Passionate activists, professionals, and community members came together virtually on August 27 to work to make Charlottesville and Albemarle a better place for walking, biking and active living. Later, many of them (joined by others) enjoyed an outdoor happy hour and mixer. The day culminated with a community service award presentation to Albemarle County’s recently retired Greenways Coordinator, Dan Mahon.
Mini-Summit distills and refocuses
About 40 people joined the midday Zoom-based meeting to check in with one another about collective work started at the Feb. 26 Mobility Active Summit. After sharing impressions from the earlier gathering and providing updates on the progress on the previously-initiated ten projects, Mini-summit attendees formed small groups to continue their work; five projects received the most attention:
- Complete Street Projects (temporary demonstrations of improved sidewalks, bike lanes, etc);
- the Three-Notch’d Trail (from Charlottesville to Afton and east to Richmond);
- Equity in the Outdoors Movement;
- Off-Street Neighborhood Connections; and
- Mobile Bike Clinics.
The other projects had either been completed, lacked the critical mass to continue–or their champions were simply not present on this day. That attrition was part of the engagement model. Facilitator Selena Cozart framed it this way, “People vote with their feet.”
Work teams lay plans for the second six months
The groups worked for about half an hour to bring one another (and a few newcomers) up to speed. Next, they set out a work program for the next six months. Some of these goals include:
- The Complete Streets team is planning demonstration bike lanes on West Main Street, similar to Charlottesville’s Safe Streets Pilot.
- The Three-Notch’d Trail team is focussing on a privately-funded economic impact study to help build its case.
- The Equity team is refining the enormously complex issues they are tackling. Significantly, they are focusing on understanding and illuminating the segregationist history of the region as a basis for dialog.
- The Neighborhood Connections group will continue its work with Albemarle County’s Community Advisory Committees.
- The Mobile Clinics team is building a volunteer network while also partnering with groups like City of Promise and Cultivate Cville.
The second annual Piedmont Mobility Summit is slated for February 2022. At that time, the groups will share their progress from the previous year and decide whether and how to continue their work. Perhaps new ideas will emerge.
It’s a strategic-doing approach that encourages groups to be methodical and action-focused, while acknowledging that people and organizations are busy and can only afford to focus on projects that have real and lasting energy behind them.
Reconnecting in person after a long hiatus without gathering
On Friday evening, more than 60 people turned out for an outdoor, in-person, social gathering at Champion Brewing Company in Charlottesville for the return of the Mobility Social series. It was an informal opportunity to continue the momentum from the Mini Summit, a fun way for new people to get involved, and a welcome opportunity to see one another after more than a year of virtual gatherings. The setting also fostered a different kind of conversation, one that might be difficult on Zoom.
“I had forgotten how great it is to get out of the office and just talk informally,” said one attendee, “these settings let us work through questions in a little bit more depth and without any kind of pressure.”
A dollar from each drink sold benefitted Piedmont Mobility Alliance member organization Charlottesville Community Bikes. Staff from Community Bikes, The Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC, which organized the event), and many other groups were on hand to answer questions.
Celebrating a lifetime of contributions
The Mobility Alliance is starting a new tradition of recognizing pioneers, founders and those who have done extraordinary work. The first of what will hopefully be an annual award went to Dan Mahon, Albemarle County’s recently retired Greenways Coordinator. He initiated the county’s greenways program, a project that has since gone from unknown to one of the county’s top priorities.
“It’s important for movements like ours, which envision a different kind of future, to recognize work of those who started the work,” said PEC’s Peter Krebs during a brief presentation of a hand-crafted trophy (upscaled from an old boot by PEC volunteer Hanna Pearce)
“It’s great to see so many people and groups out working with us,” Mahon said in accepting the award. “It wasn’t always like that…in fact there was a lot of resistance. If anyone asks how it’s done, I would say patience, patience, determination…and more patience.”
“The pandemic really showed something we’ve really been talking about: the outdoors are healing spaces,” he added to rousing applause. [See Mahon accept his award]
When Dan Mahon started his work, he was a rare voice. Now as he continues in new roles, he will have many by his side.
The next Mobility Social will take place on September 25, as part of the Loop de Ville and Rivanna Riverfest, sponsored by multiple Mobility Alliance members, including the Rivanna Trails Foundation and the Rivanna River Company, with assistance from the Charlottesville Area Mountain Bike Club, the Charlottesville Area Trail Runners, The Piedmont Environmental Council, and several other others.