How to Start Grassroots Safe Streets Movement In Your City – Streetsblog USA

People are often angry about road violence. But what does it take to turn this anger into a full-fledged movement, with neighbors fighting side by side to make the streets safer?

Today we spoke to Elizabeth Creely of the San Francisco-based advocacy group Safe Street Rebel, which has been at great pains to change the transportation status quo since 2020. Along the way, they’ve performed pop-up traffic calming at the construction sites of recent road fatalities, set up human-protected bike lanes where the city wouldn’t build one out of concrete, and gained some critical wisdom on how to not only create a movement, but sustain it and expands to end car dependency, even if they don’t win every battle.

Listen to it below, on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen, and learn more about Safe Street Rebel on their website.

The following excerpt has been edited for clarity and length.

Kea Wilson: Let’s start with the elevator pitch. In just a few minutes, tell me what Safe Street Rebel is, what you do, and what makes you a little unique in the world of grassroots safe street organizations.

Elizabeth Creely: Safe Street Rebel is a non-hierarchical, non-highly organized, primarily bicycle-based, direct-action organization. It’s a really powerful idea: getting people into activism through their bikes to correct the flaws in street design in San Francisco and Oakland.

Safe Street Rebel just started out as a group of people who knew each other as friends, and other people who were similarly excited that spaces were opening up in the city as COVID closed the streets and people stayed home, which kinda lent itself new prospects.

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I think it’s one of those things that’s almost missing a core: It’s people who have a similar vision, discovering that they have this similar vision, coming together and just starting to implement what they want to see and start to implement changes. It’s the same spirit of organization that launched Critical Mass in the ’80s.

When you say “non-hierarchical,” it kind of sounds musty 80’s. But it is the; People who share the same vision and who want to work together strategically and imaginatively to find solutions for roads that unfortunately are not safe, for cycling, walking or local transport…

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Wilson: Safe Street Rebel hasn’t been around very long, but last year you wrote a fantastic op-ed for us already warning other groups like yours not to “expect burnout”. What are you doing right now to stay around while there’s still a fight against car addiction?

Well, honestly, the fact that I’m speaking to you now on the podcast is one of the measures Safe Street Rebel is taking to ensure burnout doesn’t happen. You have to pass the mic; You must participate in the planning of an action.

I started as a grassroots organizer in San Francisco in the ’90s, organizing against the military budget and against nuclear weapons. I’ve been fortunate to be mentored by the people who started this organization, Peace Action, and one of their mottos is that you have to make sure you’re replaced – that you created 10 people who have the same skills like you, who can write a press release, who can be read in a megaphone, who can understand that it’s good to show up for direct action, who have the skills and sense of grounding and practice that you have.

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Here’s how to avoid burnout, and that’s a lesson I think Safe Street Rebel is really applying. I’m here to tell you that in the ’90s the whole idea of ​​passing the mic — and the whole idea of ​​making sure the voice behind the mic or the megaphone wasn’t a white male — really struggled. And I don’t really see that as a problem at the moment.

This is just a tiny example of how I think this group is being smart about it and how to avoid burnout. You make sure it’s not just about you, and you make sure other people around you have everything they need to do what you do.

There are other ways to address burnout that are inherent in the nature of direct action. You avoid burnout by incorporating humor into your actions and joy into your actions wherever you can. You want to have fun even as you try to make structural changes. Direct action and community organizing should not be murky; it needs to be grounded in a happy place…[It’s important to] enjoy what you are doing.

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