I was filled with self-doubt while working to create a Phase 2 project for my neighborhood. Would my project be of value? Would it upset anyone? Would I get in trouble?
What’s the goal?
I went into this project with guidance from the National Street Service team that it should follow these general guidelines:
- Does this project challenge a commonly held belief?
- Does this project make the streets more inviting?
- Does this project make the streets more treasured?
- Does this project make the streets more caring?
Beyond this framework, the project needed to be something that established outcomes that could be observed. It should be BOLD. And it needed to be doable in one week.
So now what?
I knew there was an intersection of Collister that I wanted to work on. It’s near my house, so I know it well. It’s where a nice stretch of sidewalk abruptly ends at the intersection. This intersection also connects:
- to the south, neighborhood shops and the library
- to the west, the greenbelt
- to the east, a newly discovered “safe route” to the local school (and nearby park)
I learned of this eastbound safe route during my “Street Speaks” exercise. I figured if I had lived in the neighborhood for 2 years and didn’t know it existed, maybe other people would like to know about it as well!
Thus my idea was born. I would share these “micro-routes” with my neighborhood community.
I should say here that all my ideas tend to center on the fact that I am a parent. I travel my neighborhood with my children, and they are a big reason why I am interested in my neighborhood’s non-car infrastructure. I intend to raise my family in this “micro-community” and if there is anything I can do to improve the experience for them or our family, it’s a win-win.
With that in mind, I invited my daughter to participate in all parts of the experience. She directed the chalk “play streets” elements and added her $.02 in whenever possible. She LOVED it!
Conclusions from my community
An older couple who have lived in the neighborhood for 38 years came out to ask us what “all the arrows were for” (our sidewalk chalk mapping). When I told her it was for a project to show people the safe route to the park. She replied “oh that’s nice”. They then walked down to the “YOU ARE HERE” sign to check it out. When they came back down to us after reading the signs, the woman said “I used to walk my grandson to Cynthia Mann. It took us quite some time before we found the short cut. I wish we would have known about it all along!” VALIDATION! I am not alone in my experience!
We also ran into a young mother and daughter out for a walk. They live on the corner our Collister intersection intervention and said they knew about the path but only because they had stumbled on it while walking their neighborhood. They really enjoyed “play street” elements along the route.
Ultimately, I think we are so busy moving fast that we don’t often have an opportunity to fully appreciate all that is around us. The pace of walking creates time to slow down and really notice your surrounding. The chalk on the sidewalks, added fun and spontaneity. Why do our sidewalks have to be so boring and plain?
I shared the map on NextDoor and hoped that people would be interested enough by the brightly colored “YOU ARE HERE’ sign to stop and read more, but I think this project brought to light a missing element in the mapping technology we all use on a regular basis. Why did I not know about these paths?
They don’t show up on maps!
My main takeaway was that I think this is fixable. Is there a way we can improve the technology we use to chart better, low-stress, foot-friendly paths in our community?
I think so!