Category Archives: Climate change

Transportation equity: walking

I’ve been walking the sidewalks of Northampton, Mass. lately, and with the recent snow and ice storms it’s been a rough ride.  Northampton’s sidewalk clearing laws stipulate that property owners must clear or treat the entire width of the sidewalk within 24 hours of the end of a storm, and keep it clear or treated after that.

Let’s imagine an alternate history where after a storm, each property owner was required to clear the entire road in front of their house, and they had 24 hours to do so, but the sidewalks were cleared by trained professionals.  Obviously a disaster, but the current (opposite) situation is unfair and difficult for sidewalk users.

We shouldn’t have to wait 24+ hours to have safe passage, and the inconsistency and lack of enforcement of each property owner’s obligation to keep it clear makes the dangerous even after that.

What’s impacts does the current policy have?

  • There’s a disproportionate impact to people with less money and can’t afford a car, and to people for whom it’s unsafe to drive, such as undocumented people.
  • Wheelchair users end up riding in the street, using a private vehicle if they have one, or rely on van services, which are usually funded by tax dollars.  Wheelchair users do use the rail trails that are plowed in the winter.
  • Public transportation access is limited.  Most bus stops are not right at someone’s house and their destination is also not right at a bus stop.
  • Those with a car use it more, which has environmental impacts but also health impacts as people don’t get as much regular exercise.  Children are driven to school instead of walking.

The City of Northampton has a complete streets plan.  I couldn’t find mention of keeping the sidewalks clear of snow & ice, so I decided to research how other cities manage.

  • Burlington, Vermont plows all their sidewalks with small plows, concurrently with street plowing during the day and at night in time for schools to open.
  • Amherst, Mass. has a sidewalk plowing route for major sidewalks and prioritizes sidewalks that facilitate students walking to school.  After the initial plowing route is done, residents are required to maintain the sidewalk in a passable condition

As a step towards treating sidewalk plowing as we do street plowing, I would like to see us move towards a system similar to Amherst’s, where the city assists residents by plowing the sidewalks during a storm on major thoroughfares (which are especially dangerous to walk in the street), and then property owners must maintain them after that.

Let’s make it so all of us, regardless of how we choose to get around (walking, biking, public transit, driving), have equal access to transportation.

The Florence Electric Vehicle Co-op

Imagine having access to the most appropriate travel option whenever you need it, and all of the options using the cleanest energy possible.  Foot, bicycle, electric bicycle, electric city buspedal electric vehicle, or a full size electric car when all the other options won’t do.

One of the problems with owning your own car is that there’s a great incentive to use it more.  In general, the more you use it, the lower the per-mile costs, because driving more doesn’t affect the cost of the car or the insurance in most situations.  Unless you drive a lot, not owning a car but having access to one when you need it is usually cheaper and uses less energy.

So – let’s create a cooperative where we can rent by the hour or day the electric vehicle that’s most appropriate for our needs!

I propose we start with a regular electric bike, and a PEBL, a pedal electric vehicle made locally.

Cars are complicated, with insurance and licensing to worry about. Once we get a handle on the costs and logistics, perhaps we can get used electric cars, such as the Nissan Leaf, which are about $10,000 these days.

Want to join me?  Let’s create a cooperative structure and crowdfunding plan – drop me a line!

Hudson Valley walk 2016

2015-04-23 15.46.01
The text reads: “To the Town of Shelburne, during dry season 1929, Perini & Amrollini”.  Found along the road on last year’s walk.

On May 13th my yearly walking journey begins in Albany, New York at the Albany 2016 – Break Free From Fossil Fuels, an action to block fossil fuel trains and fight for climate justice.  From there I’ll head south toward New York City, on foot and by train, arriving in Brooklyn on May 21st.

On last year’s walk (Walking journey 2015), I walked to Vermont and back from Northampton, staying with friends and new-found friends, recording a radio show and listening and sharing stories.  I was surprised how many people were inspired by my journey, even though I had no goal other than to enjoy the world and the people I met.

This year I will be adding to that goal, and asking people their thoughts and feelings about climate change as I walk, trying to better understand what’s needed to move the movement forward, helping people come to terms with their feelings and help them find a place to take action that’s not coming from a place of guilt or coercion.  I’ll share what I find out with you in radio or video form.

I won’t be carrying camping gear so I’ll be staying with people.  I’ve found hosts for each night.  I’ll be passing through Hudson, Germantown, Saugerties, Woodstock, Bearsville, High Falls, New Paltz, Marlboro and Beacon.  Know anyone I should meet?  Or would you like to walk with me for a day? Please be in touch!