Bike to work with the mayor

February 18, 2010 at 5:31 am | Posted in biking, politics | 3 Comments
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Ran across this item yesterday at Bike Commute Tips.  Tried to put the video up here but couldn’t do it last night after an hour of trying.  WordPress supports a few different players, but not the one StreetFilms uses… there was another way to back-door it in via Vodpod but that had its own problems.  Since I’m too cheap to get the $57 annual upgrade to support all video types [I’d do it, if this blog was getting hundreds of hits per day instead of 10 to 20], I gave up.

Ya sure… anyway… do go to StreetFilms and watch the short video of Seattle mayor Mike McGinn biking to work.  It is totally worth it!  I know nothing of McGinn’s politics, but I am aware that he beat two other candidates who were a lot better funded, in a close three-way race.  He makes biking 6.5 miles from his house in the Greenwood neighborhood to City Hall downtown look like a piece of cake — even while it’s obvious it isn’t.  I biked around Seattle extensively in Summer ’08 when I was photographing alleys, and while it was delightful it was also challenging and obstacle-laden.  Anchorage is a lot easier.

Conservatives are fond of telling commies like me that we have “Portland envy” or “Seattle envy”.  There are aspects of both these places I find compelling, even precious.  But they have major issues with pollution, crowding and congestion and high cost of living — without the access to wilderness that Anchorage offers.

But what I appreciate about them is a desire to improve.  Look at McGinn’s ‘Ideas for Seattle’ site, and try to imagine these suggestions coming from Anchorage residents.  Or do I sell Anchorage short?  Maybe a little.  You’ll never see our current mayor, Dan Sullivan riding a bike to work — but on the other hand, the days I ride I have plenty of company on the paths, side streets and arterials.

McGinn is still in the honeymoon phase — but if he makes good on listening to suggestions submitted directly from citizens, and flattens the pyramidal control structure a little, and makes good on various populist principles — he will enjoy a long and productive run.  I love the guy.



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  1. I think the city’s powers should be riding the bus everywhere for a week, maybe 3 or 4 times a year. In Bethel, I promoted riding the cabs to the city staff and council.

    The reasons are–
    *meeting real people
    *talking to real people
    *identfying road and pedestrian issues
    *understanding the role of transportation (in Bethel, the cabs are probably more important than the police for emergency and protective services.)
    *anticipating issues– in Bethel and in Anchorage the demographic changes; job changes; economic forecasts; school leavers; were all apparent 12-18 months prior to the official stats
    *connections between parts of a community (communties are systems, after all)

  2. i was a bit surprised to see how spread out bethel is. i suppose because not all the land is buildable, it has just worked out that way. the connecting ribbon of road was really expensive, though — isn’t it underlain by several feet of insulation and cost upwards of $2 million per mile [1980s prices]?
    the larger debate in anchorage gets back to land use, and encouragement of more dense settlement patterns in order to lessen/shorten commutes. vancouver, BC is a reasonable template, or at least we can learn from their approach. in the late ’70s it looked a lot like anchorage does now. since then, a lot of smart infill and they intentionally didn’t design and build a car-dominated infrastrucuture.

    • A planner in the 1980s (?) said Bethel was laid out with a squirt gun.

      Basically, it was unplanned expansion and growth by clique. Some of the earlier footpaths occasionally are used. Too bad the city never considered pedestrians and cylcists. There is also the problem of landowners (allotments) scattered throughout.

      There’s no insulation under the roads and the unpaved (most of the roads) are not maintained in a way to provide optimum drainage and support.

      Some of the expense comes from not any good gravel locally. Some of it is what the market will bear, I suspect.

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