Urban Planning

the pros and cons of suburbia

My urban planning experiences are confined to hours engulfed in SimCity (the original, 2000, and 3000 (by SimCity 4 I realized I had an addiction and had to quit)), and staring at maps playing “land developer” in my head to most efficiently carve out swaths of land.  There are, of course, the numerous flagrant fouls committed here in town that I deal with on a daily basis and inspire my own unique solutions, but I don’t think this town is urban enough to get a city planner who knows anything besides “this would be a good spot for a strip mall.”

There’s currently a heated discussion in New York City about the miles and miles of new bike lanes being built, peaking with a daft piece in The New Yorker.  It’s already been torn to shreds by BSNYC, the NY Times, The Washington Post, and The Economist, among others, but it stirred up my urban planning fantasies.  Clearly, the logical thing to do is to build tons of bike lanes and support for other transportation options besides cars.  But people are not so logical, and we cling to the “freedom” offered by our cars.

Now, I’m not living in a densely populated area by any means, and the extent of the public transportation here is a bus that runs to the grocery store, so I can’t claim expertise in “city living”, but I’d like to think I’d ride my bike around a lot more if driving wasn’t so darn easy.  In fact, I can’t wait to ride my bike downtown for all my happy hour needs instead of calling things off after 2 drinks so I can still drive home, but this continuous string of bad weather is really the main culprit, not infrastructure.  The curious thing is that the city was talking about installing a bike lane right here in town when they tear up and fix Central Ave. this summer, and I don’t really see the point.  What good is a mile or two of bike lanes on a single street when, aside from a few main arteries, most of the streets in town are already very quiet?  Maybe it’d kick off a network of new bike lanes around the city, but I can’t really see the need.  Would I use and enjoy it?  Sure.  But I already bike downtown as often as the weather permits, as it takes all of 10 minutes to do.  Why I still get weird looks for doing so, I’ll never know.

Anyway, I haven’t heard any recent plans, but I kind of doubt the bike lanes will get built due to nobody wanting to spend an extra cent on the project, and outrage from the reduced amount of parking the change will create.  People.  Not so logical.  See also: High Speed Rail debate.

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