At Thursday night's Trails Committee meeting, I got into an exchange with a member of the Franklin Parks Commission regarding trails. Though this individual -- an alderman -- is also on the Trails Committee, he expressed his belief that the Trails Committee is in "direct conflict," "confrontation," and "competition" with the Parks Commission for Impact Fee dollars.
"We're not partnering with anybody," he said.
I was a little disturbed, to say the least. It appears that the city of Franklin needs to decide if trails and bike paths are mere recreational facilities (which has been the trend thus far, and seems to be the viewpoint of the Parks Commission, whose trail network thus far connects nothing useful), or if they are to be treated as useful, connective infrastructure, which I believe is the goal of the Trails Committee.
This same alderman was a vocal champion of a Common Council Motion dedicating future Community Development Block Grant funds to extending the new 51st Street farther north, making it possible to access a road that gets you to Pleasant View Elementary School. This leads me to believe that once old "territorial imperatives" are overcome, we can work constructively to make the city traversable by foot and bike as well as cars.
Agenda item 1 for the next meeting: Discuss cooperative efforts and collaboration with the Parks Commission.
Also in attendance at Thursday's meeting was Alderman Steve Olson, there to contend that the Trails Commission initial mission is limited to 51st Street and the area around Pleasant View Elementary. Our agenda inexplicably included a discussion of sidewalks on Puetz Road, which disturbed him.
Alderman Olson made a point that needed making: The Trails Committee has accomplished the limited goals originally spelled out for it, and we need to go back to the Common Council to expand our scope city-wide. We'll be making our case at a future Council meeting.
In the meantime, a link to a story about bike paths as community-strengthening infrastructure:
My friend Mia Birk bicycled to my house to deliver her new book: Joyride: Pedaling Toward a Healthier Planet.
Joyride is about her 20-year journey helping to lead Portland, Oregon's transformation into the country's most bike-friendly city and then spreading the gospel (and the tools) so that all communities can integrate bicycling into everyday living.
Why? So that the places we live, work and play can be healthy, affordable, safe and splendid. Safe and splendid. Those are Mia's words.
Safe and splendid. That's a wonderful vision because at a minimum, our communities deserve to be safe for people traveling in different ways. But why stop there? Let's make them splendid, healthy, affordable places where people of all ages have freedom to move in a landscape that is not polluted and congested but alive with activity, commerce and beauty.
Portland built its entire 300-mile network of bike ways for the cost of a single mile of urban freeway.
Bicycles are the great connectors. If a community is rich in people who feel comfortable bicycling, you know it's a community rich in connections. Bicycling has the power to reshape ourselves and our communities from flabby to fabulous.
One of my favorite passages quotes the head of the Chamber of Commerce of a Houston suburb built around the oil refinery industry. That hefty man gets up in a public meeting about a new bicycle and pedestrian plan and declares "I've got my SUV idling outside. I just came for the free donuts."
Then he says: "Seriously, y'all. I'm a business person, and this is what I'm hearing: Businesses say they can't attract workers to come live here if we don't provide parks, exercise and safe places for their kids to ride. Bottom line: Businesses need fit and healthy employees, not couch potatoes."