A new advocacy group in Tucson wants to make the city a more friendly place for cyclists and pedestrians.
Emily Yetman, the leader of the group, said streets are one of the most public spaces in Tucson and she wants them to serve people rather than cars.
Yetman and several other Tucsonans are forming a group called Living Streets Tucson to advocate for a more holistic view of the road.
“We picked living streets rather than livable,” Yetman said. “It is more like we are doing it — we’re not just saying it can be done — we are actually doing it.”
Yetman said the idea for the group came from Cyclovia Tucson where she saw what the streets could be like when people other than motorists were given priority.
Jerry Shapins, an urban planner who moved here from Boulder, Colo., is also helping launch Living Street Alliance.
According to Shapins, Tucson is really far behind places like Boulder and there is very little engagement and dialog when it comes to creating a city that provides a high quality of life for everyone.
He said he hopes the group can help change that, but recognizes it has to be tailored to Tucson.
“Tucson will never be anything, but Tucson,” he said. But he said Tucson can learn from other communities and make the city and its streets better for everyone.
Tom Thivener, the City of Tucson’s bike and pedestrian program manager, said he is excited about the formation of the group. He said there have been many individual advocates that have accomplished a great deal, but it is time for something bigger.
“It is something that is so overdue,” Thivener said. “We’ll end up with better facilities in the end and it will raise the stakes politically too. It’s nothing but good.”
Yetman said knowing where to begin is daunting, but the group has some goals they’d like to accomplish.
She said they want to expand events like Cyclovia Tucson to multiple times a year and start other fun events to introduce more people to the idea of using streets in different ways.
“Doing and seeing is believing,” Yetman said. “If you can get people out to try something maybe they will start demanding that those sort of conditions exist permanently.”
Shapins said he would like to see the group eventually create an entire urban plan for the city, which incorporates all users.
Shapins said money is always tight, but the city can start small and do a little more each year.
Yetman said there are a lot of groups in Tucson that are doing very specialized advocacy and she wants Living Streets Tucson to partner with those groups and be able to fill in the gaps. She said they will be broad enough to have an opinion on most bike and pedestrian issues and may even bring up issues like water harvesting.
Check out the group’s site and sign up for their mailing list.