Wednesday, October 3

On Transportation Planning

For most people, roads connect all of the important destinations in their lives. The line between their "Point A" and "Point B" is a paved swath.

As much as I'd like reality to look different, this is the true nature of our world. I say for most people because there is a minority in America that has the distinct luxury of being connected by bicycle infrastructure to their important places.

If you don't believe me, take a trip to Boulder, CO (because you've obviously never been there) and ride the Boulder Creek multiuse path. Or better yet, go to Denver, pick a spot along the Cherry Creek Trail south of Alameda and ride to Confluence Park.

These corridors are almost completely independent of motor vehicle infrastructure and they connect literally thousands of people to the important nodes of their lives.

I know, and you know, that the overwhelming majority of folks living in the world don't have easy access to world class dedicated cycling infrastructure. But that doesn't stop a gazillion cyclists from rolling over the face of the planet every single day.

Back to roads. We all use them. If you don't use them I hope you're in a nice assisted living facility at least. Most people take them for granted until there are construction delays or closures due to weather or flooding or rockfall. When we can't reach our needed destinations because the line between Point A and Point B has been broken what do we do?

Typically we look to other roads. Again, we take for granted that, not only is there a smooth paved surface to take us where we want to go, but that there are multiple convenient smooth paved surfaces to take us where we want to go.

Reality says that's not always the case. Or at least, the case is sometimes found to be that the detour is longer than is feasible.

Transportation infrastructure is like a lightswitch. We expect light to flood the room when we reach out and flip it, much like we expect to be able to keep rolling when we reach the end of our driveways. We expect travel conditions to get better over time despite increased numbers of vehicles on the roads due to population growth. We expect our transportation planners to come up with the clever solutions that will allow us to go as far as we want as fast as we want while making no personal changes. Are we asking too much? What responsibility does the average road user have to maximize the infrastructure that's available?

Reduce that line distance between Point A, Point Z and all points in between. Condense your life. Policy makers, local government leaders, business owners...all...should embrace alternate work schedules. We should maximize the potential of telecommuting. Shortened work days, alternate schedules, delayed start/finish times, etc, etc. These are ideas to minimize congestion during peak traffic flows (I.e rush hours) and reduce the maintenance and need to expand our existing infrastructure. Simplicity is key.

As a culture, a society, a country, we need to get serious about alternate modes of transportation. We've got to quell our adolescent infatuation with the automobile and stop viewing other means of personal conveyance as inferior to the automobile.

Do I sound like a cyclo-elitist? Because I'm really not spouting this from a cyclo-fascist viewpoint. There is an interesting development going on behind the scenes. Hopefully I can soon elaborate a bit. Let's just say the possibility of me becoming a transportation professional has increased significantly in the past couple of weeks.

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