Bikes vs cars vs pedestrians?

This week’s “expert blog” Transportation discussion at the National Journal asks the question, “Will Bicyclists And Pedestrians Squeeze Out Cars?”


Bicycles El Camino Real

Is it still possible to promote new bicycling and walking options in harmony with vehicular traffic? Or as city space gets more limited, will planners have to take sides?

Will cars and trucks be targeted in future urban transportation planning? Should they be? Who wins or loses if auto space (lanes or even whole roads) is turned over to bicyclists or pedestrians? What cities are striking a good balance today, and what can they teach us about the future?

The National Journal invites policy experts to weigh in each Monday on a new topic. So far, responses have come in from Andy Clarke (League of American Bicyclists [LAB]), Patrick Natale (American Society of Civil Engineers [ASCE] ), John Horsley (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials [AASHTO]), Keith Laughlin (Rails to Trails Conservancy), Eric Britton (New Mobility Partnerships ), and Michael Replogle (Institute for Transportation and Development Policy).

Andy Clarke responds that it’s not a zero sum game, advocating a balance of different transportation modes. Keith Laughlin and Eric Britton likewise don’t like the “us vs them” framing of the question.

In the coming decades we will undoubtedly see a growing movement at the local level to remove many of the urban highways that were built in the 1950s and ‘60s. But the primary driver of this trend won’t be a competition between modes of transportation. Despite the media’s attempts to create conflict, it won’t be a death match pitting motorists and truckers versus pedestrians and cyclists. Rather, it will reflect an evolving redefinition of what is necessary to create economically vibrant cities in the 21st century.

John Horsley from AASHTO also believes this balanced approach — which he says state DOTs have been doing before the current “livability” fad — is the way to go.

This week’s blog question infers that there should be a competition between funding for roads and bridges and bikes and pedestrian enhancements. We beg to differ. State DOTs have shown that a balanced approach works. It is for this reason that AASHTO supports a new multiyear authorization bill that takes into account the important role played by road-related investments as well as calling for increased funding for transit, biking, walking, and rail.

Mike Repogle takes a little more anti-car view in his response, and reprises the history of aggressive car-only development over the past 60 years.

For decades, cars have been squeezing out pedestrians and cyclists, as transport planners and engineers argued that the solution to congestion and urban efficiency was to build more and wider highways. As traffic grew, it seemed logical that giving more space to cars would improve traffic flow. But the reality has been that adding more high-speed motorways and parking spaces has fueled traffic growth and harmed urban livability, spurred sprawl and drastically boosted CO2 emissions and dependence on fossil fuel.

In cities from Seoul to San Francisco and Milwaukee, tearing down elevated highways has improved traffic flow, reduced accidents and pollution, and revitalized once blighted neighborhoods. Though such proposals may seem bold and sometimes heavily criticized, once they are implemented it is clear that the result is greater equity for citizens, better use of public space, and improved and safer traffic flow for all modes.

Patrick Natale (ASCE) realizes that the “balanced approach” advocated by most of the respondents might be a little pie-in-the-sky, and reminds us that our current transportation funding isn’t keeping up with our existing requirements, let alone new projects that promote other transportation modes.

Where will the dollars come from? A vehicle miles traveled fee? A bike tire tax? A sneaker tax? Improving our transportation network will require a coordinated national effort, and hundreds of billions of dollars.

What do you think? Should transportation dollars be diverted from expanding car capacity to improving facilities and conditions for cyclists and pedestrians?

4 Comments

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  • Jack
    August 4, 2010 - 3:26 am | Permalink

    Repogle is right but the public is so addicted to automobility and SUVurbia that change will be difficult if not outwardly hostile. The latest idea of heavy carbon consumers is to totally eliminate cyclists from the roads where speed is preferred over STR… so popular that even more roads were added to the proposed list at a public meeting: http://blog.adventurecycling.org/2010/07/anothe

  • Nick Kibre
    August 4, 2010 - 7:51 am | Permalink

    Generally people seem happy to constrain cars and make streets safer and better for bikes and peds if they can imagine themselves walking or biking there. So sidewalks get widened where there's shopping etc. Bike lanes on country roads are a tougher sell because most people can't imagine getting around except by car in the country.

  • Anonymous
    September 19, 2013 - 5:10 am | Permalink

    More bikes, better car accessibility!
    There is growing global awareness of the fact that money is earned at places where people come
    together. They prefer to meet in inspiring surroundings, a clear example of these being the streets and
    squares in old city centres. Culture, architecture and the bustle on the streets all contribute to a climate
    that leads to innovation, inspiration and, ultimately, business. Both locally and internationally.
    It was long assumed that making space for cars would result in more economic progress. Being easily
    accessible by car was considered crucial to a company’s competitive position. However, both infrastructure
    and cars disturb an area. Not only by their claims on the scarce space available, as when beautiful
    buildings and parks are destroyed, but also by their simple presence on the streets. Parking and moving
    along. Creating space for cars can harm a city’s competitive position.
    When searching for a balance between the claims made on space, we have to negotiate among the
    various interests. And you must decide on which economic activities you want to stimulate, what
    customers are involved and the demands that they make on the quality of the space and its accessibility.
    In other words, who gets a red-carpet treatment and who should be refused?
    From this viewpoint, it can easily be concluded that facilitating unnecessary traffic is not the right decision
    to make, certainly not if that damages the spatial quality of the city centres. Up to now, alternatives have
    been sought in ring roads, parking/rates policies and public transport. However, many motorists still
    choose to remain in traffic queues. Public transport is evidently not an attractive option for them. And
    bicycles are not common in many cities even though most trips by car are very short and could
    conceivably be done by bike.
    Figure 1: Planning smart moving cities is an interdisciplinary task
    Date:
    September 2013
    p. 2
    MOVE Mobility // Parkweg 4, 7411 SH Deventer // Postbus 234, 7400 AE Deventer // P.O. Box 234, NL-7400 AE Deventer //
    T +31 (0)88 100 3900 // [email protected] // http://www.movemobility.nl
    How should we approach this issue?
    Not every city starts from the same position. Newer cities tend to reserve space for the increasing number
    of cars. Other cities have already used all of their extra space and are faced with daily traffic jams. In both
    cases, focusing on cars is a dead-end approach. But how do cities deal with new options?
    Austin, Texas, is a good example of an alternative. Austin is a fast growing city that has chosen
    intermodality as the means to connect to the city centre. By participating in the Green Lanes Project,
    Austin can work with experts from, for example, Goudappel Coffeng BV in the Netherlands.
    The analyses made during workshops clearly showed the following for Austin:
    » A large number of their roads are used particularly for short car trips (< 3 miles).
    » A cycling network could easily be created based on the patterns of car movements.
    » Because of electric bicycles a much larger residential area becomes accessible then with
    conventional bikes, partly because it’s no longer a problem to cycle uphill.
    » Perhaps the most important lesson learned:
    » Car congestion could be reduced simply by making a small change to the modal split.
    » And that you can create better accessibility by car with less space.
    Essential to the work process was that, thanks to fast web tools, analyses could be made during workshop
    sessions. The following conclusions were quickly shared:
    » Bicycles are a serious alternative for motorists if the cycling network is in order;
    » Investing in bicycles is far less expensive than investing in cars, and car accessibility improves
    as well;
    » Cyclists create a more attractive street scene;
    More bikes, better car accessibility!
    There is growing global awareness of the fact that money is earned at places where people come
    together. They prefer to meet in inspiring surroundings, a clear example of these being the streets and
    squares in old city centres. Culture, architecture and the bustle on the streets all contribute to a climate
    that leads to innovation, inspiration and, ultimately, business. Both locally and internationally.
    It was long assumed that making space for cars would result in more economic progress. Being easily
    accessible by car was considered crucial to a company’s competitive position. However, both infrastructure
    and cars disturb an area. Not only by their claims on the scarce space available, as when beautiful
    buildings and parks are destroyed, but also by their simple presence on the streets. Parking and moving
    along. Creating space for cars can harm a city’s competitive position.
    When searching for a balance between the claims made on space, we have to negotiate among the
    various interests. And you must decide on which economic activities you want to stimulate, what
    customers are involved and the demands that they make on the quality of the space and its accessibility.
    In other words, who gets a red-carpet treatment and who should be refused?
    From this viewpoint, it can easily be concluded that facilitating unnecessary traffic is not the right decision
    to make, certainly not if that damages the spatial quality of the city centres. Up to now, alternatives have
    been sought in ring roads, parking/rates policies and public transport. However, many motorists still
    choose to remain in traffic queues. Public transport is evidently not an attractive option for them. And
    bicycles are not common in many cities even though most trips by car are very short and could
    conceivably be done by bike.
    Figure 1: Planning smart moving cities is an interdisciplinary task
    Date:
    September 2013
    p. 2
    MOVE Mobility // Parkweg 4, 7411 SH Deventer // Postbus 234, 7400 AE Deventer // P.O. Box 234, NL-7400 AE Deventer //
    T +31 (0)88 100 3900 // [email protected] // http://www.movemobility.nl
    How should we approach this issue?
    Not every city starts from the same position. Newer cities tend to reserve space for the increasing number
    of cars. Other cities have already used all of their extra space and are faced with daily traffic jams. In both
    cases, focusing on cars is a dead-end approach. But how do cities deal with new options?
    Austin, Texas, is a good example of an alternative. Austin is a fast growing city that has chosen
    intermodality as the means to connect to the city centre. By participating in the Green Lanes Project,
    Austin can work with experts from, for example, Goudappel Coffeng BV in the Netherlands.
    The analyses made during workshops clearly showed the following for Austin:
    » A large number of their roads are used particularly for short car trips (< 3 miles).
    » A cycling network could easily be created based on the patterns of car movements.
    » Because of electric bicycles a much larger residential area becomes accessible then with
    conventional bikes, partly because it’s no longer a problem to cycle uphill.
    » Perhaps the most important lesson learned:
    » Car congestion could be reduced simply by making a small change to the modal split.
    » And that you can create better accessibility by car with less space.
    Essential to the work process was that, thanks to fast web tools, analyses could be made during workshop
    sessions. The following conclusions were quickly shared:
    » Bicycles are a serious alternative for motorists if the cycling network is in order;
    » Investing in bicycles is far less expensive than investing in cars, and car accessibility improves
    as well;
    » Cyclists create a more attractive street scene;
    More bikes, better car accessibility!
    There is growing global awareness of the fact that money is earned at places where people come
    together. They prefer to meet in inspiring surroundings, a clear example of these being the streets and
    squares in old city centres. Culture, architecture and the bustle on the streets all contribute to a climate
    that leads to innovation, inspiration and, ultimately, business. Both locally and internationally.
    It was long assumed that making space for cars would result in more economic progress. Being easily
    accessible by car was considered crucial to a company’s competitive position. However, both infrastructure
    and cars disturb an area. Not only by their claims on the scarce space available, as when beautiful
    buildings and parks are destroyed, but also by their simple presence on the streets. Parking and moving
    along. Creating space for cars can harm a city’s competitive position.
    When searching for a balance between the claims made on space, we have to negotiate among the
    various interests. And you must decide on which economic activities you want to stimulate, what
    customers are involved and the demands that they make on the quality of the space and its accessibility.
    In other words, who gets a red-carpet treatment and who should be refused?
    From this viewpoint, it can easily be concluded that facilitating unnecessary traffic is not the right decision
    to make, certainly not if that damages the spatial quality of the city centres. Up to now, alternatives have
    been sought in ring roads, parking/rates policies and public transport. However, many motorists still
    choose to remain in traffic queues. Public transport is evidently not an attractive option for them. And
    bicycles are not common in many cities even though most trips by car are very short and could
    conceivably be done by bike.
    Figure 1: Planning smart moving cities is an interdisciplinary task
    Date:
    September 2013
    p. 2
    MOVE Mobility // Parkweg 4, 7411 SH Deventer // Postbus 234, 7400 AE Deventer // P.O. Box 234, NL-7400 AE Deventer //
    T +31 (0)88 100 3900 // [email protected] // http://www.movemobility.nl
    How should we approach this issue?
    Not every city starts from the same position. Newer cities tend to reserve space for the increasing number
    of cars. Other cities have already used all of their extra space and are faced with daily traffic jams. In both
    cases, focusing on cars is a dead-end approach. But how do cities deal with new options?
    Austin, Texas, is a good example of an alternative. Austin is a fast growing city that has chosen
    intermodality as the means to connect to the city centre. By participating in the Green Lanes Project,
    Austin can work with experts from, for example, Goudappel Coffeng BV in the Netherlands.
    The analyses made during workshops clearly showed the following for Austin:
    » A large number of their roads are used particularly for short car trips (< 3 miles).
    » A cycling network could easily be created based on the patterns of car movements.
    » Because of electric bicycles a much larger residential area becomes accessible then with
    conventional bikes, partly because it’s no longer a problem to cycle uphill.
    » Perhaps the most important lesson learned:
    » Car congestion could be reduced simply by making a small change to the modal split.
    » And that you can create better accessibility by car with less space.
    Essential to the work process was that, thanks to fast web tools, analyses could be made during workshop
    sessions. The following conclusions were quickly shared:
    » Bicycles are a serious alternative for motorists if the cycling network is in order;
    » Investing in bicycles is far less expensive than investing in cars, and car accessibility improves
    as well;
    » Cyclists create a more attractive street scene;
    » The advantages to both the environment and health (obesity) are evident.
    Figure 2: A small modal shift from car to bike, leads to less V/C problems on your network» The advantages to both the environment and health (obesity) are evident.
    Figure 2: A small modal shift from car to bike, leads to less V/C problems on your network» The advantages to both the environment and health (obesity) are evident.
    Figure 2: A small modal shift from car to bike, leads to less V/C problems on your network

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