For the past six years, I have been arriving by car at my office at Woodward and Forest. One block away is John R. At the corner of John R and Forest is an apartment building for senior citizens and the Veterans Admiration Hospital.
Often, I have been amazed at the tenacity of those who need to travel the rugged terrain from the bus stops on Woodward to either destination. Especially in winter with its deep potholes that often deny the most able-footed person safe travel. Watching people try to navigate the rushing cars, bumpy roadway and crumbling sidewalks makes me cringe. Last fall, I was overjoyed to hear of the planned Office of Mobility for Detroit. My first thought was this will be a great way for the city to “mobilize” plans for making our city easier and safer to traverse for everyone.
I was similarly encouraged to see The Detroit News’ editorial (“Detroit Should Seize Mobility,” Oct. 2). As a staunch environmentalist and board member of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, daydreams of a day when my personal vision and an editorial position of the News converging seemed too good to be true.
The editorial board was right when it called for the city of Detroit to prioritize mobility. However, it missed an important factor in the mobility equation, which is expanding access for all forms of transportation. Yet what I learned, and was confirmed as I attended the Detroit auto show this month, is that the automotive industry has recently tried to capture the word “mobility” as synonymous with high-tech solutions for vehicles that can move with little-to-no human intervention.
While I am very much in favor of Michigan fighting back to recapture its place as an international tech and manufacturing center, I cannot sit by silently without calling out the need for all types of mobility for our up-and-coming Mobility City.
Let’s all of us who care about the sustainable redevelopment of this city and the local economy stay vigilant for high- and low-tech mobility solutions for everyone. Something as simple as paving the sidewalks and creating a protected lane for bikes and scooters just might save as many lives in the city as our fancy cars.
Strategies to improve mobility, like expanding ride-sharing services and autonomous vehicle development, are essential too. Expanding trails and protected bike lanes will make it easier for Detroiters to get around, which in turn will help boost employment prospects and promote economic growth within the city.
Guy O. Williams, president and CEO
Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice