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Friday, October 24 2014 @ 09:18 PM UTC

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Don’t Design Streets For Death

Biking Elsewhereby Chuck Banas, Urbanophile

...

If pedestrians are being endangered, the design speed of the road is usually the culprit. Many if not most roads in this country are intentionally designed for much higher speeds than the posted limit. A 30 mph speed-limit sign on a road designed for 50 or 60 mph is a futile—and sometimes fatal—exercise in wishful thinking.

Pedestrian Injury Frequency and Severity Based on Vehicle Speed (Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, image from the Bicycle Alliance of Washington)

Here are the sobering facts: at 30 mph, vehicle-pedestrian accidents are fatal in about 5% of cases; at 40 mph, fatalities are 90%. This is not to mention injuries, which can be devastating in their own right: incapacitating injuries are significantly less likely and less severe at slower speeds.

...

Done properly, traffic throughput is still maintained, with less stop-and-go frustration for drivers, and much greater safety and civility for all users of the roadway, including pedestrians and bicyclists. For the vast majority of surface roads, there is simply no reason to design for a speed limit over 30 mph. Doing so seems careless and downright irresponsible, but this is the unfortunate norm for most highway departments.

...

http://www.urbanophile.com/2014/04/01/dont-design-streets-for-death-by-chuck-banas/
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Flawed Handheld Phone Bans Don’t Stop Distracted Driving

Biking Elsewhere[B' Spokes: Note that Maryland allows hands free operation of a cell phone.]
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by Payton Chung, Streets Blog

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What Mulligan doesn’t mention is that distracted driving hardly stopped when today’s loophole-ridden and inconsistently enforced laws banned only the most obvious forms of distracted driving. Nor does Cheng’s paper make a convincing case that the newer, broader bans on texting while driving won’t save lives.

Cheng’s study, covering 2004-2010, even references earlier studies from the likes of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that show that today’s laws, which largely allow drivers to use phones via hands-free devices, have no basis in fact and would not be expected to save lives. As a 2009 meta-study cited by the National Safety Council put it: “Current research does not support the decision to allow hands-free phone use while driving.” Whether a driver controls the phone using her or his hands, through a headset, or through the car stereo, makes no difference: any driver using a phone is a distracted driver.
...

What will it take to disarm the menace of drivers distracted by their phones? Safety advocates, like the National Transportation Safety Board and the NSC, say that nothing short of a total ban on device use by drivers will stop the dangers of distracted drivers (and not just of cars: phone use by professional operators has also been implicated in bus, train, and boat crashes). Others, like the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, make an analogy to drunk driving laws. Two forces — an effective national awareness campaign that stigmatized drunk driving, and national legislation that codified a uniform, quantitative metric of intoxication — combined to sharply reduce the number of drunk driving crashes.
...

http://usa.streetsblog.org/2014/04/02/flawed-handheld-phone-bans-dont-stop-distracted-driving/
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Effects of High-Visibility Enforcement on Driver Compliance with Pedestrian Yield Right-of-Way Laws

Biking ElsewhereAbstract

This study examined the effects of a 1-year high-visibility pedestrian right-of-way enforcement program on yielding to pedestrians at uncontrolled crosswalks, some of which received enforcement and some of which did not. The program included four 2-week enforcement waves supported by education and engineering components that increased the visibility of enforcement. The study produced five results: (a) enforcement led to a slow and steady increase in the percentage of drivers yielding the right-of-way to pedestrians over the year; (b) the program produced a large change in yielding over the course of the year; (c) the program produced higher levels of yielding to natural pedestrian crossing than to staged crossings, and the changes in both were highly correlated; (d) the effects of the program generalized to crosswalks that were not targeted for pedestrian right-of-way enforcement; and (e) the amount of generalization to unenforced sites was inversely proportional to the distance from sites that received enforcement.

http://trb.metapress.com/content/4674380022131506/?p=fefc4e0168fd4b73a109ff63418aaa2a&pi=4
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[B' Spokes: Just something I would love to see around here rather than harassing just pedestrians for wearing headphones (not illegal) and jaywalking (not necessarily illegal). You can NOT improve safety by addressing only one side of the problem.]
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What went wrong with the traffic engineering profession?

Biking Elsewhereby Steven, Cycle Space

The other night I tweeted: “Since the end of conscription, it has been the offices of traffic engineers causing the deaths“. A fellow blogger and cyclist, but from the civil engineering side of the fence, objected that engineers are just servants of politicians. As we all know politicians represent a public that wants to go faster in cars and are blithely accepting of the daily movement of ambulances attending the deaths of pedestrians, cyclists and indeed, many car users. But in this do engineers really have no volition?

I’m imagining how the medical profession would respond if politicians passed a law requiring them to deny treatment to certain kinds of patients.
...

http://cycle-space.com/what-went-wrong-with-the-traffic-engineering-profession/
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Per capita VMT drops for ninth straight year; DOTs taking notice

Biking ElsewhereBy Chris McCahill, State Smart Transportation Initiative

Estimates released by FHWA on Friday suggest that per capita vehicle miles of travel dropped again in 2013, making it the ninth consecutive year of decline (Figure 1). Total VMT in the United States increased by 0.6 percent from 2012, hovering just below 3 trillion, and per capita VMT dropped to 9,402 (the prior year’s initial estimate was revised to 9,412).

Figure 1. VMT trends for the United States through 2013. Source: FHWA and Census Bureau.

Figure 1. VMT trends for the United States through 2013. Source: FHWA and Census Bureau.

...

Maryland is an example of this trend. In 2009, the state’s long-range plan projected statewide VMT growth of 2 percent per year through 2030 (Figure 2). The plan dismissed the recent decline as a temporary consequence of high fuel prices and the economic downturn, asserting, “there is no clear evidence that Marylanders will continue to drive less in the future.” However, in its updated plan released just last month, the agency has left out projections entirely, declaring that “a return to strong annual VMT growth is unlikely and per capita VMT [...] is actually decreasing.” A handful of other states have either dampened their projections or shifted their focus toward VMT reduction goals and transportation demand management efforts.

Figure 2. VMT in Maryland and projected VMT from state long-range plans. Source: FHWA and Maryland Department of Transportation

Figure 2. VMT in Maryland and projected VMT from state long-range plans. Source: FHWA and Maryland Department of Transportation

...

http://www.ssti.us/2014/02/vmt-drops-ninth-year-dots-taking-notice/
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BIKE MYTHS DEBUNKED

Biking Elsewhereby Kristin Butcher, People for Bikes debunks these myths:

MYTH: Roads were created for cars.
MYTH: Riders are safest on the sidewalk.
MYTH: You can’t get a decent bike for less than a gazillion dollars.
MYTH: Bicyclists think they own the road.
MYTH: Bikes are just kids’ toys.

http://www.peopleforbikes.org/blog/entry/bike-myths-debunked
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Why Are We Killing Our Children with Cars?

Biking Elsewhereby Walker Angell, Streats MN

The good news is that the trend has indeed continued downward since the number killed peaked in 1972. Nationally, only 33,561 people were killed in 2012 and 2.36 million were injured.

This all sounds pretty good. Until we stop being insular and comparing ourselves to only ourselves.

Road fatalities, children, by country

This chart shows the rate of children under 15 killed by motorists per year averaged over a 5 year period. Bars indicate the number of deaths per 100,000 total population for each country for each year.

...

http://streets.mn/2014/03/25/why-are-we-letting-drivers-kill-our-children/
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No Crime, No Punishment

Biking ElsewhereWhy do dangerous drivers receive more protection from the law than their victims do?

By Bob Mionske, Bicycling

When a dangerous driver injures somebody, or takes another person’s life, we pretend that it’s somehow normal. We’re all so aware of our own driving mistakes that we do everything we can to avoid holding other drivers—even dangerous drivers—accountable when somebody dies. We call it “an accident.” We blame the victim. We worry about how the driver must have suffered. Our system of traffic justice is so broken that, for the victims of dangerous drivers, there is often no justice at all.

Instead, our legal system shields dangerous drivers from any real consequences. With the exception of DUI, motorists can get away with just about anything. Consider a few recent examples.
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[B' Spokes: Things he points out make my blood boil.]

http://blogs.bicycling.com/blogs/roadrights/2014/03/26/no-crime-no-punishment/
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High-viz jackets don’t affect how close motorists pass cyclists

Biking ElsewhereBy Sam Dansie, Bike Radar

Whether you wear a big notice saying you're a total cycling newbie, look like a Tour de France pro or just put on a straightforward high-viz jacket, the distance at which UK cars will overtake remains roughly the same: 117.5cm.

That's the result of an academic study investigating what difference a cyclist's clothing choice may have on how close motorists pass them when overtaking during peak rush hour.

It means, say the researchers, there is little cyclists can do with their wardrobe to influence motorists' behaviour once they've been seen.
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The only jacket that appeared to make a meaningful difference to the average passing distance was a jacket with the word 'police' written on it.
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"It's those close buzzes that make cycling feel unsafe," said Walker. "If it doesn't feel safe people won't do it."
...

http://www.bikeradar.com/commuting/news/article/high-viz-jackets-dont-affect-how-close-motorists-pass-cyclists-39136/
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Paris bans cars, makes transit free to fight air pollution

Biking Elsewhere[B' Spokes: You would think being near the worst on the number of bad air days (http://www.baltimorespokes.org/article.php?story=20110826010851895 ) we would be working towards something like this.]
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By John Upton, Grist

Air pollution is about as romantic as wilted flowers, chapped lips, and corked wine, so the record-setting smog that has settled over the City of Love in the past few days is definitely dampening the mood.

Unseasonably warm weather has triggered unprecedented air pollution levels in Paris. Over the weekend, the city responded by offering free public transportation and bike sharing. (Similar measures were taken throughout nearby Belguim, which also reduced speed limits.) But that wasn’t enough to fix the problem, so Paris and 22 surrounding areas are taking more extreme steps, banning nearly half of vehicles from their roads.
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http://grist.org/news/paris-bans-cars-makes-transit-free-to-fight-air-pollution/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=update&utm_campaign=socialflow

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