Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Space Wars

I don't like to get to down on the City of Ventura too much, because the city does sport some lovely pedestrian amenities like countdown pedestrian signals at major intersections and a very walkable downtown. Still...take a look at the sidewalk-bike-lane combo above.

Now, I concede that by providing sidewalks and striping bike lanes at all, the city clearly acknowledges the fact that bicyclists and pedestrians might (imagine it!) actually want to use the roadway network. This is more than many cities do.

However, lurking there in the background you'll see not two, not three, but four travel lanes for vehicles, and that's only in one direction. In fact, vehicles on this road (Victoria Avenue, in case you were wondering) luxuriate in a full 100 feet of roadway width compared to the 20 feet of sidewalk space that bikes and peds--and landscaping--must share.

Maybe I'm greedy, but it seems to me that the cars might be able to sacrifice a few of those feet for a bike lane and leave the sidewalk for the walkers. Oh, I know the argument: the cars NEED that roadway space to keep traffic flowing freely (nevermind that, despite driving that road at rush hour nearly every day, I have yet to see even the mildest traffic jam).

Ventura claims that its goal is to provide residents with, "more transportation choices by strengthening and balancing bicycle, pedestrian and transit connections in the City and surrounding region." Let's not sugarcoat things: a bike lane on a sidewalk next to an eight-lane road is not balance. It's putting vehicle travel ahead of other modes, and putting it so far ahead that the other modes don't have a chance to catch up. If Ventura--and any other city--wants to acheive balance, it needs to make real changes in the allocation of roadway space. I think Victoria Avenue would be a great place to start.

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