“We’ve been wrong for the last 67 years,” Mark Gorton, founder of OpenPlans, announced in his closing address at last month’s Pro Walk/Pro Bike: Pro Place (PWPB) conference. “Ok. Time to admit it, and move on! We have completely screwed up transportation in this country. We can never expect to see the legislative or policy change until people understand the fundamental underlying problem. Asking for 20% more bike lanes is not enough.”
The following week, at the 8th International Public Markets Conference in Cleveland, the same attitude was present. In her opening remarks to the gathering of market managers and advocates assembled at the Renaissance Hotel, USDA Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan stated that “We’re all here because we recognize that markets can be far more than places just to buy food. We’re looking at markets as venues for revitalizing their communities.”
These statements capture a sentiment that permeated the discussion at both of the conferences that PPS organized this fall: that reform—of transportation, food systems, and so many aspects of the way we live—is no longer about adding bike lanes or buying veggies from a local farmer; the time has come to re-focus on large-scale culture change. Advocates from different movements are reaching across aisles to form broader coalitions. While we all fight for different causes that stir our individual passions, many change agents are recognizing that it is the common ground we share—both physically and philosophically—that brings us together, reinforces the basic truths of our human rights, and engenders the sense of belonging and community that leads to true solidarity.