Diamond-Cut Life

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Christina’s Confession: I Take Cuts

August 23rd, 2011 by Alison · 2 Comments · community, Oregon, transportation

This is a guest post from my friend Christina, she of joy-riding fame.

What makes a neighborhood delightful, a place we want to be, that urban planners’ favorite word: “livable”?

My own lovely neighborhood on the west flank of Mt. Tabor here in Portland, Oregon, has been grappling with a problem. The city has a plum federal grant to construct a great cross town bike route that would enhance bike safety, city livability and be another feather in Portlandia’s cap. But a couple of blocks on the street where I live are in dispute—restricting access to them is in line with the values of the project, but worries neighbors that cars will skip my street to go onto theirs. Quite likely, these neighbors’ access to their homes will be less convenient due to not being able to travel on my street.

To my surprise, I’ve learned my street was designed to get <1000 cars per day driving on it. It has almost 3 times that many. How lovely it would be to have a quieter space. The plan would involve a barrier, making a couple of blocks one way, and of course adding the highly desirable bike lane.

All this has opened my eyes to the ways we compromise each others’ livability. Because I’m a terribly clever driver. I know all the back ways, how to avoid long lights, where to cut through a small street to get around slowdowns. I somehow think that going along the main arteries is for chumps. People who aren’t clever enough to come up with a better, faster, trickier plan. In this contentious city planning process I have learned that my taking cuts like that is more about eroding my neighbor’s quality of life than anything else.

I have a new awareness, now, as I try to stick to the main arteries intended for travel, sit through the dull minutes of the red light and muster up patience for the concessions we make to live in an urban environment. It’s important to do it for each other.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Barbara Kutasz

    Christina: I really appreciate your perspective. As I live on one of the potentially impacted adjacent streets, one might guess our views on the neighborhood situation are at odds. Interestingly, though, my take-away lesson from the whole process has been precisely the same as yours - I am far more aware now when I take those quirky and quick routes around town that I am negatively impacting the livability on someone else’s street.

  • Tess Giles Marshall

    Great insight you have here, both into the way in which our infrastructure is groaning and how the steps (or wheel-rolling!) we take take can make a difference.

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