Are you a joiner? Me neither! Just the same, here I am a first-year member on the Minneapolis Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Since the city is taking applications for this year’s vacancies through April 20th, I thought sharing my PAC experiences thus far could help others deciding whether to apply.
What compelled this city policy novice (putting it mildly) to apply in the first place? Timing, really. I had begun to walk more and more over the past five years, and along the way I sensed Minneapolis getting better for bikers and sidewalk users. We — that is, my rejuvenated city pride and I — wanted to pitch in. It was at this moment of peak civic connection my opportunity to join PAC appeared right here at streets.mn.
If the PAC is new to you, I recommend the gloriously comprehensive piece board member Julia Curran published on streets.mn last year. Indeed, it was Julia’s enthused writing that made me first aware of the PAC and persuaded me to apply.
Applications are open now through April 20th, you can find the forms at this City of Minneapolis page.
My own pedestrian advocacy journey began a few years ago, when our new single-car household had me exploring the multi-modal landscape. Besides upgrading my footwear and hitting the bricks, I took to my bike and Metro Transit. Though I hadn’t depended on public transit since the early 80s, I loved the changes (Cashless! Real Time Info! Shoulder Right-of-Way!) so much that I quickly got over feeling like Unfrozen Caveman Transit Rider. Still, walking emerged as my favorite method of going places and general getting around.
I loved the freedom walking gave me, more so as I became comfortable with longer distances and, especially, winter. That I now spend hours out on the coldest days comes as a surprise to those who know my summer-first, summer-always ways. But, yes, freedom! Walking meant liberation from, among other indignities, bus schedule vagaries and bicycle thievery. Having come to like walking more than other modes of transportation, even in winter, I wanted to help the pedestrian community at large.
In its Complete Streets Policy, Minneapolis acknowledges decades of car-first design and calls for rebalancing our city to serve safe and efficient pedestrian travel. When I am asked how PAC makes a difference, it is helping translate Complete Streets policy to street design practice that I think of first. Every month PAC works with project planners to consider and incorporate pedestrian safety and comfort in their designs.
I carried some anxiety into that first monthly PAC meeting, unsure whether I carried any useful knowledge to give. To the extent I had opinions, they amounted to hating seal coat rocks and really hating single-sided street signs facing only towards drivers. I needn’t have worried. Though the committee has its experts, if there is an acid test defining PAC it is not a technical one. Only a wish to advocate for pedestrians in Minneapolis projects and policies. Working with the committee, I find the group setting and discussions activate my inner advocate, helping to crystallize views on the pedestrian experience that I had held vaguely or subconsciously.
Okay, I love to walk and maybe you do too — is enthusiasm enough for a PAC member? Oh yes. Each of us experiences and interprets the pedestrian environment in our own way. We each walk in our own places, at our own times, and with our own challenges. It is these personal, earned perspectives that fuel our participation to PAC and progress toward a better pedestrian environment.
No matter what the mode of travel we are all pedestrians at some point, so we are all potential experts. Whether you walk or a little or a lot you probably have opinions on the Minneapolis pedestrian experience. Street features or traffic encounters that make you feel less comfortable or less safe — or more for that matter — are all fuel for contributions to Minneapolis PAC.
If you have the interest and desire, come ahead and apply to Minneapolis PAC. The technical knowledge, I assure you, will come.