We were up in Evergreen and Silverspring biking around, seeing what the Evergreen development looks like in real time. There aren’t any pictures because it looks the same as Stonebridge, or Willowgrove, or Briarwood, but with more dirt. (And weird street lights.) To exit Silverspring, we took Central, and things were good until Garvie Road, which was where the MUP (multi-user pathway) mysteriously disappeared. There was still a well-worn desire path along the east side, but we opted to ride on the right side of the 60 km/hr road because we’d just come off cycling around on the dirt areas and I was tired of being jounced around. If I was a commuter up there, I’d be pissed. So much for “complete streets”. Then we headed west to the dog park but I promptly ate it on the deep gravel curve, so back home we went. At least I have a new fresh scar on my right elbow to match the one from May on my left.

Desire paths are a neat little concept, when you stop and think about them. I was always interested in seeing how people created them on campus, when I moved here 10 years ago (last week, wow.) I’m not sure why the sidewalk designers decided that students would rather wend their way around leisurely rather than take the shortest route. There’s a desire line that’s probably as old as the Bowl itself, running from the Physics/Admin corner down across to the Sask Hall intersection, along with many others. I often wondered why Facilities didn’t just pave it since the grass would never grow along there anyways. According to Wikipedia, desire paths can also represent anarchism, creativity, intuitive design, or the wisdom of crowds. I also like the (unsourced) assertion that planners in Finland wait until after the first snowfall to see where people travel and plan paths accordingly. (Instead of forcing them along a needlessly winding MUP, that’s right Briarwood designers, I’m looking at you.) Anyways, people on foot and bikes are no different than others – we want the shortest distance between two points, within reason. If I want a relaxing walk, I’ll go along the river, but I don’t use those paths as a serious commuting leg unless I have no other option.

Going back to the vanishing MUPs…I recommend David Hembrow’s a view from the cycle path for a terrific introduction and analysis into the transportation culture (well, specifically bikes) in the Netherlands. If you go to his page, there’s a sidebar on the right that has a methodical list of links breaking down excuses for poor infrastructure, design, and attitudes. I think in North America we place more importance on motor vehicles and businesses at the expense of people and the environment. Without the latter, the former is pointless. This is why I can get rather ranty on this subject – I see how it can be done well, elsewhere, and I have little patience for the half-measures we get here. I’m sure we all have a subject dear to our hearts that gets us going in a similar manner.

addendum:

I don’t even like MUPs  that much. They’re dangerous. Yes, that’s right, MUPs are more dangerous than riding on an unmodified street, in terms of collision amounts. (Collision severity is another thing. You are still less likely to die from getting t-boned by a jogger.) Only riding on sharrows and on the sidewalk are more dangerous. Here is a presentation given at VeloCity 2012 on cycling infrastructure and injury rates that I adore and have quoted extensively elsewhere.

Also we saw two guys pushing a heavily-modified and completely dead RX-8 through Silverspring. I used to like these punchy little Mazdas with their sneaky extra doors, but then I realized I would have to live next to my brother (a mechanical engineer) in order to keep the rotary engine running. At least it’s not the heaviest car to push, and they used the turn signal when turning, something many drivers with properly functioning cars can’t seem to manage.

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