the bike-input meeting last night at the civic center went really well, i think. i'm totally new to this "civic duty" and "activism" stuff, and it's one of my first experiences with city government, but i felt pretty fired up and i think the meeting had a good flow to it, so i was pleased. there were probably over 50 people there, including gracie, her friend stone, and another child, maybe about 6 or 7 years old. i was surprised to see how many people there who didn't look like bikers (as in, not crunchy hippie student types, or really skinny dudes in spandex shorts) -- they were all just people like you and me: old timers who owned houses, had jobs and kids, and who cared about the environment, their health, and the safety of cyclists on the streets. it was pretty cool.
my friend and neighbor, pauline, and i biked with our kids in tow to the civic center, taking side streets most of the way. we arrived just as they were making an announcement that the meeting was starting. after signing in and grabbing a survey, we took our seats towards the back. stone ran around and kicked a ball and played with the candy machines, and gracie drew pictures and chased stone. they were SOOOO GOOD! we were so proud of them! they talked quietly, played nicely, and didn't interrupt anyone! WAY TO GO, STONE AND GRACIE!!!
a man who worked for the city as an engineer (clayton somebody i think?) gave a presentation, talking about our city's goals, where we're at, what's been done so far, the work that needs to be done, ideas to get it done, etc. then he gave us the schedule for the rest of the meeting, and with that we were invited to leave our seats and go draw on giant city maps with markers -- we highlighted the routes that we would like to see improved with bike lanes and sidewalks, etc. that whole process lasted about 20 - 30 minutes, and then we were called back to order. (the way they got us to get back into our seats again was to turn off all the lights. gracie talked about that the rest of the night: "turn off lights, mama. why dey do dat? dark! dark in dere, mama!") it was really cool and really inspiring to see so many people all working together to improve our city, chatting with city officials and neighbors about our vision for the future, and then to be able to actually write it/draw it on official city maps, which would then be given to consultants and engineers to get this project done! yay for democracy! yay for community activism! yay for a better future!
after that, they opened up the floor for speakers. i was fortunately called up first (and gracie came with me up to the front!), and i gave a little spiel about how cyclists aren't the type i described above, but are people just like you and me who rely on bike lanes to run errands, shuttle our kids to school, and go to the park/church/library/store. then i mentioned how mixed-use city planning increases property values, which would increase property taxes, which would increase revenue for the city, so we should be especially motivated to get this done. other people talked about what they liked or didn't like about the proposed bike lanes (such as: wider outside lanes just encourage motorists to drive faster and make cyclists feel less safe -- at least paint a line there to make it OBVIOUS that it's a wider lane BECAUSE it is accommodating bikes; shared roads are ineffective because they are confusing for motorists, and shoulders definitely need to be built on those roads to improve safety; lines need to be painted to distinguish bike-friendly roads from ones that are not, etc.), and others talked about how our city is a really good size right now for implementing this plan: we've got good population density in most neighborhoods, but we're not too big (the speaker mentioned fort worth and austin as being cities that recently became "bike friendly" and they're HUGE and it cost them money to do it, but we can do it for cheap because we're not too big yet, so therefore NOW is the time to get it done.)
we left after that comment, cuz it was already late and the kids were nearing their edge. we really didn't want to push it since they had been SOOO GOOD for so long!
the ride home was BEAUTIFUL, with a half moon and lots of stars, and crisp air with a hint of woodsmoke. gracie sang "twinkle twinkle little star" the whole way home and tried to catch the moon but said it was "too tall climbing up" and "daddy moved it high". stone and i practiced giving each other high-fives while simultaneously riding our bikes. it was fun.
there will be another meeting on april 13: these ideas which were generated at last night's meeting will be presented to city council. i believe the meeting will be at 4 pm at city hall, but i will let you know when/if that changes. right now, it is set for 4/13 (tuesday) at 4:00 pm. i hope you can join us in making a difference in our community!!!