Since the Sustainable Glasgow movement was born we have said that it is about much more than just eating locally, so now let’s start talking about something else, the infrastructure that makes us happy to live, work, and eat here. The Sustainable Glasgow movement has already taken on a massive task in trying to change the way our community thinks about food and the way the community shops for food. So, we know what it is like to try and turn a battleship which is sailing at full speed in the wrong direction. We must be crazy then to try the same thing again, but here we go.
Let’s talk a bit about streets, sidewalks, automobiles, and bicycles. We have a basic problem with respect to food; that problem is that we have no plan to assure a sustainable food economy even though we live in a highly productive agricultural region. Our basic problem relative to transportation infrastructure is similar in that we have no known plan for improving transportation convenience for walking, cycling, or any other mode of transport other than the automobile, though we have a beautiful and compact community which is ideal for alternate modes of transport. We spend virtually all of our locally available transportation dollars on building more roads and adding additional pavement to the ones we have. We spend our influence in Frankfort on the idea of building more roads and bypasses and outer loops that consume more productive land and encourage more suburban sprawl. More suburban sprawl encourages more development away from the city center, increases our costs for police and fire and ambulances and utilities, and contributes to the continued reliance on the automobile and foreign oil for every aspect of day to day life. This cycle of funding, construction, and consumption is becoming a perpetual motion/perpetual problem machine which is consuming our taxes, our land, and our resources, while outputting noise, pollution, and stress. It is time for us to start looking closely at this machine to see exactly why we are putting up with it.
As this is written, it is Fall Break week for the local schools. Local families who can get off work and who have the money to travel, have all headed off for vacations in communities that offer the kind of life they long for. Those communities have a few things in common: wide sidewalks which encourage pedestrian strolls, vibrant local restaurants with locally grown foods on their menus, and shops offering local goods that make long strolls rewarding, and bicycle paths and lanes which make cycling to those same destinations equally attractive. This relatively inexpensive infrastructure, and local lifestyle, thus functions to attract Glasgow people and Glasgow dollars away from Glasgow. So, if we are spending 100% of our resources on building roadway infrastructure that people are looking to escape from whenever they can, perhaps we need to rethink what we are doing. Sustainable Glasgow feels this is the case.
Long before I started cycling I was a devout dog walker along the sidewalks on South Green Street. Even though those sidewalks are too narrow, too close to the roadway, and way too constrained by utility poles, they are constantly used by a growing number of locals who walk and jog there for simple enjoyment, transportation, and for exercise. We need a master plan for identifying and upgrading the arterial sidewalks so that even more folks are encouraged to walk instead of drive. Long before I started cycling there were many avid cyclists in Glasgow who regularly don their spandex apparel and dutifully hit the streets where they take risks mixing it up with cars and trucks on their way to the many rewards of riding a bicycle. Those rewards are worth the risk, but those risks can be lowered and more folks can be encouraged to ride if we provide the right kind of environment which will include expanded sidewalks and marked cycling routes. I joined those local cyclists with my heavy, slow, commuter-style bicycle a few months ago and I simply love it. Most of all, it is fun, but it has also lead me to shed thirty pounds and it has helped me discover that, for most trips in downtown Glasgow, my bicycle gets me where I need to go faster than my car does. The group of people making this same discovery is growing in spite of the fact that there is no plan for bicycling infrastructure or investment in our community. Sustainable Glasgow feels that there should be a plan and a commitment to spending a portion of the money we are now spending on feeding the automobile’s needs to create more walking, jogging, and cycling infrastructure in Glasgow.
Creating a sustainable local economy is a complicated matter, but working on our local food economy was a great place to start. However, a durable local food economy is dependent upon several moving parts, not the least of which is the willingness of local residents to vote for the local food economy by purchasing food from local growers and from local restaurants whenever possible. A large part of encouraging local folks to frequent local vendors is to create the same attractive environment for living locally that so many from our community are seeking out by traveling this week. True, we cannot create a beach and an ocean here in Glasgow, but we can create walking/jogging/cycling paths along beautiful tree lined streets and along some of the babbling creeks which surround this place we call home. We can use those paths to create a better life for our residents. We can start assembling the building blocks of a durable food economy and better infrastructure toward our ultimate goals of a completely sustainable community. Sustainable Glasgow, Inc. has a vision for a community which offers these things to everyone. If this vision interests you, join us.