Streetsie Awards: The Best of 2013 (Part One)
We had an incredible response to our Streetsie awards poll. Here are the winners of Streetsblog’s annual awards for awesomeness. (The boneheads and bad news will be commemorated in a separate post.)
The Clearest and Most Exciting Evidence That the Country Is Changing: Sure, kids are less jazzed about getting drivers’ licenses and bike share is booming, but what it all points to is this: All over the country, people are driving less, and they’re taking transit and biking more. That’s the essence of this cultural shift we’re experiencing, and that’s what 44 percent of you are most excited about. The change in transportation habits is not just a temporary blip due to the recession. It’s a tipping point, and what we’re tipping toward is a greener and more efficient transportation system.
Most Kick-Ass Grassroots Movement for Livable Streets: I don’t know who it was, but somebody out there was very effectively getting out the vote for Cincinnati’s streetcar advocates. They swarmed the Streetsie voting, with 798 out of 940 voters giving Cincy the Streetsie. Voters were inspired by the streetcar supporters’ last-minute victory. After new mayor John Cranley emphatically campaigned to deep-six the streetcar, the pro-streetcar movement mobilized, and on December 19 Cranley had to declare, “We’re gonna have a streetcar.” Congratulations to Cincy’s stalwarts for getting their streetcar line — and the People’s Choice Streetsie award.
Our Favorite Underdog: Detroit had a rough year, with its bankruptcy embarrassing a city that’s already endured too much. But so much innovation is happening in Detroit, too — as well as other troubled pockets of Michigan. Despite its well-publicized woes, Detroit worked to add 50 miles of bike lanes in 2013 — partly funded with proceeds from a spirited, 6,000-person bike ride called the Tour de Troit. And while one brash 25-year-old isn’t going to solve Detroit’s notoriously inadequate and inequitable transit system on his own, we’re moved by Detroiter Andy Didorosi’s passion and success in starting his own transit service. Plus, in struggling Flint, Michigan — yes, where the GM plant closed and Michael Moore filmed people skinning rabbits for dinner — they’re “right-sizing” streets for a smaller population and a better transportation system. Flint’s road diets are a model for any city, shrinking or growing.
Favorite Republican: It’s often fallen to us to report on the GOP’s animosity toward transportation spending on bicycle and pedestrian programs, transit, and anything urban. But the party isn’t a monolith. There are quite a few contenders for best Republican advocate for transit and safe streets. We’re tempted to give this award to the entire state of Utah, but we recently became smitten with Greg Hughes, the majority whip of the Utah State Legislature and the chair of its conservative caucus — who also happens to serve on the transit agency’s board. Seeing how quickly brand-new, expensive interchanges became obsolete and how quickly Utah’s population was growing, he began to “understand a little bit better… the absolute need we have to be multi-modal.” Mr. Hughes, here is your Streetsie.
We All Wish We Lived In… Groningen. Clarence’s Streetfilm on this town in the northern Netherlands — whose residents take 50 percent of trips by bicycle — went viral, dropping the jaws of even the most well-traveled bicyclists. It’s an inspiring testament to how street design can affect how people choose to get around.
Highway Most Ripe for a Teardown: There was no run-away winner for this category like there was for grassroots movements, but 28 percent of you agreed that the proposal to remove a section of the Robert Moses Parkway in Niagara Falls, New York, was the country’s best highway removal candidate. Though local advocates are still fighting for a total teardown and not just a reconfiguration of the road, the prospect of reconnecting the town to the majesty of the falls is an exciting one.
U.S. DOT’s Greatest Hit: The federal transportation department just lost a good egg, as Under Secretary for Policy Polly Trottenberg moves to New York City to head the NYC DOT. But as we were reminded when we lost Ray LaHood and Roy Kienitz, U.S. DOT’s commitment to transitioning to smarter transportation and land use policies isn’t embodied in any one person — it’s department-wide. This year, the department embraced a Housing + Transportation metric for measuring location affordability, launched its “Everyone Is a Pedestrian” campaign, and continued awarding TIGER grants to innovative transportation projects that aren’t a good fit for traditional formula funds. But best of all, the department got behind bike safety in a whole new way. Before LaHood left office, he presided over two Bike Safety summits, in Tampa and Minneapolis. And the department is distancing itself from old-school AASHTO standards for bike designs and embracing the 21st century designs in the NACTO guide. Keep it up, folks.
Next up: The rotten eggs of 2013.