Wednesday, April 15

The complete streets initative

Transportation should focus on all Americans, not just people who drive cars. —Rep. Matsui
Our outdated transportation system fosters reliance on cars... we talk about an epidemic of obesity, and the way we design our communities is partly to blame.

Complete streets can re-invigorate corridors that are currently dominated by cars. We should transform these areas that are really nothing more than highways superimposed on surface streets.

The days of irresponsible transportation investment are over. We cannot afford them any longer. We cannot afford more asthma, more congestion, and more climate change.

I just did a trip along the Allegheny Passage from DC to Pittsburgh and I had to completely avoid the Pittsburgh area because the only East to West roads through downtown were unsafe for bikes. In order to ride through Pittsburgh I would have to have a guide with extensive knowledge over the course of many years of neighborhoods and streets throughout the greater Pittsburgh area.

I call this problem the culdesac problem.

Modern subdivisions are designed intentionally without through streets forcing all traffic out onto these "highways superimposed on surface streets" that Representative Doris Matsui of California speaks of. This design makes whole areas of cities and suburbs completely unnavigable by anything other then cars.

Despite increased awareness in core circles this is become more and more common do lack of planning in modern cities and suburbs which often completely leave out pedestrians and alternative forms of transportation. These Conservative political and raw market forces see putting anything besides a gravel shoulder on a road (sidewalks often ignored too) as a a liberal use of money... yet not doing providing for rich pedestrian and alternative transport is actually strip mining / clear cutting communities of future potentials.

Many is the time I've witnessed suburban areas where you can't even walk from your house a block or two away to the nearest grocery store without getting in a car because there are simply no sidewalks and no cross walks on these seven to nine lane super streets with their 16+ lane intersections separating quarter mile and even half mile culdesac subdivisions.

The thing is the enlightened and educated who are understand these problems are a tiny minority, as always 90% of their work is purely in helping people realize the potentials.

We have literally painted the pedestrian into a corner isolating our youth, anyone who doesn't have access to a car, and discouraging all alternative means of transportation and recreation.

I'm fond of saying of places like Phoenix and Los Vegas that they are truly democratic cityscape affording anyone from any section of town the same opportunities... so long as you own a car.

Is it any wonder why isolation and obesity have become such a high profile part of the modern American condition. Is it any wonder why children grow up without strong sense of identity and community and old people die alone. We're indoctrinating the young before they are even old enough to drive and hence partake in a larger society. And once they escape the nest they don't have that safety net to fall back on.

"Complete streets" legislation sounds like a superb idea to me, but the devil is in the details... I will believe it when I see it passed... AND working.

More info:, With Complete Streets, Matsui says roads will be for everyone

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