In the second paragraph of the recent Denver Post editorial regarding the mix of drivers and other users on city streets, the Post makes the tired auto-centric and nominally pro-transit statement, “Fewer drivers means decreased congestion for those who continue to drive.” This is a classic misinterpretation of why transit is necessary, why people ride it, and what makes it work.
Everyone always thinks, “if only all these other people weren’t on the road, I could get to work”, but they never think “if only I weren’t on the road, I could get to work.” Transit doesn’t work best when it works for other people, transit works best when it works for you, which means that there’s a good chance it will also work best for other people as well. When you see people on the train gliding by stopped traffic on I-25, you know that transit is the best option for them. Why isn’t it the best option for you? What could be done to make it the best option? “By getting other people off the road” doesn’t count because that’s not what drives people onto transit. Being the fastest, or easiest, or least expensive option is what gets them on transit and out of your way.
In order for transit to be the fastest, easiest, and least expensive option, we need to invest the same amount of care and money into its function as we have in making streets car-friendly. If buses are fast, frequent, and close by then more people will ride them because they will work better for their needs than a car. If buses are slow, infrequent, and far away then people will continue to ignore them for driving. The point being, if you want people out of your way on the road, provide fast, frequent, and close-by transportation and land use options.
The same can be said for the bicycle network. The Denver Moves plan is currently funded for completion sometime around 2067. This is just a first phase, basic network plan that includes plenty of sharrows, unprotected lanes, and unimproved intersections. No wonder people don’t choose to bicycle, the city hasn’t provided nearly the same level of infrastructure to safely moves bikes as it has cars. Once people feel safe going from A to B on a bike, we’ve tackled step one of getting them out of cars and out of your way.
At this point the naysayers usually pipe up, saying “nay, I cannot bike or ride the bus because everything is super far away and I have kids and it takes too long and weather and mountains and a thousand other things.” Well, you never know what you might do if given the chance to live where buses are convenient and bikes are safe and useful. Plenty of people do it now and love it.