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Streetsies 2018: The True American Heroes

11:43 AM EST on December 28, 2018

The coveted Streetsie.

Holiday lull? Not at Streetsblog, where we are continuing our annual tradition of handing out Streetsie Awards to this year's worthy heroes and heroines on the national scene (you've heard of winning an EGOT? Well, it's really EGOTS when you include the coveted Streetsie, left).

Today's post honors individuals that made heroic contributions to the movement for more walkable, more sustainable, more livable cities.

These four Heroes of 2018 were chosen by the editorial staff.

And the winners are...

Lisa Bender

Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender. Photo: Tom Webster/Flickr
Lisa Bender. Photo: Tom Webster/Flickr
Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender. Photo: Tom Webster/Flickr

As Minneapolis City Council President, Bender shepherded through a compressive plan that upped the bar for sustainable zoning. The plan — Minneapolis 2040 — eliminated single-family-only neighborhoods, which will make the city more affordable and less segregated. Its transportation reforms were almost as bold.

The proposal calls for eliminating minimum parking requirements city-wide. It will allow higher densities near Metro stations. And it bans new gas stations city-wide.

The advocacy group Neighbors for More Neighbors deserves a lot of the credit as well, but all bills need a legislative champion, and Minneapolis had that in Lisa Bender.

Roger Millar

Washington StateSecretary of Transportation Roger Millar. Photo: WSDOT
Washington StateSecretary of Transportation Roger Millar. Photo: WSDOT
Washington State Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar. Photo: WSDOT

The head of Washington State Department of Transportation says highway widenings aren't the answer for the state's congestion problems. That was bold enough. But the fact that he said it in a speech to a bunch of other highway builders at a meeting of the American Association for State Highway and Transportation Officials was even bolder.

Millar said the state just doesn't have the money to expand highways at anywhere near the level it would take to have a noticeable impact on congestion. Instead what the state needs is more affordable housing in job-rich urban areas. That's pretty woke for a state DOT head. Then again, some people who heard the remarks said they weren't that controversial — so maybe the message is starting to catch on at famously slow-evolving state DOTs. For now, though, the politicians who apportion the money are another story.

Amy Cohen and Amy Tam-Liao

Photos: Ben Fried
Photos: Ben Fried
Photos: Ben Fried

Amy Cohen and Amy Tam-Laio are two New York City mothers who lost children to traffic violence — and then weren't content to just quietly grieve or let others take up the cause of street safety. Instead they have been on the front lines of advocating for all New Yorkers.

This year, they waged an epic political battle. Over the summer, (soon-to-be-former) State Senator Marty Golden promised support for legislation that would reauthorize and expand New York City's school zone speed-camera program — only to waiver when the bill itself needed support in the then-Republican-controlled chamber. Cohen, Tam-Laio and other members of Families for Safe Streets held round-the-clock protests in front of his office. Both Cohen and Tam-Laio were arrested for bringing street safety issues to the fore.

But, in the end, Cohen, Tam-Laio and others were successful in amassing political support that led to Golden's defeat at the polls in November, and the election of a new crop of lawmakers that says it is committed to not only the life-saving camera program but other street safety issues. Their success will help ensure other New York City mothers never have to endure the pain they did losing their children, Sammy Cohen-Eckstein and Allison Liao.

Liz Cornish

Photo: Bikemore
Photo: Bikemore
Photo: Bikemore

Liz Cornish, the head of Baltimore bike advocacy organization Bikemore, spent the year trying to get the city to update its fire code to allow for more progressive street designs that would save lives. But a simple policy change ended up being a lot more acrimonious than anyone would have expected. Cornish faced perceived intimidation from rogue members of the local fire department.

In one case, an off-duty city employee — a planner — was physically assaulted by an off-duty fire department staffer, during a public meeting about bike lanes. Ultimately, however, the Fire Department's antics weren't rewarded. City Council approved the changes bike advocates sought in August.

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