During this pandemic, government should be focused on saving lives, and minimizing the pandemic’s impact on the economy. That’s it.
But some people and organizations are looking to use the pandemic to further political agendas. We have a sharp ear out for that.
On April 2nd, Toole Design hosted an online webinar called, “Rebalancing Streets for People.” They shared information about techniques for rapid street redesign implementation during the pandemic crisis. Listen here. The audio starts after 8:25 into the recording, and you will have to register to hear the playback.
The webinar was nationwide, so it was not exclusive to Colorado Springs. Toole’s nearest office is in Denver, and they report that 90% of their staff nationwide commute to work by biking, walking, or via mass transit. As a reminder, Toole was the company that won a $151,000 (taxpayers’ money!) contract a few years back to design one of the numerous Colorado Springs Bike Master Plans.
Even more interesting to our readers, a Toole engineer was the mastermind behind the failed Research Parkway bike lane disaster in 2016. As Colorado Springs has been negatively impacted by this business in the past, we thought it wise to listen to the Webinar and share what we learned.
There were actually a few points we agreed with Toole about. Everyone is now learning how much can be done remotely. Working from home is a good fit for some who are still lucky enough to have a job. Telemedicine and telecommuting may be new innovations that remain the norm after the lockdown is lifted. During this time, businesses need to get the work done, and have been creative about finding ways to connect to their employees at their home offices. It will be interesting to see what future societal shifts happen once things settle down.
We part ways with Toole over the idea that this pandemic is an “opportunity” to broaden minds about the possibility of using our streets differently. The word, “opportunity” is increasingly being used by some politicians during this crisis. California Governor Newsom talked last week about the opportunity the pandemic is affording his regime. Newsom said, “the pandemic is an opportunity to usher in a progressive era in American policy.” Newsom’s statement is reminiscent of President Obama’s Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, and his, “never let a crisis go to waste” comments from 2008.
We are not interested in this crisis being used to manipulate our behavior, thank you very much.
Toole expressed a concern that people may not have room to get outside, and that social distancing may not be achievable given the current design of streets, sidewalks, and paths. They view this crisis as a motivator to push us in a new direction, where streets become people-focused as opposed to being automobile-focused. Interesting viewpoint, but it’s not government’s job to push us in a direction it wishes we would go.
We argue that being contained in our cars is social distancing. Approximately 30% of our country is out of work right now. We’re confident that after this pandemic the majority are going to hop back in cars for their daily commute.
If people want to get exercise, this is Colorado. There are too many trails and paths to count. If people want to get outside to explore and get exercise, there is plenty of space, even during this pandemic. There is no need to redesign our infrastructure —when the priority should be saving lives— under the guise that people will be safer by closing off roads to car traffic.
Toole proceeded with an old, tired argument that Colorado Springs knows all too well: roads with too much room promote speeding violations. Toole suggested that closing roads, road dieting, and narrowing traffic lanes will control traffic and slow down cars. They even suggested that people contact their cities, to apply for permits to close down their streets to through-traffic, all in the name of safety. Denver is already doing this on a temporary basis.
If streets are closed, what about delivery drivers? They are among the few using many of the side streets right now. Closing streets would make their jobs more difficult than they already are. These drivers are delivering packages of food and other supplies. UPS and FedEx trucks would have to go around barriers to enter neighborhoods. A blocked road will give residents a false illusion of safety.
Is Colorado Springs City Government listening to Toole? We certainly hope not. But because the City has previously done business with Toole, it’s a possibility.
Crisis or no crisis, the City needs to leave our roads as they are. Now is not the time to sneak in agendas that the majority don’t want.
You stay safe and take care of yourselves and your families. We’ll keep an eye on the government.