One of the ironic aspects of bike racing is that you spend a lot of time in the car.
When carpooling to races with my teammate Tris, we invariably end up talking about how we don’t like driving, and how we’d like to be able to walk and/or ride to more places. The urban sprawl that most of us live among makes that difficult. While in suburban Louisville for nationals, there was a Starbucks just half a mile from the hotel. But walking required crossing 6 lanes of heavy traffic without any visible pedestrian crossings. Riding required either (illegally) dodging said traffic on the bike, or else following the maze of traffic lights and required u-turns.
Who was responsible for that planning fiasco?
One of the things I most miss about the 8 months I spent in Germany was being able to — and in many cases being required to — walk to places. It was easy to walk to the grocery, bakery, restaurants, while it would be a hassle to drive and try to park. In those 8 months, I lost weight simply from walking more, more than offsetting the increased beer consumption.
Is it possible to shrink the sprawl? Especially in areas like Northeast Ohio, where the population is declining or at best stable?
A couple of related stories caught my attention. This one, written by fellow racer Jim Nichols, talks about how some would like to transform decaying urban spaces into small, working farms. Cool idea.
The other story is about the city of Youngstown, where we will be racing this weekend at the Tour of the Valley (promoted by our team). Faced with declining population, Youngstown has taken the forward-thinking approach of embracing the decline and creating large green space from blighted areas, and then concentrating the developed areas. This sort of an approach has the potential to shrink the sprawl.
The current and future land use maps can be seen here:
At least some people are thinking.