Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Short Rides

The first ride on the new Haul 2 was at walking speed, on a sidewalk, without a helmet, and less than a city block long. I know. There are several party fouls there. Please bear with me, gentle reader. Kelly had pointed out as we were leaving Peak Cycles that the shop around the corner had started carrying some of her wares on consignment. I am very proud of my wife’s skillfully made wares, and I wanted to see this. So it was that I found myself on that first ride, slowly gliding along and keeping pace with the girl’s steps.

During the longer (and helmeted) ride towards Base, I started (again) thinking about how great it was to have access to a true city core, even a small one like we have here in Golden, a town of only 18,000. It is the concentrated collection of businesses, people, and activities in such a core that allow the kind of coincidence we experienced: a bike shop within tens of yards of a gift shop that happened to be selling my wife’s wares. Consider the chances of that happening somewhere deep in the bowels of your nearest soulless hell-hole development like the one below near our old house in Superior.

Where in that picture are the Italian bakeries, the barbershops that give you a shoulder rub after the cut, the nano-breweries? Ain’t none, son. And in those places you ain’t gonna be riding a bike to view wares or sell your wares or go to work or do much of anything of practical value.

Of course I am not the first one to recognize the benefits of population density. It is easy to go on those interwebs and find studies showing how living closer together can enable people to drive less, generate less pollution, and generally lead a higher quality of life. Bicycles can be an important part of that social system as long as the infrastructure – bike specific traffic controls, , “green” corridors for non-motorized traffic (pedestrians, skaters, tricyclists, bicyclists, unicyclists, those weirdos who ride ultimate wheels), adequate bike parking, accommodation on public transit – supports it. And again, I feel grateful. We are living amongst a like minded public here along the Front Range where we the people have voted in the funding to support things like bike racks on buses and much larger projects like FastTracks. Yes, money for this kind of massive project hurts at first, but the long term benefits are increasingly clear. Check out the following excerpt from the NYT article by Kirk Johnson:

"New research about the recession has also bolstered one of transit’s central premises — that highway-driven sprawl is bad for a city’s economic health. Recent studies at the University of Utah, for example, concluded that foreclosure rates in the Washington area were much lower in counties served by the Metro rail system, compared with the next ring of counties farther out, and that home prices in Phoenix had also fallen in direct proportion to the distance from downtown.

'The underlying lesson is that the further out you go, the more vulnerable you are to losing value in your home,' said Arthur C. Nelson, presidential professor of city and metropolitan planning at the university and author of the research. 'Locating near transit and near urban centers is the safer investment.'

If you don't get enough PowerPoint presentations in your day job, here's a link to one of Arthur Nelson's presentations.

At least humans are attempting to quantify the complicated issues associated with typical urban environments. The People are beginning to get it. As H. S. Thompson would say, the pig is in the tunnel. Those who oppose the pig will be crushed like a jelly bean.

1 comment:

  1. Think the sprawl is in any way linked to our collective lost sense of community? I do. Great post with nice insight! Made me think, which makes me smile.