In the third paragraph of the recent Denver Post editorial regarding the mix of drivers and other users on city streets, the Post calls “extreme” the statement by David Sachs of Streetsblog Denver that “we have to make driving harder”. This of course depends on your definitions of “extreme” and “harder”.
What David was referencing (I attended the same conference) is that in order to get people out of their cars, we have to stop tailoring the city to their whims. This means using street space more efficiently by giving some of it over to buses and bikes. It means ridding the city of parking minimums so that only the amount of parking needed, based on cost and potential utility, is built. It means instituting parking maximums in certain areas, like the Central Business District (downtown), so that when a new skyscraper is built, the tenants don’t add a thousand cars to the already crowded downtown street grid all trying to get to the new thirteen-story parking garage.
Is this extreme? Using our street grid more efficiently? Encouraging use of our transit system? Building a safe way to get around your neighborhood without a car (e.g. bike lanes)? What is extreme is the Post’s stance that no inconvenience to car drivers can be allowed. Expecting the City to continue to throw limited transportation dollars at the least space-efficient mode of transportation with a pittance given over to modes that cost less and move more people is extreme. Raising housing and other costs by forcing the inclusion of acres of unproductive parking is extreme.
What David asks for is the “balance” that is always referenced by auto-centric city officials. Why is it that when bikers and bus riders ask for space on the streets does “balance” seem to become a synonym of “status quo”? Asking for the bare minimum of painted lanes, as long as it’s not too inconvenient to car drivers, is okay. Asking for the actual safety of separate and protected bike lanes results in a call for “balance”. Right now, all space with the exception of four protected (kind of) bike lanes downtown and two (part-time) bus lanes on Broadway and Lincoln is dedicated to moving cars. All of our streets are designed to move cars at speed into and out of the city, at the expense of the livability and economic prospects of the people who actually live here. That’s not balance, that’s extreme.