The Nan Whaley way- and, oh yes, complete streets

Today there was a meeting at the Dayton Convention Center to talk about “Complete Streets”- the new urbanist approach to multi-modal transportation infrastructure. Good stuff- with about 80 in attendence.

The “keynote” was given by City Planning chief, John Gower who has incredible institutional knowledge of Dayton and its planning history. Some of it pretty sordid. In fact, when looking at his slides talking about the history of zoning, starting in 1926 when it was first ruled constitutional, through the post-war period to the seventies, it seemed that we were trying to demolish our cities in the same way we had demolished many of the cities in Europe during the war. Dayton went from vibrant to pockmarked through the process known as “urban renewal.”

The focus, starting with the 1939 Worlds Fair (which was partially sponsored by General Motors) was on moving people in cars. Futurama showed 10 lane+ superhighways- and it seemed that the way to freedom, prosperity and happiness all came with a car in every driveway.

Times have changed- now, according to the last Census, 1 in five occupied homes don’t have a car in Dayton. Does this mean they aren’t a part of the dream? Or, does it mean they have stopped being a slave to the oil companies. Many are older, and consider it a burden to ask for transportation, others, can’t afford the cost of ownership, but, a sizeable proportion of Dayton’s population is carless.

So, how do we encourage the idea of walkability, bike-ability and greater acceptance of both public transit and intermodal commuting? To believe the presenters- it’s a matter of creating “complete streets” with bike ways- a mostly capital intensive engineering solution.

Much of the conversation focused on Dayton’s outstanding bikeway system, and what could be done to encourage biking. The one thing that was limited to a part of one slide – was my inniative for the BCycle bike share system. In attendance were Dr. Mike Ervin, Greg Brumitt from Five Rivers Outdoors, and the heads of RTA and the MVRPC and a bunch of bike enthusiasts who would have been very interested to hear about this program- which is targeted to “normalize the bicycle” as a form of ubiquitous transportation.

I had requested to be given a few minutes to share this proposal and was turned down. It became obvious when we saw that this has now become Commissioner Nan Whaley’s project. Of course, she had the Mayor in to say what ammounted to nothing at the end, as well as her opening and closing remarks.

Of course, the difference between Nan and me can be summed up this easily: only one of us actually rode a bike to the session, and it wasn’t the Commissioner who was chairing the event.

That’s how Nan doesn’t roll.

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10 Responses

  1. Jeff June 28, 2009 / 6:18 am
    …and  the Dayton area does not have an “outstanding bikeway system”.  It has long distance recreational trails, which can be found elsewhere in the US.   For an outstanding system one has to look to Davis, CA.   Davis has the best bikeway system in the US, and its comprehensive enough to actually use to go to work or shopping or school.  In fact 17%-22% of the journeys to work in Davis are by bike.

    The Best Bike Town in North America:
    http://www.worldchanging.com/archives//004676.html

    …that is the standard this area should be shooting for.  Which means a cultural change as well as people actually using bikes.

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  2. David Esrati June 28, 2009 / 8:05 am

    @Jeffrey- thanks to linking to your excellent post on car less in Dayton- your analysis should be included in any discussion of public transit, or bike share.
    In fact, I’d like to add it to the Bcycle presentation.
    Much better way to plan the street car route as well- except that concentrations of people can change- and light rail is pretty inflexible.
    I fixed your link to Davis- also a nice addition.
    Thanks again for your input. If we ever move to UniGov- I’d love to see you helping as a policy analyst- although, now- with no more residency rule- Dayton could hire you.

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  3. Jeff June 28, 2009 / 8:56 am
    Thanks,  BTW, that bike share concept, if implemented, would really put Dayton on the map.  I dont think any large city in the US  has implemented this yet.

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  4. David Esrati June 28, 2009 / 9:10 am

    @Jeff- the bike share, on the scale I hope to launch in 2010- would hit at the same time as Denver rolls one out. DC, Minneapolis, Boston are all in early stages at this point.
    It would be an inexpensive way to put us on the map- and, would help attract the “creative class” (whatever that is)- and cost less than the DDC has spent on “Get Midwest”- and mostly be funded with donations, advertising and Federal CMAQ funds.

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  5. Ice Bandit June 28, 2009 / 3:36 pm
    No doubt about it, Davis, California is to two-wheeled transit what Mecca is to the faithful. However, it would be difficult for Dayton to emulate that Golden State city because of one thing; it’s called winter. Nothing makes even the most fit Daytonian reach for the car keys faster than an 35 mph Alberta Clipper smacking him in the butt-crack some dank and dismal December dawn. Furthermore, the bikeway around downtown is closed for bridge repairs. In preperation for the upcoming Chicago and North Shore Inline Marathons, El Bandito de Helio has had to move his training operations to Beavercreek and Yellow Springs. And for those of you suggesting the Riverscape to Eastwood Park bikeway leg, let me remind you that duck droppings (and the city is slow in cleaning them) and 110mm inline wheels are a guaranteed trip to the er………

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  6. Trinity June 29, 2009 / 1:39 pm
    Hi there David and friends. Just passing through town and wanting to see what else Dayton has to offer. Great site for your sharing of your perspective on the local community – was easy to locate then strolled through some of your past posts.

    Your humor on that Commissioner Whaley was not lost on me either except there did seem to be one other obvious difference….looks like you’ve got some previous attempts at becoming an elected official where clearly Ms. Whaley was successful.

    Dayton seems like a nice enough place to live (not for me though, because SPORTS are my life- da BEARS, da BULLS!!!) and I’ve really enjoyed the weekend. Maybe you could find another community to settle in – you know, one where you could get elected?

    All the best,
    Trinity Wadsworth

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  7. David Esrati June 29, 2009 / 1:41 pm

    Hi Trinity,
    If you think it’s easier breaking into the Chicago political machine- you obviously understand Dayton better than most lol
    We’ll see how Ms. Whaley fairs when given some true opposition- without the union support she’s had in the past.

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  8. John Ise July 6, 2009 / 11:07 am
    This is a great peice that ran in the yesterday’s NY Times on how bicycles could revive Detroit…or Dayton. 

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