Part III: The Bottom Line Vision
In the 16 years since I published my book, (Nerves of Steel: Bike Messengers in the United States) cycling has entered the urban consciousness in every possible way. You don’t really see it so much here, but go to Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Toronto, Portland, Boston and other large cities and there are armies of cyclists everywhere you look. Even Buffalo’s cycling population is growing exponentially. Bikes facilitate huge perception shifts. Where once you’d drive to the corner store, now it makes so much more sense to ride. Where people used to go to the drive-thru on a date, now guys and girls are getting on their bikes and pedaling to Delaware Park for a romantic afternoon.
The next big thing Justin sees on the horizon is converting inner-city highways into green-ways. Already the Robert Moses Parkway is being converted and there is a lot of conversation and energy around converting the Scajacweda Expressway and even the Youngman Expressway (Route 33).
In SF in 1996, they took down a piece of expressway that lead to the Bay Bridge. The run-up ramp that took all downtown traffic bound for the East Bay across the bay would converge on this, the 9th circle of hell. Everyone predicted that traffic would get worse. After the Embarcadero Freeway came down, studies showed that traffic dissipated. Largely because, drivers, knowing the day was coming when they wouldn’t have an expressway anymore, took out their maps and started using surface streets. Instead of jams in the predicted points, traffic improved because people weren’t on auto-pilot.
In L.A., when you cross the 110 leaving downtown, the 110 is a parking lot, whereas nearly the entire six-mile ride to Hollywood on Wilshire is almost entirely empty. “You have to incentivize the behavior you want.” Justin asserts. It’s mind-numbing when Canalside gets completely gridlocked because a rubber duck is just off the waterfront. Anyone who lives downtown knows, there’s plenty of parking. Instead everyone wants to park right at the site instead of taking driving to a park-and-ride and riding the Metro Rail to Canalside.
52% of downtown Buffalo land use is already dedicated to parking, at the rate the economy is growing, most of downtown would have to be parking to accommodate everyone driving in. It defies logic.
It turns out that pedestrian and bicycle friendly neighborhoods are good for small business. Do we really need another Walmart with indentured servitude? Do we need another big box store shipping the profits to their headquarters outside Buffalo? It’s no coincidence that everywhere there is a bike lane, there is an uptick at small businesses. Bikes make it easier to see, stop and shop. In NYC, compared with other parallel avenues (with no protected bike lane), 9th Avenue has experienced a sizable increase in retail sales (page 14) because it has protected bike lanes.
It goes without saying, protected bike lanes also making cycling exponentially more safe. Justin suggests, “Why don’t we prioritize projects to say, reduce single occupancy vehicles. It’s going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve the environment, and improve economic vibrancy.”
Indeed, why not?