Blog: Todd Scott

Nationwide, it's cyclists and pedestrians, not cars, that spin the gears of cool cities. This week, bike and trail advocate Todd Scott, Detroit Greenways Coordinator for the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, shows what true fuel economy means for Metro Detroit.

Post 4: A Diet Guide for Automotive Road Hogs

So if you want to make your community more bike-friendly or more walkable, where do you start? Here are some basic thoughts.

Who's in charge?

It’s important to figure out who are the decision makers that can help make your vision happen. One common mistake is to assume MDOT controls all the roads, when in fact it controls very few. Also, except for Wayne, the county roads are controlled by county road commissions that are separate from county government.

Learn the playbooks

Engineers don't have free rein when it comes to designing roads, sidewalks, and signage. They need to follow guidelines. If you know those guidelines, you can speak their language and ask for the proper facilities – and make sure they're designing things properly.

Bicycle advocates should really consider buying a copy of the AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities. Reading and understanding this guide from cover to cover will make you an expert on creating safe bike friendly streets.

Push easy-to-grasp concepts

Chances are you're passionate about biking and walking, but those you're trying to convince aren't. It's often best to use simple-to-understand phrases and ideas to help them get what you want.

Here are some useful terms to use that help frame your vision in a positive manner:

•    Complete Streets – Building streets for all users, including bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit.

•    Safe Routes to School – Making it safer and easier for kids to walk and bike to school

•    Road Diets – Reducing a road from 4 lanes to 3 with bike lanes. It's safer for all road users.

•    Livable Communities – This term is getting much traction within the Obama Administration, especially with the Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. The concept is simple: Our investments in transportation should strengthen the surrounding communities. All too often, transportation has put a priority on vehicle mobility rather than the livability of a community and its environment. There's momentum to change that.

Start early and be persistent

Public works projects take time. Plan to stick with your campaign through the ups and downs. Progress usually comes in large, irregular jumps rather than a steady flow.

And remember that even when things seem stuck in the mud, conditions can change with staff retiring or new people getting elected or even stimulus funding coming from Washington, D.C.

Be balanced, well-prepared, and likeable

The result is you'll have more people on your side, which is critical for effective grassroots advocacy. It's also more likely you'll be included in future decision making.

No, there really isn't a single roadmap for successfully advocating change. Your best bet is to be well-prepared and figure out the more effective plan of action as you move forward. Bring friends and stick with it.

As Margaret Mead once said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."