Believe it or not there are a few cities in America where the majority of people do not routinely drive cars. They are among the largest or most densely populated cities. The problem people of these cities encounter is not traffic or driving conditions but finding parking spaces or affordable parking. Since real estate is at such a premium and building underground parking so expensive densely populated cities have few parking spaces per capita. Thus cities such as New York and San Francisco have fairly well-developed and utilized transit systems to mobilize their populations.
This is an example of how unsustainable cars are as population grows. As rural communities such as Cupertino become more crowded and densely populated they will one day eventually merge into one high density populated metropolitan area where parking will become scarce. As such communities grow cars will be driven less and alternative transportation become more developed. Transit systems can be developed at great expense but this is an opportunity where far cheaper bicycle infrastructure can be developed along with transit systems thus reducing the need for making such transit systems so extensive and expensive. If bicycle paths can be made safe and convenient fewer transit stop or transit routs would be needed.
If New York had no cars and instead narrower streets designed for bicycle traffic and parking then the city’s subway system could have far fewer stops and shorter trains and people could bicycle for up to 5 miles to destinations. If bicycle paths could consist largely of small tunnel subways branching throughout the city including underground transit stops and the basements of companies and shops it would not be subject to winter weather conditions and could remain well-lit by LED lights all the time. Free tricycle cabs could pick up the elderly and handicap.
If bicycles could be provided and maintained free by the city then one only needs to pick up a bike at a nearby kiosk and bike to the subway transit stop, leave the bike at a kiosk there and take the subway, pick up another bike to their destination. When biking home one can keep the bike until the next day, then repeat the process. Bikes are so cheap that such things are possible. This would totally eliminate bicycle theft or problems of having to lock up and maintain bikes. Free bicycle kiosks would be conveniently located every block or so. Of course one can still own their own fancier or specialized bike.
If a bike has a mechanical problems one only needs to raise a small flag at the back of the bike, leave it where it is to be picked up by the city for repairs and go to a nearby kiosk to pick up another and continue on. If one goes shopping and needs to carry a load they can buy a shopping cart such as a Travoy (I have one) to shop and later tow behind the bike.
Because bicycles and bicycle infrastructures are so cheap, compact, and the epitome of energy efficiency, building and maintaining bicycle subways instead of street level bicycle paths is both doable and economical. This allows housing to be built where most streets and parking lots exist today without creating a financial encumbrance, environmental burden, or real estate demand upon our growing and increasingly crowded communities, something truly sustainable. There is no reason why this couldn’t start today. Driving is an established cultural issue, not an issue of necessity.
Reference: A Reader’s Concern about Bicycle Subway Safety and the Handicap
This is a really interesting article and you make a lot of great points. Two things stick out at me, though. One is that while some underground routes would be great when the weather is terrible, like it often is here in the northeast, they present much greater safety issues if they are not patrolled well – it’s a lot easier to ambush a cyclist if they can only ride in 2 directions. A lot of my female friends felt very strongly about this when the subject came up recently. But also, a lot of people ride because they like to be “where the action is,” out in the sunlight and fresh air, with easy access to shops, etc., and a lot of communities have noticed that increased cycling brings more patronage to local shops & boosts the economy. That’s not to say we can’t bring some of that “action” underground. It’s just another thing to consider.
The other thing that strikes me is that I think you may underestimate how many people live with a disability of some kind. Tricycle carriages might work for some folks, but I don’t think we will ever be able to completely replace public transit, and I’m not sure we should. I think we need more access and more stops, not less. Otherwise we place the burden of those transit limitations on folks with disabilities. These folks are far too often left out of the equation. We have an opportunity to fix some of that in redesigning how we approach transit issues, and I think it’s critical that we do so. Many people with disabilities aren’t really limited by their disability – they’re limited by society’s failure to include them by making accommodations.
Reading this makes me think I should look into what does and doesn’t work for disabled folks in places like NYC & SF.
Thought provoking piece. Thanks for writing it, and I hope you don’t mind my thoughts here. 🙂
Akire, the last thing I want to do is discourage anyone from writing frank criticism of anything I have written. Such feedback is the only way I am going to be able to either refine my thoughts and proposals or to abandon my ideas as simply being impractical. Fortunately for me I have answers for your concerns. As my answers may be a bit lengthy I will write a separate post in reply hopefully by tomorrow. I have actually addressed the aged seniors (I am a senior) and people with disabilities (I am starting to have increasing disabilities) elsewhere but will reiterate and elaborate. I hope you will be able to read both this reply and my very next post addressing your two concerns in the next day or two. Thank you again for your comments and keep them coming. I’m sure you will eventually stump me as there are so many aspects of this topic I have not yet considered.
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Thanks for taking the time to respond! I really didn’t mean to sound critical, and I apologize if I did. I’m really looking forward to reading what you have to say about this and to hearing your ideas. The more ideas, the better! For me personally, I’m struggling with what an ideal world looks like to me (lots of bikes and easy public transport) vs. what would actually be helpful to my own parents, for whom even short walks are very difficult. I was just having another conversation about this with a friend, and she was pointing out that for her parents, who are at a point in their lives where they are very easily confused, even public transport would be more than they could handle. That’s a whole other can of worms, so to speak, but if you have any thoughts on what sorts of goals we should be working towards to accommodate seniors and folks of all/different abilities while moving away from fossil fuels, etc., I’d be very much interested. 😀
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