What if you are at McDonald's and you really want to get to Taco Bell? Well, most of us good, decent Americans would simply drive that five hundred feet, but the prudent people of Obetz, Ohio, now have a complete streets option that allows anyone to bike and walk. Check it out!

Photo from Google. Click to explore the site.

Photo from Google. Click to explore the site.

Engineers in Obetz have built a hamster wheel for walkers and cyclists. Complete with two roundabouts, a grade separated access (a couple hundred feet from a signalized access -- nobody saving any time here) and more intersection bling per foot than I've seen anywhere else, this trail-lined stroad allows someone on foot or bike the opportunity to go around and around parking lot hell in a never-ending loop.

Intersection bling designed to keep everyone in their proper place. Image from Google. Click to explore the site.

Intersection bling designed to keep everyone in their proper place. Image from Google. Click to explore the site.

This is the quintessential example of check box engineering, going through the motions with no sense of context.

  • Highway-scaled lanes? Check.
  • Obnoxious turn radii? Check.
  • Adequate parking? Check.
  • Pimped out signalization scheme? Check.
  • Accommodate pedestrians? Check.
  • Accommodate cyclists? Check

You can't even get there without a car so any theoretical person on a bike would have to drive there, unload their bike and then go back and forth between these auto-centric destinations in the complete streets oval. And, if you explore the area, you'll see that these are not preparatory steps for some Strong Towns future. If the goal is to make this part of Obetz a Strong Town, this is not the low hanging fruit (hint: start with filling in those parking lots).

End of line, but what a sweet ride up to this point. Photo from Google Maps.

End of line, but what a sweet ride up to this point. Photo from Google Maps.

You wonder why people who primarily drive often think infrastructure for biking and walking is a frivolous waste of money. It frequently is. The lesson here is that we need to think -- demand that professional use their brains -- and not just apply rote standards out of context, bike-friendly or not.

Special thanks to Christopher Lohr for the tip on this one.

Afterthought: There's another lesson here: We're not going to create places that have the kind of fine-grained attention to detail necessary to make them productive through a centralized program mandating walkable/bikeable design. We might do a small bit of good in some areas, but until we bust up the silo delivery system, this kind of thing will dominate, even if it's not this obvious. Building successful places is a complex undertaking -- there is no cookbook or manual that can accomplish it -- and, therefore, whether we like it or not, it's going to have be done primarily at the block/neighborhood/community level.