1.28.2008

MAKE WAY FOR BIKERS

A nice piece in New Urban News about various cities’ plans to make their streets more bike-friendly: ”Cities redo streets for pedestrians, cyclists, transit.” Here in Philadelphia, my firm is part of a team that’s looking at just that, and as a bike commuter, it’s also of personal interest.

Unfortunately, I know of at least one letter to the editor expressing the angry sentiment that bike lanes lead to more car congestion. We’ve become so addicted to our cars that the only thing we feel more entitled to than cheap gas is free lanes. Never mind that when we get into a car, we contribute to the problem; funny, isn’t it, that we consider congestion to be caused by all the other cars.

Anyway, it’s for the very reason that roads are congested that we need to take space away from the cars and give it to bikers, walkers, and pedestrians. How else are we all going to get around? And we haven’t yet talked about the wear and tear, gas consumption, and pollution wrought by cars, or the fact that slowing down traffic in heavily walked urban areas is a good thing, for the safety of those moving about who aren’t encased in two tons of steel.

Of course, this is a very real debate in cities like Philadelphia, whose roads are already built and for which new bike lanes necessarily come at the expense of road space for cars to drive. But even in brand-new cities or new parts of cities, one would hope that non-car lanes are considered as trade-offs to car lanes; the alternative is impossibly wide roads that discourage walkers, joggers, wheelchairs, and strollers from crossing streets.

There’s been a lot of healthy talk about how a generation from now, we simply will not move around the same way as we do now; the economics of the gas-powered engine just aren’t sustainable. But it turns out there are other considerations for trading off driving for biking, walking, and transiting: aesthetics, flow, and cleaner air being three. Let’s hope more cities get this.
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