Slow Transportation (part 2)

2. Slow Transportation As a Solution

I have said for years that the two most important things we do in our lives are what we eat and how we get around (hence the name of this blog, Getting Around Sacramento). The what we eat ground (soil?) is well covered by Slow Food and all the responsible agriculture movements, and ultimately it is likely more important than how we get around, but this after all is a transportation blog, so Slow Transportation is what I’m writing about.

So, what is Slow Transportation?

It considers, for every trip:

  • is this trip necessary at all?
  • can I combine multiple purposes into one trip?
  • what is the shortest distance I can travel for whatever purpose I have?
  • am I using the most sustainable mode available?
  • what trade-offs are acceptable to me between mode and time?
  • how can I address the issue of transportation and food together? (more about this below)

A Slow Transportation approach would:

  • reduce the number of trips
  • reduce the length of trips
  • shift trips from private motor vehicles to walking, bicycling, transit and trains
  • almost eliminate the use of airplanes, the most impactful and irresponsible mode
  • ensure that all externalities of a particular mode are recognized and either paid for by the user or acknowledged and paid for by society
  • make transparent and equalize the subsidies we provide to different modes

Though I’m not sure that these two items are part of Slow Transportation, I’ll add them:

  • No New Roads: It means what it says, we have all the roads we need, and more, and don’t need to build a single new one. Anywhere. If we stop greenfield development, we are unlikely to need any, in any case.
  • No Net Pavement Increase: We have all the pavement we will ever need, and more. If someone wants to put in more pavement in one place, they can remove pavement in another place, returning that place to some natural state of value.

This graphic, from the Chicago Department of Transportation, which I’ve used a number of times before, captures the Slow Transportation even better than words do, though I’ve often wondered if bicycling and transit should be swapped.


“It is a mistake to think that moving fast is the same as actually going somewhere.” —Steve Goodier

part 1

clarifying my doubts

M62Just before posting “doubting protected bikeways” yesterday, I’d been reading Momentum Magazine, one of my favorites. After posting, I turned the page, and there was a 14 page article entitled “The Rise of the North American Protected Bike Lane” by Angie Schmitt (not yet posted to their website, so you’ll have to read the paper or digital copy). The article is a classic defense of protected bikeways, with the standard criticism of vehicular cycling.

The heart of the article is the “by the numbers” graphic which shows the increase in bicycling in seven different cities that occurred after installation of protected lanes. The increases are impressive. The text talks about Portland research on types of bicyclists, positing that such facilities are necessary to get the “interested and concerned” 60% onto bicycles. Though safety is mentioned several times, it is clear the greatest benefit proposed is an increase in bicycling mode share. I’m not in disagreement with any of this. What I am in disagreement with is the focus on increasing bicycle share as the most important goal of changes we make to our streets.

Bicycling mode share in the U.S. ranges from below 1% in some places to as high as 6% in a few cities. Andy Clarke of The League of American Bicyclists is quoted as saying we could increase this to 10% or even 15% with the use of protected facilities. Sounds great. The problem is that it leaves a whole lot of motor vehicles on the road, making our cities unlivable and threatening the lives of pedestrians.

Continue reading “clarifying my doubts”