Tuesday, June 21, 2011

ECR speed, priority, and public safety

ECR- El Camino Real is this biggest arterial that runs north south through San Mateo County. It has most of the pedestrian, bike, and auto collisions. The state Office of Traffic Safety says speed is the major problem in the corridor. ECR is posted at 35 mph. If you drive 35 the lights are not quite synced- so you tend to get caught by almost all the lights. However is you speed about 20% over the limit you tend to make most of the lights. The incentive is to speed. Sharing a public right of way so that its safe, healthy, accessible, and pleasant is just not convenient or efficient- at least how our economy and the life style we have come to accept defines these terms. Because for peds and bikes the opposite is the case- all the treatments to accommodate them with the speeding cars such as count down timers and lit crosswalks along with the near 40 mph synced corridor lights result in danger, inconvenience, and inefficiency. These are the problems identified by Brian Appleyard in getting to livable streets.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pedestrians and cars are not compatible

The physics is all wrong for pedestrians and cars to interface. Pedestrians travel at two miles per hour. Cars have evolved to be unable to travel under 25 miles per hour. In California it's not legal to post a lower speed limit. The average car easily gets up to 30 mph. Police in turn have given up monitoring and enforcing signage such as "25mph limit when children present".

Policy makers in turn have followed the police to Starbucks. Planning for example has expanded the city to its most remote environs... despite bankrupting the city to supply services. Transit service has collapsed and gone to the County; which today can't provde transit in even its most heavily used corridor. Cars don't need transit; so it makes sense that this particular service would suffer long term declines in revenue.

But Police and Fire today are also moving to the county despite the larger budget deficits at the county level. The idea is that the economics of scale can be supplied to the management. However the size of the car-accessed-city-operations-base increases the cost to the general fund by the square of the radius.

Such issues are not staples of pedestrian cities. For example the walking postman both exemplifies the city limit and maintains a sustainable service budget. Minor changes like electric trucks which we had in the eighties and nineties and todays little gasoline post trucks continue to bankrupt the service to the detriment of public health.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Job creation, health, and the economy not war and decline.

The administration is Flogging the same "cost" dead horse despite the evidence of GM. If the American auto industry won't let them see that they are protecting dinosaurs instead of the economy what will? EPA rules need to be tightened now 
so that new technology can enter the market and invigorate business. Otherwise we will CONTINUE TO have war and decline.


The Obama administration is delaying a decision on whether to tighten limits on ground-level ozone, the third time in less than a year that it has put off the potentially costly environmental rule in the face of congressional and industry pressure

And this San Joaquin County ruling early this week shows that, in addition to Jerry Brown leaving AG being a loss, these rules still take decades and lives in the millions before being enacted in very piecemeal fashion.. 
This ruling also shows why federal standards need to be tightened. They should be set to equivalent DALY deaths with crashes instead of the present 3X. Another problem is that the CARB July 2007 regulations on off road Diesel doesn't become fully realized till 2020. And rail, port, agriculture, and fleets in compliance. And we  know from who killed the electric car that this period can bring about inequitable change from rule reversals or delays.

I don't like the idea of the developer paying in lieu fees. For one the mitigation measurers have not been shown to be effective for operational emissions (even though this wasn't in the challenge.) What kind of a solution is it when a community group must bring suit to made the site perform for local health needs decades later? We need to be vigilant of the Air Districts shenanigans with hydrogen buses, bike sharing, etc. The standard, not the subsidy, should force the technology. Let technologies compete for success in the market. There are many clean "technologies" of yesteryear like walking, bicycling, and slower speeds enabling neighborhood electric vehicles on the same network pattern as successful transit that work today.   

Monday, June 7, 2010

Spending costly millions going nowhere without complete systems.

Cities know they have a problem- high energy users like drivers are enabled by the city with roads, parking, and faster streets. Then they make life impossible for other users like children, elderly, parents with strollers, park goers and downtown shoppers. The air and water become toxic. Drivers and the driven in turn get obese and/or develop diseases of fast mobility: depression, early onset of Parkinsons, memory failure, heart, lung, diabetes, etc; as the organs that are sustained by walking, collapse. Worse drivers behave like cholesterol, clogging their own systems, until congestion brings society to a halt. The policy response of congestion management progressively requires millions and can never solve the problem its staffed to maintain!

The congestion management solution is to provide choices by accommodating other users if the street like cyclists, walkers, etc: people who don't cost the city or state or trash the planet need to be provided with some form of  equal access with high energy users. Cities thus "spend a fortune planning "pedestrian friendly," "multimodal," "alternative transportation" strategies to reduce traffic congestion in the urban core"  to provide alternatives to driving.

But without complete systems, primarily because of costs, the alternative options remain dangerous, unused, hostile, and unpleasant. Quoting from the same opinion article: "But in reality, the downtown remains rather unfriendly to cyclists. For example:

There are no bike lanes on important sections of Ringling Boulevard or Osprey Avenue south of Main Street. On Orange Avenue, the bike lane is intermittent at best.

Bikes are not allowed on crowded sections of Main Street sidewalks. This makes sense, but it forces cyclists to thread their way through rows of cars backing out of angled parking spaces. That's not safe.

Overgrown landscaping, buildings too near the street and other obstacles block cyclists' sight lines. Countless driveways and intersections create additional conflict points and crash opportunities.

City officials say they'd like to fix these problems but don't have the money."

Other problems-
Bike lanes are in the door zones of parked automobiles create an unpleasant interaction with automobile access. In Oakland Eric Fitzpatrick was killed when a door was opened into his path. The cyclist was knocked into traffic and was run over by a bus he had just dismounted from. The news didn't know if the driver was charged! Increasing costs the bus driver was placed on paid administrative leave.

Now planners will tell you that sure the roads are dangerous (for cyclists and pedestrians- hello, anyone there?) and they can't plan for every eventuality. But as Dean Baker at the Center for Economic and Policy Research says "if our regulators cannot understand the potential harm from extremely rare, but extremely costly, disasters, then the country has a very serious problem."

So the key factor is cost. Cities don't have the money to do the job right. And low energy users don't have influence in economic justice to make drivers pay increasing insurance costs; and letting risk be mitigated by circumstances. The solution is not for cities to look for more money to expand or maintain existing infrastructure or provide more alternative infrastructure. The solution is to reuse existing infrastructure for complete systems now.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Potholes, low cost solution, for pedestrian safety.

Pedestrians are essential for a low energy future. We need walkable cities so that fossil fuels can stay in the ground.

Yet the police cannot guarantee pedestrian safety since the job to monitor all the roads all the time is beyond their capability and broke cities are cutting services anyway. Distracted drivers continue to prowl the streets with immunity and are actually increasing in numbers. Caltrans and city have design goals that emphasize throughput, wider and faster streets, at the expense of life; which Context Sensitive Solutions is meant to solve but is not applied because of throughput!

That is why increasing potholes on most roads would be safer. Drivers would have to actually watch where they are going as they negotiate around potholes instead of bowling over pedestrians. This is a natural low cost way of addressing problems with access. Its a good thing we are broke and "our state roads have deteriorated." This editorial also says that congestion has worsened. But that is a different problem- a function of Caltrans throughput from the surrounding sprawl into the road challenged built out Bay Area.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Violence against cyclists symptomatic?

A fireman in Asheville NC shot a cyclist after he turned to leave an argument on safety. The cyclist was carrying a three year old in a child seat. The fireman thought it was unsafe to subject children to the dangers of auto traffic by transporting them on a bike. "Police said the driver, Charles Diez, claimed he was upset that the victim was bike riding with his child on the heavily traveled Tunnel Road."

I'm not sure how he thought the three year old would get home after the parent was killed. However the parent was not injured- amazingly the helmet stopped the bullet. But cyclists put up with violence regularly in how the roads are laid out and how they can get around. So is this incident an anomaly or a result of a violent system?

Is shooting a cyclist different than running the cyclist of the road or sideswiping or driving by too close ignorantly, or being distracted and killing them? Yes at least in how the law perceives it. And riding while poor carries its own penalties. The police will ignore the folder irrespective of how egregious the driving fault was because as they said in one recent case in NY they were too busy to follow up. Even threatening someone with death by car is your word against the driver unlike threatening them with a gun which can bring down every homeland security swat team in the region.

Just riding a bike has this violence associated with it that could be worse if we slip up by trying to avoid a pot hole or brick in the road without looking. On the road from Yellowstone to Glacier I hit a dead raccoon. The bike flew about five feet into the road and surprisingly landed upright. I corrected the front wheel and regained the shoulder. Ahead and behind me were logging trucks. What fortune do I owe for my brief inattention?

Socially we get used to the driver side violence from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan to the traffic in front of our homes. So when someone flips out its easy to think of them as illogical. Or irrational. Or a confusing blend of the two. Road rage, distracted driving, speeding are all defensible unlike waving a gun. Instead these incidents are a logical extension of an accepted pattern of violence.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Don't keep rewarding agressive driving

I ride my bicycle, but constantly risk being killed by lung destroying irresponsible motorists, driving aggressively, because government rewards them for saving time, to access sprawled out services, like doctors and schools spread out over large areas that should be open space and functioning creeks, with infrastructure that penalizes walkers and cyclists today, for some Clean Air Act fix in the future, like a TDA-3 over-crossing of Ralston at 101.

Bike boulevards every one mile would help walkers and bicyclists while deterring the near 100% infrastructure dedicated to aggressive driving.