People re-normalize risks that they are exposed to on a regular basis, while often over-estimating novel risks. Driving is vastly more dangerous than flying, but it’s much more common for people who drive regularly to fear flying. In the same way, “crime” is often cited as a risk associated with city living, but once you’ve been exposed to the risk for a long time, and it is familiar, the perceived severity of that risk decreases significantly.
At the same time, it turns out your mode of transportation — the way you pass through the world around you — affects your snap judgements about the people you encounter. Driving makes it much more likely that you will assume the worst about others, while walking predisposes you toward relating to them as human beings.
So once you’ve moved to the city, and begun to live an urban, walking life, it feels like a safer, homier, more human place to you.
The last year has seen a flurry of Letters to the Editor in the Daily Camera from cyclists and pedestrians alike, frustrated at each others behavior on the Boulder Creek Path, and other well used parts of our path network. The debate has recently been re-ignited by the city’s proposal to allow electric bikes on the multi-use paths for the next year as a trial.
Plenty of well meaning suggestions have been made to alleviate the conflicts — better signage, more enforcement of the existing 15 mph speed limit, education and outreach campaigns — along with the predictable complaints from each side about the bad behavior of the other: careless roadies zipping by at 20 miles an hours without any warning, careening around blind curves and underpasses on the wrong side of the path. Deaf iPod zombies walking dogs on 12 foot long leashes while they meander unpredictably. Etc.
After 45 years of motorway lining the Seine, Paris is starting to re-pedestrianize the riverside. They’ve been doing it for short periods during the summers with the Paris Plages, but now the plan is to make it permanent. It’s an irresistible destination (all the more so without the motorway), being made inconvenient for or inaccessible to cars. This is, I think, a winning strategy.
How far will we walk to go somewhere depends on the quality of the walking experience. An obvious conclusion maybe, but one that bears repeating. In central Paris or Rome, folks will regularly walk 5 miles a day, and enjoy it, because the cities are lively and interesting the whole way. I have an elderly friend in San Francisco who regularly walks all the way from the Presidio, where she lives, to downtown (and sometimes back again) for errands, but also for the people watching and joy of it. Density alone is not enough to make a place walkable, and lower density — if it’s interesting enough — can still entice people to wear their comfortable shoes. Good details in the original post.
A city-scale bike and pedestrian omnibus bill is coming before City Council. Among other things, it creates a well-defined cross walk speed limit for bikes (8 mph), requires bikes and peds to activate the blinking lights at mid-block crossings, and legalizes back-in angled parking, which the city wants to experiment with on University, near the intersection with 17th, to make the bike lane safer.
The New York Times almost seems upset that in Europe the mobility of people, not motor vehicles, is the measure of an urban transportation system. With finite funding and urban space constraints, you sometimes have to choose which mode to prioritize. Pedestrians, bicycles, and mass transit all move more people in less space, with less GHG emissions, noise and pollution, more safely than cars. De-prioritizing automobiles also makes streets into vastly more livable public spaces. It’s not about making life bad for cars, it’s about making it good for people!
The Alliance for Biking & Walking is sounding the alarm on another round of crippling rescissions heading for state and local transportation agencies. A rescission is when the Feds say “Hey, you know that money we gave you? We want it back now.” This happened in 2010 as well, and then 44% of the money returned to DC came from bike, pedestrian, and air quality funding streams, even though they together make up only 7% of federal transportation funds. Yet another example of why local transportation should be funded locally, and why as a cyclist or pedestrian, you should evade your federal taxes whenever possible.
A post from David Hembrow in the Netherlands on what it takes to make pedestrianized spaces work by examining a new living/shopping development in Assen. Make it clear that pedestrians have right of way over everyone, but make it easily accessible to bikes. However, ensure that it isn’t a throughfare for bikes — only cyclists actually coming to the place as a destination should be there. If you exclude both bikes and cars from the space, then you decrease the relative attractiveness of cycling unnecessarily, encouraging people to drive.