Join 3,375 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Cars won't get all the love.
March 30, 2010 12:01 AM   Subscribe

At this Year's National Bike Summit, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood had a few words for the crowd. A week later he blogged about it and announced a major policy revision.

From his speech: "I’ve been all over America, and where I’ve been in America I’ve been very proud to talk about the fact that people do want alternatives,” he said (video below). “They want out of their cars, they want out of congestion, they want to live in livable neighborhoods and livable communities … You've got a partner in Ray LaHood."

From his blog: "Today, I want to announce a sea change. People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized."

Initially, some felt that Obama's appointment of LaHood reflected a lack of dedication to Green issues, - From Harpers magazine, July 2009: "Only minuscule portions of the stimulus bill or his budget proposals were dedicated to mass transit, and his indifference to the issue—what must be a major component of any serious effort to go green—was reflected in his appointment of a mediocre Republican time-server, Ray LaHood, as his transportation secretary."

He seems to have ticked off business groups and Republicans, so maybe he's not just keeping the seat warm after all. More on what the Policy change means from Wired.
posted by billyfleetwood (77 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
This seems like a remarkably sensible proposal. I applaud it.
posted by Jawn at 12:17 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


This only goes to prove Obama is in the pocket of big bicycle.
posted by Nomiconic at 12:30 AM on March 30, 2010 [35 favorites]


I also opposed LaHood's appointment and have been pleasantly surprised. It hasn't been anything radical but the Obama administration's transportation priorities have been better than I had hoped.
posted by grouse at 12:38 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow. As a citizen of another car-centric country, I applaud this as a big help in lobbying my own officials.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:38 AM on March 30, 2010


This only goes to prove Obama is in the pocket of big bicycle.

Aye, the penny-farthing lobby gets more powerful every year.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:39 AM on March 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


I have to say, as a pedestrian, that it would be really, really nice if we keyed down all this emphasis on mechanical transportation in favor of a bit more of a pedestrian-friendly environment for all. As far as I've seen in the bicycle-centric communities I've known, bicycle-friendly design specifically excludes pedestrians; and the more room we make for bicycles and cars, the less room us walking folks have.
posted by koeselitz at 12:40 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does this mean that cops will finally start caring about bikes and people on them?
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:42 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


But that's honestly just sour grapes, now that I think of it. Moving to bicycles is a step in the right direction, even if I'm still hoping that someday everybody just gets down and walks.
posted by koeselitz at 12:42 AM on March 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


the less room us walking folks have.

Errr, the sidewalks are for regular walking, not fancy walking right?

Cars and bicycles have to 'share the road'. Would you like to 'share the sidewalk' with cars also?

I'm still hoping that someday everybody just gets down and walks.

When you can place all man needs in walking distance, we'll get right on that.
posted by rough ashlar at 12:56 AM on March 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


koeselitz: I have to say, as a pedestrian, that it would be really, really nice if we keyed down all this emphasis on mechanical transportation in favor of a bit more of a pedestrian-friendly environment for all. As far as I've seen in the bicycle-centric communities I've known, bicycle-friendly design specifically excludes pedestrians; and the more room we make for bicycles and cars, the less room us walking folks have.

That doesn't really seem to follow. Bike paths are almost without exception also walking paths, and roads typically have sidewalks. What isn't bike path nor road is generally private property, which isn't usually a good travel route if you're allowed to cross it at all.

Also, while I understand the point in arguing for the bicycle instead of the car, I'm kind of lost on the point of arguing for foot traffic instead of the bicycle. Assuming the infrastructural problems with bike commuting (travel space and bicycle storage) are solved, what advantage does a pedestrian have? The only big advantage I can see is that you can travel on foot in more adverse conditions than most people are comfortable riding a bike, but most people wouldn't voluntarily walk in those conditions unless they had no other options anyway.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:58 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is major change in attitude, even if policy doesn't get affected. It's a start.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:11 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually koeselitz, if you read the recommendations on the post, he makes it pretty clear that this policy measure targets both cyclists and pedestrians. In fact, the only sentence (that I found while skimming) in the linked press release that mentions the word 'bicycle' without also mentioning pedestrians is where it quotes 23 U.S.C. 217(e), about which the release then states: Although this statutory requirement only mentions bicycles, DOT encourages States and local governments to apply this same policy to pedestrian facilities as well.


posted by Throw away your common sense and get an afro! at 1:11 AM on March 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Maybe koeselitz just means the distances are too far to walk. I can bike to my local grocery store, there's even a nice scenic bikepath (or was, it's been developed over somewhat, pissing me off) but It would take like 40 minutes to walk.
posted by delmoi at 1:19 AM on March 30, 2010


I spent a month cycling around Europe last year, and it's absolutely the case that bike friendly almost always means pedestrian friendly. The truly good, safe bike paths are physically separated from the road where the cars drive, and tend to have a painted line with one half for bikes and one for pedestrians (or alternatively one side of the road dedicated to each). I don't think this is some basic fact of the universe, but it seems plausible that places with enough resources and thought to care about one tend to care about the other
posted by crayz at 1:24 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


delmoi: “Maybe koeselitz just means the distances are too far to walk. I can bike to my local grocery store, there's even a nice scenic bikepath (or was, it's been developed over somewhat, pissing me off) but It would take like 40 minutes to walk.”

Actually, that's not it. It takes me about that amount of time each way to walk to my local supermarket, too. I like it that way, and though I have a bike I don't really use it any more.

I think I'm probably reflecting too much on my experience in Boulder, where, though there were supposedly 'bike' parts of the public paths, those distinctions were hardly ever followed, and bikes usually pose much more risk to pedestrians even than cars (simply because of proximity). I am, however, being an old curmudgeon, and I think I'm going to stop now. I probably just need to get over it. It's like olives, which I used to think were disgusting but now realize are quite tasty.
posted by koeselitz at 1:38 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'll believe it when I see it. Right now plans are underway for a federally funded highway bridge crossing the Delaware River that doesn't include bike or ped access.
posted by fixedgear at 1:48 AM on March 30, 2010


This is major change in attitude, even if policy doesn't get affected. It's a start.

Well, GW Bush signed into law the ability for one to slap an electric hub motor on a bike and so long as it was less the 744 watts or 20 mph it was all good - right?
posted by rough ashlar at 2:19 AM on March 30, 2010


For the first time in my life, I want Canada to elect a Republican.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 2:19 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I spent a month cycling around Europe last year, and it's absolutely the case that bike friendly almost always means pedestrian friendly. The truly good, safe bike paths are physically separated from the road where the cars drive, and tend to have a painted line with one half for bikes and one for pedestrians (or alternatively one side of the road dedicated to each).

Cultural attitudes help. Here in Amsterdam, there's a mix of well-separate cycle paths, and cycle lines alongside car traffic. However, the latter are also very safe, for two reasons:

- every car driver in this country has spent his or her childhood riding a bike, and often continues to use a bike for other journeys. This raises awareness of cyclists as equal road users;
- in accidents involving cars and bicycles, the car driver is automatically judged to be at fault. This provides much more incentive to be attentive to more vulnerable road users.

Attitudes are different in the UK, which is bike hostile, and you can see this in the lamentable state of cycle paths, or the standard, catch-all excuse of crap drivers: "Sorry mate, I didn't see you", or SMIDSY.
posted by daveje at 2:33 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, GW Bush signed into law the ability for one to slap an electric hub motor on a bike and so long as it was less the 744 watts or 20 mph it was all good - right?

I don't know what putting a motor on a bicycle does if there are no bike paths built alongside new and repaved roads.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:39 AM on March 30, 2010


I am donning my lycra in anticipation of a long uphill thread filled with anecdotes of horrific courier on pedestrian carnage decimating america with perhaps a nice downhill glide focusing on how surburban planning and distances make it infeasible. If we are lucky we could have a time trial to see how fast we can all get to an agree-to-disagree finish. Then at some inopportune moment someone will through a Copenhagen in someone's face to which another person can respond with counter example of England. Canada will be left out of it as we just need to go there again now that the US has some form of health care. Then just when the pack is being left behind by the breakaway, a hipster on a fixie with awesomely artistic welds paid for by food stamps will show up and leave you all staring at his butt crack framed below by a hand cut rawhide belt stripped from a living stampeding grass fed organically raised cow holding up his selvage jeans and above by an unfortunate ironic tramp stamp tattoo that will last for their entire life. Which should be just until the next downhill when his legs are spun off due to a lack of freewheel. In the ensuing explosion the thread will shatter into many fragments - ecological impact of cyclists' increased food intake, clean energy automobiles, electric bicycles, asshole drivers versus asshole cyclists, helmets make you less safe versus don't be an idiot before you even have brain damage, steroids versus EPO versus testicular cancer. SUVs versus Smart cars. Hybrids. GWB, GWOT!, Obama. For the love of god who will get the Groceries? Xbox360 versus PS3. Star wars versus Star trek. Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!
posted by srboisvert at 2:50 AM on March 30, 2010 [17 favorites]


Hope.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 2:56 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was going to sarcastically note that we've heard great words from the Obama Admin before, but I see there are actual policy revisions here. So that's good. Although they are "recommendations" not regulations. I guess what I'm saying is I'm more upbeat about this than some of the other non-action we've seen, but I still won't hold my breath.
posted by DU at 3:04 AM on March 30, 2010


MetaFilter: It's like olives, which I used to think were disgusting but now realize are quite tasty.
posted by hippybear at 3:23 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's always nice to see that elections really do have some consequences; it's hard to imagine a McCain/Palin administration making such a policy change.
posted by octothorpe at 3:50 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


it's hard to imagine a McCain/Palin administration making such a policy change.

Nah. The First Dude in Charge of Movin' Stuff Around woulda just gotten us all on snow machines, doncha know...
posted by felix betachat at 4:07 AM on March 30, 2010


Attitudes are different in the UK, which is bike hostile, and you can see this in the lamentable state of cycle paths

Linked to a picture taken in Brussels?
posted by biffa at 4:58 AM on March 30, 2010


This is major change in attitude, even if policy doesn't get affected. It's a start.

This is the key point. If you talk to cyclists, you find there is a large range of what people want.

I ride my bike 17 miles each way to work a few times a week (hopefully more as I get used to this longer commute). My needs are pretty well met by the existing infrastructure, with maybe the exception of one curb that would be really nice if it had a ramp in that spot instead. I ride in the road, one of those "vehicular cylclists" although I try to be practical and considerate about it. The only thing I would really like to see for my benefit would be some kind of official recognition, not only in the law, but in the attitudes of drivers, that a bike really does belong on the road. The current attitude may be the toughest nut to crack.

As for what to do to most benefit cyclists, I really think that standards that are generous to the cycling community need to be adopted with respect to new road construction. I have my opinions on what that means*, but frankly I don't really know what's most effective.

*What it means to me is the use of sharrows on busy streets to facilitate bicycle traffic, but also finding less-traveled parallel streets and turning them into bicycle boulevards, either in the sense of the link, or by providing curb lanes on less-traveled streets that are exceptionally wide and provide for side-by-side traffic (while still allowing the cyclist to take the lane when necessary for safety).

What I hope this doesn't mean is putting Bike Lane signs on every shoulder, then never clearing debris from the shoulder. Or just haphazardly striping bike lanes along every road without serious consideration for what happens at driveways, intersections and areas with street parking for cars.

The one thing I hope to see someday is national adoption of the Idaho law (which allows cyclists to treat Stop signs like Yield signs if they are not violating another vehicle's right of way- rolling stops are acceptable for bicycles).

Frankly, though, the only thing keeping Americans from riding is Americans themselves. Once a person gets past that mential block of "can't" and adopt more of a "can-do" attitude, cycling is much easier than most people think.
posted by Doohickie at 6:12 AM on March 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


“I don’t even understand how you get a bang for the buck out of a bicycle project,” Mr. LaTourette subsequently commented. “I mean, what job is going to be created by having a bike lane?”

Is this guy really such a short-sighted douchebag or is he just in the pocket of the teamsters and auto industry? Perhaps a little from column A and a little from B? Perhaps A leads to B? Ah, the mysteries of the douchebag mind.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:19 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think this shows great foresight. By creating mixed-use roadways that encourage cycling or walking, governments are making a wiser investment. If more people get out of their cars and bike or walk those same roadways that they would normally drive, the roads themselves will last longer, I would think.
posted by brand-gnu at 6:31 AM on March 30, 2010


Linked to a picture taken in Brussels?

Ok, but almost all the other pictures are from the UK. Particular favourites are here, here, and here. This Dutch lane is especially impressive, but that's only to be expected in a country with such high levels of cycling proficiency.
posted by daveje at 6:42 AM on March 30, 2010


I'm happy and surprised that my city just mandated that "all new and “change-in-use” buildings [must] install bicycle parking, just like they already must do for cars."
posted by octothorpe at 6:50 AM on March 30, 2010


The congressional district Ray LaHood hails from in Peoria, IL has seen a 46.8% increase in bus ridership since 2005.

This is not through any local enthusiasm for going green, but a reflection of the prohibitive expense of maintaining a car.

He noticed.
posted by Hammond Rye at 7:24 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The problem koeselitz is complaining about comes from having a lot of cyclists, but not enough bike infrastructure *and/or enforcement*. If bikes are a terror to pedestrians (or cars), there needs to be somebody handing out tickets to discourage that. We get taken more seriously when we behave predictably.

And this idea of ticketing bad bike behavior isn't just me. The League of American Bicyclists (neé Wheelmen) looks at 5 "E's" in their community rankings: Engineering (infrastructure), Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, and Evaluation.
posted by richyoung at 7:43 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I also initially opposed the LaHood appointment. Today, I think he's one of the best leaders in Washington (and easily my favorite Republican). Kudos, sir.
posted by schmod at 7:49 AM on March 30, 2010


Pope Guilty: "Does this mean that cops will finally start caring about bikes and people on them?"

FTFY
posted by klanawa at 7:50 AM on March 30, 2010


As a cyclist, walker-to-worker and urban planner, I'm sorta with doohickie and sorta against. Generally, "serious" cyclists are well served by existing infrastructure. I really don't need bike lanes. It's exceptionally rare that a road freaks me out so much that I don't feel safe.

But! Bike lanes and bike-specific infrastructure are great for getting newbies on the road, and that's exactly what we need. Cyclists are _much_ safer when there are a lot of them. Drivers get used to them and start watching out for them. They stop tossing soda cans at them and shouting at them to get off the road. It's nice.

Cycling and New Urbanism are going through a bubble that won't last on its own. It's driven by a city-loving demographic and current panic over environmental apocalypse rather than a well-established cultural ideal that defines America as a land of urban-dwelling pedestrians. Bikes are really cool among the skinny jeans set right now, but most people still really love the suburb. This sort of formal recognition is a *big* first step in keeping the alt-trans trend rolling as today's fixie-riding 20-somethings get older, have kids and are tempted by all the cargo space in an SUV.
posted by paanta at 8:02 AM on March 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


In connection with what Hammond Rye posted above, Peoria is also a remarkably bicycle-friendly town; it has several marked bike lanes and the local buses have bike racks on the front.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:23 AM on March 30, 2010


and are tempted by all the cargo space in an SUV.

The thing to keep in mind is that you can have the SUV for when you need the cargo space, but you can still ride your bike to work and on most errands around town. It need not be an either/or thing.
posted by Mister_A at 8:28 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really don't need bike lanes.

Bike lanes aren't for you. They're for drivers who are scared shitless by cyclists taking up a sizeable amount of space on 1-lane roads with a 60mph limit when there are bike lanes right beside them.

It's not pleasant having to risk myself by going over the center line of the road at high speeds in traffic because someone on a bike decided they're too good for the perfectly good bike lane a mere 6 feet to their right.

As long as cyclists make the road more dangerous for me, for themselves, and for everyone else because they "don't need" bike lanes, I will continue wishing for a legal measure that will force them into the bike lanes we paid for, and I will continue swearing under my breath at cyclists who make my commute more dangerous every day.
posted by splice at 8:39 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cycling and New Urbanism are going through a bubble that won't last on its own . . . Bikes are really cool among the skinny jeans set right now, but most people still really love the suburb.

This is self-evident, right? Just common sense? Wrong.

In reality, somewhere around 50 percent of Americans (and rapidly growing) say they prefer "walkable urban centers" to single-use large-lot suburbia, but the walkable stuff comprises only 5 to 10 percent of the housing marketplace. For this reason, it commands huge premiums everywhere it's built - not just in old downtowns but in denser mixed-use New Urbanist suburban developments like Belmar in suburban Denver (60 percent premium over nearby traditional suburban homes) and Reston Town Center in suburban Washington, DC (50 percent premium). At the same time, a Metropolitan Institute study a couple years back estimates that the US will have an excess supply of as many as 22 million large-lot suburban homes by 2025.

This amounts, as the Atlantic notes in the link above, to "a structural change in the housing market." Which structural change will be aided and abetted by a national transport policy that encourages multimodal transport, favouring bikes, pedestrians and public transit over the private automobile for the first time since the 1920s.

And while I'm geeking out on the stats . . .

The average American suburban household spends 25 to 40 percent of its household budget on transport; the average walkable-urban-centre household spends 9 percent. And according to a recent study, every billion dollars of stimulus money spent on public transit yielded twice as much employment as every billion spent on more roads.

As a Canadian, I was pretty excited about Obama's election, and though it's been a rocky ride, stuff like a "Republican time-server" making the first bold national declaration toward ending the private automobile's monopolistic rule of America's streets is exactly the kind of change I can believe in. Here I am, a proud citizen of Soviet Canuckistan, naked in my envy for a Republican time-server.

Mr. LaHood, meet John Baird. He really, really wants to do whatever you Americans tell him - it's the Harper government way - so if you speak really, really slowly, he may see your logic here. At least I hope so.
posted by gompa at 8:42 AM on March 30, 2010 [12 favorites]


Rage against the self-powered machine, brah.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:42 AM on March 30, 2010


One more link: some excellent eye candy showing what this transformation will look like in those communities that embrace this structural change.
posted by gompa at 8:54 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Bike lanes aren't for you. They're for drivers who are scared shitless by cyclists taking up a sizeable amount of space on 1-lane roads with a 60mph limit when there are bike lanes right beside them.

"It's not pleasant having to risk myself by going over the center line of the road at high speeds in traffic because someone on a bike decided they're too good for the perfectly good bike lane a mere 6 feet to their right."


Having been that terror inducing cyclist on more than one occasion I can tell you that often the reason we aren't using that "perfectly good bike lane" is because it isn't perfectly good instead being strewn with assorted tire puncturing and wheel bending debris on to top of poorly maintained hard surface. Or it's got a bike swallowing pond across it at some point three months out of the year. No sane cyclist is going to mix with freeway speed traffic if there is an actual viable parallel route.
posted by Mitheral at 8:58 AM on March 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


splice, do you really think cyclists are what makes your commute more dangerous? Or is it the intolerance and impatience your comment radiates? Would you consider, if you don't think it is safe to pass right at that moment, slowing down instead of swerving into oncoming traffic? Would you consider setting a good example for other drivers – that we should respect all road users, even if they sometimes make us slow down a bit? I mean, has a motorized vehicle never made you slow down or veer or swerve?

In my opinion, all the damn cars on the road make the commute more dangerous. Once a vehicle in front of me on I-95 dropped a ladder at 65 mph. My two right tires blew from the impact and my car swung crazily toward the Jersey divider. I steered out of it and then had to counter as the barely-controlled car veered into the adjacent traffic lane. I finally made it to the shoulder, my tires shredded and useless husks. Suffice it to say that the vehicle that dropped the ladder made me slow down considerably.
posted by Mister_A at 9:07 AM on March 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


As long as cyclists make the road more dangerous for me, for themselves, and for everyone else because they "don't need" bike lanes

Cyclists don't need bike lanes because drivers don't pay attention to cyclists in bike lanes. One of the most dangerous situations for a bike rider is in a bike lane at a four-way stop; many, many cyclists who have been struck and killed have been coming out of a bike lane, which makes them less visible than if they ride in the street.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:15 AM on March 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


A predictable and classic MetaFilter bicycle thread. Thanks for making it so, splice.
posted by fixedgear at 9:15 AM on March 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


The average American suburban household spends 25 to 40 percent of its household budget on transport; the average walkable-urban-centre household spends 9 percent.

19.1% seemed a bit high, but I guess that's what $10,000/year. so $800-something a month?
If you've got a car payment and commute that's probably not out of bounds.
posted by madajb at 9:16 AM on March 30, 2010


Think about this madajb–many households are paying two car notes, plus insurance, gas, maintenance, etc. Really easy to add up to 20 or 30 k a year that way.
posted by Mister_A at 9:19 AM on March 30, 2010


Any way, thanks for the good post and good news, billyfleetwood. This sure seems like a pedal stroke in the right direction. I don't know how much more I can take of this mild stream of somewhat positive news out of Washington!
posted by Mister_A at 9:23 AM on March 30, 2010


Really easy to add up to 20 or 30 k a year that way.

Oh sure, totally, just never really considered it as a percentage, since I don't really drive that much (compared to the average American).
posted by madajb at 9:29 AM on March 30, 2010


Doohickie, I am so with you. I live in Austin and am a relative newbie biker. Austin's been making a lot of effort to become more bicycle friendly, by putting in more lanes, sharrows, and even painting portions of the lane green next to stop signs to emphasize to cars that there may be a bike next to you. Great. What they haven't done is fix any of the atrocious road conditions that make riding in those bike lanes completely unsafe and cause me to veer and swerve into traffic to avoid doing an endo out of a pothole. There needs to be a lot more thought going into what makes a road bikable than just laying down some paint.
posted by Polyhymnia at 9:30 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


A good reference re: bike lanes - My Bike Lane. A good portion of the photos from the site are from my daily commute (but not from my camera). The whole 'share the road' mentality is absurd when even a partitioned road is dominated by my four-wheeled brothers. In some places in DC, they have this awesome innovation in which the road goes cars | parking | bike lane | curb | sidewalk, and a few rare places in which the bike lane actually has standing markers to keep cars from parking in it. It's remarkable, and if there were lanes like that everywhere, bike ridership would dominate.

Demographic: 10 people in my office, 8 of whom bike to work every day. Not the skinny-jean hipster set, paanta. (Oh, and a million points to you, gompa)
posted by tmcw at 9:31 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cycling and New Urbanism are going through a bubble that won't last on its own.

The interest in New Urbanism/Smart Growth/whatnot seems to go through phases, and I think this one has a stronger push behind it. As the name New Urbanism implies, the idea is to return to an older style of development, focused on urban areas instead of sprawl. Ideally, communities are scaled on the modes of transportation. The agrarian scale of self-sustaining farms with surplus sold in more compact town centers fell to the industrial era, initially structuring cities with housing mingled with factories and shops, because horses were still only way to move faster than foot. Streetcars allowed the first suburbs, situating worker housing away from city jobs (and the pollution of the city). Cars overtook the streetcars, making suburbs sprawl farther in all directions. Cheap fuel, affordable vehicles, and an extensive road system pushed people into exurbs.

But desirable land isn't so cheap any more, and the cost of commuting has grown, in terms of congested roads and fuel costs. As those expenses shift from minor annoyances to something more, people start to look for alternatives. For some, that was back in the 1970s, when Smart Growth was first used as a term. For others, it came a couple decades later, when New Urbanism was coined in 1993. The latter term is picking up more interest because it causes less of a conflict with people who like the current development patterns ("what, this is dumb growth?").
posted by filthy light thief at 9:34 AM on March 30, 2010


madajb: "19.1% seemed a bit high, but I guess that's what $10,000/year. so $800-something a month?
If you've got a car payment and commute that's probably not out of bounds.
"

Seems low for me if you figure in car payments for two cars, gas, maintenance, insurance and parking fees if you work in a downtown area. Those could easily add up to $1500 or more a month for a two car family.

Personally, I walk to work and my wife takes the bus but we haven't managed to go car free yet, even the middle of our city it's not easy to go without a car.
posted by octothorpe at 9:34 AM on March 30, 2010


Ideally, there would be more Class I Bike Paths, where the bike paths may parallel roadways but are separated by a physical barrier. The graphic from the link above shows a pretty major break, but less is required. Also this requires a larger investment than simply painting the roads, and I'm not sure how emergency response folks feel about having limited access to one side of a road, where this is proposed next to buildings.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:41 AM on March 30, 2010


I've seen this type (Class I in this example) of path in Sweden and the Netherlands; it's great! The bike path has its own little traffic signal and people just sit there and wait for the light.
posted by Mister_A at 9:53 AM on March 30, 2010


I have to say, as a pedestrian, that it would be really, really nice if we keyed down all this emphasis on mechanical transportation in favor of a bit more of a pedestrian-friendly environment for all. As far as I've seen in the bicycle-centric communities I've known, bicycle-friendly design specifically excludes pedestrians; and the more room we make for bicycles and cars, the less room us walking folks have.

I don't know, as a knuckle-walker, I'm annoyed by all these bipedals constantly getting in my way... why can't everyone just do things like we used to?
posted by notswedish at 10:24 AM on March 30, 2010


in accidents involving cars and bicycles, the car driver is automatically judged to be at fault. This provides much more incentive to be attentive to more vulnerable road users.

!!! This would provoke a sea change in bike/car interactions in my community.
posted by melatonic at 10:35 AM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


In some places in DC, they have this awesome innovation in which the road goes cars | parking | bike lane | curb | sidewalk, and a few rare places in which the bike lane actually has standing markers to keep cars from parking in it. It's remarkable, and if there were lanes like that everywhere, bike ridership would dominate.

Wow. Never heard of that -- that would be incredible. They'd need zealous ticketing of cars that park up against the curb, though.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:15 AM on March 30, 2010


In some places in DC, they have this awesome innovation in which the road goes cars | parking | bike lane | curb | sidewalk

The generic term for this kind of design is "complete streets" design, and it is becoming increasingly commonplace in New York City. The main reason for this is because NYC transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan is one of the most forward-thinking and flat-out awesome transport bureaucrats in North America, and moreover because Sadik-Khan has dedicated her job as commissioner to the wholesale import of the design philosophy of Copenhagen planning guru Jan Gehl.
posted by gompa at 11:36 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


So, bicycles will need licenses to help pay for road construction/maintenance?
posted by Cranberry at 12:17 PM on March 30, 2010



So, bicycles will need licenses to help pay for road construction/maintenance?


The issue with the idea that bikers need to pay for these improvements is that biking creates so few cost externalities.

Think about what the external costs (costs not paid for by the driver). Pollution, not just the exhaust, but the cost of disposing of the byproducts (used oil, etc) from cars in a safe manner. The costs of roads, associated signals, policemen dedicated to traffic work etc. The costs of injuries that individuals can't afford. And a huge one, the cost of parking. Most cities MANDATE that businesses set aside areas for parking, which is a huge cost in terms of utility. The licenses, parking fees, tolls, gas taxes and everything else are ways to force drivers to internalize the costs of their driving.

Bikers do have plenty of externalities but they are several orders of magnitude smaller. Minimal pollution, minimal traffic costs, minimal parking costs (Plus in my city I can add money to my water bill for the addition of bike paths).

Since I bike to school I don't have to
posted by cyphill at 12:29 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The issue with the idea that bikers need to pay for these improvements is that biking creates so few cost externalities.

I'm not at all sure how the two are related.

Someone has to pay to lay the concrete, acquire the right-of-way, build bridges, etc. for a dedicated bike path.
In my state, I pay a gas tax which goes towards maintaining the infrastructure on which I operate my vehicle.
Why would bicycle commuters not expect to do the same?
posted by madajb at 1:35 PM on March 30, 2010


I didn't say that there are no externalities to biking. Just that the costs are extremally lower. When you way the costs of biking to the savings from not driving (which are gigantic when viewed from a government level) and add in the still constant benefits of adequete transportation (people need to get to around, this benefits the government as well as citizens) a license for bikes in order to raise funds for bicycling costs just doesn't make much sense, especially if you consider that a license would then discourage bicycling (why would I pay for something I've never had to when I can just keep driving and save the physical/monetary effort).
In addition there are the extreme varieties of types of bicycling. Some bike to work, others bike around the neighborhood for exercise, some are just kids riding up and down the street, some mountain bike, some just stand next to their bikes outside of 7-11. Because bikes are such a cheaper alternative to cars (for everyone involved) it makes way more sense to promote biking rather then to think about how we can make bikers pay for their own transportation infrastructure.

Remember your example, a gas tax. The gas tax helps pay off such a large number of externalities besides roads. Pollution being a huge costly example. A license is not an equitable alternative for bikes in my opinion.
posted by cyphill at 2:18 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Demographic: 10 people in my office, 8 of whom bike to work every day. Not the skinny-jean hipster set, paanta. (Oh, and a million points to you, gompa)

I'm in a large building, perhaps a half-dozen occasional bike commuters. We're not the skinny-jean hipster set either. I'm typical- late 40s MWM, 6-2, 220.

Mattowie Blue! For the cyclists here who aren't aware of this: you need to get yourself one of mattowie's t-shirts
posted by Doohickie at 2:41 PM on March 30, 2010


In my state, I pay a gas tax which goes towards maintaining funds a small fraction of the infrastructure on which I operate my vehicle. FTFY.
posted by fixedgear at 2:45 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


and roads typically have sidewalks

Well, in cities. Once you get out of them, they usually don't in my experience. But then again, bicycling as a form of useful transportation is generally less viable outside cities.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:32 PM on March 30, 2010


I'm in Lyon, France for a conference right now, and they have a freaking incredible bike rental system. There are over 350 stations in town with about twenty rental bike spots each; there's pretty much always a bike available in short distance. It's 3 euro for a seven day access pass, and rental is free for 30 minutes, and .50 for each half hour thereafter. In other words, it's cheap as hell. If no bikes are at a particular spot (or the spot is filled when you're trying to drop the bike off), the kiosk can tell you the closest available spots and how many bikes and empty spots are at each place. Result: Many, many, many people use the bike system, and the traffic is very well integrated. It's great; we should get more programs like it in the US.
posted by kaibutsu at 3:46 PM on March 30, 2010


The generic term for this kind of design is "complete streets" design

Wicked cool, but on the way home I was thinking about what it would be like to have a door opened on you and have absolutely nowhere to go... Then again, that's often the case now as it is.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:31 PM on March 30, 2010


49% of interstate/limited access highways in the USA are paid for by bonds or general taxes. Local roads are almost entirely supported by property, commercial, or sales taxes.
posted by anthill at 5:06 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really should codify this and save it. I've written the same thing dozens of times in the past.

** What came first, cars or inner city streets? Cars only own the streets coz "we're big and smelly and noisy and fast and there are so many of us and if you get in our way we're gonna fuck you up so you better not get in our way!"

A lot of roads were never built for cars. Cars simply bullied their way into taking over. Yet in these types of discussions there's always this annoying, underlying belief from car drivers that bike riders have to prove to them why they should have to share.

** Most bike riders also own cars and pay all the fees and taxes. So quit it with the "bike riders don't pay waaah!" bullshit.

The bike riders who don't own cars - I bet 99% of the reason is coz they're down on their luck and can't afford to run a car. So please come right out and say it: poor people should not be allowed to share the roads with us car drivers. Otherwise, what's your point again?

** Bikes don't destroy roads once they're built. Maintenance costs to roads are minimal due to bike wear and tear. Car drivers should therefore pay a crapload more money in road taxes. Truck drivers more again. Or something like that.

Sorry, that was a very average, rushed effort. I'm sure I'll remember a couple more salient points.

** Oh yeah, one more. To all you bleating idiots who point out that bike riders break the law. Get ya fucking hand off it. Does it really affect you? And people who quote the law better damn well be sure their own house is in order and they obey every single stupid law that exists.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:10 PM on March 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Madajb, thanks for your comment - it led me to find a great website for UK folks tired of being asked the same question. IPayRoadTax.com. And, of course copenhaganize.com
posted by anthill at 7:12 PM on March 30, 2010


I'd settle for drivers just giving me three feet.
posted by Wild_Eep at 8:59 PM on March 30, 2010


anthill -
Interesting links, though they do rather beg the question a couple of times.
posted by madajb at 9:41 PM on March 30, 2010


I'd settle for drivers just giving me three feet.

And I'd like a web site that does not have a popup that blocks the page and can't be closed.

Seems we don't get what we want.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:13 AM on April 4, 2010


Install adblock/flash block and you are golden.
posted by Mitheral at 9:30 AM on April 4, 2010


« Older Travelogue of Havana, Cuba in the 1930s....  |  The Large Hadron Collider is ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments