Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Engineering a City for All Road Users

I found this TED talk, and I am very impressed with it.

I think there is an interesting point here about the competition of cars vs. bikes. Roads used to be for all public users. Walkers, cyclists, horse riders. With the advent of the car, the concept of the road went from "ours" to "mine". The attitude has changed from roads as a place for gathering, protesting, and selling to something that is for cars only. It has gone so far that special pedestrian areas had to be created. With the general use of sidewalks, the prevailing view came to be that roads were for cars only. This is a viewpoint that I believe is both false and dangerous. I like that this talk points out both how recent (>100 years) that idea is and how it has never been true. The roads are "ours". They are public, and for everyone to use.

I also enjoyed the idea of "desire lines". People, weather in cars, walking, or on bikes, travel in a way that makes their travel as fast and efficient as possible. When pedestrians jay-walk, or cyclists run red lights, it is because the rules and the infrastructure isn't there to support them. If you  are driving and see a cyclist acting badly, the best thing to do is to call your representatives in congress. Tell them there aren't enough cycle paths. We are just starting to engineer cities that cater and encourage biking. That make roads safer by reducing the number of cars. It also brings back the community that once existed before we locked ourselves away in boxes of glass and steel.

Finally, I want to make a point that I will probably make over and over again on this blog. The roads are for all people. When you are driving, you should be looking out for cars, motorcycles, walkers, joggers, runners, cyclists, skateboarders, rollerbladers, city buses, school buses, taxis, horses, carriages, pram pushers, construction workers, animals and hot dog stands. There is a place for all of these on the road. As a driver you have to be able to stop. You can't assume that you can pass, even if another road user is going slower than you want. If you can't drive safely, you shouldn't be driving.


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