Monday, January 16, 2012

We Can Do a Lot of Things, But We Can't Do That

If you hadn't heard, a bicyclist riding on the Jefferson Street viaduct was struck by a car riding from Oak Cliff to downtown this Saturday. The collision broke his neck. As the news report rightly points out, this is one of the streets suggested for initial restriping of bike lanes. Dallas has no on-street bike lanes at present. Meanwhile, cities around the country are adding them left and right.

It should also be noted that there isn't one safe connection across the Trinity River for pedestrians and/or cyclists at present. Jefferson and Houston Street viaducts, the two primary connections to/fro Oak Cliff are literal nightmares. I've ridden them several times. Yet the irony is that there is so little vehicle traffic to warrant the excess vehicular travel lanes on them. Google Earth Pro tells me that previous traffic studies suggest an average of about 8,000 vehicles per day on each. They're both 4 lanes. 8 lanes in total. The sidewalk for bicyclists and pedestrians abruptly stops. Meanwhile, Main Street in downtown moves 9,000 vehicles per day. It is one lane in each direction.

The Lance Armstrongs as I call them, those that think just some good edjumucation is in order to get ridership and safety up, want riders to co-exist with vehicles on the travel lanes. Cars routinely drive 55 mph on those two bridges. Can you pedal that fast? Can a child? Cars drive as fast as the road design allows them. They haven't a clue as this post points out, which is why they've been saying the same thing with no results for decades. They appeal only to the 1%. Not that 1%, but the 1% identified by Roger Geller that is "strong and fearless."

It is the 60% of the population which is the untapped market that is "interested but concerned." I.e. not batshit crazy enough to try and compete for roadway space with drivers conditioned by a highly competitive traffic environment to drive aggressively. I was in conversation with a woman at one of Chef Nicole's underground dinners a few nights ago. She lamented why does everybody in Dallas have a giant SUV?

The answer, beyond the various tax breaks and artificially deflated gasoline prices for hyper-inflated internal combustion vehicles, is precisely that competition. Every other driver on the road is your enemy? Why? Because the optimum condition of a road is no other drivers. This is the failed logic of the transportation planner/engineer. They're in your way. They cut you off. They slow you down. They tailgate you. It is competitively advantageous to desire a bigger vehicle. In contrast, in European cities, it is competitively advantageous to have a smaller vehicle because space is at a premium, both parking and drive lanes.

Meanwhile, in a safer pedestrian-oriented environment, each other "commuter," whilst on foot, improves the overall experience. And as I tweeted the other day, city form is commonly based on the primary transportation technology of the day. However, foot power is the only transportation technology that transcends time. Therefore, the only truly timeless cities, durable cities, that will surely last long past peak oil (unless we all kill ourselves and each other on the roads first) is the pedestrian-oriented city.

Fortunately, Dallas Torres survived the crash. Or unfortunately? Did I really just say that? In other words, he won't be a martyr for change, since that is apparently what it takes to get the city to do its primary job: ensure public safety. If the city disagrees, thinking that public safety should take a backseat to economic development, there is also the fact that investment and spending along the Magnolia Avenue bike lane in Fort Worth is up over 500%. In one year. The actions of the city make it appear that they don't understand economic development and don't care about public safety. They do however think paying $10 million to Calatrava for a redesign of a physical connection THAT ALREADY EXISTS is a good investment. Maybe he'll just pull a design off the shelf again.

If words like these offend, perhaps they should offend. While the city looks for excuses not to make any changes, will it take a death to begin making changes?

Perhaps we need to give a call to the Bobs to ask, "what exactly do you do here?"