walking

Why Road Gentrification Is Good Gentrification

Why Road Gentrification is Good Gentrifcation

I’m a firm believer that transportation is one place where equity can and should be had. At the end of the day, a street is a street, we all have to use them and their presence should not be the signal of gentrification you worry about. It should be the one you champion to get you to where you need to go. Hence why I’m here advocating for what some call complete streets, others call road diets and yet others call road gentrification.

Why All Three Names Matter

Why three names for this kind of road construction and maintenance? Well, because each name covers three key benefits of such changes.

First, you are completing what should already be standard on all roads, the ability for any mode of transportation to thrive.

Second, when you go on a food diet, if you want to be successful, it becomes a lifestyle change. It also is tailored to what you actually eat and how your body is actually made. Hence a good road diet, like form-based codes in architecture, works best when it takes into account what’s already there, and how others use the road.

Food diets also insist on being the most lean and green version of one’s self. Same with road diets, they insist that roads be the most efficient, but not just for one use, but for all users.

My last food analogy: it introduces more than one food (transport) group to the roads, more like the old four group pattern where all groups were somewhat equal.

And finally, gentrification at its purest, takes something that needs a touch of class and makes it better for everyone. Unfortunately, making it better for everyone doesn’t always come out of gentrification of housing and commercial buildings. Instead of making it so everyone can be part of a neighborhood, residential and commercial gentrification often privileges one group, namely the wealthy, of any cultural background.

But road gentrification is different. In adding more than one mode to the road, it allows everyone to use the roads, at whatever place they are in life.

What Institutions Can, Are and Should Be Doing

As we see with much of housing and commercial gentrification, it is government policy which really seals the deal in terms of how housing and commercial markets are allowed to work. Governments at all levels regularly get flack for not implementing community and economic development programs in the right way.

However, there’s really no wrong way to do a complete street/road diet/road improvement. Unless you decide to continue to privilege one mode at the expense of others.

You don’t have to do that. In the image leading this post, I was participating in a demonstration led by students at the University of Oklahoma ‘s Urban Design Studio at the 2015 American Planning Association’s Quad State Conference in Kansas City. They brought us model pieces giving us multiple options to create a complete street from a scale model of a portion of 11th Street in Tulsa, also known as part of the historic Route 66.

Our group came up with what is pictured above. This was after I (and others) insisted that we have both bike lanes, trolley/car lanes, sidewalks and at least one lane where cars can pass the trolleys safely without endangering the cyclists and walkers other than to turn into the businesses with parking lots.

Another group came up with something completely different. Both were solid complete streets. Both even had low-density, suburban retail. And when someone suggested that my sidewalk was too narrow, I reminded them that some shop fronts could still roll up their windows and make the outside come in.

Yet, their concerns about how the buildings would work were valid. So are those of these folks in DC, who are concerned about a new road diet plan, even though they can be annoying. What it tells us is that we still need to work on making sure people understand, that when it comes to having all modes of transit on a street, that means everyone has a right to the street, a right that can’t be questioned. A right that allows people to advance their lives in other ways.

Imagine the college student from the housing project who has to walk to school. They continue to walk and may even bike to school, then to their next job and then maybe with a baby carriage attached. America Walks has a great fact sheet on how complete streets help low-income and other underprivileged families.

So many other organizations around the country, such as Changing Gears in Greensboro and The 816 Bike Collective and RevolveKC in Kansas City exist just to get poor, homeless, black, Latino, refugee and any other underserved or under-resourced population to bicycling.

Then there are the Major Taylor Clubs, the Black Women Bike clubs, traditional cycling clubs with membership fees and jerseys, that do long distance rides and sometimes compete in races, which also tend to attract African-Americans and other people of color with means.

Finally, many schools are adding bike education to their main curriculums. My office is in school districts across the KC metro doing just that and soon DC will teach every second grader in the traditional  public school system bike safety, with actual bikes and making sure every kid who comes through the program can ride.

With these programs children biking won’t be a thing of the past. They will then grow to commute and maybe even race by bike. More adults will be able to take advantage of having a mode of transport that they control and pay little, if nothing at all besides sweat equity to use.

Also, completing streets is something that municipalities can adopt and put money to at the same time. By training the staff who make improvements to the roads and sidewalks, by absorbing more of the costs to make road and sidewalk improvements and by being creative as to what makes each street in a city complete, then they can turn around their reputations for creating bad gentrification and unsafe streets.

So there you have it. A gentrification method, that when done right, makes a community whole and connected, no matter the economic class, counters the obesity epidemic and creates more equal opportunity for jobs, education and cultural engagement.

Chat with me about this live on Periscope Thursday evening (October 29 at 5:30 Central). Also, be sure to get on my email list to never miss a post! 

Reflections on the Fifth Anniversary of the Black Urbanist, from Kristen

Reflections on the 5th Anni of the Black Urbanist from Kristen

I am Kristen Jeffers. I call myself the Black Urbanist.

I started doing so five years ago today (October 16, 2010), because I felt like not enough conversations on the built environment, on civic spaces, on transportation, were actually including people like me (Black, young, woman, cisgender, straight, U.S. Southeastern, Christian) in conversations as a participant in the process of creating and building infrastructure. If you hear about me, it’s because I’m the main person using your Section 8 housing or because of my college degree and birth year. Or, I’m your gentrifier and your cash cow to make your development legacy different from your father’s.

It’s still a necessary conversation. Every day I read articles that highlight the disparities of different groups of people, that argue for and against actual integration and common community development. House prices are rising. People are dying on their own blocks and stoops because the police (and some neighbors) don’t think they belong there. Jobs are disappearing. Even among our own ranks of development professionals, we don’t always come together and when we do, those rooms aren’t always diverse in thought and body. Plus, there’s the idea that unless you are plopping money down or employed by a government or nonprofit entity that helps the neighborhood, you don’t matter when it comes to what you think about the neighborhoods and your metro (or rural) region.

I will admit that I don’t write as much as I could or speak as much as I could about these things. I’ll also admit that I don’t like my car and I need better sidewalks and bike lanes and heck, places to go in a 5 minute radius so I don’t feel compelled to jump in my car to go everywhere. I am starting to do my part in the resources/affordability/community-making exchange, though. I’m learning how to cook more and save money. I walk to work many days. I walk to the stores and restaurants we do have in our community. When I travel, I use transit, other people’s bikeshares and I walk there as well.

Yet, when I started this page, I did it to not become the absolute authority on urbanism. I did it not to slam rural life or actual small cities and towns that aren’t just appendages created on bigger cities to make people feel  better about themselves by choosing their perfect neighbors and schools and allowing them room to flaunt their relative wealth, admittedly in the early days courtesy of government grants and provisions. (I know that was a long one, let me breathe for a second).

I did this so I could make sense of the things I observe on a daily basis. I did this as my way of helping people, to extend out my life calling of making communities stronger and better.

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have all the right answers. I certainly don’t have all the “token _________” answers and ONLY those answers. I have so many more questions.

In that spirit of five years of writing, speaking and talking to people about these ideas casually and formally, plus the fact that this is what you do on milestone anniversaries, I’m going to spend the next few weeks drilling down on my philosophies on various areas of development and life of which I think we need to pay attention.

Many of you have been reading for years. Others of you are new to the site. I, as this is my life’s work, and as I’ve gone through various transitions and examinations of who I am as a person, want to clarify how I practice community and economic development.

I also want to talk to you more, in different channels. On Tuesdays, you’ll get what I call the classic TBU experience. I drop a post or email and I share that information throughout the day (and you share it too!) On Wednesdays, I’ll be coming to you in an audio format, at the very least live on Periscope or Google Hangout or both and in a few weeks, recorded or live podcasts with various other planning and development leaders.

There will be breaks for holidays. There will be a season, like I’m producing a media program (which this is) and hopefully, you’ll be inviting me out or I’ll be attending the various conferences and gatherings that go on throughout the year.

Oh and my first book is still for sale and I’m working on a second! Details forthcoming about what that’s about and how to get it. I can sincerely promise that it will be easier to get you hands on book 2. But for now, here’s book 1.

I’m so excited to get back to blogging and writing, which is the core of my planning and development practice. I’m looking forward to talking to all of you and enjoy your Friday!

(Also for those of you who have sent guest posts in the past, I’m not doing any right now and I apologize for not making that clearer on my blog or in any correspondence).

And finally, if you don’t get my emails, make sure you do so right here.

From an Ambassador to Kansas City (Excerpt from Triad City Beat Fresh Eyes Column)

From an Ambassador to Kansas City

 

Roughly six weeks ago, after loading almost all of my worldly possessions into a moving truck, relatives helped me pack the rest into two cars and we departed our southwest Greensboro home at about 5 a.m., navigating the freeways past my father’s gravesite at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, on a hill created due to the cutting in of new highway.

Within an hour, I’d left the Triad. In roughly 48 more, I’d have wound my way in the caravan through six states and the entire length of Missouri, where I would disembark Interstate 70 into my new home: Kansas City…

How could I leave a city that supplied me endless Biscuitville, cupcakes worth standing in line for at Maxie B’s and food served at establishments owned by families of folks I considered friends, colleagues and classmates? Where not just one, but two fellow young black professionals are sitting on its city council? That, along with Winston-Salem, does festivals like no other (seriously, if you’re coming into town for the National Folk Festival, you will learn).

It’s simple. One must see that the grass they sometimes think is brown is really always green.

Head over to read the rest on the Triad City Beat website.

Thanks again guys for another chance to help you guys “sell” papers. If you are in the Triad area, or close enough to drive, pick up a print copy. They are free. If you have a business, they could use your advertising as well.

A Different Kind of Parade

With this being a holiday week, as well as several events calling for political actions, we’ve seen more of our share of people parading through the streets. However, do people walk in mass just for fun? Do we have to wait for a holiday or be compelled by a human rights violation, or a charity  to take a casual walk around the streets? Today’s video shows that people can and do walk in mass, for the sake of walking and seeing sites as a group.

Today’s Video Friday and as I come to the end of my 30 day NaBloPoMo experience, I want to thank everyone that has read and shared my posts this month and for the past four years. For the first time, I’ve collected some of my major thoughts into a book. On Monday, I’ll be releasing the e-book, which you can grab for just $10 right here. And yes, for those who’ve been asking, there will be a Kindle version and a printed version coming in the next few weeks.

In addition to participating in NaBloPoMo, I’ve partnered with City Walk, a program that airs on KCET in Los Angeles, that highlights how people walk all across the nation. I thought initially I’d highlight a video of a marketplace today, but I think this one’s even better.

The Big Parade is a mass walking tour organized by Dan Koeppel, who among a multitude of accomplishments, has found time to create walking tours of many of the staircases in Los Angeles. He first mapped out a route in 2003 and started doing smaller tours. In 2011, these grew into The Big Parade, which draws hundreds of people and features special events and entertainment along the walking route.

Enough introduction, I think it’s best that you check out what they are up to yourself, as they head out on what I believe is the 2013 walk. The big 2014 walk was held at the end of May and if you want to join next year, bookmark this page to find out new information. They’re doing a anti-Black Friday walk today, in case you want to follow along on Twitter In the meantime, check out the video by clicking on the image below:

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A Beltline for the People

The first time I encountered the word beltline in terms of transportation, it was referring to the Raleigh Beltline. The Raleigh Beltline is an urban loop highway that was built in various stages and with various standards over the past 50 years. I have many fond memories of commutes and various adventures that were found after I took it to my destination.

If you live in a city of a particular size, there’s probably a beltline or at least a series of suburban to urban freeways in your area. They exist primarily to help you navigate suburbia, or get in and out of the central business districts of your region as fast as possible.  Yet, as of late, the concepts of a beltline or a greenway/parkway have become more in tune to non-vehicular transportation. Today, for Video Friday, I wanted to highlight the efforts of the Atlanta Beltline, a key example of this new concept of non-vehicular long distance paved trails around a city.

This is Video Friday and it’s the Friday series on The Black Urbanist. It’s my way of thanking you for hanging with me this week, by giving you something to watch instead of read. It’s also the holiday season and I’m sure you are either hosting all your family or you are getting ready to be one of those poor souls invading the airports and train stations and roads that the news always talks about on holidays. Take some stress out of your trip by using Expedia to book a good deal on your flight, rental car, hotel or all three. Click here  for more information and know that your purchase will support The Black Urbanist and help me keep writing! 

In that spirit, we have partnered with KCET’s City Walk. City Walk is a series of videos showcasing how people walk in their cities.

I’ve heard a multitude of things about the Atlanta Beltline over the years, some good and some bad. However, what I love about these videos is that they are written as documentaries, with no narration, but with people speaking for themselves. I also like how it highlights a diversity of people using the trail. It gives me high hopes for the beltline style Greenway that’s coming to Greensboro soon (and is already complete in places). Sometimes, talking a nice long walk or a bike ride is all you need to feel a bit better or get some good exercise. In the meantime, take a look at the video by clicking on the image below:

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This post is part of my participation in #NaBloPoMo, the time of the year when bloggers come together to pump out daily content and connect. Find out more about that project and how I’m participating, here and here.

Senior Walking: A #Video Friday Reflection

So I joined the senior gym in Greensboro on Monday. When I’m home, I aim to work out there a few times a week and I even did beginners Zumba! My mom’s really enjoyed the community she’s found there and I’m happy that I have an inexpensive (and only after 5) option to get myself in better shape.

This is Video Friday and it’s the Friday series on The Black Urbanist. It’s my way of thanking you for hanging with me this week, by giving you something to watch instead of read. It’s also the holiday season and I’m sure you are either hosting all your family or you are getting ready to be one of those poor souls invading the airports and train stations and roads that the news always talks about on holidays. Take some stress out of your trip by using Expedia to book a good deal on your flight, rental car, hotel or all three. Click here  for more information and know that your purchase will support The Black Urbanist and help me keep writing! 

In that spirit, we have partnered with KCET’s City Walk. City Walk is a series of videos showcasing how people walk in their cities. This week we highlight a group of senior mall walkers in the Hillcrest Heights area of Maryland, just outside of DC. The video is here:

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This post is part of my participation in #NaBloPoMo, the time of the year when bloggers come together to pump out daily content and connect. Find out more about that project and how I’m participating, here and here.