Readings on Winter, Snow, Getting Stuck, and the Importance of Options

Readings on Winter, Snow, Getting Stuck, and the Importance of Options

For those of you who are following the three whole posts I’ve written since November and for those who have commented even when things seem dead on this side of things, thank you! I’m still getting back into the swing of things since the move.

Today I’d like to recommend some links that I’ve enjoyed recently for your reading pleasure or dinner party banter preparation.

Readings on Winter, Snow, Getting Stuck, and the Importance of Options

I really enjoyed Erik Weber’s piece yesterday in Greater Greater Washington about the different realities of a crippling snowstorm when you depend on a car to get to the suburbs (you get stuck, sometimes up to 13 hours as happened to many in the DC area) or you live in the city where you have the options of car, bus, train, bike, walking, and in some cases, even skiing to get around.

This excerpt is long but I think important and fits in quite well with topics I have addressed all over this blog: that dependence on cars — or any one type of transportation — is extremely limiting. What we need here in the U.S. and everywhere is the ability and availability for people to choose how they want to get around and be able to do that safely.

Cars give people mobility. But what’s more important is accessibility. Sometimes these are the same: if I live 10 miles from a grocery, and I own a car, I have access to the grocery.

But if my car breaks down, it snows a foot and a half, or I’m suddenly unable to drive for another reason, I no longer have access to that grocery. Because I’ve relied on a single means of mobility, when it is no longer available, both my mobility and accessibility are severely diminished.

Many people often argue that smart growth proponents (like me) are trying to force people of their cars in favor of biking, walking and transit. But, to me, growing smarter really is just providing more legitimate options. I don’t necessarily want to live in a place where you can’t have a car. Nor do I want to force other people to do so.

I do, though, want to live in a place where you don’t need a car, a place where, when driving is no longer an option, we are not imprisoned by our built environment.

Me too. What about you? Has snow made getting around harder? What’s your experience?

On transit

This is a link that I’ve been meaning to draw attention to for awhile.

This is a post from August that was recommended by a reader from a blog called “A Midwest Story.” It’s an analysis of public transportation perception in the U.S. and abroad, there are three posts before this one that address different facets of public transportation.

The American perspective:

The fact that American riders are poorer indicates that in U.S. public transportation services are focused on people that are unable to drive a car – because they cannot afford one or because they are to young or to poor. Now, if we eliminate the riders under 18, and we consider the  the other market segments – the poor and the disabled – in correlation with American culture , the conclusion is striking. In the U.S. public transit is considered by the public as well as their representatives as an alternative for the society’s destitute no different than public assistance services such as welfare and food stamps.

And the German perspective:

Unlike their American counterparts, Germans are more likely to use public transit indifferent of income or car ownership and, to a much larger extent, as a viable alternative for commuters. The way that politicians and their constituents regard public transportation is also different. At the local level, it is an alternative which lowers congestion in urban area and the  pollution damage to historical buildings. At the state and federal level it is a green, sustainable alternative. And for riders it is, beyond being the  only option for the poor and disabled, a comfortable alternative to spending empty hours commuting by car

What do you think?

On Fear

Check out Elly Blue’s post on Grist on fear and bicycles.

Many people don’t bike out of fear — with the most significant terrifying factor, of course, being cars. As many as 60 percent of people in U.S. cities would like to ride a bicycle if it weren’t for traffic-related concerns.

Yet..

Bicycling […] is astoundingly, incontrovertibly good for you. A 2009 review of the scientific literature found that the slight increase in risk from bicycle crashes is more than offset by the vast improvements in overall health and lifespan when you ride a bicycle for transportation. In fact, the health benefits of bicycling are nine times greater than the safety gains from driving instead.

And…

The real thing that’s killing us is that we continue to create places that impose barriers to actually being able to move your body. High-speed streets without sidewalks or crossings. Walkable neighborhoods where there is literally nowhere to go. Gyms accessible primarily by car.

Suggested Reading by Bike Pittsburgh

Some things I’m reading at work:

The Post-Gazette continues blaming pedestrians for the increase in pedestrian fatalities, but is this just more of the same “windshield perspective?”

Is bike-sharing a possibility in Pittsburgh?

Want to see some of the steepest streets in the world? Check out Rick Sebak’s video of the annual Pittsburgh bike race, the Dirty Dozen.

Grist goes over the six reasons free parking is the dumbest thing you’re subsidizing and StreetsBlog shows how European parking policies are leaving the US behind.

Sec. of Transportation Ray LaHood touts how bike infrastructure creates more direct jobs, more indirect jobs, and more induced jobs per dollar than either road upgrades or road resurfacing with national bike advocates

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