Replacing Disposable Communities

This is a long post.  This has been bugging me for a long time because I think that some of the things we are doing actually discourage the kind of investment that would cause more people to choose bicycles if we could find a workaround.  Here goes…

From 1997-1999, Jan and I lived in a streetcar village on the south side of Minneapolis. The streetcars were long gone, but their presence was still felt. The neighborhood was originally built on a grid to make it easy for residents to access the streetcar network.  It also made it easy to walk or bike.

There was a surviving transit hub on the corner of 34th Avenue and 50th Street…the end of the old line. It included a library, grocery store, post office and banks. There was a bowling alley. There was another commercial node at 28th Avenue and 50th Street.  That was the home of Eric Grube’s Nokomis Cup before his landlord got squirrelly and he had to move across the lake.  We loved the Nokomis Cup.

To this day, I remain fascinated by how  this neighborhood endured the demise of the streetcars that it was built for. It actually looks better now than ever before.  I don’t think this is an accident or coincidence.  In fact, I think that the people who originally developed it had durability and timelessness in mind.  This sort of thing doesn’t just happen.  It is planned for and built in.  When juxtaposed against the disposable “communities” our society accepts today, there is simply no comparison.

Our house in the 4900 block of Nokomis Avenue was built in 1918. I was able to find a 1920 streetcar map for the area and can paint  a metaphorical picture of what life  must have been like.  It was less than a block to the 50th Street streetcar line that connected the village to downtown Minneapolis. Check the map out.  Nobody in south Minneapolis lived more than 4 or 5 blocks from a streetcar in 1920.   I suspect that very few residents had cars.  They likely couldn’t afford them and they simply weren’t necessary.  You could get where you needed to go without one.

The red lines are streetcars, the red star our house. The river to the right is the Mississippi. You could ride to downtown St. Paul as well.

South Minneapolis, 1920.  The red lines are streetcars, the red star our house. The river to the right is the Mississippi. Not much of a walk to a streetcar, no matter where you lived.

The Minneapolis streetcar system wasn’t unique. Every major city and a lot of smaller ones had something similar back then. There was nothing fancy about them. There weren’t even stations…just stops that were similar to a modern day bus stop.  The money wasn’t spent on “the experience.”  It was instead used to lay rails and the system connected everyone, not just a few privileged people who could afford to live in  “transit villages.”  These streetcar systems were, in most cases,  “for profit” enterprises so it naturally made sense to expand the market to include the broadest possible base of potential riders.

The tracks in these old systems ran right down the middle of the street and if you wanted to board you walked out into the road to do so.  They weren’t grade separated. People in cars had the good sense to get out of their way.  They also respected the riders who had to cross active traffic lanes to board and dismount.  I got to see this for myself in Toronto a few years ago when we rode on North America’s only surviving streetcar system. It still worked amazingly well.

Toronto has replaced most of these 40 year old streetcars now, but they were still in service when we visited in 2014.

Toronto has replaced most of these 40 year old streetcars now, but they were still in service (and very comfortable)  when we visited in 2014.

Jefferson Avenue, Ogden.  The old streetcar tracks were brought back when this area became a historic district.  They're strictly for show, though.  There's no streetcar here.

Jefferson Avenue, Ogden. The old streetcar tracks were uncovered when this area became a historic district. They’re strictly for show, though. There’s no streetcar here.

So what’s wrong with this approach to moving people? Why is it that modern systems have to be so over-engineered and over built? Why don’t we focus on building transit systems that aid mobility instead of asking them to help us rebuild our decaying cities?

Beats me. Maybe we should. What we’re doing is not working if we define “working” as getting people out of their cars and giving them other options. It’s not fixing our cities, either.  Portland, a city that was once one of America’s most affordable, is now gentrified and expensive.  It is held out as an example of transit success, but it has nowhere near as much transit as it did 100 years ago.

Portland rail, 1904. Much more than today.

Portland rail, 1904. Much better coverage than today.

Portland today. Less coverage, more money...a lot more money.

Portland today. Less coverage, more money…a lot more money.

The same is true of Minneapolis.  Light rail there is spawning the type of upper end development that is forcing long time residents out.  That’s great for the tax rolls, but not so great for long time residents.  It is dividing people, not bringing them together.  Is this what we want?  Is this sustainable?  I don’t think so.

I think we’re going about this all wrong.  I think we’re building cities and transit that, in most cases, is doomed to fail.  Transit should be about mobility.  It should be easy and affordable and it should make fundamental sense so that it doesn’t have to be explained and people don’t have to be educated about the benefits of using it.  That’s breathtakingly arrogant.

I’m convinced that all the benefits modern transit evangelicals gush over would come to our cities without any effort whatsoever if we simply made transit about mobility instead of all the other stuff.  Maybe we don’t have the resources necessary to put in a line every 4-6 blocks like we did back in the day.  Maybe we don’t have to.  There are two opportunities here, at least as I see it. Both involve bikes.

The first opportunity is in our older, grid-bound cities. Streetcar tracks still exist in many of these places.  They’ve just been paved over. Maybe we should un-pave them and place them back in service. I know it’s not that simple, but you get the general idea.  It’s all about providing real, honest-to-goodness transportation choice as cheaply as possible.

Many of our older cities have blight and abandonment.  Populations have actually declined, which means there is an overcapacity of roads.  Some could be converted to transit boulevards with streetcars and space for pedestrians and cyclists but not cars.  Nobody would notice.  Most of these roads are empty anyway.  Maybe that would cause people to move come back to these neighborhoods. It wouldn’t have to cost much at all.  The impact could be transformational.

This street northeast of downtown Indianapolis could have been in a ghost town when I road past.  There are literally thousands of these streets in every city in America, both large and small.

This street northeast of downtown Indianapolis could have been in a ghost town when I rode past. There are literally thousands of these streets in every city in America, both large and small.

For those who live further out in cul-de-sac land, the old lines can be extended or new lines can be built. Because density is lower in suburbia, it might not be possible to walk to the streetcar but here bikes can really shine. Most people can easily bike four or five miles, so as you move further away from the traditional grid you can space the coverage out. Each suburb might have one station with centralized bike parking much like the village of Lund, Sweden that I wrote about recently.

Trails to rails.  Bicycle and pedestrian resource can and should feed rail transit.

Trails to rails. Bicycle and pedestrian resource can and should feed rail transit.

The streetcar of the future may be smaller than the ones of the past.  In fact, they may look more like autonomous cars than what we think of now.  They may not even need rails, depending on how quickly that technology develops.  But I like the idea of rails.  I like the idea of walking four blocks or biking four miles to grab a ride.  It’s much more cost effective and as a result can be placed in service much more quickly.  It also solves a whole host of personal health problems our society seems unwilling to deal with.

I’m tired of reading about these pie-in-the-sky elaborate transit solutions that only serve developers and politicians. I’m weary of myopic short term solutions when we have the ability to do great things.  Access to mobility is too important.  It should be available to all, not just a select few.  It doesn’t have to cost a fortune.   Let’s go back to the future and build a functional transit system that relies on bicycles to feed it. Let’s make it available to everyone across the socioeconomic spectrum.  We’re making this too difficult. The real solution is easy. We discovered it 100 years ago. It still works. If you don’t believe me, head on up to Toronto and see for yourself.

You Don’t Have to Die to Go To Heaven

“No hace falta morir para llegar a La Gloria” is an old Mexican saying that translates, roughly, to you don’t have to die to go to heaven.  I didn’t know this until I stumbled onto a mural in San Antonio about ten years ago.  It was clever marketing for a restaurant in an upscale brewery redevelopment.  It shows a group of women sitting at a table in a manner very reminiscent of Jesus and His disciples at The Last Supper.  They must be angels as they have wings.  It’s colorful and slightly irreverent yet respectful in a way that is uniquely San Antonio.

¡Es verdad!

You don’t have to die to go to heaven.

If you look a little closer, you’ll see that the table is flanked by two street scenes.  The one to the left is San Antonio. I recognize the Riverwalk and the iconic river barges that are a symbol of Texas’ second largest city.   The one to the right is México DF, or what we call Mexico City.   I know it’s DF because I see El Ángel de la Independencia, Catedral Metropolitana and Torre Latinoamericana.

San Antonio

San Antonio

México DF

México DF

I also see bicycles…both in SA and DF.  In fact, bikes are the common thread tying these two cities and cultures together, at least in the eyes of this artist.  This is awesome.

I thought about this as I rode today.  I thought about how cars separate us from one another.  They enclose us in thousands of pounds of armor and insulate us from our neighbors.  They make us feel secure, but that’s just a lie.  Thirty thousand people a year die in motor vehicle accidents in the United States alone.  There’s nothing secure about a car.

Back to the mural…  It seems as though just about everyone laments the fact that different people and different cultures just can’t seem to get along these days.  We distrust each other and argue about whose lives matter the most.  I can’t help but think it’s a natural outcome of walling ourselves off and hiding behind all that heavy metal.

But if you take away the protective armor, something magical happens.  People connect.  Different people with different stories and different lives.   People who could not be more different.  It is the most natural thing in the world.   I’ve seen it on my bike.  I’ll cross paths with someone who may not even speak the same language I do, but we’ll smile or nod or wave and for a brief instant none of that other stuff matters.   We know who we are and it is all good.  I can’t explain it and so I’m not even going to try.  It is simply enough to know that this is how it’s supposed to be.  This is heaven…or something like it.

And all it took to get here was a bicycle.

 

 

Legacy Parkway Redux

I’ve written about the Legacy Parkway Trail before, but I had a chance to ride it again today and I love it even more now than I did then.  It’s a fun ride and the connections to nearby businesses and neighborhoods are among the best that I’ve ever seen anywhere.  I wanted to share my observations as well as some pictures.

The Legacy Parkway Trail runs 12 miles from Farmington to the north end of Salt Lake City where it connects with the Jordan River Parkway to take cyclists into the heart of Utah's largest city.

The Legacy Parkway Trail runs 12 miles from Farmington to the north end of Salt Lake City.

The Legacy Parkway Trail was part of a compromise to get the adjacent Legacy Parkway highway project built.   In this part of the world, if you want to put in a new highway you have to make accommodations for pedestrians and cyclists.  It’s just the way things are and it’s a very good thing.  You’ll see trails along  other highways all over the Wasatch Front and along Colorado’s Front Range as well.

The Legacy Parkway is built for speed.  It parallels a 4 lane divided highway its entire length.

The trail itself is built for speed. It parallels a 4 lane divided highway its entire length.

Neighborhood connections are signed and easy to follow.

Neighborhood connections are signed and easy to follow.

There are zero road crossings along the entire length of the trail making it safe and easy to get to the big city.

There are zero road crossings along the entire length of the trail making it safe and easy to get to the big city.

There are commercial and even rail connections.  The Farmington FrontRunner station is to the right and easily accessible from the trail.

There are commercial and even rail connections. The Farmington FrontRunner station is to the right and easily accessible from the trail.

Zoom, zoom.  I love this.

Zoom, zoom. I love this.

If you don’t look at this trail closely you might think it’s just a recreational trail, but it’s not.  It’s all about active transportation.  Nobody wants to ride along a highway in a state like Utah.  There are incredible cycling resources within a stone’s throw of the Legacy Parkway, and if you’re out for a joyride they might be your first choice.    If you want to get from Farmington to Salt Lake City, though, the Legacy Parkway Trail is a viable alternative.

This project was well thought out.  There are no road crossings over its twelve-plus mile length from Burke Road in the north to Interstate 215 in the south.  You can traverse the whole route without crossing a single street.  That means that you can make good time without worrying about what the adjacent motorists are doing.  The trail is well signed, fast and smooth.  I was able to easily maintain a 20 mph pace while riding it today.  Some of the people who passed me were going faster still.

Where the Legacy Parkway Trail really shines though is in how it connects neighborhoods to destinations.  There are numerous spur trails that make it possible for local residents to ride to nearby shops, entertainment venues and even corporate headquarters.  There’s no good excuse not to cycle if you live in this area.  You can get just about everywhere using this trail as your transportation backbone.

The Legacy Parkway Trail is the backbone, but additional trails connect neighborhoods and make this an awesome transportation resource.

The Legacy Parkway Trail is the backbone, but additional trails connect neighborhoods and make this an awesome transportation resource.

To the north, you can easily connect to the Denver and Rio Grande Western Rail Trail and ride all the way to Roy.  Hopefully there will someday be an extension into Ogden. For now, you can take surface streets over these last three miles. To the south, the Legacy Parkway Trail seamlessly connects to the Jordan River Parkway and that takes  you into the heart of Salt Lake City and beyond, almost all the way to Provo.

The more I ride the Legacy Parkway Trail, the more I find to like about it.  It’s a state of the art solution that allows a large cross section of the northern Wasatch Front to leave their cars parked and bike to wherever it is they’re going…safely and conveniently.

Illinois Lawmakers: Bicycles Belong on the Road

You may find this story slightly boring, but it’s important so I hope you’ll take a minute or two to read it.  I would have missed it were it not for Google Alerts.  It was published in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, a newspaper I’ve never read before today.  It relates to recent passage of Illinois HB 5912, a law that reinforces and clarifies the right of cyclists to use the state’s roads and highways.

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HB 5912 was advanced in response to the tragic death of Illinois cyclist Dennis Jurs who was killed in a 2015 collision with a motor vehicle in Kane County.  The  motorist in that incident was ticketed at the scene, but charges were eventually dropped due to conflicting case law.  HB 5912 clarifies that case law and provides the courts with clear direction going forward.  The bill easily passed with only one nay vote and has been signed by the governor. It takes effect on January 1, 2017.

Like most states, Illinois law already treats bicycles as vehicles so it seems like this should be easy.  Unfortunately, too many motorists still have the mindset that their right to use the roads trumps the rights of more vulnerable road users.  This way of thinking extends into the courts and manifests itself in how motorists who run down cyclists are charged and prosecuted.

HB 5912 should aid Illinois courts in terms of administering justice when a cyclist is hit but more importantly, it reinforces the legal position that bicycles are vehicles…something the motoring public doesn’t always seem to understand.  We don’t belong on the sidewalk.  We don’t even have to use the side path or the bike lane if one is present.  In Illinois, at least, we have the same right to use the road as anyone else.  It couldn’t be more clear thanks to HB 5912.

Three Small Examples of How Society Discourages Bicycling

I picked up a copy of  Elly Blue’s fabulous book  “Bikenomics” at Denver’s Tattered Cover Bookstore this past weekend.  When I was last in Denver, the Tattered Cover was down in Cherry Creek.  Now it’s located along slightly more bike-friendly East Colfax, not far from where Jan and I got married way back when.  I like the new location.

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Bikes at Denver’s Tattered Cover.  People ride here.

Enough about that…I’m getting off the subject.  One thing I really enjoyed about Bikenomics is how Ms. Blue encourages those of us who love cycling to think outside the box when advocating or evangelizing.   It got me to thinking about some of the ways society unintentionally makes it more difficult to cycle versus drive a car.   I wanted to share some of these with you today.

Bike Lanes

I’ve heard motorists refer to bike lanes as an entitlement, a form of special treatment for cyclists.  This is because they don’t have to use them.  If they did, they’d discover that most are narrow and filled with debris.  Sometimes people park in them….something they wouldn’t dream of doing in the fast lane on the freeway.  They’re often unsafe and expose us to risks like dooring.

An otherwise good bike lane ruined.

This bike lane isn’t necessary but it’s here and somebody has used it as a parking lot.

The door zone.  Most motorists don't look before opening their doors.

The door zone. Most motorists don’t look before opening their doors.  The safest place to ride here is in the main lane.

It's easier to ride here without a bike lane.  I can move over to the left to avoid dooring without motorists thinking I'm taking their lane.  The speed limit is an added bonus.

No bike lane, no problem.  I can move over to the left to avoid dooring without motorists thinking I’m taking their lane. The speed limit is an added bonus even though it is routinely ignored.

All things considered, perhaps motorists should get the special treatment.  They can have their very own lane and we cyclists can use what’s left over.

indibikes_carlane

Dismount Zones

This past weekend while riding in Pueblo Colorado, I ran into a dismount zone.   Nothing discourages cycling quite like a dismount zone.   These are areas where we cyclists are expected to dismount and walk our bikes, for our own good, of course.

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Dismount zones are the result of a mindset that says bicycling is just recreation or play, and as such it’s no big deal if you have to get off and walk for a little while.  All well and good until you’re trying to get to work or the grocery store.  Then they become unreasonable.

Confusing Accommodations

Most motorists have no idea what a sharrow is or what it means.  This is in part due to the fact that the people responsible for putting them down provide virtually no explanation as to what they are or how they’re supposed to work.  But it’s more than that.   NATCO standards for sharrows are routinely ignored by the very people responsible for putting them in the right place.

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This is a chevron, not a sharrow. NATCO standards don’t address chevrons.

Do we get the whole lane or just that itty-bitty little piece in the middle?

Do we get the whole lane or just that itty-bitty little piece in the middle?

All of this frustrates motorist and cyclist alike and that frustration creates needless challenges that must be overcome.  There are standards for a reason.  Perhaps the professionals should simply follow them instead of improvising.

Takeaways

When you’re out on the road every day you see a lot of things that make you go “Hmmmm.”  Over time, you begin to get a clearer picture of what’s going on.  In many ways, society still doesn’t take us seriously.  The primary reason for this is that there simply aren’t enough of us…not yet.  This is what really needs to change.  The more people cycle, the more difficult it will be for society to marginalize us.

That’s the whole idea here.  So please share your ideas via email or comments.   Cycling is a solution that deserves to be an integral part of every community’s transportation infrastructure.  It’s time to stop allowing ourselves to be pushed aside.

 

Steel is Real: Observations from Pueblo Colorado

One of the biggest challenges is for vehicular cyclists to know exactly where to stop at an intersection in order to trigger a traffic signal when no cars are around.  Most places use metal induction loops buried in the road to trigger signals.  When a car stops at the intersection, the loop detects the metal and that causes the signal to change.

It’s not so easy on a bike.  The loops themselves are not always easily visible and although they’re supposed to be adjusted to detect the lighter weight of bicycles, they aren’t always.   It becomes a guessing game for a cyclist.  Is the loop set right?  Should I sit and wait for a car to show up or do I go over to the sidewalk and press the pedestrian button?

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This particular road graphic leaves no doubt where I should stop.

It couldn't be more obvious, even without signage.

It couldn’t be more obvious, even without signage.

That’s why I was so impressed to see this elegant solution while cycling through Pueblo Colorado this past weekend.  It was just a simple graphic painted on the street but it did the job.  I’d never seen this before, but I immediately understood what to do.  It’s even in the center of the lane where it belongs!

Speaking of Pueblo, cycling here was a neat experience.  This former steelmaking center is reinventing itself as a bicycle friendly city.  When we lived here in the early 2000s, the city’s trail system was crumbling and mostly unusable.  It has all been replaced with wide concrete paths that are smooth and pleasant.  There are over 30 miles of trails in total connecting all corners of the city.

Pueblo's trail system spans the city from end to end and offers off-road connectivity.

Pueblo’s trail system spans the city from end to end and offers off-road connectivity.

The Arkansas River trail looking northwest from the Union Avenue bridge.

The Arkansas River trail looking northwest from the Union Avenue bridge.

The 5th Street cycletrack uses parked cars as protection from traffic.

The 5th Street cycletrack uses parked cars as protection from traffic.

Cyclists get their own signals.

Cyclists get their own signals.

Murals, East Side.

Murals, East Side.

Pueblo's trail system was built to allow cyclists access without road crossings.

Pueblo’s trail system was built to allow cyclists access without road crossings.

Mature doe crossing Fountain Creek. This was a pleasant surprise.

Mature doe crossing Fountain Creek. This was a pleasant surprise.

CSU campus.

CSU campus.

This bride over the Arkansas west of downtown was particularly picturesque.

This bridge over the Arkansas west of downtown was particularly picturesque.

The climb to Lake Pueblo. Great efforts should yield rewards, right?

The climb to Lake Pueblo. Great efforts should yield rewards, right?

I think this one was well worth the effort!

I think this one was well worth the effort!

There are also protected bike lanes on 5th Street downtown and buffered bike lanes along Elizabeth Street into downtown from the north side of town.  Share the Road signs are everywhere.  It feels like a bicycle city.  More importantly, it rides like a bicycle city.

Most of the city’s major destinations and shopping areas including the Union Avenue Historic District and Riverwalk as well as the Colorado State University campus are connected by bicycle infrastructure.  The Arkansas River Trail from downtown to Lake Pueblo State Park west of town is among the finest urban trails I’ve ridden on anywhere.

How's this for connectivity? I was able to ride all over town.

How’s this for connectivity? I was able to ride all over town.

Most importantly (and somewhat surprisingly) motorists were very aware and respectful towards cyclists on city streets.  Even though Pueblo is a very friendly town, it always struck me as the sort of place that might be somewhat hostile towards cycling.  Not so.  It was delightful cruising around town on both Saturday and Sunday.  I put in approximately 50 miles and had no challenges from motorists whatsoever.

Not surprisingly, this has all led to a resurgence in cycling here.  While out and about, I saw numerous cyclists both on trails and city streets.  Some were joyriding while others were using their bikes to get around.   I’d invariably get a wave and a “good morning”…something that doesn’t seem to happen everywhere I ride.  I like that.

Pueblo isn’t on the radar yet in terms of bicycle friendly places, but from what I saw it should be.  It was as easy or easier to ride here than many higher ranked places.  It just goes to show that you can’t always rely on official lists to find the best places to ride.

Jan Gehl: The Livable City

Jan Gehl is an architect based out of Copenhagen. He has a US presence with studios in New York and San Francisco. I read about him via the Cycling Embassy of Denmark’s newsletter and found him fascinating.  I wanted to share with you a little of what I’ve learned.

The livable city, Pittsburgh

America 2016.  The livable city, Pittsburgh.  Mixed use leads to street level vibrancy.  All are welcome here.  All are naturally drawn here.

From virtually the same spot looking the other way. The Hot Metal Bridge is a link in a bicycle freeway to downtown Pittsburgh.

From virtually the same spot looking the other way.   During WWII, 15% of America’s steel capacity crossed the Hot Metal Bridge.  Today it is a link in a bicycle freeway to downtown Pittsburgh.

US Steel Homestead Works.  By Stupich, Martin Related names:  Worthington [pump manufacturer] [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

US Steel Homestead Works. Before the area above was a community, it was a steel making center.  By Stupich, Martin

Mr. Gehl’s mission is to make cities more livable. I think this is important since global population continues to grow. All of the best real estate on the planet is already developed, so whether we like it or not we’re all going to live in closer proximity to one another tomorrow than we do today.

Mr. Gehl is a true believer in the power of bicycles and pedestrians to transform place. In order for this to work, there should be a certain degree of density and here is where Gehl argues most passionately.  Density doesn’t have to be a pile of ugly gulag-built boxes stacked one atop another.  That was the model for US public housing in the 1960s and it was an abject failure.   Density can and should be beautiful.  It can even include single family homes.

Cabrini Green, Chicago. Density for the sake of density was an abject failure here.

Cabrini Green, Chicago. Density for the sake of density was an abject failure here.

Hemmed in by rivers and hills, Pittsburgh has no choice but to develop densely.

Hemmed in by rivers and hills, Pittsburgh has no choice but to develop densely.

Even older neighborhoods have endured in PGH.

Even older neighborhoods have endured against all odds in PGH.

Large highways that ring urban downtowns act as barriers to development. They take a lot of land, lowering the bike and walkability of surrounding neighborhoods.

Large highways that ring urban downtowns act as barriers to continuity in urban spaces. They take a lot of land, lowering the bike and walkability of surrounding neighborhoods.  When we build highways like this, we’re asking the city to subsidize suburban lifestyles.  Increasingly, cities are pushing back.

One reason that Gehl’s perspective is so interesting is that he challenges the standard American mindset that Europeans have always walked or bicycled and just naturally prefer these things because, well, they’re different than we are. It’s simply not true. Most of Europe has had the same car challenges as we have. The difference is that they recognized the sustainability problem sooner than we did, and so they have a head start in terms of doing something about it.

Mr. Gehl talks a lot about sustainability. He mentions the strong preference that many Danes (and by proxy other Europeans) have for a house with a fenced yard, two cars and a dog for the children to play with. In other words, he suggests that the American Dream is really a universal dream and is steeped in the relative room to roam and peace and quiet that suburbia promises. The challenge is that this model is not sustainable.  Mr. Gehl says:

“Suburbs are built on the principle of cheap petrol. If there is less petrol, or not so cheap petrol, the suburbs have a problem. Currently oil has fallen in prize (price), but it the prize (price) will increase again. I am sure of it because it’s a limited resource, and there is a hefty demand on it”.

I’ve heard the same argument from many other people and I have come to realize that it is valid. Without cheap oil suburbia would not exist. It’s that simple. So what happens to the suburbs when cheap oil goes away (as I believe it will) is food for thought.

Mr. Gehl believes that cities compete with suburbs for residents and that you can reframe the choice if you build in a way that creates opportunities for pockets of space and for peace in the heart of a densely settled space.  If you can offer these amenities, then people will invariably choose the more densely developed space because of the other advantages it offers…advantages like the ability to move around easily on foot or a bicycle.

I’ve seen this for myself in many places across the United States.  When Jan and I were in Pittsburgh in April, for example, we rented bikes and rode all the way downtown from our trailside hotel in Homestead.  What was once a dirty US Steel Mill is now a vibrant mixed use, transit and trail connected community.   It didn’t just happen.  It was planned and brought to life in a way that was elegant and natural. I have no doubt that it is better than what was there before.

Those of us who bike sometimes lament the lack of progress we see in integrating cycling more fully into American culture but it is happening by fits and starts. We need to take comfort in the knowledge that it is no easier in Denmark or Holland or anywhere else than it is here, but it is happening all the same.

We proponents of active transportation have to stay the course. We will have the inevitable setbacks along the way, but we can be confident in the knowledge that history is on our side and we will prevail in the end. There are powerful, brilliant people working to help achieve what we want.  Sometimes they’re visible but more often they’re not.  Jan Gehl is one of these people. He knows what he’s talking about and I’m glad he’s on our side.