Doing more with less
“Why can’t we be more like Copenhagen?”
I heard this from a fellow advocate in relation to biking and walking infrastructure on this side of the pond. Most communities in the U.S. are a far cry from mirroring the golden child of cities, but here’s the thing…we’re on our way folks!
I can hear the cynics sighing, but this past Monday was further proof of our evolution. I attended an all-day training called Designing Complete Streets & Better Bikeways led by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO).
Hosted by the City of Denver, PeopleForBikes, and the Denver Regional Council of Governments, the training was anchored in the Urban Bikeway Design and Urban Street Design Guides. The room was full with 13 municipalities, multiple agencies and advocates from around the region present.
So why here? Why now?
I’m an optimist by nature, but the transportation picture here in Colorado and in most other states ain’t a pretty one. Demand on facilities is growing, their condition is generally declining and revenue available to address these issues is in ever shorter supply.
The simple truth is we have to do more with less, and the NACTO guides are anchored in that reality. We have to be smart about our transportation investments to ensure that our street networks accommodate more trips by more people who are walking, driving, biking or taking transit—and that they do so safely and efficiently.
On the ground…and working!
The very encouraging trend is that from Tampa to Portsmouth and from Memphis to Monterrey, the “more with less” question is being asked and translating to projects. Streets are steadily being retrofitted with an eye for how they can operate more efficiently and more safely to accommodate growing demand across a variety of modes.
Some—certainly not all!—of the positive results of these retrofits are:
- Increased throughput (the ability of a street to move people by various modes)
- Reduced crashes stemming from better design and reduced speeds
- Increased economic activity in the form of new private sector investment and increased sales among existing businesses
If you have made it to this point, you’re verging on being a NACTO nerd like me. Embrace it! You will start looking at streets in a whole new way and noticing things about infrastructure that you never did before. Wonky? Sure. Empowering? Definitely.
When I look at these guides, I see the answer to the question I started out with. We can indeed be more like Copenhagen. In future posts I’ll be sure to share photos from projects hitting the ground in Colorado this summer that show we are on the path.
Please share your thoughts about the guides in the comments below!