LivableStreets Hosts ‘Tour de Streets’

On Saturday, Sept. 9, the LivableStreets Alliance hosted its annual ‘Tour de Streets’ bike ride and walk to fundraise for transportation equity and access. 
‘Tour de Streets’ started as a memorial for Robert Zeeb, a Newton public school teacher who died in a bike crash in 2009. His family partnered with LivableStreets, an advocacy organization, to host the event each year and raise awareness on street safety. 
“We’re an access and equity organization, and the way we achieve those goals is by focusing on our largest shared public spaces, which are our streets,” Executive Director Stacy Thompson said. “LivableStreets focuses on Metro Boston, and we think about walking, biking, public transit, green space, land use – all of the things that contribute to a healthy system where everyone has the ability to move throughout their community in any way that they choose.” 
The event started around 10:30 a.m., with participants heading up the Charles River Greenway. A group of walkers was led by Emerald Network director Abby Jamiel, who shared about various greenspace projects in the works across Boston. Bikers then split off into two groups: a three-mile family ride and a 10-mile urban ride. 
Around noon, participants made their way back toward The Speedway for hot dogs, empanadas and ice cream. Remarks were made by LivableStreets staff, which highlighted achievements the previous year’s ‘Tour de Streets’ fundraiser made possible.
Projects included deploying ambassadors to every Orange Line stop during the Orange Line shutdown, securing funds to advance the Greenway Project, passing an act to reduce traffic fatalities, releasing a bus report to improve the busing system, and securing funds to reduce MBTA fares for low-income Bostonians. 
Thompson said in an interview that LivableStreets focuses on invisible barriers like safety, affordability and infrastructure.
“There are legacies of racism in the Boston area, whether we’re talking about redlining or other land-use policies that very explicitly put up these invisible barriers to keep certain populations, particularly Black Bostonians, within the confines of specific neighborhoods,” Thompson said. “Our transportation systems were built on top of those red-lined communities, and many of those systems exist today…When you talk about infrastructure, whether you build a street, build a train line, those things are meant to last 50, 75, 100 years. So we have to think about the choices that were made a long time ago, particularly within a racist or otherwise inequitable context.” 
Watertown State Representative Steven Owens was in attendance and has partnered with LivableStreets previously. Most notably their partnership led to the passing of a bill – one LivableStreets advocated for, for nine years – to reduce traffic fatalities. Representative Owens rode in the 10-mile ride, which went through his district in Cambridge and Watertown. In an impromptu speech, he said he is currently working to connect the Greenway to the Minuteman Bikeway, which will make it a commuter route.
“I think it’s really important to have a network of off-road spaces for cyclists – not just for recreation, but also for commuting,” Representative Owens said in an interview. “Every commuter that commutes by bike is a commuter that’s not taking up space in a car. So if we’re going to reduce congestion, if we’re going to meet our climate goals, getting people out of cars is a great way to do that.”