Monday, April 11, 2011

Never too old for pedal power

The Housing Complex section of the Washington City Paper had an article by Alex Baca about Jan Gehl, a Danish planner and regular bicyclist who's been married for 45 years, and what he sees as the failing of cars and how they interact with people, among other things.  Demographic information gathered from the US Department of Transportation, states that bicyclists 65 and older make up 5 percent of all bike trips so his insight at 75 years old is important.

Jan said that how we treat each other while sharing the road shapes the experience.  He stated that the years of moving from an automotive culture to one that focus on the pedestrian in Denmark eventually created a sense of respect or "sweetness" as he puts it, for all road users.  "The city (Copenhagen) has changed its car-centric streets to multi-modal streets. Pedestrians and bikes have gotten priority. They are just as important—if not more so—than the drivers", he said. 

According to the article, there are a few small changes that could greatly increase the bike and pedestrian friendliness of the District:

  • Make better use of the Union Station parking lot and traffic circle. He thinks the bike garage is fantastic, but finds the rest of the space wasted.
  • Expand Capital Bikeshare.
  • Use signage to visibly encourage walking and biking.
  • Encourage biking in critical masses for safety.
  • Companies should encourage their employees to bike to work.
  • More Dupont Circles (that is, well-defined public spaces where there are places to sit, things to look at, and clearly demarcated paths for pedestrians and bikers), less National Mall (that is, sprawling open spaces with no places to sit, no concessions, no visually engaging elements, and a generally unpleasant atmosphere).

Lots of good ideas that are relatively inexpensive and simply require the exercise of political and citizen will.  Do you have any other suggestions to make biking more accessible?