This is a shameless attempt to save the the most advanced civilization in
history from imminent self destruction by eliminating carbon emission,
dependence on foreign sources of fuel,obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
Cycling accomplishes all those things at once and helps us develop a better
understanding of ourselves, each other and our relationship to the cosmos.

Oh, horse puckey!
I like to ride bikes, have been doing it all my life.
The rest of that crap is just a fringe benefit,
and the blogosphere gives me a chance to share my interior
monologue with virtual rather than imaginary friends.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Choices, Choices

 Recently a bike forum had a  questionaire asking if the cycling infrastructure would be a determining factor for most people if they moved to a new city.  I can say I recently did move and it was a huge factor, but only because my job and income were not.  During the past 15 years, I have been a full time single parent and part-time business man.  I make a living as a financial advisor specializing in retirement and benefit plans for small businesses.  Living in Western Michigan, I had a large house nestled off on a private lane on a lake which is isolated in thousands of acres of forest.   Idyllic and quiet, it was a great place to raise a child and all kinds of recreation.  Miles of country roads and very little traffic made a great environment for both utility and recreational cycling.
Since my son has reached college age, I was looking to downsize and move to something easier to manage and more appropriate in size.   The consideration was simple, I worked from home which was 30 minutes from Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Lansing so I was looking for a condo in one of those three cities.  Kalamazoo became the choice for two reasons, a more favorable real estate market and much better biking infrastructure.
Like most cities, all three have ongoing trail projects.   Both Kalamazoo and the adjacent town of Portage have installed bike lanes on the street wherever they fit which makes the town easier to manage by bike.
     Trails are nice because they provide real seperation between auto traffic and bikes, but trails like this
are built along property owned by the local power company, create nice linear parks which can move you from one specific part of town to another, but since they cut across the standard city street grid they create additional intersections with city streets, often with limited visibility and present no danger to the motorist.  Consequently the motorist ignore them in practice.
      Trails along waterways, rivers and streams are nicer because they underpass most streets and create better seperation between bikes and traffic.
Ultimately Kalamazoo was a better choice between the three cities because it has been very aggressive about developing bike lanes wherever they fit.  These provide the required 3 ft safety zone needed on busy streets and help make biking a real practical form of transportation.

The trail systems, which have become all the rage in city planning since huge funding was made available in the last federal highway appropriation, are fine for recreation and great to use if they go where you are going, but have truly limited transportation value in a city.  Grand Rapids has a very extensive trail system being developed, but the miles between those trails are very difficult and unpleasant to ride because they lack any useful bike routes or lanes to help our vehicles play together.

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