New York City resident Danielle Bagley absolutely loves living in the neighborhood of Washington Heights and Inwood (WHIN) in Uptown Manhattan. “I like to describe it as ‘lively,’” she says, and that’s why she feels connected to it. “You always have folks out on the sidewalk, chatting or listening to music; in the summertime, people are out playing games. It’s quite beautiful. There are lots of great community art projects. There’s an Audubon bird mural project. You can walk around and see murals [of different birds] that people have created.”Continue reading Awesome Project: WHIN Food Council
New York City resident Dominique recalls the early days after George Floyd’s murder in May 2020, when she and her friends Hannah and Stephanie were looking for ways to help the Black community. Like much of the nation, they were grappling with feelings of anger, sadness, and frustration that arose in response to the murder of Floyd, as well as the countless others who came before him.Continue reading Awesome Project: Easy Activism, Fundraising for Black Mental Health
From serving up hot meals to writing cookbooks and everything in between, Brooklyn resident AD knows the ins and outs of their local restaurant community. As a former barista, bartender, and server, and a current activist and hospitality consultant, their roots run deep in the industry. “I’m pretty entrenched in the restaurant community here in Brooklyn,” they say.Continue reading Awesome Project: Service Workers’ Coalition: Grocery Stipends
On Saturday mornings, Abi Gildea makes her way to 50 50 Liberty Avenue in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield neighborhood. Any other day of the week, her route would lead her to an empty parking lot. But on Saturdays, the area transforms into a bustling market filled with dozens and dozens of local vendors. From vegetables to prepared foods to home goods and everything in between, Bloomfield Saturday Market is a place for people to enjoy a taste of Pittsburgh. And Abi is the woman behind the market’s magic.Continue reading Awesome Project: Bloomfield Saturday Market
Sister Marie Benzing smiles as she recalls the most recent graduation ceremony from La Casa Guadalupana, a family literacy program based in Detroit. “They were so proud, you know. They were each in their car, in the parking lot with their families, and Lourdes called their names. They got out of their car and walked up. She put their certificate on the corner of the table and then backed away. They took their certificate and all the horns were honking. It was so cool.” In the middle of a year that brought so many challenges to their community, the graduation was an occasion truly worth celebrating.Continue reading Awesome Project: La Casa Guadalupana
ioby is always looking to partner with other organizations innovating in the civic leadership world. Today, we’re proud to announce our new partnership with Sustainable CT, leading innovation in sustainability and equity work inside government.
Sustainable CT runs a voluntary certification program for municipalities in Connecticut and has been operational since 2016. The model is not unique to Connecticut: similar programs have been in place in New Jersey for 10 years and in Maryland for 8 years. We’ve been familiar with it for a long time at ioby through our work supporting Sustainable Jersey City, and lifted up their work on green infrastructure.
So, when we had the opportunity to explore an innovative new partnership with Sustainable CT, it was easy for us to imagine how we might work together. Even so, the depth of the partnership we have today was beyond the scope of our imagination and we couldn’t be more excited.
Jack Kerouac, who spent time on Colfax Avenue in the course of his travels, called it the “longest, wickedest road in America.” It may not be the wickedest, anymore, but many do say that it’s the longest commercial street in the world. Lined with historic hotels still sporting their fantastic midcentury modern neon signs, Colfax has welcomed lots of new businesses in recent years. Bus lines and a new light rail station (finished in 2013) on Colfax have made the Avenue more accessible than ever.
“Colfax Avenue is this major east-west connector in Denver,” says Jill Locantore of pedestrian advocacy organization WalkDenver. “It’s pretty storied in Denver’s history; before the interstate system was built, it was the major travel corridor through Denver. So there were tons of people who came across the country and were doing road trips and went along Colfax Avenue. But it’s really continued to evolve over time.”
Despite all the development and redevelopment happening on Colfax right now, though, it’s still not a street you’d really want to walk or bike. Not yet. It’s too massive and car-dominated. Even crossing the street on foot can be dangerous. That’s why WalkDenver – along with partners like Place/Matters, and an army of planning students from the University of Colorado – started collecting data last year on pedestrian-Colfax interactions. They created an app called WALKscope (which invites users to enter location-specific data on sidewalk quality, pedestrian counts, etc), to help them identify specific interventions that might make Colfax more bike and ped friendly.
The findings led to meetings with public transit agencies, which in turn led to the creation of a HUGE AWESOME REIMAGINE WEST COLFAX EVENT coming up right around the corner, on August 16th. Picture one solid block of Colfax Ave transformed into pedestrian/cyclist/donut lovers heaven for the day, and that’s about what you’re gonna get:
1. Tito Malaga will be playing live gypsy flamenco.
2. The Klez Dispensers (best band name in the history of band names) will be playing, yep, Klezmer.
3. Pop-up parklets on the sides of Colfax – sort of like the ones in NYC’s Union Square.
4. Three City Councilmembers will be in attendance to celebrate and make some remarks.
5. Expect food trucks, pop up shops, Little Man ice cream, Great Divide beer (donated by the local brewery), AND
6. IF you complete the Tour De Donut pop-up protected bike lane loop – which will demonstrate three different kinds of protected bike lanes – you’ll get to nosh on free Voodoo Donuts. By the way, cyclists – City Councilman Paul Lopez has promised to bike the Tour De Donuts, so if you’ve ever wanted to enjoy a Captain my Captain with a local official, now’s your chance.
Not gonna lie – we’re kind of jealous.
OH WHAT A DIFFERENCE A LITTLE LIGHT MAKES
What feature are the folks of WalkDenver most excited about? “It may not sound that exciting,” says Locantore, “but we’re really excited about an enhanced pedestrian crossway that we’re putting in for the day. It’ll simulate a pedestrian activated traffic signal, so pedestrians push a button, a light flashes, and cars stop. We’re going to actually have rainbow colored crosswalks, to really highlight this as a pedestrian crossing area.”
How’s that for pedestrian visibility? There will also be a planted median refuge area in the middle of the street, so that you don’t have to make it all the way across in one go, as well as “bulbouts” at the ends of sidewalks, to further shorten the distance a pedestrian has to cross to get to the other side. It’s all about shrinking carspace and growing peoplespace.
And what about cars, you ask, if pedestrians are going to be crowned king for the day? “Cars are welcome as guests, but they need to slow down and respect the people on foot,” says Locantore. Awesome. That pretty much describes our dream city, here at ioby. If you see any crazy community organizers charging the streets of Brooklyn with signs telling cars that they’re “welcome as guests,” that’ll probably be us.
GUYS, THIS IS NOT A PIPE DREAM
The best news of all is that this stuff is not pie-in-the-sky. The changes that WalkDenver and their partners are implementing on Aug 16 are totally, completely, 100% feasible as long-term, permanent solutions.
“We didn’t want to demonstrate things that were just a fantasy and could never actually happen,” says Locantore, “so we very deliberately did a design workshop where we invited representatives from Denver Public Works, from the Regional Transportation District (the local transit agency), and from C-DOT (the state transportation agency). And we put them to work. We gave them an aerial photo of the block of Colfax that we we’re focusing on, and we told them to draw what they thought we could do to Colfax that would make it more pedestrian friendly that would actually be realistic and could be implemented down the road. So a lot of the ideas we’re testing out are ones that came directly out of that conversation with the agencies that would be responsible for permanent implementation.”
So come enjoy the day, meet some neighbors, eat some donuts, drink some beer, and then share your feedback via the video booth and story board that’ll be set up for you. YOUR VOICE MATTERS, and the organizers can’t wait to see you.
If WalkDenver’s work inspires you to take action in YOUR neighborhood, or if you have awesome ideas about how to make your town greener, safer, and more fun, let us help! Tell us your awesome idea right here. We’d love to help you get started today.
Pssst…. In OTHER ioby news: Some great streets in LA are upping their games, too, and we’re helping them raise money to do it.
That’s right: Our 2014 Giving Report is now out! (We promise you, it was worth the wait.)
In it, you’ll find:
• Stories from our 2014 ioby Heroes, awesome ioby Leaders who worked to improve their neighborhoods from Denver to Livonia, GA;
• A look at 2014 by the numbers (Wondering how many new projects were launched? How many BBQ restaurants our staff tried in Memphis?);
• Why we’re excited to look beyond the grassroots to the “Deep Roots”;
• A one-stop shop for ioby resources, with how-to guides covering everything from Green Infrastructure to Throwing Killer Galas!
…And much more!
Oh hey, people who want to bike safely to work, and people who hate traffic, and people who like clean air, and people who want our coastal cities not to be underwater in 100 years:
Would it surprise you to know that Copenhagen itself, that shining eco mecca of robust and teeming protected bike lanes – bike highways, really – was not always so? That up to the 1960’s, Copenhagen, too, according to People for Bikes, was just as jam-packed with smelly cars as the rest of the developed world is?
Well, yes. It was that late in the game that the bike-heaven of the world turned it around, creating vast networks of protected bike lanes and clearing public squares of cars. Think we can do it, too?
Signs point to yes. In fact, lots of the cool kids already are. New York is doing it, Chicago’s doing it, Minneapolis is doing it. Memphis, a city particularly dear to our hearts, is doing it. And here’s some very exciting news: up next to the plate is a city that for many of us probably still calls up images of SUV’s packed with outdoorsy gear, rather than of bicycles. Time to throw out your old ideas about the mile-high city; cyclists, meet the new Denver.
By this summer, two major protected bike lanes will have opened, with many more to follow.
The imminent changes are thanks in part to Aylene McCallum, Transportation & Research Manager at non-profit Downtown Denver Partnership, and her D.D.P. colleagues. About a year ago, McCallum and her boss approached the city of Denver to say that they planned to crowd-resource money to design some protected bike lanes for downtown. City officials immediately jumped in to partner on the project, and to greatly expand its scope.
“The city said, well, wait a second. Why don’t you let us do a protected bike lane plan. We’ll fund it,” says McCallum. “We’ll focus on downtown, but we’ll do it for the entire city. And how about you use the money that you raise to accelerate the implementation of one of the corridors that we identify in this bike lane plan? So we said ok, we’ll do that.”
In an incredibly streamlined and speedy fundraising push, McCallum personally approached local businesses that stood to benefit from the increased bike and foot traffic the protected lane would bring them. She approached, in other words, people who were already stakeholders in the project, but didn’t know it yet.
“You can’t just get a story on a blog or just get a story even in the newspaper or just get a story on TV,” says McCallum. “That’s not going to bring you to your goal. You have to set aside some time to send out personal emails and personal phone calls, and that’s really what makes the difference. We pulled lists of companies that were directly on the route, on Arapahoe Street and on the adjacent corridors, and did the majority of our outreach to those companies.”
The money was raised in no time, at which point a community meeting was held, and a straw poll taken to determine which major roads residents wanted to tackle first. McCallum says it was the most fun she’s ever had at a public meeting; the poll was a hit. Arapahoe Street won, and a summer 2015 opening is slated for the new protected lane, along with it’s sister lane, which will run on a parallel street, in the opposite direction.
McCallum is herself exactly the kind of Denver resident and hopeful cyclist that she wishes were out pedaling on the roads. She’s what she calls an “interested but concerned” cyclist. She’d like to bike to her work in downtown Denver, but with two young children and a husband at home, it simply isn’t worth the risk. The city still doesn’t quite feel safely broken in for cyclists.
“I’m a mom now, I have two kids,” says McCallum. “A lot of people that work in downtown have families and are really worried about their safety, but they want to ride bikes because they’re active people and they want to use active transportation more. They’re concerned about their safety in Downtown with the high volumes of traffic, and distracted drivers. You want a little bit more protection.”
Looks like McCallum and her many interested but concerned peers won’t have to wait long; maybe we’re not as far behind Copenhagen as it seems. For a map of the new protected lane site, and lots more info, check out the Arapahoe Street Protected Bike Lane ioby campaign page.
ioby is proud to announce $50,000 in matching funds for projects in Memphis. Watch Ellen Roberds from Livable Memphis on WREG Live at 9 explain the opportunity here.