Move Minneapolis has produced an annual Transportation Summit for over 10 years. These events serve as a space to explore big topics in transportation on a local and national scale. Past Transportation Summits have included explorations of normalizing mode switch and the impacts of urban highways; this year’s topic was mobility justice.
The 2022 Transportation Summit included several “firsts”: it was the first in-person Transportation Summit since 2019, the first time several community organizations partnered together on planning and execution, and the first multi-event Transportation Summit.
Morning Event: What Is Mobility Justice?
The morning event was held at The Hennepin in downtown Minneapolis. The event included the Bring Back 6th Mobile Museum, tabling by community organizations, a keynote address from a national speaker, and a panel discussion with local leaders.
Anthony Taylor of the Cultural Wellness Center provided context for the event and moderated the panel discussion. Representatives from Move Minneapolis, Our Streets Minneapolis, and Move Minnesota also made remarks. These four organizations came together to produce the 2022 Transportation Summit because they all work towards goals that enhance communities, improve wellbeing, and allow individuals and our cities to thrive.
Anthony Taylor’s overview detailed the principles of mobility justice created by the Untokening, a multiracial collective that centers the lived experiences of marginalized communities to address mobility justice and equity.
“…mobility justice is a name that really identifies the intersectional unsafety and attacks that people from marginalized groups experience in public spaces such as the street, traffic systems, and the governance processes that lay claim to regulate these spaces. When we say marginalized groups we mean black, indigenous, people of color, BIPOC communities, people with disabilities, immigrants, trans people, queer people, women and youth.” – Yolanda Davis-Overstreet
Yolanda Davis-Overstreet’s keynote address detailed her journey as an L.A.-based community organizer and mobility justice advocate:
“Between the AIDS ride and joining this group where people rode bikes that looked like me, I began to see the community in ways I never had. I started asking questions because of my love for bicycling… Becoming an advocate… just kicked in as a mom… Asking that question “why don’t I have bike lanes in my community?” it began to be revealed to me all of the inequities that exist.“
She touched on the history of an extractive economy in the mobility system, with examples including the inequitable urban planning of Robert Moses in the 1920s:
“Moses even made sure that bridges on the parkways connecting New York City to beaches in Long Island were low enough to keep city buses (out) which would likely carry poor minorities passing through the community. His practices of architecture and urban planning actually were activated and utilized throughout the United States.”
and her efforts to improve safety in L.A.:
“For 7 years… it was how can we radically make this particular intersection safe? I was a parent at this time, an advocate, and a bicyclist… This is a historically disenfranchised community and basically how I started was going to the principal and saying ‘hey, can I advocate for this school? Can I advocate for this space? I want to be a squeaky wheel to see if we can make this intersection safer’… We observed and utilized the available resources… All the human energy… All the expertise that was willing to show up.“
Davis-Overstreet also provided ideas for what corporations, municipalities, and advocates can do to advance mobility justice:
-Support policy makers and legislation that foster more intentional and just mobility and transportation infrastructure
-Donate to Community Based Organizations and invest in small businesses that are advancing mobility justice
-Volunteer with mobility justice-based initiatives
-Collaborate with Community Based Organizations and advocates to advance internal understanding and work on mobility justice
-Develop outreach and engagement to connect and better align the existing ecosystem of mobility justice work already being done
-Include BIPOC, youth, elders, people with disabilities and other communities/groups who are often less heard at your decision-making table
-Explore academic and community-based programs that can evolve your understanding of just mobility for all
-Intentionally listen, observe, and document the mobility justice issues outside your community and be the change you want to see
-Don’t underestimate the power of community service
The panel discussion featured Hennepin County Commissioner Irene Fernando, Minneapolis College President Sharon Pierce, and Wellington Management President David Wellington. It was a robust conversation and covered numerous topics such as:
What a dignified mobility experience looks like:
“Having access to transportation when you need it, how you need it and in the way that you want it, in a way that you feel comfortable and welcome and in a way that you are able to move around your living space, your living area, your community and access every good thing that’s available in your community.” – Sharon Pierce
“…being able to move around and be present in spaces without significant or inequitable cost or consequences. What is the consequence of not getting somewhere on time?… For many people they will lose their job… Individually I will acknowledge I don’t know if I’ve ever had a dignified mobility experience. I was conditioned to believe that I can’t move around when it’s dark. I’m conditioned to believe that I am to feel uncomfortable or protective or defensive…” – Irene Fernando
Who transit is designed for:
“You have two transit systems. One that’s designed for poor people who have no other way of getting around… and then you have one for commuters to bring people from the suburbs downtown to work and then return them to the suburbs – and maybe in and out of Saint Paul when the Legislature is in session.” – Sharon Pierce
The impact of mobility on students:
“…It’s critical for our students and future leaders to be able to get to the campus, not just for class. It’s also community that happens on the campus… Whether or not the students have transit mobility determines whether or not they’re able to participate fully… and that directly links to that economic mobility.” – Sharon Pierce
Real Estate considerations:
“Somebody in middle management is trying to make a real estate decision for the next 5, 7, 10 years – they are more likely than not going to respond to the fear that is expressed either indirectly or directly to them by a couple of cranks potentially that are trying to have their nice wide office spaces out in the suburbs.” – David Wellington
Evening Event: “Biking While Black”
The evening event was held at the Parkway Theater and included a screening of Yolanda Davis-Overstreet’s short film duo “Biking While Black”. Also included were vocal performances by local artist Jamela Pettiford, and a director discussion with Davis-Overstreet facilitated by Anthony Taylor. Davis-Overstreet described what led her to make the films, which were intended to “gather narratives of the reality of mobility justice and transportation issues”.
Some audience members spoke up to share their personal experiences and expressed appreciation for the film and the event as a space to discuss mobility justice.
Watch recordings from the events
Anthony Taylor’s Overview:
Yolanda Davis-Overstreet’s Keynote Address: