Livable cities: thinking big
A recent commenter suggested we think big in regards to cycling infrastructure:
But why not think big? We have a wonderful pedestrian PATH system in Toronto: could we remove a chunk of retail and put in an underground bike highway? Yes, this is literally a pipe dream, I know. I've wondered what's stopping us from raised bicycle infrastructure as well
Though admirably pro-bike, this approach is misguided. It's part of that view that a cyclist is always better off on a trail rather than a street. The problem is that people on bikes need and want to be on major streets as much as drivers do.
I just came back from Calgary where they've installed numerous walkway bridges over the numerous multi-lane highways. This approach assumes that all the ground surface belongs to car traffic and that to deal with pedestrians and cyclists we must install infrastructure above or below ground to accommodate their needs.
This approach makes the actual street unlivable and forces pedestrians to detour far out of their way to find these bridges. It's much easier for a car to detour a kilometre than a pedestrian or cyclist.
We need to take the opposite approach: make our cities more livable, and improve our streets so that the needs of all users are included, what is known as complete streets. What makes many parts of central Toronto popular is that they feel relatively comfortable for pedestrians and cyclists.
If people are interested in this different perspective, I encourage them to sign up for the Complete Streets Forum, April 23, 2010 in Toronto.