The new emphasis for bicycle and pedestrian facilities should include
not only the transportation needs of the disenfranchised (seniors, children
and low income) but also the health needs of the nation's population. As all
of you know, 60% of the population doesn't exercise the recommended 30
minutes 5 times a day. The problem is complex but one question is where
would they exercise.
The highway engineers have appropriately resolved the issue of car
traffic flow with a myriad of design solutions on their shelves. We, the
bike/walk contingent, have sidewalks, bicycle lanes and bicycle paths and not
all of them can fit in existing cities. (Yes, you can bicycle on roads but
not everyone feels comfortable in that environment. We need to provide an
appealing environment for the people who presently don't exercise.)
The issue is getting from rhetoric to reality. We can make a strong
case based on transportation for all and better health for that 60% of the
population but how and where do we actually place the walkers and bicyclists?
Cities are already built and it would be prohibitively expensive to tear
down buildings to create bicycle and pedestrian routes. Sometimes, we can
create a pedestrian mall through buildings using hallways but bicyclists are
barred from that environment. A few cities do have back alleys but they are
disconnected. The only option is to look at the roads and redesign some of
them. We don't, though, have the plans sitting on the shelves for
bike/walk/transit streets as do the highway engineers for car streets.
What we have are a variety of successes and failures of streets that were
closed to car traffic. Church Street Mall (peds, no bikes, no buses, no
cars) is a success but it is short. We can list other pedestrian malls that
failed because there wasn't enough pedestrian activity to keep the stores
alive (Boston, Kalamazoo). The Denver 16th Street Mall allows pedestrians and
buses but no bicyclists. The Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis started out as a
bus and pedestrian mall but now is a bus mall because the diesel fumes are
overpowering. Vail, Colorado has a Bavarian Village street for pedestrians,
bicyclists (walking bikes for part of the route) and buses but the corridor,
like Burlington, is short. The list goes on.
A month ago, I went to Erlangen, Germany to ride the streets with the
past Mayor. Over twenty years ago before he became Mayor, he received a
Fulbright Scholarship to study at Pitt where he read the works of Lewis
Mumford and Jane Jacobs. When he became Mayor, he decided he wasn't going to
let Erlangen become a mass highway city but instead, it would be a
pedestrian, bus and walk city. Erlangen is also not far from the
Netherlands, flat and a college and university hospital town making his plans
easier to implement. For each street, he devised individual solutions.
Sometimes the bike path runs on the sidewalk. In other instances, he created
a Woonerf by closing the street to through cars. In one instance, Erlangen
has a main street with no cars but pedestrians, buses and bicyclists all
mixed together. He still has side streets and cross streets with cars but in
every instance, he devised a plan to give the bicyclist priority. He said
that the heart attack incidence was lower in Erlangen than in neighboring
How do you suggest we start developing these bike/walk/bus street
design alternatives? Do we ask AASHTO to devise a variety of plans? Do we
ask our state highway engineers to devise the plans? Some may say the plans
exist but I would say they don't because I've just finished pouring through
every piece of literature and set of plans about bicycles for the
VTBIKEPEDPOLICY-L: The Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Policy Discussion List
Subscription control: http://list.uvm.edu/archives/vtbikepedpolicy-l.html.
For help: email [log in to unmask] with the word "help" in the message body.