This blog is part of an online learning platform which includes the Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki and a number of other Internet based resources to explore what is termed here 'new community paradigms' which are a transformational change brought about by members of a community.

It is intended to offer resources and explore ideas with the potential of purposefully directing the momentum needed for communities to create their own new community paradigms.

It seeks to help those interested in becoming active participants in the governance of their local communities rather than merely passive consumers of government service output. This blog seeks to assist individuals wanting to redefine their role in producing a more direct democratic form of governance by participating both in defining the political body and establishing the policies that will have an impact their community so that new paradigms for their community can be chosen rather than imposed.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bicycles Build Communities

The importance of 'place' to a community and the need for 'placemaking' was examined through the last couple of blog posts and the resources found on the New Community Paradigm Places wikipage. The blog post Placemaking - for communities the canvas becomes the art and the Community Places wikipage examines the extrinsic aspects of place. The blog post Finding the soul of your community and the reason to create your own community paradigms and the Soul of a Community wikipage examines some of the intrinsic aspects of place.

There is one more resource page in the Places wikipage and that is the Bicycles Build Communities wikipage. Personally, I am not a bicyclist. The purpose of this post is not raise the community benefits of bicycling, even though they exist or to advocate for their inclusion in the community fabric, though it will.  It is to look at how other communities have brought about these changes in defining for themselves a new community paradigm.

Living near the traffic-choked City of Los Angeles, the question of  bike lanes can be a contentious one. A recent move by L.A. to give a car lane to bicycles resulted in a number of debates as to its wisdom.  The most common objections being safety and money.

Los Angeles is beginning to change but it has a very different view it seems about bicycling compared to other cities in the world.  The city most supportive of bicycling, it can be easily argued, is Copenhagen, Denmark.

Other communities in the United States are also recognizing the benefits of bicycling lanes and that when properly integrated into the fabric of the community can address the question of safety.

Cambridge Massachusett - Safety Benefits of Bike Lanes
Bike lanes help define road space, decrease the stress level of bicyclists riding in traffic, encourage bicyclists to ride in the correct direction of travel, and signal motorists that cyclists have a right to the road. Bike lanes help to better organize the flow of traffic and reduce the chance that motorists will stray into cyclists’ path of travel.1, 2 Bicyclists have stated their preference for marked on-street bicycle lanes in numerous surveys.3 In addition, several real-time studies (where cyclists of varying abilities and backgrounds ride and assess actual routes and street conditions) have found that cyclists are more comfortable and assess a street as having a better level of service for them where there are marked bike lanes present.
Bicycling cannot only add to the livability of the community in terms of helping to create a healthy city, it can also add to the aesthetic appeal of place.  One notable example in the United States is the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.  The webpage and Facebook page will let you know that the Indianapolis Cultural Trail is a legacy of Gene and Marilyn Glick  by the creation of a world-class urban bike and pedestrian path that connects neighborhoods, Cultural Districts and entertainment amenities, and serves as the downtown hub for the entire central Indiana greenway system.

As to the money question, this blog started with the position that economics had to be considered in the blog post A Beginning: Working to create Liveable Cities through Liveanomics | EIU BUSINESS RESEARCH.

One of the common resources between the Economics of Livable Communities EIU "Liveanomics" wikipage and the Places wikipage is the video on the talk by Professor Jan Gehl, founding partner of Gehl Architects,Copenhagen on Cities for people (Diigo annotated link).

Professor Gehl gave the closing keynote at the Economist Conferences Event, "Creating tomorrow's liveable cities".  The video provides information on the benefits bicycling and walking, when integrated into the community landscape, can have on creating a livable community.

None of this would have been possible though without advocacy from outside the halls of city government.  In Southern California one such advocacy group that helped bring about recent changes is the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.
LACBC engages in a wide variety of policy, advocacy, education, and community building work to make the streets of Los Angeles County more bike friendly for all types of cyclists! We engage through our advocacy with the City of Los Angeles' Bike Plan Implementation, Spanish language education and bike repair through City of Lights, policy work in Glendale, Culver City, the South Bay, and Long Beach, amongst other cities, and community building through the River Ride and our Sunday Funday monthly member rides.
Nationally, one can turn to the League of American Bicyclists.
The League of American Bicyclists promotes bicycling for fun, fitness & transportation, and works through advocacy and education for a bicycle-friendly America. 
We do this by representing the interests of the nation's 57 million cyclists. With a current membership of 300,000 affiliated cyclists, including 25,000 individuals and 700 affiliated organizations, the League works to bring better bicycling to your community.
There are both Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition Facebook and League of American Bicyclists Facebook pages.  This is only a starting point to demonstrate that there are resources out there to create new paradigms for one's community and that they can be built upon.

The last few blog posts have looked at creating new paradigms to bring about an ideal community environment.  The next post will go back to take a more pragmatic view on what will be needed in economic changes to help pay for it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Finding the soul of your community and the reason to create your own community paradigms

In the last post, Placemaking - for communities the canvas becomes the art, we began exploring the concept of  Place and Placemaking from the perspective of  Project for Public Spaces or PPS and similar organizations.

Placemaking, was defined by PPS as both an overarching idea and a hands-on tool for improving a neighborhood, city or region.  The linked to site went on to say of Placemaking:
Put simply, it involves looking at, listening to, and asking questions of the people who live, work and play in a particular space, to discover their needs and aspirations. This information is then used to create a common vision for that place.
The New Community Paradigm Places wikipage  which will serve as a depository for community resources on Place was also introduced.  Community Places, was examined in the last post.  This post will deal with what has been described as the  Soul of a Community.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Gallup joined forces and following an approach similar to PPS studied cities across the country to determine what attaches people to their communities by launching the Knight Soul of the Community project in 2008.  Three years and close to 43,000 interviews later with people in 26 communities, the study found three main qualities responsible for attaching people to place:
  1. Social offerings, such as entertainment venues and places to meet, 
  2. Openness (how welcoming a place is) and 
  3. Area’s aesthetics (its physical beauty and green spaces)
The same three answers apply to cities across the country as shown by the Vimeo video below An Explanation of Community Attachment - Soul of the Community Project.

What is even more interesting is that these three aspects which provide for Residential or Community Attachment also have a strong correlation with economic prosperity.  By studying the 26 individual cities that participated in the study, it is possible to determine what steps can be taken to replicate the same results.  The study showed both good and opportunities for improvement in each city. Each city had a its own story to tell. The stories were of place and, more importantly, the stories were of people and how they interacted with the place they called their community.

From the Aberdeen post:
Despite its high ratings of resident caring, social offerings remains a challenge area for Aberdeen, specifically in the areas of local night life and arts and cultural events. This must be addressed as these areas are particularly important to young people. Over the past three years of the study, Aberdeen has made significant gains in attaching young people 18-34 years old to the community. Imagine what could be possible with more attention to these aspects of social offerings.
From the Corpus Christi post:
The comments I had read in the article announcing the presentation flooded my mind as I stood facing what seemed to be a completely different crowd that night. And I worried about deflating that crowd with my honest response. But I said, “It seems to me that some of you, and I’m not sure if you’re in this room, but some of you are stuck in place.”
The Soul of the Community study helps identify new approaches to help create transformational change and new possibilities for continued progress, in other words it helps in creating new community paradigms.  A community can use the study’s findings to help optimize the strengths of their community and address the challenge of improving of areas community attachment thereby potentially increasing local economic growth.

This effort' to create new community paradigms began by looking at economic development in working to create Liveable Cities through Liveanomics.  The relationship of community attachment to economic development in the Soul of the Community Study provides particular relevance for this effort by going beyond the recent economic crisis as the study's findings can help leaders include new ideas into the existing economic rebuilding and development conversation.

Good economics and finance are essential to the sustainability of a city but they are not the soul of the community and do not make up the all of that community's wealth.  This was demonstrated in the one Southern California city included in Knight Soul of the Community Study - Long Beach, California..
Ratings of the local economy increased in 2010; however, the economy is still not a key factor emotionally connecting residents to their communities. Perception of local leadership is rated lower in 2010, but it is not a key driver in attaching residents to Long Beach.
To increase its community wealth, Long Beach added to its own natural assets of good weather and relaxed Southern California attitude by investing in high-quality bicycle infrastructure and encouraging bike-related businesses.

Long Beach according to PPS offers charisma according to their online article How Charismatic Is Your City? showing that there is more to a community than just the city budget and that investments into the livability of the community can have a long term return on that investment.  Charlie Gandy, mobility coordinator of the city of Long Beach, California talks about his city and what they have done to enhance their charisma for the members of the community and others in this TEDx. video.

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