Ten minutes of transit time. That is the length of time most of the people that I talk to are willing to travel via alternative means before they will ‘just drive’. When asking around to find out what that threshold is amongst the suburbanites I live around 10 minutes has been the most consistent answer. However, that answer is almost always accompanied by a qualifier; If there was a safe route.
Therein lies the issue. Safe routes remain scarce in the suburban build out, and so, the car has become the default mode of transportation.
Interestingly, the communities that have traditionally been the least likely to invest in non-car infrastructure, are the very same ones that are now seeing the light and becoming the first communities to invest deeply into establishing new infrastructure. Sadly, in many of these communities, the drivers are all wrong, but he results may well be the right ones.
Today, the drivers that are urging this infrastructure build out are purely commercial in origin. These new ‘walkable’ suburbs are being driven by small commercial centers and new suburban residential centers, with high dollar price tags. Small walkable hubs have started springing up in the affluent suburbs around the country. While these hubs are all about these expensive homes and high end retail which really isn’t the point of good, non-car infrastructure at the end of the day, these builds outs accomplish the long term goal encouraging walkable communities.
Curiously, the side effect of these little suburban enclaves is starting to show a side effect. The neighborhoods that are just a little further out from the community hubs are pressing for viable infrastructure as well, at least in our little suburban enclaves.
These are the very pressures that have to exist in order to garner the money and incentive for our communities to undermine the 50 years of car primacy, which is particularly egregious in the suburbs and the rural edge communities.
But let us step back and think about what 10 minutes means:
- The average walking pace is about 18 minutes per mile, or just a tiny bit over 3 miles an hour.
- The average pace of a casual bike ride is about 6 minutes per mile, or about 10 miles an hour.
So, if you extrapolate that from these little community hubs and draw a circle of just one half mile in radius from these hubs in order to see just how much of the residential areas are encompassed. When you expand that circle out to a 3 mile radius, and you start connecting these micro community hubs with real, viable non-car infrastructure.
Just look at this image. The green circles are the city hubs and walkable areas within that 10 minute threshold, while the yellow circles are the 10 minute ridable from those same community hubs. In this image, they are focused on the community retail hubs, but they could just as easily be dropped on high schools or existing recreational hubs. What is clear however, is that by focusing on infrastructure from any of these as focal points, the overlap quickly covers a vast area of the suburban sprawl. When you look at the area covered, what also becomes clear, that by following this approach of focus, the near term goal of providing safe, viable alternative transportation options of bicycle safe routes in between each hub ceases to be about corridors, because there are very few locations that require a transfer point, which is the problem with todays approaches.
So the question becomes, can we leverage the idea of the 10 minute transit time into a near to mid term solution to obtaining the funding, and construction of viable transit alternatives?