Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Presence of women as indicators of success in urban revitalization

The Sacramento Bee has a piece on the increase in bicycling there, "Cycle City? Sacramento streets gearing up for cruisers and commuters." From the article:

Is it possible that sprawling, car-oriented Sacramento is becoming a bicycling town? A larger version of Davis? Health writer and dedicated Sacramento cyclist Peter Jacobsen thinks so. To make his case, he points to a key "indicator species," the female cyclist. Their numbers on the road, he argues, are a direct measure of the perceived safety of cycling and its likelihood to catch on with the general population.

Using this test, one can make the case that Sacramento is on the verge of becoming a cycling town, with midtown as its incubator. Cycling by both sexes is much in evidence in midtown, and it has a decidedly retro, back-to-the-future look. Twenty-somethings there are embracing colorful "cruiser" bikes -- those fat-tired bikes that hark back to the days when newspapers were delivered on two wheels...

And midtown is a logical incubator for cycling. It's where trips tend to be shorter and more easily manageable on two wheels. Midtown is packed with destinations for younger folks, with lots of restaurants, bars and nightclubs. In my own informal survey of these young cruisers, cycling was cited as a great way to avoid DUIs when you're enjoying midtown's nightlife.

They also mention greater ease of parking. And of course midtown's numerous bike lanes -- with more on the way -- contribute a sense of safety. But I think the key element is the compactness of midtown. It's hard to imagine a cycling lifestyle catching on in Sacramento's sprawling suburbs -- not until the price of gas shoots to $6 a gallon anyway.

Is Sacramento really at a tipping point, when cycling becomes the thing to do not just for 20-somethings but also for people in all age groups? The League of American Bicyclists uses a five-star rating system to determine how "bike-friendly" U.S. cities are. Not surprisingly, Davis gets five stars, Sacramento only two. Portland and Corvallis, Ore., achieved a five-star rating.

This is analogous to the point I make that since women conduct upwards of 80% of all retail transactions, commercial districts that are unsafe and dirty don't stand a chance. See "The presence of women as indicators of revitalization success."

Speaking of building familiarity and comfortability with bicycling (and walking), Arlington County has contracted the Washington Area Bicyclists Association to do training school by school. See "Bike Safety Education in Arlington Schools," from the Commuter Page Blog.

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