There’s no universal agreement on what constitutes a great neighborhood. But most of us recognize one when we see it.
The ideal neighborhood depends on individual priorities and stages of life. Some seek quiet, others vibrancy and activity. Seniors have different preferences than young, single workers or families with small children.
What’s better than a long life? A long, active and healthy life. Here’s where transportation policy and health policy work together.
People are living longer. There have been dramatic increases in lifespan over the last century, but increases in healthspan have not kept pace.
The United States is terrible at traffic safety. Other developed countries are far superior. Here we risk our lives just to get somewhere. Each year more than 35,000 die in traffic crashes. Almost 5 million more are injured.
Despite the pandemic resulting in less driving, traffic violence has surged, not declined. The road carnage is immoral.
At a safety conference in 2021, National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy said, “We spent decades planning, designing, building and operating our road system for the efficient movement of people and goods, rather than safety.” She added, “Last year there were … zero deaths and zero crashes on major airlines… (but) 38,680 lives lost on our nation’s roads.”
Street intersections are dangerous. Each day, more than 20 people die in intersection collisions in the United States.
Safety is why European nations, Australia and New Zealand turned to roundabouts instead of signals or stop-controlled intersections. With far fewer contact points where vehicles (and pedestrians) cross paths, roundabouts reduce fatal and injury crashes by 80 percent, Federal Highway Administration data show.
Modern roundabouts aren’t the same as Midtown’s small traffic circles, which have stop signs on some approaches. A fundamental difference is that drivers must yield to traffic already in a roundabout.
I’ve biked in the American River Parkway thousands of times over the last 50 years. The rides bring physical fitness and spiritual uplift. Seeing the river, being in nature and spying turkeys, heron, deer, coyotes and the occasional rattlesnake are euphoric.
Especially during the pandemic era, the rides are a great antidote to depression and the cooped-up regimens of lockdowns.
More recently, the rides have brought heartache. It hurts to see century old trees blackened and killed by fires. It’s sad to see shanties and tents crowded together surrounded by trash.
People have camped in the parkway for decades. It’s not a new problem. But the number of people and the visibility of camps have never been greater.
Most commuters hate driving during rush hours. Nonproductive hours trapped in a car are emotionally draining and have physical consequences. Negative impacts include stress, exposure to pollutants, reduced sleep and less opportunity for exercise. The traffic glut not only affects us personally, it degrades the environment.
Before the pandemic, rush hours were hellish in Sacramento. Transportation planners felt compelled to design roads with capacity to handle the peaks. Expensive arterials, freeways and interchanges were built, but underutilized for most of the day. Whenever new construction resulted in excess capacity, motorists soon noticed and filled the new roads up again—a costly cycle without end.