Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Back...But Not With My Own Words

Truthfully, I'm a little spent from having written about 5,000 words for the Dallas Morning News, 3,000 for a Magazine column, and another 6,000 for the parking paper in the past 2-3 weeks that I need a bit of a break (and those are all outside of my day job!). So don't mind me if I take the time to quote a passage from Tom Vanderbilt's excellent book on driving, cars, and us, Traffic: Why We Drive and What It Says About Us:
"When the city of Copenhagen was looking to reduce the number of cars entering the central city in favor of bicycles and other modes of transportation, it had a very crafty strategy, according to Steffen Rasmussen of the city's Traffic and Planning Office: Get rid of parking, but without anyone noticing. From 1994 to 2005, Copenhagen cut parking spaces in the city center from 14,000 to 11,500, replacing the spaces with things like parks and bicycle lanes.
As I stated in the parking paper, parking itself is merely a substitution for mobility. If other, perhaps safer, faster, or more enjoyable means of transportation are provided including proximity, then choice will allow a reduction of congestion.

An underpriced commodity, such as parking does two things: 1) it means there is too much parking making for an unpleasant human experience. If I am to invent a word it is anthropofugal. It flings people away. No one wants to be near a parking lot, particularly in Dallas summer heat. They also feel unsafe which is why Baylor floodlights the bejesus out of their surface lots. And 2) it encourages more driving, when we are trying to encourage more DART ridership and implement a new Bike Plan.

Copenhagen understood that parking itself was a resource and that its cheap, easy, or free supply created negative externalities such as increased car congestion, obesity, pollution, and increased citizen expenditures for gas, cars, maintenance, etc. They reduced the supply of parking to increase its value more appropriate to the costs it imposes upon the City.
Over that same time, not accidentally bicycle traffic rose by some 40 percent - a third of people commuting to work now go by bike...
People adapt. Copenhagen was smart. They didn't talk about what they are doing because they learned from earlier battles to remove car traffic from streets. People fret change. Businesses flipped out that they planned on removing traffic from their streets. Now central Copenhagen is as lively and safe a business district as their is in the world.

That number of bicycle commuters is estimated to be pushing 60% of commuters now.