By Diana Alarcon, CAPP
As I was driving to the grocery store the other day, I heard a person yell from their automobile, “Get out of my lane!” He was addressing his comment to a gentleman riding a bicycle on the street. I wanted to yell back that he has the right to be in the street, too, but I refrained. This moment made me realize that in today’s world, we have so many mobility options and now, more than ever, we need to figure out how we all can share the road.
In my city, we recently passed a resolution that supports a permanent program for electric scooters. Many cities have been bombarded with scooters and the resulting chaos when they are not regulated, but we were able to get in front of it and control the number of scooters permitted in our city, resulting in less competition for the sidewalk. As a community, we have not taken the same approach to our roads. So, when it comes to mobility in the road, we have competing interests: pedestrians, cars, transit, motorcycles, trucks, and bikes (and now scooters). Giving each of them the space to move is important for the safety of everyone.
During the pandemic, Slow Streets became a strong, national focus of communities on how to share the road. Slow Streets focuses on extending the front porch of your home into the road. Since we all have developed new normal in which to socialize during this global pandemic, being able to access the road for other activities has become important to our quality of life. Slow Streets focuses on traffic mitigation for automobile movement and puts priority on the more vulnerable users of the roadway (pedestrians, bicyclists, scooters, skateboards, etc). The Slow Streets program establishes safe zones for the micro-mobility users on our roadways.
Change is hard but it happens even when not planned. Good outcomes can come out of even the most challenging circumstances. The desire to connect during this global pandemic has led us to focusing on creating a space for all mobility users in the roadway network. This shift in focus has brought the community together to demand safe, healthy, and happy places to move without being in a car. So, the next time you are sharing the road with a bicyclist, please remember they have a right to be there as well!
Diana Alarcon, CAPP, is director of transportation with the City of Tuscon.