Can you be “pro-bike” and not also be “anti-car”?
I’ve never really thought of myself as anti-car — I just like to ride my bike. But some thoughts about encouraging bike use have been swimming around my head. These thoughts are still trying to gel, but the gist is that it doesn’t really matter how many millions we spend to encourage cycling if we as a society continue to spend several orders of magnitudes more to make solo driving easier.
The paradigm is slowly changing in a few urban centers, but almost all traffic engineering in the United States is tied to “Level of Service” or LOS. The success or failure of a road transportation system and justification for future projects is tied to how many cars you can push along the road or through an intersection per day.
The most successful freeways are those with free flowing traffic, which you only get when the lanes are empty. When people see empty buses or empty bike lanes, though, the public decry these as a waste of money. Go figure.
Transportation planners now know to throw a bone to the bike advocates to get “buy in” for their projects, which are still tied dominantly to improving single car transportation. Colby in Tucson reports on transportation planning in his city, for example. He’s a little surprised to learn the traffic engineers there know about the little engineering tricks to make cycling a little more pleasant, even as they plan for more roads for more traffic for more cars to go faster farther.
I work in Santa Clara, California, which is a Bronze level Bicycle Friendly Community. They have bike lanes striped everywhere, which is kind of nice, I suppose. There’s even a nice bike path to the office from the light rail station, but the crosswalk button I push to get from a bike path into my work campus takes several minutes to turn green, while a left turn light at that intersection immediately changes as soon as a car (or a bike) stops at the intersection. It’s Level of Service “A” (less than a 10 second wait) for cars, while pedestrians get a LOS “F” (greater than 80 second wait).
Steve in Northeast Tarrant County Texas, in the meantime, wonders if cyclists should oppose road building.
The Bike League sends out a lot of stuff wanting more spending on bike infrastructure. Have they considered that part of the answer is to stop trying to spend our way to a perfect automotive heaven on earth? Might cyclists really be better off if we instead agitated against spending ever more of our property taxes on roads that make it harder to get around other than in a 6000 lb SUV rather than trying to suck off “our fair share” from the motoring majority?
And then Streetfilms introduces us to Mark Groton of Rethinking the Auto, who talks in this video about how auto-dominated planning and engineering over the past century has transformed livable spaces into traffic sewers.
More on this at streetfilms: Rethinking the Automobile with Mark Gorton.
Just some random thinking for the weekend on a rainy Friday afternoon. I’ll file this one under Musings.