Advocates of Color are Elevating a Different Perspective on Safe Streets

Photo: Argenis Apolinario
Photo: Argenis Apolinario

Last week, advocates convened in Atlanta for the Untokening, a gathering for people who’ve felt isolated or tokenized within the safe streets movement, and an opportunity to put their perspectives front and center.

Stefani Cox, who attended, posted this report on the Better Bike Share Blog:

According to one attendee, about two-thirds of the Untokening participants were people of color, and the event had over 100 estimated attendees.

A Streetsblog article published before the event underscored the importance of the Untokening in a professional world where discussions on biking, walking, and transit in low-income communities of color are often derailed or misunderstood. Even well-meaning colleagues can sometimes fail to give equity conversations the space and time needed to be meaningful.

“A lot of time when we’re talking about infrastructure, we’re not talking about what a safe community means. What might be safe for one person is not for another,” says Azephra Hamilton, Bike Share Community Liaison at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. Hamilton attended the Untokening gathering, and was glad to see race and social justice as the center of conversation, rather than left to a side discussion.

According to Hamilton, the sense of community at the Untokening was one of the most important aspects of the gathering. “These are conversations we are just beginning to have. It was really important to have a large group of folks just to talk about that. Sometimes we might feel that we are alone and we might be the only advocate of color, but then you come to a room full of people talking about the same thing.”

Hamilton wasn’t the only participant to be energized by the diversity of people in the room. “What was most powerful about it was really just the seeing who’s out there and what the future leadership of this space could be,” says Kate Fillin-Yeh, Director of the Bike Share Initiative at the National Association of City Transportation Officials, who also attended the event.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Transport Politic says that any realistic version of Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan won’t be worth enacting. The Transportist points out the inherent sprawl-supporting value judgments that feed arguments for new road funding. And Bike PGH shares details from a new study exploring the risks faced by pedestrians and cyclists in the Steel City.

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She had had enough of hearing her community spoken about in offensive ways by well- (and not-so-well-) meaning planners and advocates, enough of giving 110 percent of herself only to realize a fraction of what she put forward was being seen as having value, enough of how disinterested those with power over what happened in marginalized communities remained in the larger picture, and enough of being tokenized.