Tag Archives: early influence

Road Diet before they were called that

Continuing on the theme of early influences …

The main “east-west” arterial (actually more SW-NE) in the area I was raised was built, mostly, as a 6-lane, undivided boulevard, thankfully with sidewalks (eventually), and with a high school, retail, and multi-family housing (way more now than back in the day).  A good mile or more of it actually went through what we called “the swamp” but would now be recognized as a wetland!

Not very attractive, not especially safe, and, interestingly, mostly under-capacity.  So about a decade or so after it was completed, it was put on a road diet at first with the use of paint.  A two-way (unprotected) bike lane was put along the north edge, taking up the space of about one lane.  Then the city painted a median in the middle of the remaining five lanes.  This allowed left turn bays at intersections as well as some separation between traffic flowing in opposite directions.


That’s a representative view of the road long after (long after) it was put on a diet.  The brick building is a fire station.  The large parking lot to the right of the firehouse was once the parking lot for a hockey arena that has been gone for over 20 years (but that hosted a concert featuring Procol Harum and The Eagles <mumble> years before that!).  I don’t know what the AADT is for this road, but I’m certain it’s much more than it was when it was put on a diet.

Oh, and there are 5 transit routes along here, too.  A local route (30-minute headway 0500-0100 plus extra runs at peak hours) and 3 express routes providing about the same number of buses but that end after the evening peak and that all end at either a commuter train or subway station.  There is a night route that fills in the other hours, so basically 24-hour service.  And this is far out in the ‘burbs.  We had good transit when I still lived there <mumble> years ago –around the time of the diet, actually — but not nearly this good.

Bicycle Bob and other early influences


…. I was a car guy.  At least part of the reason that was true was that it was the only reasonable way to get around in the area I grew up in (click the image below to go to the spot, but note the cul-de-sac hell).  The local mall is just out of the thumbnail to the lower right and when I was a kid it seemed like it was way far away.

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A few well-placed cut-throughs would have radically changed my sense of time and distance back then.  You can at least walk on a paved path through that large park near my ancestral home, though I don’t know if it’s plowed in the winter.  Even that has only been paved in the last 20-25 years (yes, I’m that old).

Oh.  And there are no sidewalks.  There are curbs and proper drainage (even if the subdivision was built without those things initially!).  The only sidewalk in my neighborhood was in front of the elementary school.  That’s since been extended, but for decades, the one in front of the school was it.

Bicycle Bob

Anyway, one day, when I was in a junior college chem class, the prof invited a local bike activist to speak to our class.  At a time when I was still rebuilding carburetors (cars used to have these – part of the fuel system – ask your Dad).  So I was skeptical of the fact that he rode his bike year-round and that he’d taken the train out to visit with us.  He was known locally as Bicycle Bob and he recently turned 80.  He wasn’t nearly that old then, of course.

Well, I didn’t really realize what he’d done … well, more like I had probably forgotten what he (and the groups he was involved in) had done.  Guerrilla bike lanes painted at night, outlandish press conferences, a “die in” on the streets protesting traffic deaths.  All this … um … a long time ago (in a galaxy …) long before it was in vogue in most places.  So that was an early influence, even though I haven’t been a cyclist since I became a licensed automobile driver.

I hate to admit it but I am actually old enough to have experienced privately-owned transit service.   It was on its last legs and was finally put out of its misery the about same year that Bicycle Bob visited visited with us.  In fact, I think it was the same semester.  After that point, the metropolitan transit service was extended to our area so you could reasonably get around without a car.  In another indication of how old I am, a monthly (student) transit was $7.  It was at least 4x that to fill the tank in the tank I drove at the time so I used the bus a lot.  Bicycle Bob would be proud, I think.

Sidewalk Ramps

In class the other day (week), we were talking about sidewalks.  Another area that my hometown (the center city, at least) was ahead of the game was wheelchair-accessible sidewalks.  The first attempt wasn’t so successful, however.

Instead of ramps at the corner — “within the arc” — they put them outside the arc for a variety of reasons that they try to explain in the article linked above.   Long story short, they ended up putting them where they belong several years later but I can’t find a relevant link in the google.   (Letter to the editor about their uselessness.)

I had another “early influence”, but I’ll save that one.