Do you need a car to buy groceries or go to work in Spokane? Are we a walkable city? It was hard to believe Spokane could score ahead of Seattle at Walkscore but considering the latter’s surrounding communities still part of the metropolitan area (Renton and Kent) that are not known for density and compactness, the answer began to make sense. (Apparently, we’re smarter too.) But downtown Spokane is not completely pedestrian-friendly. Example: Why have developers blocked the pedestrian passage around the Boulevard tear down/Convention Center parking fiasco? The sidewalk is literally gone. Perhaps urban planners agreed blocking one lane of traffic would cause too much congestion but the idea of a walkable city---and one that is bike friendly---has to treat drivers like it treats pedestrians and cyclists.
Walking can be an insane experience in Spokane. You can come a cross a street that has a red light. You look both ways. You see no traffic. You walk safely across. Congratulations jaywalker. (DTE: Guilty for practical purposes. And it's not the equivalent of running a red light unless you're made of metal and weigh a ton.) But then sometimes you reach an intersection with a green light. You have the crosswalk and the light. You don’t bother looking. And vroooom, close call. Suddenly, it teaches us a civic lesson: We end up watching the cars, not the lights. And that’s not healthy. Is it?
Spokane Smart Routes update: It was reported in the lastest issue of Out There Monthly (PDF - page 10) that, "Spokane’s $50 million dollar pot-of-gold at the end of the Smart Routes rainbow is gone for now, maybe for good," because of the recently introduced Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009 that omits expansion of the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Project that Spokane officials, planners, and politicians were hoping would result in the $50 million grants to promote nonmotorized transportation strategies. But all is not lost. Eve Nelson, Senior Transportation Planner for the Spokane Regional Transportation Council commented to Out There Monthly, “Smart Routes has gotten a good response and rallied people in the region." So maybe that's the consolation, and if we can sustain this discussions momentum, the early efforts and excitement for developing Spokane's transportation future will pay off in the long run.
Speaking of bikes in Spokane. The City of Spokane announced last week that as part of the new Master Bike Plan they are creating “sharrows,” or shared bike and car lanes, on Southeast Boulevard and 37th Avenue. Sharrows are pavement markings installed within travel lanes designed to alert motorists that they are sharing the street with bicyclists and to help bicyclists position themselves in lanes to allow motorists to safely pass them. Without a doubt, the number one deterrent for bicycle commuting, and also the most dangerous aspect of it, is a bicycle commuters relationship with traffic. Hardly ever does a cyclist trust that a driver is paying attention enough or careful enough with cyclists on the road, leaving cyclists constantly tense and defensive. Sharrows are a good way to begin the process of integrating the two modes of transportation so one another are comfortable in the same surroundings - thus making it safer to ride, and more accessible to those with a fear of being in traffic. Read the city's press release HERE.
Just tap and he'll be at your service. For a lighter ending to this AGM, former Idaho senator Larry Craig has opened a consulting firm and plans to focus on energy issues. He formed New West Strategies LLC with his former chief of staff in January, and one of his clients is Blackfoot-based Premier Technology, a construction management company with clients that include the U.S. Department of Energy and the Department of Defense. Read the AP story HERE.