Monday, October 27, 2008

Eight Lanes and High Class Problems

The traffic pattern in this city is quite clever. Very often on middle sized center city streets there are 8 lanes of traffic, four in each direction. Most of my Yankee comrades are doing a double take here, because i have failed to identify these lanes: 2 sidewalk pedestrian, 2 dedicated bike lanes, 2 for cars and trucks and faster motorbikes and 2 for trams, active emergency vehicles and taxis which are carrying fares.

The effect is liberating. You can almost always cross the street, because generally these lanes are separated and there is not consistant traffic in any given lane. Bicyclists dont need to wear helmets and can go at a bike appropriate speed safely, worrying only about passing other bikes. The cars most often dont need to pay much attention to either the trams or the cyclists. The tram lanes are generally clear, tho the trams run as frequently as every 6 minutes during peak hours and adding taxis to these lanes gives the taxis a tremendous time advantage in traversing the city and make them faster than the trams or other cars and are operated by professional drivers.

There is also some level of color coding, the bike lanes are typically crimson in color. Thanks to Sky for the above picture. which shows better than anything on Google images the 4 distinct types of lanes in each direction.

Of course my darker green friends will not be happy about special privileges for affluent taxi riders. But for me what is key is the structure is already in place for peak oil driven petrol price spike. And the local gasoline prise is already $6.30/gallon here (something like $4/gal higher than the US?) And if gas doubles here, then the traffic/ridership on 6 of the 8 lanes will get a bit heavier and we will have fewer personal cars. Very civilized. In most US cities, doubling gas prices will have largely inelastic effect on personal car use, in part because there is little capacity of these streets to convert to other traffic modes - what you will get is pissed off car drivers.

The problem with Am*dam is that there are too many possibilities. i recently produced a document called Plan 9 (email me or enter a comment if you want a copy) which outlines 10 different projects i am excited about (Honest Seduction snuck in there as the 10th after the document was named.) And i sent this to some friends asking their help in paring it down with me. Already some great responses have come in, including an offer funding. But the problem is that there are still ideas not in Plan 9 that i am considering - like the urban farmers and sky dry (look for the 5 minutes of Bambi entry) which were being wonderfully thrown around at the Casa last night.

As the CEO of Federal Express said to the Cornell investment committee (when he and i both sat on the Board of Trustees, back in 1979) when we were looking at holding bonds which were yielding nearly 20% or selling them at a significant premium: "That is a high class problem."


PJ said...

Numerous lanes for numerous types of traffic sounds lovely. But does it snuff out critical mass type events?

memeticist said...

I am talking with Robin about this concern and it does influence critical mass actions significantly. The state of course wants them to stay in their lanes. And the critical mass movement has died here over the last few years. The other reason that Robin says is that the critical mass actions were too activist focused and did not give enough space for non-activist to participate. Classic problem.