Monthly Archives: May 2010

Why are American Cyclists so afraid of Motorists?

By Dom Nozzi

Why are so many American bicyclists are so paranoid about motor vehicles — particularly compared to bicyclists in western Europe?

I’d speculate that the comparatively high fear of American cyclists has to do with the fact that more so than any other nation, Americans have placed motor vehicles (and their “rights”) on a pedestal. The inevitable outcome has been twofold:

  1.  American motorists are extreme in their expectation of happy, free-flowing, high speed, “free roads” driving. Since the enormous size of cars makes such a thing nearly impossible, road rage (and the resulting driver hostility to “anything in my way”) is high.
  2. American bicyclists experience this motorist rage in two ways. First, as bicyclists. (American motorists are less courteous and more reckless). Second, when many of these cyclists make trips by car (which are times when the cyclist can then feel those American Happy Motoring expectations, and come to expect other motorists to have such feelings when they are back on a bicycle).

The working assumption for bicyclists, then, is that nearly all American motorists are high speed, hostile, homicidal, enraged maniacs. Only a tiny number of us are able to escape such irrational, counterproductive conclusions.

 

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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 Bicycling

Should “Greening” Cars Be Our Top Priority?

By Dom Nozzi

I’ve never been a get-rid-of-all-cars extremist. As my books and speeches point out, motorized travel will always be an appropriate, helpful part of our lives. No, my efforts are not to “get rid of them all.” I just want cars and drivers to behave themselves. For there to be equity and fairness. Otherwise, they tend to inequitably dominate our world and severely harm our quality of life, as the past several decades have shown. We need to be the master of cars. Not their slaves.

All lifestyles (including the travel needs of each) should be accommodated, as long as it is done equitably and without harm to the quality of life of others.

So yes, those who have a lifestyle that requires car travel should be allowed to continue that lifestyle. I only insist that the lifestyle be pursued fairly. The more miles one travels, the more one has an obligation to pay more for a cleaner car, as well as more for road construction, maintenance, military costs to protect oil, environmental mitigation, etc. I don’t believe that one should be allowed to unreasonably externalize the cost of their lifestyle on others.

I seek to rein in high levels of car dependence and promote more in-town living because several decades of large government subsidies have distorted the market so that there is an artificially high demand for car-based travel and a car-based lifestyle.

Due to demographic changes, prices and fear of future costs, we are already seeing a return to town center living and a decline in suburban living (migration patterns and housing values show this over the past few years).

I agree that yes, clean & efficient cars has a role to play to improve fairness and quality of life. But I am not convinced that it has the potential to significantly improve fairness and quality of life (or promote sustainability) in the same way that I believe growing the number of citizens who live a lower-impact lifestyle would.

I believe that there is an artificially low number of citizens living a low-impact, walkable, in-town lifestyle because of abundant and cheap oil. There is also an artificially low number of such citizens because of government subsidies — largely for gas, road-building, land development codes and required parking. Remove those subsidies – which I believe will inevitably happen soon because we are losing the ability to afford them – and we will see a substantial growth in the number of people living a low-impact, walkable, in-town lifestyle. And that would yield substantial, sustainable benefits.

I am convinced that green cars, without a meaningful shift in the number who lead a lower-impact lifestyle, is not sustainable. To be fair, I should also note that shifting many to live a lower-impact lifestyle is, itself, not a silver bullet. We need to couple that with the green car (which we don’t intend to entirely get rid of…).

In the end, I see shifting more to live a lower-impact lifestyle (via the libertarian paternalism of a reduction in subsidies, the reform of development codes, etc.) as more of a pressing need in this time of crisis. One that is more likely to lead to societal dividends sooner and more sustainably than green cars.

So let’s continue to pursue green cars. But let’s also think about bang for the buck and what a sustainable future will require. I’d rather have a big number of people shift to a lower-impact lifestyle WITHOUT green cars, than a lot of green cars WITHOUT a shift in the number leading a lower-impact lifestyle. Preferably, though, I want both. And my preference is to prioritize lifestyle shift (for some, not all) as our first order of business.

 

_________________________________________________

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 Urban Design

Small Speeds and Small Sizes

By Dom Nozzi

Several decades ago, as cars were first emerging in America, there was a large backlash against the growing car menace, and there was a very strong and nearly successful push to require all new cars to be built with a governor that would keep the maximum speed of cars down to an extremely modest speed.

To improve the quality of life in neighborhoods and cities, I love the idea of designing cars so that they can only be driven at a very low maximum speed. High speed car travel is extremely toxic to cities and neighborhoods, partly because they powerfully induce community dispersal, isolation of people from others, promote non-local Big Box retail, and catastrophically degrade community and neighborhood quality of life.

My core message in my writings and speeches is that we must return to the tradition of slow(er) speed travel. An essential companion to the crucial need for slower speed travel, however, is something we should not lose sight of:

We need substantially smaller vehicles.

A golf cart would be a good start…

The gargantuan space consumption of motor vehicles destroys the intimate, human-scaled, charming, romantic, walkable dimensions and spacing that nearly all humans find lovable (as shown, partly, by the places we most love to visit as tourists). The huge space consumption by cars (a person in a car takes up 19 times more space than a person in a chair) inevitably causes cities to become afflicted by the gigantism disease.

Tragically, it is nearly impossible for designers to build quaint, lovable places when the enormously-sized cars of today are a part of our world. And that explains why, over the past several decades, Americans seem to have completely lost the capability of creating such places. It is only the historic places built long ago that demonstrate these much-desired community and neighborhood traits.

Massive parking lots. Massive building setbacks. Massive highways. Massive distance from Point A to Point B. Result: A dangerous, unsustainable world that no one can love.

 

_________________________________________________

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

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Road Diet, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design

Reducing Greenhouse Gases

By Dom Nozzi

What tactics can we use to reduce greenhouse gases? I prefer the efficiency of pricing as a lever to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) objectives, rather than land use policies (such as resolving to create mixed uses and higher densities in appropriate locations). I say this because I am convinced that we need to address the enormous problem of travel externalities (the tailpipe emissions and noise from your car, for example, polluting the air that we all breath, and the peace and quiet we all desire).

Most all of the roads and parking in America are either un-priced or underpriced. That means we have an enormous number of “low-value” car trips in our metro areas (trips on a main road to, say, rent a video at rush hour). Since the costs of motorized travel is largely (exclusively?) externalized, we are experiencing an excessive number of motorized trips. If our society were to “internalize” more of the external costs of driving (by, for example, increasing the gas tax or charging users for using roads or parking), we’d see a lot less low-value car trips.

We therefore need to institute and then calibrate road and parking pricing more comprehensively. If we still have what we believe are excessive GHG emissions, those prices need to be ratcheted up until motorized Single-Occupant-Vehicle (SOV) travel is reduced sufficiently. Revenue from the pricing needs to be exclusively dedicated to non-SOV travel (transit, bicycle, pedestrian), and perhaps toward assisting local governments to pay for the work needed to prepare new policies/regulations to reduce low-value car trips.

I recognize that pricing can have negative social impacts on other worthy community objectives, such as the need to allow lower-income groups to affordably live in the area, or commute to lower-pay jobs from remote (affordable) locations. I therefore support travel pricing rebates or travel subsidies when lower-income people can provide sufficient evidence that they are low-income. Part of this affordable housing issue is the need to have local governments provide adequate quantities of housing that is situated in mixed-use, relatively dense neighborhoods, so that the household can own less motor vehicles and devote more of the household income to housing instead of a second, third or fourth car.

While living in Richmond VA, I noticed that while that city has way too much free parking in the metro area, there are quite admirable road pricing strategies (via toll booths found on a number of metro roads and highways). I say this not because Richmond is an example of a city that has used pricing tactics to avoid sprawl (indeed, it has sprawled more than most any city in the US over the past few decades), but because the city shows that such road pricing is politically and financially feasible.

 

_________________________________________________

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, Economics, Environment, Sprawl, Suburbia, Walking