Learning from Trails

“It is sometimes assumed, explicitly or unconsciously, that an individual’s tendencies are naturally purely individualistic or egoistic, and thus antisocial…But there is no ground for any such view. Individuals are certainly interested, at times, in having their own way, and their own way may go contrary to the way of others.  But they are also interested, and chiefly interested upon the whole, in entering into the activities of others and taking part in conjoint and cooperative doings.  Otherwise, no such thing as a community would be possible.”
Democracy and Education by John Dewey, p. 23, The Echo Library 2007

“Boulder’s multi-use paths work just like our roads.”  —The Way of the Path, Boulder, Colorado

Bicycling on trails and shareduse paths is great fun.  I used to take the beautiful path along the Truckee River in Reno as part of my commute.  Listening to the water flowing from Lake Tahoe gushing through town was a perfect way to start and end my work day.  Here in Albuquerque I try to incorporate the Rio Grande Bosque Trail into many of my rides, even if it means adding some extra distance.  These paths create ready access for citizens to high quality experiences.

When I talk to people there is a strong sense that the calmness of the trail is one of the key elements making for a quality journey.  The first concern is always regulating the fastest vehicles, bicycles, to make sure they don’t take away from others’ experiences.  That makes sense to me because the level of service a road, trail or pathway provides is not about top speed, but comes from an inclusive sense of the whole experience of all users.

Applying this perspective to roads is helpful.  The FHWA says, “For most of the second half of the 20th Century, the transportation, traffic engineering and highway professions in the United States were synonymous. They shared a singular purpose: building a transportation system that promoted the safety, convenience and comfort of motor vehicles.”  Because of the way the built environment was constructed, many people have dropped the notion that walking and bicycling matters.  But evidence has shown that walking and bicycling does matter, and must be taken seriously.  We’ll have better roads when we take into account the experiences of people who are walking and bicycling there, and by promoting safety, comfort and dignity for all.

http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/guidance/design.cfm

bandelier-grazing

Deer along the trail at Bandelier National Monument

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