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Ideas Greensboro could benefit from

by Eric Ginsburg

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Bike lanes

Almost everyone I know who rides a bike regularly in this city has been hit by a car. The layout of Greensboro is car-centric, but more bike lanes could help improve cyclist safety and encourage more people to ditch their cars, helping alleviate a perceived parking problem and decrease vehicle traffic.

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Food trucks

What looks like a small parking lot in Portland, Ore. has been converted into a courtyard of sorts where more than a dozen food trucks offer a wide spread of options. Elsewhere in the city, another truck offers large, delicious and cheap burritos. Everywhere I’ve run into food trucks they’ve been a hit locally, but many cities are behind the curve on allowing and encouraging them.

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The greenway

The Downtown Greenway will be a fourmile loop around the city benefiting countless residents who will use it for transportation or leisure. The greenway will run close by communities, from Fisher Park to Warnersville, and Greensboro will be the only city in the state with a greenway like it.

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Police oversight

People in Greensboro have been discussing problems between the police department and the community for generations. Various proposals have been put forward, including a civilian review board, and there are examples from other cities that could increase police accountability. In some places the approach is community driven, like Communities United Against Police Brutality in Minneapolis.

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A free school

The Baltimore Free School offers classes on everything from “Communism for Anarchists” to “Take Your Idea & Start a Business.” The school offers an alternative approach to the formal school system, emphasizing “collaborative learning and participatory education.” A free school would likely take a different approach than — but be able to draw from — the history of the Malcolm X Liberation University in Greensboro in the early 1970s.

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New urbanism

The urban design movement advocates for mixed-use development, sustainability, walkability and community in high-density areas. In other words, it’s the exact opposite of sprawl. At a recent presentation in Winston- Salem, active residents and city staff touted new urbanism as a way to help reverse the trend towards car dependent, low-density development, and Greensboro could undoubtedly benefit as well.

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Skate park

Greensboro voters approved a bond for the construction of a skate park in 2006, but today we seem even further from realizing that goal. Many young people think Greensboro is boring, and with the downtown curfew and antiloitering laws, teenagers in particular are being marginalized. For now, I see kids skateboarding in abandoned lots.

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Participatory budgeting

The participatory budgeting project is not without its challenges, but the rewards would be substantial. Increasing residents’ input into how tax money is spent would be an important step to democratizing the city budgeting process rather than relying on the perceptions and aims of a nine member council.

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Public murals

There are a number of murals in town, but many are decorating walls in gymnasiums and stairwells. That is starting to change with the Greensboro’s Healthy Murals, well underway on the retaining wall of the Edible Schoolyard. Project organizers recently raised over $2,000 on kickstarter.com and hope to expand their public art to other sites around town.

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Addressing poverty

Our unemployment, hunger, homelessness and poverty rates are arguably the most pressing needs in the city. What can be done and what are people doing elsewhere? Is an organization like Take Back the Land in Miami, which places folks in need into abandoned or foreclosed housing, viable here? We need to determine what it would mean to systematically tackle these interconnected issues.

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