What is the single largest physical asset owned by most cities and towns, and therefore by the public? Your first guess isn’t likely to be correct. The answer is the public way – the street.
Now think of the word: “Street.” Quick – what image comes to mind?
Cars? More cars!
There are other possible images: On the Fourth of July we gather in huge crowds to watch parades go down the street. Kids play basketball, baseball, and hockey in the street. Hand-written posters announce block parties that bring neighbors together to socialize in the street. Festivals bring music or local foods or theater into the streets. In some neighborhoods, families still hang out on the stoop and socialize in the street. Some lucky commercial areas have reclaimed the entire street – the vehicular roadway, the car-parking spaces, and the pedestrian sidewalk – as shared space: full of places to sit and talk and eat and buy things and attracting additional customers to local stores. Occasionally, farmers’ markets take over parking lots. Trolleys and buses can take up part of a street, as can bike lanes and pedestrian crossings. Bus stops, benches, median strips, planted green areas, and even small gardens can be part of the street.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
“The health experts are just recognizing what devoted transportation cyclists have always known, which is if you’re on a quick ride to the store to pick up a carton of milk, you’re not really paying attention to the exercise part. You’re focused on the traffic, the sights, the (hopefully) fresh air, and the sheet job of movement. It’s kind of like the same trick your mind plays when you hike to the far end of the shopping mall and back in pursuit of the perfect gift for mom. You are thinking of the hunting and gathering, not the half-mile or so you’ve walked.
Pedaling Revolution, by Jeff MapesRead more