Thanks to the very kind folks at Bike ABQ, your humble blogger is attending his very first transportation conference. It’s the Smart Growth America, et. al., “Intersections 2018” event subtitled “Creating Culturally Complete Streets.”
Day One yesterday featured two excellent keynotes, first from famed Streetfight author and former NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, and a lunchtime talk by Washington D.C., based engineer, community activist, yoga instructor and generally amazing person in all things Veronica Davis.
Both talks were inspiring in that way which makes one want to immediately return to their home city wielding a metaphorical bureaucratic sword and start hacking away at injustice in roadway design, etc.. That said, both speakers also repeated the mantras of patience, persistence and always fighting, instead of quickly tiring one’s self out through mindlessly exuberant swordplay.
The breakout sessions extended both the metaphor and mantras. A seasoned group of volunteers who serve on Baton Rouge’s mobility group Sustainable Transportation Action Committee (STAC) discussed, via very useful anecdotal detail and convincing data, the slow, slow process of transforming a very dangerous stroad, Florida Boulevard (think Coors Blvd.).
An afternoon session on the infamous “85th Percentile” of speed limit management combined a Vision Zero advocate and planner with engineering overtones who explained the history of “85th Percentile” and how very wrong that standard is.
That session also wandered into the very real, at times scary, and at time promising concept of “connected vehicles,” as slightly opposed to “autonomous vehicles.” Well, actually, “connected” everything on a road, including intersection signals that will be able to adjust crossing times based on speed of those walking at the time.
This looming future of where the technology will take us, whether we all want to go there or not, juxtaposed with the antiquated 85th Percentile concept which still guides 98% of roadway speed management, left a generally unsettled feeling in the room of planners, civil engineering and the like.
As an English teacher “playing” transportation nerd, this unsettled feeling had me escaping to my comfort zone, internally debating whether Huxley, Clarke, Bradbury or Orwell were more right about where all this is headed. Some of us prefer to escape into literary analysis when faced with the reality that technology, and consumerism, zooms past our human ability to manage it in anywhere close to an optimal manner.
Now off to the 2nd, and last, day of this quick conference. Sessions on tactical urbanism, complete street legislation advocacy and transportation equity await. I sense I’ll definitely need to strengthen my arms, what with all this sword fighting that awaits my return to Burque.
Oh, and here’s a photo or two “proving” I’m in Nashville: