Complete Streets Matter to Our Clients

written by Kathryn Doornbos | Executive Director. Originally published in collaboration with

When I think of Complete Streets, I think of the 153 Earn-A-Bike clients that we served in 2017. 

At Redemptive, it is our privilege to facilitate transportation access  - and be a voice - for low-income and homeless community members for whom a privately owned motor vehicle is not an option. Birmingham’s streets are their streets too. 

Portrait by Carson Taylor

Portrait by Carson Taylor

Our Earner’s are folks like John. John's life was changed one day in 2012, “[I was walking] on the freeway - got hit by a car [...], hit and run. Somebody else called the ambulance, didn’t even see the car. [I was] trying to take a shortcut to come across the freeway.” John has been homeless for many years and his main mode of transportation was walking - even as an amputee - until he heard about Redemptive and earned his bike in 2016. 

“I used to see the bikes when I came through the alley. I wondered could I get one and fix it up. This guy [...] told me if I do some volunteer work you can probably get you one. I don’t mind doing some volunteer work, I ain’t doing nothing out on these streets but running into trouble.”

John has been in the shop nearly everyday since. He is a joy to us all and is never without a story or a punchline. He uses his bike everyday, “Where it was cut at, where I walk on it, it hurts a lot, and when I ride my bike I don’t feel none of that. My bike gets me there a lot quicker...walking takes a long time, I have to stop and rest. With my bike I can go on and get there.”

He traverses this city north to south, east to west. He does odd jobs all around town, comes to spend time with us in the shop, visits with his friends, and still has doctors appointments, “I go to the hospital on my bike, from the north side to the south side [...] trying to get another leg made, because this one is too small and rubs a sore on the side of my knee cap.”  

For John, Complete Streets matter. He has no car. His transportation options are limited to walking, cycling or public transit (if he can afford it). Our streets should serve him just as well as they serve those of us privileged enough to own a car or whom have the luxury of choice in our transportation options. 

I hope that our Mayor, City Council and our 99 Neighborhood Leaders consider folks like John when they are making strategic decisions about the future of Complete Streets in Birmingham. John will never have a voice in those discussions but he will always be a community member who deserves streets which are designed and maintained to enable safe, convenient and comfortable transit.

Complete Streets Birmingham is an initiative led by a growing number of organizations and individuals who would like to create a complete streets network throughout Birmingham, Alabama. Complete streets are streets that are safe and comfortable for everyone, whether you’re walking, riding the bus, using a wheelchair, cycling, or driving. 

There are many ways that you can jump in and help out. You can learn more about Complete Streets, you can Take Action by signing a petition, and of course, you can follow them on Facebook and Instagram.