I attended a class on Wednesday about designing bicycle and pedestrian facilities (taught by Antonio Rosell of Community Design Group). I enjoyed the class and it reinforced how we need to shift our thinking as transportation professionals – right now we design primarily for cars (look at most agencies' comprehensive transportation plans and you'll see how dominant the automobile is). Antonio had some interesting statistics that point out our opportunity to shift transportation modes –
- Less than 2% of trips less than 1.5 miles long are made on bicycles in the United States (compared to 27% in Denmark, 14% in Germany, and 37% in the Netherlands).
- 40% of the trips in the United States are less than 2 miles long – which should be able to be made comfortably on a bike.
- 20% of the trips in the United States are less than 1 mile long – which should be doable by walking.
These statistics argue the United States should be designing our communities to increase walking and biking. It is good for the environment and it is good for reducing our waistlines (I don't quite understand the idea of driving five miles to the health club to go run on a treadmill for half an hour or driving to the park reserve so we can ride our bikes on the trails).
We have a long way to go. Bike friendly Portland, OR gets about 7% of its commuters to use bicycles and Minneapolis, MN gets about 5%.
Here are two pictures from my bike/pedestrian friendly (supposedly) neighborhood in St. Louis Park, MN. Would we ever design an automobile system with gaps like this?
Success comes when we are comfortable letting our kids bike and walk on
our transportation facilities. I'm not there yet even in my own neighborhood.