As a bicycle/transportation planner, I have to deal occasionally with Joe or Jane Citizen who are, how should I put it, less than enlightened. They get hot and bothered about one of the following:
1) Taking away on-street parking (in front of their house) to put in a bike lane
2) Putting in a trail (paved bike/walking path) by their house, i.e. on the other side of their backyard fence.
3) Oppose carpool lanes because they don’t believe in spending their taxes on a facility they can’t use
As a staffer of a public agency, I have to put on my most diplomatic front and allow them to rant. I can’t really contradict them because everyone is allowed to have their opinion, and some of them won’t be receptive to my reasoning anyway. But philosophically, I am frustrated with their selfishness and short-sightedness. Let me rant in my private space, about the issues I had deal with just today.
1) Homeowners do not own the parking space on the street, by the curb in front of their house, although almost all of them feel very possessive and proprietary about it. Last I checked, that street right-of-way was public property, maintained by public tax dollars. Someone living three blocks away has as much ‘right’ to that parking space as the owner of the house in front of it. So prohibiting on-street parking to allow a bike lane to go in is not really taking away any legal rights of the homeowner. Especially in places like Santa Clara County, where most of the homes have two-car garages, and a big fat driveway. Hello, your pool table does not belong in the garage, your cars do. And if you have more cars than you have space for parking them on your own property, don’t you think you might have too many cars? Park the overflow cars on the block around the corner. And just deal with having to walk 3 minutes to it; you probably need the exercise anyway.
2) So many trails have been built. With each, the cycle has to be reinvented. Property owners adjacent to a proposed trail vehemently oppose the trail. They fear the trail will attract noisy teenage hoodlums, who will break into their homes in a drug-induced rampage and spray paint graffitti on Junior playing in the backyard. The trail gets built, and is such a pleasant amenity, with so many friendly and law-abiding joggers and bicyclists that the property-owner decides to become one of them . . . by installing a door in the backyard fence that opens to the trail. NIMBYism overthrown.
3) Carpool lanes: Reality check for the opponents: It doesn’t cost you any additional money to use the carpool lanes, on top of your taxes for their construction. Anyone can use the carpool lanes, you just need to get another passenger in the car with you. (The exception being HOT lanes). Yes, it does take a little effort and may cause some inconvenience (god forbid!) in having to coordinate with other people. But if each car on the freeway carried at least 2 passengers, there would be a lot less congestion on the freeway. Then we wouldn’t need to spend so more tax payer dollars on building more freeway capacity for all those 4 passenger-capacity cars that only carry one person.
Then there’s the fuel efficiency issue. We’re used to the concept of cars’ MPG rating. But rarely do we go one step further and measure the efficiency in person-miles per gallon. One person in a 20 MPG car is getting 20 person-miles per gallon. But two people riding in that same car would get 40 person-miles per gallon. With 4 people riding that car, it would be 80 person-miles per gallon. (Heck, that might even be better than public bus’ passenger-mile per gallon efficiency.) If two people decided to drive separately, each in their 20 MPG cars for that same trip, the redundancy translates to wasting of fuel, with an effective rating of 10 person-miles per gallon.
So much blood has been shed over oil, which we so blithely waste. For the mere sake of ‘convenience.’