If I ran an ad campaign, I’d propose the following print advertisement: Two pictures of a professional woman walking from a parking garage to the train station. The picture on the left would show the woman walking tall and confidently as she is heading through a rain-streaked glassed-in walkway. The picture on the right shows the same woman, wincing while walking in driving rain, holding an umbrella that is bending by the force of the wind as her clothes and bag get soaked.
The caption: How would you rather get to work?
At 7:00pm tonight, there is a public hearing on the Stamford Transportation Center parking garage at the Stamford High School. Here a lot of people will be sounding off about a plan to move the Stamford train station parking garage (the one that is connected to the station via a glassed-in walkway) up to a quarter of a mile from the station. The most frequent argument I’ve heard is that it is only ‘five more minutes’ to walk a quarter of a mile to get to the train station.
I was curious as to whether that argument was valid or not, so this past Sunday, with a GPS and a stopwatch, I walked a quarter of a mile from the Stamford train station. I also took one of those rolling tape measure things to understand the total distance of the glassed-in walkway (all the results are posted on DIYBIKING.COM).
Now I did conclude that ¼ of a mile, when there is little traffic, comfortable shoes and great weather, is closer to six minutes, which adds twelve minutes a day, five days a week, fifty weeks a year, to someone’s commute. That adds up, and the argument isn’t about the ‘five more minutes’ one would spend commuting, but the ‘five fewer minutes’ one would NOT be able to do something far more enjoyable with your life, like having breakfast with your spouse or talking to your kids about their day.
It’s a lot of time, and I don’t think it’s fair that motorists should be told to give that up.
I’ve met with some resistance from some cyclists I know about my opinion on the station. On a social networking site, where the DIYBIKING.COM link was posted, one cyclist actually wrote “1/4 mile = 5 minutes = lazy (deleted)” on a comment section. I sighed. I hate it when my fellow two-wheeled friends, who despise it when non-cyclists ignore our needs (having more bike lanes, better bike parking, more access on trains, and so on) don’t mind ignoring the needs of motorists, who, more often than not, can’t or won’t live close enough to a train station to ride a bike there, and may already have a lengthy door-to-door commute and doesn’t want a final, back-breaking feather dropped onto it.
To be fair, I’m thinking about my own selfish needs here too: I think if the train is less convenient for motorists, some will skip the train entirely and just drive all the way. As a cyclist, I want fewer people driving on days (like today) when I ride my bike to work. Also, if the station stays where it is, I want motorists to see great indoor bike parking the moment they pull into the station garage and think to themselves: ‘maybe I should ride to work instead’ but while that’s happening, I want the train to be as convenient as possible for as many people as possible.
Now I want to be a cyclist all the time. I do like the idea of walkable communities. I want to be the anti-Robert Moses of urban planning or at least stand right next to Bizarro, bike-and-pedestrian-loving Moses with a hard hat and unrolled blueprints. But people drive, and I think they’d be more likely to consider our needs as cyclists if we consider their needs as motorists. Hope to see you at tonight’s hearing.
Mike Norris is the founding editor of DIYBIKING.COM, a site dedicated to casual cycling, random builds, and bike travel. He lives and works in Stamford and owns one 3,300 lb. SUV and 9 and 1/16 bicycles. He can be reached at email@example.com