People often believe that they don’t make a difference with their votes and voices. This can be a big obstacle in getting people to give their input and vote. Having an impact nationally to some is not likely. Cities like Eugene, Oregon have the approach that helps voices matter. On a national level people feel they don’t make as big of a difference but on a local level people can. You can make a difference locally. All you need to do is get involved.
Eugene Oregon is known and thought of as many different things. You can see as you travel through it all the references to being “Track Town USA” implying that a lot of running and athletics go on here. It is seen as a “University Town” which means lots of young kids who are growing students. Eugene can through these other ideas be seen as a place of health and forward thinking.
Eugene is often seen in articles such as America’s Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities in Bicycling Magazine, which rated Eugene number 9 on the list. For multiple years, including 2012, Eugene has successfully used federal spending to consistently improved biking conditions. Also, according to bikeleague.org Eugene is at a Gold Level Rating and says Eugene has a 5.5 percent bicycle mode share – about five times the national average. Through these statistics people may believe that everyone in Eugene believes in biking all the way. There is a lot of community support for the issues of increasing biking options. Many people feel this way but still do not know that they do make a huge difference.
According to bicyclinginfo.org people across the country are moving to have more biking options for reasons such as improved environmental and personal health, reduced traffic congestion, enhanced quality of life, economic rewards and along with these making biking safe for communities. Many communities are enforcing this change and may have already made plenty of advancements.
Reed Dunbar who is the Bicycle and Pedestrian Planner for the city of Eugene says, “We developed our bicycle and pedestrian master plan (PBMP) based on existing data (gaps in the system) and public process. Too, when we initiate a project we engage the local community to discuss desired changes and to test our long-term plans. Sometimes, we change our designs/plans based on what the local community prefers. Public interaction is an important part of the decision making process for new facility development.” This also emphasizes how much of an impact the community has on bike policy.
A couple people from Eugene agree with these ideals and they match up to why they chose to ride their bikes. Rider Ava Huffman says bikes are, “Faster, greener and give exercise.” Another rider Sienna Shultze uses her bike because she doesn’t own a car and she feels that it is a good option because it is cheap, gives exercise, and is fun.
Recently in Eugene there have been paving repairs to roads such as 18th which was greatly appreciated by Ellen Stember who thinks that repairs on bike ways are a great idea because of the many potholes in Eugene. Improvements on campus have an impact too where on the University of Oregon website a movie by Tim Christie explains how popular biking is on campus. According to Briana Orr, in the video, who is the bike program coordinator at the U of O says about 20 percent of students, or roughly 5,000 to 6,000students, ride their bike to campus everyday. There are now a total of six repair stations available on campus according Christie’s article on the newest repair station.
There many programs available to help encourage bike riding such as Lane Coalition For Active Healthy Youth which is aimed at increasing physical activity through biking and providing education and awareness on childhood obesity. Claire Syrett who is the Executive Director for LCHAY says, “We have been successful in getting a number of policy changes in Lane County that have created a healthier environment for everyone.” Another program is Eugene Safe Routes To School. According to Safe Routes 42 percent of children 5 to 18 years of age walked or biked to school in 1969. In 2001 that number dropped to just 16 percent. Their program is aimed at getting kids to ride their bikes to increase physical activity and changing behavior early on to have a greater impact of cyclists in the future. These two programs are partners with the City of Eugene and according to Lee Shoemaker who is the Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator these programs show to reduce drive alone trips by 7-10 percent to walking, biking, or taking the bus. All of these programs are created to encourage biking and have good support.
According to the City of Eugene’s website in this election Eugene voters passed a bond approving a new $43 million bond measure to continue street repair for another five years. The bone measure intends to fix 76 more streets and off-street paths and provide $516,000 per year for bicycle and pedestrian projects. Because of this the City has made significant progress on reducing the backlog of repairs needed. The Street Repair Review Panel provides on-going accountability for expenditures of the bond finds to make sure the money is used as the voters intended. This further explains how Eugene is a powerhouse of pubic change.
Lee Shoemaker says the when it comes to making policy and deciding what money goes where that is all from the public, “The public is asking for better transportation options for bike and pedestrians. They want to get around by ways other than driving alone in a car,” says Shoemaker. People will give their feedback and hopefully see it put into effect. “Success begets success like with the Alder Street project we actually got a national award for that- people know we can do a good job,” says Shoemaker. Confidence from the city that they are pleasing the public can lighten the concern that government isn’t listening.
In economic downturns the public needs to feel that hope and change are coming. When votes are counted and opinions are heard it is nice to know that you will see results. In Eugene it is likely that people can make a change locally. The public ultimately creates policy and change and although there is always opposition to certain ideas Eugene has done a good job in pleasing many people. It can be exhausting trying to create the change you want to see but the best way is to get involved in the change and try to change what you feel strongly about. Eugene is trying to make people see that their voice and opinions do matter. They are trying to get the ball rolling in the correct actions of making Eugene a healthier place where everyone can have a say and can have a way. Eugene is trying to be more bike friendly and hopefully will one day reach the platinum level but for now the voices of the community matter, no matter how much it may seem that you don’t have a say it is just about the only thing Eugene is listening to.