Okay, this is pure bloggery: that is, more question than answer, more perplexity than clarity.
My city of Raleigh is running a little poll on its home page: "Capital Boulevard should have a greenway linking downtown with Crabtree Creek." Yes or no. Simple stuff. The results page has been all over the map, so I got involved and started tweeting about it, asking people to vote.
Here's the simple story Capital Boulevard is the gateway to Raleigh from the north. It's also our ugliest major street, with jersey barriers separating traffic directions, pedestrians routinely getting hit trying to cross it, and mostly just major mass ugliness. So, naturally the city wants to fix it, and has done some serious study on the matter. The study deals all kinds of hopeful multimodal attempts, cleanup attempts, efforts to offer alternatives to car travel. It's going to cost about $60 million dollars, and so everybody wants to get things right. It's going to be fab. And as part of that, this nonbonding poll: what about a greenway, citizens? Frankly I wouldn't have expected a single "no" vote. And yet they come.
Here's my question. The Pigeon House Branch, a little creek that is Raleigh's most polluted yet remains something of a lovely little stream -- I have seen herons fishing on the Pigeon House -- provides a perfect spot for a bike-and-pedestrian greenway, connecting dozens of miles of parallel greenways north and south of downtown. Given that the entire roadway will be under construction anyhow and the creek will need to be managed and supported either way, it's hard to imagine the greenway adding even $1 million to the project. And the usual objection to greenways in residential neighborhoods -- thieves are going to use the greenway as a highway to my house, carrying away my 48-inch plasma TV on their bicycles three miles until they can get to the road where they parked the getaway car -- doesn't wash on a greenway that goes only through industrial
and commercial territory.
Yet every time I tweet and Facebook the link and encourage people to vote, the vote quickly skyrockets towards the yesses -- and then over a day or so equalizes back out.
Really? REALLY? So that's my question. You out there -- you. Whoever you are, voting constantly that the city should spend millions of dollars to improve its streets for cars but should never spend a penny for pedestrians. I'm dying to know: why? Why? What could possibly be wrong with adding a way for pedestrians and bicyclists to get downtown to work, to eat, to shop, to entertain themselves, without either helping to clog up an already busy street or sitting in traffic. Raleigh was a national innovator in greenways, in fact, starting its system in 1974 as a response to rapid growth. The system was overlooked for a couple decades, but it's reemerged as one of the city's most treasured assets. And here people are, voting against giving it the improvement it most needs.
To me the Capital Boulevard greenway seems like the most obvious of wins. It keeps a few cars off the road. It gives the city a new and wonderful amenity. It helps improve a troubled stream. And it has almost no downside at all, with the exception of a very small addition to the cost of an enormous civil undertaking that's going ahead with or without it.
So I'm genuinely asking. Someone, please, explain to me why you are voting against this. And commenters, though I'd love to hear suggestions of who votes against this and why, please let's be polite. This is a genuine plea for understanding. Either there are a lot of people out there who think a greenway along a stream as an alternative to car travel is a bad idea, or they think spending money on that is a bad idea, or something. Someone is against this, and I'm genuinely flummoxed. I want to understand who and why. So please vote yes -- the vote isn't limited to Raleigh citizens -- but also hope that I can come to understand who's against this and why.