A Response

Rather than fill up my neighborhood blog with my comments I figured I would simply post my response here. It is in regards to a comment posted on the meeting regarding the widening of Forest Hill Ave. As always, I will argue in favor of increased urbanism and co-equal facilities for alternative mode-share users in transportation. The following is my reply to this comment:

  1. posted by Forest Hill driver at February 7, 2011 10:12 am [#]:

    Several of BikeForestHill’s points seem to be misguided, would lead to huge open swaths of pavement that would actually speed up traffic as well as increasing areas impervious to stormwater. A raised median with dedicated turn lanes is not only desperatley needed for safety, it is a form of traffic calming. A median with curbs and landscaping would tend to slow cars down. It would also provide a safe place in the middle of the road for people crossing, and unlike the “flush” median proposed by BikeForestHill would allow some absorbtion of stormwater. We don’t need another traffic light on Forest Hill. Traffic volumes on Rettig appear to be light. Turning safety would be improved here by the raised median, and timing of the existing signals could be improved to allow more of a time gap at Rettig if necessary. Another light would mean more stopping cars – noise and air pollution. Increasing the bike lanes to be 5′ asphalt in addition to the 2.5′ gutter on each side adds even more impervious area and pushes the road farther out, closer to the houses. So with that proposal, we would have 20′ feet of pavement dedicated to pedestrians and bikes (almost the width of two lanes of traffic). I would rather see less pavement with a combined pedestrian/ bikeway (using paint markings to delineate the uses) moved out of the roadway. This could possibly be located only on one side. Combining the two would be more environmentally sound, safer, and would save our tax dollars.

@ Forest Hill Driver

Your assumption that a combined pedestrian/bicycle path would be sufficient is what is actually misguided here. Again this is an example of auto-centric culture trickling in without critical analysis of our policy priority. By presenting the case that a combined use area is sufficient you are simply continuing to pervade the same tired design mentality of a long gone century of auto’s. While I agree less pavement is ideal and space is at a premium that is why we should be allocating it to accommodate users who actually are the taxpayers who utilize the facility in the jurisdiction where it is being constructed (i.e. residents in Forest Hill/Stratford Hills). Facilitating higher auto counts is an exercise aimed at appeasing road users who primarily don’t live in the city (the jurisdiction where the service is located and paid for) and who don’t support the businesses located in our community (Is anyone driving from Chesterfield to swing by our grocery stores/ Wal-Mart/ Lowe’s when they have these available in their neighborhoods?). I would guess that a simple two lane road would probably suffice for the traffic counts one would see from auto traffic if it were confined to users who pay taxes in the locality where the service (road) is located as in our situation as the urban center (or inner suburb). I’m not against many of the points you make regarding environmental friendliness but let’s be honest here, Powhite Parkway ( the area of Forest Hill Ave being discussed) is a symbol of the destruction of a wetland area (net positive environmental contributor) to facilitate automobile traffic. If it is storm water drainage we are concerned with than let’s rip out the superhighway that bifurcates our area and facilitates auto traffic to pass by our neighborhoods and businesses and zoom to their downtown offices from suburban enclaves and back and develop an environment where people seek to live in our community because it is vibrant, convenient, and innovative in the types of services it offers.

Your arguments that more lights mean more stopping cars seem legit initially but once examined more deeply one can appreciate that your logic for less lights is based on making auto traffic a priority rather than co-equal with other modes. I’m not saying a sea change is easy to accomplish but envision my commute.

Example-

I live near Westover Hills School and I wish to travel to Martin’s for groceries. It’s 75 and springtime in April, and the tulips are blooming. Now would I rather cruise in a separated bike lane (hopefully safely enough that my 2-year-old can ride in the trailer) the 2-4 miles to Martin’s free from traffic lights, obnoxious drivers, and parking lot headaches and straddle my Schwinn (I ride a Lotus actually), all while gracefully pedaling for 20min (about the same time it takes to drive and park actually) and enjoy myself as I head out for groceries or pollute in my auto whilst spending money on gas, insurance, maintenance, taxes for roads and their upkeep (what has the GA been debating borrowing money for this years session? Oh yea…millions for roads) and other costly expenses. (I intentionally made it sound unappealing but you get the drift)

Additionally, which actually saves us more money as taxpayers, constructing 4 lanes of highway for autos and no pedestrian/ bike infrastructure thereby essentially requiring car ownership (at an average cost of nearly $10,000 per American BTW) or facilitating urban growth where cars aren’t really necessary to the degree they are now (almost always) and building sufficient bicycle infrastructure to accommodate most commutes (bicycles hardly tear up their surface when built too) and still providing two lanes of traffic for the bus, a few cars, and trucks to deliver our goods? Cars won’t go away and neither will our need for them in all but the most extreme cases but we cannot win the battle with suburban communities when building on open space continues unabated and subsidized with free roads the way we currently do as our policy priority here in the U.S. Urban areas are not on equal footing relative to the suburbs while the continued welfare state of auto transport continues unchecked. As an urban community we must market and distribute services that highlight our strengths as a community because we simply cannot compete while interstates are being built at no cost to those who live off one of their exits and that travel to far flung suburbs where the auto “dream” can be had for less than the actual cost of that dream is ever charged. We have got to get away from the misguided beliefs that we are somehow better off with cars and this ideal of two in every driveway. It isn’t sustainable and on a macro level is terrible geopolitical policy.

A happy median (sorry for the pun) here is why city planners are having these meetings but I will continue to advocate that anything less than co-equal facilities for alternative mode share (bikes and peds) will keep us behind the 8-ball in our competitiveness for consumers of government services(residents) who can contribute to our tax base and raise the quality of living in our neighborhoods as net contributors (who can contribute to the pot for services we desperately need like competitive schools). If we continue to be duped into the same old argument that we need more roads to accommodate more cars we are simply dooming ourselves to failure as a community until the artificially created conditions that have facilitated auto centric culture decline or fall out of favor. Supporting the building of communities that are dependent on autos for transport is essentially welfare for the affluent and ultimately unsustainable. With so many other issues that I consider to be more urgent and pressing for our city leaders to tackle (i.e.-schools, economic development, historic preservation) throwing our resources behind a half measured scheme to placate drivers seems more like heavy-handed punishment and foolish repetition than innovative public policy. Let’s not lose this opportunity to make our area of the city friendly to the growing segment of the population that wants urban convenience and a high quality of life like that which can be brought upon us by replicating the obvious success of other urban communities where pedestrian and cycling facilities have been given equal standing.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s