A recent Streetsblog Network post on “How Infrastructure Shapes the Way We Move” started a spirited discussion on a social psychology construct and its relationship to the way we view transportation infrastructure and its use by others.
The fundamental attribution error, according to blogger Michael D. refers to “the tendency for people to over-attribute the behavior of others to personality or disposition and to neglect substantial contributions of environmental or situational factors. Thus, the fundamental attribution error in transportation choice: You choose driving over transit because transit serves your needs poorly, but Joe Straphanger takes transit because he’s the kind of person who takes transit. This is the sort of trap we find ourselves in when considering how to fund transportation, be it transit, cycling, walking or driving”. “But”, he says, ”that infrastructure itself and the services provided on it are a strong influence on the transportation choices people make.”
In other words, as one commenter put it, “If you build it, they will come. More lanes = more cars. Less lanes = less cars …… More bike lanes/routes = more cyclists. Less bike lanes/routes = less cyclists”.
Another commenter suggested that The Onion explains the social behavior theory better than any academic blog post:
Report: 98 Percent Of U.S. Commuters Favor Public Transportation For Others - “With traffic congestion, pollution, and oil shortages all getting worse, now is the time to shift to affordable, efficient public transportation,” APTA director Howard Collier said. “Fortunately, as this report shows, Americans have finally recognized the need for everyone else to do exactly that.”
Motorized vehicles are a major part of our local transportation system and must be part of the sustainability equation. However, more and more, policies to promote biking and walking are a big part of the strategy in cities seeking to become more healthy, more vibrant, more attractive, safer, economically viable … sustainable. Bike lanes and bike paths, sidewalks, parking policies, land use planning, urban design guidelines … there is no dearth of examples of what many places are doing to improve pedestrian and bicycle accessibility. There are several illustrations of creative planning mentioned on the OCL Facebook fan page and this blog.
In places with snow, where there are sidewalks there is a snow removal issue. Sean Kirst’s March 3 column in The Post-Standard opens a conversation on ‘walkability’ that will hopefully lead to municipal governments in Onondaga County considering how best to ensure that their residents have the ability to walk safely alongside the streets in winter, as well as to drive safely on them.
People everywhere are making the case for Complete Streets - a movement that says streets ought to be for everyone, whether young or old, motorist or bicyclist, walker or wheelchair user, bus rider or shopkeeper. Many states, cities and towns are instituting policies requiring streets that are designed for people, not just cars. Unfortunately, not all tranportation planners and engineers have gotten the message.
Check out this music video on YouTube by Clevelanders protesting the design of a new bridge over the Cuyahoga River that fails to include pedestrian and bike access. The Ohio DOT says it’s too late to consider changes to the Environmental Impact Statement on the project. But the rappers ask that the State of Ohio “take a step forward and not a step back”, to “make a transition from the tradition of carbon emissions” , and “engineer a bridge that will bring new people” to Cleveland to help it thrive. They make the call for a Green city to embrace healthy tranportation for a healthier population, and “lead the nation with green alternative transportation”. Here are a few of the lyrics:
Look to the future and lead the nation
With green alternative transportation
Now is the time to make a transition
From the tradition of carbon emission
Make our streets and bridges complete
Not just for cars but for bikes and feet
The people have spoken and make no mistake
They want a green city on a blue lake.
Will residents of Syracuse and Onondaga County sing this song?