Changing Attitudes Toward Driving: It’s About the Law

Today’s featured post on the Streetsblog Network comes from WalkBikeCT.
Looking at the European model for encouraging cycling and walking, it
argues that infrastructure can’t do the job alone — to change
attitudes toward driving will require changing the law:

47955256_171c9a2792.jpgIn Copenhagen, protected by bike lanes and the law. Photo by dc_forever via Flickr.

bottom line is that if we are serious about giving people choices in
transportation, if we want to get more people walking and biking, then
we need for government to do more than just build sidewalks and stripe
bike lanes, as helpful as that may be in some cases.

What we
need is for government at all levels to fulfill one of its most basic
responsibilities — to protect its citizens. Our laws need to be
re-written so that driving is a serious privilege that comes with an
accompanying degree of responsibility. Accidentally killing someone
with a car should be treated the same way as any other accidental
killing would be. Northern Europe seems to understand this, it’s about
time we do too.

Meanwhile, the effort to comprehend and
influence the stimulus package continues, as the legislative action
moves to the Senate this week.

takes a look at the numbers from the House bill, breaking down the
proportion of highway spending to transit spending in all 50 states. CTA Tattler
revisits the powerful testimony of the Chicago Transit Authority
chairwoman, Carole Brown, before the U.S. House Transportation and
Infrastructure Committee late last month. In Florida, Jacksonville Transit laments the lack of vision there for using the stimulus funds for transit. And the Missouri Bicycle Federation
is calling on its members to contact Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill
to lobby for more pedestrian- and bike-friendly projects in the

  • As a friend once lamented to me: “I can’t wait for the day that I can ride my bicycle as carelessly as the average car driver…”

  • You folks always talk about restricting driving as if it meant providing people with “choice,” but it really means the opposite, doesn’t it?

  • CBrinkman

    There was a great quote from an emergency room doctor at SF General in the SF Chron a few year back – “I see few real accidents, what I see are the results of risky behavior.” I think it is a good idea to change the attitude that vehicular death and injury is simply unavoidable. Most of it is very avoidable.

  • This article from The Progressive debunks the greening effects of the efficient car. Bonus: It also explains the Khazoom-Brookes postulate for those who have been wondering.

  • So how much energy would it take to generalize 20 minute neighborhoods, and how much would that cost? In thread drift yesterday, we discussed the “liveability” of San Francisco’s new neighborhoods such as 2d/King. Michael commented that one problem with that neighborhood was that blocks were too big to feel “liveable.” The costs of breaking blocks down to human scale is tremendous in cash terms, and would be wasteful if we were to demolish old structures and replace them with newer buildings. I’d doubt that the energy operations savings in new buildings when compared to older structures would be recouped over the much shorter lifespan of newer construction unless we want to build to last which is regarded as too expensive.

    Our livable neighborhoods arose in the absence of planning, organically, chaotically and anarchistically. Planners overestimate their ability to script the course of events that led to the creation of our liveable hoods. This leaves us holding the bag with these failed experiments like South Beach and King Street.

    The unstated answer to a question I posed, as to whether this livable streets toolkit has been deployed to create a livable neighborhood in San Francisco is no. King Street is the most applicable example of the deployment of the toolkit, wide sidewalks, sidewalk dining, public fixtures and amenities, rich transit service, high density housing–all utterly sterile and inhospitable, a veritable restaurant limbo in the best restauranted city per capita in the world. I doubt that a few mid block crossings would make the difference.

    The problem with the notion of “liveability” is that the things that allegedly bring it do not come cheap, and until we see a politically viable pathway towards the money for robust rapid reliable transit, for insulating the community serving businesses that make a complete neighborhood from the whims of fashionable economic pressures, for making the housing in these neighborhoods affordable, for ensuring that development carries its own freignt on infrastructure and operations, for down-granularizing the street grid to a human scale, the cheapest thing around is all of this talk.