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Friday Video: Debunking Engineers’ Excuses … With The Power of Hip-Hop

Buff Brown breaks down how to bust through traffic engineers' bullshit, one bar at a time.

Still from Youtube.|

This transportation industry veteran is skeptical of common engineering tropes…and you should be, too.

When traffic engineers shut down good road projects — and promote bad ones — they tend to use the same handful of insufferable buzzwords, dubious studies, and condescending technocratic excuses again and again. In a recent California Bike Summit presentation, though, veteran transportation professional Buff Brown broke down exactly how to clap back ... by challenging his colleagues to a rap battle.

Brown knows he probably won't go verse for verse with Kendrick Lamar anytime soon — though "the growth of traffic for the next 20 years / shows no room for bike lanes, sorry, thoughts and prayers" is a pretty fire line — but his credentials as a road safety expert are solid. He has degrees in engineering, law, and environmental science, as well as a 30-year career as a transportation planner, air quality regulator, and bicycle and pedestrian advocate in four different states under his belt.

Translating all that expertise into a seven-minute lightning talk, though, isn't easy — which is why he broke out the rhyming dictionary and the Casio-keyboard-style beats.

"I think advocates have no idea how to respond to this standard list of excuses, and neither do City Councils," added Brown in an email to Streetsblog. "So the goal is to empower them, and make them realize this is a gatekeeping tactic that advocates can challenge and Councils can change." 

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