Friday, 20 May 2011

It isn't enough -the freedom of freeways

Our main reason for a trip to the US was to learn from the road builders. Just as the cycling activists go to Denmark and the Netherlands, we, along with the West of England Partnership, head to America.

Look at this scene: flyovers and flyovers, heading into the distance. San Francisco

Up in the sky, from one freeway, another one above. So much choice, and that word, Freeway. Freedom. The American way.
From above, you can see wide city streets. What can you see from the M32? Eastville.
But it isn't enough. It's never enough. They built the roads, the people came, the economy grew. And the roads filled up.
What can be done to help the US -or UK economy. More roads. It's obvious really.

A roadbuilding program is never finished, never done. Yet in the UK we stick in a couple of flyovers and declare "Mission Accomplished". Only Glasgow recognises that the work is never done; that you need to keep planning motorways; more flyovers over the city; more bridges. We understand them.

We also see what the cycling troublemakers miss: the same thing applies to bicycle routes. Their adoption of "vehicular cycling", to cycle in our roads, means to surrender to our needs. Yes, they can get on our roads, while we sound our horn behind them, if we see them at all. But we drive the cars, going past them at 40 mph with six inches of clearance, saying "look how insane you'd have to be to cycle out there, it's really dangerous." They get out there, they have near-death experiences, they give up, drive, and the economy moves forward. It would only be by adopting a freeway-style program, one of cross-city routes, that they'd ever get anywhere. Yet in the big UK cities, nobody has noticed this. The only big in-city equivalent of a freeway for pedestrians and cyclists is of course the Bristol-Bath Railway Path, a flat, nearly uninterrupted route between the cities of the South West. Which is precisely why we and the WoEP want to put buses on it. Not only does it get buses off our roads, out of our way, it kills their dream: a walking and cycling version of a freeway.

1 comment:

David Hembrow said...

In Groningen as well, in the 1960s and early 1970s, the light was once seen. Huge freeways, giving freedom for all those important enough to own a car, were built, freeways which to this day take drivers over paths for tax-dodgers.

But then the local politics took a terrible turn. "Noise barriers" were erected, meaning that the motorists right to view the city above which he moves was obscured. The city even reversed its policy on development of further urban motorways.

These days, visiting Americans are shocked to the point of confusing their words by what they see.

Don't follow this example. Actually, there's no need to worry about that. Britain is not following the Netherlands. British people know exactly where to look for inspiration.

It's not only in encouraging people to drive no matter how densely packed their cities are and how short their journeys are, but also in achieving world-leadership in incarceration rates, drugs policy, teenage pregnancy and good, old-fashioned war-mongering that the US comes out on top.