These days, we practically live at the orthodontist's office on MLK Boulevard or at least that's what it seems to me. There are broken brackets to be fixed, sanitizing mouthwashes to be picked up, frequent adjustments to be made. Consequently, I'm driving my teenager there fairly often and have had a chance to experience personally the street changes on Major Taylor Boulevard in the past couple of months. When the pavement was stripped of its top, we had the bone chilling, bumpy rides on the way to and from home. Sometime in August though, the road sported its new asphalt. If I really, really wanted to and if no one were looking and if the road as it sometimes is, were free of other moving vehicles, I could now gun my Toyota RAV4 SUV up to 50 miles per hour as only a cool suburban mama can do! Shh... Don't tell anyone. That road is so smooth and just so enticing that I yearn to put the pedal to the metal.
We have already demonstrated in this blog how our emphasis on building "park and enter" mega projects cum parking garages has resulted in a deadened street life. It's time for some real soul searching here. Do we want to continue to be an auto-centric, sprawling suburbanized city or do we want to stop, rethink and envision a different path?
What do you say, Worcester? Could we turn Mill Street or even Major Taylor Boulevard into this? Check out what I found in Cambridge.
With an aggressive, cut-through-bureaucracy style of a Robert Moses and the values of a Jane Jacobs, Janette Sadik-Khan changed the streetscape of New York City when she served as Mayor Bloomberg's Commissioner of the Department of Transportation from 2007 to 2013. During her tenure, she built one of the largest bike share programs in the country, created a network of 400 miles of dedicated bike lanes and over 50 pedestrian plazas. In her book, Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution, she lets us in on a little secret. These major street changes don't have to be expensive. All you need is some paint and planters to make major changes in how our city streets are used.
Who exactly is Dan Burden and why is he going for a walk with us here in downtown Worcester? Dan is not an engineer. Dan is not even a professionally trained urban planner, architect or designer. So, who is Dan Burden and why are cities all across the country asking him to give advice on how to design walkable, livable urban streets? As a former professional photographer for National Geographic Magazine, Dan developed a keen eye that has been able to observe what makes a city thrive. He has traveled to cities around the world and even made a solo bike trek from Alaska to Argentina. He rarely slows down now, visiting cities across the country to design streets for people and not just for cars.
There is no such thing as “retirement” for Jerry Powers. After a long career as an engineer, Jerry has found his current passion in making Worcester a better place to live. His civic activism manifests in many forms – organizing his local neighborhood association near Columbus Park, dredging out tons of invasive weeds in Coes Pond through the Coes Zone group and attending public hearings to shape street designs that support walking and biking in the city. He had a dream of bike paths crisscrossing the city. When he met Karin Valentine Goins, another walk-bike advocate, about six years ago, they naturally became a team to create the advocacy group, WalkBike Worcester. The group has grown through word-of-mouth to over 150 members. 15 to 25 people on average attend WalkBike’s monthly meetings to plan how to make Worcester more accessible for walkers and bikers.