Monthly Archives: May 2012

Raining on a Sustainability Parade

By Dom Nozzi

Recently, a good friend and colleague indicated in an email that it was important for us to stop pussyfooting around when it comes to attacking or otherwise opposing car-happy tactics such as road widening, removal of on-street parking, fighting against mixed use development, or keeping residential densities low in a new development. That if we continued to be too timid in going after these counterproductive design ideas, we would continue to fail to meaningfully improve and induce more bicycling, walking, or transit use in the US.

We must, he urged, move aggressively to ban cars from certain streets, for example.

As much as I was thrilled to hear him make these bold observations, I’m not sure the time is ripe.

Frankly, I was SHOCKED to hear myself say that.

I’ve spent a lifetime being on the other end of this, with friends and enemies regularly telling me “Gainesville [where I used to be a town planner] is not ready for your idea, Dom,” or “Your idea is too radical, Dom, and will marginalize you.”

But I find that I must urge caution in proceeding too rashly – and I do believe my friend is being somewhat rash.

I STRONGLY agree that we need to stop pussyfooting around with cars and what we bend over backwards to provide them, if we are serious about promoting bicycling, walking, or transit use. Anything else is almost a complete waste of time. I probably agree with him more than anyone else I know!

BUT [it is very painful to have a “but” here…] I’m convinced that the US still has made it way too cheap to own and drive a car. Given that on-going state of affairs — that we’ve had now for several decades — I cannot imagine that an explicit anti-car crusade will resonate with anyone – even our allies.

Given what I’ve seen over the past 20 years with the very quick disappearance of openly anti-car organizations in the US during a time where it is very affordable to drive a car everywhere, I think that an openly anti-car agenda by an organization (or individuals) must regrettably wait for the cost of car ownership and use in the US to become significantly higher. We are starting to get close to that long-awaited tipping point – increasing gas prices, for example – but the prices are still too low overall.

I regrettably urge patience. We are still in the low-cost motoring world that will inevitably marginalize those calling for car-attacking tactics.

I’m saying this because philosophically, I am a materialist. Behavior and values are largely shaped or driven by underlying conditions such as prices. No matter how skillfully conveyed, even the most inspiring rhetoric needs to patiently wait for the conditions to be right, and the prices are just not there yet, I’m afraid. I say this even though I fully agree with him on the effective tactics.

Have I lost my revolutionary radicalism in my “old age”? Or have I just matured into someone who is now more politically savvy than I once was in my younger days?

_________________________________________________

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, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design, Walking

Highway Removals: Paths to a Better Future

By Dom Nozzi

“Road diets” are instances where a decision is made to shrink the size (or width) of a road that is considered excessively wide. For nearly a century, the United States has spent trillions of public dollars to build and widen roads throughout the nation. In the early years, these new or widened roads were often highly beneficial and cost-effective, as they resulted in significant increases in access to many destinations that were previously difficult or impossible to reach by car – even relatively slow, well-behaved cars. However, over the past few decades, new or widened roads have seen rapidly diminishing returns on investment.

Today, nearly all (if not all) road widenings cost way more than the benefits they produce. Those costs include worsened congestion (due to “induced demand”), a significant increase in noise pollution, exponentially growing costs of materials/construction/ROW acquisition, loss of travel choice (wider roads are much more difficult for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users to use), decline of smaller and locally-owned businesses (wider roads promote predatory “Big Box” retailers such as Wal-Mart), loss of civic pride, decline of the town center (wider roads drain the economic and residential lifeblood out of town centers in a downwardly spiraling death sprawl), an increase in traffic injuries and deaths, an increase in air pollution and fuel consumption, increased travel time (due to the sprawl induced by wider roads), and a substantial degradation of community attractiveness and quality of life.

Examples of road diets include the removal of travel lanes from roads with an excessive number of lanes (a common and increasingly popular tactic is to shrink a road from 4 or 5 lanes to 3 lanes), removal of a turn lane (usually a right-turn lane), a narrowing of travel lanes (from 12 to 14 feet in width to 9 to 11 feet in width), installation of landscaped sidewalk “bulbouts,” or installation of permanent on-street parking.

Another highly beneficial tactic that is related to road dieting is highway removal. Removal is becoming increasingly popular around the world due to the rapidly increasing cost of maintaining big highways, in addition to the growing recognition of the enormous benefits of removing ruinous highways (increasingly, nearly ALL urban highways are ruinous).

What are the benefits of road diets or highway removal? A very large number of studies around the nation and world show that such actions tend to very quickly result in dramatic improvements in retail and residential health, town center health, level of civic pride, reduction in injuries and deaths, a substantial increase in travel choice (more can walk, bicycle or use transit), a reduction in travel distances, a reduction in noise pollution, a dramatic improvement in quality of life, and a much more healthy financial state of affairs for government, businesses and households.

For these reasons, road diets and highway removal are becoming quite frequent around the world.

Here is a list of recent highway removals. Because they are so numerous, I am not able to provide a list of road diets.

• Park East Freeway, Milwaukee

• Embarcadero Freeway, San Francisco

• West Side Highway, New York City

• Central Freeway, San Francisco

• For Washington Way, Cincinnati

• Gardiner Expressway, Toronto

• Alaskan Way Viaduct, Seattle

• Harbor Drive Freeway, Portland OR

• Riverfront Parkway, Chattanooga TN

• Route 29, Trenton NJ

• Big Dig (elevated Central Artery) in Boston

Here’s the top 12 urban highways in North America with the best opportunity for transformations such as removal or road dieting, based on an analysis by the Congress for the New Urbanism (http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/cities/top-12-urban-highway-removal-projects/1953):

1. I-10/Claiborne Overpass, New Orleans, La.

2. I-895/Sheridan Expressway, New York City (Bronx)

3. Route 34/Oak Street Connector, New Haven, Conn.

4. Route 5/Skyway, Buffalo, N.Y.

5. I-395/Overtown Expressway, Miami, Fla.

6. I-70, St. Louis, Mo.

7. West Shoreway, Cleveland, Ohio

8. I-490/Inner Loop, Rochester, N.Y.

9. I-81, Syracuse, N.Y.

10. Gardiner Expressway, Toronto

11. Aetna Viaduct, Hartford, Conn.

12. Route 99/Alaskan Way Viaduct, Seattle, Wash.

Highway removal and road diets are perhaps the most effective, fastest, and most cost-effective way to significantly improve community and neighborhood quality of life. Does your community have the wisdom and leadership necessary to improve itself in such a rapid, substantial way?

_________________________________________________

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, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design, Walking

Making Roads “Safer”?

By Dom Nozzi

A story by Dan Tracy in the Orlando Sentinel on February 26, 2012 reported on a study that found that Metro Orlando roads are becoming far more safe for motorists — but not for pedestrians and bicyclists.

This is an all-too-common outcome. Too often, modifying a road for “safety” is a code word for something that will REDUCE road safety – if bicyclists, pedestrians and transit users are taken into account. And exposes the hidden (?) agenda that it is all about cars. Pedestrians and bicyclists be damned.

How can that be? Why are true safety advocates not up in arms about such an inexcusable, callous, selfish state of affairs?

For one thing, conventional traffic engineers claim that their proposed road modification will make the road “safer,” which tends to falsely reassure safety advocates. But what most miss is that “safer” tends to mean “safer to drive at higher speeds without the motorist having to pay attention.” That obviously reduces overall safety.

In addition, when we make roads “safer” in the above-mentioned way, we create what is known as a “barrier effect,” as colleague Michael Ronkin (and I) often point out. That is, roads that are “safer” for high-speed, inattentive driving are, by definition, less safe or comfortable for pedestrians, bicyclists, or transit users.

Conventional traffic engineers tend to “improve road safety” by using what is called a “forgiving” street design. Such design commonly includes widening a road, removing “friction” such as on-street parking or street trees, and aggressively discouraging pedestrian mid-block crossings. Car speeds tend to increase after such “improvements.”

An unintended consequence of this form of “safety improvement”? Such “improved” roads reduce the number of pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users because they are less safe for such users to travel on.

By reducing the number of pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users, we’ll have less crashes for those groups – not because it is safer for such users to use the “safer” road, but because there are less of them (again, because the increased danger has chased many pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users away from the road).

The result is that the modified road creates the misleading impression that it is now safer for all users. After all, don’t the numbers show that there are less pedestrian and bicycle crashes?

Real road safety is the opposite of what conventional traffic engineers seek: Real safety comes from designing roads to obligate slower speeds. Lowering car speeds is most effectively done by narrowing roads, installing on-street parking and adding other forms of “friction,” NOT by putting up signs with lower speed limits. It means, in other words, moving away from “forgiving” road design. Moving away from “forgiving” road design will increase motorist attentiveness, which is essential for increased road safety.

Eighty percent of all crashes are due to motorist inattentiveness. And the single-minded effort over the past 80 years to build “forgiving” roads has, tragically, substantially reduced motorist attentiveness. Motorists multi-tasking by eating, texting, combing hair, or cell phone chatting while driving is now epidemic – at least in part due to the enabling nature of forgiving roads. So rather than increasing safety, conventional traffic engineers have been decreasing safety. And doing so, ironically, in the name of “improving safety.”

Who needs enemies when we have ourselves?

_________________________________________________

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 Bicycling, Road Diet, Urban Design, Walking