View profile

✊🏙 A new name for bike lanes? 🧐 Media ignores car danger in calling scooters a hazard 🗞 & much more!

Hey urbanists! Do we need to rethink the way we label areas of our streets, as more modes enter our b
August 26 · Issue #48 · View online
Radical Urbanist
Hey urbanists!
Do we need to rethink the way we label areas of our streets, as more modes enter our bikes lanes? Jarrett Walker kicked off just such a discussion this week, and it’s one I find fascinating, as we’re also still trying to figure out the place for scooters and dockless bikes in the mobility mix — or if they have one at all.
You may have noticed that I’ve been adding my Medium pieces to the end of recent issues, and I wanted to explain why. My articles are typically published under Medium’s Partner Program, which means that if you’re not a paying member, you’re limited to a few articles a month. However, writers get “friend links” which allow people to read the article regardless of whether they’re a paying member. The links near the end of each issue are such links, so if you want to read what I write on Medium, you can clickthrough without worrying about the paywall.
Have a great Sunday!

The language of urbanism
Jarrett Walker has been working as a full-time transportation consultant since 1991 — the same year I was born 🙊 — but he also has a PhD in literature, so naturally he thinks about the language we use when talking about cities.
A few months ago, he mused about whether, instead of “congestion pricing,” we should call it “decongestion pricing” — focusing on the end goal of the policy instead of what is being taxed. Earlier this week, Jarrett turned the critical perspective he developed in the humanities to bike lanes.
Given that scooters and other modes are also sharing what we now call “bike lanes,” Jarrett and Sarah Iannarone put together a better plan for how different modes should be separated and the language we use to refer to the spaces they occupy.
All this came up because I was trying to think of the correct new term for “bike lane” as we proliferate more vehicle types that run more or less at the speed and width of bicycles but are clearly not bicycles, such as electric scooters. The two logical terms seem to be narrow lane or midspeed lane. One way or another the two concepts will need to track with each other.
Scooters aren’t the safety hazard
After reading about the reaction of the press when a driver hit someone using an e-scooter, I couldn’t help but be reminded of some of the initial responses to the Uber collision in Tempe when the company’s self-driving test vehicle killed a pedestrian. The police and some of the media tried to pin the blame on the victim for crossing at an undesignated area, without recognizing how hostile the roads were designed for pedestrians.
Last Saturday, Jenasia Summers was hit and killed while riding a scooter by a driver high on heroin in Cleveland, and again the media took to casting scooters as a safety hazard when the streets are similarly hostile to anything but cars and the driver was clearly to blame. Summers did nothing wrong.
Summers was riding on East 9th Street, which runs through the heart of downtown Cleveland. The street is set up purely for motor vehicle movement, with six moving lanes but no bike lanes. If the city had provided dedicated lanes for people riding bikes and scooters, Summers would probably still be alive.
If the goal is really to shift mobility to more efficient modes — like bikes and scooters instead of cars — we need to stop blaming them for problems they aren’t causing. Is there an issue with operators throwing scooters and bikes into cities without first consulting local governments to figure out the best way to do it? Of course! But that doesn’t mean they’re a safety hazard — and certainly not a bigger one than the cars and trucks dominating the streets.
Scooter companies, being regulated much more quickly then they expected after trying to follow Uber’s ride-hailing strategy, are trying to rehabilitate their image by providing money for bike lanes, reduced fares for low-income people, and charity donations. That’s more PR than a real change to their strategy, and we shouldn’t oppose regulation; we should welcome governments finally accepting their role after letting Uber and Lyft get away with doing whatever they wanted for so long.
However, when even NYPD cops admit their superiors tell them not to ticket vehicles that park in bike lanes, it’s clear what the problem is — and it’s not bikes and scooters.
Other great reads
🚕 Executive director of NY Taxi Workers Alliance speaks about recent victories against Uber in New York City
🚗 Sensors in new cars generate “unprecedented amounts of real-time data.” We talk about requiring Uber and Airbnb to share data, but shouldn’t we expect the same of auto companies?
🚄 Italy’s M5S opposes France-Italy high-speed rail, but after the Genoa bridge collapse it would be even harder to cancel
😠 “I’m still struggling for words to describe the arrogance and gas-lighting that took place.” Bianca Wylie on the third Sidewalk Toronto public consultation (that was anything but).
🇨🇦 Ontario’s right-wing government wants to take over Toronto’s subway. John Lorinc details why that’s a terrible idea.
🚇 NYC’s L train shutdown will cause short-term pain for commuters, but could have many long-term benefits
💀 Hostile architecture makes us angry, and the Silent Agents photo series depicts them as dark and ominous impositions
🇹🇷 The unfinished skyscrapers in Istanbul presaged the lira’s collapse and could mean the same for the Turkish economy
🎟 A socialist argument for fare abolition on public transit
🇸🇬 Crazy Rich Asians is getting rave reviews, but it presents a very skewed picture of Singapore
1200 workers convert an above-ground train in Tokyo into a subway line in 3.5 hours
✊️❤️ Thanks for reading, and feel free to follow me on TwitterMedium, or Instagram for even more!
Did you enjoy this issue?
If you don't want these updates anymore, please unsubscribe here.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here.
Powered by Revue