Archive for the ‘Policy’ Category

Door Zone Problem: Solved!

May 3, 2013

A well known fear that causes people to not ride a bicycle is the “door zone.” This is actually an artificially created space due to faulty door design.

For decades, standard design for cycling lanes puts cyclists next to parallel parked cars. This should be a safe option because the cars are motionless, and it keeps the bicycles away from faster moving, motor vehicle traffic.

However, there are a great deal of collisions, 100% of which are due to motorists not looking before they open their doors.

There have been numerous “public awareness campaigns”, “educational classes”, and the cycling community has even decided that, despite the law being on their side, that the blame and punishment for doorings should fall on the shoulders of cyclists.

Since motorists are unable to take the time nor care to open their doors in a safe manner and law enforcement has been soft on dooring crime _even when the cyclists died due to the motorist’s negligence_, we need to look to other solutions to the problem.

Thankfully, we have had the solution for over fifty years, but for some reason we have failed to implement it.

Long before the wide spread use of safety belts and air bags, all standard safety equipment in American cars, we still have failed to adopt the Gull Wing Door as mandatory for new cars and trucks.

“Gull-wing door (German: Flügeltüren) is an automotive industry term describing car doors that are hinged at the roof rather than the side, as pioneered by the 1952 Mercedes-Benz 300SL race car (W194) and its road-legal version (W198) introduced in 1954.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gull-wing_door

There is no good reason why this was not adopted, for all automobiles, at this time. There are many good reasons why it should be adopted now.

Meeting Objections:

Cost.

Cyclists and cities are bearing a huge cost right now due to the common, faulty doors which open into the street. The costs are in terms of totally preventable injury and deaths that we are promoting by our reluctance to make this sensible change mandatory in new automobiles. Furthermore, there is a high cost in terms of lost opportunities for people to ride a bicycle. Too many people are told that they should stay “away from the door zone” and ride in the middle of the travel lane. Rather than taking this risk, many people are choosing to drive instead, and they bear the cost in both monetary and health terms. The cities must accodate the extra vehicle traffic caused by these people who wisely choose to avoid the unfair dilema of getting rear ended by a car of by getting hit by a car door (then getting rear ended by a car). Cities bear the costs both indirectly in terms of extra traffic, noise, accidents, and parking that excessive motoring causes, all due to the lack of safe space for cyclists. Also, there’s the direct cost of having to create “buffers” to protect cyclists from the door zone. Each of these costs adds up to billions annually; the total cost is impossible to estimate. It only makes sense that those who choose to motor should be protected from themselves by providing a gull wing door which will make it impossible for them to suffer the pain and guilt of injuring someone.

Thus, the opportunity cost for not doing something is very high. People are paying quite a bit of money just so we can support defective doors.

Inevitability:

The history of motoring is a history of increasing safety standards. The NHTSA has played a role in this area, and it should continue to be the leader. In other countries, there is research into making motor vehicles safer to non-motorists, and it’s only a matter of time before this is standard for foreign cars. Once again, the American car industry will fall behind, and we’ll watch as foreign competitors, once again, enjoy safer, classier cars, while raking in American dollars for their products.

Let’s get in front of foreign competition once again, and have the NHTSA, once again, become the leader in safety rather than being a relic which only seeks to protect American motorists from themselves to the detriment of safety, quality of life, reason, and common sense.

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CEQA: Older Case Law Suggests that CEQA Should Not Prohibit Cycling

April 18, 2013

I continue to read this case study from 1972, and it’s like a time machine to back when people were sane. If you talk to young children, you get a sense of fairness. But soon, I think we are bombarded by such right wing dogma, pseudoscience, aspirational TV, narcissistic spirituality, and other kinds of nonsense which warps our sense of reality. It seems that in the early 70’s there was less of this insanity.

Like when I read sustainable safety literature, I get a deep sense of clear headed reason. To me, it’s very comforting and calming.

This is unlike most cycling news I read these days, even from people whom I agree with, where I get a sense of anxiety and discomfort. I have read that the use of fear laden words sky rocketed somewhere around 1980. I believe this.

Not that I would know. I’m not a lawyer. I’m sure that things have changed over time, and I’m not sure how much this applies to now. Thus, I call this time period “CEQA: The Early Years.”

http://ceres.ca.gov/ceqa/cases/1972/f_o_mammoth_092172.html

“Once a particular legislative intent has been ascertained, it must be given effect “‘even though it may not be consistent with the strict letter of the statute.'” (Dickey v. Raisin Proration Zone No. 1 (1944) 24 Cal.2d 796, 802 [151 P.2d 505, 157 A.L.R. 324].) As we stated nearly a half century ago in In re Haines (1925) 195 Cal. 605, 613 [234 P. 883]: “‘The mere literal construction of a section in a statute ought not to prevail if it is opposed to the intention of the legislature apparent by the statute; and if the words are sufficiently flexible to admit of some other construction it is to be adopted to effectuate that intention. The intent prevails over the letter, and the letter will, if possible, be so read as to conform to the spirit of the act.'”

The intent of CEQA is to help the environment. Getting more people cycling will help the environment. Thus the intent of CEQA is to INCREASE CYCLING. Anything cycling infrastructure, that follows all other regulations, should be except from CEQA.

This is really common sense.

People who say otherwise either don’t have a clue or don’t like bicycles. It’s as simple as that.

To stop traffic calming and the building of pedestrian and cycling facilities due to CEQA renders the actual law meaningless. Again, since this is so obvious, I believe that this is the intent of those who seek to abuse this law. I am speculating, but I feel that people must get a malicious thrill by damaging the environment by using the law intended to protect the environment.

Next, we deal with the fact that cycling infrastructure can be built only if environmental impact reports are filed. However,

“The use of these [environmental impact] reports by the planning agencies mentioned in Government Code section 65402 is secondary to the principal purpose of section 21151, which is to compel local governments to study and record the environmental implications of proposed activities before they are acted upon. This broad purpose cannot be frustrated by procedural details surrounding filing of the reports.”

Thus, the benefit that people cycling gives to the environment should not be frustrated by extra paper work. There’s no way someone who wrote this law would agree with that.

Another reason that environmental impart reports [EIRS] are not necessary is because cycling does not significantly negatively harm the enivornment. In fact, it helps the environment when people do it in lie of motoring.

Again, the older court agrees:

“”We emphasize that by the terms of the act an environmental impact report is required only for a project “which may have a significant effect on the environment”

Also, in the “early CEQA years” they did not expect EVERY SINGLE BIKE LANE TO GO BEFORE CEQA:

“For the reasons given above, however, we expect that the majority of the private projects for which governmental approval will be sought in the future will present no risk of significant environmental effect and therefore will not require impact reports in any event.”

I know this says private project, but I think that they meant that this would apply to government projects as well in light of the court’s interpretation of the words “significant effect to the environment.”

 

Broken Sidewalk Up North

April 11, 2013

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/san-diego-bicyclist-forum/EdiJZ5UTNiQ

“To review: A construction project in La Jolla on Torrey Pines Rd between Prospect Place and Princess St/Hillside Drive has caused typical removal of bike lanes and traffic lane narrowing. A woman emailed the city complaining that while bicycling there cars bore down on her, and requested signage telling cyclists to use the sidewalk. Only one side of the road has a sidewalk, the sidewalk is unusually narrow, is full of hazards, including poles and driveways, and… it’s a sidewalk. Never-the-less, the city complied and installed signs telling cyclists to use the one narrow sidewalk in both directions. I couldn’t believe. The sign pictured below says:

BIKE LANE
CLOSED
DISMOUNT
CROSS
AND USE
SIDEWALK

Last week the City seemed receptive on the phone to my suggestion that they replace their illegal regulatory sign with a standard BMUFL sign, but today I received a disturbing email reply. I’m copying the whole thing below, but essentially they’re saying they did this to avoid posting an MUTCD R5-6 (“NO BICYCLES”) sign, because they had no other option.

The normal posted speed limit here is 35 mph, but through the construction zone it’s 25 mph.
Below the copy of their “findings”, is a draft response from me. Any comments, suggestions, corrections? Thanks!”

My response:

Another idea is that the city could allow advocates to build a better sidewalk.

They want 2 way traffic on a narrow sidewalk. That does sound stupid and dangerous. The sidewalk sounds old. The city is beyond broke (in their words) for bicycles.

Why not let the city get out of the way and accept a “donation” of a cycle track?

They were going to remake the entire Balboa Park in Jacob’s image around a few parking spaces. Why not take a smaller check (free materials and labor) to let the sidewalk be fixed? The cycle track could be proof of concept.

Plus, the city all ready faces “liability” for having dangerous and inadequate facilities.

NHTSA Exclusive: Review of Studies on Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety, 1991-2007 Part IV: Rewrite II

March 7, 2013

Introduction:

“Starting with the Intermodal Surface
Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) that provided funding for pedestrian and bicycle
facilities, there was also a call for a national bicycling and walking study (Zegeer & Feske,
1994). The TEA-21 highway authorization bill included bicycling and walking as INTEGRAL parts
of the nation’s transportation system and made all major funding sources for Federal aid
transportation programs available to support bicycling and walking.” [Emphasis mine.]

Wow, this is a sad, sad joke in San Diego. 1991 was TWENTY-TWO years ago. Perhaps like other words in legal terms, INTEGRAL, means something different than I think. In the context of what we have, integral, in context of cycling, seems to mean totally ignored except for singling out for harassment and blame.

“Spending on bicycle
facilities grew from a few million dollars annually in 1990 to about $260 million annually in
2000 (Clarke, 2000a).”

Wow, I’m totally befuddled on where that money is going as there is literally NOTHING which is solely for cycling at all in San Diego. There are a few lanes which are used as shared space for unloading cars, cutting through to park, and to block for extra parking in a pinch. Paths, generally have large parking lots so that motorists can park there and stroll around for a few feet. Meanwhile, billions were spent on motoring only, freeways.

“This report makes use of 12 previously conducted comprehensive reviews of specific
pedestrian and bicycle areas, which together included over 1,150 studies:”

Wow, and they found all 1,150 studies which showed that yellow vests and helmets actually had a noticeable impact on pedestrian and ccyling safety? If so the studies were a total waste of time as five minutes of google showed that there was controversy in both areas.

The next statement should be bolded:

“Street design, location of services and facilities, and the person’s income has been shown
to influence pedestrian travel behavior.”

Thus, the key to safety is design.

“A report by Ernst (2004) suggests that high-speed arterials roads pose the most risk to
pedestrians. Based on NHTSA’s FARS data, this report shows that principal arterial roads
accounted for 31% of pedestrian fatalities, followed by local roads and expressways, which
accounted for 22 and 15% of pedestrian fatalities, respectively. Furthermore, over 40% of
pedestrian fatalities occurred in locations lacking crosswalks and the most risky areas were lower
density neighborhoods with large arterial streets and few crosswalks or sidewalks (Ernst, 2004).”

Thus, lower speed limits, more cross walks, and either creating alternate routes or greater separation of arterials from pedestrians are the cornerstones of pedestrian safety.

“A similar study conducted in San Francisco, California showed that pedestrian injuries were
more likely to occur in areas with greater traffic flow and greater population densities. ”

RAISING THE SPEED LIMIT IS CONDEMNING PEOPLE TO DIE.

Again, traffic calming seems to be the most obvious and most effective way to create a safer environment.

Thus, a great deal of money can be saved in immediately canceling all road widening projects as well as the building of freeway style on and off ramps on arterials in neighborhoods. In fact, since we know that arterials tend to be the only routes between neighborhoods, we should refrain from building them all together.

The money saved can be used for traffic calming in roads which were designed back in the days that human life meant nothing in the obsession with moving cars at ever faster rates in order to attain meaningless “level of service” goals.

NHTSA Exclusive: Review of Studies on Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety, 1991-2007 Part III: Rewrite I

March 6, 2013

So sickened I am by the totally incompetent wastes of space that the tax squandering NHTSA is, I’m going to do their job for them and actually write some decent policy. Too bad that, unlike them, I’m not getting paid for this or will anyone read this.

Background:

Despite the large number of pedestrians and cyclists killed by automobiles, government agencies, like the NHTSA take the immoral stance that we are all “equally” to blame for this situation. In reality, if you banned walking and bicycling, there would still be too many people dying inside of automobiles.

In this study, the NHTSA takes its twisted logic to a dark conclusion and begins to blame children, yes children, for their own deaths.

In order to show that there is a healthier, happier, and less expensive alternative to the madness that the NHTSA promotes, I will propose real world safety interventions which will actually work.

Objectives and methods:

I am going to rewrite the above paper using only proven methods to increase safety. I’ll examine the specifics of the papers in another article.

Results:

General: We have known, for decades what works and what does not work but due to the fear of motorists’ and due to seeking protection for themselves, government agencies go out of their way to absolve motoring for the death and destruction that it causes.

Epidemiology: In general, despite our knowledge, we ask the wrong questions. Some better questions we can ask is: was there proper infrastructure in the location that the collision occurred? If not, why not? If it is at night, did the motorist have their lights on? Were there street lights? What color was the automobile? What was the estimated speed as well as posted speed limit where the collision occurred?

Problem size: Since it’s immoral to kill people with great frequency and regularity, getting the precise totals is a waste of time. It is worthwhile to determine where the worst areas are in order to work on those first, however.

Crash and injury causation: For nearly 100% of the crashes, one might say that the motorist was driving at such a high speed that she was not prepared to stop in a timely manner. Furthermore, we might note that the most likely reason for the severity of the injury is due to the great size and speed of the motor vehicle.

The next part was a glimmer of wisdom until I realized that it was, again, a way of getting motorists of the hook.

“Laws and enforcement.: Research shows that many traffic laws regulating the interaction
among drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians are ignored regularly. Some laws may not be known or
understood. Others may be ignored because they appear unnecessary. Enforcement is sporadic
and ineffective in improving behavior.”

“The most obvious need is to establish a strategy regarding these laws and their
enforcement. One possibility is to accept the current situation and recognize that these laws
describe ideal behavior but will not be obeyed regularly. This strategy accepts that laws and
enforcement have little role in improving pedestrian and bicycle safety.”

I would argue that enforcing most laws for pedestrians and cyclists is harassment as it does not increase safety, traffic level of service, nor maximize any other public good other to placate the irrational feelings of some people’s notion of “fairness”.

In a truly fair world, there wouldn’t be any laws governing pedestrian behavior and cyclists would follow laws more as a courtesy to one another rather than as a way to avoid (in many people’s minds) dying for minor infractions.

“A final possibility, intermediate between these extremes, is to concentrate on situations where conflicts are frequent, risks are high, and the public supports action, such as school zones and red light running.”

I do think that we should focus on where laws actually impact lives. All of these pertain to motoring, only. I do not think that we should wait for public support because if the public supported the “right thing” then we wouldn’t need laws and government. Look at red lights, for example. Many vocal people in the public are very much AGAINST enforcing red light running. This kills a lot of people, and thus, we should figure out what’s “best practice” and not subject our public policy to a weak ass popularity contest where the most obnoxious and loudest contestant wins.

“Education and enforcement, aided by technology as appropriate, can be used to increase compliance.”

Can it? I noticed that this paper promised to be a survey of other papers, but when the authors have a strong personal opinion, they have no problem putting it out there without reference. This is deceptive because their long bibliography gives the impression that the policy has been wholly established by research and this is not true.

Public information and education: This stuff is mostly a waste of time, and mostly a blame game. Education does not make you immune to motorists hopping onto sidewalks and kill you like they do for 10% of the collisions in New York. Proper lane positioning will not protect you from a texting driver of an SUV. And following the laws on when to yield for stop signs and lights will not protect you from motorists who run them. These deaths are all too common and these things will only give people a false sense of pride and confidence with no real safety improvement. Finally, the very existence of these classes can be used to blame victims: if only they were more educated, they would not have died.

Let’s teach the basics to children and move on with our lives. Walking and riding a bicycle, for the average child, is not as complicated as these stupid classes make them out to be.

Facilities and infrastructure: For some strange reasons, we continue to spend more money to expand motoring facilities and infrastructure, but we fail to provide even the basics for cycling and walking. Then we wonder why there are so many dead cyclists and pedestrians. Perhaps, if, for a year, we would spend equal amounts of money on all three groups, we could then circle back to see if any other interventions what so ever are necessary. I doubt it

Alcohol: Drinking alcohol is so stigmatized by the US government that just having traces of alcohol in anyone involved in an accident will stop the search for other causes of the accident. This, perhaps, has distorted the statistics and artificially inflated the dangers of alcohol.

Mixing alcohol and heavy machinery should be discouraged. Driving drunk is rightfully penalized. However, when heavy machinery is removed, we run little risk to ourselves and others. Perhaps if we were not so in love with automobiles and judgmental of moderate alcohol consumption, we would not be so quick to blame the alcohol and excuse the machines.

About 90% of bicycle collisions do NOT have alcohol involved. Due to these facts, it would be crazy to say that riding sober if more risky. But to suggest that these facts suggest that alcohol makes cycling risky is begging the question.

Conspicuity: This is yet another field day for excusing motorists. If a motorist didn’t’ see a cyclist or pedestrian, we never stop to think if the motorist’s eyes or bad, the motorist isn’t up to the task of motoring, or perhaps we allow people to drive too fast. One standard for motoring should be that one should be prepared to stop at any time. If they hit someone it was because they were not paying attention or they were speeding.

There are many cars that I fail to see because they are black or gray. I suggest that all cars should have alternating dark and reflective stripes on them so that they can be seen in all lighting. It’s unfair to make me wear a yellow vest while trying to avoid getting hit by almost invisible cars.

Older Pedestrians: Unfortunately, the fact that so many elderly people die shows how careless we are for our parents. The elderly and children are the canary in the coal mine. Things should be made safe enough so that even young children or confused elderly people can navigate their environment safety. Anything less would be cruel. The standard is a safe environment and not imprisoning a large part of our population.

Bicycle helmets: These are highly controversial. Again, they are critical for blame shifting of bad motoring practices and design onto cyclists. The research is an ink blot test in which just about any position can be validated by cherry picking studies. The one thing that is consistent with studies is that it has not been demonstrated that mandatory helmet laws increase the popularity of cycling, though the contrary has been demonstrated by several authors.