Recommended Reads: Freedom edition
Freedom of movement, that is, without needing a vehicle. What a concept, huh?
Here's this week's transportation-related links for your interest. Hope everyone in the US had a great Memorial Day weekend, and gave respects to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
In high-tech news, here's a new mobile app to help people bid on and purchase street parking. It's part brilliant and part very discomforting, on first impression. Jenny Xie writes:
The app, currently only available for iOS devices, launched in San Francisco last month and in Rome about ten days ago. Though the app is not taking any commissions during this beta stage, eventually the business model is to take a percentage of successful bids.
So far, MonkeyParking has triggered no shortage of backlash — there are complaints that it’s partial to the rich, that it would encourage parking spot "squatters," that it, quite frankly, creates shady profits off public property.
Dobrowolny is unfazed. He argues MonkeyParking doesn't broker parking spaces themselves, but rather the valuable information that somebody is just about to leave a spot. In other words, the meters will still be fed, but the app gives parked drivers an incentive to sync up with drivers desperate for a spot right now.
For those of you that believe automobile traffic laws should apply to cyclists, my first reaction is (and please don’t be offended because, granted, this is a broad brush): do you ever bike? Do you bike in traffic? In the United States? Perhaps you do. I admit that I didn’t until the last few years, but doing so opened up my eyes to a new set of challenges and changed a lot of my beliefs on cycling in urban areas.
We need to rethink our urban areas. They need to be redesigned around a new set of values, one that doesn’t seek to accommodate bikers and pedestrians within an auto-dominated environment but instead does the opposite: accommodates automobiles in an environment dominated by people. It is people that create value. It is people that build wealth. It is in prioritizing their needs – whether on foot, on a bike or in a wheelchair – that we will begin to change the financial health of our cities and truly make them strong towns.
Advocates never put it in these terms, but Idaho stops essentially allow bikers to impose on pedestrians’ green lights and rights-of-way. Bikers would be prohibited from going if a pedestrian is in the intersection, but if a biker gets there first, a pedestrian would have to wait at the corner until the bike passes, possibly running out of time to cross. Do we really want to create a mad dash to be first at an intersection and claim right-of-way? As our population ages, and empty nesters return to cities, this would have a particularly negative effect on the elderly.
Foot traffic is also the most crucial ingredient in a vibrant city streetscape. Street peddlers selling used records, carts selling food, window displays, break dancers, politicians shaking hands — they are all there to interact primarily with pedestrians, not cyclists. There’s a reason some of the world’s greatest outdoor public spaces are “pedestrianized,” not “bicyclized,” streets: closing a street to cars, and bikes, and letting pedestrians fill it, allows people to safely stand around, say, watching street performers or browsing shopping stalls.
I'm inclined to agree more with Marohn, but will qualify it. First off, this is a very big country, with very different conditions in cities and towns. Marohn's example is far more common, in reality: a city and region built for cars where biking is rare and often hazardous. Adler generally describes urban areas where bikers would come into frequent conflict with pedestrians.
I'd ask simply why this has to be a one-size-fits-all response? Let's allow for cyclists to have a lot of leeway on quiet streets and in areas where there aren't many pedestrians. And, in more heavily-trafficked areas cyclists should absolutely defer to people walking around and be cautious. It doesn't seem like this needs to be either-or.
Finally, a blast from the past about the elevated pedestrian dreams from former Los Angeles planner Calvin Hamilton. Dan Koeppel writes:
For Hamilton, those initial twelve pedways were supposed to be just the beginning. He envisioned hundreds across the city's 500 square miles. The Los Angeles he dreamed of would have been divided into 29 "Centers," or islands of development, connected by pedways, moving sidewalks, monorails, and mass transit. Beyond those intentionally-crowded zones, Hamilton proposed a Los Angeles of limits. Density would be restricted in residential communities; motor vehicles and rail would be given equal treatment; commercial development would be regulated; and parks — lots of parks — would be constructed.
Of course Hamilton's pedways were a cousin to elevated walkway systems common to the era. Minneapolis has the most famous internalized above-grade system, though most large cities have some element of it. And, it's also an idea that built upon the birth of pedestrian-only malls especially from the 1960's.
I like to think of ideas like these as: heart in the right place, but head not on straight. Part of the disease of the twentieth century was the rejection of all forms of tradition in favor of modernity. It was so pervasive that even the most well-intentioned people (like Hamilton) couldn't escape its clutches. And so, the solution was not to look back and see what worked historically, but instead to imagine a new city and a new future. We're fortunate to live in an era that now has the hindsight of that experience and its failures. At the same time, I fully expect a revival of more types of "pedways" as our cities become more and more revitalized. High Line, anyone?