Friday, February 27, 2009

Commentary "Lead us not into Temptation."

a proverb from the Lord's Prayer, left at the door when entering the chambers of the P&Z meeting on Wednesday night?

It is hard to believe that not one person at the meeting standing in favor of the Walgreens at the intersection of Main and East Main Streets dared to question the wisdom, of the developer and the city on the plan as proposed. Where was the concern for our God given Earth and her environment and a consideration of what is best for the planet? Where was the concern for all people of your local community, not just the people of the church? Surely there must be some members of the public who spoke in favor of the proposal who where questioning the wisdom of the plan as presented. Did you dare not speak-up and ask the developer to consider the health and safety of all who would be subject to the changes in traffic patterns, (drive thru, adding more driveways for in and out of traffic, lane change configurations, additional lanes, additional traffic, increased speed of traffic, changing the environment for pedestrians, wheelchair users, and bicyclists) not just the motoring public, for fear the entire plan would be denied? Where is your awareness or concern for environmental justice? (Please see Wikipedia definition at ). Where is the concern to provide an environment that is safe and secure for those who chose active transport, or those who might not have any other choice but to use active transport? Does Walgreens or any other pharmacy for that matter—our corporate "purveyors of health"—have policies that involve doing what is best to truly promote good health for ALL Americans. The research literature is clear (please take some time to visit the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation web site, this is just one of many good sites, thought arguably one of the best sites for lots of specific and general information on the subject), (additional source of good information, from the American Public Health Association web site, titled At the Intersection of Public Health and Transportation: Promoting Healthy Transportation Policy. )that the built environment and land use patterns are having profound effects on the nations health; does anyone know this, does anyone care? Does anyone care how much this is costing us as a nation in terms of health care spending dollars? Welcome to views of the movie Wall.E World.

I am saddened, as well as disappointed that not one person standing in favor of the plan said please, perhaps we should reconsider some aspects of the plan, and acknowledge that our friends on the other side of the aisle have some reasonable points regarding health and safety/injury prevention. This nation is facing an obesity epidemic, with resulting chronic health ramifications. Much of CT, Middletown included, has heads and feet buried in quick-sand, regarding some of the documented ill effects of the built environment and land usage policy as it currently exists, on our nation's, and on our very own local health. This is why I will continue to go to planning and zoning meetings week after to week to speak to this pressing concern, and continue to ask that the city, that the P&Z, that anyone who cares, and can help to effect change, step up to the plate and get serious about getting something done, and setting precedents for what can be expected of developers and ourselves—the future of our city and all who live here—to see that we build the city in a manner that is conducive to,(trees, plantings, benches, pedestrian friendly, family friendly sidewalks, safe accessibility for those traveling by wheelchair, or cane, and bicycle friendly roads, ect.) encourages, promotes and allows for, healthy active behaviors. The other side of the health coin that plays into this plea is reducing our accident, injury and mortality rates, not just in the best interests of motorists, but for all users.

It is not to late. Please reconsider, consider the evidence, and ask the city and developer to take a closer look at what they can do, to do a better job—in building this space, and building place and all future spaces that promote health for the environment, health for the people—for you, for me—and yes, even the health and good will of the corporation.

State legislative happenings; I am forwarding this update that came my way. Contact your representatives to voice your support of these measures.
Transportation Committee also has a bill, currently being drafted by a group working with Rep. Tom Kehoe and the Committee Co-Chairs, which will call for comprehensive "Complete Streets" programs. This legislation will do various things to make our transportation system more accommodating towards pedestrians and cyclists, including requiring that the state DOT accommodate users other than drivers on our roads. It's quite long so I won't get into the details here. The number is SB 735 and the initial public hearing most likely will be in a couple of weeks.

In addition to SB 735, there are a number of other proposed bills out there related to traffic calming, traffic safety reporting, speeding issues on highways, crosswalk funding for school construction programs, better pedestrian accommodations around mass transit stops, and so on and so forth. As I understand, it is likely that many of these measures can be incorporated into the Transportation Committee's SB 735 "Complete Streets" bill -- but if you have extra time, don't hesitate to look them up now and thank the people who were involved in proposing each piece of legislation.


johnpauljustlikethepope said...

I am a big fan of making our town more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. Maybe people will wake up and realize all this economic gainis small consolation for a life burdened by poor health. Our children are dying on the vine. Please keep up the good work, and keep me posted on the bill.

john at kilian dot com

Anonymous said...

Don't fault an entire congregation of wonderful people or the developer for following the written rules. Tell the PZC to approve their Plan of Development and move forward with the reccomendations on biking and air pollution. That would be the first step, dont expect developers to live by unwritten rules and ideas as they come up at public hearings...developers will do what the written rules say, plain and simple.

Anonymous said...

You are going to be in great shape, fighting all these uphill battles, Lady Cyclist! If any area needs a well-conceived and executed plan, it is this busy spot. Some might see it as a potential strip mall, replete with chain pharmacies and other exciting retail establishments. With the Stop and Shop opposite , what can a Lady Cyclist reasonably hope for? Sumner Brook is hidden away in there somewhere, probably choked with modern and ancient debris. The Courant Building and a Drive-through bank don't take up all the available space. Surely an optimistic developer will come along soon with an excellent plan. Seems ripe for a Wal-Mart, to knock out the supermarket and both of the pharmacies! Growing like Topsy, uncontrolled, has been embraced, put forth as necessity for our revenue-poor City, in the past. It will be an all mountain stage Tour de Force to effect a change in momentum.

Vijay Pinch said...

We give up far too much valuable space to automobiles. Only rarely do we ask why, or whether we really need all those lanes. The intersection in question here is a great example, as is Main Street Extended generally as it becomes Saybrook Road. Why not narrow the road, put in bike lanes, a wide green verge, and some sidewalks? Though the decision to demolish the church marks another sad day in Middletown, mightn't we at least take advantage of this opportunity to turn this mess of a street and intersection into something positive, into a walkable mini-center for folks in the south side of town who are effectively cut off from the downtown (in pedestrian terms) by the "Connector" (which should really be called the "disConnector") and the intensely inhospitable streetscape. [Sorry for the run-on sentence.]

Other cities and regions are waking up to the economic benefits of greater pedestrianization. See, for example:

More generally, increased human density, urban 'infill' projects, and public transit connections are the key ingredients for communities to make it through the tough times ahead. We need to figure out how to leverage Middletown's assets as the region and the nation reshuffle their economic priorities. It turns out, happily, we are fairly well positioned, though we still lack certain key ingredients. See:

MARCH 2009
How the Crash Will Reshape America
The meltdown will affect more than our economy. It will forever change our geography.

Vijay Pinch

Anonymous said...

Where is the next logical drive- through pharmacy location? One of those somewhat-incongruous colonial houses? Or, a few steps closer to the hospital, on the corner of Main and Crescent might be good. How about the easy pickings in the Medical Corridor?

Bravo, Vijay. Let's try to find the silver lining in this little cloud.

David Bauer said...

Let's get downtown Middletown done right with the Federal Grant we have - the "Better Living through Drugs" paradigm is not sustainable, neither for humans and nor for our community.