Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Two Interesting Articles in surprising places...

Article 1: Slate, which I haven't read since the end of the election season. (I don't miss my addiction to political online writing much!) Anyway, they published a quite good article by Christopher Beam about vehicularists vs. infrastructurists. Here's a quote:
Vehicularists see the potential transformation of America into a Euro-style bike paradise not just as a far-fetched utopia but as an insult. Dedicated bike paths are an admission that the cyclist deserves pity and should be walled off from the world. Bike paths are separate but unequal—a way for motorists to get bikers out of their way. John Forester, the author and engineer known as the intellectual forebear of vehicular cycling, traces the philosophy back to a set of laws introduced in 1944 that relegated bikes to the far right of the road, prohibited cycling outside of bike lanes, and banned them from the street if bike paths were available. (These laws were part of the Uniform Vehicle Code, a national model on which states base their own traffic laws.) Since the rise of the automobile, vehicularists have seen any attempt to treat bikes differently as a civil rights violation.
Go check it out.

On a related (sort of) topic, I've been thinking about the typical legalese in the Uniform Vehicle Code adopted by most states that talks about "[bicyclists] may ride two abreast if not impeding traffic." Certainly our intuition tells us that bicycles "impede" auto traffic, but I think the truth is a little less obvious. If we think about "impeding" traffic as being the same as "congestion" (reasonable enough, I submit), then at least in theory, widespread bicycle use should produce less congestion (by using up less roadway) and therefore bicycles, while microcosmically acting as an impediment, macrocosmically reduce congestion!

Which is a sort of round-about lead-in to article 2, in the Wall Street Journal, which makes the dubious claim that traffic jams, by providing disincentives for driving, are "good" for the environment. (It's of course a rather transparent plea to avoid congestion taxes, but hey..)

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