May 24, 2010

Bright ideas: Setting the pace

Washington DC Pace Car ProgramWe'll admit it: There are days when we feel a bit overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the problems we confront on a daily basis. Each new study declaring that neighborhoods are becoming more fragmented, kids are becoming less healthy, parents are becoming more fearful, and families are spending less time outside, can get us feeling kind of blue.

But just when our spirits start to sag, we inevitably come across an example of a community coming together to turn the tide. The problems are complex, but sometimes the solutions are startlingly simple. As part of our new "bright ideas" series, we'll be highlighting concrete, replicable actions you can take to bring your neighborhood together, make your streets more livable, and get more kids and parents outside.

First up is the Neighborhood Pace Car Program, an innovative citizen-based initiative that has already been implemented in a number of cities, including Reno, Nev., Davis, Calif., Greensboro, N.C., and our very own Washington, D.C. Residents who sign a pledge to drive within posted speed limits receive a sticker to display on their car and help calm traffic by setting the pace for other drivers. 

One of the main goals of the program is to rid drivers of the notion that cars "rule the road" and to promote courtesy toward pedestrians and cyclists. Ultimately the hope is that by fostering a more magnanimous spirit, more families will be inspired to walk and bike.

Does your town or city have a Pace Car Program? Check with your local police department or department of transportation. It's easy to implement—and even easier to participate in.

Australian traffic reduction expert, David Engwicht, who first helped implement the program in Boise, Idaho says, “I have been working for the past five years with cities world-wide to develop a process that would enable residents to solve traffic problems in their home street themselves... Boise is destined to be celebrated in history as the birthplace of the Neighborhood Pace Car, the program that bought back a vibrant street life and sense of community.”

Image courtesy of Washington Area Bicyclist Association.

bright ideas, neighborhood, pace car, community