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Saturday, March 24 2018 @ 07:42 PM UTC
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How Engineering Standards for Cars Endanger People Crossing the Street

Biking ElsewhereBy Angie Schmitt, Streets Blog

The signal timing that puts pedestrians at risk is baked right into traffic engineering conventions, Furth told the Boston City Council in December [PDF]:

Synchro, the standard software [traffic engineers] use, is based on minimizing auto delay, and it doesn’t even calculate pedestrian delay. “Level of Service” criteria give engineers an incentive to minimize auto delay, often at the expense of pedestrian service (which isn’t measured). That’s how we get designs with 30 second delay for cars with 120 second delay for pedestrians.

Part of the problem, Furth says, is that transportation engineers have standards for measuring motorist delay but not pedestrian delay. He has developed a tool to assess delay at intersections for pedestrians and cyclists, recommending that Boston weigh those factors in its signal timing.

Disregard for the walking environment is also embedded in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices — a point of reference for engineers. The MUTCD does not require pedestrian-specific signals at crossings, treating them as a judgment call even in urban locations.

The MUTCD does not even “warrant” (i.e. allow) a signalized crossing for pedestrians unless at least 93 people per hour try to cross the street, or five people were struck by drivers within a year.

Meanwhile, there are no such thresholds for motor vehicle signals. Regardless of traffic counts, the MUTCD gives engineers permission to install traffic signals on major streets to “encourage concentration and organization of traffic flow” — i.e. to make things go smoother for drivers.

Ian Lockwood, an engineer with the Toole Design Group, said this institutional bias helps explain why the U.S. has struggled to reduce traffic deaths.

“When a traffic engineer says they’ve optimized a traffic signal, that typically means they made it the best for the motorists,” he said. “There’s a pro-speed, pro-automobile bias that’s built into the traffic engineering culture dealing with these sorts of issues.”

When a pedestrian is killed, Lockwood says, engineers tend to blame the victim for not complying with the standard road design, instead of questioning how the street design created deadly risks.
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Road fatalities are soaring. Here’s how to stop that.

Biking in BaltimoreVia Washington Post

U.S. ROADWAYS in 2016 yielded another bumper crop of carnage as vehicle fatalities soared 6 percent, following a 7 percent jump in 2015 — the biggest two-year spike since the 1960s. The cost of deaths, injuries and property damage resulting from crashes also leaped by 12 percent in just a year, to some $432 billion, an amount on par with the entire annual economic output of a mid-size European country, such as Norway.
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As a traffic engineer, I know where terrible designs come from

Biking Elsewhere"As a traffic engineer, I know where terrible designs… come from: not from "bad" engineers, but from the rules and incentives that traffic engineers follow and the software they use. Synchro, the standard software they use, is based on minimizing auto delay, and it doesn’t even calculate pedestrian delay. "Level of Service" criteria give engineers an incentive to minimize auto delay, often at the expense of pedestrian service (which isn’t measured)."
—Peter Furth in Pedestrian-Friendly Traffic Signal Timing Policy Recommendations he presented at a Policy Briefing hosted by Boston City Council’s Committee on Parks, Recreation, and Transportation,

from CenterLines, the e-newsletter of the National Center for Bicycling & Walking.
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Biking in Baltimore-> In part to support its new frequent-service modified bus grid and a federally funded rapid bus arriving in 2021, Baltimore, MD is hoping to spend the next three years installing a low-stress biking network in six neighborhoods to add to existing bikeways. It’ll open new possibilities for neighborhoods first built as "streetcar suburbs" of downtown Baltimore but now difficult to travel between without a car despite being less than a half mile apart. Streetsblog:

from CenterLines, the e-newsletter of the National Center for Bicycling & Walking.
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Biking in Baltimore-> The European Cyclists’ Federation launched a new report called "Electromobility for All: Fiscal Incentives for E-cycling" ( The report provides key policy recommendations and best practice examples, with the goal of promoting e-cycling throughout Europe. In addition to the economic, environmental, health and other benefits that cycling has to offer, e-bikes are the perfect solution for longer distance trips. In studies, they proved to be faster than cars in trips up to 10 km (twice longer than the ones with conventional bikes). Moreover, they make it easier to overcome natural obstacles (like hills or headwinds), thus they are suitable for commuters wanting to arrive at work in their professional attire, less physically trained cyclists, elderly people and other groups that did not cycle before. Besides, e-bikes make it possible to transport heavier goods, thus providing a great solution for individual shoppers and companies relying on fast urban logistics. Therefore, e-bikes are seen as a potential alternative to cars, especially for trips in urban areas.

from CenterLines, the e-newsletter of the National Center for Bicycling & Walking.

[B' Spokes: I'll take this opportunity to note that Baltimore Bike Share approximately half of their fleet is electric pedal-assist (Pedelec) (a white lightning bolt on the back fender.) ]

And another for e-bikes:
-> TREC reports on a study in Portland, OR that provided 150 Kaiser Permanente employees with electric-assist bicycles (e-bikes) to use for ten weeks to see if e-bikes might help overcome some commonly cited barriers to cycling. (Evaluation of Electric Bike Use at Three Kaiser Permanente NW Employment Centers in Portland Metro Region: Fewer than 10 percent of participants had ever ridden an e-bike as an adult, and 50 percent of them said that they normally never rode a bike at all. Before beginning the program, 38% were categorized as "strong and fearless" or "enthused and confident." After using an e-bike, 52% were categorized as such. The study found people will use a bike more if it is an e-bike. The number of people commuting to work by bicycle at least once a week, and the number of people biking at least once a month for shopping or other errands each more than doubled during the study.

from CenterLines, the e-newsletter of the National Center for Bicycling & Walking.
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Biking Elsewhere-> The Washington Post reports jurisdictions across the United States, including those in the Washington region, are embracing lower speed limits as the key to reversing the recent rise in traffic fatalities. Their efforts include lowering default speed limits and those in major corridors, and creating slow-driving zones in areas with heavy pedestrian traffic.

The District has committed to end traffic-related deaths by 2024, with a plan that lowers the default speed limit to 20 mph from 25 on some neighborhood streets and creating 15 mph zones from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on roadways around schools, parks, and senior and youth centers.

from CenterLines, the e-newsletter of the National Center for Bicycling & Walking.

[B' Spokes: This caught my eye because of the inclusion of parks, and senior and youth centers not just schools.]
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How America’s Staggering Traffic Death Rate Became Matter-of-Fact

Biking ElsewhereBy Angie Schmitt, Streets Blog

How did more than 30,000 annual motor vehicle deaths become something that most Americans accept as normal? A new paper by Boston University professor Itai Vardi tries to answer that question.

1. Thinking of traffic deaths in terms of fatalities per mile driven
[B' Spokes: Here in Maryland we have a high per capita traffic fatality rate but since when also drive more than average to do the same daily activities our fatalities per mile are average as reported by MDOT. But read the article for more info.

2. “Saving Lives”
[B' Spokes: I'll add my two cents, over the past 10 years or so when driving milage was way less than predicted federal agencies (and locally) essentially claimed the lives saved by less driving was because of their intervention (which basically came down to efforts to encourage people to drive more.) Finding success in anything I guess. :/]

3. Seatbelts and Drunk Driving
[B' Spokes: This may be the most important bit, my take is rather than take responsibility for failed road design the blame was passed to a few errant drivers.]
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Maryland legislation 2017 - Coal rolling, crosswalk cycling and more

Bike LawsVia WABA

There are ~7 bicycle relevant laws working their way through the Maryland Congress right now. WABA has a write up on 5 on them.

Legalizing HAWK signals in Maryland- SB 338

The right to bicycle through crosswalks – SB 337

Lowering speed limits in Montgomery County – HB 337 and HB 332

Task Force to Study Bicycle Safety on Maryland Highways – SB 142

BikeAA is following these and 2 others pretty closely. So far, the only one to move forward is HB 11 which outlaws Coal Rolling which "is the practice of modifying a diesel engine to increase the amount of fuel entering the engine in order to emit an under-aspirated sooty exhaust that visibly pollutes the air." None have been voted down yet either.

The two other bills are

Bicycles, Play Vehicles, and Unicycles on crosswalks and sidewalks are like pedestrians - SB 925

Making coal rolling illegal - HB 11

WABA has a form that Maryland voters can use to send a message to Maryland legislators.

[B' Spokes: I will mention that am amazed that we have to pursue legislation to get MDOT to do a pedestrian friendly thing like HAWK signals. 23% of Maryland road fatalities are pedestrian (less then 10 states have higher numbers). Didn't we have to do something similar to get MDOT to declare bik/PED priority areas?]
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Biking in BaltimoreBy Erin Peters, Vinepair


Baltimore, Maryland – Bikes and Beers does a great tour in this city through many famous sites, including Penn Station, City Hall, Inner Harbor, Little Italy and the Maryland Zoo. The city has its own bicycling club, appropriately named the Baltimore Bicycling Club, with routes that range from 35 to 77 miles.
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Do pedestrian buttons actually work?

Biking ElsewhereVia OntarioTrafficman

Explaining why some pedestrian buttons don't seem to work

At a typical intersection between a main street and a side street, the pedestrian signal along the main street defaults to walk, so it doesn’t matter whether or not anyone presses the button.
[B' Spokes: Not around here they don't and that irks me. Watch the video to see a better way to make Ped buttons work. Something the article failed to mention by requiring the ped button to be always pushed before the green phase has started and/or requiring a mandatory 90 second "pre-queue" before a pedestrian can start walking DOT is actually encouraging unsafe crossings. "must be programmed to minimize delay, which will increase compliance." (]

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