In Claremont today many of us have become overly dependent on PSCs — personal space capsules, aka automobiles — for our trips no matter how short or long. There are many drawbacks to PSCs, and we should consider Active Transportation for travel in our town. Active Transportation is the use of any human powered means for getting from place to place. This includes walking, bicycling or any other human powered method: unicycle, skates, skateboard, wheelchair, etc. Increased use of active transportation in Claremont would have personal and community level benefits, while also helping the environment. Take, for example, two situations that many in Claremont face on a daily or weekly basis. The first is the traffic crushes that are seen at every school, morning and afternoon. Every school in Claremont is affected, from elementary to secondary and even some preschools. When parents are asked why their children don’t walk or bike to school, the most frequent response is that the heavy auto traffic is frightening. The result is several thousand short distance auto trips every school day. The result is that we are teaching our children these unhealthy habits.
The second situation is the lack of convenient parking in the village. During business hours we often see cars cruising for a convenient parking place. One has to wonder how many customers get frustrated by the lack of parking and end up driving elsewhere to make their purchases. There are about 500 on-street auto parking places in the Claremont Village core. Assuming a typical 1.5 persons average per car, the Village is “parking saturated” at about 750 people. Recent surveys showed that nearly half of the convenient parking spaces are used by employees and owners of the Village businesses despite the availability of parking in satellite parking lots and structures. This forces many customers to circle through the village looking for parking spaces – degrading the experience for customers and pedestrians who are circulating throughout the Village by Active Transportation modes.
Personal Space Capsules have many costs:
The typical direct dollar cost for owning and driving a PSC is over $1 per mile. Other costs, not directly borne by the owner or fuel taxes are over 40 cents per mile for roads, parking, safety services and other infrastructure. For more detail see http://commutesolutions.org/external/calc.html/. In fact it costs $10 to $13 per day just to have a car available without even taking it out of the driveway. These costs make sense when one considers that an automobile weighs as much as 20 to 30 people and uses 2000 times the energy as a person. Another “cost” of PSCs is the amount of space they occupy on the road and for parking. Each PSC needs almost 3 parking places plus their access spaces to be available when we need them. Thus a significant fraction of our limited urban space, such as in the Village is used for “free parking” and speed dependent safety spacing of PSC’s on the streets.
Another unfortunate fact is the human cost of PSCs — with over 30,000 deaths and over 2 million injuries from auto accidents reported each year in the USA. This is over 90 deaths and over 5,000 injuries per day.
Active transportation alone is not going to completely resolve these issues but can be a significant mitigating factor.
Surveys show that more than 50% of our trips are less than 3 miles. So, we have many opportunities to leave the car home for these shorter trips and realize the multitude of benefits that can be realized through active transportation.
Active transportation has a positive effect on the environment. It reduces pollution and noise, limits greenhouse gases, and allows for more green areas and open spaces. Every mile we don't drive saves about 1 lb of CO2 emissions. On the community level, active transportation provides healthy activities for people of all ages, promotes community pride, discourages criminal activity, reduces vehicle traffic and parking congestion, and provides safer streets for everyone. The economy gets a boost from active transportation, as it can increase tourism and related sales due to reduced traffic and parking congestion, increase property values and retail sales due to greater customer convenience and livability of the community, and reduce costs in treating air and water pollution. Active transportation has benefits for the citizens of Claremont. It provides low impact exercise, offers affordable transportation, improves over-all health and well-being, connects you to your neighborhood and community.
Claremont provides a friendly setting for active transportation. Our town is about 2.5 miles wide by 5.5 miles long, so most of us could use active transportation for the majority of our trips around town. In 20 minutes most people can walk 1 mile and on a bicycle a mile typically takes 6 minutes or less. Nearly all of our streets are pedestrian and bicycle friendly with minimal traffic. The weather in Southern California is typically mild, making active transportation easier and more enjoyable.
Lastly, our city government and staff are very active in encouraging sustainable transportation. Through their efforts Claremont has been recognized as a Bicycle Friendly Community in 2003 and again in 2008 by the League of American Bicyclists. The city has obtained several grants for infrastructure and education and will be seeking more to continue to improve opportunities for active transportation. For more information or to get involved in active transportation efforts for Claremont, contact Maria Tipping, City of Claremont Bicycle Coordinator — firstname.lastname@example.org – 909-399-5330.
Demystifying Sustainability is an initiative of Sustainable Claremont (sustainableclaremont.org).