By Dom Nozzi, AICP
A number of months ago, a resident of Gainesville, Florida – where I was a senior planner for 20 years — had a letter published in the Gainesville Sun newspaper. It seems that Mr. Bill Pepper – the author of the letter — STILL feels rage over the Kiwanis Club presentation I gave several years ago in Gainesville, as his letter of March 14, 2011 showed.
My March presentation centered on my book, Road to Ruin, and how our single-minded focus on making cars (instead of people) happy was destroying our economy, our ability to have choices in how we travel, and our quality of life.
In that presentation, I lauded the decision by Gainesville to put it’s Main Street downtown on a “road diet” (ie, taking that street from 4 lanes to 3).
In his letter-to-the-editor, Mr. Pepper stated the following: “Dom Nozzi, a former Gainesville city planner, was once asked at a large Kiwanis meeting just where he thought traffic might go if existing main roads (such as the soon-to-be-narrowed Main Street) became inadequate. Nozzi’s reply: ‘Anywhere as long as it is anywhere else.’”
Even though my Kiwanis presentation was so long ago, and I find it unfortunate that Mr. Pepper not only continues to feel what appears to be boiling rage over my comments after all this time, but has allowed his emotions to lead him to badly misquote me.
I cannot recall the context of this remark or what, precisely, I said, but I can assure the readers of the Gainesville Sun that I would not have said what Mr. Pepper claims I said in my presentation that day. His quote of me suggests a “Not in My Backyard” sentiment. In my professional career, I have prided myself in striving to avoid that inequitable attitude in all I recommend. I urge all community and transportation planners to design in such a way as to equitably share in societal burdens (in this case, car traffic).
Given that, what I am confident I said to the Kiwanis is something like the following: When roads are “dieted” (ie, have excessive travel lanes removed to make the street more conducive to safety, economic health and civic pride), it is best to do so when streets are connected, so that any “overflow” car trips that occur due to a road diet can be equitably distributed to nearby streets.
In nearly all cases, by the way, overflow car trips do not occur after a road diet. Motorists tend to continue to enjoy driving on the now more attractive, calm street, even if it means the loss off a few seconds in their trip.
In those rare instances where “overflow” car trips are caused by a road diet, and a small number of motorists prefer to avoid the minor delay, such motorists can usually opt for using a parallel street. Or many can opt not to drive during rush hour. The small handful which are unable to tolerate the tiny new delay will, in the long run, opt to live in a place where they can walk, bike or use transit for their commute trips.
In other words, a road diet allows us to move away from the status quo of having nearly everyone drive on (and overburden) a major street at rush hour. That makes our transportation system a lot more efficient, which means the taxes that citizens such as Mr. Pepper must pay can be lower.
News flash for Mr. Pepper: Thinking that wider roads solve traffic congestion is like thinking that loosening your belt will solve obesity.
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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