Something one hears a lot as an advocate for a more walkable, bikeable, connected, and livable city is that Fort Worth isn’t Portland/Amsterdam/New York/Chicago/San Francisco/(insert any other more walkable/bikeable/transit-connected city here). Whatever you’re proposing –– transit improvements, better bike infrastructure, pedestrian facilities, or countless other examples you might care to use –– aren’t appropriate for Fort Worth, even though they’ve been successfully implemented in other cities. The implication is that our town, as a city of the Sun Belt, is genetically opposed to any sort of smart redesign to make it into the sort of place that city advocates speak out for.
The problem with that statement is that no city is inherently anything, except the result of countless decisions made over time to shape them in one fashion or another. Portland wasn’t always “Portland,” Amsterdam wasn’t always “Amsterdam,” and were it not for people like Jane Jacobs stopping Robert Moses, New York might not be the “New York” we know today. New Yorkers stopped freeway expansions that would have wiped out neighborhoods and sliced into the heart of Manhattan. Portland residents stopped one freeway from doing the same to them and used that money instead to start a better transit system, then removed another freeway for a waterfront park. Before it was the bicycling paradise of today, Amsterdam’s streets were becoming just as controlled by automobiles as any other modern city.
Even Dallas and Fort Worth were once much more dense and walkable than they are today, before the highways rammed through houses and neighborhood streets became speeding thoroughfares, and friendly sidewalks and storefronts were replaced by parking lots and drive-throughs. Through a series of public policy decisions that shaped private investment, our cities became places where car traffic was prioritized over foot traffic. We truly can undo the damage and re-balance our city so that it works for everybody.
Fort Worth can become whatever we want it to be, if we advocate for it and effect the change we want to see. There is nothing inherently “Portland” about a better transit system, nor is there anything inherently “Amsterdam” about making our streets safe for multiple forms of mobility. The sorts of things I write about in this series are pieces of a toolkit, not things unique to other places that we’re trying to shoehorn into Fort Worth. Building light rail or safer and more appealing bike lanes won’t remove any unique “Fort Worthiness” from our city; rather, it will make that Fort Worthiness more appealing by making the city more accommodating. We can adapt ideas like these from other places to make them work for Fort Worth –– to throw them out because “Fort Worth isn’t” a place is to prevent the city from ever growing and changing and improving.