To kick off Sunday reading here’s an interesting article by transport professor Rachel Aldred. In “Getting people cycling on residential streets needs more than 20mph limits” she argues that enabling neighbourhood streets to support cycling takes much more than dropping the speed limits, it requires removing traffic. This approach is reminiscent of Donald Appleyard’s Livable Street initiatives in the 1970’s that had modest success.
And if there was no rat running, many local streets could be extremely quiet. DfT trip rate statistics allow us to estimate how much traffic there might be on residential roads without people using them as short cuts. Even including deliveries and visitors we’re generally talking about a few hundred cars a day or fewer. Such streets could be places where cars really are guests, and children again walk and cycle freely.
Janette Sadik-Khan has been making the media rounds publicising her book Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution. Here’s an excerpt of the book from NY Magazine “The Bike Wars Are Over, and the Bikes Won“.
When I accepted Mayor Bloomberg’s offer to become Transportation commissioner, I told him I wanted to change the city’s transportation status quo. The DOT had control over more than just concrete, asphalt, steel, and striping lanes. These are the fundamental materials that govern the entire public realm and, if applied slightly differently, could have a radical new impact. I saw no reason why New York couldn’t become one of the world’s great biking cities — or why it wouldn’t want to. But the act of actually achieving it launched the bitterest public fight over transportation in this city since Jane Jacobs held the line against Robert Moses’s Lower Manhattan Expressway half a century earlier.
…When you push the status quo, it pushes back, hard. Everyone likes to watch a good fight. And the battle over bike lanes most surely was a street fight: politically bloody and ripped from the tabloids. Call me biased, call me crazy — many people have — but I’ll tell you this: The bikes, and all New Yorkers, won.
Chris and Melissa Bruntlett break down Streetfight into strategic lessons for VANCITY BUZZ , “6 strategic takeaways from a real-life, New York City Streetfight“.
- Consensus is impossible, and inaction is inexcusable
In Streetfight’s early chapters, Sadik-Khan and Solomonow lament the incredible lengths politicians and bureaucrats often go through in order to satisfy every single stakeholder on a given project. You can’t please everyone, they insist, and such feigned attempts to build consensus are often used to stall much-needed safety improvements by “leaders” unwilling to lead. At the same time, the status quo is simply unacceptable.
“Transportation is one of the few professions where nearly 33,000 people can lose their lives in one year and no one in a position of responsibility is in danger of losing his or her job,” they remind us.
We’ve spent decades engineering our streets for minimum inconvenience to automobiles, and the next century will be spent undoing that cost to our health, security, and mobility.
JSK’s legacy remains strong in NYC where the City plans to roll out an additional 25km of physically separated cycleways this year. And like many other North American cities it seems the focus now is on quality over quantity. Kate Hinds, “NYC to Install a Record Number of Protected Bike Lanes This Year“, WNYC.
The housing debate in the Bay Area is reaching a fever pitch. Here’s Kriston Capps joining the chorus to liberalise development controls to allow more housing – “Blame Zoning, Not Tech, for San Francisco’s Housing Crisis“, CityLab.
The answer is to build. Build more fucking housing, just like Nolan says. But the answer is also to zone: To take away land-use decisions from neighborhoods and hand them over to cities. And for cities to act in concert with other cities toward regional goals for new market-rate and affordable units everywhere. Not just where developers can get away with it, but where incumbent residents have already soldered shut the gate behind them.
Solving this housing crisis means breaking up the cartelized wealthy districts that are able to decide that new housing is everybody else’s problem. Build the awful glass cubes there, if that’s what it takes.
For a city that well known for its new ideas, tolerance and diversity, it is according to Davis Prowler, “paradoxically resistant to change.” David Prowler, “San Francisco: The Status Quo City“, UrbDeZine San Francisco.
Plenty of solutions for San Francisco’s planning gridlock spring to mind. The challenges are not technical; they are merely a matter of political will. Most development projects should go forward if they comply with planning codes. The arduous, costly, and risky review and appeals processes should be streamlined. The California Environmental Quality Act should be amended so that it encourages smart growth rather than sprawl. Small infill projects should be exempted. But I’m not holding my breath for any of this. What is needed is a radical change in the local culture. San Francisco needs to learn to embrace change without fear and give up its love affair with process.
To round up Sunday reading on a lighter note, here is a picture of all three LINK route buses stuck in Queen Street traffic.