Friday, September 19, 2008

New World Order

From the Madison (Wisconsin) Capital Times:

Community planners, municipal officials, and business owners tend to get fixated on the notion that "If we build it they will come/behave/do/act…". Meanwhile, many New Urban/anti-sprawl advocates focus on "If we stop it they won't come/behave/do…"

Stated another way, they (and we) often subscribe to a mechanistic view of (those other) human beings as mere automatons responding to environment (in this case infrastructure). But as most of us know intuitively, there can be safety in numbers – i.e. when more people choose a particular activity/behavior, not only does it become more acceptable socially, but it can actually make the activity/behavior safer for participants regardless of infrastructure. This recent study demonstrates it applies to bicycling:

Does this mean infrastructure doesn't matter? Can we afford to forget about bicycle lanes and paths, sidewalks and pedestrian crossings, or the "Elephant in the Drop Off Zone"? Should we stop giving our elected officials and public servants (ahem) extra-real-hard spankings when they forget about "habitat for humanity" and choose instead to make the world as convenient as possible for the resource-gobbling species homo automobilicus?

Absolutely not! What it does mean is that we should encourage our fellow citizens to stop waiting for infrastructure, stop making excuses, and git their dang butts on the saddle. We got a New World Order to make – one we-the-people will CREATE by showing up with two wheels…and two feet.

(This letter was also sent to state and county highway departments as well as a number of Madison-area municipal officials, planners, and environmental leaders.)