Monthly Archives: August 2007

Who Should Be Held Accountable for the Virginia Tech Tragedy? Try Seung-Hui Cho

In the aftermath of the official state report dissecting the Virginia Tech massacre, bereaved parents of killing victims are calling for the resignation of Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger. I can fully understand Gwaltney’s grief and desire for accountability. But there was one person — and one person only — who bears responsibility for the events of April 16, and that is Seung-Hui Cho.

The state report presented no evidence that anyone at Virginia Tech, or anywhere else, acted with incompetence or negligence. The report presented no evidence that Virginia Tech had failed to put into place safeguards that were commonly accepted at other universities. Although the report said Virginia Tech officials conceivably could have saved lives if they had acted differently (with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight), it is clearer than ever that the failure, like that of 9/11, was the incapacity of an entire system to contemplate and prepare for the inconceivable.

Virginia and the United States now have been forewarned. The failures of the system, especially of the mental health system, and devilish trade-offs involving the privacy of mental health patients, have been dissected and laid bare. If lawmakers fail to respond effectively, the bereaved parents will have someone to hold accountable. Fortunately, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine appears to be approaching the tragedy with a sober and thoughtful attitude. I, for one, am confident that appropriate measures will be taken.

More on the Loudoun Prosecutor Leak

The NV Daily’s Garren Shipley has the full story this morning on allegations that Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman was leaking grand jury information about Senate candidate Mark Tate to the press:

Charlie Jackson, a former reporter for Leesburg Today, wrote that Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman not only leaked information to him about the investigation into Tate’s faulty campaign finance records, but also pushed to have other negative material about the candidate published.

Tate’s lawyers want Plowman to answer questions about the conversations under oath, and have asked a court for permission to subpoena him.

Tate, a Loudoun County resident, challenged fellow Republican Jill Holtzman Vogel for the GOP nod in the November state Senate election. Sen. H. Russell Potts, Jr., R-Winchester, is not seeking re-election.

There could be a lot more to this story. Based upon the rumors and stories I’ve heard, there are many more people who have a great deal to answer for in this case. If even half of it is true, Plowman is just the tip of the ugly iceberg.

Did the Prosecutor Leak Information to the Grand Jury?

Something big may be brewing in Loudoun County. Here’s the tease from the Northern Virginia Daily:

The prosecutor who began the investigation of former Republican state Senate candidate Mark D. Tate leaked grand jury information to the media and was actively pushing negative stories about Tate, a former reporter on the story said under oath Thursday.

Tate, of Loudoun County, challenged fellow Republican Jill Holtzman Vogel for the chance to win the senate seat being vacated by Sen. H. Russell Potts, Jr., of Winchester. He was indicted by a Loudoun County Grand Jury on nine counts of perjury and two counts of election fraud just three weeks before the Republican primary.

Lawyers for Tate have said from the beginning that the prosecution was an unprecedented political maneuver designed to knock Tate out of the Senate race.

The full story will appear tomorrow…and it looks like a barn-burner.

The Creature from Stumpy Lake

One of the projects in the Hampton Roads transportation pipeline is the Southeastern Expressway, a 21-mile freeway that will loop south of the developed areas of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, skirt Stumpy Lake and vast wetlands, and deliver traffic to the Virginia Beach shoreline. The project, which would cost in the vicinity of $2.5 billion (in 2014 dollars), would be paid for through a combination of tolls and public moneys from the Hampton Roads Transportation Authority.

Welcome to the Hampton Roads where political and civic leaders prefer extravagant, mega-project solutions to traffic congestion. This particular monster has received only modest public scrutiny. In his article, “The Creature from Stumpy Lake,” Peter Galuszka provides an overview of the project, touching upon the financial, environmental and land use issues it raises.
Backers justify the project on the grounds that it will provide traffic relief. I’m willing to accept VDOT’s contention in the 2005 draft environmental impact statement that traffic conditions are bad and getting worse. The question is what to do about it. Is investing $2.5 billion in a 21-mile freeway through mostly un-developed land the most cost-effective use of resources? That kind of scratch can buy you a lot of spot road improvements, traffic light synchronization, bus service, van pools and other ride-sharing initiatives — especially if coordinated with the development of balanced, mixed-use villages and communities.

The EIS does offer an “improved no-build” alternative consisting of about 45 spot improvements, and concludes that it would not improve travel conditions as much as the Southeast Expressway would. The improved no-build scenario would reduce the number of hours of travel time per day spent in congested traffic by 46,000, as compared to 58,000 hours per day for the Expressway, yielding only 80 percent of the benefit. But the study does not say how much those spot improvements would cost. Would they cost $500 million, $1 billion, $2.5 billion? We don’t know. The draft does not provide the basis for comparing the financial Return on Investment of the alternatives.

Nor does the EIS examine the potential for using congestion pricing on segments of Interstate 64 and 264 as a way to optimize traffic flows and induce people to change their driving behavior. One more flaw: The EIS neglects to explore the impact of the Southeastern Expressway upon human settlement patterns. How much land would it open up for development? How many houses would be built along the new corridor? What would be the impact of more spread-out development on vehicle miles traveled, and what congestion would it cause to local country roads?

Lots of questions and no answers. Hampton Roads is gearing up to make a huge investment. Local leaders had better make sure they know the answers before commiting to one of the most expensive transportation projects in Virginia history.

Changing the Subject

Tim Craig’s WaPo piece on the GOP legislative leadership’s new immigration proposals makes for very entertaining reading. I absolutely love the set-up on this paragraph:

The college admissions proposal, which comes as party leaders try to shift public attention from controversial abusive-driving fees, is part of a five-point plan presented by Republican legislators, including House Speaker William J. Howell (Stafford) and Senate Majority Leader Walter A. Stosch (Henrico).

It reminds me of a scene from To Be Or Not To Be, where the flustered Col. Erhardt (Charles Durning), caught in a flip-flop by his aid Capt. Schultz (Christopher Lloyd) accuses Schultz of changing the subject…”Shift! Shift! Shift!”

I wonder if Mel Brooks is running political strategy for the GOP these days (Jack Benny being unavailable at press time)

And the article gets even better:

…most four-year colleges prohibit illegal immigrants, advocates and college officials said. “We don’t enroll illegal aliens,” said Jeff Hanna, a spokesman for the University of Virginia. “A student who applies and is accepted must produce documentation.” In 2004, a federal judge in Alexandria upheld the right of U-Va. and six other Virginia colleges and universities to deny admission to illegal immigrants. The suit was brought by illegal immigrants upset that they were being denied entry.

So there’s no real problem here, right? Unless there’s evidence to the contrary:

O’Brien couldn’t present any evidence Wednesday that illegal immigrants are gaining access to Virginia’s colleges.

Maybe his dog ate it. But there really, really has to be some justification for this proposal, right Senator?

GOP leaders offered statistics showing that 36 percent of applicants to a four-year public college in Virginia were rejected last year.

Ah hah! Now we’re getting somewhere!

They couldn’t say how many of those denials occurred because the applicants weren’t academically qualified.

Strike that… we’re back to where we started. Shift! Shift! Shift!

Now all this hard earned ribbing aside, I can appreciate the desire some have to see that taxpayer resources are not spent on people who came to this nation illegally, took no steps to change that status and then ask for state-supported college education.

But I would very strongly suggest that the great political minds behind these proposals make at least the modest attempt of prepping themselves before they hold a press conference.

Abuser Fees Working? Reckless Driving Down?

I was an early skeptic of Abuser Fees. Among other concerns, I wondered if the fees would succeed in their stated purpose of deterring reckless driving. Well, I like to think that my opinions are guided by the facts, and some preliminary facts are in. And it looks like, maybe, just maybe, that particular concern was not warranted.

Tyler Whitley at the Times-Dispatch reports that reckless driving arrests by the Virginia State Police have declined in July and the first three weeks of August of this year to 2,603, compared to 3,009 during the same period last year. The number of DUIs fell from to 189 from 199. Likewise, the numbers reported by Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover counties were generally lower as well.

However, police say it’s too soon to say with certainty that the stiff fines are the reason for the declining number of arrests. The deployment of radar and the use of aerial checks may be factors as well. But if the numbers hold up, the authors of the Abuser Fees will be vindicated on at least one count.

Cracking Down on Illegal Immigration: Legislators Try Again

The Republican leadership of the General Assembly has proposed a number of measures to deal with the growing problem of illegal immigration in Virginia. According to a press release from the House Speaker’s office, the key measures would:

  • Mandate that all local sheriffs, upon a lawful arrest for a crime, confirm that person’s legal presence in the United States using the nationwide databases of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
  • Ensure that at least one person on duty in every jail at all times has been certified to detain and begin deportation proceedings.
  • Create a presumption of no bail for any person who has been charged with an offense punishable by jail or prison time and who has been determined (through ICE databases) to be illegally present in the United States. This change will help stop controversial “catch and release” activities, one of the primary ways illegal aliens currently pass through existing government systems unchecked.
  • Make a federal conviction for hiring illegal aliens grounds for suspension of a business license issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia. This change will serve as an effective deterrent to the unlawful hiring of illegal aliens.
  • Prohibit illegal aliens from attending Virginia public institutions of higher education unless they have a valid student visa. Recognizing that college entrance slots are fixed and limited, this change will preserve state benefits for in-state students and their families.

Virginia Democrats appear to be divided on the issue of how to handle illegal immigration. There are the usual voices denouncing the initiative as a cynical election ploy playing to nativist sentiments of Virginia voters. But Democrat Albert Pollard Jr., running for the Senate seat of retiring Republican John H. Chichester, has announced a plan to help employers avoid hiring illegal immigrants by mistake, notes the Times-Dispatch.

And even Democratic Gov. Timothy M. Kaine expressed sympathy with the frustrations that the GOP legislators are trying to address. As quoted by the T-D, he said: “Because the federal government has completely abrogated their responsibility to enforce the nation’s immigration laws, states are picking it up.” According to the Washington Post, Kaine also said that he is eager to work with the Republicans to curtail illegal immigration but will wait for the findings of a state commission before endorsing a specific proposal.

The United States is a nation of immigrants. Everybody but a handful of nativists celebrates that tradition. Many take pride in the fact that the United States has become, in the words of columnist Ben Wattenburg, the first truly “world nation,” a mix of ethnicities from around the globe. At the same time, most Americans want to live in a country governed by the rule of law. It’s one thing to support legal immigration — according to rules and criteria established by Congress — and quite another to defend illegal immigration.

Every functioning nation-state in the world maintains control over who enters its country. Control over borders is a fundamental aspect of national sovereignty. If Congress is politically deadlocked over how to control the nation’s borders, then the states have every right to step in and fill the void.

The GOP measures seem better thought through than the wave of proposals submitted — and shot down — a year ago. But there may be flaws. If, so I would like to see them pointed out. I hope to see a calm and reasoned debate grounded in the facts.

Can We at Least Ship the Illegal Illegals Home?

More than 21,000 of the 215,769 individuals housed in local jails in the last fiscal year could not prove their U.S. citizenship, reports Tim McGlone with the Virginian-Pilot, quoting details in a Virginia State Crime Commission report released Tuesday.

If it’s any consolation, few of these guys are hardened murderers or drug dealers — most of the offenses were related to alcohol or driving without a license. But they aren’t exactly upstanding citizens either.

We can argue until we’re blue in the face whether illegals as a group are just hard-working souls filling jobs that Virginians won’t take, and the degree to which they impose a burden on Virginia taxpayers. But we now have documentary proof that some 21,000 individual illegals spent time in jail. Accounting for some 10 percent of the inmate population, they imposed an undeniable cost on local governments. Slam dunk. End of argument.

We can also argue until the cows come home whether various proposals to crack down on illegal immigrant would sweep up a lot of innocent legal immigrants just because they have the wrong accent or skin color. But when you’re counting illegals in jail, you don’t have to round up any innocents. You don’t have to hunt anyone down — we’ve caught them already! They’re sitting in jail!

It’s one thing to defend people who enter the country illegally but otherwise live blameless lives. It’s quite another to defend those who come here illegally and proceed to commit crimes and misdemeanors. To be fair, the number appears to include not only those convicted but those who were charged but not yet convicted. Still, if the militant activist groups defending illegal immigrants can’t make this one concession — that illegals already sitting in jail should be sent home — it seems to me that they lose the right to be taken seriously.

(I do foresee one tricky problem: What if the illegals refuse to reveal which country they emigrated from? Where do you send them? You can’t give someone a one-way ticket back to Mexico City because he “looks Mexican.” What if he’s Honduran or Guatamalan? You can’t ship someone back to Russia because he “looks Slavic.” What if he’s Polish or Czech? Someone will have to think that one through.)

0 for 6

There are six stories on the front page of Wapo today.

Every one of them is a human settlement pattern issue or has a human settlement pattern aspect and there is not one word about the human settlement patterns in any of the stories.

Let us start with “As Dulles Rail Staggers, Players Share in Blame.” Lots of talk about blame but not one word about how station-area settlement patterns would solve the “tunnel” issue or the “cost” issue. If there was a clear understanding of what is needed in the Dulles corridor (See “Rail to Dulles Realities,” 4 Jan 2004, “Rethinking METRO,” 18 Oct 2004 and “All Aboard,” 16 April 2007) then the Virginia Governor / Sec of Transportation, FTA and No-Bid Contract problems would be gone as well.

“METRO Blames Mechanical Failures” spotlights the need for system wide Balance between capacity and demand. With an understanding of this reality, demand would be down (due to station area Balance) and support would be up allowing for rational investment in infrastructure. See Backgrounder “Time to Fundamentally Rethink METRO” recent post “It Will Take More Than Lint.”

“Japan’s Warp-speed Ride to Internet Future” highlights “the last mile problem” that is a direct result of dysfunctional settlement patterns. While the Internet will not assure a sustainable trajectory for civilization, good access would help a lot. Instead of focusing on Japan, take a look at Sweden (nine times the average US of A speed) and Canada (four times the average US of A speed). Search for Shape of the Future use of the settlement patterns in both these nation-states as examples of how US of A settlement patterns could improve with a better understanding of what democracy and a free market require to flourish.

“Bush Wants $50 Billion More for the Iraq War” is another paving stone on the road to entropy that is the result of dependence on Large, Private vehicles for Mobility and Access. See our recent post “Three Questions Encore” and the “Whale on the Beach,” 28 August 2006 column and “The Problem With Cars,” coming soon.

The front page color picture adds another dimension to the settlement pattern issue: Opening the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge a week early will help commuters. The only real assistance available for commuters is to help them become non-commuters by evolving functional human settlement patterns. (See Balance under METRO story above.)

How do the stories about the VA Tech shootings and the Elephant Clan senator from Idaho relate to human settlement patterns? Those who need to ask, have not been reading The Shape of the Future very carefully. We hope to make these connection more clear in TRILO-G.

Have a Nice Day.


Judge: “Taxation without Representation is Constitutional”

It’s indeed a sad day when a judge can rule that (as reported by the Washington Post):

“nothing in the state or federal constitution blocks the General Assembly from setting up a regional “political subdivision” for the purpose of taxation. And the regional authority’s members are not required to be elected directly by the people, he ruled.” (emphasis added)

No wonder the NVTA and the cabal of politicians pushing through this shameful bill (HB 3202), went shopping for a judge in the People’s Republic of Arlington! And even though, Circuit Judge Kendrick finds himself in a conflict-of-interest–as he is an Arlington resident and by definition a defendant in the suit brought by the NVTA to validate the bonds–he refused to recuse himself and let a disinterested court rule on the case.

If the Virginia Supreme Court doesn’t overturn this decision on an expedited basis, Virginians will have done a full circle. We will become the subjects of unelected and unaccounted monarchs–only this time, the “monarchs” will be a bunch of do-good liberals and other profit-seeking businesses who plan on fleecing our wallets.

Our founding fathers must be turning in their graves…

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Wilder and Obama

I’ll be on WRVA tomorrow morning to discuss Doug Wilder’s commitment to work on behalf of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

I can’t recall Wilder ever coming out this early to say he’ll work on anyone’s behalf, though it still puts him months behind Tim Kaine.

And say what you like about hizzoner — the man knows how to get out the vote (or at least Paul Goldman knows how to get out the vote for him). Should Obama become the nominee, itself a long shot owing to Clinton’s strength, having the Wilder machine working for him in Virginia and elsewhere in the South could sock the GOP in its electoral breadbasket.

Making the Most of University R&D Spending

Increasingly, states are taking the lead in funding Research & Development in public universities, filling a gap left by federal inaction, contends Heike Mayer, an assistant professor of urban affairs at Virginia Tech, in a Times-Dispatch op-ed. Virginia supports R&D at its public universities, although the commitment trails that of many other states.

Quoting from a Pew Center study, “Investing In Innovation,” she notes that successful states follow some simple guidelines:

  • Embed investments in a 21st-century innovation strategy that moves beyond funding discrete programs to making a coordinated set of investments.
  • Find your strengths — and needs — and fund R&D in those areas.
  • Invest in collaboration. Encourage, or even mandate, that universities, industry, and government work together.
  • Enlist experts. Seek advice from industry, people outside your state, and even from abroad.
  • Be consistent, but not to a fault. Commit to a cycle of investment and assessment.
  • Measure the results of funding, so you can be sure public dollars are well spent.

It was a goal of the Warner administration to lift the rankings of Virginia’s major research universities — led by Virginia Tech, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth — among the nation’s top research universities. You don’t hear much about that anymore. Probably because the Virginia rankings haven’t been climbing. Raising one’s standards in the R&D rankings isn’t easy when every other university in the country is trying to raise its rankings as well.

According to the latest National Science Foundation study, Virginia Tech, the Virginia state champ, ranked 56th in R&D spending in Fiscal 2005 with $290 million. That’s up from $167 million in 1998, an increase of about 73 percent. Impressive… but not as impressive enough to maintain its standing.

The University of Virginia fell to a 69th place ranking, with $239 million in R&D. VCU hung in the top 100 with a 99th place ranking.

I can’t find the documentation online, but as memory serves me, Virginia Tech stood as high as 49 or 50 in recent years, and UVa within the top 60. Do any readers know the numbers?

Overall, Virginia universities conducted $914 million in R&D in Fiscal 2005, according to the NSF. We trailed:

California ($6.3 billion)
New York ($3.6 billion)
Texas ($3.1 billion)
Maryland ($2.6 billion)
Pennsylvania ($2.4 billion)
Massachusetts ($2.1 billion)
Illinois ($1.8 billion)
North Carolina ($1.7 billion)
Florida ($1.5 billion)
Ohio ($1.5 billion)
Michigan ($1.5 billion)
Georgia ($1.3 billion)
Wisconsin ($1 billion)

Missouri was nipping on our heels.

Boondoggle Projects and Decaying Infrastructure

As New Orleans reinvents itself after Hurricane Katrina, political and civic leaders plan to cultivate tourism and “culture-based” industry. The big new idea, writes urbanologist Joel Kotkin, is a publicly subsidized, $1 billion Riverfront development catering to the “creative class.” While the city morphs into a “mildly raucous, hipper Disney World,” the long-term migration of the once-vibrant energy sector to Houston continues unabated. The new New Orleans may be a great place for saxaphone players to make a living, but it won’t offer much for traditional blue-collar and white-collar workers.

The whole “creative class” thing has gotten out of control, Kotkin argues in an op-ed piece in today’s Wall Street Journal. American’s state and local governments are over-investing in glitzy arts and entertainment complexes, sports stadiums, luxury hotels, convention centers and light-rail lines, and under-investing in the maintenance of its mundane roads, bridges, water-sewer facilities and electric power lines.

“Public capital spending on convention centers has doubled to $2.4 billion annually,” Kotkin writes. “Nationwide, 44 new or expanded centers are in planning or under construction.” By contrast, he adds, “The American Society of Civil Engineers says that $1.6 trillion must be spent over the next five years to prevent further deterioration. Only $900 billion is now earmarked.”

Starving critical infrastructure in order to fund money-losing boondoggles like sports stadiums and convention centers is not a long-term path to prosperity, Kotkin contends. Until politicians adopt a coherent, back-to-basics strategy that funds real needs instead of pork-barrel projects, “we can look forward to more natural disasters, bridge collapses, subway malfunctions and power shortages.”

What Kotkin doesn’t say, but I would add, is this: Many politicians have hijacked the rhetoric of Richard Florida’s “creative class” theory to justify their spending on the glitzy, “urban renewal” projects that Kotkin criticizes. The irony is that sports stadiums, convention centers and performing arts complexes are not what the creative class is looking for. Florida, the creatuve-class guru, regards them as largely a waste of money. He contends that the culturally, entrepreneurially and scientifically creative elements of society are lured to cities characterized by openness and tolerance. They also seek “authenticity” and street-level culture. None of those are attributes that are attainable through Business As Usual, pork barrel politics.

Bottom line, we’re getting the worst of both worlds: We’re not funding our infrastructure needs, and we’re not even creating the kinds of communities that the creative class wants to live in. We’re just keeping the politicians in power.

Education Policy Courtesy of the Hospitality Industry

How serious is Virginia about preparing itself for the globally competitive knowledge economy? Serious enough to jack up state support for K-12 education year after year with no accountability, but not serious enough to repeal the Kings Dominion law. As Joe Rogalsky at reminds us in an end-of-summer piece:

Virginia is the only state in the country that prohibits public schools from opening before the Tuesday after Labor Day without permission from the Virginia Board of Education. Local school systems and education advocates have urged legislators for years to remove the restriction. … The Richmond-area amusement park and other tourist attractions are major proponents of delaying classes until September because they rely on student workers.

Some day Virginia will get serious about education, but it won’t be any day soon.

Bicycle Heaven

Ocracoke Island is the only place I’ve ever visited where nearly as many people use bicycles as cars to get around. Admittedly, this is a vacation community: People aren’t in a hurry, and they enjoy being in the outdoors. But I’ve visited many other resort communities where people’s posteriors seem super-glued to their car seats. Here in Ocracoke, bikes own the road. It can be downright intimidating at times to drive a car. You frequently find yourself picking your way through clots of cyclists, walkers, joggers, mothers pushing their baby carriages – even the occasional trail horse.

I take it as a given that we Americans need our cars – at least one per household — to enjoy the kind of mobility we crave. But I also recognize that it is desirable to reduce our dependence upon the automobile, with its attendant congestion, gasoline consumption and pollution. Surely, there must be something we can learn from the Ocracoke experience. Somehow, without the imposition of draconian controls, this island community has evolved a human settlement pattern that is hospitable to cars, pedestrians and cyclists alike.

Ocracoke refers to itself as a “village.” Because most of the island is wildlife preserve, all development is concentrated at one end. The village has a distinct center: a cluster of stores, restaurants and hotels lining Silver Lake (which, more accurately speaking, is a lagoon, where ferries land and sailing boats moor). Arrayed around this center is a historic neighborhood of charming cottages fronting winding, interconnected streets, and more recently developed areas where Nags Head-style beach houses line the roads. During tourist season, the village is occupied by up to 6,000 people.

This is crucial: The geometry of the village configuration reduces the distances that must be traveled between any two destinations. In other Outer Banks communities, by contrast, pod-like subdivisions and shopping centers are strung out along a trunk road. There is no connectivity between pods, which forces all traffic onto a single heavily traveled artery. (There may be two parallel arteries in Nags Head – I’m not as familiar with that part of the Outer Banks). Bottom line: If you want to get somewhere in Ocracoke, the distances are shorter. That alone makes bicycling a more viable transportation option.

The village pattern is conducive to bicycling in other ways. Ocracoke roads and lanes are narrow, and speed limits restrict driving to 20 miles per hour (although some speed demons zip along at 25 mph). As a consequence, people feel safer using the roads. Serious cyclists may not mind hugging the sides of arterial highway with cars zooming by at 55 mph, but you won’t find many families with children who would choose that way of getting around.

Finally, there is never a problem parking your bike. Bike racks are ubiquitous. I cycle from my cottage to the local coffee shop every morning where I buy a bagel and cup of java, hook up my laptop into the WiFi connection, and catch up with the Bacon’s Rebellion blog. There is a bicycle rack out front, loaded up with some 20 bicycles. The parking lot, at this moment, contains only seven cars.

Which brings up a related topic… parking. Because so many people travel by bicycle, and because bicycles take up so little room compared to automobiles, the village surface area is not consumed by acres of parking lots. Parking spaces are squeezed in here and there around the restaurants, stores and houses, and along the sides of the roads, and it all seems to work. There’s enough room for everyone — as long as half the population is walking or bikding. The need for less parking creates a virtuous feedback loop – Ocracoke’s ability to accommodate bicycles keeps the village looking like a village, not a shopping center where isolated buildings are surrounded by asphalt. That, in turn, makes walking and biking more inviting.

Let me assure readers who jump to ridiculous conclusions that I’m not arguing that every community in the United States should be organized like Ocracoke. I’m not calling for the wholesale transformation of our transportation infrastructure to accommodate bicycles at an Ocracoke level of intensity. I’m simply suggesting that we can learn from Ocracoke, where a bicycle culture has arisen naturally. Developers building new communities de novo particularly should pay attention.

(Photo credit: National Geographic.)