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Guest opinion

Traffic calming, or segregation, in Miramonte neighborhood?

On June 8, 2016, the Miramonte Neighborhood Association approved a pilot project to reduce traffic on East 3rd Street between North Country Club Road and North Alvernon Way. Workers installed a temporary semi-traffic diverter where 3rd Street intersects with North Richey Boulevard. Board members touted the benefit for bicyclists and pedestrians. This goal I applaud.

The means to achieve this goal, and a project rooted in a desire to isolate the west side of the neighborhood from its less desirable locale, I do not.

Through no accident, our street grid differs from El Montevideo and El Encanto Estates. They border our south. Sam Hughes neighborhood borders the west. These enclaves are best described as white and wealthy.

Miramonte neighborhood mirrors these enclaves until you reach the east side. There, homes in various states sit between apartment complexes. My home, for example, sits between two complexes. One houses homeless veterans. With no alleys, 350-gallon trash containers, dumpsters and telephone poles hug our curbs. Abandoned shopping carts remind you that wealthier neighbors live elsewhere. The occasional homeless person, camped-out at St. Mark's Church, is also a reminder. So how do you keep this landscape with its inherent problems out of your neighborhood? How do you preserve your desirable status quo?

Repavement, infill projects, arguments for safer streets for children and less noise, and politicians who side with constituents build a case for a semi-traffic diverter. The Bicycle and Pedestrian Program at Tucson Department of Transportation, with only a focus on safety, provides statistics and guidance. Add in neighbors with political capital and clout, and you see how it's done.

But at 3rd Street and Richey, the semi-diverter poured east and westbound traffic onto our neighborhood roads. I heard more noise. I breathed more auto exhaust. Because the semi-diverter permitted eastbound access, but denied westbound traffic the same privilege, the insult deepened. Make no mistake, a semi-diverter located at 3rd Street and Richey did not come about by simply throwing a dart at a map.

Had the association approved a traffic measure with access and reach, I could put down my gloves. Faced with a traffic project encoded with a "keep out" message, I'm left to fight a palpable pattern of segregation in my own backyard and disregard for the safety of children where I live. This can not go unchallenged.

Who gets to decide how we experience our own physical place in the world? Who gets to decide where I can drive within my own neighborhood?

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Sarah Schindler's April 16, 2015, article in the Yale Law Journal, "Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation Through Physical Design of the Built Environment," answers these questions. The title says it all.

On March 15, 2018, my association invited me to join a re-convened Bike Boulevard Sub-committee. The board now wants the neighborhood to unite behind a plan to reduce traffic and "preserve access." Were lessons learned from the four month pilot project? I remain wary.

People in power at the policy level back the Bicycle Boulevard Master Plan: Urban Corp, the Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee, the Tucson Department of Transportation Bicycle Program, our mayor and council. When light is shed light on our pilot project, the hidden motives behind the semi-diverter are obvious. They are real and they are ugly. Believe me, I care about safety.

But a spatial segregation with a geographical barrier already proven to have negative consequences in neighborhoods across the United States? Miramonte neighborhood can and should do better than that.

Correction: An earlier version of this guest opinion contained incorrect information about the membership of the Bike Boulevard Sub-committee.


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