do is the biggest thing pushing them to build sprawl! They haven’t been trained in walkable community planning for the most part. Even if they know about walkability and want to build walkable places, the current land development codes are stacked against them. Is that their fault? No!

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So, yes, building bridges between all the players is a really good idea, don’t you think? My pot-shots and insulting remarks have probably driven some of them away from the table. I am going to endeavor to change the tone in my communications and look to bring people together. Many of the players are very reasonable people and shouldn’t be treated like our enemies! We certainly need to do all that we can as activists to work with all the different people of influence in our county to bring about positive change. Let’s all work on that together!

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