Re-designing our transportation system so that it is not wholly dependent on cars makes for a dynamic, resilient and rich community. How will we get around when gasoline reaches $10 a gallon? How will we get our goods? If a hurricane like Sandy hit us as hard as it did in New Jersey and New York, making the roads impassable to cars, how would we get around? We can make our town more enjoyable to get around while also making us more prepared for when car infrastructure gets compromised.
Isn’t bicycling dangerous?
The health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks:
Furthermore, having a bicycle and pedestrian friendly community raises the quality of life and feeling of safety for all.
Why do we need infrastructure for biking and walking? What is wrong with what we already have?
If you go to towns that are designed to bikeable and walkable, they are really pleasant places to be. You want to stay there. You want to check out the shops, have a conversation with a person you just met, to take in the scenery -it feels like a living place. In short, a bikeable, walkable towns are towns built to human scale for human beings. Towns designed around cars encourage people to get to where they are going as fast as possible and not take in the beauty of the area. As time progresses, the area suffers. To encourage biking and walking, we need to support it with a safe and pleasant experience. To do this, we don’t necessarily need to create new roads, however, in some cases it might make sense. We can re-stripe the roads to provide a bike lane, we can put in bike racks and sidewalks wherever possible, plant buffers and install benches, etc.
Roads are for cars!
Not according to Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood: http://fastlane.dot.gov/2010/03/my-view-from-atop-the-table-at-the-natio...
In many countries, biking is given equal or even greater weight in transportation infrastructure and those countries have healthier populations and thriving local economies.
But you can’t have everyone ride their bikes!
No one is saying you should kick all the cars off the roads and give the roads to the cyclists but we are saying that we should share the road and support an integrated transportation system that has mass transit (like buses and trains), bike lanes and sidewalks as well as car transportation. The more integrated it is, the more resilient our transportation.
We tend to think that cars are the only feasible means of getting around (its comfortable, flexible, and mostly independent of schedules and routes) but that is just for a part of the population. What about the elderly that can walk or bike but can no longer drive? What about kids? Or those who are too poor to own a car? Wouldn’t it be great to make it possible for those people to get around too? What about those who cannot afford cars with their gasoline, insurance and maintenance? What about those who can't get a license? How about people who have a license and a car but would prefer to get exercise on their way to work rather than being stuck in traffic in their cars?
And, about those cars . . . they really aren’t so great. We are just so dependent on them that we can’t see the harm they are doing or that they are losing their edge over other means of transport. It used to be that getting your drivers license granted you independance but think what means for our teenagers now. Instead of roaming the open road the Baby Boomers once explored, now teenagers face traffic headaches and hear about road rage and their parents' long commutes into Boston. A lot of teenagers just are not enticed. Many don’t bother getting their licenses. Gen Yers are now learning other ways of getting around because cars price them out of the market: http://www.motortrend.com/features/auto_news/2012/1208_why_young_people_...
Is it safe to let kids walk or bike to school?
Mostly. There are parts of Ashland where it might not make sense. Hopefully, as we upgrade our roads to make them more bike-friendly, all parts of Ashland will be safe for everyone to bike or walk. For the younger grades, kids should be escorted by an adult.
In the end it is up to the parents to decide what works for their children. Interestingly, in Ashland, a lot of parents insist that their children walk or bike to school. Bus passes cost money, it can be challenging to drive kids to school in the morning by car (traffic!) and some parents just believe it is better for their children to walk or bike.
How can we afford electric car charging stations?
There may be grants or programs that are looking for communities that want to give it a try that could help pay for the cost. Businesses might want to band together to install one as a creative way to draw business. The important thing is to not get hung up on the “how” of getting something like this done and concentrate on the “what”. Once you have a vision, opportunities become easier to see and to take advantage of.