By Dom Nozzi
August 5, 2013
A great many citizens Boulder, Colorado admirably seek to retain or restore a “small town feel” (or “ambiance”) in our community. The most significant transportation action (or, arguably, ANY action) a community can take to obliterate that “small town feel” and instead create a feeling of placeless sprawl or “big city feel” is to build oversized roads, intersections, and parking lots.
Tragically, this is precisely what Boulder has done too many times in its frequent (and highly counterproductive) efforts to “reduce congestion” or “promote free-flowing car traffic.” Boulder has oversized a great many of its roads and intersections (and required developers to build too many oversized parking lots), which powerfully induces excessive car trips, regional sprawl, local government financial woes, a large increase in traffic injuries and deaths, a large impediment to bicycle, walking, and transit trips, and much higher levels of fuel consumption and air emissions (despite the conventional wisdom).
The end result of this ruinous pursuit of free-flowing car traffic is a loss of that “small town feel” – that “human scale” – that so many in Boulder seek to protect and retain.
The much more progressive way to address traffic congestion is not to reduce it (which is nearly impossible given the HUGE space-hogging nature of cars, and given a healthy city), but to create ALTERNATIVES to congestion so those unwilling or unable to tolerate it can avoid it (via alternative routes, traveling at non-rush hour times, driving on routes optimized by pricing, or traveling by bicycling, walking, or transit).
The provision of “bus queue lanes” or “protected bicycle tracks” should not be at the expense of removing on-street parking or by widening a road. Instead, such facilities should only be installed by replacing existing car travel lanes.
In sum, the primary task of the urban designer is to control size. By not controlling size – in this case, the size of transportation facilities – the resulting gigantism
obliterates that small town feel that so many of us love.