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, June 29, 2011

If we don't build it, will more come?

       This is yet another post about the development of infrastructure for bicycles in the US.  There is an ongoing trend to build more and better bike paths to encourage cycling.   The common wisdom is that by building more accommodating infrastructure for bikes, people will use it.  I doubt it.  The existing MUP's  are used  more frequently by dog walkers, baby strollers and joggers than cyclists.
 Rising gas prices may force more recreational cyclists to expand their use to commuting, but will convert few people from cars to bikes. Most "bike paths" really don't provide practical A-B transportation solutions.   What we need is a way to better integrate cycling and public transportation into the daily commuting habits.
Here in the US a few states like Michigan have created "complete streets" initiatives.  In most cases the laws have little or no real enforcement "teeth" built into them, but they are a start and require road commissions and transportation departments to consider non-motorized and public transport in any of their plans.
          In this article from The New York Times, officials in Zurich explain a strategy I find appealing.  While on it's face it seems confrontational, it is a real and fairly subtle way to manipulate the traffic patterns. The thrust of their strategy is to remove auto parking from selected inner city areas.  The end result is that fewer and fewer people use autos in the downtown area.  While businesses complained intitially, expecting a loss of business, they actually saw a business increase in the city because pedestrian traffic increased by 30-40%.  That means few people drove but more walked past the shops. European cities are developing the same strategy with shopping centers.   They welcome the development of new malls but limit the space allowed for parking.
       While we might think the idea would be hard to institute here with our car centric mentality, I see the same principle being used to revive downtown areas in US cities.

  Times Square has had traffic routed around it.  Small business districts like the city where I live have turned downtown streets into single lane, limited parking, walking malls where new privately owned restaurants and specialty shops are flourishing.
Reducing speed limits, and parking availability has actually rejuvenated some stagnate areas of urban centers and it only makes sense to expand the project further.  If people want to encourage cycling it may be more efficient to discourage auto use in the existing facilities rather than spend millions to develop more roads to nowhere.

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