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04/24/2014: "Bikes and Freeways?"
You might think that bikes and freeways don't have much effect on each other, since cyclists aren't allowed on most of them. Although sometimes, where there's absolutely no other passage through an area, there are in fact bike lanes on freeways! I have ridden on them on the 101 south of Santa Barbara. Shrieking malodorous traffic does not improve the view of the beach.

But bike lanes on freeways are, fortunately, rare. Nevertheless, freeways affect cycling profoundly—as they do most other aspects of urban life.

Directly, freeways spill stressful noise and lung-clotting pollution well beyond the scraggly ivy decorating their channels. But the indirect effects can be worse: because freeways, contrary to what most people believe, are congestion generators.

Yes, if you build them, they will come—hordes of them, in cars, clogging feeder roads, requiring cities to widen arterial streets, filling the new wide lanes with stressful drivers rushing and roaring about, brushing back pedestrians, crushing cyclists, and destroying communities.

And the freeways themselves, with their wide and looming masses, block streets, cut neighborhoods asunder, and force everyone—but most of all cyclists and walkers—far out of their way to go short distances.

This is why the growing movement to dismantle freeways and build civility back into our cities needs support. While burgs as disparate as Seoul, San Francisco, Portland, and Milwaukee have torn down freeways and found that, contrary to "gut feelings," congestion lessened, while economies and street life bloomed, and people became happier, healthier, and more prosperous.

But "gut feelings" and persistent though empty cars-first philosophies still rule the day, with transportation agencies using outdated figures, untested assumptions, and even outright lies to promote more freeway projects.

That is what is happening in Los Angeles, as CalTrans and Metro strive to push through plans to extend and expand the notorious I-710/SR-710 freeway complex in the eastern part of the county, using traffic from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach as an excuse.

If you want to learn in detail why this is a unworthy, and perhaps even a profoundly immoral, endeavor, and if you want to discover alternatives that would do the freeway's job more efficiently and less expensively, without flooding the region with traffic, smog, and stress, read the following article on our sister publication, Sustainable City News:

Beyond Freeways: Commerce, Community, and Contention along Los Angeles's 710 Corridor

This battle, which has raged on and off for sixty years, is reaching a climax. What happens next could determine development patterns here, and perhaps all over the country, for generations to come.

It's a long, four-part article, but it's worth an hour of your time. Even if you never get on a freeway in your daily life.

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