04 April 2012

A leader who digs his street life

My friends Fido and Mike
My friend Mike Trapp is now a Columbia City Councilman. I am so proud of him. As part of his campaign he walked. He knocked on almost 3,000 doors since February.

Yesterday he won his election.

One of Mike's main issues is building more livable streets in Columbia's Second Ward. Today Mike and I drove around part of his ward collecting yellow and green plastic signs out of the peoples' yards. The signs say 'Neighbors for Michael Trapp' and 'Lisa Groshong, Treasurer.' "The sign colors match the dandelions," Mike noted. I guess they worked.

As we drove we talked about Mike's head (it is sound, thank you), his plans (visit to see his brother John) and what livable streets mean now that he is no longer a candidate. Mike gets it that streets are not just livable when the city builds a sidewalk. For example, streets like Columbia's Creasy Springs Road have a great sidewalk that links the north end of West Boulevard with Columbia's wonderful Bear Creek Trail. Few people seem to use that sidewalk though. Mike noted the absence of pedestrians and bicyclists because of speedy traffic that includes big, scary trucks roaring to and from one of our local quarries located off the same road. Mike suggested some traffic calming measures may be in order for that segment of road. That will especially be needed if Smiley Lane gets extended to connect with Creasy Springs.

I asked Mike about stub sidewalks. Stub sidewalks are those that don't connect to other segments. They are a deterrent to walking on roads like Proctor Road and Leslie Lane. If the alternative is to walk along a hilly and moderately trafficked street or stay home, I'd probably stay home. Well, I'd probably drive because I can. Most people would. They would drive unless they were too young, too old or not of economic means to drive.

And that is who Mike focused his campaign on. Those of lesser means need a voice on the City Council. If you are too poor to not have a car then sidewalks matter a lot to you. If you have a car or three you might not notice the state of sidewalks. Then again you might. I like to think most people want to live in a place where they can walk around after dinner and watch the sunset, listen to the absence of gunfire, stroll leisurely. On low-traffic urban neighborhood streets no sidewalk is generally needed. Walking on such streets a pedestrian finds room to share the road with the occasional car.

Mike's ward has some new development with lots of good sidewalk that the City required a developer to build. At the same time there exists large swaths of North Columbia built before our current street standards went into effect in 2004 and after developers stopped willingly adding such 'amenities' to their construction. My question to Mike: how will you make those streets livable? He agrees that we need to find the means to connect such segments. I notice in the Tribune that Columbia's federal pilot project grant (aka GetAboutColumbia) continues to get projects built. Often these projects are connecting segments of sidewalk such as the proposed Fariview Road sidewalk near Fairview Elementary. That makes me happy enough to vote for Barack Obama again as if he personally had something to do with it all. Michelle Obama is surely for more livable streets. She has to be, right? I digress.

There was a good crowd at Mike's watch party last night. Many people I knew. A few were from the Second Ward. Most were not. We non-second ward residents couldn't vote but we could and did give money and time to get a friend elected who values street life and sees creation of more active blocks as a strategy to build safer neighborhoods. More cops on the street may keep people from shooting at each other but it won't build neighborhoods like sidewalks and other opportunities for regular, casual interaction. A street life.

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