Walk this way
October 15, 2018 1:14 PM   Subscribe

 
Give me a city where I don't ride in dread of the horrible drivers zipping past me and I will ride my bike a whole lot more.

(I mean, I'm slightly paranoid when I'm in MY CAR with the awful drivers in my town.)
posted by Atreides at 1:51 PM on October 15 [4 favorites]


Oh, thanks for this post! I didn't know Jeff Speck had another book out. Walkable City--How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time is such a readable, fascinating book on urban design. So looking forward to reading this, and then foisting my copy off on everyone I know!
posted by the primroses were over at 2:48 PM on October 15 [3 favorites]


But then there are all the newer places like Chandler, Arizona: 250,000 humans doomed to scuttle around perhaps the most utterly placeless landscape in America, 65 square miles of entirely car-dependent nowhere.

I used to ride a 50cc scooter from northern Chandler to ASU in Tempe. It could be... harrowing.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 2:59 PM on October 15 [1 favorite]


Observing that few people bike in a place without a good bike network is like saying that you don’t need a bridge because nobody is swimming the river.
Such a good line in an interesting article.
posted by archy at 3:07 PM on October 15 [20 favorites]


Another excerpt from this book that's near to my heart: RULE 71: When repaving a two-lane, two-way street in an area where pedestrians are present, do not include a centerline without a site-specific justification.

I phoned and emailed public works and the local city council member to try to stop the centerline from being repainted on my just-repaved street, to no effect. I wish I'd had this available at the time to shore up my argument. There was a brief, lovely period in between the repaving and restriping when drivers actually slowed down or gave me room when passing. Not having that centerline lowered speeds and made drivers more attentive on a short stretch of street that includes many homes, an elementary school, and a public library.

I'll be requesting this book from that library, and will be picking it up on foot or on my bike, and I'll wish, again, that I'd asked in the right way on the right timeline to have the street I live on made safer in a way that would cost less money than what they did.
posted by asperity at 3:09 PM on October 15 [20 favorites]


I am saddened to realize that this article/book makes me feel more despair than anything else. The New Urbanism (lots of previouslies) has been coming for decades, and meanwhile the state of our politics is less supportive of these techniques than ever, and the larger threats to our cities (political, climatological, and otherwise) overwhelm all these indisputably good ideas.

Even in the earnest, liberal mecca of San Francisco, the chance to develop Mission Bay, more than 300 acres of former rail yards in the middle of an urban area, largely ignored most good New Urbanism ideas. The guiding planning principles (Project Summary Report - pdf) appropriately include a focus on community involvement and notification, but without also including design requirements that would make the new development actually work as part of the community. Instead of building more of a CITY, UCSF basically created a suburban campus for their medical facilities, offices, and labs.
posted by PhineasGage at 3:34 PM on October 15 [3 favorites]


this article/book makes me feel more despair than anything else.

Enormous projects like Mission Bay are hard, and those are definitely the ones that need some serious planning work beforehand. And that's difficult enough that despair feels justified.

However, lots of development happens one project at a time, at a pace that isn't too fast to make at least a few tweaks for safety and health. Guide your planning commission, city council, and city staff through the "OK, how do these entrances work if you're walking or using a wheelchair?" thought process enough times and eventually they'll start to think through it themselves. I may not care much about having yet another Starbucks, but I care that its one entrance from the sidewalk is actually visible from that sidewalk in both directions and at pedestrian and wheelchair-user heights. Or that they've got something other than the gas meter to lock employee and customer bicycles to.

You don't need a degree in city planning or traffic engineering to ask these questions, and it doesn't transform a built environment quickly. But the little victories keep the despair at bay, mostly.
posted by asperity at 4:01 PM on October 15 [2 favorites]


Dig even trivally into any of the opposition to this stuff, and you get to either classism or racism very quickly.

We finally succeeded in getting a bike lane added to a nearby deathtrap of a road (and not even a real bike lane, just some painted stripes—time will tell if it actually makes it safer) and the opposition to it was ridiculous. You'd have thought we were putting in a long-term radioactive waste disposal facility. Hell, I think that would have been less controversial.

In the beginning I tried to engage with people, but very quickly realized that people opposed to the bike lane would just come up with bullshit—ever-changing, fractally nested, circular bullshit. It made no sense and wasn't even logically consistent. There was no there there.

But if someone thinks you're a fellow traveler, or if you just hold your nose and go into an anonymous local forum, you get the real deal very quickly: bicycles are a dangerous enabler for poor and brown people. Bike lanes provide a means for them to expand from public transit and infiltrate painstakingly firewalled communities. And therefore they represent an existential threat. Suddenly it made sense why we had this totally insane level of opposition and all sorts of "property values" handwringing about an 8 inch strip of white paint.

Car-centricity isn't a bug, at least in some communities: it's a very specifically crafted feature. If you let people move around without requiring every adult to have a car, suddenly you lose a huge amount of baked-in control over where people can live and what they can do. (And how many people can live in a house, especially.)

Maybe there are people out there with legitimate concerns about pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure, but I've yet to find any; so if you are trying to make this stuff happen, be aware that the arguments you'll get back from opponents are basically not worth engaging with. They're just red herrings, tossed out to distract you—frequently they're asymmetric arguments, that take much more time to respond to than they do to create. You can either engage with the underlying racism/classism (tricky but doable, sometimes necessary), or you just ignore them and try to crush them under the wheels of progress.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:20 PM on October 15 [43 favorites]


I think it's a similar negative feedback loop to the ones that the article describes, but as an American it boggles my mind that right turns on red are ever permitted in urban spaces here. It's evident to me on a daily basis the extent to which that affordance is pedestrian- and cyclist-hostile, and I'm sure the argument in their favor goes that the intersections where they're permitted would otherwise become clogged with cars and lead to increased amounts of undesirable NOx emissions due to idling vehicles, but I have to believe that I'm not nearly alone in finding crossing intersections as a pedestrian, or in a bike lane, to be dangerous because of distracted or entitled right-turn behavior in a way that makes me kind of hesitant to negotiate urban spaces via either of those modes. It also affects drivers: people reticent to make a right turn on a red are sure to be bullied by drivers behind them, and then of course the general sense that right turns are admissible during red lights means that even intersections that are clearly marked with no-right-turn-on-red signs are likely to have plenty of drivers just sailing right through the crosswalk or bike lane anyway. Maybe the right-on-red dynamic could work in a culture that has a more strongly-ingrained sense of civic responsibility, but Americans just don't have the perspective or impulse control to do it without putting pedestrians and cyclists in danger.
posted by invitapriore at 5:19 PM on October 15 [8 favorites]


We've got a municipal election coming up and the big thing in my area is how our main street is going to be redone (watermains and other things under the street need to be replaced). Our main street has seen significant development over the last 20 years and there's a ton of foot traffic on it now. This will only increase in the next 40 years that we'll be stuck with the new street design. The street itself is used as a highway by people from outside our city to get to the actual highway (this was something like 70% of the traffic during rush hours). City staff recommended a plan that would cut the street from 6 lanes to 4, eliminate street parking, and replace the removed lanes with bike lanes and enhanced sidewalks.

Most of the election candidates are against this plan but our incumbent councilor is the one who was championing it so given that incumbents win something like 90% of the time here the plan is safe at our level at least (although it'll still have to pass a vote in city council which will be a tough battle). I had a lengthy discussion on this with one of the candidates when he knocked on my door but we were talking past each other. I am not sure why a local councilor would want to keep our main street as a highway for people whose only contribution to the area is to increase air pollution but we are a suburb and a lot of us hold suburban values.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:40 PM on October 15 [1 favorite]


A seriously-needed discussion society-wide.

The transportation sector is a major polluter. CO2 was not a consideration when all kinds of decisions were made that locked in a huge amount of needless traffic. We have a couple of decades to fix that, and it'll involve major, major changes and carefully-targeted, huge investments. NOT huge projects, but maximally calculated re-use of what already exists. With incentives for those who will be hurt.

Those reuses will require compromises that might be contentious for years if we insist on bickering over every detail. Alas, we had those years, but now they've gone by without any significant *action* taken. We need to prioritize, agree, and get busy.
posted by Twang at 6:10 PM on October 15 [1 favorite]


“bicycles are a dangerous enabler for poor and brown people. Bike lanes provide a means for them to expand from public transit and infiltrate painstakingly firewalled communities. And therefore they represent an existential threat”

EXCEPT if you’re trying to run bike lanes through a healthy black neighborhood, in which you’ll get a different kind of pushback — namely that you’re bringing in gentrifiers. Bike lanes mean white people are coming to buy everything. It’s true, too.
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:53 PM on October 15 [9 favorites]


Living on the West Coast has been a real eye-opener. It's not just that I miss NYC, Greater Boston or Philli. I miss Newburyport MA, Portland ME, Portsmouth NH.

Fresno is an endless grid of strip malls and SF is bereft of city blocks or centers. So strange to me.
posted by es_de_bah at 10:54 PM on October 15 [1 favorite]


I'm so glad Jeff Speck is writing books like this. There is still so much pushback on what to do to make cities walkable, and he writes down 100 plain language rules. Nice work. I think it will be a great book. The article is kind of cool in that I figured it would be top 10 or something, but instead the rules are just kind of randomly pulled from the list but still makes a complete narrative. This person would be (maybe is?) a pretty good science and engineering writer too.
posted by The_Vegetables at 6:54 AM on October 16 [1 favorite]


Maybe there are people out there with legitimate concerns about pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure

Right. That's a major problem with most of the urban writing in the US right now, that upper middle class (and mostly white) people doing the writing don't want to touch/admit that much of city design is race and class based.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:06 AM on October 16 [2 favorites]


Give me a city where I don't ride in dread of the horrible drivers zipping past me and I will ride my bike a whole lot more.

So true! I'm an early morning runner, and a year-round bike commuter. And this week I just got scared into spending $50 on a light up vest thing to wear after yet another near-miss while crossing a street, with the right of way, in a crosswalk. Drivers apparently think stop signs don't count before 7am. It happens to me so frequently that I often FORGET it even happened within a few hours. Like it's just part of daily life experience. "Had a bagel for breakfast, forgot my umbrella and it's supposed to rain later, almost got creamed by an SUV on my run this morning, think I might get soup for lunch today."

I slow down as I approach every single crosswalk to make sure the driver is actually going to stop, and I *still* have near misses. News flash, drivers: slowing down or stopping at a stop sign doesn't mean much if you don't also LOOK for cross-traffic - including pedestrians and cyclists - before you speed up again.

Give us a city where we don't have to be afraid every time we cross a street and we'd all be so much better off.
posted by misskaz at 7:48 AM on October 16 [2 favorites]


“bicycles are a dangerous enabler for poor and brown people. Bike lanes provide a means for them to expand from public transit and infiltrate painstakingly firewalled communities. And therefore they represent an existential threat”

Walking/jogging/bicycling path/trail expansion in my city and state excite a lot of people who suddenly believe that thieves and criminals will now have a direct route to their homes. No joke, they're expanding a rail to trail project, the Katy Trail, and at least one farmer complained that it could result in someone trying to steal their equipment....yes, someone is going to bicycle down miles of trail just to get to your farm, then somehow load up your heavy ass equipment, and then cycle away....when they could just drive down the gravel road that leads right up to it. -_-

In town, same issue, "We don't want this trail, it could bring undesirables near our house!"
posted by Atreides at 8:24 AM on October 16 [5 favorites]


I've seen similar complaints here about a rails-to-trail project. As if somehow the well-lit, patrolled by parks district staff and law enforcement, and very heavily used trail is somehow *less* safe than what was an abandoned rail line?
posted by misskaz at 9:09 AM on October 16 [5 favorites]


Walking/jogging/bicycling path/trail expansion in my city and state excite a lot of people who suddenly believe that thieves and criminals will now have a direct route to their homes.

As a former STLien, this sure sounds of a piece with the county-wide opposition to various MetroLink expansion proposals.
posted by invitapriore at 6:38 PM on October 16 [1 favorite]


cars are the most destructive human invention ever, having destroyed our health, our cities, our societies, and our planet; don't @ me
posted by entropicamericana at 5:19 AM on October 17 [3 favorites]


« Older We think anime is, well, a whole lot gayer than...   |   Little Potato. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments