Jessica Lubken, 26, Dies After Being Dragged Under RTD Light Rail Train

Jessica Lubken, 26, Dies After Being Dragged Under RTD Light Rail Train.

This is very sad and unfortunate. A promising prospect of high speed rail in dense city streets can turn deadly on a dime, without warning or expectation. As planners, architects, engineers and civic stakeholders consider and develop smart urban design solutions, safety must be top-of-mind. How individuals behave becomes of utmost importance. The human element, the predictability of peoples’ behavior, for better or worse, must not become a casualty as more powerful technology solutions barrel through our city streets. Conceptual theory yielding ultra-optimist positions must be tempered with a thorough questioning of possible and highly improbably scenarios that cannot be predicted.


Car smashes into Family Dollar store |

Car smashes into Family Dollar store |

This is just one more reason to proactively support Smart urban design, such as placing parking lots at the back of the store rather than next to vulnerable plate glass windows. The only thing that should run along a glass storefront is a wide sidewalk. MOVE THE PARKING LOTS BEHIND THE STOREFRONTS.

I will write more on this topic as time permits.

Bike Walk Tennessee: Arrested for Riding Bike to School

Bike Walk Tennessee: Arrested for Riding Bike to School.

This is a clear case of the disconnect between planning activities and everyday life. As idealistic planners, we cannot take anything for granted. In all of our planning activities and initiatives, we MUST include ALL stake- and interest-holders.

The Federal government has a program called the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program, which aims to encourage the riding of bikes and walking to and from school. This initiative is being applied at all school levels, including elementary and middle schools.  However, in all planning activities in which I have been involved, I never once saw reference to whether the kids would be allowed to walk or bike ALONE to school. These decisions are unique to each community and planners, public officials, police departments and parents all need to come together to address these issues prior to implementation.

Police officers are uniquely aware of dangers that might lurk around the corner. They are the ones that book that child molester in the neighborhood or interrogate a rape suspect. They can recognize potential dangers, such as open ditches in the neighborhood (such as one in my neighborhood). They are asking parents to be equally wary of issues that can crop up. And I think this is reasonable.

In any event, the police force must be represented in neighborhood planning activities. Planning officials and consultants should insist that a representative from the police department sit on the planning meetings as part of the development of linear parks, greenways and the addition of trails, especially near schools and other vulnerable populations.

We might bemoan that things were easier when we were kids. Back in the day, when kids could walk to school on their own, leaving mom to bake cookies in pre-suburban America, there were many other kids walking or biking to school as well. Now, not so much. Parent cab services are the norm now. It would be good, as we make a needed-cultural change away from auto-dependent lifestyles back to walking and biking lifestyles, that we refrain from throwing caution to the wind.

It behooves us to walk to school with our child; consult with our local police force as to their perception of crime in the area; and evaluate local attitudes to walking to school. The police force should be seen as a critical partner in the Smart Growth goals of a particular community.

The police are not the enemy. On the contrary, their job is to keep our communities safe, and I am sure they don’t want to be babysitting our children, regardless of the wonderful walkability of our revamped neighborhoods. Through open dialogue and discussion, each community as a whole will arrive at its particular comfort level with walkability.

DailyTech – First Circuit Court of Appeals Rules that Citizens Can Videotape Police

DailyTech – First Circuit Court of Appeals Rules that Citizens Can Videotape Police.

This speaks for itself and is a welcome ruling. The fundamental question is: Are we citizens or consumers? Is the State a private corporation, a separate person or a collective entity that represents taxpayer interests? It is unfortunate that these questions have to be tried in court.

Having said this, it is understandable that an officer might balk at being videotaped without his or her consent while exercising the duties of the office. After all, officers are human beings who have feelings also, just like the rest of us.

However, there is a reason they are considered *public* officials.  As such, the do not act on their own behalf after they don a uniform. They act on behalf of their employer. As a former city official, I can vouch for the fact that one’s life is not one’s own. As soon as one accepts to earn a living through tax dollars, one is held to a higher standard of conduct, or at least should be.

Do police officers represent all of us, including the children that walk to school? If our society is built on the concept of citizenship rather than consumerism, the answer would be a resounding YES. If society sees children as mere consumers, their interests might not be represented by the blue uniform. After all, children  do not personally pay taxes, which means they do not contribute to the tax base that pays for the blue uniforms.

Let’s pray for higher ideals  – and collective sanity – to prevail.