Cycling and Custom Homes

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I didn't post here last Friday because I was riding my bike. I wasn't slacking, though. I was participating in the Trek Across Maine, a fundraiser for the American Lung Association. Good cause, nice people, lots of fun; if you're into cycling you might want to give it a try. But what's the connection between cycling and what we talk about here? Well, the link is stronger than you might think.

For one thing, recreational cycling seems to be very popular with architects and builders. Over the years, I've had the good luck to combine reporting and a bike ride with my interviewee with surprising frequency. The demographics of cycling also overlap significantly with those of architecture/custom home clients. And being a cyclist influences a number of other client factors, from bike storage and workshop layout to the choice of where to live. The latter is especially interesting these days, as more and more affluent clients choose locations close to work, shopping, and entertainment. Not all of them are riding bikes, but the features that make a place good for cycling--relatively compact development, low traffic speed, a multi-modal transportation plan--also appeal to clients who don't ride.

And it seems that we can look forward to more such places developing. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood recently issued a statement that all future DOT-funded projects will accommodate cyclists and pedestrians as well as motorists.

The DOT policy is to incorporate safe and convenient walking and bicycling facilities into transportation projects. Every transportation agency, including DOT, has the responsibility to improve conditions and opportunities for walking and bicycling and to integrate walking and bicycling into their transportation systems. Because of the numerous individual and community benefits that walking and bicycling provide — including health, safety, environmental, transportation, and quality of life — transportation agencies are encouraged to go beyond minimum standards to provide safe and convenient facilities for these modes.

This brief statement has the potential to transform our communities in just the way that most suits a large proportion of custom home clients. The U.S. will never match the Netherlands in this regard, but if we're lucky we'll move at least a little bit in that direction. If you want to see what is possible--and we two-wheelers can dream, can't we?--check out the World Watch Institute's recent report on cycling's current status and its potential as a tool to address some of the world's biggest problems.

And if you're ever visiting the coast of Maine, drop me a line. We'll go for a ride. --B.D.S.



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