Editor’s Note: This is the second post in a series by Dan Staley on land use and quality of life in Buckley, Washington, a small town near Mount Rainier. (See the first here.)

Recently I commented on Clark’s post about Vancouver, BC’s decision to create dedicated bike lanes on a bridge, where I stated I wished I could get that kind of varied participation here in my little town of Buckley, Washington.

Well, what the heck am I doing to encourage different ways of traveling out here?

First, folks have to want it—you can’t force something (anything) on anyone and expect it to be accepted unless people understand why they are doing it—be it recycling, wetland preservation, stringent searches at airports, living in compact neighborhoods. One must ensure the public understands, accepts and trusts what you’re trying to do—if you don’t have this, forget it. We’ve found that the best strategy to get acceptance is still word of mouth. In Buckley, we primarily work with homeowners, businesspeople, and decision-makers to make this happen.

It turns out that folks here want to walk, want to ride their bikes, want to have children skateboard safely to school, want to get out of their cars. It’s just that nobody gave them the chance to have this kind of infrastructure before. 

  • We have a robust portion of the Foothills trail (when completed, some 30 miles long), a formal Park and Ride planned, some compact neighborhoods. For transit, we really need more people here before it is a viable option, but we are working on that for the future too; density and population drive transit, and we’re not there yet (our human population is about 4500). We work directly with developers to ensure their development connects to trails, bike paths, and sidewalks—which means few culs de sac and no gates. Developers appreciate knowing, early, what they need to do to get their project done—surprises cost money and establishing a relationship has positives for both sides.

    In our struggles to update our Comprehensive Plan-which we take to City Council in a few weeks—we are also trying to create more walkable neighborhoods by narrowing the streets, bringing houses closer to the street, and ensuring that design guidelines don’t result in boring cookie-cutter neighborhoods that aren’t conducive to walking. We want to create something to walk TO—the neighbors’ house, parks, small businesses owned by someone we know, the river.

    Is it enough? Who knows? You can only do your best, and hope. But something’s started. The five people running for mayor are discussing the plan changes, which shows people are engaged.

    People seem to understand how the non-motorized ideas we’ve put forth benefit them, and also how they benefit their neighbors. And that seals the deal, because we know our neighbors out here.