Congratulations to everyone who participated in the successful civic-engagement action at the Lowell City Council last night, encouraging the councilors to study further refinements of the current design of Father Morissette Boulevard as opposed to removing bike lanes and parking meters. Kudos to the council as a whole for showing flexibility and open-mindedness in choosing the option of additional study, observation, and testing of the traffic system on FMB. Stepping back from the process, however, I think one lesson in the episode is that citizens/voters need to engage representatives, in this case city councilors, on a continuous basis to ensure that councilors understand what their constituents value and expect. It was clear from the discussion around the agenda item last night that councilors, particularly the two who offered the motions to remove the bike lanes and meters, were surprised to learn of the depth of support for the changes instituted late last year. Despite the master plan process and vigorous public involvement in the visioning sessions that helped shape the plan, there was a comprehension gap about priorities in the plan, such as sustainability in various forms, including reducing the city’s carbon footprint and promoting healthy living . The councilors received about 50 email messages in support of the bike lanes and redesign of FMB, followed by a large community presence at the meeting. They seemed genuinely surprised. It was encouraging that they responded to the advocates for the bike lanes and the more pedestrian-friendly and generally safer FMB. We cannot assume our representatives are on the same page as we are, so it makes sense to check in periodically to let them know what we think is going right or going wrong. The default setting on civic dialogue is public complaint. People tend to speak up when they have a problem or don’t like what they see. Less often, people tell their representatives what they like and what they see as working well. It takes extra effort to do this, but we should think about building it in to the way we transact civic business in the city. With email, it is easy to write to city councilors, even all at the same time. And continue to use social media outlets to express views. Tell them what is on your mind. It may be one way to avoid the kind of crisis session we were involved in last night.