Jul 11, 2007

more walkable neighborhoods

if you live in the fairfax/loudoun county area you cannot help but notice folks riding there bikes on major routes such as route 7, route 50 and route 28 and that too at night. There is something fundamentally wrong with that picture, how can you end up with vast spreads of neighborhoods without any consideration for people with out cars? ok so you would imagine then there would be an extensive network of public transport right? wrong. I think these are counties that were probably designed with the oil and automobile industry folks leading the charge, the reason why I say that is because most of these areas are hopelessly not walkable, come on you cannot tell me walkable neighborhoods are a new idea, people have been living in bustling cities all around the world since last hundreds of years, you get down from your apartment and shop for everything you need with in a few blocks, but the problem doesn't end just there, most of these folks that you see on the road are not making any effort to be seen by the driver in the car whizzing by, specially at night pair of dark jeans and jacket are not a 'smart' thing to wear as it makes a bad situation worst, folks living in the Northern Virginia region are not even use to looking out for folks on motor bikes let alone on bicycles, this is one of the unsafe places to be on two wheels for that reason alone, sad part of the story is most of the folks on bikes are not casual bikers, they are riding there bikes to work and many of them are riding them late at night of them are our Hispanic brethren who may not be working jobs that provide health insurance which means if they get hurt they cannot afford the hospital bills.

I think we need the following to happen to make things better:
1- make a 2 foot wide dedicated bicycle lanes on all routes (ALL ROUTES)

2- educate bike commuters to wear bold flashing headgear/clothes, this education needs to come from the church, the employer, the Hispanic TV and radio stations, schools shouldn't be the only place for this kind of education because mostly people I see doing this are not teenagers but grown men, who seem to be recent immigrants

3- start a dialog between employer and employee, so that if the employee's only transport is his bike the employer can put him on a day time shift

4- driver-ed should include a comprehensive section that puts an emphasis on looking out for bikers.

5- enforce a universal health care system at the county level. There are too many rich folks paying too much tax, Universal health care shouldn't be a problem here.

An atmosphere that encourages less cars on the road is
1- good for the environment
2- good for the general health of people and
3- its a good way to tackle the traffic problem,

how many council members does it take to figure that out.

by the way those of you who would like to attend a conference related to environment here are a few happening in/around Washington DC in the near future:

www.eesi.org free day seminars
www.energyconversation.org DOD sponsored, free
www.greendrinks.org - International Group with DC monthly bar meeting
http://www.2020vision.org/ July 12 program in DC full day $100


Greg said...

Well, those are all excellent ideas but Americans are addicted to their cars and with the urban sprawl (what John like to refer as Real Estate Strip Mining), a bicycle is just too slow and the distance is too far for most people. I can relate because when I lived in Leesburg, you really needed a car to get anywhere especially if you had a lot of groceries. The nearest place for milk was about 5 miles away. If I used a bike to climb those hills with two gallons of milk, it would no longer be cold or the bags would break!

Anyway, I tried hard to use my bike a lot when I lived in Leesburg but there's also the weather: you'll want to use the car on rainy days or even if there's a CHANCE of rain.

It took me an hour to get to work sometimes, but after a while the time got shorter as I got more exercise. I was even able to keep up to bicycles when I was on rollerblades! One time I PASSED an older guy riding a bike with my rollerblades. So, it can be done but I think I'm an exception possibly because I'm not American. Maybe that's half the reason I had the guts to even try biking/skating to work: because I grew up with a whole different mindset than people born in the USA. I don't know but I know my boss Russ has a bike that's a lot more comfortable to ride than mine. He could have rode that every day but I only saw him ride it to work once. He lived a lot closer to work, too.

To conclude, I think Bike To Work day needs to be more than once a year. Maybe, Faraz, you can do what San Francisco does: start a thing like Critical Mass where bicyclists clog the streets of the city so much that cars can't move. That makes a strong point about bikes being an alternative form of transportation and it happens every month. I have a T-shirt from the last one that I wear with a message on the back: "One less car".