The P.F. Chang’s Rock n’ Roll marathon was held today in Tempe/Phoenix, AZ, and as a result many of the streets were closed to automobile traffic to clear room for the estimated 37,000 runners and 5,000 volunteers. The race course traveled around the area in which I live, potentially rendering me house-bound for most of the morning…but only if I wanted to drive. I hopped on my aluminum steed at 9 am this morning to traverse the 5 miles to church, and had 4 lanes of road all to myself since the race had not made it that far just yet. The street I rode had been blockaded and even had motorcycle cops making sure no clueless drivers ended up on the wrong side of the orange cones. I stopped and chatted with two of the cops and they told me to help myself to the road, since the runners were 40 minutes behind me. I happily complied and enjoyed the dash down vacant streets on a beautiful, sunny Sunday morning.
When it was time for me to go back home, the race was still going in this part of town, but I was allowed to travel along the race course, inside the barricades, so long as I stayed out of the way. At this time, it was mostly the people who were walking that I encountered, but they only used 2 of the 3 lanes, leaving me plenty of room. One lane had been opened to auto traffic, but they weren’t really going anywhere. I thoroughly enjoyed riding past all of the cars as they impatiently waited for the 100 people in front of them to progress through the next traffic light, one car at a time.
And this got me thinking: first of all, I would love it if this situation would happen more often, with 3 of 4 lanes of road being designated for pedestrian and bicycle traffic. But what a dream that is! At the same time, I realized that is somewhat selfish in that people who legitimately need cars (handicapped, elderly…but it’s all grey territory) would be greatly inconvenienced by such a system.
But then I thought that this might be the kind of situation that is required to impact great transportation reform – and by that I do NOT mean “build more roads.” If people were forced (I tread VERY carefully here) into realizing how cycling (or even carpooling since 9 out of 10 cars I pass have A person in them) is a more efficient form of transportation, they might just be more willing to try it. But as long as our urban infrastructure and layout make it more convenient/easier to drive, I am sure people will be content doing just that, no matter how much gas might cost.
But I guess the major problem would be finding a mayor who would willingly close down 3 out of 4 lanes of traffic to let cyclists roam free. But then again, we all have to have dreams, right?