NCBW Projects and Communities - Flint, Michigan
Early in 2007 the National Center for Bicycling & Walking partnered with the Ruth Mott Foundation of Flint, Michigan, on a project to help restore three of Flint’s neighborhoods. The project is a three year effort called It’s Our Neighborhood Too! or ION2--for short. Our strategy for this project is very simple: to go to the youth in each neighborhood, ask them about the change they want to see in their community, and give them an opportunity to contribute. It is our belief (and hope) that by taking this approach, we can help Flint rebuild itself neighborhood by neighborhood.
You might be wondering how bicycling, walking, and the NCBW’s mission fits into all of this. The answer is not obvious; we were attracted to this project by the opportunity to work at the neighborhood level for change. We felt that our experience and expertise gained through our Walkable Community Workshops meant we could make a vital contribution to Flint. More to the point: we are really good at working with people to identify critical needs in their neighborhood, and figuring out how best meet those needs through a more responsive local government, non profit and civic organizations, local businesses, and other stakeholders. A major part of this enfranchisement—at least as far as youth ages 8-18—is the ability to get around safely by bicycle, on foot, and by public transportation. So there it is: we are working towards a kid-friendly city.
Not quite one year into the project, our efforts thus far have focused on outreach and capacity-building. There are lots of reasons to expect support for our efforts in the school district, the City of Flint, and the local business community: not only is creating a kid-friendly city the right thing to do, but it is vital outcome because if this generation does not see opportunity for itself in Flint, it cannot be expected to stay. That said, it is also the case that adults usually do not consider the needs of kids when building streets, planning neighborhoods, or setting library hours. Changing that thinking will take some time.
We are starting at the neighborhood level and working up from there. Stayed tuned to CenterLines for updates on ION2.