Colleague and friend, Dao Doan, passed away on April 3rd of this year. He fought a heroic and inspiring battle against brain cancer for the last 2 years.
Dao was a co-founder of the Livable Communities Newsletter that has been distributed quarterly by the Ventura County Civic Alliance during the past 12 years.
A reliable and frequent contributor of articles throughout the existence of the newsletter, Dao was passionate about the principals of livable communities. His work always had a particular edge, and he enjoyed having a "soapbox" to spread this passion to others. As newsletter editors, my wife, Kerry, and I would be continually challenged with blunt and uncompromising proclamations from Dao in his writings that just had to be toned down a bit to keep the newsletter civil.
Dao was consistent. He never met a "front loading garage" that he did not hate, and he never found a street that couldn't be made more pedestrian friendly. He believed in quality and equality for the everyday person.
In his final article published in November, after summarizing the variety of pedestrian friendly transportation modes in the Saigon of his childhood, Dao wrote the following closing that captured many of the issues and principles to which he had committed himself during his life:
Personally, the best part was that it was so easy for a youngster like me, barely 8-10 years old, to go anywhere. I used to walk across town all the way to downtown for ice cream alone at 10 pm. I walked to school every day, to the sport club, and to friends’ houses, most of which were within 15 minute walk. The city seemed large, but actually was very compact.
Supplementing the streets was a network of alleys that allowed those living off of them in more affordable housing connectivity to the streets.
Fast forward 60 plus years. I was diagnosed with brain cancer last year. With three additional surgeries this year, my doctors recommended that I refrain from driving. So here I am, going from a place with 7-8 modes of transportation with high flexibility and high mobility for young and old, rich and poor alike, to a car-centric society where your mobility around town depends heavily on your ability to own a car and drive. If one of those two is not in sync with the other, you may find yourself stranded, like me now, depending heavily on family or friends to chauffeur you around. Uber and Lyft services help some, but only for shorter distances. For longer ones, many may not be able to afford it. We have built a society that puts a lot of conditions on the access to mobility, such as proximity of services to homes and proximity of public transportation to riders. The city blocks are way too big and too long, making walking a dreaded chore. Too many developments turn their backs to the streets so even if you can walk, you see mostly uninteresting yardwalls. The streets are too wide, encouraging traffic to go faster than the posted speed limit. The fast traffic in turn discourages bicycle use, even with marked bike lanes. Buses are too infrequent; stations are too far apart. Most bus systems do not penetrate far enough into the heart of neighborhoods to encourage high ridership.
Of course, I can’t wait for the day when I’m allowed to drive again. Or I can dream of the old days in Saigon, which I no longer have.
Dao has shared his dream with us, and we will carry it forward into action. We have known Dao, and we have been changed forever!
May God bless Dao in a very special way.
by Stacy Roscoe