Thinking Different About Mobility

Rethinking Our Thinking Blog Series

By Mary Sell, TJCOG Planner

To date, our communities have been built largely around cars, rather than around people. When folks try to reclaim that space for people-centered mobility, there are entrenched roadblocks, literal and metaphorical, that they must fight against to earn space in the transportation landscape. Sometimes it takes external forces to highlight these inequalities and opportunities to date in our transportation system. The City of Raleigh and Oaks and Spokes recently demonstrated a “pop-up” process to help the community see the possibilities that appear when we change how we view transportation to create a safe place for all modes, ages and abilities.

With the leadership of Oaks and Spokes, a local advocacy organization, and City of Raleigh staff, Raleigh conducted a pop-up cycle-track installation the 1st weekend in April, intended to be a facility that felt safe for all ages and abilities.

What is a cycletrack? Great question. A cycletrack is a bi-directional bike facility that is separated by bollards, a curb, or planters and reduces the stress of a bike route by providing a barrier between those riding and oncoming vehicular traffic. In many peer communities, these types of facilities have been critical to realize a shift in transportation choices. After all, how can we expect folks to opt out of using a car when the alternative often feels hostile and unsafe. To truly create an equitable transportation system, it is critical to think “beyond the car” and to look at the productivity of space not by how fast a vehicle can get through it, but by how safe and accessible the space is for all users.

What role does government have in creating a mobility mindset change?

Government stakeholders can help to create change in the transportation infrastructure by saying “yes” when stakeholders approach them about new ways of thinking and by being a ready and willing partner on seeing these projects through to implementation. The City of Raleigh was a critical partner on the pop-up cycle-track, and that leadership is needed if we seek to create a more equitable and safe transportation system for all users. TJCOG has worked to help advance these conversations regionally through important work on land-use and transportation planning efforts, and through administration of the region’s transportation demand management program. Much work remains to be done and innovative thinking will be critical to overcome the institutional hurtles that are in place that has long favored car-focused mobility.

Mindset changes are hard but engaging the voices within our communities, especially those voices that have not traditionally had agency in our system, can help create an equitable outcome for all. The most important step to changing minds and hearts is providing a view from someone else’s shoes about how they get where they are going (e.g cycle or walk). To make strides on mobility, and to create a thriving multi-modal system in our community, we must encourage leadership to experience these modes first hand. Has your director ever walked, biked, or bused to work? Has your city council person taken transit to get to a meeting, or biked to a council retreat? These are important questions to ask and our leaders’ reflection upon the hurtles users face is critical to move towards an equitable and safe transportation system.

The good news is, once we all take an adaptive mindset and allow ourselves to contextualize outside our unique life experiences, it becomes easier to apply this approach to how we think and all that we do. As a community, the opportunities to enhance our region are innumerable if we have a willingness to listen, lean-in and learn from all folks, and their diverse life experiences. Let’s get rolling y’all!


The Rethinking Our Thinking Blog Series will release a new post every few weeks leading up to the 2019 TJCOG Regional Summit on October 10th. Each post will focus on a new way of thinking about an topic or challenge faced by local governments in the region. Have an issue in need of a mindset flip that you want to see a blog post about? Email Alana Keegan, akeegan@tjcog.org.

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