Sunday, October 04, 2009

Bicycle Friendly Albuquerque

Over at the Bike PGH (Pittsburgh) website, they've got numbers showing commuting data for the country's 60 largest cities. Our little gem of a city came in #9 in bicycle commuting as a percentage of total commuters. That's fantastic! We're ahead of places like Boston, Denver, Philly, and Austin which makes me happy.

Unfortunately, using the same data from their nifty spreadsheet, the numbers show that we rank #36 in walkers, #35 in single-occupancy vehicles (behind Dallas!), and #43 in public transit ridership.

So, what this tells us is that for a city our size, we're doing a decent job with our bicycle infrastructure but a poor job with our mass transit. Also, our built environment is not made for walking, sadly. This data should be taken seriously by our future mayor and the planning department as it really gives some indication of our quality of life and where we're missing the boat in terms of infrastructure.

After returning from Copenhagen, where their local government is working very hard to improve mobility for their citizens, it proves that there is so much work to be done even in cities like Portland and San Francisco.

Now, I don't want to be labeled as one of "those people" that goes places and returns believing our precious city should be just like another place. I think I've been indirectly accused of this over at this extinct blog. The point isn't to go to other places and duplicate the things you see, but instead, observe, learn how and why it works, and taylor SOME of those things to work for Albuquerque. Just because light-rail works in Denver doesn't mean it's right for ABQ. Just because New York has converted former street intersections into public spaces doesn't mean Albuquerque should either....yet. I'm tired of people saying, "Oh, this is Albuquerque, we just do things different." Ok, fine, but doing things for the sake of being different and using it as an excuse to do nothing both rub me the wrong way. Cities all operate in the same manner. Transportation and land use affects people in Portland the same way it affects us. The fact is, our planning is in need of a major overhaul and learning from other cities can help us to skip the hardships other places have endured.

So, back to Copenhagen, they do an incredible job maintaining commuter data in an effort to track their progress. Currently, their mode share is 37% biking, 28% transit, 4% walking, and 31% driving. They set goals and pragmatically determine how to improve each and every year. I can hear the naysayers now, "Yea, but that's in Europe. They're different." Are they? How so? In the 1950s, Copenhagen was as car-happy, congested, and polluted as any American city. Their weather is horrible (don't get me started on their cuisine) for most of the year. Where they are different from us is they actually set goals and milestones. The citizens demanded change and held their government liable. They also took the initiative to change their lifestyle to reflect their ideals instead of telling others how they should live.

After reading V.B. Price's piece in the Independent, I can't help but think about how our politicians are leading us astray at the worst possible time. It's up to us to demand change and now is the time to vote for politicians who understand the real issues at hand.

PS. Vote for Benton and Cadigan!!! You all know I have my issues with Cadigan's westside, westside, westside mantra but at least he stands up to SunCal who isn't exactly looking out for the citizens of Albuquerque.

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