The Downward Spiral

Increasing the ease of car travel, or reducing the cost of car travel, not only increases the number of trips made by car in Boulder. It also and inevitably makes bicycling, walking and transit use more dangerous, less pleasant, and less practical. This becomes a downwardly spiraling vicious cycle, as easing car travel ends up inducing a growing number of bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit users to drive cars more often. And that growing number of motorists then increases political pressure to ease car travel even more. And so on…

Examples of this self-perpetuating downward spiral are Broadway, Canyon, East Arapahoe, Colorado, Pearl Parkway, 28th Street, and 30th Street. Each of these oversized roads has artificially induced new car trips that would have never occurred had those roads not been oversized (and chased off non-car trips). Indeed, so many new car trips have been induced that the average daily trip (ADT) count is now enormous on each road. This high count signals to transportation planners that it is impossible to revert the road back to being a properly sized complete street that safely accommodates all forms of travel. Repurposing travel lanes (going from, say, a six-lane road to a 3- or 4-lane road, is considered infeasible. Where are all those “essential” car trips going to go? The mistake that led us to the current trap of an oversized, car-only road artificially carrying a huge number of car trips was made back when the city (or state) opted to widen the roads to “reduce congestion.”

About Dom Nozzi

Urban designer, Complete Streets instructor, smart growth specialist, town planner, walkable streets and bikeable streets and trails specialist, writer, editor, public speaker, world adventurer, skier, kayaker, SCUBA diver, bicyclist, hiker, dancer, book reader, cook, urbanist.
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