Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Morning On The Streets Of America?

If you are looking for evidence that the bicycle as viable transportation vehicle, rather than mere plaything, is a concept that is taking hold then consider the two big stories of the past week: First, Google added bicycle directions to its popular Maps application. Now, in addition to being able to use Google Maps to find the best walking, driving or public transit options to get from point A to point B, users in the U.S. can see routes and paths best suited for bike traffic along with distance and travel time. This is important for those of us traveling via bicycle in the city who enjoy riding along the most bicycle friendly route, not necessarily the fastest route between destinations. I know Chicago's streets pretty well, but I still find myself thinking -- as I'm being buzzed by vehicles on a shoulderless, narrow street I stupidly chose to travel on -- why did I go this way. Now I have a tool to help me bike smarter. Google's effort could be better, and I presume soon will be. The "go by bike" option is not yet available for smart phones with the Google Maps mobile app. It would be nice to be able to plot the right course while actually out riding. Anyway, Google's effort is appreciated and one has to believe the a mobile app will follow soon.

The second big story, is the "sea change" proclaimed by the U.S. Department of Transportation with regard to transportation planning. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announced "the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized." Yesterday, at the National Bike Summit in Washington D.C., he announced, "We are integrating the needs of bicyclists in federally-funded road projects. We are discouraging transportation investments that negatively affect cyclists and pedestrians. And we are encouraging investments that go beyond the minimum requirements and provide facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities." Very nice indeed! Can this really mean that the days of hearing, "Hey asshole, get on the sidewalk!" are soon to end? Perhaps it is morning on the streets of America.

3 comments:

  1. In my dreams, "Complete Streets" becomes the law of the land. Every new roadway, and every road repair project, must accommodate pedestrians and bicycle riders. Maybe these are the first baby steps.

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  2. I don't think the time will come when we won't hear "Hey asshole, get on the sidewalk!" Some motorists will still think the bike lane is for passing on the right.

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