In some large U.S. metropolitan areas like New York City, public transit is the norm and bike-riding is on the rise thanks to proactive efforts by city agencies. But in most of the country, public and alternative transportation options either don't exist, or, if they do, there is often a stigma attached to using them.
With goals of relieving traffic congestion, making our citizens healthier, and preventing ecological disaster, how can we encourage municipalities and individuals to commit to buses, trains and bikes? What would make you give up your car?
Tom gave the final word
I think most of the solutions have already been expressed by the previous commenters. But just to reiterate that I think it will take a careful balance of incentives and disincentives. Places like Copenhagen didn’t just become cycling meccas — in the 1970s the city was on an American-style path toward autodom. It was made gradually more difficult to drive a car, and gradually more easy to ride a bike. And what happened? You’ve got a nearly 40% daily cycling commuting rate. As I write, the Brooklyn borough president is making the charge that cycling advocates want the city to become like Amsterdam, that we want to ’stigmatize’ the car. It’s not about stigmatizing the car, it’s about restoring the balance of livability and transportation in increasingly crowded 21st century cities where the secret to moving people around is not going to be solo drivers in massive SUVs. I liked the comment made by a writer recently in the magazine Monocle; he didn’t want to see cities turned over to entirely pedestrianized streets, but that the car needed to be made to feel a guest in the city — not the owner. So gradually reducing the space allotted to cars, balancing it with other options; changing the design of the streets to make them feel less like traffic channels than viable public space ‘between the buildings’; accurately charging drivers for their use of public space and the congestion and other externalities instead of our Soviet-style system of controls and subsidies; changing the design (and size) of cars that are found in cities; and of course offering plenty of carrots (good transit, bike parking, et al) on the other side. My city is far more important to me than my car.
Friday, October 22 at 3:55pm