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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Day 1 Pro Walk/Pro Bike 2012: Pro Place

Today was the first full day of Pro Walk/Pro Bike 2012, and I am grateful to be joined in Long Beach, CA with two other Bike Walk Tennessee directors and 800+ biking & walking advocates and practitioners (several of whom also made the trek from TN).  This year's emphasis is on placemaking- designing places for people.

A basic tenet of placemaking is that public spaces- parks, public markets, neighborhoods, public buildings, plazas, and of course, streets- should highlight community assets and serve community needs.  Traditionally, we have thought of streets as channels for cars rather than people, and of streets as being independent from places.  Placemaking disputes this entrenched perspective.

One of my favorite quotes from this morning's opening plenary was by Fred Kent, of Project for Public Spaces:  
"It's hard to create a space that will not attract people; what's remarkable is how often this has been accomplished."  

To reverse the failure of streets to serve community needs and highlight community assets, we must first & foremost focus on people.  

Long Beach is a logical choice for a conference on placemaking through active transportation.  Besides the million artistic bike racks I've encountered since my arrival, Long Beach has implemented art, activities, and gathering/resting spaces that make walking and biking simply more interesting transportation options than driving.  The City hopes to become the most bicycle friendly city in the U.S. (see above photo of this claim, found posted in the City's civic square).  Through strong local political support and a recognition of the economic, social, and health benefits of walking, this beach city has created places for positive uses by residents and tourists alike.

Pro Walk/Pro Bike 2012: Pro Place is a biennial conference presented by Project for Public Spaces and is the largest gathering of bike/ped professionals in North America.  In 2010, the conference took place in Chattanooga. 

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