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11/09/2011: "Two Bikes, Two Cars: Elaborating the Obvious"
Since common sense is so uncommon, sometimes you have to elaborate the obvious.

The other day I saw two bikes, belonging to fellow residents of our block, locked to a signpost in front of the building across the street. Parked in front of them, on the street, were two cars--SUVs in this case--also belonging to neighbors.

The contrast in spatial requirements was pretty striking:

2bikes, 2cars

Today I went out with a tape and measured the actual square footage required for parking two personal vehicles:
  1. Two bikes: 4' x 8', totaling 32 square feet.
  2. Two cars, 8' x 40', totaling 320 square feet.
Ten times more space required for the cars, which almost invariably tote just one person and a few effects around. (And I gave extra room around the bikes.)

It's not just that this space needs to be built and maintained; there's an opportunity cost associated with it. If all streets were narrower--say, in a bicycle-oriented city such as (famously) Amsterdam, which still allows room for reasonable motor vehicle use--you would have more room for housing, civil amenities, schools, and businesses. This would result in a more active economy--more people working, dining, buying in a given area. Parked cars do not participate in the economy. This would also result in more sales tax and property tax returning to the city for a given area, meaning better schools, libraries, sanitation, possibly health care, and more--as well as better maintenance of remaining road space, a boon to drivers as well as cyclists.

Just sayin'. America's thralldom to the car costs us in health, time...and money.

We can do better.

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