powered by the human foot

People before cars: Legendary bike and pedestrian advocate urges Houston to change

People before cars: Legendary bike and pedestrian advocate urges Houston to change

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The redevelopment plan will balance bicycles, walkers, public transit, and automobiles to create a thriving neighborhood cooridor along Navigation. Photo by Jackson D. Myers
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Dan Burden, co-founder and executive director of the Walkable and Liveable Communities Institute, led a series of public events Tuesday to highlight less car-oriented urban planning. Walkable and Liveable Cities Institute
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A green promenade at the center of Navigation is planned as part of new effort to tame traffic in a burgeoning neighborhood. East End Management District
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Noted urban planning expert Dan Burden stopped by city council Tuesday to promote a new pedestrian-friendly redevelopment scheme in the East End. Photo by Tyler Rudick
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When it comes to bike paths and pedestrian walkways, Dan Burden is an urban planning legend.

As creator of the "walking audit" — a multi-day public assessment program aimed to develop neighborhood walkability solutions — he has led a quiet revolution to push local governments across the United States to adopt planning efforts that put people ahead of cars.

Regaled by Time Magazine as one of the "most important civic innovators in the world," Burden has turned his sights on the East End this February, culminating in a visit to a Houston city council meeting this week.

"We have for 60 or 70 years overlooked one of the most simple forms of transportation — the human foot," walkabi lity advocate Dan Burden told city council.

Speaking on behalf of the Houston Coalition for Complete Streets (HCCS) — a collection of about 20 community-minded organizations like Houston Tomorrow, AARP–Houston, and Bike Houston — the planning activist promoted a pedestrian-oriented redevelopment scheme on Navigation Boulevard near The Original Ninfa's.

"It's a pleasure to be here representing the future of people being part of the transportation system in Houston," he told council members. "We have for 60 or 70 years overlooked one of the most simple forms of transportation — the human foot."

Devised by the Greater East End District as part of its stimulus-dollar-funded Livable Centers Initiative, the Navigation plan attempts to recast the busy thoroughfare in an economically- and culturally-thriving corridor designed for area residents traveling by foot, bike, mass transit and automobile.

"The Navigation model will make it easy for people to see that reinvesting in human scale, the foot, starts to bring back the economy," he told council members. "With one corridor at a time, you will see that putting new monies into neighborhoods this way will strengthen all the people in a given area."

According to HCCS, about 40 percent of all Houstonians do not drive, mainly for reasons ranging from disabilities to finances to choice.

The coalition's "complete streets" policy, currently being written, will use provisions in the voter-approved ReBuild Houston Initiative to pressure the city to adopt a design policy that restores a sense of equality to the transportation system, placing the movement of people before motorized vehicles with options like hike & bike trails and safer urban pedestrian walkways.