Blog post by Rey Sosa, Northwest Safe Routes Advocate
The Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) is a nationwide organization of planners, city governments, and professionals who work to advance walking and cycling in their communities. For the first time since 2019 APBP held its in-person conference; this year’s conference was in Minneapolis, MN.
At CALC, we strongly advocate for the built environment and active transportation. We understand that a built environment centered on walking, rolling, biking, and transit is the most equitable for all groups. The APBP conference was an opportunity to meet with other active living and built environment experts and practitioners who are all working toward this vision for their communities across the country. The conference hosted several sessions on topics relevant to work that we do in our day-to-day, from Safe Routes to School (SRTS) to Vision Zero to community engagement, and more.
Safe Routes to School (see the full presentation here)
One of the first sessions at this year’s conference was a presentation on the SRTS program in San Mateo County, CA. The SRTS program in San Mateo County is unique in that it is administered at the county level instead of local city level, which offers it a greater source of funding and scope. The program, administered by the County Board of Education, piloted a school travel fellowship model during the first two years of the pandemic. The pilot model encouraged a select number of elementary schools to work with their parents and community to find creative ways to encourage kids to walk/roll and bike to school, including non-permanent infrastructure improvements. The speakers highlighted some of the key findings of their fellowship model – one of them being that it is important to have flexibility with ideas that schools propose, and another that relationships between the county and schools need to be developed deeper to make it easier for administration to support these kind of initiatives.
Vision Zero (see the full presentation here)
Another session focused on traffic fatalities and the disproportionate impact of road design on marginalized communities. The presenters highlighted that in their research they found that pedestrian fatalities increase at night over time. While this may seem obvious at first, it was then highlighted that pedestrians who are out at night are more likely to be frontline workers, and people of color, bringing a class and race element to the fatalities in our roadways. The presenters then brought up the fact that the majority of Department of Transportation (DOT) officials nationwide are majority White; so those who are most injured and killed in our roadways are least likely to be involved in the design and decision-making process of our streets. While the statistics may seem bleak now, there are a few cities that are trending in the opposite direction: Hoboken, Jersey City, and New York City. These three cities have implemented successful Vision Zero strategies through permanent infrastructure projects that prioritize pedestrian and cyclists in their road networks and offer hope to other cities where traffic fatalities are inching upwards.
Minneapolis is a growing city. In the last two decades the region has experienced a huge population boom like many other cities, including Denver. In efforts to maintain a high-quality standard of living while accommodating the growth, Minneapolis area planners have focused on expanding the city’s pedestrian and cycle trails and bike lanes, and mass transit as well.
Arriving in Minneapolis, the airport is connected to downtown and surrounding suburbs by a direct train that comes every 15 minutes. In the core of the city, a growing network of protected bike lanes crisscrosses much of downtown. Sidewalks are plenty and spacious, with many winterproof elements too. Bikeshare stations and dockless e-bikes and e-scooters were found next to many transit stations and bus stops. The light rail system is complimented by a new arterial bus network which in many sections has dedicated bus-only lanes, and improved bus stop amenities such as shelters, lighting, and off-board ticket machines. All these improvements and additions invite visitors and residents to ditch the car and travel around the Twin Cities by walking/rolling, bicycle, and public transit . Denver has made many of these improvements as well, but not to the great extent that Minneapolis has. The Twin Cities teaches us how Denver can catch up to truly be a multimodal, active city for all residents.