Micro-mobility = Macro Results

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As the West argues about how to keep burning dinosaurs, some folks in the rest of the world are intent on finding solutions to our mobility problems.

I’ve ranted about the suburbs before. We don’t need to repeat that 🙂

I’ve also ranted about how design of these suburbs presents unique opportunities to think differently every time we lay down a new series of 5-lane urban highways that aren’t safe for anything but the biggest, chunkiest cars.

Even if you go electric, you’re still not thinking in terms of micro-mobility.

How are we getting EVERYONE around?

This article from CityLab lays out the history, problems and questions concerning massive road and car-related infrastructure.

in particular, they identify just FOUR key planning points when it comes to cycling and other non-car commuting:

Rethinking the “bike lane:” The name “bike lane” is yet another reason this infrastructure is seen as a special-interest demand. The conversation has started about renaming these lanes, but as of yet, there is no mutually agreed winner. My suggestion would be “micromobility lanes” to include the very diverse set of current and not-yet-imagined little vehicles.

Protected micromobility-lane network: Today protected bike lanes are usually the most ambitious infrastructure component of the twig-based model; here, it will be the least ambitious component: merely a starting point. A bold bike-micromobility vision likely starts with a complete citywide network of protected lanes, providing safe and equitable access to everyone, everywhere.

Priority or high-bandwidth streets: Priority streets would have bus-only lanes, several lanes for micromobility to accommodate increased riders and varied speeds, and large, broad sidewalks. Cars are the slowest, lowest-bandwidth forms of urban transportation. If we aren’t going to ban them outright, we need to at least start putting cars in their proper places.

Such streets would excite transit agencies fighting for bus-only lanes, as well as ADA-advocacy groups and pedestrian-advocacy groups. If communicated well, they could get find support from homeowners who have seen cut-through traffic skyrocket. Priority streets would also create opportunities for package delivery companies like FedEx and UPS that are seeing faster package deliveries with e-cargo bikes. And local business owners should also be on board, since bike-walk street can often increase sales.

And, finally, micromobility elevated freeways: The arrival of battery-powered micromobility modes like electric bikes and e-scooters has radically transformed the capabilities of the humble bicycle. Now, almost anybody can go for miles fairly quickly without breaking a sweat. Often electric micromobility is faster than cars in cities: One study found that e-scooters could reduce trip times in congested U.K. cities by 70 percent.

Recognizing these technological upgrades, shouldn’t our grand plan be to eventually provide a completely new infrastructure to support it? Once it is built, bikes and other micromobility modes could be lifted both literally and metaphorically and fly above cars on elevated freeways.

The only minor grievance I have with these recommendations is that we shouldn’t make allowance for any mass transit that isn’t pedestrian in nature. Making a whole array and network of bus-only lanes only perpetuates carbon-producing vehicles taking up public space. Transit junkies might beg to differ with my opinion, but until we properly track the EFFICIENCY of bus-related public transit, I’d be OK with backing down on this item.

Just as a reminder, here’s why: buses are great, but no city in North America uses them efficiently. We don’t use available technology and data collection to limit the number of empty buses cruising around our cities EMPTY. This poor planning only compounds congestion and road decay.

I also argue that NATIONAL directives have to be put in place that demand cycling and pedestrian advocates be at the table any time roads or transportation infrastructure are in the PLANNING stage. This way, we could red-flag any ‘traditional’ ideas about construction and lobby for better independent networks for non-car commuters.

What are your ideas behind building a stronger, more effective micro-mobility network? Have you seen best practices that are worth sharing?

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