Ever notice how many more places have cigarette butt disposal units near their entrance than bicycle parking racks? Well here in Mid-Michigan it may very well be a five or even ten to one ratio. It seems to me that all we are doing is rewarding a bad habit (smoking) versus celebrating and encouraging a good one (bike commuting or riding).
I understand that no business or organization wants a bunch of ugly cigarette butts littering its lawn or entrance. God knows it is a disgusting sight. Unfortunately, residents of my apartment complex seem not to care as each spring there are literally piles of discarded butts near building entrances after the snow melts. Yuck!
But here’s the rub, by providing cigarette butt disposal units in much greater quantity than bike parking racks, these businesses and organizations are not so subtly saying through their actions that they support an unhealthy habit like smoking more than healthy activities like bicycling. Remember, actions speak much louder than words.
The really sad thing is you will see these cigarette disposal units placed outside of businesses that you would think are naturally supportive of health, fitness, recreation, like sporting goods stores and pharmacies. Doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of promoting good health? I sure think it does.
My suggested solution is for communities to adopt a bicycle parking ordinance that rewards those businesses and organizations who provide bicycle racks by allowing a compensatory reduction (or credit) in their off-street parking requirements – not necessarily a one to one ratio, but enough to entice participation. That’s a win-win scenario to me.
Furthermore, as planners shouldn’t we be emphasizing alternative transportation and active options like bicycling and walking when we review projects? For far too many years, the almighty automobile has largely shaped society, spatial design, and land use planning. Today, its high time to expand our vision to incorporate alternative and active transportation options in nearly all (not just some) projects.
During the review process is when planner must speak up about such matters – not hoping for cooperation after the fact. Insist on bicycle parking as part of a complete package. One method could be to include a health impact assessment as part of the permit review process. If cigarette butt disposal units are a must, then so be it, but at least bicycle parking will now be included in the overall equation. It is never too late to act for what we do today will impact future generations.