By Dom Nozzi
Over the course of George Bush’s eight years as president, there has been very little hope for positive change with regard to increasing the amount of bicycling in America—given the lack of interest on the part of the Bush administration to promote anything other than what they perceived as the “American Dream” of happy, low-cost, convenient motoring.
Now that we have elected Barack Obama, we find that the new administration is much more likely to engage in beneficial changes with regard to transportation. Those seeking to promote higher levels of bicycling have therefore become more vocal and optimistic.
Obviously, it is important that tactics used to promote more bicycling be as effective as possible. What are the most effective strategies to promote more bicycling? I would start with the following.
First, establish federal rules and assistance to substantially reduce free car parking, and assist local governments in establishing car parking cash-out programs. Free, abundant car parking is a fertility drug for car travel, and makes it irrational to travel in other ways.
Second, shortening travel distances is essential. Most of American is laid out in dispersed, suburban patterns that create travel distances that are only reasonable for car travel. Therefore, the federal government should do what is necessary to assist local governments in increasing their residential densities in appropriate locations, as well as more “mixed use” development (mixing housing with job centers, retail, parks, and civic institutions).
Third, increasing the gas tax could be enormously helpful in sending a powerful price signal that begins to inform motorists of the high costs they are imposing on society (road construction & repair, air & water pollution, noise pollution, sprawl, injuries & deaths, cost of protecting international oil resources, loss of town center health, loss of community quality of life, to name a few). Gas taxes help reduce “low-value” car trips and reduce gasoline consumption. Such taxes also keep more American dollars at home, rather than further enriching “petro-regimes” abroad. It is crucial, however, that increased gas tax revenue be kept away from exceptionally counter-productive road widenings.
Fourth, lets not forget the pressing, nation-wide need to re-design our car-happy urban streets so that they are Complete Streets accommodating all users—not just cars (in other words, correcting the mistakes we’ve made for so many decades). Primarily, we do that by narrowing them (mostly by road dieting them), and slowing down motor vehicle speeds.
Fifth, the federal government needs to provide funding to local government so that full-time staffing is provided for the promotion of bicycling. Traffic engineers expected to promote bicycling tend to be too busy with car travel matters to devote sufficient time to bicycling.
Now more than ever, we need a Plan B for our transportation system. Cars are rapidly becoming dysfunctional.
Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.
Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com
My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607
My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:
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