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Langley Inside and Out

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From Off the council soon, but not gone.

November 21st, 2011 at Mon, 21st, 2011 at 12:18 pm by Fran Abel


“As for cars – once Fran Abel leaves the council I think we’ll hear a lot less about a “fleet” of eco-friendly city owned vehicles, i.e., a smart car or golf cart sized “fleet” that would really be handy for the public works department!” 

(Comment from a South Whidbey Record article a few weeks ago)

Langley has always been, all my 28 years on Whidbey Island,  a progressive-thinking, richly-creative, well-educated town of people interested in exploring life’s options fully.  That exploration has been vast and has ranged from living small to clustered housing; from transportation that included bus travel, carpooling, eco-friendly vehicles to walking and biking; and from local credit unions to solar power. Langley’s residents, in my experience, have never been a closed-minded group of people but, instead, people of vast and far reaching ideals.   So it follows that many of us want an on-going conversation about transportation’s many options.  We want an in depth discussion about moving people – moving people without automobiles.  And that means  exploring the feasibility of electric cars, golf carts, Segways, and other forms of small vehicles to move people, including our city’s personnel.

For example, Segway reports that there are more than 1,000 patrol installations worldwide.  The Port of Chelan is launching a hybrid car project, and the Bellevue Police, via a grant, are using this vehicle:

 Indeed, to not bring up more energy efficient forms of transportation seems short sighted and irresponsible.  The times are changing and getting stuck in the past, as others move beyond us, would be tragic.  Our city needs to plan for the future and that means we need to continue to have discussions about change.  Lively debate is a healthy thing.

Following are several articles about car-free-cities, or car-free zones within cities.  Large cities with better transportation systems have an easier time planning for life without cars, or at the very least, life with reduced car use.  Small towns have a more difficult time because of the scattered nature of our services and less efficient public transportation.  That said, it is incumbent on us to do what we can to jump in our cars less often.   Or, alternatively, to jump on our bikes more often.  Letting parking trump parks is letting cars rule over people and leads to a less charming town.  Letting automobiles dictate road design is ignoring pedestrians and increases pollution and noise.  Putting all our money into highways and arterials, without bikeways, is ignoring an important form of efficient transportation – bicycles.

  • One very interesting article by Chris Carissosn, “Towards Car-Free Cities”, is a reminder of our short automobile history.  Carissosn says:

As we discuss the seemingly unrealistic idea of “car-free cities” it helps to remember the rich history that we are already living. Streets have not always been controlled and dominated by car industries. Private cars are a disaster for human and non-human life, and it’s high time we reconnect to the long history that has been resisting this monster. Life was very different before the car and it will be very different AFTER the car too!

  • And, an article by Kamala Rao, Planning for People, not cars, Canadian Institute of Planners, Transportation Planner, Vancouver, B.C. makes the case by addressing fewer tax dollars, climate change and rising fuel costs.   Rao says:

There is a big lesson here for Seattle and the rest of Cascadia…It can be done, and it has been done. Whether in Seoul or Portland or any of the many other cities where freeways have been removed and not replaced…. as Dr. Hwang and the citizens of Seoul will tell you, crazy ideas can work — with beautiful results at that.

Mayors and city planners the world over are beginning to rethink the role of the automobile, seeking ways to design cities for people, not cars. The integration of walkways and bikeways into urban transport systems anchored by public transportation makes a city eminently more livable than one that relies almost exclusively on private automobiles. Noise, pollution, congestion, and frustration are all lessened—and we and the earth are both healthier.

For American cities to think outside the car would seem to require a mental sea change. Then again, Americans, too, are practical, no-nonsense people. And Zef Hemel, the chief planner for the city of Amsterdam, reminded me that sea changes do happen. “Back in the 1960s, we were doing the same thing as America, making cities car-friendly,” he said. Funnily enough, it was an American, Jane Jacobs, who changed the minds of European urban designers. Her book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” got European planners to shift their focus from car-friendliness to overall livability.

Why is this?  Why indeed, and why shouldn’t Langley be a leader in the discussion of making it work in small towns as well?

So yes, I’m leaving the council soon, but I’m not moving out of town.  I will still be raising the issues of alternative forms of transportation with my council representatives, mayor, and Langley’s staff.  I will also continue to have discussions and debates about this issue with my fellow citizens.  Nope, I will not be silence.  Once I leave the council, my voice will still ring out for a  healthy debate on transportation, and many other current and important issues needing local action.

Besides, transportation can be fun too.  How about this for getting down to the waterfront?

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