The windshield perspective in south Mobile, Alabama.

The title of this post refers to a question I ask myself as I review proposals: How can Pro Walk/Pro Bike 2012 help you make the case–in a place like Mobile–that 5 lanes of arterial is a luxury, while 5 feet of concrete is a necessity?

Safety is my first–and preferred–point of leverage. Roads like the one above generate over half of all pedestrian fatalities according to the Dangerous by Design report. Mobile’s record is particularly shameful when it comes to walking: in 2009, it ranked fourth nationally among medium sized cities, for its pedestrian danger. Why? Lots of roads like to one above: drivers speed and pedestrians–whose presence is suggested by the buffered goat path on the right side of the road–must run across the road.

An upside of our increasingly scarce transportation funding is that we won’t be able to build roads like this because we will be scraping together the funds needed to maintain what we’ve got. Even then, it is an open question whether maintaining the status quo is possible.

Here are some numbers from the MPO’s 2035 plan:
County’s size: 1144 square miles.
2007 County lane miles: 1846
2035 County lane miles: 1917 (current roads + capacity increases already approved)
2035 desired Level-of-Service: 2143 lane miles

With all that planned road-building, do you care to picture this road 10 years into the future? I predict that the goat path will be as nicely groomed as ever; the roadway–not so much.

There is another (better) way to do transportation. Mobile realized that and in 2011 passed a complete streets policy. A rapid rise in fuel prices and an economic collapse helped illuminate–even in the car-centric southeast–how unwise it is to rely/plan on just one mode of transportation.

Bravo, Mobile. I look forward hearing more stories like this in Long Beach. Maybe you will be telling your own story in 2014 because of the connections you made in 2012.

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