Biker says: Hey that’s a whale!
Whale says: Hey those are bikes!
Here’s a crazy idea: What if cities planned out their best areas, the part that really defines the city, for quality of life, rather than velocity of traffic and cars?
The city I am lucky enough to live in has a spectacular ocean front on Monterey Bay, in California. There are tons of whales, seals, otters, and all kinds of other wonderful things right next to us humans. The ocean is what defines the city and is the first thing everyone thinks of when they think of Santa Cruz. It’s like the lake shore to Chicago, the Riverwalk to San Antonio, or the Alexanderplatz to Berlin.
One day out of the year, the city closes a small part of the road along the ocean front to car traffic and on that one day all the walkers, skaters, skate boards, and bikers come out and celebrate their limited victory. It is wonderful, but it also makes me wonder: Why only one day per year?
Yes, lots of naysayers love to say that limiting vehicle speed and access in any way will hurt the economy, local businesses, and residents, (and the whales somehow), among other things. But I see lines of cars stuck in traffic trying to get to the ocean front, and park, and I’d guess that 90% of them are driving less than 2 miles each way. If the roads were safer and more conducive to bike traffic, people could enjoy the trip as well as the destination. Or maybe even the trip and the destination become one?
What about all the benefits of bike travel? They are legion! These benefits include economic ones too. Our neighboring city of Monterey has a wonderful bike trail, built from a rail right-of-way that traverses the whole town. Calling it a bike trail doesn’t do it justice. It is rather a linear park. It brings huge commercial benefits to the city and allows people to slow down and look at the sights, businesses, and stores, as it winds through the city.
I recently read about the history and effects of Bike-Sundays (Ciclovía) in Bogota, Columbia. It is an amazing success story that has been going strong for 40 years and copied many times by other cities around the world. It produces huge benefits in getting kids and families outside and keeping people active. But even that is only one day per week. What about the weekdays?
“One of the few criticisms of Ciclovía is that as a Sunday program it is more about recreation than transportation, and so has not addressed the serious mobility and pollution problems that the capital faces.”
I’m suggesting that if cities actively promote biking for both transportation and recreation, the benefits to everyone involved (and the planet–including the whales) are impossible to ignore. I’ve been double-checking with the whales too. Nine out of ten whales agree: bikes and whales together are better!