"No way," I'm sure you'll say. "Can't be done."
I admit, the idea of a suburban lifestyle sans the car is a tough one to sell. The inherent layout and design of your typical suburban town is self-limiting: Disconnected neighborhoods spread out over a large land area; roads built primarily for four wheels and little else; small pockets of limited economic and business activity that cause consumers to drive long distances to get what they need, when they need it; a general car-centric mentality that's so engrained it's tough to buck.
All that aside, a few things have happened recently around town that do provide a glimmer of hope:
- News that Stafford and Crandall Roads will be receiving new "Share the Road" signage courtesy of of the RI DOT that aim to raise awareness of and promote bicycle traffic. This is in addition to new signage that was a part of the Main Road corridor improvement work that happened over the summer.
- Last week's passing of new business zoning regulations that will set the stage for transforming the north end and Bliss Four Corners parts of town into more pedestrian-friendly and inviting community-scapes.
- Continued development of the new artists' community at Sandy Woods that showcases the effectiveness of mixed-use neighborhood and community design.
Clearly, this will not enable all of us to leave the cars at home and still get things done. But what else do we need? Here are my two-cents:
- Continued partnering between Town Planning and Economic Development entities that look to shape other pockets of value-added business development in town. Basically, cut down on the distances that people have to travel to secure the necessities of living while promoting local businesses. Start with basics such as food, then go from there with a preference for small, mom-and-pop style endeavors. This could be at the macro, multi-neighborhood level, or in the case of the Sandy Woods project, at the micro, single neighborhood level.
- Partner with local businesses and/or the town to install bike racks to encourage car-less travel
- Continue to repair/install sidewalks
- Renewed enforcement of speed limits and other safe driving behaviors to create a safe environment for walking, biking, etc.
- Exploration of in-town public transportation (e.g., small-scale bus or shuttle services) to get people to these new town centers
- Take additional cues from other urban-based transportation planning playbooks
What about you? Would you ditch your car once or twice a week if the infrastructure was in place?