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  1. #1
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Population density, livable cities and getting out of your car...

    Just found an interview with David Owen, who writes for the New Yorker and has written a book called Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less are the Keys to Sustainability.

    Also, here's an interview with Owen on how population density makes New York on of the greenest cities.

    http://www.asla.org/ContentDetail.aspx?id=25268

    To get people out of their cars, you have to do two things. First, you have to create enough density to make transit, walking, and bicycling conceivable, and, second, you have to make driving sufficiently expensive, inconvenient, and unpleasant to force people to consider alternatives. As Portland and Seattle have discovered, you don’t get people out of their cars just by building attractive transit systems. Washington D.C. has a beautiful subway system, but no one with a car feels compelled to take the train because there’s always a place to park.

    Anyone who has spent any time in Manhattan has had the experience of being stuck in traffic in a taxicab and watching a little old lady on the sidewalk overtake them and disappear into the distance. That’s a very green experience. Traffic jams are underappreciated by mainstream environmentalists.
    Environmentalists and urban planners sometimes say that, in order to get people out of their cars and onto their feet, developed areas need become more like the country, by incorporating extended “greenways” and other attractive, vegetated pedestrian corridors. It’s true that such features, along with parks and natural areas, can encourage some people to take walks. But, if the goal is to get people to embrace walking as a form of practical transportation, oversized greenways can actually be counterproductive. Walking-as-transportation requires closely paced, accessible destinations, not broad expanses of leafy scenery. If you want to see people moving around under their own power under the sky, don’t go to the country or the suburbs; go downtown.
    Because urban density has such high environmental value, we must find ways to shift new residential and commercial development away from places where population growth and economic growth exacerbate critical environmental problems and toward places where population growth and economic growth help to relieve them. For American cities, that will mean first understanding and then extending the benefits of population density and the thoughtful mixing of uses, as well as acknowledging that in a dense city the truly important environmental issues are less likely to be things like solar panels on building roofs than they are to be old-fashioned quality-of-life concerns like education, culture, crime, street noise, bad smells, resources for the elderly, and the availability of recreational facilities—all of which affect the willingness of people to live in efficient urban cores rather than packing up their children and fleeing to the suburbs.
    Is living in more dense cities the real secret behind getting people out of their cars?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Carley P.'s Avatar
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    I just got finished reading this whole thing, (except for the last section because I don't know what LEED is), and I agree with practically everything that is said. In my city of Louisville, I hardly ever see people cycling (or especially walking) on suburban areas, but once I get in the downtown limits it becomes very common.

    I was talking to my girlfriend about some of these things just a week ago. It's weird that we think we need huge yards even though we only use them on the 4th of July. It's terrible that every new business building that is being built uses around 10 percent of the land they own for the actual building, and 90 percent of it for parking spots.

    The suburbs seem like such an unbelievable inconvenience. I don't see what is appealing about them, and I was raised in a suburban neighborhood, so I have experience with the situation.

    I posted a link to this on my tumblr. Good find!

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    He's wrong on many counts. People will walk quite a bit for transportation if they can do it without being fumed and terrorized by mobile couches, so creating an entirely man-built city-scape with clogged streets will probably result in less walking. In fact, there is old work from a Cal Prof. done in SF that showed people will walk more on less trafficked streets.

    As far as cycling goes, I lived in a city that was a typical sprawling suburban landscape but for two features: it had a university and over 90% of all trips were by bike. Then, someone got the bright idea that it would be so much greener to densify the city. This resulted in a dozen or so neighborhood shopping centers with grocery stores all surrounded by apartments sprinkled throughout the city. Also, lot sizes shrunk and multi-story condos/apartments were built all over the place. The result was that it took less than a decade for the bicycle to all but disappear from that city. (There is an active movement to bring it back, but almost no one currently living there can remember what a bike-dominated city looked like.)

    Why would densification lead to more car dependence? When you double the density of residents you get a 1.9-fold increase in traffic. Up to the point where traffic comes to a complete standstill, every added car increases the danger to cyclists. When the danger goes up, people with choices will generally choose a safer option. Seriously, who would choose to cycle through a jungle of cars and their exhaust if there was a better way? A bit of intercity congestion with clogged freeways and separated bike paths can work, but overly congesting the city core is a loser.

    By the way, the wealthy folks won't sit in that traffic. Here's a nice little comment by Paul Krugman on that. http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/06/inside-job/

  4. #4
    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    I think David Owen is sort of correct, but not completely: I agree that in order for large numbers of people to give up their cars, there have to be attractive alternatives to the car, and the environment has to be such that using a car is too much of a pain in the a**. San Francisco is a good example. It's densely packed, but still attractive for pedestrians and cyclists, and the transit is good. It's geographically small enough that you could walk anywhere you needed to go in that town if you had to(I know, I've actually done it). When I've tried to drive in SF, it was a much less enjoyable experience, so now when I go there I try to avoid driving at all costs.

    On the other hand, I'm not sure that it's a good idea to make congestion an intentional policy. Most people will choose to drive until the bitter end. It's kind of a Yogi Berra thing: no one drives in Manhattan or SF because it's just too congested, but obviously a ton of people do in fact drive there, otherwise it wouldn't be so congested in the first place. It's really silly logic, and it makes me wonder who, in fact, is being pushed out of their cars.

    I also wonder if this strategy of getting people out of their cars by making driving too expensive or too much of a pain in the a** will totally backfire. Here in Seattle, many, many people, i.e., those who drive cars, are totally pissed off about increased "road diets" to accommodate new bike lanes, increased parking fees, and a long-term policy to dramatically increase density. Personally, I think the increased density (and all that goes with it) would be a lovely thing if people were willing to leave their cars at home most of the time, but, being Americans, most of these people can't even imagine that. There's more multi-use in every neighborhood, there are more walkable spaces, a coffee shop and several stores on every block, but most people attempt to drive everywhere anyway. The result is more car traffic, even on side streets, drivers circling the block for 20 minutes looking for cheap parking, which just adds to the traffic anarchy, and a growing consensus that our bike-commuting mayor is waging a 'war on cars', even though the high-density plan was set into motion long before he was elected.

    I guess my bottom line is this: higher density is absolutely necessary if you're trying to develop a sustainable, less car-dependent urban environment, and it's also necessary to make car drivers pay the true costs of driving. However, it's counterproductive to shove that agenda down people's throats all at once before they're quite ready for it.
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bragi View Post
    .. it's counterproductive to shove that agenda down people's throats all at once before they're quite ready for it.

    Bragi, I agree with much of what you say but disagree on this point. I think it's sometimes absolutely necessary to shove an agenda down peoples throats whether they are 'ready' for it or not. The abolition of slavery is the most obvious example. Also with desegregation in the 50's and 60's, most people in the south opposed the idea vehemently. Women's suffrage in the 20's is another example-- in states like Iowa for instance, voters rejected it, but the state legislature went against the majority to ratify the amendment-- an act that was echoed throughout the country.

    Certain things are toxic to a society despite general acceptance by the majority. You might say that things like civil and voter rights are not comparable to transportation issues, but when you have things like epidemic obesity, significantly higher cancer rates in children who live near congested roadways, hugely expensive, catastrophic military campaigns to support foreign oil interests, not to mention waste management issues, global climate change (and the list goes on and on), all directly tied to the abuse of the automobile, the weight of the transportation issue becomes compelling.

    In cases where necessary changes aren't going to happen by themselves, government intervention is required. It is about time motorists were forced to pay the full cost of driving, and forced to pay the full costs of highways, which they have never done. In fact, the cost should include back-payments for damage done. Of course, many will say that this will lead to a collapse of the economy. This kind of logic puts the cart before the horse. What good is the economy, when your people are sick and the planet is irreparably damaged?

  6. #6
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carley P. View Post
    I just got finished reading this whole thing, (except for the last section because I don't know what LEED is)
    LEED refers to new or rebuilt buildings that meet criteria to be certified as "green" or sustainable.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  7. #7
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bragi View Post
    I think David Owen is sort of correct, but not completely: I agree that in order for large numbers of people to give up their cars, there have to be attractive alternatives to the car, and the environment has to be such that using a car is too much of a pain in the a**. San Francisco is a good example. It's densely packed, but still attractive for pedestrians and cyclists, and the transit is good. It's geographically small enough that you could walk anywhere you needed to go in that town if you had to(I know, I've actually done it). When I've tried to drive in SF, it was a much less enjoyable experience, so now when I go there I try to avoid driving at all costs.

    On the other hand, I'm not sure that it's a good idea to make congestion an intentional policy. Most people will choose to drive until the bitter end. It's kind of a Yogi Berra thing: no one drives in Manhattan or SF because it's just too congested, but obviously a ton of people do in fact drive there, otherwise it wouldn't be so congested in the first place. It's really silly logic, and it makes me wonder who, in fact, is being pushed out of their cars.

    I also wonder if this strategy of getting people out of their cars by making driving too expensive or too much of a pain in the a** will totally backfire. Here in Seattle, many, many people, i.e., those who drive cars, are totally pissed off about increased "road diets" to accommodate new bike lanes, increased parking fees, and a long-term policy to dramatically increase density. Personally, I think the increased density (and all that goes with it) would be a lovely thing if people were willing to leave their cars at home most of the time, but, being Americans, most of these people can't even imagine that. There's more multi-use in every neighborhood, there are more walkable spaces, a coffee shop and several stores on every block, but most people attempt to drive everywhere anyway. The result is more car traffic, even on side streets, drivers circling the block for 20 minutes looking for cheap parking, which just adds to the traffic anarchy, and a growing consensus that our bike-commuting mayor is waging a 'war on cars', even though the high-density plan was set into motion long before he was elected.

    I guess my bottom line is this: higher density is absolutely necessary if you're trying to develop a sustainable, less car-dependent urban environment, and it's also necessary to make car drivers pay the true costs of driving. However, it's counterproductive to shove that agenda down people's throats all at once before they're quite ready for it.
    I too think a more subtle approach is called for, rather than "shoving it down peoples' throats." But what should be done if you have the typical ten mile stretch of eight-lane arterial highway, fronted with big box stores and strip malls, and backed by lollipop single-family housing tracts? How can this environmental and social nightmare be changed without shoving anything down anybody's throat?

    I'd be interested to hear any ideas that people here have.


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  8. #8
    LET'S ROLL 1nterceptor's Avatar
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    No matter what improvements are made; some people prefer
    not to live in congested cities.
    They just prefer the country or mock it all you want, suburbia.

    ps. I live in the city by the way........

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    But what should be done if you have the typical ten mile stretch of eight-lane arterial highway, fronted with big box stores and strip malls, and backed by lollipop single-family housing tracts?
    The first thing that can be done is to connect the residential areas behind the strip malls with bikeable paths.

    In Austin there used to be exactly such an unbikeable stretch along a major expressway (US 183 parallel to Jollyville Rd in case any locals are reading). There was an old road behind the strip mall area used for local traffic. Striping bike lanes on the old road made one side of the freeway area completely bike accessible.

  10. #10
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    LEED refers to new or rebuilt buildings that meet criteria to be certified as "green" or sustainable.
    Here is a link to LEED information. It is part of what I do for a living. Unfortunately it is quite complicated and much of it doesn't always make sense or work the way it is supposed to.

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  11. #11
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bragi View Post
    ... Here in Seattle, many, many people, i.e., those who drive cars, are totally pissed off about increased "road diets" to accommodate new bike lanes, increased parking fees, and a long-term policy to dramatically increase density. Personally, I think the increased density (and all that goes with it) would be a lovely thing if people were willing to leave their cars at home most of the time, but, being Americans, most of these people can't even imagine that.
    That's a common response to bike lanes. Drivers feel they are being pushed off the road. Instead they want even more cars lanes in the mistaken hope that it will reduce congestion. Fact is that more lanes only means more congestion.

    But drivers just don't get that fact.

    I guess I fail to see how confronting people with reality could be considered "shoving it down people's throats."

  12. #12
    Senior Member Carley P.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
    He's wrong on many counts. People will walk quite a bit for transportation if they can do it without being fumed and terrorized by mobile couches, so creating an entirely man-built city-scape with clogged streets will probably result in less walking. In fact, there is old work from a Cal Prof. done in SF that showed people will walk more on less trafficked streets.

    As far as cycling goes, I lived in a city that was a typical sprawling suburban landscape but for two features: it had a university and over 90% of all trips were by bike. Then, someone got the bright idea that it would be so much greener to densify the city. This resulted in a dozen or so neighborhood shopping centers with grocery stores all surrounded by apartments sprinkled throughout the city. Also, lot sizes shrunk and multi-story condos/apartments were built all over the place. The result was that it took less than a decade for the bicycle to all but disappear from that city. (There is an active movement to bring it back, but almost no one currently living there can remember what a bike-dominated city looked like.)
    I think we should remember that the topic of discussion isn't creating cities with more bikes; it's creating "greener" cities with "alternative transportation".

    When this city became more dense, you said that people stopped using their bicycles. Did they start using cars instead, or walking, or using busses?

    It seems to me that the article (or interview, or whatever you'd call it) is more about encouraging people to walk than it is to riding bikes. As long as they're out of their cars, I'm happy.

  13. #13
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carley P. View Post
    I think we should remember that the topic of discussion isn't creating cities with more bikes; it's creating "greener" cities with "alternative transportation".

    When this city became more dense, you said that people stopped using their bicycles. Did they start using cars instead, or walking, or using busses?

    It seems to me that the article (or interview, or whatever you'd call it) is more about encouraging people to walk than it is to riding bikes. As long as they're out of their cars, I'm happy.
    Right, and very dense areas may not be ideal for bikes any more than they are for cars. From what I've seen, Manhattan is not a utoopia for riding bikes, nor is Hong Kong or Tokyo. Walking is probably the best mode in very dense cities like Manhattan, where many destinations are only a few blocks apart--with subway or els for occasional longer trips. Buses and light rail are good in lower density areas where destinations are one to ten (or more) miles apart. IMO, bikes are best in these same areas hwere most trips are a few miles long--more of a medium- or even fairly low-density geography. Buses can serve suburban and even exurban areas quite well, especially as feeders to more populated areas and areas where many jobs are located.


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  14. #14
    alleged person Pobble.808's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    From what I've seen, Manhattan is not a utoopia for riding bikes, nor is Hong Kong or Tokyo.
    Actually, I'm living in Tokyo this year and while it's obviously not utopia, and doesn't get the kind of attention that Copenhagen and Amsterdam get, it is very OK as a bike city. You see plenty of riders and tons of parked bikes all over the place, even in some of the denser parts of town.

  15. #15
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pobble.808 View Post
    Actually, I'm living in Tokyo this year and while it's obviously not utopia, and doesn't get the kind of attention that Copenhagen and Amsterdam get, it is very OK as a bike city. You see plenty of riders and tons of parked bikes all over the place, even in some of the denser parts of town.
    That's interesting. So what makes Tokyo OK for getting around on bike? From what I understand of Manhattan, you need to have nerves of steel to get around by bike except when traffic is really jammed.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Chris Pringle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    That's interesting. So what makes Tokyo OK for getting around on bike?
    Maybe cultural respect for cyclists? In Japan, you ring your bike bell and pedestrians tend to move out of the way, drivers in general will yield the way to cyclists. On narrow roads or long climbs they will patiently drive behind you until you arrive at a safe point where they can pass you. In Japan even grandmas ride their bikes, so people are more conscious of sharing the road and know deep-in how vulnerable cyclists are on the road. That mentality still doesn't exist in most places in North America. I am hopeful, however, that this will start to change over the next few decades as bikes regain a foot in our society.
    Last edited by Chris Pringle; 01-07-11 at 09:49 PM.
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    alleged person Pobble.808's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    That's interesting. So what makes Tokyo OK for getting around on bike? From what I understand of Manhattan, you need to have nerves of steel to get around by bike except when traffic is really jammed.
    For one thing, the Manhattan/Tokyo comparison is somewhat out of focus. Most of the people and land in NYC are not in Manhattan, and I'd guess that many parts of the outer boroughs are less congested. Likewise, much of Tokyo is not super-dense.

    Having said that, a lot of bike riding in Tokyo is done on sidewalks. Including a fair portion of my own, and this is something I would virtually never do in the States. Here, however, the sidewalks tend to be much wider, and the road lanes are often so narrow that it would be impossible for a car to pass a bike without going over center stripe. Obviously this won't work in areas where there is dense pedestrian traffic, Ginza for example, but in large chunks of the city is it possible for cyclists and pedestrians to co-exist, and they are willing to cut each other enough slack make it work. There are also many residential areas with narrow streets and no sidewalks at all, in which case peds, cyclists and drivers all have to share, and do.

    I guess that the human element is really the key. Consideration for others is expected, and that expectation is generally met. Aside from the huge (sometimes multilevel!) bike parking areas at train stations, shopping areas, apartment buildings, and other public places, there is little here in the way of cycling infrastructure -- few cycle lanes, no bikes allowed on trains or buses. But it's not acceptable to adopt the kind of outta-my-way attitude that some drivers in the US have. Another thing may be that to a much greater degree than in the States, there are people who sometimes get around by car, sometimes by bike, and sometimes on foot themselves, or at least have family members who do, so they understand the need for sharing the space better than car-only folks would. Cultural/ social attitudes matter as much as structural elements, and that I think is a big part of the problem in many parts of the US.

    Also worth mentioning that in many neighborhoods you can do most of your shopping by bike at nearby stores. Yet it is also possible to do Costco runs by bike, as Madame Pobble and I regularly do -- obviously way outnumbered by cagers, but there are always a couple of dozen bikes parked in front as well. Most of them, including ours, are heavy, sturdy city bikes with big baskets that most American riders might consider hopelessly clunky and uncool. Another cultural factor I guess.

  18. #18
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    You can use City-Data to get population density of various US cities. What is interesting is the comparison between a specific borough in NYC versus the overall area.

    Aaron
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    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    I guess I fail to see how confronting people with reality could be considered "shoving it down people's throats."
    Reality is a relative concept. People who drive everywhere they go sometimes can't comprehend any other frame of reference, and almost certainly see bicyclists and pedestrians as the hopelessly unrealistic ones, never mind the 12 million barrels/day of imported oil.

    I'm not that sympathetic, but I understand this point of view: when I went car free, I went cold turkey, giving up up the car all at once. The first day of not having my car, I felt very uncomfortable, vulnerable and helpless: how was I supposed to get anywhere? It only took me a day or two to realize how silly those fears were, but initially I felt stranded. I think that for most people who've lived their whole lives in cars, the very idea of not being able to use one at will is almost terrifying.
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

  20. #20
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pobble.808 View Post
    But it's not acceptable to adopt the kind of outta-my-way attitude that some drivers in the US have. Another thing may be that to a much greater degree than in the States, there are people who sometimes get around by car, sometimes by bike, and sometimes on foot themselves, or at least have family members who do, so they understand the need for sharing the space better than car-only folks would. Cultural/ social attitudes matter as much as structural elements, and that I think is a big part of the problem in many parts of the US.
    Drivers who have friends/relatives getting around on bicycle probably tend to be more relaxed and less of the "outta-the-way". But sometimes the city where I live seems just geared to help drivers speed... and consequently get angry with cyclists. The road I cycle to work on is pretty familiar to many in the US. 4-lanes moving from housing tracts to a mall to an industrial park. In the morning it's pretty relaxed. But at noon, there are more cars on these streets and everyone is in a hurry to get to lunch.

    Are Japanese city streets laid out like this?

  21. #21
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bragi View Post
    Reality is a relative concept. People who drive everywhere they go sometimes can't comprehend any other frame of reference, and almost certainly see bicyclists and pedestrians as the hopelessly unrealistic ones, never mind the 12 million barrels/day of imported oil.

    I'm not that sympathetic, but I understand this point of view: when I went car free, I went cold turkey, giving up up the car all at once. The first day of not having my car, I felt very uncomfortable, vulnerable and helpless: how was I supposed to get anywhere? It only took me a day or two to realize how silly those fears were, but initially I felt stranded. I think that for most people who've lived their whole lives in cars, the very idea of not being able to use one at will is almost terrifying.
    Are you saying there's a gentler way to educate these car users? You won't know what the street is like until you get out of the car and see for yourself. But if you refuse to see all the signs, reality is at some point going to make itself known... maybe bluntly.

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    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    Are you saying there's a gentler way to educate these car users? You won't know what the street is like until you get out of the car and see for yourself. But if you refuse to see all the signs, reality is at some point going to make itself known... maybe bluntly.
    I'm saying there MUST be a gentler way to enlighten car users. Here's the issue as I see it:

    I'm an ex-Army Ranger, a graduate of Outward Bound, and a very firm believer in objective reality. When presented with an extremely unpleasant fact, I clearly understand that the universe doesn't give a rat's ass about my own feelings on the subject. The unpleasant fact is still there.

    Many people in the US, however, are not so blessed. They believe what is most comforting to them. Rather than confront the fact that their own consumption is endangering our national interests, they'd rather focus on the myth that Obama is a socialist, or that global climate change is a liberal conspiracy.

    Some of these ill-informed people, frightened of terrorists, trying to confront the fact that they now have to compete for jobs with people in Malaysia who can do what they do just as well for 1/4 the price, have transferred their fears to easier targets. They can't really do much about any of these things, but they can do something about the extra bike lanes, so they express their frustrations here.

    In the long run, the bike lanes, the parking fees, the extra density all have to occur, but they have to be implemented with some buy-in from the people who are affected by these policies. The problem, in Seattle anyway, is that these policies are driven from the top, by developers (who are almost all total dicks), by politicos, and by self-righteous activists who don't have nearly as much public support as they imagine. At some point, the powers that be need to actually communicate with people on the ground, and my perception is that this simply isn't happening.
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bragi View Post
    I'm saying there MUST be a gentler way to enlighten car users. Here's the issue as I see it:

    I'm an ex-Army Ranger, a graduate of Outward Bound, and a very firm believer in objective reality. When presented with an extremely unpleasant fact, I clearly understand that the universe doesn't give a rat's ass about my own feelings on the subject. The unpleasant fact is still there.

    Many people in the US, however, are not so blessed. They believe what is most comforting to them. Rather than confront the fact that their own consumption is endangering our national interests, they'd rather focus on the myth that Obama is a socialist, or that global climate change is a liberal conspiracy.

    Some of these ill-informed people, frightened of terrorists, trying to confront the fact that they now have to compete for jobs with people in Malaysia who can do what they do just as well for 1/4 the price, have transferred their fears to easier targets. They can't really do much about any of these things, but they can do something about the extra bike lanes, so they express their frustrations here.

    In the long run, the bike lanes, the parking fees, the extra density all have to occur, but they have to be implemented with some buy-in from the people who are affected by these policies. The problem, in Seattle anyway, is that these policies are driven from the top, by developers (who are almost all total dicks), by politicos, and by self-righteous activists who don't have nearly as much public support as they imagine. At some point, the powers that be need to actually communicate with people on the ground, and my perception is that this simply isn't happening.
    Good points, well explained. But what worries me is that reality will strike only when it's too late to do much about it. I feel a sense of urgency about global warming, in particular, that I've never felt about any other issue. It looks like we will go at least another two years without meaningful action on htis front, by which time there will be several more ppms of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

    PS. Around here, the developers actually seem to be among those who are trying to push infill development and reduced sprawl. In some cases, they have been stymied by city officials and other special interest groups.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

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    alleged person Pobble.808's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    But sometimes the city where I live seems just geared to help drivers speed... and consequently get angry with cyclists. The road I cycle to work on is pretty familiar to many in the US. 4-lanes moving from housing tracts to a mall to an industrial park. In the morning it's pretty relaxed. But at noon, there are more cars on these streets and everyone is in a hurry to get to lunch.

    Are Japanese city streets laid out like this?
    Hard to generalize but on the whole I'd say that it's hard to speed in urban areas like Tokyo -- narrow roads, lots of turns, frequent traffic lights, limited sight lines. Malls, even small strip malls, are still a rarity or simply nonexistent in many neighborhoods. So each business has its own driveway if it has any parking at all, which can also slow things down. Zoning seems to be a pretty remote concept here.

    Drivers can and do speed in other parts of the country where the road layout makes it easier to do, but they don't have a sense of being entitled to have the whole road to themselves or to act like jerks when they encounter cyclists or pedestrians.

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    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    But what should be done if you have the typical ten mile stretch of eight-lane arterial highway, fronted with big box stores and strip malls, and backed by lollipop single-family housing tracts? How can this environmental and social nightmare be changed without shoving anything down anybody's throat?

    I'd be interested to hear any ideas that people here have.
    Well, gosh, I'd tear the whole thing down and start over, but in the meantime you could do a lot, since there is usually more land in the 'burbs:

    1.install raised bike lanes or parallel bike paths for not a lot of money.
    2. In addition, you could connect the clusters of cul de sac tract housing with bike paths, so cyclists wouldn't have to deal with the 8-lane arterials as much to begin with. (I think this is already being done in some places.)
    3. For transit riders, dedicate one of those eight lanes for buses only, and equip those buses with transmitters that turn the traffic lights green as they approach, like they have in Switzerland.

    You could also tax the sh*t out of gasoline purchased for personal use, while making cheaper fuel available for commercial uses, but that idea won't go very far at all in a country where a large segment of the population equates universal health care with Armageddon. Or maybe just charge tolls to drive into congested areas like they have in Milan and SF.
    Last edited by bragi; 01-11-11 at 09:02 PM.
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

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