You shouldn't have to own a car
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Cars are expensive, dangerous, and now they're killing our planet.
There is an alternative called Tiny Transit. Innovative cities from coast-to-coast are already proving that people will use small electric vehicles in droves if there are dedicated paths to make them safe.
We look to places like Lincoln, CA, Peachtree City, GA, the Coachella Valley region, and beach towns where neighborhood electric vehicles and open air golf carts have become part of the culture.
The opportunity is now. With our economy in shambles, it is anticipated that Congress will pass a large economic stimulus bill focused on infrastructure. If we do nothing, that money will likely go to massive roadway projects by default. Pouring billions of dollars into a 1950s-era system makes no sense, especially with fewer commuters on the road.
Instead, let's innovate. Let's 'build back better' by developing the infrastructure to protect low speed, lightweight, eco-friendly transportation, from little cars to bicyclists and pedestrians. Let's allow U.S. mayors and city leaders to invest federal transportation dollars in safe, low speed, low cost mobility alternatives that will truly help people, strengthen communities, cut carbon emissions, and create new economic opportunities.
Imagine people zipping safely around our cities in neighborhood electric vehicles, Vespa-style scooters, golf carts, pedicabs, bicycles, ebicycles, and more. There is even a wheelchair accessible vehicle where the wheelchair rolls in to become the driver's seat. Imagine the opportunities for students, entrepreneurs, small businesses, inventors, and young people with innovative ideas. Imagine the Low Emission Alternative Network (LEAN) infrastructure as an ideal platform for low cost self-driving vehicles. And think of it: LEAN infrastructure can be developed in a fraction of the time and cost of conventional roads.
Right now, millions of Americans are behind on car payments. They can no longer afford the $8,400/year average cost of owning, operating and maintaining a car. How are they going to live and work in our car-centric cities? We can ease their pain by dramatically reducing the cost of mobility. Cities can link LEAN networks to public transit stops so that people can go wherever they need to on a shoestring budget. This is mobility equity.
Conventional car drivers benefit, too, as fewer cars on the road means less traffic congestion. Suddenly, it's possible to rethink land use. Cities around the country are creating "healthy streets" by restricting cars. People are venturing out to walk, bicycle, and push strollers along streets that were until recently just for cars.
It's time for change. We're living with a deadly transportation system designed by the great-great-grandfathers of today's teenagers. Each year, 38,000 people are killed on America's roads. Another 100,000 suffer life-altering injuries. It's like the Hunger Games, where a certain number of people have to be killed, only in this case it's so that the rest of us can drive.
For years, we've been told that there's not enough money to develop protected lanes for bicycles. We're supposed to be happy with a stripe on the side of a busy road. Meanwhile, 8,000 bicyclists and pedestrians are killed each year. A painted stripe is not protection.
People of all ages are now choosing low cost, low stress, climate-conscious alternatives out of economic necessity. We have a moral obligation to keep them safe.
"If a lot of people are going to turn to micromobility, whether it's owned or shared, we need to figure out a way to make it safe," says Beth Osborne, Director of Transportation for America.
The way forward is to invest in LEAN infrastructure. Funding for this initiative must notcome from funding for bicycles and sidewalks, which are more vital than ever. Instead, the money should come from the traditional federal funding for transportation infrastructure. We can build this LEAN infrastructure with the crumbs of major transportation projects. Add to that the anticipated infrastructure stimulus bill, and this LEAN infrastructure initiative can transform our cities.
We urge Congress to seize this moment to give U.S. cities the funds to become safer, greener, kinder, more inclusive, more affordable, more equitable, and more resilient, with livability and mobility for all.
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