Thursday, January 28, 2010

Guest Commentary: Slow Down, Sebastopol

Being married to the Mayor of my town gives me the opportunity to serve as her co-author on columns we write (I do not want credit, so I'm not cited as an author) for our local paper.

We're a good writing team and we had fun working up this piece in today's Sonoma West Times and News.

This article is about slowing down and becoming more patient. Maybe slowing down would be good for where you live, too. Here is our article:

Slow Down, Sebastopol

People love Sebastopol. Ours is a friendly small town. We recognize each other. We often say “hello” and engage in conversation.

If our conversation turns to local issues, we’re likely to talk about traffic. People talk a lot about the congestion at some of our intersections, especially the commute delays on Highway 12 and the street delays at the beginning and end of the school day.

Traffic safety issues include more than just the congestion attributed to peak times on the two California highways that intersect in our downtown. Traffic safety is an important concern of our community. The complaints about unsafe driving include:
  • driving too fast,
  • using neighborhood streets to bypass downtown,
  • rolling through stop signs,
  • ignoring pedestrians in crosswalks, and
  • talking on hand-held cell phones.
We are complaining to ourselves about ourselves and our complaints are not limited to drivers. There’s also a familiar and long list of the unsafe practices among non-drivers getting around town. We hear that pedestrians walk down the middle of the street and “jaywalk” instead of using the crosswalks. Skaters don’t wear helmets and skate on the prohibited downtown sidewalks. Cyclists ignore stop signs and ride several abreast.

SLOW DOWN SEBASTOPOL is a community awareness program designed to address these complaints. Its concept is simple. If everyone in town slows down, we will enjoy a safer community. If each of us, whatever our mode of transportation, follows the rules of the road and practices courtesy, each of us will feel safer.

All of us want to live in a friendly town where we feel safe and connected to our neighbors. We yearn to know each other and to care and be cared for. Slowing down is the quickest way to get there.

SLOW DOWN SEBASTOPOL will provide visual reminders of the SLOW DOWN goal all over town. Our Public Works Department will be installing big red signs at our entrances and red banners at key locations. Neighbors will be placing red yard signs in front of their houses. These signs will remind all passers-by to SLOW DOWN for everyone’s sake.

In addition to the sign campaign, in the coming year or so, we’ll see the results of infrastructure improvements based on Street Smart Sebastopol. Designated intersections on Main Street/Healdsburg Avenue and Petaluma Avenue/McKinley Avenue will be improved to make our streets slower, safer, and friendlier.

We can do more than wait for Street Smart to make things better. Complaining about traffic is all too easy. We can take action now and help us become the safer community we wish to live in. Use the flyer, sent out with the water and sewer bills, and post it in your front window. Pick up a sign at the Police Department and place it prominently at your house.

Taping a flyer to a window and putting up a yard sign take only minutes. It is much more difficult to cultivate the intention to become patient and to set aside the urgency we feel to speed across town when we get behind the wheel. If, when we see the signs, we remember to smile, to take in and let out a refreshing breath, and to become the change we wish to see in Sebastopol, we can get there—slowly.

Sebastopol sits in a harried, hurried, and worried world. Let us accept the challenge to awaken our patience, our courtesy, and our wisdom to slow down and appreciate the fact that we live in a small town where people know and care about each other.


Dayne Gingrich said...

"Let us accept the challenge to awaken our patience, our courtesy, and our wisdom to slow down..."

Love this! It's so important for all of us, big city or small town, to simply learn to appreciate the slow...

It's amazing how much more I see, hear, and feel when I just ... BE.

Shriram INC. said...

loved ur blog sir!!!specially ur buddhism inclination!!