Tag Archives: Mexico

Smart Growth Federal Funds Coming to the Boston Suburbs; Do It Yourself Bike Lanes in Mexico

A couple of stories have been floating around the interweb that address at progressive urbanism from either end of the spectrum. First, the suburbs around Boston are receiving an influx of funding from the Federal government that are expressly dedicated to “smart growth.” While the terminology might be nebulous the projects are surprisingly well-targeted. Here’s a couple of examples from the Boston Globe (via Planetizen):

In Everett, $52,796 in federal funding will be used to develop specific goals for housing, transportation, economic development, and public services. Throughout the process, planners will employ innovative techniques to engage residents of diverse backgrounds.

The $60,000 federal grant in Lynn will be used to develop the best ways to reach local immigrant entrepreneurs and help them increase their businesses so that the most successful initiatives can be replicated in other urban gateway communities.”

Just as a quick geography lesson for non-New Englanders: Everett is a predominantly white (~80%) working class (median income: $49, 830) north Boston suburb; Lynn is more mixed ethnically with a slightly lower comparative economic profile (median income: $41,993) up on the North Shore. The semantics of the Globe article are important as the money—minor on the Federal ledger but a decent influx to middle class communities—goes towards studies that are predicated on utilizing “innovative techniques [and] initiatives” and not the projects themselves necessarily. It might seem like a silly use of money, i.e. using small amounts of grant funding to initiate studies, but (and this is coming from some one who used to consult for a living so there’s a little bias alert here) analyzing the project before getting too far down the road can save millions in project delays and potential fines.

Overall, the study funding will be interesting to follow as shovel-ready projects emerge in several communities around Boston. Boston itself is beginning to progress on the urbanism front with a bicycle share program unveiled this summer and the expansion of food truck permitting following soon after (yes, food trucks are important to liberal metropolitanism). Here’s hoping that the entire urban area moves forward in the same vein.

On a completely different plane we see the construction of a do-it-yourself bike lane in Mexico (via Radials’ good friends over at This Big City, I encourage everyone to check out the excellent pictures on Mr. Peach’s blog, they are especially inspiring for velo-activists; StreetsBlogNet picked it up as well):

Mexico City’s government pledged in 2007 that it would build 300 km of bike lanes around the city by 2012. However, the city still only has 22.2 km because most money is allocated to car infrastructure, leaving aside non-motorized mobility. That’s why the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and the National Network for Urban Cycling (BiciRed) launched a campaign called ’5% for bicycles and pedestrians’, which asks national legislators to assign at least that percentage of the transportation budget to non-motorized infrastructure.

To promote that campaign and pressure legislators into action, several cycling and pedestrian organizations decided to paint their own bike lane in front of Congress on October 20th. This was our way of showing how little money and time is required to create quality infrastructure. We wanted to show that governments just need the will to promote non-motorized transport. However, that bike lane was efficiently erased just two days after it was painted, and no city official claimed responsibility.

We were all understandably angry, so we decided to do it all over again but better. We set a goal of painting a 5km bike lane that would end at Congress, the Wikicarril (wikilane). We funded our effort through Fondeadora, a crowd-sourcing site, and we managed to collect 13,500 pesos (about US$1,000) in just 4 days thanks to the collaboration of 37 generous supporters.”

The project title may not be the catchiest thing in the world (believe me, it’s not much smoother in Spanish) but the concept is pragmatic, achievable, and popular, a public policy trifecta. These are also exactly the brands of community development projects that Mexico’s neighbors to the North could stand to emulate: cheap, grassroots, and inherently beneficent. While the initial bike lane was erased by public officials the stalwart efforts of a few dozen activists, paired with even keeled interaction with police officers and city officials, put DIY-community development front and center for bicycle activists in D.F.