Monday, May 01, 2006

A Streetcar Named Denial?...

On the contrary. Seems the board members in bike-friendly Arlington County are taking all that crazy talk about peak oil seriously. Rather than sitting back and waiting for some deus ex machina to glut the "free" market with affordable space-age alternatives to the internal combustion engine and/or gasoline, or worse, pretending that rising oil costs are just a speedbump on the road back to cheap, easy motoring, these local elected officials have decided to emulate Portland, Oregon, taking a page from the past as a stopgap measure.

It's all part of a master plan to revitalize (read "gentrify") the area, which, of course, necessary means new condominium complexes piggybacked onto thousands of square feet of retail space à la The Market Common in Clarendon.

But the streetcar idea is a bit of a mixed blessing. It appears that the proposed line—just under five miles in all—will run in the "curb lanes" along Columbia Pike, areas that could, if I'm not mistaken, be allocated to bicycle lanes. And that's not all. From the County Board meeting of April 13, 2006:

"Members of the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee have raised concerns that the streetcar tracks would be a hazard to bicyclists riding along Columbia Pike and crossing the tracks at intersections. They are also concerned about maneuvering around vehicles that are stopped to pick up and discharge passengers."

The board's response?

"While the situation is not ideal for cyclists, streetcars and bicycles do co-exist in cities around the world. Some strategies that will be studied further include using “flange fillers” to reduce the gap between the tacks (sic) and the roadway and designing stops that will allow bicycles to travel behind the station. Additionally, the Columbia Pike plan calls for the establishment of parallel bike routes in the corridor for riders who are not comfortable riding on Columbia Pike. Staff will be working this summer to create the first of these routes on 12th Street South between South Quincy and South Cleveland streets."

Okay, maybe not ideal, but if the streetcar must supplant precious biking space, at least the board is willing to provide a "parallel bike route" alternative. And you have to admit, the streetcar has an undeniable nostalgic quality that might appeal to some who aren't quite ready to adopt the bicycle as the ideal solution to local traffic woes.

POSTSCRIPT: Just when it looks like automobile makers might be coming out of their hydrocarbon-induced comas to offer more too-late hybrid models, Mercedes comes to the rescue with its new seven passenger GL-Class SUV. With an available 5.5L V8 gasoline engine, this baby abandons all pretense to responsible motoring. And Mercedes isn't worried that skyrocketing prices at the pumps might scare off potential SUV buyers, apparently sharing the opinions of people like Karl Brauer, editor-in-chief of auto industry darling According to Brauer, a jump of even as much as 25% in gas prices would represent only a "hiccup in (the) financial picture" of luxury SUV owners. Very comforting to know that the wealthy can continue to waste resources with the same sense of entitlement they muster when accumulating control of them.

And hey, with a starting price of about $55k for the GL-Class, that 3D Spaceframe from Jeff Jones is looking more reasonable every second...

POST-POSTSCRIPT: As further evidence of Arlington's commitment to the biking lifestyle, check out this clever idea, brought to my attention by that most excellent fount of local cycling politics, The Wash Cycle. Let's hope the rack heads are attached to the poles more securely than they appear to be in the picture.


gmr2048 said...

"Some strategies that will be studied further include using “flange fillers” to reduce the gap between the tacks (sic) and the roadway and designing stops that will allow bicycles to travel behind the station."

Sure, it sounds nice, but my guess is that these two options will be "studied" right up to the point that the cost analysis report is submitted. Then they'll be abandoned like a hot potato(e). Who knows. Arlington is pretty good about biking. Maybe they actually will invest the extra $$ it will take to add filler and route bike lanes behind trolly stops. Time will tell.

On the subject of the fancy new bike lock/rack...I agree with you. It doesn't look too sturdy. Hopefully they'll be tack-welded to the posts in addition to the bolts. If not, they should replace the cute bike design in the center with the words "Free Bike(s)".

gwadzilla said...

word on the street is you may be interested in hanging at lodi

that sounds great

drop me an email
let me know

blame DT if you are not serious

should be fun
it is a great event
always lots of fun
unless it is soaking wet
but even wet... it has been fun

email me either way


gwadzilla said...

gwadzilla8 AT

like typing things like that will prevent me from getting spam

gwadzilla said...

no worries the whole duo thing worked out

iconoclasst said...

Cool, good to know. Too bad I missed it; sounded like perfect conditions.