Sunday, June 2, 2013

IIWK: City Planning

I'm sick of getting rude looks (and gestures and shouts) from motorists ascending a hill while I'm on my bicycle. It's my primary transportation during the summer (except for work, usually, when I have work), except in really rough weather. It gives me exercise, saves money on gas, forces me to actually look at the world (instead of just driving through it).

Yes, I ride on streets, not sidewalks (except on state and local highways, unless I don't have a choice). I really and truly have fewer near-collisions with (together and separately) motorists and pedestrians when I'm on the street instead of on the sidewalk.

But I'm even more sick of putting a lot of effort into my momentum, and for some reason or another, I have to throw it all away. If you're driving a motor-vehicle, all you have to do is push down your foot; even if you're driving a stick-shift (which let's be honest, most people aren't) you still have significantly less effort invested in your velocity.

I have all of my effort invested in my velocity.

Even pedestrians have it easier when it comes to acceleration, deceleration, and recovering from deceleration. Sure, their motion may not be as overall efficient as mine on a bicycle, nor acquire significant speed as easily as I can, but it takes them less short-term effort to change speed.

(In terms of efficiency of movement, I've read that bicycles are at the top of the list. Only a tiny fraction of my downward effort doesn't contribute to my forward motion, because I don't use toe-hooks. That mere fraction--on the order of one percent--goes into keeping my foot on the pedal as it swings upward.)

Which brings me this week's subject: designing cities--not just to be bicycle-friendly--but to give bicycles priority and right-of-way. Sure, I know there are some international (read: non-USA) municipalities that do this already, but I could probably count the local (read: USA) instances on one hand.

The cities in my area (read: northern IL), and I suspect for everywhere else (read: everywhere not exempted by the above paragraph) area designed such that the shortest route between two places is a roadway designed to be exclusive to motor vehicles.

Motor vehicles don't need to be babied. If your car has to go a little bit out of its way to get somewhere, so what? Even at the peak of gas prices, it still only costs you a few pennies (unless you're driving a Hummer, but then it's your own fault). If a bicyclist has to go "a few pennies of gas" out of its way to get somewhere, that could mean the difference of a few hundred calories.

Motorists can (whiningly) only claim a minor cramp in their ankle or a sore ass for the added time and distance. Bicyclists can (justifiably) claim significant muscle exhaustion for the same distance (but considerably more time).

Besides: if you design municipalities to be significantly more kind to non-motorized vehicles, more people will be inclined to use non-motorized vehicles. Fewer motor vehicles on the road is beneficial to everyone, including motor vehicles.

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Find the complete line of IIWK posts here.

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