Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday Not-Morning Linkages

...to waste away your afternoon:

First, comes this little story from recently visited Spain. Murcia, Spain to be exact, where the city is offering lifetime transit passes to any citizen who trades in their automobile. Rather interesting. Murcia is no small city with over 400,000 citizens and generically Spanish (if that is such a thing) with a medieval core centralized on a river, nearby agricultural base, relatively dense 'suburban' pueblos, and of course rampant sprawl and overbuilding wrought from the past decade of funny money, i.e. lots of new malls, highways, arterial roads and roundabouts, stadiums, and half-built sub-divisions.

Every Spanish city I've been to is also confronting a similar dilemma of how to accommodate the Spaniards' own love of cars with the great platform of civilization that are our (in this case their) cities. This is a rather unique approach to the problem while still maintaining a standard modicum of mobility that all cities are liable to do. It is in the city's best interest to ensure/allow for maximum mobility so that all citizens are availed the opportunity of participating in the local economy, the very point of cities and why they perpetuate. Here in the states we mandate parking minimums because for the most part don't allow for choice in transportation mode.

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A recently found blog, The Urban Country, writing from Toronto I do believe where a number of great urbanist blogs have emerged, partly I suppose in response to the culture clash on-going between cars, their autophiles, and those who may be bicyclists or may just wish to have a certain amount of freedom of choice in their chosen mode of transportation and some measure of safety guaranteed through proper transportation design, writes about our backwards approach to road safety. See. I told you there was conflict a-brewin' in Toronto.

No, our solution is to slap helmets on vulnerable road users, tell pedestrians to wear brighter clothes, tell cyclists to always have two hands on the handlebars, enforce cyclists rolling through empty intersections, rip out bike infrastructure, and fail to hold drivers accountable for their actions.

We need drastic changes if we're going to make cycling more comfortable for newcomers.

Thankfully "cycling in numbers" can have a positive effect on safety even without good infrastructure. Drivers are much more cautious on roads where we see lots of cyclists.

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Perhaps most interestingly, Los Angeles is going to begin shutting down the 405 freeway in one of the biggest experimentations in traffic reduction. Actually, they're intermittently closing it in order to construct more "improvements," whatever that word possibly means these days where anything is an improvement and not an improvement at the same time, but a mere longer meandering down the same dead end.

Predictably, everyone who's anyone online went apey. Saying it will be the worst thing ever, Carmageddon, completely ignorant of the fact that their warnings/hysteria show how the internet, our interconnectivity of information, will begin replacing car trips and vehicle miles travelled. The warnings will allow people to plan their days differently, take different routes, or not make the trips they don't have to by car if deemed unnecessary or superfluous.

I already know what will happen. The first day of closing, things will be pretty hairy, but the online hysteria /slash/ message-spreading will help to alleviate and prepare the city for that. Afterwards, not only will traffic find other routes, but the overall number of cars on the road will reduce as drivers either: carpool, find other modes, find other routes, don't drive, or shop/work online from home.

Making driving more difficult means less drivers on the road. This is an inalienable fact. The bigger concern is the fact than any particular road, route, or form of transportation is so depended upon (nearly 300,000 cars per day) that an entire city could shut down, highlighting the fragility of the entire system. What happens if there were to someday be any disruptions in oil supply or gas hits $6 per gallon (i.e. the next cheapest country for buying gas)?