Are you happy living in a Royal Oak where most people drive their cars most places? Even places that are close enough to walk or bike?
You shouldn't be happy, for many reasons.
First, it is a public health catastrophe. Our streets, unfriendly to bicycles and pedestrians, have helped make us the least-active generation in American history. The statistics are horrifying--a third of us obese, another third overweight, and our children on track to live shorter, more disease-racked lives than their parents. By engineering our streets to scare away non-motorized transportation we have engineered heart disease, strokes, type II diabetes, ADHD, bone loss, cancer, and all of the other consequences of physical inactivity.
Look at the huge traffic jams in front of every Royal Oak school every morning. The streets are clogged with parents driving their children to class--children who are often suffering ill health effects from lack of exercise. Shouldn't we do everything possible to encourage these kids to walk and bike to school?
The public health catastrophe extends to traffic deaths (the number-one cause of death for young people) and asthma from automobile exhaust. Our streets are literally sickening.
But set aside public health. Think only of money. 85% of auto spending leaves the community. That's a huge drain. Shouldn't we do everything possible to reduce that drain? Like making walking and biking an attractive alternative?
Consider the enormous cost of parking, even "free parking." A single parking space costs anywhere from $4,000 on a cheap parking lot to $10-$20,000 for a spot in a garage. As a country we spend more on parking than we do on cars. Shouldn't we do everything possible to reduce the need to build more parking spaces?
A walkable, bikeable Royal Oak would also increase demand for Royal Oak houses, condos, and apartments. People want to live in walkable, bikeable communities. Bike lanes would boost Royal Oak property values.
Bike lanes would also make Royal Oak more attractive to businesses. You may have heard the owners of Vectorform recently testify to the many intangible benefits of having a business in downtown Royal Oak. Bike lanes would amplify that vibe. Businesses who hire young people are increasingly attracted to walkable, bikeable cities.
Finally, consider our environment. Oil drilling, refining and burning has lain waste to huge swaths of our world, poisoning land, sea and air. Shouldn't we do everything possible to reduce this damage?
So, we have a proven way to:
improve public health
increase demand for our houses, condos and apartments
help local businesses
prevent environmental destruction
...and all we need to do is paint some lines on asphalt. Why aren't we doing it?
Here is a place Royal Oak can start: last year the city conducted a traffic study which shows that Main Street is eligible for a "road diet." A "road diet" is when the portion of a road for cars is reduced and dedicated bike lanes are added.
Picture Main Street reduced to 3 lanes all the way from the Clawson border to Catalpa, continuing the 3-lane road that Clawson has already established, but with bike lanes running down each side of the street instead of on-street parking. That is what a "road diet" would look like on Main Street.
Thousands of streets have undergone "road diets" across the country, and they have proven wildly popular with both cyclists and motorists.
Motorists like them because road-dieted streets are safer and less stressful. A 4-lane road is inherently unsafe--the left lane is simultaneously the passing lane and left turn lane, making accidents common. Everyone reading this probably knows someone who has either been rear-ended making a left turn on a 4-lane road, or has rear-ended someone else. A 3-lane road with a middle turning lane eliminates this problem.
The dedicated bike lane created by the road diet makes cycling feel much safer. When cycling feels safer, more people ride their bikes. When more people bike the accident rate drops dramatically (the well known "safety in numbers" phenomena), which makes people feel even safer biking, which leads more people to ride their bikes, and so on in a virtuous positive feedback loop.
A road diet is not just a "win-win," it is a "win-win-win-win-win-win...". The cost? The amount of money it takes to paint some lines on asphalt.
Let's do it. Royal Oak, it is time for a road diet on Main Street.