Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Lots of good linkages today:

First, the DMN picked up the Alliance for Biking and Walking report I mentioned the other day. The headline is rather loathsome and ignorant that behavior responds to context. I'd hate to do anything where I might die too. Really not looking forward to sticking my head in an alligators mouth later. Another fraggle:
An interesting takeaway from the study concerns the importance of city efforts to maximize cycling or walking. Dallas dedicated, according to the survey, $4 million in 2010 to bike or pedestrian projects. That's better than many of the cities on the list, including Washington, D.C., Fort Worth, Houston (which spent $0 city funds). Even Boston, the reigning champ when it comes to its residents walking and biking to work, spent far less -- about $600,000 in 2010.
DC ranks towards the tops of the list but spends no money. Dallas is at the bottom of the list but spends money. Is that really "better?" One could likely more reasonably argue that it is at the very least a form of playing catchup. What more do the cities at the top of the list have to do when they already have a walkable, bikable city? Or maybe the expenditure is a tacit admission of guilt. Perhaps, but I think it is something else altogether even: a bandaid. And a bandaid on urban form and interactivity is always expensive. As are the by-products of the broken form, like pedestrian and bicyclist injuries or worse.
Why should policies favor pedestrian and bicyclist activity? Forget that they're inherently vulnerable and should be protected (while we're at it, let's put children back to work on lathes, in a lead smelter, and coal mines. Their little fingers will get the hard to reach black stuff.). And forget that their presence is indicative of a dense, desirable, livable place founded on local interconnectivity. But that these forms of movement, of making the social and economic exchanges of our daily lives are so much more energy efficient:
RT On 350 calories, a bicyclist can go 10 miles, a pedestrian 3.5 miles, and a car 100 feet.
And energy equals cost. Every trip has its own tariff, a cost of completing a transaction, the revenue of which heads outta town.

The other point worth noting is that just because a bicycle goes further on x calories than does a pedestrian doesn't necessarily make the bike better. It has its own inflexibilities. It is more difficult to stop, start, change directions, get off, go into stores, find a place to park and lock it, etc., particularly in packs than a crowd of pedestrians. Furthermore, like heavy traffic of cars, a rush hour of bikes can be repulsive to the pedestrian. Balance and appropriation.
Traffic author Tom Vanderbilt in Wired: Let the Robot Drive.

After standing at an intersection during morning rush hour today, counting drivers looking down, texting, applying makeup, and generally looking rather distracted, I agree. And since it will be some time, if ever, that this becomes democratically affordable, maybe we should up the qualifying standards for operating a piece of dangerous, nay deadly machinery.
The economist picks up and weighs in on a debate tangential to fixed alignment mass transit versus buses with an empathetic, aesthetic component. Perhaps one or the other isn't the way to look at it but rather integration --> accommodation --> decoration. The more convenient, as several cited in the article do, that mass transit is, the greater demand will be to amenitize it, make it more comfortable.
Lastly, a primer on behavior change theory, particularly as it relates to socio-economics and therefore cities: Emotion --> Behavior --> Economics --> City Form. And vice versa. I hope to have more on this as time comes, but for now this piece on systems theory:
Interventions should aim for change at multiple points across a system, targeting a range of factors, and working at various scales (e.g. individual, organisational, community, societal).
For example, this suggests that if we see a problem, which might be a lament that "Greenville Avenue is not the complete neighborhood main street it was several decades ago" where you can no longer meet all of your daily needs. The necessary interventions range at a variety of scales, both cosmetic (it's ugly), systemic (it's unsafe), or genetic (too much parking is required by code). Partial treatment is only a partial cure.