Thoughts on CityWorks (X)po and the Small Cities Movement

Conference organizer Ed Walker closes out CityWorks (X)po on Saturday | From CityWorks (X)po Facebook page

This past weekend I got to attend the CityWorks (X)po, held at Charter Hall and the renovated City Market Building (link goes to the event’s Facebook page, which I’m assuming will remain active in some form or another).  I really enjoyed it – an eclectic group of presenters of both national and local fame, and a variety of topics, all pointing back to the premise of the endeavor:  the small cities are the places where big ideas can happen, and where exciting things can be tested and implemented quickly.

Of course, I was particularly excited on the first full day of the event, which saw three presentations discussing the role of the bicycle in creating healthy communities – one of which came from Mia Birk, Principal of Alta Planning + Design and credited with making Portland what it is today.  Another came from Marin County, California, where they discussed how a community that grew a reputation for mountain biking parlayed that into a community where cycling became popular for transportation (also on mountain bike, as it happened, since many of the bike-friendly shortcuts throughout the county relied on taking off-road trails).  The mayor of Davis, California (a Platinum rated Bicycle Friendly Community) spoke via Skype and talked a little of the importance of cycling there.

There were a number of other presentations discussing various ways that small communities have done things to make themselves vital and thriving.  I came away from each of them with the germ of an idea, something to make the RIDE Solutions program better, or some way to rethink how transportation options can help spark activity in a locale.

Which is the problem with these things, isn’t it?  You come out with so many great ideas it’s hard to keep track of them, and then when getting back to the every day work sets in its easy to forget and let the energy fade.

One way the CityWorks folks (I think it’s them, at least) are trying to retain that energy is the Envision Roanoke project, a way to crowdsource great ideas.  I’d recommend checking it out (and maybe voting for the bike racks suggestion, hint, hint).

Another idea is the project of one of the presenters, the CommonPlace web community.  The platform looks like a great way to connect neighbors and neighborhoods.  Obviously, this would be great for things like carpool matching, finding bike buddies, and school walking groups.  There’s a place to nominate your community – I’d recommend doing so.

But in the spirit of soliciting Big Ideas, I’d like to ask for yours – what are some things RIDE Solutions could do better?  Who are some folks we should be partnering with but haven’t?  If you could change/fix/upgrade one thing about our transportation system in the region, what would it be?

Let’s keep the energy going!