Giving Compass' Take:

• Destiny Thomas expresses how quickly sprung, pandemic-induced street designs harm Black members of their communities who had no voice in their development.

• How can we work to incorporate a more diverse range of voices in city planning?

• Learn about the link between environmental and racial justice.

This spring, a pandemic cleared cars from the streets. Many U.S. cities seized the moment by announcing new bike lanes and networks of “slow streets” that limit vehicle traffic. It is a transportation planner’s dream to hear that thousands of miles of streets are being reorganized to make room for more walking, biking and playing.

But to me, as a Black planner and community organizer, the lack of process and participatory decision-making behind these projects was an absolute nightmare. Pop-up bike lanes, guerrilla-urbanist playgrounds, and tactical walkways have been notorious for being politically crude for as long as I’ve been in the field. Without that genuine engagement, I feared that pandemic-induced pedestrian street redesigns would deepen inequity and mistrust in communities that have been disenfranchised and underserved for generations.

Today, after the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, the open streets that drew cheers of victory in the “war on cars” a few weeks ago are filled with the blood, tears and bodies of Black people who are tired of being killed in the intersection. The signature features of long-fought battles for “complete streets” infrastructure — the beloved Elmo-red bus-only lanes and green-carpet bike lanes — are now littered with rubber bullet fragments and tear gas canisters used to suppress the voices of those bodies that were qualified as low-income enough, Black enough, and asthmatic enough to justify the funding for these features in the first place.

We didn’t need the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd to know that something was wrong with our approach to transportation planning. In fact, their deaths are two of the countless symptoms of the rotten (lead-pipe-filled) underbelly that has gone unattended to in Black and Brown communities nationwide.

Read the full article about pandemic-induced street designs by Destiny Thomas at CityLab.