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The Human Transportation System – Is Fundamental Change Coming?

Beyond the Automobile – The Human Transportation System: “…The auto-centric transportation system clearly stipulates the inferior place of people travelling on foot (“pedestrians”), but leaves those riding bicycles in an awkward and ambiguous position – is a person riding a bicycle a vehicle, or a pedestrian? Compared to motor vehicles, cyclists are vulnerable and slow, but are also more nimble and maneuverable. They take up less space while moving and while parked, and are fully powered by human energy. Compared to pedestrians, bicycles are large and fast. While in reality a bicycle is neither a vehicle nor a pedestrian, the binary nature of today’s system classifies a bicycle as a vehicle. In response, those riding bicycles have altered their behaviour to behave as vehicles by riding fast, “taking the lane”, and shaming anyone who is too slow or not skilled enough to ride a bicycle in a similar manner. The result: bicycling in North America has historically been dominated by the fast and furious, which, more often than not, is able-bodied middle-aged men. This “vehicular cyclist” mentality opposes any type of separation of bicycles from automobiles, claiming that it is actually more dangerous to separate the two…This is why we need to rethink the system. Planners and policymakers love to talk about “putting people first” and “inverting the hierarchy”, but actions rarely mirror these stated intentions. Billions are spent on highways, while basic road safety plans are left unfunded. Suburban transit stations are surrounded by parking, and lack safe routes for people on foot. Pedestrian fatalities that are a result of driver error go unpunished…The Dutch literally design communities that push automobiles to the outskirts, while creating a dense network of streets that are permeable for people on foot and on bicycles. Train stations are treated as community centres, and as such are both a connection point and a destination in themselves. Speed limits are low. With just small and intuitive design cues, bicycles and pedestrians are able to mix in crowded environments without so much as a wrinkle…”

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