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Monday, July 6, 2020

Sustainable transportation discussion brings new ideas to Western

Western students, faculty and community members gathered for a discussion on sustainable transportation presented by the co-director of the Sustainable Cities Initiative on Thursday, April 30.

The Sustainable Cities Initiative, co-directed by Marc Schlossberg, is an organization that promotes education, public outreach and research on the design of sustainable cities around the country. Schlossberg is also a professor at the University of Oregon where he teaches city and regional planning.

Schlossberg discussed examples of sustainable transportation from his latest book “Rethinking Streets,” which sites 25 cases when streets were transformed to improve things such as parking, traffic flow, pedestrian crossing and bicyclist access and safety.

“This is a book on mediocrity,” Schlossberg said, “but mediocrity is so much better than what some areas have now.”

Tim Crandall, a citizen member of the Bellingham Transportation Commission, said seeing these examples will be particularly helpful for cities trying to adopt new ideas.

“The book showing completed examples will show people it’s not so scary and that it can really turn out well,” Crandall said.

Part of Schlossberg’s focus is on improving accommodations for bicyclists on streets, which is an exciting concept to Western student Ryan Roberts.

“I think there is a huge potential to expand the usage of bicycles,” Roberts said. “I think long-term, what we see is the opportunity to really shift our transportation away from carbon intensive transportation.”

Roberts said one problem on campus he’s noticed is that there is no dedicated path for bicyclists through campus and a number of restrictions on biking through campus.

“They say don’t bike during transition periods. So then they say go out on the street, but we’re not supposed to be out on the street as per the master plan,” Roberts said.

“So finding some way to fix that – maybe some sort of a bike route that went on the back side of Carver that redistributed the traffic so that people are cruising in that Carver-Art Annex area – that would be really good.”

Schlossberg’s hope is that Western will adopt the initiative and students will work to leverage existing resources – such as courses and faculty – to help improve the quality of life of the communities surrounding the university.

“I think what will be happening is inspiring the next generation work force and community leaders who are students now,” Schlossberg said.

“They have a role to play in making the world a better place and to retrain existing city staff about what’s possible around sustainability and quality of life.”

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