A quote from Angela Hunt which I find to be very fitting with my mood these last few weeks. If you want to get noticed, you do something bold. When I think of bold artists I think of people like David Carson, Kiriakos Iosifidis, Woody Allen, Ishita Gupta, Lynn Hershman – this list could be endless. Hell, I’ll even put up a little Columbus love and throw in Jeni Britton Bauer – local visionary at its finest.
When I think of visionary and bold cities I think of San Francisco. New York City, D.C., Los Angeles and Boston. Why do I think of these cities?? I think of these cities b/c when it comes to their city’s walking and biking infrastructure – they are visionary; they are bold.
In 2006, an injunction was imposed for four years restricting any physical improvements for bicycles in San Francisco. No bike lanes, no sharrows, no bike signage, nada. An ‘environmental review’ was to be done to evaluate potential impacts from the San Francisco Bikeways Plan in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Once the environmental review was finished, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) approved the Bikeways Plan in 2009. In 2010, the injunction was lifted. In a matter of a couple months, 35 bike lanes projects were slated to begin and most of those projects have completed. There’s been an increase in bicycle ridership of over 53%. Their bold goal: Connecting the City is by 2020 seeing 100 miles of crosstown bikeways and having individuals from eight to eighty bicycle safely through their city. I use to live there. I try to get there twice a year and each time I’m there, I’m in awe at their advancement and their vision to make bicycling a priority in their city. It’s beautiful.
New York City – Janette Sadik-Khan. For those who know her, she is NYC’s Transportation Commissioner and is kicking serious ass. In four years, Janette and city leaders striped over 240 miles of bike lanes. Bicycle commuting has increased in NYC about 44%. Janette Sadik-Khan and PPS transformed Time Square and permanently closed Broadway to traffic re-creating the area completely around people. ’Brass is good’ Janette stated in a video interview she gave about a month ago and I couldn’t agree more. You can’t always choose ‘Vanilla’ just because you know its good and it’ll never let you down – sometimes you need to choose ‘Queen City Cayenne,’ to kick your ass and reinforce that you’re alive
D.C. currently has the biggest, baddest and boldest bike share system in the U.S. with over 1,100 bikes and over 100 stations and more are due to be installed this year. New York City will easily beat this by April of 2012 with 10,000 bikes and 600 stations. Along with D.C. currently having the biggest success with their bike share, they have innovative and bold bike infrastructure – a cycle track down Pennsylvania Ave, contr-flow cycle track on 15th st and New Hampshire Ave and more bike lanes all through their city. I was there last March for the Annual D.C. Bicycle Summit and the four days that I was there, I, with ease, used a different mode of transportation, every day (walk, bike, bus and metro). I moved through D.C. with complete ease and NO car.
Los Angeles, I can say confidently is leading the charge and turning heads with their incredible attendance numbers from their ‘Ciclavias.’ The term Ciclovia is a Spanish term which means ‘bike path’ in English. Ciclovia’s are exploding here in the U.S. When a Ciclovia happens, a street is shut down to motor vehicles and is re-humanized for a few hours. You bike, walk, skip, dance, play basketball, yoga, musicians, whatever you want, you can have; you just can’t have cars. Ciclovia’s celebrate streets as public places and you get connected with your community, your surroundings as well as enjoying life in a slowed down pace. LA has done three Ciclavia’s thus far. The last one they did, they shut down over 10 miles of streets and humanized these streets with over 300,000 men, women, and children for four hours. Those numbers are NOT a typo. 10 miles, throughout LA, one of the most congested cities in the United States – that’s BOLD.
These cities are taking chances. They are using bicycle infrastructure that isn’t necessarily ‘approved’ in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). which is a manual that engineers live and die by. If traffic-controlled devices aren’t approved in the MUTCD chances are we won’t implement which brings me back to BOLD and VISIONARY. These other cities that are kicking Columbus’ ass when it comes to bicycle ridership and infrastructure. Why is that? These cities are designing their streets and using infrastructure that may not be ‘approved’ in the MUTCD but these ‘best practices’ have been overwhelmingly successful in Europe hence, one of the main reasons why bicycle commuting is so much higher (some countries have close to 40% bicycle commuting).
2012 is going to be a VERY critical year here in Columbus. I think our city and key decision makers really need to step it up and ‘walk the walk’. If we want to be ‘Bike City USA,’ we need infrastructure. We need to experiment with more bike boxes, buffered bike lanes, colored bike lanes, better signage, bicycle designated signals. We need to re-allocated our roads so that cars don’t drive 45-55mph down our 5-8 lane downtown streets. You design a street that’s inviting and makes people want to ‘stay,’ you get more eyes on the street, you get safer streets and you get a more ‘human’ street. By the way… the Columbus Commons WILL NOT SUCCEED if we do not slow down streets like 3rd and 4th. The Scioto Mile, this summer the city should experiment with closing the street down for one Sunday a month to cars. Create a pedestrian street like many other cities have already been doing. Take chances. Be bold. Stop playing ‘follow the leader’ and actually BE the leader.