Tuesday, May 04, 2010
An article here goes over the Transportation Secretary's plans to focus more on bicycle and pedestrian routes in order to make that option more attractive to Americans, who he says are "sick of being stuck in their automobiles" and thus would be interested in another option. I'm always partial to the idea of getting more people out of their cars and into other means of transportation, because I live in a place where traffic can be laughably bad. Here's the traffic here in Seoul from the 2nd story of a Starbucks I frequented often in 2007:
Fewer things are more frustrating than being in a car while going at a slower speed than even the pedestrians on the side of the road.
So how far are American commuting every day now? An article here shows the difference between commutes now and almost 20 years ago: in 1983 the average commute was 14 km, and in 2008 it was 19.5 km.
Other issues related to transportation are health and national security: health because more walking and biking = less obesity and greater overall health which means savings in health care, and national security because walking and biking requires no gasoline.
Luckily, on a more local level the issue is much less complex, and policy can be decided on simple practicality and fairness issues alone. Are bicyclists in a city forced into a kind of no-man's land where they aren't really given any leeway on streets and are technically forbidden to be on the sidewalk? Are there a lot of separate green spaces that would make great commuting routes if they were simply joined together with a bridge or pathway?
Seoul has been working on a lot of these simple and common sense changes over the past few years. At intersections like this:
View Larger Map
it is common practice for there to be a set of staircases leading underneath the road for pedestrians, and cars own the intersection as there are no areas for pedestrians to cross above. It's not too bad if you're young and healthy and the shade in the summer is nice, but the elderly don't enjoy having to descend and ascend a flight of steps just to cross the road, and it makes it hard on bicyclists too as a rail separates the road from the walkways and there is often no way to move from one to the other. So in recent years a lot of these intersections have seen lights for pedestrians added to let them cross without having to descend the flight of stairs they otherwise have had to use all this time.