A while ago, I read Tom Vanderbilt’s book Traffic. There were lots of interesting looks at the various aspects of how and why traffic looks like it does, but one of the main takeaways for me was often what people think is in their best interest when it comes to transit is counter-intuitively bad for the network and community as a whole.
Vanderbilt didn’t, as far as I remember, talk much about bikes, but I was reminded of that point recently when a friend sent me a New York Times post. According to the city, transit initiatives such as bike lanes and better bus service has increased business in the affected areas. Not all of these initiatives were – or are – popular, as evidenced by the comments on the post. People accused the city of making up the numbers. One commenter said they didn’t believe business was up, because parking spaces were down. Because they believe the lack of parking is a hindrance to business, the numbers that disagree must be wrong.
I’m always a little surprised when I hear arguments that seem to equate better biking facilities with hurting the ability of people to get around in cars or otherwise having an unavoidable negative effect on everyone that isn’t on a bike. In most cases, traffic doesn’t seem to be a zero-sum game – helping one person or type of transit doesn’t mean hurting another.
Which is why it’s been kind of a shock to see opposition, online and off, to finishing the “missing link” of the Burke-Gilman Trail. The other day I saw a commenter somewhere refer to it as something like “that job-killing bike trail in Ballard.” As someone who is trying to become a more regular biker, and who finds it often easier to run short errands to businesses by bike rather than car (no waiting for a parking space) or bus (no waiting for a bus), it seems a no-brainer to link two sections of existing bike path when there seems to be space for it that doesn’t affect the existing roadway. But as best as I can tell, for many people losing parking spaces is a horrible fate. It’s an interesting reminder that not everyone is interested in getting around outside a car.