Time spent in the cockpit of our trikes is the best kind of time! All trike pilots know this. Nothing is better than a long stretch of open road out in the country, where nature abounds and our spirits are refreshed as we become lost in our alternative realm of triangular locomotion. We can imagine that these asphalt pathways leading us into the wilds of the planet were constructed just for us, the rare breed of cyclists that truly knows how to have fun.
But of course, such an illusion is quickly shattered once we enter the next town, where two and three ton steel behemoths regurgitate the fossil remains of ancient creatures in our faces as they speed by. We are forced to navigate our low-slung HPVs often on narrow and unkempt shoulders, if we are fortunate enough to even have a shoulder on which to ride. The few visionary municipalities scattered across the countryside that see the need for safe non-petroleum travel alternatives are as rare as trikers, so chances are that your town is not what could be termed pedestrian or bicycle friendly (unless you live in locales like Portland, Oregon or Copenhagen, Denmark).
As our “peak oil” era comes into full swing, and more and more citizens are realizing that we have used more oil than what yet remains in the Earth, forward-thinking cities are seeking new ways for their inhabitants to travel within its borders (as a side note, if we compress the history of the Earth into one year, humans have been here the final two seconds, and it’s only a mere microsecond at the end when all the oil has been burned). City planners are increasingly getting the message that people want to be able to walk and cycle instead of use their car to go a few blocks and run errands, and they want to do this safely, on streets that are designed equally for cars, pedestrians, and cyclists. As we all are painfully aware, most city streets are NOT designed for anything other than expediting fast automobile flow. Pedestrians are an after thought, and bicyclists don’t usually even register on the radar!
Enter the National Complete Streets Coalition, the vision for the future. From the Complete Streets organization website comes this text as a means of introduction:
“Complete streets are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities must be able to safely move along and across a complete street. Creating complete streets means transportation agencies must change their orientation toward building primarily for cars. Instituting a complete streets policy ensures that transportation agencies routinely design and operate the entire right of way to enable safe access for all users. Places with complete streets policies are making sure that their streets and roads work for drivers, transit users, pedestrians, and bicyclists, as well as for older people, children, and people with disabilities.”
If this vision is one shared by you, methods now exist to bring it to reality where you live. The National Complete Streets Coalition organization has gained significant momentum during this era of ever-inflating fuel prices, rampant economic governmental failures, and employment challenges. People are increasingly insisting on fair and safe road use for everyone, not just the the lone drivers of heavy and toxic automobiles. Communities that adopt the Complete Streets vision will be ever sought out by health minded families who strive to keep the air clean and roads safe for children and adults alike. Cyclist friendly communities are slowly on the rise, and wouldn’t it be great to include your city in this visionary trend! Who among us wouldn’t prefer to trike on dedicated lanes throughout our towns without fear of being struck and maimed?
Governments continually tell us to break our oil addiction, and to seek non-polluting modes of transportation, yet these same overseers of the public “good” are continually controlled by the petroleum industry behind the scenes, and provide little incentive for us all to get out there and trike, bike, or hike around town. Built it and we will ride! That is now our battle cry, the new motto for healthy and concerned citizens to take to the heads of local governments. Political parties have nothing to do with it. It’s all about human safety for those who choose alternatives to the ubiquitous, and soon to become extinct, petroleum powered car. Insist that your town’s leaders consider Complete Streets by educating yourself at the website, and assisting however you can, whether it be by joining the coalition and taking a lead role, or simply mentioning it to every pedestrian, cyclist, and friend you know. We can all help to some degree!
Again, from the National Complete Streets Coalition website, where they provide detailed methodology and assistance for implementing change in your own town, comes this inspiring information:
The streets of our cities and towns are an important part of the livability of our communities. They ought to be for everyone, whether young or old, motorist or bicyclist, walker or wheelchair user, bus rider or shopkeeper. But too many of our streets are designed only for speeding cars, or worse, creeping traffic jams.
Now, in communities across the country, a movement is growing to complete the streets. States, cities and towns are asking their planners and engineers to build road networks that are safer, more livable, and welcoming to everyone.
Instituting a complete streets policy ensures that transportation planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind – including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.
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Portland, Oregon is considered by many as the most bicycle friendly city in the United States. The following video provides some uplifting thoughts, and includes a talk by the mayor of the progressive town. Portland already has in place many of the goals outlined by the National Complete Streets Coalition. If your city government needs some incentive, have them spend 8 minutes with this video to learn how the movement for pedestrian and cycling friendly transportation routes brings unexpected positive consequences to the city.
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Here is an interesting article by David Demerjian, as posted on the Wired Autopia Road to the Future website, and it speaks to favorable outcomes of increased cycling in our communities:
Bike Accidents Decline As Ridership Rises
by Dave Demerjian
More bicycles on the road means more chances for drivers yakking on cell phones or gorging on McFood to hit one, right? Wrong.
According to a study by researchers at the University of New South Wales, the number of collisions decreases as the number of bicycles in traffic increases. It sounds like a paradox, they say, but motorists are more likely to drive carefully and respectfully when there are more cyclists on the road.
“It’s a virtuous cycle,” says Dr Julie Hatfield. “The likelihood that an individual cyclist will be struck by a motorist falls with increasing rate of bicycling in a community. And the safer cycling is perceived to be, the more people are prepared to cycle.”
The researchers say studies in several countries have shown the incidence of motorists colliding with cyclists or pedestrians actually declines as more people ride or walk. The reason, they say, is simple — the more cyclists motorists see, the more aware they are of cyclists in general and more safely they drive. Rising cycling rates mean motorists are more likely to be cyclists, and therefore be more conscious of, and sympathetic towards, cyclists.
The findings run counter to conventional thinking, which holds that more cyclists means more chances for collisions. While the numbers do increase in absolute terms, a city that doubles its cycling numbers can expect a one-third drop in the per-cyclist frequency of a crash.
When that news gets out, it could create a long-term cyclist friendly cycle: If people perceive biking to be safe, more of them will do it. More cyclists means better motorist behavior and greater likelihood of communities passing bike friendly laws, further proving H.G. Wells was right when he said cycle tracks will abound in Utopia.