This guest blog post comes from Brooks Stanfield, a Burien, WA bicycling advocate and Cascade’s 2010 Advocacy Volunteer of the Year. Brooks, along with fellow advocate Jimmy Schulz, recently attended a Complete Streets workshop that Cascade presented as part of a Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant we received from Public Health – Seattle & King County to promote active transportation in six jurisdictions in south and east King County, including Burien.
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With the state legislative session in full swing, all of us here in “Bikelandia” know that February is our chance to advance a cyclist-friendly agenda in the state Capitol. As Cascade’s skilled advocacy team works Olympia’s trenches, staff are also working with municipalities to promote better design at the local level.
A couple weeks ago the City of Burien hosted a workshop on “Complete Streets,” delivered by Cascade’s David Hiller, Tessa Greegor and Max Hepp-Buchanan. Great timing! Burien is a city in transition. We have a brand new transit-oriented town center, we have a diverse population that really needs transportation choices, but our young city is really just starting to fill gaps in its infrastructure for bikes and pedestrians.
Cascade’s half-day Complete Streets Workshop covered both policy and design, and included a field exercise. It delivered a strong endorsement for a simple and flexible “fix as you go” focus. The audience—city planners, public works staff, local law enforcement, elected officials and a few impassioned citizens—shared this learning experience. Its breadth and depth was impressive, and sprinkled throughout the technical banter we heard several of Hiller’s trademark mantras. My favorite… “Right design leads to right behavior.”
Afterward, Jimmy and I heard from some city employees that this kind of gathering establishes the common language and concepts needed so that staff and elected officials can begin a dialogue on how to reform policies and standards. In sum, it’s a small but important building block to becoming a community that offers healthy transportation choices.
For neophyte advocates like us, the event offered perspective; positive change takes patience, persistence and a multi-pronged approach. We also noted that for all the news coverage cycling advocates get for being pushy and pugnacious, the workshop we attended stressed relationships, dialogue and pragmatism; hallmarks of effective civic leadership. So although it’s the battles over trails and legislation at the state level that tend to get the most ink, we saw Cascade modeling the kind of leadership we’ll need in Burien to get the proverbial wheel turning at the local level. And we suspect it will be this kind of quiet leadership that will ultimately sustain it.