I have to admit that when the idea of a "road diet" was first proposed for the north end of town, I was against it, mostly because I had no idea what the term meant, and my nature is to immediately hate anything that I don't understand.
Now, after seeing the new traffic pattern in action, I no longer feel dead-set against it. I understand the city has decreased the number of lanes, added bike lanes, and added a turn lane in the middle. As a driver, I understand what I'm supposed to do.
What I still don't understand is why this is called a road diet. The only explanation I can think of is that whatever department exists solely to name new projects thought that Ashlanders would begin dieting and riding bikes and get so in shape we eventually would end up on the cover of one of those magazines that usually feature large amounts of muscles attached to a human being.
I do not live on any of the side streets in that area of town, so I have no idea whether residents have seen an increase in the number of cars using their streets to get around the intersections that no longer allow left turns.
So far, any driving I have done there has been a straight shot down Main Street to reach work or get onto the freeway at the north Ashland exit.
Is it called a road diet simply because of the narrowing of the street, just the way a person on a diet would hope for a narrowing of the waist? Or is it because they hope to see a decrease in the amount of cars, enticing people to bicycle instead?
I have friends who bike to work, and since the road diet they have continued to bike to work. I have never once biked to work, and the addition of a bike lane is not enough to even make me start thinking about it.
What I would have hoped to see as part of the road diet is a renewed subsidy of the public buses by the city of Ashland.
I might ride a bike if I were being chased by a chainsaw-wielding stranger and was lucky enough to come across some unlocked wheels, but it would take a significantly smaller motivating force to get me to take the bus to work. In fact, I already do most of the time.
A bus ride, whether within Ashland or all the way to Medford, costs $2. I admit that in a world where people spend twice that much on a cup of coffee, $2 may not seem like a lot. But it still seems high enough that those who own a car — and already pay monthly gas and insurance bills — don't have a huge incentive to take the bus.
I'm not saying that taking the bus within Ashland should be free, but it would be nice if the fare came down by 50 percent. If a bus ride was a dollar instead of two, it might start to feel financially worthwhile, rather than just environmentally friendly. And let me tell you, when you're waiting for the bus, alone, at 6:30 in the morning, preventing global warming is not the first thing on your mind.
Zoe Abel better run if she's going to catch her bus. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.