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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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Community Building Tip: Traffic
In today's fragmented world, people can improve it by reaching out to each other. Here are some ideas for building community in your neighborhood.

Drive like your kids live here…because they do! I have become one of those people who yells, “slow down!” whenever a car speeds down our street, which means I’ve become my parents. But, I get it now that I have kids. We all like to live in vibrant, bustling neighborhoods, but this means people, especially kids, need to feel safe when walking or biking around.

This one is challenging if your neighborhood is designed more for cars than for people.  However, there are things that can be done to encourage a safe environment:

* Spend time outdoors.  The more eyes on the street, the less opportunity for mischief.  Drivers are less likely to speed through a neighborhood full of people than one with empty yards.

* Some traffic-calming measures such as speed bumps can be installed over existing streets.  You need the city's cooperation to do this, but if there have been traffic-pedestrian incidents, you have a strong case for needing them.

* Encourage people to use alternate means of travel such as walking, biking, skateboarding, rollerskating, etc.  If folks have been discouraging some of these vehicles, cease doing that.  

* If there are sidewalks, make sure they are in good repair and clear of obstacles.  If there are no sidewalks, exhort the city to install them.

* There should be at least one place to sit and rest per block, and more is better.  This ensures access for people who are pregnant, toddling, elderly, unwell, injured, mobility-impaired, etc.  Anyone can put a bench on their private property.  You may want to paint it with "Friendship Bench" or "Have a Seat" or some other indicator that bypassers may use it.

* Where are the public potties and water fountains?  If there are none anywhere near your neighborhood, this makes human-powered travel difficult.  An auxiliary water station may be improvised by stocking bottled water in stand similar to a Little Free Pantry, but then someone has to provide the water.  Historically, neighborhoods often had a handful of people who would let anyone use their guest bathroom, but that's less likely to succeed today for a variety of reasons.  

* How far do the walking/biking routes go in your neighborhood?  Some people like to make a sitemap that shows route distances.  Others paint colored stripes on the sidewalks or place colored waymarkers at intersections to show routes of different lengths.  1/4 mile, 1/2 mile, 1 mile, 2 miles, and 4 miles are good lengths.  Walking for exercise or with an active dog, people typically cover 1 mile in about 15 minutes.  That makes the longer routes 30 minutes (2 miles) and 60 minutes (4 miles) respectively.  The shorter distances suit people with a slower pace or more limitations.  Painting sidewalks typically requires city permission, but signs and markers can be placed on private property.

* Regrettably the best method is only available when a neighborhood is first built: rank the streets so that wide highways mark the boundaries of the neighborhood, within which streets narrow according to their use, with residential streets being narrowest to discourage speeding.

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