Monthly Archives: May 2009

Can We Use the Lesson of Less On-Street Parking from Europe

By Dom Nozzi

While Europe offers many admirable urban design and transportation lessons that America would do well to emulate, we need to be careful about transferring  a lesson of a more modest use of on-street parking from Europe to America.

On-street parking provides a large number of beneficial impacts on a healthy downtown. There are reports that on-street parking is not as common in Europe, and yet wonderful urbanism is found in most of their cities.

However, many older European cities have a lot more residential density and commercial intensity than in the US. They also tend to have more narrow streets in their commercial areas.

Given all the pedestrian vibrancy and human scale found in suchAmsterdam ped st European urban centers, it seems to me that the need for on-street parking would be substantially less. In such a place, there is less need for on-street parking to slow cars—they are already fairly slow—or humanize streets by making them safer and more human-scaled.

In the US, by striking contrast, nearly all commercial areas feature high-speed, excessively wide streets and building setbacks. Typically, in almost all cases it is essential for such places to be humanized and slowed down by on-street parking.

ashevilleAs for giving back space to bicyclists, pedestrians and transit by removing on-street parking, I’d again point out that doing so tends to be a lot more appropriate in commercial areas that already have large, active volumes of pedestrians. Due to densities and human scale, European cities can often successfully create places where pedestrians and bicyclists take over the street (or take up quite a bit of it) via “pedestrian streets” or “pedestrian malls.”

By sad contrast, “pedestrian malls” nearly always fail when attempted in the US. I believe the failure here is due to the lack of sufficient densities surrounding human-scaled streets (and the excessive free car parking found in most cities). So again, while I can imagine removal of on-street parking being an appropriate and perhaps beneficial tactic in European cities, I suspect it would nearly always be counterproductive for vibrant urbanism in the US.

I think a big part of this is that in the smaller, human-scaled spaces often found in European cities, motorists often (and rightfully) feel inconvenienced when using a space-hogging car in a European city—even without on-street parking.

Maybe after the revolution, when gas prices reach $20 per gallon, we might see more potential for using on-street parking less often in America.

I very strongly recommend The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald Shoup. It is the best book I’ve read in my career as a city planner. An important message from the book: parking subsidies are, by far, the biggest subsidy in America, and induces a lot of driving that would not have occurred had we not subsidized it.

 

_________________________________________________

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.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

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/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

 

 

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Filed under Bicycling, Urban Design, Walking

Safety in Numbers: Creating a Swarm of Bicyclists

A Call to Arms Manifesto

By Dom Nozzi

Introduction

I joined a bicycling and walking board of directors in 2008 because I was no longer able to tolerate the annual carnage of bicyclists and pedestrians killed on roads throughout the nation. For example, in 2007, 698 bicyclists killed and 43,000 were injured in traffic crashes in America. That same year, 4,654 pedestrians were killed and 70,000 were injured in traffic crashes.

I joined the board because I am impatient with how bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organizations have muddled along without showing any meaningful progress with regard to their two prime objectives: Growing the number of bicyclists and pedestrians, and dramatically improving bicyclist and pedestrian safety.

I joined the board because I presume that a bicycling and walking organization would be interested in showing the courage, wisdom and leadership to break out of this unfortunate pattern of having very little to show for its efforts to grow bicyclists and pedestrians, or improve their safety. To take measures that are effective in achieving larger numbers of bicyclists and pedestrians, and substantially improving their safety.

With that introduction to what I have to say below, and based on the Bike/Walk Virginia Board of Directors meeting held on May 20, 2009, I humbly suggest the following recommendations:

  • Change the name “Bike/Walk Virginia” to “Bicyclists & Pedestrians of Virginia”

Proposed name is more bold, more personalized and more proud. It is also less of a “jargon” term than the current name.

  • Change the mission statement to “Growing the number of active transportation and recreationalists in the State of Virginia”

Four Important Concepts

I have realized four important things in recent years with regard to bicycling and walking:

  1. That true safety for bicyclists comes from low-speed street design (I’ve long known this), and Safety in Numbers (SiN).
  2. That nearly all state and local bicycle advocacy groups are undercutting their (presumably) prime objective of recruiting new bicyclists by obsessively, aggressively pushing bike helmet use.
  3. That SiN is perhaps one of the most effective ways to achieve increased bicyclist safety, which means that bicycle advocates must start identifying and deploying the most effective bicyclist recruitment tactics to improve safety. Below is my own personal list of what I believe are such tactics.Cyclists-in-Copenhagen-001
  4. That large numbers of bicyclists effectively create a virtuous cycle: Lots of bicyclists means much safer bicycling conditions. The improved safety due to the large numbers of bicyclists sends the message that bicycling is safe (many who say they don’t bicycle say so because biking is thought to be too dangerous). And with large numbers of bicyclists, bicycling seems normal, not weird. These factors, in turn, recruit non-bicyclists—who formerly feared bicycling dangers and worried about looking weird—to start bicycling. Which adds more bicyclists to the community. Which makes bicycling safer and more normalized. And so on…

Of course, an additional, important benefit of successfully recruiting and maintaining large numbers of bicyclists in a community is that doing so inevitably sets in motion the political will to improve bicycling and walking conditions in the community transportation system—in particular, by slowing and narrowing streets, and creating more bicycle lanes, sidewalks, paths, and connectors.

Effective and Essential Tactics

In my humble opinion, this is a list of the most effective and essential tactics to induce bicycling & walking, roughly in order of effectiveness…

  • Scarce and priced car parking
  • Proximity (via mixed use and higher residential densities)
  • Keeping all roads and intersections modest in size, and reduced in size (road dieted travel lane reduction). Widening projects, especially those done in the name of safety or capacity, are opposed. Wider roads and intersections are among the biggest deterrents to walking and cycling.
  • Slow speed street design (via attentive rather than forgiving street design)
  • Converting one-way back to two-way streets
  • Relatively high gas prices (via a gas tax)
  • Short block lengths and connected streets
  • Full-time staff assigned to bicycling and pedestrian commuting

Bike lanes and sidewalks are conspicuously absent from this list because while I believe they are a vital way to convey the important message that the community is bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly, I do not believe such facilities, alone, induce a meaningful increase in “utilitarian” bicycling and walking.

Safety in Numbers

“Safety in Numbers” needs to be promoted and leveraged as one of the most effective means of improving bicyclist and pedestrian safety, and thereby substantially reduce the appalling number of annual bicyclist and pedestrian deaths.

Safety in numbers creates a herd mentality: safe, hip, and normal. “If everyone else is doing it (including “normal-looking people”), there is no reason why I shouldn’t give it a try, too.”

When there are large numbers of bicyclists and pedestrians using streets on a regular basis, motorists are more likely to expect to see bicyclists and pedestrians. Expectation improves safety, in part because surprise is reduced. In addition, when motorists drive on streets, crosswalks and sidewalks being used by bicyclists and pedestrians on a more regular basis, the motorist learns how to drive more safely near bicyclists and pedestrians.

In an article entitled “Safety in numbers: more walkers and bicyclists, safer walking and bicycling,” (Jacobsen, P.L., Injury Prevention 2003;9:205–209), the abstract of the paper noted the following:

“Objective: To examine the relationship between the numbers of people walking or bicycling and the frequency of collisions between motorists and walkers or bicyclists. The common wisdom holds that the number of collisions varies directly with the amount of walking and bicycling. However, three published analyses of collision rates at specific intersections found a non-linear relationship, such that collisions rates declined with increases in the numbers of people walking or bicycling.

Data: This paper uses five additional data sets (three population level and two time series) to compare the amount of walking or bicycling and the injuries incurring in collisions with motor vehicles.

Results: The likelihood that a given person walking or bicycling will be struck by a motorist varies inversely with the amount of walking or bicycling. This pattern is consistent across communities of varying size, from specific intersections to cities and countries, and across time periods.

Discussion: This result is unexpected. Since it is unlikely that the people walking and bicycling become more cautious if their numbers are larger, it indicates that the behavior of motorists controls the likelihood of collisions with people walking and bicycling. It appears that motorists adjust their behavior in the presence of people walking and bicycling. There is an urgent need for further exploration of the human factors controlling motorist behavior in the presence of people walking and bicycling.

Conclusion: A motorist is less likely to collide with a person walking and bicycling if more people walk or bicycle. Policies that increase the numbers of people walking and bicycling appear to be an effective route to improving the safety of people walking and bicycling.”

“Normalizing” instead of “Dangerizing”

It is important to soft-pedal helmets and lycra for city bicycle commuters. Helmets and lycra discourage bicycling, and promote the perception that bicycling is dangerous and weird, not normal. Overly zealous bicycle helmet promotion visibly promotes the “dangerization” of bicycling, which is the last thing that a community seeking to increase the number of bicyclists should do.

It is appropriate, of course, to support and encourage wearing lycra and a bicycle helmet for off-road trail riding and long-distance, higher speed road riding, as long as the safety limits of helmet use are understood.

Bicyclists, AS INDIVIDUALS, are probably safer when wearing a helmet. But if we were to look at the life safety of an entire community or nation, that this GROUP of people, overall, would be safer if we did NOT require or aggressively push use of a bike helmet.

Recommended BWVA Positions to Promote Safety in Numbers (i.e., to significantly grow the number of bicyclists and pedestrians)

  1. Bike/Walk Virginia recommends that communities provide car parking efficiently rather than excessively, and that on-street car parking be priced to provide an occupancy rate of approximately 85 percent during busy times of day or night. Donald Shoup has persuasively pointed out that underpriced, excessive parking is the largest subsidy in America. A subsidy that strongly promotes excessive car trips, and significantly discourages bicycling and walking. The parking subsidy also inequitably increases the cost of goods and services that non-motorists must pay to help subsidize parking costs. Perhaps the most effective and feasible tactic to end car parking subsidies is to employ “parking cash-out,” where the employee is given the option of retaining a free parking space, or getting a larger paycheck. Similarly, new residences, when feasible, should have the cost of parking “unbundled” from the cost of the housing so that the home-buyer has the option to pay more for parking, or pay less and not have parking. Excessive, inefficient, inappropriately located surface parking also consumes an enormous amount of space and creates unwalkably large dead zones, which undercuts the essential goal of proximity. Bike/Walk Virginia recommends that proximity to travel distances be promoted by strongly encouraging communities to create abundant mixed use areas (housing mixed with commercial land uses) and, where appropriate, higher residential densities. [Planning studies show that the low densities and single-use land use patterns in most of America create enormous travel distances — distances that make regular, utilitarian bicycling and walking impractical for nearly all Americans.]
  2. Bike/Walk Virginia recommends that the State and Federal Government adopt relatively high gas prices via a gas tax, and that this tax be automatically inflation-adjusted. [Artificially low, subsidized gas prices strongly promote excessive car trips and create a highly inequitable economic situation in which non-motorists must help pay for roadway costs (through such things as property & sales taxes) necessitated by motorists.]
  3. Bike/Walk Virginia recommends that communities require relatively short block lengths and relatively connected streets through their land development codes. [Urban designers have found that one of the most effective ways to promote walking and bicycling is to keep block lengths short and streets connected. The added benefit is that car speeds tend to be lower in residential and retail areas.]
  4. Bike/Walk Virginia recommends that state and local governments design town center and neighborhood streets for low speeds by incorporating traffic calming, road diets, and attentive rather than forgiving street design. [Too often, street design standards and an excessive number of travel lanes unintentionally encourage high-speed, inattentive driving in inappropriate locations such as neighborhoods and retail areas. Such driving is extremely dangerous and discouraging for bicyclists and pedestrians.]
  5. Bike/Walk Virginia recommends that local and state government avoid creating one-way streets in the future, and convert existing one-way back to two-way streets. [One-way streets strongly promote higher-speed, inattentive, impatient driving. They therefore not only create dangerous conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians, but they harm abutting retail & residential, and create inconvenience for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.]
  6. Bike/Walk Virginia recommends keeping all streets and intersections modest in size. When streets contain an excessive, high-speed, and unsafe number of travel lanes, such streets should be reduced in size (road dieted travel lane removal). Widening projects, especially those done in the name of safety or capacity, should be avoided. [Wider, multi-lane roads and intersections are among the biggest deterrents to walking and bicycling.]
  7. Bike/Walk Virginia recommends that local governments hire full-time staff assigned to bicycling and pedestrian commuting and recreation. [Traffic engineers who are assigned to motor vehicle travel management typically have insufficient time or interest to devote to bicycling and walking design.]
  8. Bike/Walk Virginia recommends that to the extent allowable by liability management, that bicycle helmets and lycra be soft-pedaled for city bicycle commuters, rather than “dangerizing” bicycle commuting by aggressively urging the use of helmets. [Bike/Walk Virginia continues to support the voluntary use of helmets for commuter bicyclists but wishes to promote overall safety for all bicycle commuters by promoting safety in numbers, and take the position that helmets are not the first line of defense for bicycle commuter safety. We know that one of the most common reasons given for not wanting to bicycle is that it is “too dangerous.” Why, therefore, would a bicycle advocacy group wish to profoundly undercut a prime objective of recruiting new bicyclists by constantly requiring helmet use? Helmets undermine recruitment because they send a loud and clear message: “Bicycling is very dangerous! You are wise not to bicycle because you might get killed!”]. I’m not suggesting that helmet use should be discouraged, I simply believe that as an organization, BWVA needs to turn down the volume on aggressively promoting bike helmets for low-speed urban bicycle commuting.” Otherwise, the organization will be undercutting this important advocacy objective of growing the number of bicyclists and pedestrians.
  9. Bike/Walk Virginia recommends that local and state government establish a statewide network of off-road bicycle and pedestrian greenway trails, in part by getting “more bang for the buck” by making utility easements and rail rights-of-way multi-use. The organization recognizes that greenways and rail-trails are important gateway “training grounds” for novice bicyclists and others who are not confident, skilled bicyclists. The organization also strongly supports the conversion of abandoned rails to trails, and “rail banking.”

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Filed under Bicycling, Politics, Road Diet, Transportation, Urban Design, Walking

Using On-Street Parking to Create or Improve a Town Center

By Dom Nozzi

On-street parking, by itself, is not necessarily sufficient in creating a better environment for retail, bicyclists or pedestrians. On-street parking is one of the most beneficial tactics, in a toolbox of tactics, that can be leveraged in an existing or up-and-coming low-speed town center.asheville

On-street parking should therefore be included whenever possible.

If we are talking about the creation (or restoration and revival) of a town center, the litmus test for appropriate strategies must be a question about whether the strategy will create a low-speed “park once” environment. With such a vision, the pedestrian (not bicyclists or transit users or motorists) must be the design imperative.

Should the proposed town center be four or more lanes in size, the street will nearly always be anything but a low-speed, park once environment well-suited for pedestrians. Such a “drive-through” design, to be transformed into a healthy town center, must be ratcheted down in its speed and the width of the street. On-street parking and travel lane removal tend to be the most effective ways to do that.

Note that when town centers are designed well, bike lanes can be incompatible with a low-speed walkable town center design.

In other words, street design must be context-sensitive. We need to be careful not to suboptimize certain forms of travel in inappropriate locations.

A town center without on-street parking is ultimately to the detriment of the bicycling community, as the flight of commercial activity from this area (induced by such factors as an absence of on-street parking) will lead to longer bike rides to commercial areas.

For bicyclists and pedestrians, another downside associated with a lack of on-street parking in a town center is the increased speed and increased inattentiveness of motorists in the corridor.

 

_________________________________________________

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.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

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/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

 

 

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The Ineffectiveness of New Sidewalks and Bike Lanes

By Dom Nozzi

What are the effective tactics to induce more bicycling and walking?

In my research and experience, the following are the most effective ways to induce a significant increase in bicycling and walking.

  1. Scarce and priced car parking.
  2. Proximity, through relatively compact land use patterns (including a mixing of homes with shops and culture and jobs).
  3. VERY high gas prices, through an increase in the gas tax, or market forces.
  4. Slower speeds. When the difference in speed between cars, pedestrians, and bicyclists is high, it is very difficult for nearly all of us to feel comfortable walking or bicycling. High car speeds create enormous barriers to walking and bicycling.
  5. Full-time staff needs to be devoted to walking and bicycling in local government.
  6. One-way streets need to be converted back to two-way operation.
  7. Short block lengths need to be created in street design. About 200 feet is an excellent length for walking.
  8. Create human scale in street, intersection, and building setback dimensions. Rule of thumb: Smaller is better.
  9. Achieve street vibrancy. There should be 24-hour activity on streets and sidewalks. Vibrancy attracts pedestrians and bicyclists. Deploying tactics on this list helps create vibrancy.
  10. Create the perception that walking and bicycling is safe, pleasant, and hip. Understand and act on the reality that there is safety in numbers. When we effectively induce a large increase in walking and bicycling, we create a self-perpetuating virtuous cycle. Many who see large numbers of pedestrians and bicyclists are convinced that walking and bicycling is safe, pleasant, and hip. Being convinced of that leads many to start walking and bicycling more often themselves.

Notice the glaring lack of “new sidewalks and bike lanes” on the above list. It is no coincidence that many of the great walking and bicycling cities in the world have awful or scarce sidewalks and bike lanes.

Will the provision of more sidewalks lead to more walking?

I’m still waiting for the nearly 100 percent coverage of sidewalks in Gainesville FL – where I toiled for 20 years as a town planner — to induce more than 0.0001% of healthy, young, student-oriented Gainesville to engage in utilitarian walking. IMG_3045Why are more in Gainesville not walking? Is there something we could do to sidewalks to make them more “enjoyable,
comfortable, and safe”? Could it maybe be that people prefer driving to all that free and abundant parking that awaits them everywhere, rather than walking five miles? Could it be that land use densities are so low – that, therefore, walking distances are so long – that walking is nearly impossible for the vast majority of residents?

Is it a good idea to encourage more bicycling by installing more bike paths that are physically separated from motor vehicle travel lanes?

As I’ve said many times in the past, I’m still waiting for ONE example of a community in the US which has successfully employed this strategy. I know of none. Even if there was a community which could afford the astronomical costs, sidewalks, bike lanes and bike paths are not likely to induce regular commuting by mom, kids and seniors (and healthy young people) when the distances are extreme, as they are in almost all of suburbia.

Are bike lanes and sidewalks sufficient to induce more bicycling and walking?

I continue to be convinced that bike lanes and sidewalks do not meaningfully induce bicycling and walking BY THEMSELVES. Gainesville is an excellent example (as are a number of communities I have visited). Gainesville has one of the most comprehensive and adequately provided set of bike lanes and sidewalks I know of. The climate is good year-round. The topography is flat as a pancake. And the University of Florida, being the third largest university in the US, provides the city with an unusually large number of young, healthy, fit, poor, educated citizens.

Despite all those things going for it, the number of utilitarian bicyclists and walkers is tiny in Gainesville. I contend it is because Gainesville is an utter failure when it comes to car parking, density/mixed-use, gas taxes, size/speed of roads, size of blocks/connectivity, etc. If it were true that bike lanes and sidewalks induced lots of bicycling and walking, why is almost no one doing it in Gainesville?

I’ve heard people tell me over and over again that if paths or sidewalks were provided, they’d bike or walk a lot more. I’ve not noticed that being true in the cities in the US that have a failing score on my list of effective tactics. I understand that it is common for folks to say things in surveys just because they believe that it is ethical to believe or behave in the way they indicate in the survey. But it ends up mostly being lip service. Almost everyone says they’ll bike/walk/transit more if we put in the bike/walk/transit faculties. But mostly they are not being honest (or don’t realize there are a lot of additional factors that have them decide not to change the way they travel).

My list strives to identify the most effective tactics to induce travel change. Bike lanes and sidewalks are necessary, but not effective enough to be on my Top Ten list. I also didn’t have showers on my list for the same reason. Or bike parking.

By the way, one of the reasons I think it is a good idea to not have bike lanes/sidewalks on the list is that far too many people think the war has been won if those things are installed (but nothing has been achieved for the items on my list). I’m tired of that. I’m ready for some wise leadership. For a change.

Keeping bike lanes and sidewalks off a tactics list might lead to some serious thinking. America has had how many decades of failure to meaningfully increase bicycling and walking? Isn’t it time for a change in what we do?

In my experience (and note that I am referring strictly to utilitarian/commute walking/biking and not recreational), sidewalks and bike lanes don’t seem to induce a meaningful number of utilitarian trips by pedestrians or bicyclists — particularly in suburbia. In my opinion, it is irrational and therefore extremely unlikely that people will opt to walk or bike (even on bike lanes or sidewalks) instead of drive a car, for trips to work or a store or other utilitarian trips. Particularly because, as Donald Shoup so convincingly points out, the free parking spaces that Americans find on nearly all of their car trips are begging people to drive a car. Other factors that make bike lanes and sidewalks unlikely to induce new utilitarian bike/ped trips are the enormous distances one finds in low-density, single-use suburban settings.

Gainesville had sidewalks and bike lanes everywhere, yet it was VERY rare for me to ever see or hear of someone walking or bicycling for utilitarian purposes (even though we had an enormous number of college students there). I almost always felt that I was one of 3 or 4 bicycle commuters in allegedly bike-friendly Gville (where bike lanes and paths are all over the community).

In stark contrast, I have been to communities in both America and Europe (Charleston, Copenhagen, Rome, etc.) where there is an enormous amount of biking and walking. And quite frequently, such places have rather inadequate sidewalks or bike lanes. In my opinion, those places have lots of bikes/peds because of their compactly laid out town centers, their mixing of land uses (houses close to schools, culture, jobs, and shops), scarce and expensive parking, short travel distances, etc.

Other examples: A number of people have observed that in a number of “new urbanist” towns, many continue to drive despite sidewalks and short distances. Or notice that most everyone drives even though their trip is only a few hundred feet in length. Again, in my opinion, that is largely explained by the abundance of free parking that awaits at the destination.

Too often, I’ve seen elected officials unjustifiably pat themselves on the back for creating a bike-friendly community because they required installation of bike lanes or bike parking. But it was mostly window dressing, because in places like Gainesville, most everyone continued to drive for the reasons I mention above. Politicians are typically unwilling to show the leadership needed to use effective tactics like compact land use patterns, mixed use, efficient parking, etc. Instead, they engage in easy-way-out lip service that buys them votes but doesn’t meaningfully change the community.

In sum, the suburbs are in deep trouble in the inevitable future where car travel is substantially higher in cost. Their dispersed, single-use land use patterns and long travel distances means that even with bike lanes and sidewalks, most people will feel obligated to pay a lot more money to buy gas, because the distances are too daunting to walk or bike. Suburbs, to have a future, need to densify or at least create new town centers.

I am in full agreement, despite what I’ve said above, that communities should ALWAYS require new development to install bike lanes (particularly in suburbia) and sidewalks (particularly in town centers). In fact, I enthusiastically wrote ordinances that Gainesville adopted which required sidewalks for all new development. I fully agree that people should not be expected to walk on a road due to lack of sidewalks (except, perhaps, in very low-density rural conditions), or be expected to bike without bike lanes (except in low-speed town centers). If nothing else, such facilities show the community is bike- and ped-friendly. A very important message to send. It shows that the community respects such people.

Is it feasible to adopt the tactics I recommend? I am fully and sadly aware that the effective tactics I recommend are extremely difficult, if not impossible to achieve in most of the US, politically. But opting for other more feasible tactics (bike lanes, bike parking, bike showers, sidewalks) doesn’t make them effective simply because we can do them easier.

Let’s be honest: Most American communities are doomed because we have spent several decades building communities that have no future because it is nearly impossible to retrofit them for transportation choice and other forms of sustainability. We have many years of painful and costly work in front of us.

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A Dinosaur Is Among Us

By Dom Nozzi

On December 22, 2008, former Gainesville City Commissioner Ed Braddy attacked a guest column I had written about transportation and published by the Gainesville (FL) Sun.

Mr. Braddy’s views are so full of errors that I hardly know where to begin.

Mr. Braddy argues that had road widenings kept pace with population growth, we would not have congestion. This is ruinously uninformed. After endless and costly highway widening efforts for several decades, there is now a consensus that we cannot build (widen) our way out of congestion. We bankrupted ourselves by spending trillions of public dollars to build ever-wider highways. Yet we failed universally and catastrophically to eliminate congestion. It is silly and bankrupting to think that “keeping pace with population growth” by spending several trillion more highway widening dollars would have helped. Haven’t we learned by now that widening to eliminate congestion is equivalent to loosening your belt to eliminate obesity?

Mr. Braddy makes the naïve claim that instead of being subsidized, motorists pay for road construction and maintenance through gas taxes. All informed traffic engineers, governments and economists have pointed out that the gas tax pays only a small fraction of the cost to build and maintain roads. Most of that cost is subsidized through property taxes, income taxes, and sales taxes.

And what about this “American Dream” of “affordable housing in the safe, far-flung suburbs”? Studies now show us that a suburbanite is much more likely to be hurt or killed in a car crash than a downtown resident is to be hurt or killed by a mugger. By requiring long car drives for every trip made in suburbs, research finds that the suburbs are more dangerous than even the most crime-ridden downtowns.

And all the cars bought and gas burned while driving all those suburban miles means that there are rapidly growing suburban transportation costs.

So much for “affordable” or “safe” suburban housing.

In our economy, prices are an accurate barometer of winners and losers. Success and failure. Recent studies are finding that the far-flung, contemporary, car-dependent suburban home is the residence most significantly losing its value. By contrast, it is the walkable, traditional, in-town, smart growth home, rich in transportation choices, that is either retaining its value or seeing its value continue to increase. In the face of gas price volatility, environmental woes, high crash rates, and loss of a sense of community, the prices in our market are increasingly telling us that homes in the suburbs are increasingly losers and in-town, walkable homes are winners.

By the way, Mr. Braddy makes the laughable claim that transportation choice and smart growth have long been “the dominant paradigm.” Really? Last I checked, only cars are comfortable on 99 percent of our roads. And only “American Dream” suburbs are allowed or built in our cities.

Mr. Braddy disparages smart growth and transportation choices, which implies that he believes the U.S. should continue to inequitably and unsustainably grow beyond its means. The dinosaurs and the Roman Empire grew in such a way. And collapsed into extinction. dinosaur

Indeed, Mr. Braddy’s “American Dream Coalition” is rapidly becoming the “American Nightmare Coalition.”

 

_________________________________________________

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.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

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/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

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https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

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Filed under Economics, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design

Transportation Determines Land Use

By Dom Nozzi

Speaking as a 20-year city planner, American planners react to what private landowners and developers propose to the local government with regard to development along a roadway. Public sector planners have very little control as to densities or mixed uses or types of businesses that are proposed along a roadway.

Yes, public planners can write development regulations or corridor plans that call for walkable, mixed use, higher density design, but if the roadway is 5 lanes and designed for 45 mph (inattentive, talking-on-the-cellphone) speeds, such regulations will be a moot point, as property owners and developers tend to build to what the market seeks. And when you have a multi-lane, high-speed roadway, the market tends to seek low-density, drivable, single-use suburbia.Woodruff Rd

In other words, transportation determines (drives) land use.

Certainly such suburban areas can incrementally transform themselves to be more urban, compact, walkable, dense environments. We should not necessarily give up on them. But public planners, and their regulations and plans, will be almost entirely powerless to catalyze such a transformation.

The effective catalyst in the case of a suburban environment fed by high-speed, high-volume roadways is for state Departments of Transportation (DOT) to make amends for its earlier decision to build an oversized roadway (usually justified on the grounds that the 5 lanes are needed to reduce or avoid congestion—even though we should all know by now that we cannot build our way out of congestion).

Often, the DOT will claim that the proposed large, suburban road is needed because of the land uses allowed by local government in the area. “DOT is just meeting the demand created by the land uses on the ground.”

strip2Again, however, such suburban markets (and subsequent development) would not have occurred had larger, higher-speed roads not been built elsewhere in the community (not to mention all the underpriced parking provided).

So yes, public planners can play a role in developing regulations or plans that call for walkable, urban, mixed use environments. But the road must first be redesigned to accommodate it and create the market for it (usually by removing travel lanes and introducing other slow-speed design tactics).

I don’t pretend to believe that we can do this in the near future. It took us over 80 years to build this car-friendly mess we are in. We are therefore unlikely to find our way out of this for quite a while.

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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.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

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/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

 

 

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Filed under Politics, Road Diet, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design