Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Autoism Frames Reporting on Opening Union and Winter Streets

It was interesting to see the autoist tensions in reporting on Council's decision on Union and Winter Streets. Both Salem Reporter and Statesman-Journal maintained the language of loss in "closures." The primary perspective is always loss to drivers, never the more universal gain for people on foot: But even drivers must be on foot at the beginning and end of every trip.

via Twitter

Front page today

I suppose there could be more to say in detail on the rhetoric, but surely the pattern is clear. Autoism distorts the way we talk about the project. Even when gain is acknowledged, it's not quite right. SR might say "[now] people will be able to walk," but they were always able to walk on the sidewalks. It's about not worrying about the lethality and pollution of cars and their drivers and about having more space to amble.

More interesting is the process. This is one time where I think the City might be moving too quickly. Because of what appeared to be slow-walking by Public Works at first, there wasn't much outreach to business or residents, and Council's decision to "go big" risks bikelash. Starting smaller and letting bad driver behavior prompt stronger interventions both gives people time to accommodate to the changes and lets them see why the bigger barricades might be necessary. This could an unforced error that plays into Public Works' lack of interest, and even wish to kill the project.

But also, from the SJ, why that incrementalism did not prevail:

[Councilor] Stapleton originally leaned toward [soft] option one as a way to slowly introduce the city to the change, almost like a trial run in the fall that they could adjust as needed for the spring opening.

But during Monday’s council meeting, Stapleton said she was hiding behind that option as a way to make herself seem more amicable and welcoming as a new, female councilor.

We'll see how it goes. It seems unlikely that this plan will not need to be adjusted. Hopefully in response to criticism the City will not just quit but will emphasize the provisional nature of the project and make those iterative adjustments. The lack of outreach and preparation suggests that the project is not best positioned for success, however.

Warning signs, but no striped crosswalks or signal

And there's still no published discussion for the intersection of Liberty and Union. That in particular will need to be figured out.

In the end, the best response is for the walking, biking, and rolling citizenry to show up and use Winter and Union Streets next month on Saturdays. Even if you are not necessarily going to the market, consider using one or more portions of the route. Numbers will help make it stick for next year.

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