First, Connelly's rather cynical take:
A parking spot close to City Hall was never easier to find than on Monday night, 45 minutes into Mayor Mike McGinn's "Road Safety Summit." The crowd inside represented mainly the pedaling and transit-riding public.
The gathering was "essence of McGinn." It broke out into table discussions. A trio of questions were put on the table. Each group delivered a report, with frequent use of phrases like the need to "make certain behavior unacceptable."
"There's something that happens when people talk to each other," Hizzoner said. "It's immensely valuable to me what rises out of this?"
What will rise? "Empathy," McGinn answered at a Tuesday morning news conference. "We need to know what other people are experiencing so they can adapt their behavior." He spoke of the need for "cultural changes."
Connelly's conclusion: The only way road safety will improve is if McGinn listens to: Neighborhoods; businesses; and "more than [his] base," meaning advocates for vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists.
The problem is that those "interest groups" are often the only voices for road safety; neighborhood organizations and businesses have their own interests, but they're generally aligned around making commutes go faster (see: the uproar over a new bike lane in Lake City; "Viadoom") and making it cheap and easy for people to park near their front doors, respectively.
And Cascade's more upbeat interpretation:
It was great to see such diversity of perspective around many of the dozens of tables. My table had a pedestrian activist, freight and port interests, city traffic management staff, a firefighter and citizens who walk, bike and ride transit. It was a lively discussion. The groups then reported out.
What’d we come up with?
Much of the input reiterated and built upon the points we made at our press conference in September. I took this as an encouraging sign given the variety of interests at the table. But it’s not surprising. A show of hands illustrated that a solid majority of those in attendance had a close friend or family member who was seriously injured or killed in a traffic collision. In many ways and at a fundamental level, we were all on the same page.
That view may be a little naive. Yes, everyone supports safety in the abstract. But many groups and businesses ("special interests," as Connelly might call them) oppose the changes that would actually make the roads safer for everyone, because they'd inconvenience a few.
The remaining two road safety summits are on Nov. 15 at the Northgate Community Center, and on Nov. 21 at the Southwest Community Center. RSVP here.