(A new bike lane in Times Square, NY by Flickr user denali2001)
Several interesting articles have come out recently on bicycle culture, and more to the point, the move away from auto-centric planning. The New York Times published an article on Wednesday titled “Is Happiness Still That New Car Smell?”, where an auto industry expert is quoted as saying “People are questioning car purchases more than we’ve ever seen in recent history,” and goes on to profile people who have made the switch from auto ownership to bicycling + public transit. Also, the League of American Bicyclists released their Fall 2009 Bike Friendly City list. Several mid-west cities have made the list, so hopefully in the not too distant future, Dallas can make the cut.
BikeDenton attended the most recent NCTCOG Bike and Pedestrian advisory committee meeting and heard a suburban planner from Richardson admit that post-WWII planning had been negligent of non-car transit, and that overwhelming support for bicycle specific infrastructure by neighborhood associations had begun in his area. We also went to the archives to pull a Car Free in Big D entry spotlighting an Austrian city engineer in an article titled “A Traffic Engineer Whose Mother Actually Loves Him”, who is quoted “I discovered that traditional traffic planning is merely based on assumptions. For a long time there was no consideration for the consequences for the society or the environment. Nobody cared about noise or pollution, about fatalities, about the economy being altered or unemployment being created.” There’s definitely a change in mindset among the new set of planners and engineers coming out of schools today. It’s almost as if they’ve finally taken heed of Jane Jacobs warnings in the classic Death and Life of Great American Cities. Annecdotally speaking, we even note a split inside of many city offices among one generation of planners to the next. One will state “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and these new ideas won’t work here”, while the others are stating, “what we did 30 years ago IS the problem.” Only time will tell on what our city will look like in the coming decade, but it is heartening to see traditional planning ideas look beyond the idea of simply getting people in and out of places as fast as possible without regard to effects on livability.
Finally, I ran across this incredible paper titled “Livable Copenhagen” released by the University of Washington with cooperation from the Center for Public Space Research in Copenhagen. In it, detailed renderings are made of several different streetscapes in Copenhagen (pages 23-39) which include cutouts of roadways, intersection planning, and cycle track measurements. A great place to start when looking at how a successful bicycle city was developed which moved away from 1950-70’s era car-only planning models.