Weekly Reading: A Week of Walking and Biking (sans Lance)

Of all news sources, Aljazeera reports on the rising popularity of cycling in the US, using Seattle as a case study. There's a great H.G. Wells quote at the end, so be sure to watch all the way though.

Babycenter reports on New York City's Safe Routes to Schools successes, noting: "the rate of child pedestrian injuries during "school travel" hours fell by 44 percent around schools where the city made [SRTS] traffic changes. The changes included installing more traffic lights and speed bumps, putting islands in the center of wide streets, and setting up digital signs that tell drivers how fast they are going."

Kaid Benfield at NRDC has a few relevant posts about walking and biking in the US, starting with a case study of the Sounthern California suburb of Lancaster, which recently transformed it's main street into more walkable, pedestrian friendly space. The results:

  • 49 new businesses along the boulevard and an almost doubling of revenue generated compared to just before the work began
  • An almost 10 percent rise in downtown property values
  • 800 new permanent jobs, 1,100 temporary construction jobs, and an estimated $273 million in economic output
  • 800 new and rehabbed homes
  • Dramatically increased roadway safety, with traffic collisions cut in half and collisions with personal injury cut by 85 percent

As hopeful as this story was, Kaid switches gears to exposesome less than friendly built environments close to his home in the Washington DC suburbs. The whole post is worth a read, as are some of the linked items, including the case of one suburban road crossing that takes 8.5 minutes to get to the other side of 28 lanes of traffic and this video, below, of those doggone pedestrians interfering with traffic, in a case eerily reminiscent of the Raquel Nelson episode near Atlanta.

Strong Towns' Chuck Marohn, a sympatico engineer and planner, tries to dismantle the notion that the success of a place is defined in large measure by density. Agree or disagree, it's thought-provoking stuff:

"I have a theory. I think a lot of planners zoners yearn to be spatial planners. They go to school to build great places. They get out into the real world and are given this ridiculously blunt instrument -- zoning -- and are frustrated that they can't wield it to create Paris. Few stop to ask what zoning regulations were used to create Paris (hint: there weren't any). Density, especially when given as a bonus for attainment of certain performance objectives, is the closest thing a modern planner zoner gets to their professional roots. We all suffer the consequences."

The comments thread is also interesting, with friends Mark Hinshaw and Chuck Wolfe weighing in.


So why does all of this matter? Well for one thing, young people are driving 23 percent less than they were in 2001, causing a significant shift in the assumptions that have been underlying our economic growth. Part of this is because they are moving to denser areas and becoming more educated and more productive in the process; this is part of a phenomenon the author Jeff Speck calls "the walkable dividend" and it's something economic development departments are taking more and more seriously. It's also tremendously important from a public health perspective; as has been documented in numerous studies, living in a walkable neighborhood is like preventative medicine for a number of chronic illnesses, including diabetes. Still not convinced? How about 20 reasons--explained in fun graphics--that biking (and walking) are good for all of us.

You know something is changing even Detroit is sharing the showroom floor with bikes.

Changing gears, many of our staff have been reading about the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal that would export coal to China in Sightline Institute's blog and in The Stranger. A reminder that this Monday is the deadline for submitting comments on the EIS scoping. More information, including where to send letters, can be found here.

Finally, the lead singer of The Presidents of the United States of America, Chris Ballew (aka Casper Babypants), has teamed up with Seattle's Office of Sustainability and the Environment to produce this Schoolhouse Rock style ditty, "We're So Green." Enjoy singing it through the weekend!

We're So Green from Seattle OSE on Vimeo.