At Grand Valley State University, the safeness of walkability and bike-ability on 48th Avenue has been an ongoing topic of discussion for years, most prominently in 2010 following a collision between a car and then-Sophomore Zach Somples, who sustained injuries to his spinal cord, clavicle, brain and pelvis while riding his bicycle.

At the time of the accident, a new student group called “GVSU Students for Sidewalks” emerged, the Student Senate passed a resolution advocating for new safety measures, and students became engaged in the discussion.

However, since then, student concern over the safety and walkability of the street has fizzled out, and as Ottawa County Road Commission plans to widen 48th Avenue from two lanes to three, four or even five inches closer to fruition, a Transportation Planning class has pulled together a panel discussion to explore alternative solutions to proposed plans that could improve the long-term quality of the community.

Patricia Houser, professor of the Introduction to Transportation Planning course that have replaced their final exam with “Project 48,” described the implications of the proposal by relating it to a historic urban planning court case, Jacobs v. Moses.

“[Moses] was a brilliant planner of highways and he wanted to put a highway through Greenwhich Village and Jane Jacobs lived there and she said, ‘Think about what you’re saying. This is a really special place. This is a neighborhood, you don’t put a highway through a neighborhood.’ And he said, ‘Watch me.’ And it became this confrontation. Now we don’t see a confrontation coming…but we are saying, let’s open the conversation because we think that you’re putting a highway through a neighborhood.”

All of this to say: as students, no matter how transient, we are part of the GVSU community. How we feel, what we think, contribute or change has a ripple effect for students for generations to come. Though it’s hard to mobilize for everyone’s cause – especially while trying to graduate from a four-year university – there are some whose impact and consequence stretches beyond interest groups and into the entirety of the student body, even to the GVSU community as a geographic sprawl.

So whether you think the proposal to build widen 48th Avenue is perfect as it stands, identify with the students in Project 48 believe there’s a more comprehensive solution, or just don’t know anything about any of the proposals at all, it’s worth your time to get involved. Houser said in all of her urban planning courses, there’s on consistent and prevailing theme: what we do with the landscape comes back and affects us.

And as stakeholders in a community-wide conversation, it’s worth joining the public forum. Because whatever decision is made, whatever actions are taken – they’ll come back and affect you.