"We have crushed the ability of children to move about their own world." -- Mark Gorton, Rethink the Auto
Pro Walk/Pro Bike 2012 left us with a lot to think about.
One of the standout speakers of the week was Mark Gorton of Rethink the Auto. Gorton believes the car is a mechanism for rural mobility and is an inefficient way of moving people in cities. He highlighted evidence that our heavy investments in car infrastructure have crippled our social interactions and made life more difficult for parents, children, and the elderly. In a presentation for Cleveland, OH, Gorton says that modal split- the percentage of people traveling by car, walking transit, and bike- is determined by government policies. Our government policies in the U.S. strictly favor the personal vehicle and suppress other modes of transportation. MAP-21 blatantly reinforced this. Gorton's speech at Pro Walk/Pro Bike was compelling to me because he so clearly laid out the case for biking, walking, and transit not just because people who want to travel those ways should have the right to; rather, his point was that cities literally cannot afford to continue investing in cars. Biking is up, and car ownership among the younger generations is down. Infrastructure for bikes and pedestrians is far cheaper than that for cars. Gorton made a very logical case that even the most anti-bike/ped politician would have a tough time arguing with. Unfortunately, politicians don't have to meet a standard of logic. Still, we must make the case for smarter transportation investments when talking with legislators and with the public, because we are all paying for the roads. Gorton believes we need intense marketing to get the point across: "The strength in our movement is that there are so many people across the country who get this stuff, so we need to give them the tools to affect the political environment....We need a national campaign to change the way Americans think about transportation."
Gorton was one of many impactful presenters at Pro Walk/Pro Bike, and it will take some time to process what I learned and sort the ideas swirling around in my head.
Be looking out for a post on the first National Women's Bicycling Summit, which merits its own space.
In the meantime, Georgia Bikes! Executive Director Brent Buice wrote some great thoughts on how to move forward with what we learned during the conference. Take a moment to read his blog post "Lessons from Long Beach" (and check their site while you're at it...they're our neighbors and are doing great things).
Oh, and in case you hadn't heard, Pro Walk/Pro Bike will return to the east coast in 2014 with Pittsburgh as host city.