Perhaps it is Time for a Change

Since its popularity when Henry Ford made the car affordable to most American the nation has rapidly grown and the vast migration to the West was made far easier as traveling long distances became dramatically easier.  Urbanization and owning a home became the American dream with large housing tracks sprang up where empty field and farmlands once existed.  No time did such growth happen more rapidly than after the end of WWII when solders returned to civilian life.

But as the industrial machine and technologies start to flourish many of these individual suburbs started to run into one another and run out of space.  When millions of people converged onto the streets and highways twice a day they became congested and gridlock with car going as walking speeds.  This could go on for several hours twice a day as everyone went to works in the morning and returned home in the evening about the same time.  The South Bay and Cupertino, the headquarters of Apple is a prime example of such a suburb which is turning into a metropolis as it merges into the cities of Sunnyvale, San Jose, Mountain View, and Saratoga.  One can only tell when one is leaving one city and entering another by the signs that are occasionally posted to indicate a boundary.  This situation is becoming more common with time where growth is becoming increasingly more difficult because municipalities are running out of space.

The design of urban developments typically consists of hundreds of acres of low density housing tracts with large centralized shopping centers some miles away from these large developments to provide goods and services.  Such a design was popular because cars could easily travel large distances and there was a lot of very cheap empty space.  Such developments were also easy and inexpensive for developers to build in large scale projects through the 1950s-1960s.  But as this urban sprawl consumed large tracks of real estate and these communities grew in population in the 1970s to the present such as in the San Francisco Bay Area land became more scarce and property values escalated.  As mentioned in the previous paragraphs urban sprawl has turned into high density housing.

As the population increased so did the traffic.  For a time roads could be widened and freeways built and expanded.  But after the 1980s there was no more room for this.  So we are now left with a street and highway infrastructure that can no longer keep pace with the increase in population.  Building are getting higher to accommodate a higher density of population but parking and roads for cars is reaching a critical saturation.  Eventually people are going to find it increasingly more difficult to find a parking space and avoid traffic congestion like exists in most major cities.  To combat these problems large cities throughout time have developed public transit systems to minimize the need for cars.  Perhaps these new metropolises of saturated growth will also have to develop such expensive strategies for dealing with traffic.

But there is an opportunity that is far cheaper than an extensive public transportation system, that is a very expensive but safe bicycle infrastructure that exists in parts of Northern Europe, such as many Scandinavian countries.  This will allow people to commute by bike to major public transportation hubs reducing the need for an extensive and expensive bus system that goes to individual neighborhoods.

So cars are gradually outliving their practical usefulness as communities continue to grow and cars simply create more problems than they serve their purpose.  Perhaps it is time for a change.  This is what this website blog is largely about.

About Frank Geefay

Sustainable Bicycle and Smart Growth Advocate
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