This was originally posted as a comment to the post Video: Four Roads Diets that we shared in late August. We're sharing it here, with the author's concurrence, to highlight the conversation.
Hi, everyone. I've poured a smooth martini to steel myself against the haters, and now I can respond to some of the comments. Thanks as always to Chuck for the fantastic forum.
The most important thing to state is that these designs are for America, because they are what is possible in America. In fact, some American cities have already done better — you know who you are — and these are not for you. But, for most of the cities in which I work, these proposals are considered radical by many, and represent a tremendous advance over the minimal bike facilities currently present. They are what might—just maybe—be politically possible. Were I working in Europe, Portland, or even Washington DC, I would be proposing more ideal solutions.
Also worth adding is that these solutions all suffer slightly for being cheap. Most of the places I work can’t afford better, or so they say. So if you have the luxury of actually building bike lanes rather than striping them, well, you have my envy. But don’t look down your nose at your poorer cousins.
It was my fault for launching these on the world without making these caveats plain. That said, it does wonders for my credibility that folks in Delft and San Francisco are shouting that I am conservative and pro-car, since that is hardly my reputation in any city in which I have worked. So, thank you, Hokan and Opafiets, for making it clear that these solutions are considered shit in Europe, and therefore might not be too crazy for America.
Now for the inevitable act of self defense. For those of you who have somehow misinterpreted Walkable City as anti-bike, lets move from words to actions. In the past seven years I have completed Walkability Plans for a dozen cities. Although they are called Walkability Plans and not Bikeability Plans, every one of them has redesigned the entire downtown street network to dramatically increase the amount of bike infrastructure — often from near-zero to near-comprehensive. There is no use in naming them all, but my plans for Memphis, Albuquerque, West Palm Beach, Lancaster PA, New Albany IN, etc. . . were all considered dramatically pro-bike by those who reviewed them, thanks to the massive increase in bike facilities proposed.
But, because they are not too radical or expensive, many of these plans are being implemented. We are doubling the cycling infrastructure in Cedar Rapids, and did better than than in Oklahoma City. We are introducing buffered bike lanes to many communities that have never seen them before. In other places, we are failing for being too radical. Pilot projects in Boise and Memphis were both tested and rejected (too quickly, I would say) by their municipalities because they actually dared to impact traffic patterns.
While failure teaches restraint, it hasn’t lowered our ambition. We are working on a major project in Tampa in which every single bike lane is buffered, and they are everywhere. That said, our proposals in most places—like the ones in the videos—are designed to be buildable in the face of tight budgets and significant driver “bikelash.” These proposals are not ideal, but they have been shown to dramatically increase the biking population, to save lives, and to begin communities on the path to even better facilities.
As always, the perfect is the enemy of the good, or, in this case, the achievable. Thanks for listening, and I hope, understanding.