Mayors’ Challenge Seeks to Create Safer Walking and Bicycling Networks

Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx issued the Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists over the next year.

Bike lanesMayors who commit to creating safer, more connected walking and bicycling networks in their cities will be invited to attend the Mayors’ Summit for Safer People, Safer Streets on March 12 in Washington, D.C. (Getty Images)

For the first time in human history, the majority of the world’s population lives in urban areas, including 80 percent of Americans. The increase in the number of city dwellers in the U.S. correlates with an increase in the number of people using non-motorized forms of transportation, such as walking and bicycling, to move around their communities. However, this increase in healthy and environmentally friendly travel modes has a significant downside – pedestrian and bicycle injuries and fatalities have steadily increased since 2009.

Elected officials at the local, state and federal level recognize the need to create safer, more connected walking and bicycling networks. As part of the Safer People, Safer Streets initiative, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx issued a challenge to mayors and other local elected officials to create safer walking and bicycling options for their residents. He challenged city leaders to undertake seven activities over the next year to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists of all ages and abilities. Over 90 cities have already joined the challenge.

Many mayors, city councilmembers and other local elected officials are already making changes to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety. In Columbus, Ohio, Mayor Michael B. Coleman and the city council adopted the Safe Streets Ordinance, which includes provisions that clarify that bicyclists are protected under the law from being “doored” by motorists, and specify that motor vehicles must allow a minimum of three feet when passing bicycles.

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City streets are closed to vehicles during CycloBia Brownsville. (photo credit: City of Brownsville, Texas)

In Brownsville, Texas, City Commissioner Rose Gowen and other city leaders have adopted an Open Streets approach; through CycloBia Brownsville the city closes some public streets during designated times so residents can safely use city streets for walking, bicycling and other recreational activities.

Mick Cornett, mayor of Oklahoma City, Okla., is leading an effort to consciously redesign and rebuild the city’s streetscapes with millennials in mind, many of whom are less likely to have a driver’s license and more likely to walk, bike and use public transportation.

NLC, through Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties has helped cities implement strategies such as Complete Streets, Safe Routes to School and Open Streets to improve the design and use of streets for pedestrians and cyclists. To date, more than 200 cities and counties are using such strategies to enhance opportunities for residents who walk and bike to school, to work and just for fun.

To make your city safer and easier to navigate for pedestrians and bicyclists, sign up for the Safer People, Safer Streets Mayors’ Challenge today! When you sign up, let us know on Twitter by using the hashtag #mayors4safety.

About the Author: Tracy Wiedt is the Program Manager for Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties at the National League of Cities.

How Do You House 101,628 People?

One at a time.

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(From left to right) Fred Wacker, COO of The Home Depot Foundation; Becky Kanis, Campaign Director, 100,000 Homes Campaign; Alvin Hill, recently housed U.S. Army Veteran

Alvin Hill, an Army and National Guard veteran, now has a safe place to call home after being homeless for nearly 20 years. Alvin is one of 31,171 veterans out of the 101,628 people housed by communities participating in the 100,000 Homes Campaign.

In less than four years, 238 communities across the country have implemented data-driven strategies such as Housing First, rapid re-housing, progressive engagement, client prioritization and coordinated assessment to bring community members without a home out of the shadows and into stable living conditions.

Previous posts on this blog have documented the successes of cities such as Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Nashville. These communities and others have brought together local leaders with non-profit service providers, federal and state agencies, faith-based communities, educational institutions, philanthropies and the private sector to ensure unprecedented levels of support for homeless veterans.

Together with federal agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development resources such as HUD-VASH and Supportive Services for Veteran Families, the 100,000 Homes Campaign has helped lead efforts that have resulted in a 24% decline in veteran homelessness since 2010.

Philanthropies and corporate partners such as The Home Depot Foundation and JP Morgan Chase have complemented these federal resources with unwavering support.

“This campaign has shown that we can end homelessness,” said Jennifer Ho, Senior Advisor at HUD. “We sometimes hear that ‘some people want to live on the street.’ We choose to believe that when we can’t act. This campaign has shown that we can act and we can succeed.”

Alvin was brought home when his caseworker at ASPAN in Arlington, Virginia acted. “She told me it would be alright and in one month she was showing me apartments where I could live,” he said. “I’m not nervous about speaking to you all today, because I know when to be nervous. I was nervous when I had to sleep at the airport, on the street, in the park, or in the laundry mat. Today, I have a counselor, a place to wash my clothes. Homelessness can end with you.”

As the federal goal of ending veteran homeless in 2015 nears, the success of the 100,000 Homes Campaign must be expanded. Last week, the First Lady announced the Mayors Challenge to actively engage elected officials. NLC is supporting this effort with the Homeless Veteran Leadership Network led by NLC President Chris Coleman, Mayor of Saint Paul, NLC 1st Vice President Ralph Becker, Mayor of Salt Lake City, and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. This week, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced his support.

Over the last three decades, our country has seen the growth and perpetuation of homelessness. It has become such a prevalent part of urban living that most believe the issue is too complex to ever solve. For years, even homeless advocates have been operating to manage the issue rather than solve it, with the consistent refrain being that there are not enough resources.

Today all of that is false.

Data-driven strategies have been tested and proven. Historic levels of resources are now in the hands of service providers.

Cities have shown homelessness can end. What is left is our choice to act.

 Elisha_blogAbout the Author: Elisha Harig-Blaine is the Principal Associate for Housing (Veterans and Special Needs) at NLC. Follow Elisha on Twitter at @HarigBlaine.

The Latest in Economic Development

This week’s blog explores creating an innovation culture, closing the talent gap, “ideation” and Bloomberg’s Mayor’s Challenge. Comment below or send to mcfarland@nlc.org.

Get the last edition of “The Latest in Economic Development” here.

Creating a culture of innovation can sometimes look a lot like “old” economic development. The city of Grove, OK is targeting entrepreneurs using typical “large catch” recruitment tools, such as giving away space in its industrial park (BusinessWeek).  And just this week, D.C. city council approved a $32.5 million tax credit to keep “daily deal purveyor LivingSocial headquarters in the city” (Washington Post).  The impetus: the threat of LivingSocial moving across the border to lower-tax Virginia and disrupting the burgeoning tech scene.

But what do innovative industries really want? In D.C., the tech community responded to the incentives deal with a letter outlining several ways economic developers should support them: sublease commercial office space to young tech firms at below-market rate; use city-owned land to create a “tech hub”; and use business development programs to encourage major industries to invest in information technology (Washington Post).  In Seattle, the major players of the tech industry are pushing for a greater supply of homegrown talent in high-tech disciplines.  In an interesting twist, Boston’s Northeastern University is stepping in to help fill talent gap by opening a Seattle campus offering specialized degree programs (Xconomy via Seattle’s Daily Digest).

Closing this talent gap has become a priority of cities and regions across the country, with many new strategies popping up to overcome an outdated workforce system. The New York Times recently profiled an effort, Year Up, which “makes it possible for poor high school graduates to land good jobs. It does so, in part, by imparting important soft skills that the upper-middle-class takes for granted, like how to interact with colleagues in an office setting. A second aspect of the program involves teaching marketable skills in such areas as computer support, say, or back-office work at financial firms.” Efforts such as Year Up are clearly a step in the right direction, but unfortunately are only a drop in the bucket.

The National Fund for Workforce Solutions is working to connect and leverage programs like Year Up with other regional resources, industry, funders, educators and the workforce system to build stronger and more sustainable regional funding collaboratives. “At the heart of this is really making sure that the partnerships support the work and the needs of the local community,” said Damian Thorman, national program director at the John L. and James S. Knight Foundation and chair of the Investor Committee for the National Fund for Workforce Solutions (The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta).

What does “ideation” mean to you? Yes, that’s a real word, at least according to the Bloomberg Foundation. With an Innovation Delivery Team grant from Bloomberg, the city of Memphis is boosting businesses in struggling, but transitional neighborhoods.  Governing profiles the city’s ideation process to engagestakeholders, peers, experts and others for ideas and data about an issue and use that information to rigorously examine those ideas before choosing a direction.” For example, Memphis convened local employers to discuss the challenges they face, goals for the future and specific policies they would like to see implemented. As a result, the city is developing strategies, such as “pop-up retail,” to allow start-ups to test the waters in vacant and underused locations.  The city is also undergoing a major overhaul of its business development agency to provide improved market data and customized assistance.

Also from Bloomberg, if your city has a bold idea to make government work better, solve a serious problem or improve city life, apply for the Mayor’s Challenge. RSVP due July 19!