Due to the Pandemic Roads are Being Closed to Traffic in the U.S. & Worldwide. Will It Last?

Video Transcription:

Jim Dodson: Hi, it's Jim Dodson, the Florida Bike Guy. So roads are close to traffic in the US and around the world. So the question is, will it last? You know, I'm sort of reminded this week of that beautiful song, Imagined by John Lennon, those of us who are in the cycling world, imagine roads without cars. Imagine freely riding your bike without being anxious and concerned about traffic and the dangers that cars pose to us. Just can you imagine having the sport and the recreation that we love in a world where we're not dealing with all of those issues? Well, this has been this whole COVID thing has been such a terrible tragedy on the human toil that it's caused, to people who can't work, businesses that are closed and the economic turmoil. It's a disaster. And we pray for those people and we pray for our country to recover and get back on our feet. At the same time, the flip side of that disaster is it gives us the opportunity to actually see what we imagine.

These roads don't have very many cars. It is such a pleasure to get on your bike and ride for where you wanna go and not be anxious about traffic. And it's given, this is only been about 60 days and it's given people in government around the world the opportunity to say, what would it be like to close roads to traffic? What would it be like to transfer this economy from one driven by car traffic to one driven by pedestrians and cyclists? What would that world look like? How would we get there? What would we do to make that happen? I don't live in a fantasy world. We know from China that as traffic as they lift the restrictions, people are getting back in their cars. As a matter of fact, there may even be a reverse effect. People are anxious about mass transit, many of them are gonna abandon mass transit for some unknown period of time, and they're going to be in their car. So car use may actually go up, particularly in the big metropolitan areas. Most carriers in Florida, we don't have mass transit to speak up. And so we're really gonna ask the question of how much of the traffic we were dealing with before, will return.

Have you seen those images of the world without carbon monoxide poisoning from automobiles every day? It's been astonishing. The clean air that is, you should see that actually the CO2 in the air dissipate. And the cities and these countries become clean and free of that. How can you imagine what our world would be like without it? What reverse perhaps this trend of global warming that we're going through.

So what's been the response to so many of our communities around the world? The first response has been to a lot of communities have taken it upon themselves to close streets. London has a goal because of all this going on to close half of its streets to car traffic, and then began to aggressively move in that direction. The city of Oakland, California probably has done more in the United States than any other city that I'm aware of. They actually have closed down or restricted or voluntarily restricted automobile traffic on 74 miles of city roads within the city of Oakland, California. Some of them are neighborhoods where they're just urging people to ride and urging residents with their cars to be more observant of bikes, but many of them have been actually closed to traffic.

Manchester in the UK has a goal, largely as a real result of what's going on, to close 1800 miles of its city streets, to cars. We've had street closures in Denver and in Minneapolis. In some places, they're aggressively adding bicycle lanes. Paris has a plan to add 650 kilometers of bike lanes, protected bike lanes. They actually have a plan to turn Paris into a city where you're no more than 15 minute by bike from any major destination. Imagine that. So everybody in the city of Paris would be no more than 15 minutes away from where they needed to be.

We've had cities create car free days. My daughter lived in San Francisco for many years. And if you've been there, Golden Gate Park is a magnificent park that runs largely along the Pacific. One end is up close to the Presidio, and to the Golden Gate Bridge, the other one goes down into the city. But in the middle of this park is a fairly substantial road that connects one into the other and I if my memory serves me correctly, it's over three miles in length. On Sundays, for years they closed that road to automobile traffic. So all the years I was visiting my daughter there, you could ride your bike, in line skateboard, parents could walk kids on strollers, they can have their push cycles, this amazing and fantastic. So people would be drawn to the park and while at the park, they could enjoy this amazing ability to ride this very wide, smooth paved road without fear of automobile traffic. And cities are turning more and more to having car free days. And it's a way when you get people to recognize the value of a car free day, both drivers and cyclists understand the benefit that comes from that. And it draws people into doing those activities that they wouldn't ordinarily be doing.

So right now, we've been reaching out to bike clubs throughout Florida, and it's astonishing how busy that bike clubs are. Why are they so busy? Because everyone who's ever thought of biking is bringing their bikes in for repairs or buying bikes, or getting on a bike for the first time. People are having anecdotal information about how the trails are crowded and how just everywhere you go, you see people on bikes, which is a great, great thing because the more we're out there, the more it enforces the safety issue, there's strength in numbers as we all know, and the more that those in positions of authority to make decisions on planning and execution of road designs and safety and bike lanes, protected bike lanes, see the value of all of this, and see the enormous response and see the benefit that our cities and our people, the citizens of our cities get from having the ability to ride their bike and enjoy life and commute and travel from place to place and safety and in a way that they really enjoy.

So I think that one of the, if you if you wanna call it a good thing, I hate hate to use the word a good thing but an opportunity exists to take what has been a clear tragedy and a hardship for our country and worldwide, and use what we learn in this event to create good from it. I don't know many of you probably weren't around in the 70s when many the Middle Eastern countries created an oil embargo. I don't remember the politics of it but I do remember that they shut off oil to the United States. And back then we were really dependent upon Middle Eastern oil. And it created in the United States for this period of time, it seemed like months and months, enormous pressure to get gasoline, there were enormous gas lines. They would go on for blocks and blocks for people waiting in line to get gas. It was terrible. So Amsterdam, back in the 70s was no different than any other American city. They were predominantly a car centric society. But they decided as a result of that oil embargo to flip the switch on the use of cars and the use of bicycles. So you flash forward to today, the decades that have passed. Amsterdam, now has two times the number of people making a commute to work on a bicycle meant to do on a car. Like 62,000 people in Amsterdam commute to work on a bicycle daily. I know they live in a cooler climate, and that certainly has an advantage. But what they really have is a decision and a will and a purpose to change how they lived. And it's the perfect example, for those of us who support and encourage and espouse the cycling culture, the cycling community, and the ability to ride your bike not only for recreation, but for your work to get to and from work.

The other thing that I think is going to come out of this, I think many people have recognized that perhaps they can go to work on a bicycle that weren't doing it before. Many people have recognized that they're not necessary for them to be in the office every day. Maybe they can work at home more or some period of time. I'm sure that many people in an office environment today will never come back to an office but will continue to live at home because they've determined that they can do it. And every business has to answer this, in its own circumstances. But I think we have an opportunity, as businesses, as individuals, as clubs, bike clubs, to effect this dialogue and effect the change and affect what we want to have happen in terms of freeing up our ability to ride safely, to increase our health and fitness and all of the mental and emotional benefits that come from cycling. And I think the good that can come out of this is a determination and a commitment by those in positions of authority and planning in our cities in our states, and nationally, to commit to a cycle culture, and wean us away from the automobile culture and all the harm that it causes.

So that's my thoughts on this. I'm Jim Dodson, the Florida bike guy. I'd love to hear from you. Be safe out there. And let's get cars off the road. Take care.

Jim Dodson
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A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.