Woonerfs–Shared Streets

Firsly, the Grand Rapids Press had a big fat article on the front page on Wednesday about installing sidewalks on 28th Street. Is this not a direct response to my Letter to the Editor?  I’m going to say it is!!! YAY!

Also, I found this great webpage with tons of examples of “traffic calming” strategies, but most of them are actually encouraging towards bikes and pedestrians. From the Federal Highway Administration??! Fascinating!   My favorite new word is woonerf–a shared street found in Europe and Japan. Basically a street where people can walk and bike, and cars can mozy through, too, if need be.

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Freedom of Mobility

Americans always seem to be incredibly afraid of losing their freedoms. Some responses to my anti-car transportation ideas have been “they might start controlling what kind of cars we buy!”

Guess what. They’re already controlling the very fact that we buy cars. It’s not even a choice for most people.

Also, Many are confused by the idea that we’re addicted to oil. They see cars as a necessity, therefore, it’s like saying we’re addicted to air.

Guess what. Cars are a necessity here.

And that’s a crime.

It’s an infringement on freedom to force one mode of transportation on a person. One that causes 40,000 deaths a year, one that costs $6000 a year, one lonely, frustrating, stressful, and unsustainable mode of transportation. It’s either that or walking/biking dangerously close to these dangerous shells. It’s either that or, if you’re lucky, the bus.

We’re addicted to oil, we’re dependent on it, and other countries are making sure we stay dependent on it.

Do you know how cheap it is to install parking lots for bikes?  How expensive it is to build parking lots for cars?  Do you know what amazing good a Bus Rapid Transit line would do for your city? This country is insane. Such potential–youngsters and disabled people and old people could get around on their own.

This is not about being “GREEN,” it’s a real look at our freedoms.  This wasteland is holding us back from rebuilding the economy. Time to rebuild the wasteland.

Bike Vs. Car – It Will Only Get Worse

Incidents like these are not likely to calm down as cities incorporate bike lanes more and more. It reminds me of the transition from horses to cars at the beginning of the 20th century: one road for two extremely different modes of transportation. I now agree with David Lagrand’s efforts here in Grand Rapids to make every cyclist wear a helmet–sharing the road with fast, ignorant, and pissed-off cars is DANGEROUS. 

When I get caught be hind a person on a bike on the city street (with no bike lane), I get very annoyed. I do wish they’d take the sidewalk. They are not going the speed of an automobile, but they are going much faster than a pedestrian, so where are they to go?  I’d still say with the pedestrians–it is safer and easier to pass pedestrians (shouting “on your right!”), especially in a nation where there aren’t that many pedestrians OR bikes on the sidewalks, where sidewalks exist, at least.

It’s simply going to be a difficult transition, no way around it. But bikes are not going anywhere. They’re a cheap, healthy, enjoyable, and sustainable way to get around.

Website for Michigan Complete Streets Program

Introducing the Michigan Complete Streets Program website, which features an effort to give Michigan residents transportation choices: bicycling, walking, transit, and driving.

This is the most exciting project in Michigan right now. Imagine being able to feasibly bike, walk, bus, AND drive anywhere. (Or as far as your legs/lungs can take you!)

Keep updated on this legislation, participate in the polls, spread the word, support this project!  http://www.michigancompletestreets.com/

Grand Rapids Renewal Efforts

In my bubble of Grand Rapids, I was subjected to the “creation, fall, redemption, renewal” equation throughout my Christian education. It didn’t help that my church held the same beliefs. I became wary and tired of having to write all my papers through this perspective, including an especially ridiculous one about water, probably the broadest topic in the entire universe. Except the universe.

The Christian Reformed theology stresses that the world will be renewed before Christ comes back, and it is our job to help the Holy Spirit renew it. I can theologize about this forever, but I really wanted to write about my new internship with Grand Valley Metropolitan Council and what they’re doing to renew parts of our city.

First there’s the “complete streets” program, based on the demand/belief that roads should be ways of travel for cyclists, pedestrians, and automobile drivers. There are bike lanes on parts of Wealthy street in East Grand Rapids, and GVMC is one of many groups trying to make a law for bike lanes on all streets within the city. This is a dream come true for me, and it may seem small because it would only eliminate the walkers and bikers from cars’ way, but for the biker and walker, it is a world of difference. It could mean my being able to bike to the grocery store. Or for those who take the bus, it would mean not having to walk through fields and commercial lots and driveways to stand at the bus stop.

Also, GVMC has gotten Brownfield money (money from the government specifically for assessing and redeveloping contaminated lots) for the Division gateway into the city. Division is getting a rapid bus system by 2012 for commuters as an alternative to US-131, and this means, for developers, that the street will be a more desirable spot for developers. Add that to the brownfield incentives, and you will see renewal on Division.

As soon as new bike trails, buildings, sidewalks, and roads are built, they are simultaneously torn up, worn down, graffiti’d, and generally ruined. I’m not sure any place on earth will ever reach perfection, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from constantly growing, changing, and making mistakes.