Special thanks to Asheville on Bikes for bringing focus to the AVL Riverfront during its 2014 Strive Not To Drive Community Leadership Ride… below you can read the 14 point recommendations made by Transit guru, Gil Penalosa, on how St. Paul (substitute Asheville NC) can join the ranks of Paris, Vancouver and Melbourne, Australia, as one of the world's top cities!
14. Make St. Paul great for 8- and 80-year-olds
The young and the old -- along with the poor -- are the "indicator species" in an urban environment because they are the most vulnerable. Redesign our city to keep them safe, healthy and happy, and we'll have a place that works well for everyone.
13. Develop a sense of urgency to make Things better
One of the Twin Cities' biggest problems, Penalosa pointed out, is that things have been pretty good here for a long time. That spawns complacency, which is a serious hindrance in a highly competitive age where change happens fast.
12. Put pedestrians first
"Walking adds the spice to a city, and we don't like a spice-less city any more than we like pasta without sauce." Every trip begins and ends with walking -- we are all pedestrians.
11. Make biking and walking utterly normal
"We need to think of walking and biking as a basic human right," which should be safe, easy and pleasurable for everyone. Start by lowering traffic speeds, giving walkers/bikers a 5-second head start at traffic lights and building crosswalks with "safety islands" in the middle of the street. Let more people bike by building a network of protected bikeways, separated from auto traffic.
10. No traffic deaths by 2025
"In the U.S., 100,000 people are hit by cars every year and 4,000 die." For too long traffic deaths of all kinds have been accepted as inevitable, but now Chicago and New York City are leading the push for zero deaths by taking serious steps to make streets safer.
9. Remember that planning for transportation and land use are the same thing
"Plan a city around cars and you get more cars. Plan a city around people and you get more health and happiness."
8. Focus on making St. Paul great in everything you do
The world's leading authorities on St. Paul are the people who live here -- local leaders should draw upon their expertise about how to make the city great in everything that happens around town. "But remember if you wait for 100 percent approval, you'll never get anything done," Penalosa reminds.
7. Embrace winter
But don't use it an excuse for why things can't be better. "You have 15 horrible days a year and another 30 that are pretty bad. But you have 200 good days. Plan to make the most of those days and the bad days won't be so bad."
6. Become more inclusive
Penalosa admitted that after a number of visits to the Twin Cities, he sometimes thinks he's in Scandinavia. "Every one is blond and blue-eyed at some of the meetings. Then I go to Central High School or the Lake Street light rail station and I see many blacks and other visible minorities." It's crucial that more people are involved in the conversation about making a better future, he says.
5. Attract the Millennial Generation
Penalosa warned that our future is in peril because more Millennials are leaving the Twin Cities than are coming here. "A great city needs to attract and keep the best young people -- the best doctors, the best carpenters, the best musicians, the best in all fields. You should wake up every day thinking up ways to do that." He noted that building more highways and shopping malls will not do the job -- this generation is far less likely to have drivers' licenses or own cars than previous ones.
4. Keep Baby Boomers here
Older adults today are healthier, wealthier, and better educated than at any time in history, and have much to offer our communities. But we must take their needs into account in designing our cities. "Not everyone is 30 and athletic."
3. Shift your aspirations from "good enough" to great
The cities that will lead the world in the future are not making small plans today. "Copenhagen has 38 percent bicyclists but are aiming for 50 percent. Seoul, Korea, covered up a river to build a double-deck freeway but then tore it down to create a park. Vancouver vows to the be world's most sustainable city -- not the best in Canada, or in North America but in the world."
2. Compare yourself to the world's best
It's not outlandish that St. Paul and Minneapolis could be seen as two of the great cities around the globe. "Transformation often happens very fast. Thirty years ago no one would have ranked Melbourne, Australia, as one of the top 400 cities in the world," Penalosa explains. "Even the local newspaper described its downtown as an 'empty, useless city center.' Now many of us think it's one of the top four or five cities." What happened? A concerted effort across the community to enliven the downtown, add more parks and more public spaces.
1. Tackle a big goal
Mayor Coleman is taking Penalosa's advice to heart. For too long we've thought of ourselves as "pretty darn good here," Coleman says -- it's time to make a bolder statement about who we are and where we are going.