Monthly Archives: July 2010

Advocacy for a Bike/Walk Organization

By Dom Nozzi

I strongly believe that one of the top issues—if not THE top issue—for an organization created to advocate for bicyclists and pedestrians is to grow the number of commuter bicyclists and pedestrians in the region.

We all know the many benefits of doing that: Environmental, economic, social, quality of life, etc.

Additionally, I am convinced that there is another enormous benefit to significantly growing the number of bicyclists and pedestrians. A benefit that is usually overlooked. A large number of bicyclists and pedestrians in a community is an extremely powerful way to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians (and the motorists who are now not driving as much). In other words, “safety in numbers.”

Given this, I believe that an essential, perhaps overriding tactic for a bike/pedestrian advocacy group is to promote those tactics that are most effective in inducing large numbers of citizens to become bicycle and pedestrian commuters.

As a 20-year city planner, writer, researcher and town designer, I believe the following are some of the most powerful tactics to grow the bicyclist and pedestrian population, and therefore what should be championed by a bike/pedestrian group:

  •  Scarce & priced car parking
  • Proximity (via mixed use and higher residential densities)
  • Relatively high gas prices (via a gas tax)
  • Short block lengths and connected streets
  • Slow speed street design (via attentive rather than forgiving street design)
  • Converting one-way back to two-way streets
  • Oppose all road and intersection widening projects, especially those done in the name of safety or capacity; wider roads and intersections are among the biggest deterrents to walking and cycling. Those roads and intersections that are already over-sized (four or more lanes, or one or two turning lanes) should be dieted down to safe, low-speed, human-scaled sizes.
  • Full-time local government staff assigned to bicycling and pedestrian commuting

“Safety in Numbers” needs to be promoted and leveraged. Large numbers of bicyclists create a herd mentality: when non-bicyclists see lots of fellow citizens bicycling, they are increasingly likely to join the herd. They are more likely to identify with bicyclists (rather than seeing them as annoying, in-my-way weirdos). When there are a lot of bicyclists, bicycling is more likely to be seen as safe, hip, and normal.

Consequently, there is an additional, important tactic: Soft-pedal helmets and lycra for city commuters. Helmets and lycra discourage bicycling and promote the perception that bicycling is dangerous and weird, not normal.

Note: I strongly encourage helmet use and lycra for off-road trail riding and long-distance, higher speed road riding. I also respect and admire those who currently commute wearing a helmet.

I’m not suggesting that helmet use should be discouraged, I simply believe that as an organization, bike/pedestrian advocacy groups need to turn down the volume on aggressively promoting bike helmets for low-speed town center bicycle commuting.”

Otherwise, the organization will be undercutting this important advocacy objective of growing the number of bicyclists and pedestrians.

Okay, you can now lead me away to be burned at the stake…

_________________________________________________

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, Politics, Road Diet, Urban Design, Walking

A Weed in Eden

By Dom Nozzi

While there are countless reasons why I love living in the city of Boulder, I sometimes am surprised to stumble upon a disappointment. Boulder has successfully established a number of urban design and transportation policies to create a very high quality of life. An essential element in its many admirable efforts to promote this quality is to discourage car trips and promote walking, bicycling and transit use. Indeed, the City has been so successful that it has, per capita, one of the highest (if not the highest) rates of ped/bike/transit travel of any city of a similar size (something like a 20% modal split).

This morning, I went to 3-4 different bike-to-work free breakfast stations around town for this annual event that is so large that “Pee Wee Herman” even tweeted about it a few days ago. Thousands of bicyclists participate in this much-talked-about event.

So imagine my surprise and disappointment when I went to a co-housing open house in central Boulder yesterday to learn that this affordable housing project (Washington Village) follows policies required by the City of Boulder which significantly undercuts affordable housing objectives and car trip reduction objectives.

Washington Village will have about 10 affordable housing units ($90K to $225K) at the northern periphery of a compact, walkable downtown. The project is well-served by sidewalks. It is proximate enough to many daily travel needs that it is quite bikeable. It is an easy walk to the world-famous Pearl Street Pedestrian Mall from its location. And Washington Village fronts Broadway Ave, which is extremely well served by frequent (“SKIP”) bus service.

We also know that low-income families tend to own less cars per capita than wealthier families.

It is also important to note that a critically important component that makes co-housing an inherently affordable living arrangement is that households are able to share many things, such as appliances, tools, child care, and cars, instead of each household having to own their own sets of these household items.

Despite all this, the City of Boulder apparently requires all new residential housing units at Washington Village to provide parking. That requirement has apparently led this co-housing project to “bundle” the cost of parking into the cost of the housing. “Unbundling” the cost of parking from the cost of the house allows people like me – who don’t own a car – to choose to buy more house for the money. To choose not to buy expensive, unneeded parking. And not be required to accept less house in exchange for being forced to pay thousands of dollars for parking that I don’t need. As Donald Shoup notes in his High Cost of Free Parking book, bundling the parking cost into the housing cost creates a strong financial vested interest in owning household cars. After all, the parking has already been paid for by the household. Why let it go to waste?

I should note that Boulder housing is EXTREMELY expensive, in large part because of the very high cost of land in a city with a very high quality of life. That means that the provision of parking space here is relatively very high compared to other cities. Affordable housing, therefore, is very difficult to provide here if parking is required.

As a result, even though I can easily qualify for affordable housing due to my modest income, and even though I would love to own a home in central Boulder (where I would have wonderful bus, bike and pedestrian conditions), the bundled cost of parking for this co-housing project has led me to lose interest in considering this housing option.

What a shame.

_________________________________________________

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, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design, Walking

We Have Met the Enemy

By Dom Nozzi

I went to the Florida Dept of Transportation meeting a few years ago at the University of Florida Conference Center on SW 34th Street in Gainesville FL. The meeting agenda was to discuss plans for road modifications (which road engineers euphemistically and inaccurately call “improvements”) for SW 2nd Ave between SW 34th St and the O’Dome sports auditorium – a town center street corridor that links a major commercial area in Gainesville to the University of Florida campus.

The meeting room contained a modest number of citizens and about 45 DOT engineers. I felt like I had been transported back to the 1950s and had somehow ended up at an IBM executives convention (a festival of thin black ties, white shirts, pocket calculators and crew cuts).

The presentation by DOT was perhaps the most dry and emotion-less of any presentation I have ever heard. In a dull, monotone voice, we heard about 50 minutes of what amounted to droning, “fine print” comments. “This meeting is commencing at 7 pm Eastern Standard Time. It is being held in the Hilton Conference Center, 1714 SW 34th  Street in Gainesville Florida 32605. This room holds 80 people. It contains fire sprinklers. If you have comments or questions, they must be written down on 5×7 card stock slips of paper using a #2 pencil. The temperature in this room is 71 degrees. The lumination of the overhead lighting in the room is with incandescent bulbs. The ceiling is 12 feet high. The chairs provided in this room are dark blue in color…”

The following is a summary of what FDOT wants to do to us this time with their “improvements” (and our tax dollars):

1. Create a 5-lane monster road (2 turn lanes) west of 34th to the Fire Station.

2. Build an enormous stormwater pond behind the Publix grocery store at 34th, which will wipe out a wooded area and a home.

3. Install highway-oriented (read: 50-foot high) road lighting.  FDOT is also installing “pedestrian” lighting as window dressing below the towering UFO landing strip lighting as a sop to pedestrian and urban design advocates.

4. Significantly enlarge the size and capacity of the intersection at 34th St & SW 2nd Ave (34th & University intersection has already been made, essentially, an interstate highway interchange).

5. Install 10-foot wide bike paths on both (?) sides of SW 2nd Ave.

I had vigorously opposed these paths over the past few years. They are significantly more expensive than in-street bike lanes. They will significantly increase the number of crashes between bicyclists and cars. They will further marginalize bicycling in Gainesville (bicycles are toys ridden by child-like weirdoes that don’t belong on roads where we adults drive our cars). They will create a paved highway appearance along what is now a fairly narrow road that will be substantially wider in paved width than in-street bike lanes—undoubtedly increasing average car speeds along 2nd Ave. Off-street bike paths do not belong in an urbanized area with lots of intersections.

I suspect that the 10-foot bike paths will be FDOT’s way of reducing future costs and opposition when they come back to widen SW 2nd Avenue for more car capacity.

Inevitable results: More fuel for suburban sprawl to the west of the city, a larger amount of traffic congestion at these intersections within about 5 years, and a reduction in transportation choices.

As a result of this “improvement,” folks shopping at the abutting Westgate Plaza area will be less likely to be able to walk to retailers across the street from 34th or University Ave. Instead, they’ll need to hop in their cars to cross those streets as they now do at the sprawling Gainesville Mall and Butler Plaza—which is an outright attack against City plans in recent years to make the Westgate area more walkable.

When a local businessman asked why earlier plans to neck down the intersections with bulb-outs (so that the crossing distance would be reduced and the intersections would therefore be more ped-friendly), a DOT engineer responded that “highway standards have changed recently and such bulb-outs are no longer allowed.” Translation: Slowing down cars and making a place safer is no longer allowable. We are only allowed to pursue the ruinous imperative of building forgiving roads that promote unsafe, high-speed, inattentive driving.

One wonders what ever happened to “context-sensitive design” FDOT has so proudly proclaimed in recent years.

Is all of this financed and being designed by some sort of evil, alien, invading force bent on destroying the city of Gainesville? Should we send in the Marines to ward off this threat to our community?

No.

FDOT is a public agency and they will be using $15.7 million dollars in public tax revenues that you and I have paid.

When $15.7 million is spent for these SW 2nd Ave “improvements” (not to mention the millions poured into law enforcement and emergency services each  year), is it any wonder at all why communities such as Gainesville have so few dollars to improve buildings and parks, or other essential public infrastructure or service needs?

We have met the enemy and he/she is us.

We continue on the Road to Ruin…at our own expense…

_________________________________________________

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, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design, Walking

Access Management for Bicyclists and Pedestrians

By Dom Nozzi

Design for motor vehicle transportation is a zero-sum game.

Almost inevitably, when conditions for cars are “improved” (“speeded up,” “made more efficient,”, etc.), conditions for all other forms of travel (bike, pedestrian, transit) are degraded. As a town planner in Florida for the past 20 years (where “growth management” is essentially a code word for ensuring that new development does not delay or slow down cars), “access management” was touted strongly — to the detriment of pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users and overall quality of life.

To reverse this ruinous, counterproductive model, the first task for a planner or designer seeking to determine appropriate design is to begin by determining where in the community the design will occur (so that the design is “context sensitive”).

One must know if the street is located in a suburban or drivable part of the community, or town center (walkable) location. If the former, access management tends to be appropriate, as the imperative is to minimize car travel delays and maximize car speeds. However, in a town center location, the pedestrian is the design imperative. In such locations, it is therefore essential that slow-speed and “attentive motorist” design be emphasized to maximize pedestrian comfort and safety.

Access management tends to undercut such a design objective, because motorists can driver faster and less attentively when access management is successful.

A quality pedestrian environment must include relatively short block lengths, as well as mid-block crossings and cross-access within blocks. Again, access management tends to undercut these essential design tactics in walkable locations.

As an aside, speaking as a bicycle commuter, I tend to find a reduction in driveways to be an inconvenience for bicycling. I understand the safety problems associated with too many driveways, but we shouldn’t forget unintended consequences.

When the words “safety” and “efficient” and “mobility” are used in the field of transportation, such words tend to be euphemisms for higher speed, unimpeded car travel. And the last thing a healthy, low-speed, pedestrian-friendly town center needs is faster, unimpeded, through car travel. Higher speed (“efficient”) car travel in a town center (not to mention excessive, under-priced off-street parking) drains the lifeblood out of a community center.

Again, be careful about where various designs are applied. Avoid “one-size-fits-all” solutions. What is beneficial for higher-speed suburbia is almost always detrimental to lower-speed walkable town centers, where transportation choice must be emphasized.

Be sure you are context-sensitive — that you are applying the right design tools to the appropriate locations of the community.

_________________________________________________

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, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design, Walking