• Delegate Robbyn Lewis

What are Livable Streets & Why we Need them?

Updated: Jul 22, 2020

Livability refers to the quality of life experienced by the people who live, work, and recreate in a community.

A livable street is one that serves the needs of human beings, not cars. It is pleasant, walkable, and feels physically safe to move around and cross whether a person is young or old, abled or disabled, pushing a stroller or carrying groceries, going to work or coming home from school. A livable street gets people where they're going in a healthy and sustainable way.

UN-livable streets: An insight into the Fayette, Orleans, Monument and Madison Street Corridor

Un-livable streets are those that disregard the needs of human beings. Everything about such a street tells people “unless you are driving a car you are not important, your ability to get where you’re going does not matter and your safety is your own problem.” In other words, an unlivable street makes it clear that some people’s lives are less important and less cherished than others.

In Baltimore - and all over the United States - we build streets that are deadly for humans - children, our elders, Black and Brown people of all ages. These streets are “dangerous by design” with multiple lanes, excessive speed limits, inadequate pedestrian infrastructure and other features that prioritize cars over people. Maryland is one of the most dangerous places for people walking in the entire country. It does not have to be this way!

Another harm caused by urban highways is social disconnection and mistrust. The neighborhoods separated by these socially alienating streets are denied the human connections that are essential for building diverse, inclusive, well-organized coalitions capable of dismantling historic harms and creating a healthy, equitable community for all.

Why is it time for Livable Streets?

In Baltimore - and all over this country - we are in the midst of a revolutionary moment. More than 150 years after the Civil War and the 13, 14 and 15th Amendments to the Constitution; nearly 60 years since passage of the Civil Rights Act; a few months following the extrajudicial killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd by agents of the state; we are finally, truly reckoning with America’s original sin: white supremacy.

Livable streets can play an essential role in dismantling white supremacy and repairing the harm of our city’s racist past, because they redefine the terms of engagement between marginalized people and the largest, most consequential public asset: our streets. By putting people first - especially African American, Hispanic Americans and even more particularly children and elderly - we rewrite the narrative that says some lives are more cherished, more worthy of protection than others. We reverse that narrative by joining our voices to demand slower traffic speeds, more humane pedestrian amenities. In this way we will build the beloved community that we all deserve, one that is healthy, welcoming and humane, for all of us.

- Delegate Robbyn Lewis

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