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Old 05-06-02, 08:35 AM   #1
LittleBigMan
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Chicken, or egg?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg, goes the old mind-twister. In the same spirit of fun, I would like to ask:

"Which came first, traffic or roads?"

"Traffic, of course," the Georgia Dept. of Transportation, and Gov. Roy Barnes, would quickly reply. "Roads do not create traffic, they help alleviate it," Gov. Barnes asserts. "Growth is already occurring [in the four-county region north of Atlanta] because it's an attractive place to live and work," he maintains. "It will continue whether we build the Northern Arc or not." (The Northern Arc is a proposed freeway, planned to be built north of the already gridlocked circular freeway that surrounds Atlanta.)

There are two proposed routes for "Noah's Arc." One route would level 50 homes, the other, 150. So much for "an attractive place to live and work."

Pardon me, Mr. Barnes, but have you spent so long as a lawyer and politician that you believe your own words? Admit it: you and your supporters want this new Arc for one reason, to attract as many new residents and businesses to the region (and their sweet cash flow) as possible. You know that this freeway will spawn a greater influx of traffic, because that's exactly what you want. To h*ll with the degraded quality of life we and our children will inherit because of your hypocrisy.

And to think I respected you once.
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Old 05-06-02, 08:59 AM   #2
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We tried an experiment in central London. Close off one of the few bridges across the Thames to all traffic except for buses and cyclists (due to engineering work). Where did all the cars go to? Nowhere; they simply dissapeared.

Clearly, the egg came first.
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Old 05-06-02, 09:06 AM   #3
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Did the number of cyclists increase by any noticable amount?
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Old 05-06-02, 09:29 AM   #4
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The ones using that bridge did, but no-one keeps accurate tabs on cyclist numbers in London.
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Old 05-06-02, 09:47 AM   #5
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LittleBigMan,

Having grown up in Texas i have encountered this attitude a lot --- the belief that building more roads will solve traffic problems and the refusal to accept the fact that the new roads will most likely lead to MORE traffic...

the people of Portland Oregon quite a few times voted down major road extensions or bypasses (for example, 'the Mt Hood Freeway') b/c of just this - the realization that it would lead to more traffic and more cars in the city and more sprawl. -- even cooler, about 15 years ago they REMOVED a freeway that ran through downtown and turned it into a waterfront park with gardens, running trails, etc. to reduce traffic and make the city more beautiful!

i've seen some interesting studies (mostly from Texas and Atlanta i think) that have shown that the average major road improvement brings little if any traffic relief --- for the 1st few years during construction traffic is worse due to reduced capacity, then after a few years or so it's completed and then within 1-3 years most of the new roads are already as congested as they were before due to so many people thinking 'hey, now i can live further away and get there in 20 minutes b/c i can drive 65mph on the new freeway...' and all the new businesses that locate there in the new hot growth zone... and the thousands of new homes built... and traffic in surrounding or connecting areas becomes much much worse... -- then when the traffic is again bad all these thousands of people are stuck driving 20+ miles in heavy traffic (and the side roads fill up too as people seek short-cuts)

i've seen it personally in Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Houston...

my parents live between San Antonio and Austin and the once empty 2-lane each direction (now mostly 3-lane) interstate is constantly backed up and the travel time between Austin and San Antonio has increased almost every year for the last 15 years... (despite adding a lane) - what used to be mostly countryside is now almost continuous sprawl for the 60 miles between the 2 cities (there are small towns but it used to be mostly farmland)

and in Houston it's the story for almost every new subdivision:: new empty road connecting to the city for the 1st 5 years or so until all the houses sell and all the neighbors move in and then the next subdivision further out is built and they use the same road too...

and Cycletourist... Portland has i think the highest bike commuting percentage in the US (or at least of cities with 250,000 or more people) and a lot is due to the reduced # of freeways, shorter distances and more compact development b/c of this AND cycling accessibility on almost all bridges, etc...
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Old 05-06-02, 09:59 AM   #6
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It's a well-understood fact by traffic engineers that building more roads creates more traffic; a sort of automotive manifest destiny, if you will.
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Old 05-06-02, 10:04 AM   #7
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Old 05-06-02, 11:18 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by LittleBigMan
Which came first, the chicken or the egg, goes the old mind-twister. In the same spirit of fun, I would like to ask:

"Which came first, traffic or roads?"
I always figured the answer to the chicken question was determined by whether or not one believed in creation or evolution. I suppose the same thing is true with traffic and roads. Did roads evolve into traffic or did the traffic just suddenly appear?

I vote that if there were no traffic there would be no roads, and vice versa.
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Old 05-06-02, 11:40 AM   #9
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It seems both are true. They built roads to accomodate new developments; as more people moved out to the burbs and towns grew, more people bought cars. As more people bought cars, new roads had to be built. New roads meant it was easier to get around so more people took to the new roads and traffic spilled over... and so on etc etc ad nauseum.
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Old 05-06-02, 12:04 PM   #10
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The Good Roads Society was formed in 1880 to lobby for well surfaced roads in the USA.
The first prototype internal combustion automobile was developed by Otto Benz in 1885.

Mr Chicken, meet Mrs Egg.
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Old 05-06-02, 12:05 PM   #11
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The whole question is specious.

Before there were roads, there were dirt tracks; before that, there were paths; before that, people walked on the grass and in the wood; before that we swung from trees.

Roads are a manifestation of 1. Increased poplulation density, 2. Demographis dispersal, 3. Economic complexity. When you have enough people who have to go far enough for reasons compelling enough to make them go places, you get roads.

Factor #2 was certainly intensified by the postwar suburban building boom -- which was enabled by automotive technology and encouraged by automotive and petroleum companies; and I think there's pretty good evidence that these same companies have been involved in major campaigns to discourage the use of alternative transportation technologies and services.

But... roads, both paved and unpaved, existed long before the automobile, even if our societyu's growing dependence on the automobile has stimulated the continued construction of roads.
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Old 05-06-02, 12:29 PM   #12
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roads in general are not the problem...

it's ROADS THAT ENCOURAGE LONGER DISTANCE DAILY TRAVEL AND LOW DENSITY SPRAWL...

a road in the generic sense is any path connecting points and can, in theory, be used by pedestrians or bicycles - the Romans had an extensive road network throughout Europe for pedestrians, animals and carts...

the problem is roads that are designed only for cars that make it virtually impossible to do your daily activities (go to work, transport kids to school, go shopping, etc) w/o driving long distances --- in the country or a small town this still works fine but in cities it results in traffic and road-rage and major pollution... and eventually the county towns will grow and have the same problems... (look at Dallas or Atlanta or Phoenix 30 or 50 years ago)

i believe a road system for long-distance travel like the interstate system is great - but most of the miles Americans drive are for daily activities, not travelling somewhere.

when the roads 'allow' 3 million people in a city to all drive 20 or more miles to their places of employment and back and then 5 miles to the 'local' school where it's too far or unsafe for kids not to be driven, and then 30 miles to the Wal-mart superstore outside of town b/c it's cheaper and then 50 miles to the outlet store out in the extreme 'burbs'... that's a problem and it is virtually impossible for it to work (and even if it does, think of all the pollution and all the space for parking)

now imagine if everything you needed to do in the day - go to work, go shopping, go to dinner, go to a friend's place, etc - could be done by walking or cycling or a short drive in the car... and you mostly drove only on occaisons you actually went out of your local area (to visit you parents across the state or go to a conference or whatever) or had to haul something large

it is very possible, but not with the way the US is currently growing with everything desinged FOR CARS ONLY

the idea that the automobile solves all problems of geographical distance and provides ultimate freedom is a myth that has been well-sold to the ready-to-buy American public
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Old 05-06-02, 02:52 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by velocipedio
Before there were roads, there were dirt tracks; before that, there were paths; before that, people walked on the grass and in the wood; before that we swung from trees.

Roads are a manifestation of 1. Increased poplulation density, 2. Demographis dispersal, 3. Economic complexity. When you have enough people who have to go far enough for reasons compelling enough to make them go places, you get roads.
In Atlanta, federal funds and road building permits were frozen due to our smog problem. Our political and economic leaders have been scurrying around to regain the ability to pave because we are afraid of stifling our economy. No new roads means fewer people and businesses relocating to our area. So, both our leaders and the feds seem to understand the connection between road building and increased traffic.
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Old 05-07-02, 10:29 AM   #14
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Little Big Man,

Did you watch that PBS McNeil News Hour show about Atlanta's traffic/smog/developement problem too? Man, what a hoot! PBS news is great. There was a guy on there (maybe the one you were talking about) who seemed to be in charge of something related to roads in Atlanta, who was saying how peole had a right to drive whatever they want as much as they want. Gee, with that attitude, how could you posibly lose with this guy. As you can guess they showed him getting into a large SUV, with a girth that implied that he spends far more time in that truck than out of it walking.

The next guy they showed was a traffic/civil engineer who was giving a tour of all the new developments--showing how they don't have sidewalks or any trees; sort of a suburban hell. He seemed rather cynical--I'd like to see some of his work, apparently he's underutilized in the Atlanta area.

Your last comment on our economy "needing" more roads to encourage development reminds me of my town. They built a new road through undeveloped land along the far side of a ~180 acre wooded park, effectively preventing it from ever growing bigger. Nature being a money sink and all, it was ironic that they said that this road was just a throughway to connect two roads, alleviating traffic and providing faster emergency vehicle responses, and not to encourage development. Of course as soon as it was finished they started pushing for housing developments--which would turn the view form the park from that of rolling farmland and woods to that of 6 bedroom houses and cell phone towers. And I supposedly live in a "liberal enclave".

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Old 05-07-02, 10:37 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by nathank
LittleBigMan,

the people of Portland Oregon quite a few times voted down major road extensions or bypasses (for example, 'the Mt Hood Freeway') b/c of just this - the realization that it would lead to more traffic and more cars in the city and more sprawl. -- even cooler, about 15 years ago they REMOVED a freeway that ran through downtown and turned it into a waterfront park with gardens, running trails, etc. to reduce traffic and make the city more beautiful!

and Cycletourist... Portland has i think the highest bike commuting percentage in the US (or at least of cities with 250,000 or more people) and a lot is due to the reduced # of freeways, shorter distances and more compact development b/c of this AND cycling accessibility on almost all bridges, etc...
Man, Portland is great! If only it didn't rain 9 months a year. I loved the compact design. It was like a bunch of small towns clustered together. One is never more than a few blocks from a downtown style shopping area and a grocery store in Portland proper. A person can even put their bike on a bus and be taken up to Mt. Hood an hour away so they can ride downhill back to town if they want, or so I was told. Just don't ride without a helmet--the cyclists out there have nagging mom syndrome.

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Old 05-08-02, 07:21 AM   #16
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yeah, i love Portland... and in comparision with other US cities it's awesome for cycling (i'm visiting Montreal for the first time in June with high hopes)... but Portland is still far from ideal... and the auto traffic and sprawl continue to get worse every year despite all the smart-growth and transit efforts.

the rain... well, everything else makes up for it! besides it's always light rain so you can still ride (even off-road single trails!)

the biggest problem in Portland is that the rural part of the state is super-conservative "don't tell me, a free American, what i can and can't do with my hard-earned money and MY property", so most of what comes from the state level is not so good for cycling and liveability, etc. (in general, Portland, Eugene, Corvalis and Salem are very progressive/liberal and the outlying suburbs are mild-conservative and the rural areas are often radical conservative).

what is really good is that one of the major influential groups, Metro, is not limited to the Portland city limits, but has jurisdiction in the whole Portland area/region - so the common problem in Dallas or DC (or most cities with many suburbs) where the city does one thing and all the suburbs the opposite is alleviated somewhat b/c they have to work together --- of course, Vancouver Washington is NOT included b/c it's in another state and (in my opinion) a major roadblock to making Portland better. for example, Vancouver about 3 years ago backed out of the transit deal to build a rail line over the columbia from Washington to Portland primarily to serve Washington commuters - they said they wanted another auto bridge instead so they could more easily drive into Portland and park! (there are currently only 2 main bridges)

every city needs a group like BTA to speak up for cyclists and how to build communities, roads, bridges and intersections that work for cyclists as well as cars.
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Old 05-11-02, 05:30 PM   #17
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Sorry for the "nagging mom syndrome" about helmets; it's just that the Northwest already has too many Republicans and conservative fundamentalists Christians. We need to try and prevent the head injuries that cause those problems. As for US transportation culture in general, the only thing that will probably ever turn us the right way is to lose a war in the Mideast, lose it in a seriously damaging and humiliating way. We need a hard collective slap as to the source of our oil and as to its price.
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Old 05-11-02, 08:03 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally posted by LittleBigMan
"Which came first, traffic or roads?"
...or larger tax base. Last year the city built a controversial road along a large nature preserve for what they said was to alleviate traffic on the one main road leading out of town. Now that the road is complete, the city planner stated in a recent newspaper article that she was disappointed that land owners (farmers) along the new road were unwilling to sell/develop their land. She said the city had planned on recovering the several million spent on the road by increasing the tax base with new housing along the road.

So, did they build the road to alleviate traffic, or did they build the road to increase the city's tax base? In the many letters I have written to the city, I have yet to have an answer that wasn't pulled out of the politicians manifesto (i.e. ass).
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Old 05-12-02, 08:40 PM   #19
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Originally posted by Steele-Bike
Now that the road is complete, the city planner stated in a recent newspaper article that she was disappointed that land owners (farmers) along the new road were unwilling to sell/develop their land. She said the city had planned on recovering the several million spent on the road by increasing the tax base with new housing along the road.
This game has been played out without enough opposition for too long.

Get a clue. It's all about some developer making bucks. Do you like making others rich at your expense?

Or, perhaps you think they will throw some of that cash your way.
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Old 05-14-02, 03:13 AM   #20
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So, did they build the road to alleviate traffic, or did they build the road to increase the city's tax base? In the many letters I have written to the city, I have yet to have an answer that wasn't pulled out of the politicians manifesto (i.e. ass).
sadly i think they probably thought they did it for both and belived both were great reasons!

but unfortunately: to alleviate traffic: it probably has allowed more traffic to grow on all other roads

to increase the tax base: ah yeah, the classic -- "any growth to increase the tax base must be great" syndrome...

it will take time, but these attitudes are slowly beginning to change --- and hopefully will continue as long as people like you give a little push...
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Old 06-05-02, 04:29 PM   #21
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Here's something interesting that fits under the heading and subject:

Paved roads were originally built for bicycling!

Yep, back in the 1890's, bicycling was a major fad, and bicycle clubs exerted influence on the government to build better roads for easier cycling.

The bike paved the way (literally!) for the automobile!

Got this info from the book The Bicycle - That Curious Invention by Sybil and Stephen Leek. It's about the history of bicycling and bicycle development...good book.
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