”The McMansion out in the suburbs, that world is over. We don’t have the land,” he said. “For those people who say we’re just real estate people who want to keep doing the same thing, we’re not. We know we can’t afford to have ever widening sprawl, because the cost of infrastructure is prohibitive.”
This is mostly correct, and it’s why I’m baffled that drivers feel threatened by bikers. Think about these two facts:
1. There is only so much space on any given road. A good example is I-66 in NoVA; from Prince William County to Independence Ave. it runs just about 26 miles. Forget about the HOV lanes for a moment and let’s just assume that there is an average width of 2.5 cars along that 26 miles; that gives us 65 miles of lane, or about 343,000 feet. If your average car is is 12 feet long that allows 28,583 cars on I-66 at any one time and that’s in literally bumper-to-bumper traffic. Considering that nearly a quarter of DC’s 671,000-person workforce commutes in from NoVA there’s no way you could fit them all on I-66 at one time, each in their own car. But they try! Ergo – traffic. Imagine if there was no Orange, Blue, or Yellow Metro lines and feel the pain.
2. There are two kinds of drivers – those who choose to drive and those who have to. There are lots of people who, for one reason or another, are unable to commute using public transportation; but there are also lots of people for whom driving is simply the cheapest or least-onerous option.
So let’s say you are the first kind of driver. Forgetting any grand principles or ideological concerns, your narrowly-defined self-interest is to get as many of the second kind of driver as possible out of their cars. Every person who decides to stop commuting by car and instead decides to take a train, take a bus, walk, bike, or even carpool/slug to work removes a car from the road, thereby alleviating the traffic that you are stuck in every day.
I can understand why some drivers have a visceral reaction to bikers, especially during the adjustment phase. But over the last decade the percentage of area workers commuting by bicycle increased 86% – to 2.2%. Imagine if that doubled again to 5%, and then doubled again to 10%, and imagine that every one of those was a car on the road replaced by a cyclist taking up far less road space. Congestion would decrease drastically. And especially when you consider that bicycles don’t pollute the air, decrease demand for increasingly-expensive gasoline, etc, folks whose attitude is “you’ll pry my steering wheel from my cold dead hand” should be the most fervent supporters of getting everyone else off the road.