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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 09-25-07, 10:34 PM   #1
Platy
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Good & bad suburbs for car free cycling

A few of the suburban areas around my location don't look too bad for car free cycling. Some look awful. What are the key differences? Any specific examples in your area?
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Old 09-26-07, 04:45 AM   #2
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Generally, older suburbs seem better than new ones. Those that retain their original village character are also good.

Around here that means residential streets laid out in a grid as opposed to cul-de-sacs, and smaller commercial areas more widely dispersed instead of huge ones concentrated along certain routes.

In short, any place built-up after the 50s is not worthwhile to live in.

Specific examples around here: Irondequoit, Brighton, and some sections of Greece are okay. Webster, Henrietta and other parts of Greece are not. Suburbs that retain their original village character are: East Rochester, Fairport, Spencerport, Brockport, provided you're in an older section of them and not the mini-sprawl that surrounds them.
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Old 09-26-07, 08:19 AM   #3
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In the DC suburbs Arlington county made a huge effort in the 90s to retrofit cycle friendly transport. Every time I go to a new place in Arlington county I see well marked cycle routes or suggestions.
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Old 09-26-07, 11:22 AM   #4
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In St. Louis, the older, inner suburbs are not too bad. Webster Groves, Kirkwood, Shrewsbury, Maplewood, Richmond Heights. Anything outside the immediate inner ring is a nightmare, not that the city proper is that much better. It's all twisty, windy, sprawled subdivisions and 6-lane thoroughfares. There are side streets and dedicated bike paths, but nothing connects to anything. Where there are gridded street systems, the grid is broken all over the place by big box retail centers, barricaded neighborhoods, railroad tracks, highways.

The worst is the St. Charles area, where I grew up. Not only is it terrible for walking and biking, there are absolutely zero transit options.

To add to the nightmare, the only place to cross the Missouri river into St. Louis county that doesn't involve a car is on the 364 bridge, which is difficult to get to without using roads with heavy auto traffic, or poorly maintained back roads which are unsuitable for anything but a mountain bike. Except for downtown St. Charles and the fringes of the city, it's far from everything. People that live near the Katy trail or Creve Coeur park have an advantage, though. Those are the places the bridge connects on each side of the river. It's nice for recreational rides but totally impractical for regular transportation.
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Old 09-26-07, 11:32 AM   #5
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If there are walls around the suburb, thats a red flag right there.

I live in the suburbs, but then again, in my neighborhood I have all the services that I need. Plenty of shopping, banks, post office, restaurants, movies. The two top bike stores in town are within walking distance. The bus is at the corner, with bike racks on it. It's safe enough that I have no hesitation in walking around at any time of day or night. And work is only 3 miles away.
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Old 09-26-07, 11:34 AM   #6
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An older "inner-ring" suburb that's very built up and has a grid style street pattern and mixed zoning is the best from my point of view. Destinations are closer together, and there are an almost infinite combination of routes to suit a diverse population of travellers. Public transit is also likely to be better in these more established areas.

The worst suburbs for a cyclist like me are the ones with a street pattern of single-use "pod" developments connected by high-speed arterial streets. If you really want a nightmare for cyclists and pedestrians, throw in fancy non-perpendicular intersections like freeway access mouths and a lot of "merge" lanes.
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Old 09-26-07, 11:44 AM   #7
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An older "inner-ring" suburb that's very built up and has a grid style street pattern and mixed zoning is the best from my point of view. Destinations are closer together, and there are an almost infinite combination of routes to suit a diverse population of travellers. Public transit is also likely to be better in these more established areas.

The worst suburbs for a cyclist like me are the ones with a street pattern of single-use "pod" developments connected by high-speed arterial streets. If you really want a nightmare for cyclists and pedestrians, throw in fancy non-perpendicular intersections like freeway access mouths and a lot of "merge" lanes.
Mixed zoning? WHat is that? 'Round here, we only understand large swaths of single-use zoning. That sounds like big city talk you're spewing...
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Old 09-26-07, 12:03 PM   #8
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Mixed zoning? WHat is that? 'Round here, we only understand large swaths of single-use zoning. That sounds like big city talk you're spewing...
It is starting to catch on in more places, including my midsized city (a lot smaller than Indianapolis).

I lived above a commercial establishment (bakery) a few years ago. The landlord had vacant apartments he couldn't rent because the city wouldn't license new housing units in commercial zones. They had a change of heart recently, and now nearly every building in the business district already has new flats, lofts or "luxury condos" above the stores and offices.

These are great locations for carfree folks. When I lived above the bakery, I loved just walking downstairs and grabbing a muffin and a cup of coffee for breakfast. And I bought all my furniture right across the street--never worried about how to get it home!
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Old 09-26-07, 12:17 PM   #9
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An older "inner-ring" suburb that's very built up and has a grid style street pattern and mixed zoning is the best from my point of view. Destinations are closer together, and there are an almost infinite combination of routes to suit a diverse population of travellers. Public transit is also likely to be better in these more established areas.

The worst suburbs for a cyclist like me are the ones with a street pattern of single-use "pod" developments connected by high-speed arterial streets. If you really want a nightmare for cyclists and pedestrians, throw in fancy non-perpendicular intersections like freeway access mouths and a lot of "merge" lanes.

It's amazing that someone thought at one point it was a good idea to design a neighbourhood so there's only one way in/out.

Picture my hood here in Calgary. One way in, two ways out one large inner-ring road with numerous cul-de-sacs. One tiny commerical development within this hood and everything else requires one leave the 'hood and cross fairly busy arterial roads.

Essentially, if you're just slightly lazy, you're driving everywhere. The one saving grace is that there are numerous ways in and out by bicycle, and its very easy to get to a main pathway that leads into downtown Calgary. This wasn't really by design though, as I suspect the paths were put in as a way to "enjoy" the neighbourhood on foot, rather than as a transportation solution.
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Old 09-26-07, 12:34 PM   #10
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It's amazing that someone thought at one point it was a good idea to design a neighbourhood so there's only one way in/out.

Picture my hood here in Calgary. One way in, two ways out one large inner-ring road with numerous cul-de-sacs. One tiny commerical development within this hood and everything else requires one leave the 'hood and cross fairly busy arterial roads.

Essentially, if you're just slightly lazy, you're driving everywhere. The one saving grace is that there are numerous ways in and out by bicycle, and its very easy to get to a main pathway that leads into downtown Calgary. This wasn't really by design though, as I suspect the paths were put in as a way to "enjoy" the neighbourhood on foot, rather than as a transportation solution
.
From an urban design perspective, I think these offstreet paths and shortcuts might be the best short term solution to the problem of lousy "pod" design. The long term solution probably would involve wrecking crews and dynamite.
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Old 09-28-07, 10:18 AM   #11
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Any suburban arterial road that is fast, and has no shoulder or bike lane completely sucks.
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Old 09-28-07, 09:56 PM   #12
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Any suburban arterial road that is fast, and has no shoulder or bike lane completely sucks.
True.

In the town I grew up, the roads were not only shoulder-less, but lots of them were bordered with an 8-inch concrete curb. There is no place to bail unless you can hop over the curb.
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Old 09-29-07, 04:47 AM   #13
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True.

In the town I grew up, the roads were not only shoulder-less, but lots of them were bordered with an 8-inch concrete curb. There is no place to bail unless you can hop over the curb.
Yeah those roads suck. Also the curb holds a good six inch puddle right where the motorists expect you to ride.

I don't get out to the burbs much; but I do love the wide neighborhood streets with no parking, yet this just makes the drivers go extra fast. I don't mind the sweeping curves the streets take (its fun to ride them I think), yet again these also make the drivers go faster. But to get anywhere to shop you have to go on an arterial which are to fast and narrow for pleasant biking.

From my home in the city I can walk to any shopping I need to do, and I don't understand why anyone would have it any other way. On the other hand our schools royally suck so I can understand people wanting to live further out (we are child-free so this isn't an issue personally)
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Old 09-29-07, 10:27 AM   #14
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Generally, older suburbs seem better than new ones. Those that retain their original village character are also good.
In general, if you don't see suburbs with sidewalks and people walking on them... bad sign! Usually you don't find this pattern in older suburbs. In most newer suburbs, no one walks because nothing is within walking distance.

The best areas are built close to a commercial hub that include amenities useful for the community.... Around here, I often see a pattern of housing clump, corn field, corn field, corn field, strip mall, corn field... you get the idea. All this is connected only through arterial roads. Bad!

There are some newer developments here that seem to feed on the idea that people want to live in the city core.
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Old 09-29-07, 10:52 AM   #15
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I live in a small 'hood right off a major north-south biking corridor just north of San Francisco, so there are bike lanes and many motorists used to seeing bicycles. Good thing...great, actually, I'm blessed.

I find that, as a morning fitness bicyclist and commuter, my nemeses are school zones and malls. Nearly all of my access routes pass in front of a school or snake around a mall. The closest I've come to being doored, clotheslined, broadsided, or otherwise pancaked against a vehicle have been in these areas. Schools are huge traffic collectors and people make turns, stopping their ginormo-vehicles halfway across the shoulder, sidewalk, or bikelane (often all three) as they are in the queue to drop their kids off. (Oh, and those kids couldn't possibly walk or ride or skate or scooter to school on their own, oh, heavens no.)

And with malls...well, watch Dawn of the Dead and you'll get the picture darn quick. ;-)

Beyond that, residential areas with big hills are my playgrounds and training fields...and residential areas with open space trailheads nearby, why, that's paradise!
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Old 09-29-07, 11:25 AM   #16
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Any suburban arterial road that is fast, and has no shoulder or bike lane completely sucks.
I find that if there are multiple same direction lanes and left turn lanes, than that suckiness goes away. Three same direction lanes and it is very easy for every motorist to pass. With three the outside lane is much more frequently avoided by motorists even when cyclists are not present.

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Old 09-30-07, 11:49 AM   #17
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I find that if there are multiple same direction lanes and left turn lanes, than that suckiness goes away. Three same direction lanes and it is very easy for every motorist to pass. With three the outside lane is much more frequently avoided by motorists even when cyclists are not present.

A
l
I agree about the ease of riding in streets with multiple narrow lanes. As long as the major intersections are perpendicular and controlled by traffic lights or stop signs. The merge lanes and Y-intersections are much harder to navigate on a bike--even when there is a bike lane.

These are built because auto traffic is always increasing so that traffic designers must put more "capacity" into roads without actually building more roads. Of course thay never stop to think that the best way to increase capacity is to encourage more people to walk, cycle and take buses.
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