Advocating for Automobiles to Advocating for People

Before I started at UNC Charlotte, I actually advocated for automobiles because I advocated for NC 3 to be widened between Mooresville and Kannapolis. Even though I can’t see your face or hear your reaction, many of my college friends have been surprised to learn that I haven’t always advocated for people. When I say I now advocate for people, this includes people who drive automobiles. This article discusses how it is possible to advocate for motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit users all at the same time. The below photo shows one example because First Avenue in New York City was redesigned to accommodate more than just motorists. As the after graphic demonstrates, motorists, bicyclists and transit users all have dedicated space on the road.

First Avenue in New York City

First Avenue in New York City

Even though the below photo may not be of First Avenue, it shows how pedestrians benefit from the road redesign because the crossing distance is shorter. Before the redesign, pedestrians didn’t have a pedestrian refuge island.

Pedestrians benefit

Motorists benefit from the redesign because there are left-turn pockets, which reduced the amount of automobile traffic delay on First Avenue. “No doubt many factors were involved, but a DOT spokesperson tells CityLab that the steady traffic flow was largely the result of adding left-turn pockets. In the old street configurations, cars turned left from a general traffic lane; in the new one, they merged into a left-turn slot beside the protected bike lane (below, an example from 8th and 23rd). This design has two key advantages: first, traffic doesn’t have to slow down until the left turn is complete, and second, drivers have an easier time seeing bike riders coming up beside them.”

Motorist benefits

Returning to how I advocated for motorists. I actually have proof of how I advocated for motorists through this Salisbury Post article from the week of January 23, 2009 (original article link was lost so article date is wrong). Hugh Fisher, who I am good friends with today, wrote the following in the article.

Not everyone was opposed to the idea of a wider N.C. 3. Ray Atkinson lives about a mile off of the highway.
“I think it’s good to plan for growth,” Atkinson said. The N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis would benefit from the proposed improvements, he added.

Since NC 3 between Mooresville and Kannapolis goes through low density land uses like farm land, I wouldn’t advocate for NC 3 to be widened today. Widening NC 3 where there is low density land use would promote sprawl. I may be open to supporting widening NC 3 if the area becomes more dense, but hopefully the area will only become more dense after fully developing the high density land uses within the city limits of Mooresville and Kannapolis. The following shows the article with a photo of me looking at maps of the options for NC 3.

Kannapolis Citizen article from January 28, 2009

Kannapolis Citizen article from the week of January 28, 2009

I said the statements during my senior year at Northwest Cabarrus High School and just a semester before I started at UNC Charlotte. What do you think I would say today with the below option as one of the choices?

Option B calls for a slightly higher residential zoning density and would allow more light commercial development in selected “neighborhood centers.”
That plan also calls for expanding N.C. 3 to a four-lane “rural parkway” designed to remain scenic, with a grassy median and no sidewalks. There would be a separate path alongside the road for pedestrians and cyclists.

If the interview were today, I believe I would have expressed appreciation for including “a separate path alongside the road for pedestrians and cyclists.” This change in perception can most likely be attributed to my car-light lifestyle while attending UNC Charlotte. Once I realized the benefits of providing people with transportation choices and seeing all the negative outcomes of driving an automobile, I co-founded and was president of the UNC Charlotte Cyclists Club. I find it amazing how much living car-light impacted my future education and career. When I started at UNC Charlotte, I didn’t even think about attending the University of Oregon or Portland State University. Becoming a sustainable transportation planner wasn’t even on my horizon before I started at UNC Charlotte.

One career path that did remain consistent throughout my life was my passion for geography. I have always enjoyed reading and creating maps. However, how I use and create maps have changed over the course of my life so far. Even though I was interested in geography before I started at UNC Charlotte, I was more interested in becoming a meteorologist just a few years before I refocused on becoming a planner. The below photo shows what my 4th grade teacher gave me in 2001, which shows proof of my interest in meteorology. Meteorologists and planners both use maps so this is where the careers are similar.

Due to possible confusion with the title of this post, I want to discuss the significance of why I chose to use the word “automobiles” in the the title. Since automobiles are not people, why not replace automobiles with motorists? I purposely wrote automobiles instead of motorists to show the impact of planning for automobiles instead of people. The below photo shows how this difference in thinking makes a huge difference in how our world has been planned. How many people are in the top and bottom halves of the photo? As you count the number of people, please remember motorists drive automobiles. I differentiate between automobiles and motorists because you can’t see motorists from outside their automobiles. If you counted automobiles, please recount the number of people. Do you see the difference?

If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places.

Another option for the title is “Advocating for Motorists to Advocating for People”. Since motorists are people, what is the difference between advocating for motorists and people?  The difference lies in the fact that not all people are motorists. In order to plan for people, planners need to plan for all modes of transportation and not just motorists. Surprisingly, I haven’t always thought this.

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