Yesterday's regular Morning Poll in ARLnow asked are you "Pro-Car or Pro-Ped/Bike?"and it generated lots of thoughtful reader comments. The poll was sparked by a post (Let's Make Our Cities More Livable for People, Not Cars; June 27, 2011) here Monday about a Sunday New York Times article about how Europeans were reversing policies that favored drivers over pedestrians and as a result were successfully making their cities even more livable and thriving places (Europe Stifles Drivers in Favor of Alternatives, Elisabeth Rosenthal, June 26, 2011, New York Times). A few themes emerged from the ARLnow discussion that are worth exploring further. The first couple of which I'll address today.
Last I looked, 63% of the poll's nearly 900 respondents voted Pro Bike and Pedestrian vs. 37% for Pro Car. That's good, but lots of people said the dichotomy was artificial because we need to accommodate all modes. I agree 100%. As several commenter's put it. "Can't we all just get along?"
Since we don't have the room to build more roads, as Arlington grows (projections show 40,000 more residents and 60,000 more workers by 2030) we'll need to accommodate more people within the existing infrastructure. In order to do that we'll need to make it easy for more people to chose walking, transit, biking and shared rides. How do we do that? One way, as Arlington's Master Transportation Plan calls for, is by providing "complete streets" that are "safe and comfortable for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders and motorists." In other words, our streets in Arlington are for everyone.
There were also a lot of safety concerns voiced in the comments too. As our streets are made friendlier and safer to accommodate additional transit riders, pedestrians and bicyclists we all need to obey traffic rules and signs; be considerate of other users; and to stay alert. Here's some safety tips for walkers, tips for sharing the roads in Arlington, and some bicycle safety tips from Walk Arlington and Bike Arlington. Also visit BeStreetSmart.net for more safety info.
Research shows that Arlington's a great place to live, work and play in good part because we have a transportation system that provides options and that makes it easy to get around (in any mode). It's Arlington's competitive advantage versus other places. By better accommodating increasing numbers of transit users, walkers and bicyclists, in addition to cars, we'll ensure our economic prosperity and quality of life. It isn't an either or choice. We're all in this together.
I hope we'll continue the good discussion...
Chris Hamilton is the Commuter ServicesTransportation Bureau Chief for Arlington County in the Department of Environmental Services, manager of CommuterPageBlog and a biking/Metro commuter from the LeDroit Park neighborhood in Washington, D.C.