By Shelia Dunn, NMA Communications Director
This blog is a collaboration between the National Motorists Association and the Keep the US Moving (KUSM) group written and curated by NMA Communications Director Shelia Dunn (with some guest authors as indicated). The KUSM weekly blog focuses on road diets, traffic calming, and programs such as Vision Zero and Complete Streets.
The NMA and the KUSM believe that it is important to include stories that oppose our viewpoint. We try to indicate those as needed.
We would love to hear from you about the Keep the US Moving Blog. Please feel free to comment below the post and find additional resources to fight road diets below. If you are concerned about road diets in your area, please contact the NMA, email@example.com or connect with KUSM at KeepTheUSMoving@gmail.com and find additional information on their website at https://www.keeptheusmoving.com/.
Weird Times: Streets are now for Restaurant Dining Too?
No matter where you are on the spectrum of the COVID-19 crisis aftermath, streets seem to be the battleground. Before the crisis, streets were becoming more crowded with different road users utilizing shared mobility (scooters, bikes, electric skateboards, delivery bots, etc.). Now, bike lanes have been appropriated for dining to help get restaurants back online. The street becomes more crowded every day and is falling away from its essential purpose of moving people, goods, and services from one place to another as quickly as possible.
The Open Streets/Closed Streets/Active Streets groups have asked their cities to close streets for cars so that those confined can safely walk six-feet apart outside. On these closed streets, drivers and their cars are only guests even though they may live or work on the street. Two California cities claim that they ain’t ever going back. Even NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials) already pushed out a guide for cities. Here are some stories that illustrate this recent phenomenon:
- War on Cars Watch: ‘Cars are Guests’ Signs
- COVID-19 Outdoor Dining Already Squeezing Walkers
- ‘Slow Streets’ pilot program aims to make Tucson, AZ neighborhood roads safer
- Berkeley, CA Will Fully Close Its Streets to Create Giant Outdoor Dining Rooms
- Section of Fullerton, CA’s Bike Boulevard Now Closed to Bicyclists to facilitate outdoor dining.
- Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti Announces Launch Of ‘Slow Streets’ Program To Temporarily Restrict Traffic In Certain Areas, Allow For Safe Walking (Video Report)
- Close Off Colorado Boulevard To Cars? Pasadena, CA Resident Proposes Turning Stretch Of Road Into Open-Air Plaza For Pedestrians
- San Francisco to close more streets to promote safe walking
- Santa Barbara, CA downtown’s State Street closes to vehicles for outdoor dining
- Denver just created a pathway for restaurants and bars to provide outdoor dining
- DC Council members urge Bowser to close or narrow roads to promote social distancing
- Can closing some Atlanta streets during COVID-19 help transportation for all?
- Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot hints at street closures to help restaurants serve diners, people get around
- Baltimore mayor expands ‘Slow Streets’ program to increase walkability during coronavirus outbreak
- Manhattan Borough President Asks NYCDOT To Take Street Parking For Street Seating (War on Cars Watch)
- War on Cars Watch NYC: City Council to Mayor–We’re Going to Need a Bigger Open Streets Program
Since many of us have been sheltering at home, we likely haven’t been driving much. When the restrictions are finally lifted, motorists might be surprised to find that streets in their area might be more restricted than ever before the crisis.
Will this get us out of our cars? Nope.
Even if it takes longer to commute to the job or school, people want to drive want now more than ever before. Buses, subways, and trains seem scary now. Bikes might be an alternative, but I bet most of us would never ride a bike when it’s 30 degrees out and a foot of snow as it is in the northern sections of the US.
Many War on Cars opinion pieces have been written recently about the pandemic, mobility, and transit:
- Coronavirus is not fuel for urbanist fantasies
- Cities Have a Small Window to Save Themselves From Cars
- In A Pandemic, Transportation Ushers In A New Age Of Agile Experimentation
- Will social distancing kill car-free culture?
- Op-Ed: What Does Social Distancing Mean for Public Transit? (War on Cars Watch)
- How Cities Plan to Keep Traffic Out When Lockdowns Lift
Implementation of bike lanes and road diets are still going strong, too, even though many built configurations are expensive ($12 M per mile in Seattle for a total street rebuild). Many city and state budgets will need to be adjusted in the next few months due to the downturn in sales and gas tax money coming into government coffers. Streets maintenance and rebuilding will likely take a hit. Here are a few stories on road diets from the past several weeks:
- Los Angeles: New Bike Lanes on York in Eagle Rock
- Road Diet Watch: New Bus-Only Lanes Could Be Coming to Downtown Los Angeles
- San Francisco: Final 7th St. protected bikeway construction phase begins next week
- Florida: Bike lanes proposed in Riverside as buses roll from Jacksonville’s JTA’s new LaVilla HQ
- Florida: Tampa City Council postpones discussion on Bayshore Boulevard lane closure to September (NMA Mention)
- Chicago: Planned West Loop changes include closing block of Milwaukee, wider sidewalks
- Louisiana: New Orleans starts construction on new stretches of bike lanes
- Massachusetts: Boston Outlines Plans for Expanded Sidewalks, Expedited Bike Projects for Pandemic Recovery
- NYC: The Final Phase of the Queens Boulevard Safety Redesign is On Ice For This Year At Least (Vision Zero Watch)
Check out the NMA Facebook Page called the War on Cars Watch! If you are interested in joining the closed group, follow the directions on the page. If you would like to know more about the National Motorists Association, check out our website at motorists.org. Also, if you would like to contact the NMA with a question or a link, feel free to contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep the US Moving is a grassroots organization dedicated to publicizing the detrimental effects of arterials road diets. We connect people who want to share experiences and information to help their communities craft truly safer roads. KUSM has a very active and closed Facebook group. Connect with them at KeepTheUSMoving@gmail.com and find additional information on their website at https://www.keeptheusmoving.com/.
Here are a few NMA Blog Posts that might interest you:
Road Diets and Traffic Calming
- All Traffic is Local: A Look at Force-Fed Road Diets
- The Problem with Road Diets
- 10 Reasons to Fight against Road Diets in your Community
Vision Zero and Complete Streets
- Vision Zero Invasion of the Car Itself
- Do Vision Zero Programs equal more Traffic Accidents?: NMA E-Newsletter #559
- Level of Service: Measuring Traffic Congestion
- Transportation Engineers Debate Vision Zero, Part 1: NMA E-Newsletter #563
- Transportation Engineers Debate Vision Zero, Part 2: NMA E-Newsletter #564
- An Appropriate Balance for Whom?: NMA E-Newsletter #552
If you would like to keep track of the many issues currently involved with the War on Cars and road diets, take a daily peek at the NMA’s Driving News Feed or subscribe to Driving News Daily, a five times per week email.
If you would like to support the work of the National Motorists Association, please join today.
Thank you for reading the NMA’s Keep the US Moving Blog!