Thursday, February 25, 2010

Canary Is To Coal Mine As Tree Is To Traffic

For a nice change, we bring you this interesting view of the road from our frequent commenter, Val! We all have a road like this in our communities (unless you are reading this in Denmark or Holland or Japan or Sweden or.... in which case we give you this opportunity to see just what you are missing out on!). How do you see yours?

The neighborhood I live in is a somewhat isolated suburb, on top of a steep ridge. There are only three routes up or down this ridge, and all are crowded and challenging to ride. Here's one:

It doesn't really show, but that's a 10% grade there, with a 40mph limit that almost all the traffic exceeds. This is a section where I frequently use the sidewalk, especially coming up (and, yes, if I'm doing that, I'm going at pedestrian speed, yeilding to people, and smiling as I pass them - politeness always helps).

Further down the hill, the street is lined with cherry trees:

It's very pleasant for those of us not sealed in high speed boxes, and you can see that February is turning out to be quite nice here in the Puget Sound area. As we proceed along this stretch, however, we see that not all of these trees are standing straight:

In fact, quite a few seem less than vertical:

What could cause such a thing? Perhaps this is a clue:

Or, if that is not enough, how about:

If the sight of a truncated trunk lying on the ground with its bark torn off still doesn't tell the tale, I direct your attention to my final exhibit:

That's right, what we are seeing here is automotive damage. The combination of a steep hill, crowded road, and people in a hurry leads to motor vehicles going off the road in this area with alarming regularity. I shudder to think of anyone who may have been walking when these things happened. The trees, at least, can adapt and survive, usually. There are several blank spaces in the row that have been left by trees that were too damaged.

Why post this here? For me, this street is a constant graphic reminder of some of the contrasts between bikes and cars. When I am riding, I can appreciate the cherry trees, which are barely noticeable from a sealed environment going 40-50mph, and I know that no matter how out of control I get, I will never knock one over. We hear about illnesses caused by exhaust fumes, we read the statistics about deaths in traffic, and we know that driving increases stress in drivers, but constant visible damage like this has another sort of impact. Every time I see these trees, I am glad to be riding.

Do you have a ride you would like us to see? We would love to view the world through your eyes. A favorite road? A place that leaves you wondering? Something that makes you want to become an urban planner? Share with the world!


  1. That Road is very wide,they should narrow that Road and put in a Dedicated Cycle Lane on both sides of the Road. Put in a Speed Limit of 30MPH and put in Road Ramps or Humps to slow that Traffic down so that if they Speed they will Damage their Cars.

    Also get the Cops to put in surprise Speed checks at different times of the Day with Radar Scanners. They could do with Camera's on Poles to Photograph them and send Fines out to them for Speeding.

    It is surprising nobody has complained about all the Trees and Fences being Damaged and nobody has been knocked down yet or have they.

    Our Country Roads are Lethal especially at Nightime in Ireland hardly any Police around to watch them Speeding.

  2. l.a.v.: What actually happens on this road is that if I ride in the lane, I get pulled over by the King County Sherrif's Dept., asked why I am riding in the road "when there is a perfectly good sidewalk", and threatened with citations for "Impeding Traffic". So far, none has had the patience to actually cite me, but law enforcement in this area is seriously dedicated to keeping the roads free for the fastest motor vehicle traffic possible. It makes commuting an interesting proposition. As for the trees and fences, no one seems to care (well, I do, but so what?). Val

  3. Wow, what a simple, powerful post. Look at the trees and it's no wonder that people aren't cycling and walking anymore. How many trees (easily swapped for people) have to be knocked down in order for the road to be traffic-calmed and the speed limit reduced?!

  4. Val - Whereabouts in King Co. is this? Looks Eastside to me - Bellevue area? If it's where I think it is, I'm not surprised by the efforts of the KCSO to get you off the road...

  5. Mark: It's Fairwood, just east of Renton, up "hospital hill". Yep, you wanna ride a bike? Sherrifs don' like it... Val