We are more than our trip generation: urbanism and the dignity of the human person

It is easy to begin to think of other people as burdens. Our society that so values individual freedoms does not like to be tied down. You hear it when people talk of children, or the elderly or disabled. 

Why would you want to have another child? Don’t you want to be free to pursue your career? Why would you want to take in an aging relative? Why would you want a child with special needs? Don’t you want to be able to do what you want?

Freedom is more than the ability to choose to do what we like. Freedom is the ability to choose the good.

Freedom is not about not having anybody to tie us down, but about loving fully. The most important thing we are called to do is love.

We are all connected. We all have parents. We all have (or had) friends and mentors. All people have dignity imparted to them at the moment of creation by the creator who loves them. This dignity does not depend on what someone can do for society, it is inherent in being human.

Our actions impact our society and the land where we live. None of us have the ability to do what we wish. We are all constrained. Yet we all can seek freedom. We can all choose the good.

Which brings me to the new burdens on society: newcomers and their trip generation.

As car-dependent regions grow, new people bring their cars, and traffic gets heavier. Parking gets scarcer. Eventually the residents cry “enough!” and start to oppose any new development. This is understandable, if unacceptable. More cars interfere with free-flowing driving and abundant parking, and if that is what one expects, then of course keeping people out is the obvious answer.

We’ve said before that in driving, those outside one’s car cease to be people. This is the end result: people aren’t people, but car trips.

Seeing people solely as car trips does not respect their inherent dignity as people. Housing is a basic human need and right, and it is better for everybody if that housing does not involve a lengthy driving trip from the hinterlands. It is better for the individual, as lengthy commutes have health impacts. It is better for the family, so that children can have more time with their parents and less time sitting in the car. It is better for the community, as less driving means less congestion. It is better for the planet, as less driving means less carbon output.

These trip generators are people: people with families, hobbies, interests, needs. Thy are not burdens to be eliminated.

Driving is the most inefficient means of transport we have, and as development gets denser, we run out of space for cars. The problem is not that there are too many people, but that there are too many cars.

How can we expect people to get around without a car, if the walkable neighborhoods have only single-family detached housing? Only a lucky few who happen to be very well employed or bought in early will get to live in the walkable neighborhood, and the rest will be driving in from the hinterlands.

We cannot call ourselves an inclusive community if we do not welcome all of those who want to live there. How can we welcome refugees, if there is no affordable housing?

Welcome new neighbors. Welcome density. We are more than our trip generation.

Advertisements

Michelle’s 2017 Errandonnee part 1

My errands, last week, in all their great detail.

Day 1, Monday 3/20: we walked to the hardware store, drug store, and grocery store

Day 3, Tuesday 3/21: 9 miles. I rode my bike to ride my horse (personal care), then at lunchtime rode down to City Hall for a Greenways meeting (work). City hall has been under renovation for the past year or so, and the bike rack at the main entrance has been unavailable. This day it was there, but unattached, so I went to the rack in the back of the building (which turned out to be closer to my meeting anyway), which is located in the small gap between roofs. My cargo bike is long enough that the back end stays dry.


note the wet spot around the bike

In the evening, I rode to the neighborhood pub to meet some friends for a birthday celebration (social call), where my bike attracted lots of interest, even without kids.

Day 3, Wednesday 3/22: 3 miles. We walked to the grocery store and to pick up our CSA box.


somebody only falls asleep if we’re out with the stroller in the late afternoon

In the evening I biked with my daughter to the church for our American Heritage Girls meeting (social call). It’s nice to be able to do that ride in the daylight now.

Day 4, Thursday 3/23: 15 miles. We rode to the church, where I teach a preschool catechism class on Thursday mornings (work), first stopping to drop off an empty CSA box and a bag of smoke detectors (you carried what?).

The older two stay in the nursery, and the younger two are in the class. In the afternoon I took my older two to their catechism class (work), then rode down to the library with the younger two (non-store errand).

On the way home we stopped at the hardware store for electric fencing supplies (you carried what?).

In the evening I had a meeting in downtown Kirkland (work) at 6:30pm, a nice heavy-traffic time of day. I rode with traffic straight down to the water, which I am getting more comfortable doing. Even the cars go slowly on downtown Kirkland streets because there’s so much traffic. The last intersection before the water I waited at the light behind a few cars, but when it turned green, both the left-turning cars and the right-turning car were blocked by people walking, so I scooted between them to go straight. It’s nice to have a small vehicle.


waited long enough at the light in question to take pictures of it


only bike parked at the rack

Day 6, Saturday 3/25: 5 miles. When we got to the afternoon everybody was out-of-sorts, so for a change of pace, I took the older two to ride my horse (wild card). We rode my not-so-favorite 60th St, and did not have any issues. I’ve been riding the electric cargo bike there more often, and I think people driving get less mad when the bike is going 19mph than when it’s going 10mph.

Then it was home just long enough to finish dinner and take it to some friends with a new baby (social call).

Day 7, Sunday 3/26: 3 miles. Was a trip to Mass with two boys (personal care). It was raining, and with all the rain we’ve gotten in the last few months, I discovered that my rain pants had failed. They worked with wool and fleece underneath, but that’s not what I was wearing on this day. Somehow it occurred to me that in previous winters I’d had a baby seat in front that kept rain off of my lap and knees, so I put the baby seat back up and managed to get to Mass dry enough. Win.

That’s the first week! More later.

2017 Errundonnee Day 1 and I have no furniture

It’s here!  The annual what-can-I-stuff-in-my-backpack-or-on-a-stroller adventure.  Alas, I have no broken furniture this year.  And no pressure to come up with something good because that would violate rule #9.

I mean, err,

something good would be fun, not stressful.  So for one of these 12 days, I need a plan, but you don’t get to read about it this time because today is not that day.  And it’s not competitive because if you put two chairs on a stroller it will be awesome and I totally won’t try to do three.

Anyways, here we go.

Day 1 (March 21), Trip #1: Track, groceries, commute: 9.6 miles

The running schedule, which I’m not a slave to – must… run… workout – put me on the track today for 400s.  This is a bit of a problem for an Errundonnee because it forces a destination and then leaves my legs toasted.  How does an errundonneur get to the track?  On foot of course (personal care?).

I was very pleased to learn that these legs still have some good 400s in them.

Anyways, the track isn’t far from a grocery store, so that was stop #2 (store) with photo evidence:

That put me on 85th, which is our nearby should-be-an-awesome-commercial-area-but-instead-is-a-highway.  I don’t run there very often because it and especially the crossings are fairly miserable:

I learned that one of the restaurants on the street (the Pegasus and then renamed Omega for anyone local) shut down, and the space has now been occupied by a pawn shop and a liquor store.  I don’t think the street is doing very well.

I also learned that sometimes nothing happens when I press the button to take a picture, so you are spared a picture of a pawn shop.

From there I saw that the nearby bus was a 20 minute wait, ran towards another line, realized I had no chance, ran towards a third line that I could make, missed that too, ran towards that second line again, and waited a bit for the next one.  So my commute was halfway (see exhibit A: toasted legs).

Day 1 (March 21), Trip #2: Commute: 2.7 miles (12.3 total)

Nothing much to see here.  I ran home, but I can make some stuff up.

I took a picture of a truck parked on a sidewalk, but there was car parked on a sidewalk in the way:

I learned that it’s actually possible for me to get home without having to stop because of cars.  This is no small feat.  First there’s an intersection of two 5-lane roads, and for each cycle there’s a 3 second or so green pedestrian signal.  Well, hitting that would be too much to ask, but the countdown timer is long.  Then there are side streets and another not-quite-as-large intersection.  Nobody had hit the beg button there, but the light was green.  I’ll take it.  Then I have a half mile to find a break in traffic on an arterial-residential street for a mid-block crossing.  That’s pretty easy (waiting for the crosswalk at the end probably means waiting to avoid getting run over in the crosswalk).  By this point I’d realized that I hadn’t stopped, so I was thinking about the two remaining crossings.  The first has a nearly instantaneous beg button (it’s mid-block), but waiting for the light to finish going through the yellow still counts as a stop.  But then someone had hit it on the other side with perfect timing (rare but occasionally happens).  Last is another mid-block crosswalk with no signal.  This one is tough because no one stops, but I hit a break in traffic.  As did a driver turning out of a nearby driveway which was not pleasant.  That’s easily the first time it all worked like that.

Ok, more seriously, as I was carrying those three boxes of granola home, I was thinking about past Errundonnees and trying new things.  It dawned on me how normal all of this transportation running has become.  For me, that is – I’m still the crazy guy that actually runs places.  I’ll still try to find something new, and while I might get lucky and figure out something ridiculous and new to haul, it will probably be something that I’d be tempted to try even without the Errundonnee now.  Like last month with the stroller to take one of the 3 year olds to a swimming lesson, then a brief workout down the Cross Kirkland Corridor trail, and then picking up a light fixture and other odds and ends at a hardware store.  No big deal.

Reasons to ride that are not compelling

1. It’s fun! Yes, it is fun, and indeed we bike for the joy of it. You know what’s not fun? Getting yelled at to get off the street by a person driving a car (especially if that person is a police officer). A near-miss at an intersection and the “so sorry I almost killed you” wave. Calmly talking your seven-year-old through her quarter-mile of arterial bike lane between sections of quiet neighborhood streets.
2. It saves money! Yes, it does. But a bike is a consolation prize. As soon as finances improve, people will buy a car if driving is more convenient.
3. Climate change! Yes, we should all bike instead of drive so that we can save the planet. But virtue is hard, so we talk about electric vehicles and self-driving cars instead and continue to build huge houses out in the hinterlands.
4. It’s exercise! Yes, it’s more exercise than driving a car, that’s for sure. But while biking is active, if your goal is to get to your destination without sweating, it’s not much of a workout. Also, virtue is hard, and if you are tired, the last thing you want is more exercise.

While these may not be compelling reasons to bike for an individual, they are highly compelling on a population basis.
1. Biking makes people happy and connects them to their communities. Cars make people grumpy and lonely. It doesn’t take much exercise to improve mental health, and building exercise into our lifestyle is the best way to make sure it happens. Outside of a car people become people again, not just obstacles. There’s a whole lot more life that can happen at 10mph rather than 30mph. People on bikes can stop to talk, or stop at shops, or stop at the neighborhood Poem Post. Bikes build community, cars tear it apart.
2. Biking costs less than driving. This important both for households and for infrastructure-builders. Owning and operating a car costs on average $9000 per year. You can afford a whole lot more apartment with an extra $9000 per year. Then there’s the cost of the required parking for housing. On the streets, bike infrastructure costs peanuts compared the billions we spend on freeways because bikes are smaller than cars.
3. Biking has minimal impact on the climate. If we are to do something about climate change, having biking as only 1% of trips is not enough. We need the entire population to take up biking for transportation. Changing to LED light bulbs and electric cars is not going to do it.
4. Biking improves health. A large portion of the US population is overweight or obese because we don’t get enough exercise, because who actually wants to go to the gym? In order to get enough exercise, exercise needs to be a hobby or have another purpose, like biking to the store. The impacts of the obesity epidemic are far-reaching: the US is one of only a few countries with an increasing maternal mortality rate, largely due to poor maternal health.
5. Biking is significantly safer than driving. Cars killed 40,000 people per year in the US last year.

Biking in our region takes skill, bravery, and a whole lot of motivation. People like things that are easy, and driving is easier than biking. Driving takes less skill, bravery, and energy than biking. If we want people to drive instead of bike we need to make it easy and comfortable.

1. Biking must be safe. It should not take skill and bravery to ride a bike, any more than it does to drive a car or walk. We need all of the small streets to be quiet enough for families, and separated infrastructure on busy streets and intersections so that people feel comfortable riding them.
2. Biking must be possible. We need housing for families that is biking distance (or better yet, walking distance) to what they need: work, school, shopping, church, activities. My house should not be a house, it should be an apartment building or a row of townhouses so that more families can bike to where they need to go.
3. Biking must be convenient. It must be MORE convenient than driving, or people will choose to drive. Bike parking should be plentiful, right next to the doors, and in our climate, covered. Take over car parking spaces if necessary. The direct route should be given to people walking and biking, not cars and trucks. Going around the block is no big deal in a car, but a circuitous route can turn a biking-distance trip into a not-biking-distance trip.

Do you know what will happen if we do all of this? Driving will become more pleasant too! Granted, you might have to drive a little out of the way, and you might have to pay for parking, but if biking and walking are the most convenient way to get somewhere, people will actually choose to do it. This will free up space on the streets for those who must drive, or for freight or buses, all of which are currently stuck in traffic behind a line of mostly-empty metal boxes.

(find the citations for most claims in this post)

 

An outing on two bikes

Our older kids ride their own bikes in our neighborhood, but longer outings on their own bikes are usually saved for the weekend when there are two parents around. Our 8yo had an opportunity to ride her own bike for a recent outing.

First up: the swimming pool. 3.2 miles, 150 feet up, 250 feet down

One of the little boys had a makeup swimming lesson. I’ve always toted 8yo on my bike to the pool, because she usually needs to swim when she’s there. This time she was game to ride her own bike.

The route was mostly the Proposed Rose Hill greenway, which is quiet and pleasant. Then we climbed up to the 100th St bike/pedestrian/emergency vehicle bridge over I-405. The switchbacks to the bridge are difficult with a cargo bike or trailer (or both) but no problem for this girl on her little bike. She waited for me at the top, then chugged up the steep hill to the pool. So far so good.


switchback ramp is a real pain with a cargo bike

Next: downtown Kirkland. 1.9 miles, 320 ft down

First we had to get to the Cross Kirkland Corridor. There’s a super super steep downhill to meet the trail at 12th, or a less steep but busier downhill to meet the trail at 7th. I chose the less steep, because I don’t like riding down that steep hill. And we didn’t meet a single car, so it was definitely the right choice today. From the trail we had to get into Kirkland. Once we got to Kirkland Way, we rode side-by-side in the car lane because I don’t like the door zone bike lane. Then a short stretch of sidewalk to the bike shop where we dropped off the bikes and walked for the rest of our errands.

She also tried out this sweet little Giant city bike. She hasn’t completely outgrown her current bike, but she’s getting there, and this was a nice fit. I’m not sure I want to jump on it yet – she’s just gotten to where she can ride all of our hills, and this bike is heavier because it’s bigger. We’ll see.

Finally: home. 3.1 miles, 450 feet up, 50 feet down

The ride home is a serious climb. Part of it is known as the Kirkland Kicker on Strava. She did the climb from the CKC to home a few weeks ago, but this was the first time she rode the whole way from downtown Kirkland. The climb is mostly straight up Kirkland Ave, and at the end of that there’s a corkscrew ramp to climb to the 80th St bike/pedestrian bridge. After crossing I-405, most of the climbing is done, which is good because she was D-O-N-E.

8.2 miles. 600 feet up and down. I’m excited that she’s able to ride more and more on her own.

Drive Like Your Family Lives Here

You’ve probably seen campaigns like it.  New York City ran one aimed at cab drivers and city workers.  Their video is heart-wrenching.  Or another one: Slow Down – My Mommy/Daddy Works Here.

Tragedies occur daily on our streets.  And collectively we try to ignore them.  They’re just numbers.  If we think about them too much, we find our way of life attacked, so we avoid doing so.  These campaigns force us to think about them.  They (re-)humanize the tragedies.

What if you were about the drive a route and you absolutely knew that you would be crossing paths with your family?  What would you do?  Would it be different than if you knew you would be crossing paths with someone outside of your family?

I recently had this “opportunity”.  Michelle and the kids were coming back from the store, and I was heading out.  I didn’t know if they were on foot or bike, but they were coming.  It wasn’t just a “maybe”; we had exchanged texts before I left and they had left the store.  Maybe this is more common for those with different travel patterns, but the certainty of it struck me.  And so I was confronted with the questions:  What would I do?   Would it be different from normal?

The biggest thing was that I was confronted by the power of the motor vehicle.  We talk about it, but here it was.  If I made one stupid mistake…  Such power just shouldn’t be wielded haphazardly, yet how often it is.  I’d be lying if I said this situation had absolutely no effect on my driving, but I was happy to find that the effect was pretty small.  The route has a curve that puts the left A-pillar in a terrible spot.  That freaked me out, but I usually peak around it constantly.  I went slowly, maybe a MPH or two slower than usual, but not a huge amount.

It was a good educational experience.  I darn well should continue looking around that curve.  I can slow down more than usual.  Even when I’m in a hurry.  And on other streets too.  And I can continue to minimize the trips that I take by car.  It’s worth it.

The toddlers waved from the bike.  My family was behind me, but others were ahead.

What if we protested cars like we protest everything else?

Car hearing January 30

A group called Citizens for a Livable Waterfront (CLW) has formed to oppose a vehicle operation proposed at Carillon Point in Kirkland, and has hired a noise consultant to testify at a public hearing to be held on January 30 at Kirkland City Hall.

The group is concerned about the noise disturbance to homes, parks, and businesses along the driving path. Although a noise study has not been conducted, the City of Kirkland’s Planning Department recently issued an environmental “determination of non-significance,” which CLW has appealed. At the public hearing in January, the hearing examiner will consider both the appeal and the permit application. CLW is asking that the permit applicant, Carillon Properties, be required to conduct a noise study.

Carillon Properties is requesting that Seattle-based Diamond Parking Services be allowed to offer car storage year-round from 9 am to dusk. The initial request is for one lane to access the storage location: a batch of arrivals in the morning, a batch of departures in the evening, and some passes along the lakefront during the day. The parking operation would require a Shoreline Conditional Use Permit.

Shoreline regulations are intended to protect human health as well as the natural environment. Local governments define conditional uses that are not preferred or allowed outright but may be permitted when specified conditions are met. The State Department of Ecology has the final say.

A CLW member says, “The waterfront is what makes Kirkland special. People come here to enjoy the parks, trails, restaurants, and waterfront activities. Car noise is intrusive. Once we allow a car operation, we can never go back. We are asking that the city put the brakes on and allow time for a thorough noise review and community conversation.”

The group points out that there are already parking operations in nearby Kenmore, and in Seattle. They are also concerned that if a permit is issued, the number of trips could increase over time. The President of the Bellevue Downtown Association says that is exactly what has happened there, and adds, “Once the cars are in, they are almost impossible to get out.”

Before it was shut down in late 2016, the cars were operating without a permit. The city received over 100 letters opposing the car operation, many from residents stating that the noise made it impossible to have conversations inside their homes even with the windows closed.

Numerous studies indicate the harmful effects of noise in our daily lives. Former U.S. Surgeon General William H. Stewart said in 1978, “Calling noise a nuisance is like calling smog an inconvenience. Noise must be considered a hazard to the health of people everywhere.”

One study in the Southern Medical Journal stated: “The potential health effects of noise pollution are numerous, pervasive, persistent, and medically and socially significant. The aim of enlightened governmental controls should be to protect citizens from the adverse effects of [noise] pollution.” Kirkland Councilmember Toby Nixon believes that “A fundamental purpose of government is to protect people’s right to be able to peacefully enjoy the use of their own property.”

Noise is not the only concern. The owner of Perfect Roll, which rents bicycles and skateboards at Houghton Beach Park, just north of Carillon Point, is concerned about safety, and losing business due to the cars. “I had a couple of close calls personally,” he said, “and I’m good at maneuvering. If customers are afraid to go on the roads, it affects my bottom line. One mom said, ‘Would you let your kids play on a road? Shouldn’t everyone get off of the road when the cars are driving?’”

In a letter to the City of Kirkland, Eastside Audubon Society stated that the organization is opposed to the parking operation because of the danger to protected wildlife. “The cars would be too disruptive to birds resting and feeding along the shore, especially over the winter months. This area of Lake Washington is a major wintering ground for many species such as dark-eyed juncos.”

[based on https://kirklandviews.com/opinion/seaplane-hearing-january-30/]