Friday, February 15, 2008

It’s not a car, it’s not a pedestrian, it’s a …

   One striking modern American invention is our reliance on the automobile for tasks undreamt of even a generation ago.  In much of America, including outer St. Petersburg, Florida, where I travelled today, there is now a mini rush-hour from noon to 1:30, as thousands of workers drive to lunch and then back to their workplace.  How could land use law discourage such behavior?

Segway   The vehicles called Segways offer transportation that is faster and less taxing than walking, but not as environmentally harmful or congestion-generating as driving.  But where should these moderately paced vehicles travel?  Most states have enacted laws that allow Segways on sidewalks and bicycle paths.  But some cities chafe at the prospect of the computer-guided chariots on busy sidewalks, especially when bicycles are not allowed.  A proposal in St. Louis would impose a fee for using the two-wheeled wonders in the city’s Forest Park.  Among the potential complications are complaints from handicapped persons in favor of Segways.   

   As I see it, the problem with Segways is a magnification of that with bicycles -– they may be too fast and unwieldy for busy sidewalks and Saturday park paths, but too slow for streets.  Safety should come first, but law should also be kind to anything that encourages Americans to leave their cars in their parking spaces …

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