Sarah here! ISG’s administrator, and newest member of the team. In honor of #ThrowbackThursday, I wanted to share the story of the Neighborhood Pace Car Program. While it’s been nearly two decades since the program first began, the problems that precipitated its creation are still very much a reality for many neighborhoods.

Long before joining Idaho Smart Growth, I stumbled onto Australian traffic calming expert David Engwicht‘s work by way of his Tedx talk on the subject of creative placemaking.

Coming into the world of smart growth from the citizen advocacy side of things, I loved that his approach was very simple (and a little silly!). I loved the way he talked about finding humorous ways to humanize our built environments and our everyday interactions with one another. As someone who used to attend high school classes wearing wings and a tutu I very much enjoyed his idea of encouraging children (and adults!) to wear costumes as they biked around their neighborhoods.


Once, I put red devils horns on my bike helmet. I didn’t do it with any mission in mind; I just thought it would be fun. Often the responses would catch me by surprise. Kids would have cheesy grins on their faces or someone would pull up behind me and start chatting with me. Suddenly I realized that humor re-humanizes environments that have become dehumanized. That person relates to you as a human instead of an anonymous cyclist.  

David Engwicht in an interview with PPS

David Engwicht speaking to Boise residents.

The creation of the Pace Car

On his third visit to Boise in June of 2000, David met at Winstead Park with a group of residents of Northview Street. Several residents had met with David on his previous trip through Boise and most felt that his traffic calming strategies were not workable on Northview Street. However, one resident mentioned that she was driving up and down Northview, escorting traffic down the street at the speed limit by driving the speed limit herself. Several other residents mentioned that they did the same thing and David recognized this as a strategy he had used years before. At a workshop the next day the idea was affirmed when residents from allover the valley indicated that they had also tried this strategy and it worked.

With the help of David, Boise City, Idaho Smart Growth and the workshop participants, the idea was organized and additional strategies such as being courteous to pedestrians and bicyclists were added. Within four days 200 people had signed pledges and the Neighborhood Pace Car Program was on its way.

The Pledge

Recognizing that my car use impacts the livability of other residents’ streets, just as theirs impacts mine, I hereby pledge to:

  1. Drive within the speed limit.
  2. Minimize my own car use.
  3. Stop to let pedestrians cross.
  4. Display my PACE CAR sticker and put something on/in my car to make others smile.
  5. Reclaim my street.
  6. Have fun while caring about others.

The Hints

  • Drive within the speed limit
    • Think about the people who live in the houses you are driving past.
    • Be courteous to those who get angry.  Use humor or show them the pledge.  You are making THEIR home street a better place to live.
    • Avoid cutting through neighborhood streets.
  • Minimize my own car use
    • Support local businesses – shop locally.  (Tell the merchant that by reducing your car use, you saved money… which you are now spending at their store!)
    • Combine non-urgent trips into a single trip.
    • Car-pool or ride share.
    • For short, regular car trips, walk or cycle as a means of getting your exercise.
    • Park once and walk between businesses.
  • Stop to let pedestrians cross
    • Remember, all intersections are legal crosswalks.
    • Smile and wave at the pedestrians you let cross.
    • Stop to let people out of their driveways, or parking space.
  • Display my PACE CAR sticker and put something on/in my car to make others smile
    • Attach a funny bumper sticker. (The PACE CAR Pledge Organizers have some you could buy.)
    • Display something in your window or attach something to the car.
    •  Go all out and decorate the entire car!
  • Reclaim my street
    • Talk to the neighbors, or have refreshments together, in your street.
    • Take some activities from the privacy of your house into the street e.g. take a chair and read the paper on the sidewalk or in your parking spaces.
    • Personalize your street with art, landscaping, play equipment, seating, etc.
  • Have fun while caring about others
    • Creating a better world was meant to be fun not hard work!

What the program needs

The Neighborhood Pace Car Program needs people who are willing to drive the speed limit and demonstrate their commitment by placing a on their car. These are people who can lead by example.

The Neighborhood Pace Car Program needs people who are willing to set a good example of what a courteous driver is and not purposely anger or punish other drivers. These are people who are willing to show they care about neighborhoods.

The Neighborhood Pace Car Program needs people who want to help make Boise a better and safer place to live and raise families. These are people who are willing to be part of the solution.

The Neighborhood Pace Car Program needs people who understand that ACHD and Boise City Police cannot be expected to solve all traffic problems. These are people who know that each individual is responsible for his or her driving habits.

Nearly 20 years later

Though the origins of the program are from a vastly different time in Boise’s history, the program is still extremely relevant. It reminds me of a picture that circulated online awhile back.

Source

With the underlying message seeming to say, “Take ownership. You may in fact be part of the problem.”

I challenge my neighbors and citizens of any community to consider taking the pledge. Take the pledge to be invested and own your impact. Take the pledge to be a little silly and bring a bit more humor and human back to the way we move around and in our community.

Want to share this program with others?

Here’s the brochure, printable pledge, and pledge image. Feel free to use, but please credit Idaho Smart Growth and David Engwicht and consider making a donation. Idaho Smart Growth is a small nonprofit and, as such, we rely on donations to continue our work creating great places for people to live. Thank you!