Some bicycle advocacy groups promote the slogan “Same Roads, Same Laws” to support cyclists’ right to use the roadway along with car traffic. I think it’s a bad slogan; at best incomplete, at worst self-defeating. Bikes and cars are radically different types of vehicles, exposing cyclists and drivers to radically different conditions. In addition to the laws that all vehicles should obey, we need special laws and road designs to protect the safety and promote the use of bicycles.Read more
We’ve begun hearing rumors of a potential follow-up stimulus bill that will inject additional billions into infrastructure spending. But if state officials use the same narrow definition of “shovel ready” to select projects for funding for the new bill that they did for the old one, we’ll be stuck with another set of old car-centric highway plans that don’t incorporate today’s “complete streets” approach.
To its credit, Massachusetts was one of only six states to spend more than 10% of their federal stimulus funds on non-car projects. But the reality is that stimulus funds are intended to provide a quick stimulus – to be spent quickly and have an immediate impact. On the other hand, road projects take a very long time to plan, design, and get approved.Read more
If you build it…it will fill up — a truism for both roads and bikeways. But if it isn’t there, or even if it was once there and you take it away, the traffic seems to go away as well…which may be the most important fact about traffic planning that you will never hear from the highway lobby.
I spent two hours during a recent afternoon trying to get out of Boston through the Big Dig tunnel. Traffic wasn’t being bottled up by an accident; it just always seems congested in the late afternoon. Funny thing is that I don’t remember traffic being so bad during those endless years when Big Dig construction was being so corruptly mismanaged and lanes were always being shut down. Somehow, people found other ways (or times) to get where they needed to go.Read more
Conservatives complain that spending public money on non-automobile facilities ignores the public’s overwhelming choice of cars as their preferred method of transportation; that prioritizing walking or cycling or even public transportation is an unwarranted distortion of the free market – another example of elite culture’s social engineering trying to manipulate ordinary people.
It is true that most people drive. And it is not entirely fair to say that our land-use patterns and transportation system has been deliberately structured over the past half century to give them no other option – although that is largely true. The post-WWII GI bill’s mortgage subsidies and Interstate Highway system created a landscape of decentralized, auto-dependent sprawl that gives people little choice but to buy a car and drive to nearly everything. The deliberate destruction of urban trolley systems and the underfunding of the nation’s railroad networks pushed things in the same direction.Read more
So long as our society treats cyclist as a high-risk activity, we should not be surprised if most bicyclists are risk-takers. If we want bicyclists to act like “normal people” maybe we should create a cycling infrastructure that makes normal people feel comfortable on a bike.
The questions begin right after someone learns that I’m an active cyclist. First, they test my commitment: “Do you commute by bike all winter?” (Yes – once the streets are plowed using the proper clothes keeps me dry and warm.) Then they admire my courage: “Aren’t you afraid of all those crazy drivers?” (No –I’ve learned its best to boldly “take the lane” when the street is too narrow to safely ride on the side; I use back-road alternatives to certain streets; and I push to the front of cars at intersection in order to get a car-free head start when the light changes.)Read more
We are finally emerging from the InterState era. This was the long period where the vision of the ideal road was the limited access freeway – a road designed specifically to move as many cars as possible as quickly as possible, with wide lanes and soft curves, while eliminating potential distractions such as stores or traffic lights or any other method of travel by foot or bike. The InterState was about moving vehicles. People were only important as the occupants of those vehicles.
The InterState era was also a time when what every self-respecting traffic engineer really wanted to do was create highways or at least car-centric designs. Quiet residential roads or people-focused plaza were boring – the money and glory was in becoming another Robert Moses: the man who transformed New York with his highways and bridges, a master builder.Read more