Event notes: Streets for People Kick-Off

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The motto of the Streets for People campaign is "What's Your Street For?" and indeed, the project has the ambitious goal of changing the way we use our streets. Rather than viewing streets solely as a means of transit, where cars go from A to B, Streets for People seeks to transform them into public spaces where pedestrian, bicycle and public transportation is the norm. Streets for People had its official launch event on February 12 at the Lake Union Park Armory.

The evening's first speaker was James Irwin of the Sierra Club. Irwin was trained in community organization by the same team that trained the Obama campaign's organizers and he shared insights about how to organize a successful, community-based campaign. The heart of his message was to organize around shared values, rather than specific benefits to individuals or groups and that storytelling, as opposed to the heavy use of facts and figures is a great way to build empathy for a cause and appeal to people's values.

Next, we heard from Renee Espiau of the Project for Public Spaces (PPS). PPS is a non-profit that helps create public spaces that strengthen the community around them through an approach called placemaking. Placemaking takes a grassroots approach and emphasizes the local social and cultural environment when designing a public space. A major PPS project is the New York City Streets Renaissance (NYCSR), which is a model for the Streets for People campaign in Seattle. Espiau's presentation highlighted numerous examples in New York and other cities where dramatic changes to streets and neighborhoods have been achieved using inexpensive, low-tech and quick methods. She also emphasized that appealing to community values was the key to mobilizing grassroots support to make change happen.

The Seattle Streets for People campaign is bottom-up and open-source. The campaign seeks extensive community input and feedback to ensure that it is locally relevant and that it adapts to changes and remains relevant in the long-term. Streets for People's immediate projects include:

* Working with the Seattle Department of Transportation to finalize and implement the Pedestrian Master Plan and Bicycle Master Plan
* Working with Seattle Department of Transportation on the continuation and expansion of the Summer Streets program
* aLIVe (A Low-Impact Vehicle Exhibition). aLIVe is an opportunity for artists, designers and inventors to display and demonstrate their ideas for innovative low-impact vehicles (LIV's). Specific requirements for LIV's in the exhibition are listed on the website, but a bicycle is a great example. The exhibition will be held at Seattle's Seward Park on August 22, 2009.
* The Seattle Network, "does everything Facebook does, only better" according to the developers. It's a social network for community organizations and organizers in Seattle and for anyone who cares about building a just and sustainable city.

Read more about walkable cities and sustainable urban development in the Worldchanging archive:

Resource: Picturing Smart Growth

Discussions for a Walkable Seattle

My Other Car is a Bright Green City

Principle 14: Density, Compact Communities and Smart Growth

Photo credit: flickr/Stewsnews, Creative Commons license.

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