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Archive for February 4th, 2009

Unsafe Routes to School

There is a strange sort of consensus in this tragic tale from Atlanta of a child killed as he was crossing in front of his school that somehow, lack of traffic signals is the underlying problem.

Traffic signals, however, despite our fetishistic belief in them, are not a safety device per se: They are a means for directing traffic flow. To the extent they actually get drivers to stop (for fear of being struck by another car), they have an ancillary benefit for pedestrians. But they also encourage drivers to look up away from the street, and to accelerate towards an intersection (potentially crowded with pedestrians) so as to not miss a light. They may also raise a false sense of security amongst pedestrians.

But as the story notes, there was no shortage of warning here:

A crossing guard was on duty and had carried a stop sign into the street, and other vehicles had stopped, police spokeswoman Mekka Parish said.

What’s more,

Road signs warn drivers they are approaching the school crosswalk. Ogilvie’s car was southbound. Drivers coming from the north pass a flashing school zone sign on a roadside post and a sign warning, “Stop for pedestrians in crosswalk” before traveling over a small hill just north of the school.

Exactly how many more warnings this driver needed (no word if they were on a phone or similarly distracted) before realizing they were in an area with crossing schoolchildren is unknown — and why, having missed all these other signs, this driver would magically stop for a traffic light (more than 3000 people a year are killed by people who don’t), is beyond me. At what point do we treat the issue of driver responsibility, instead of cursing the absence of a set of colored lights in the sky or some bit of road engineering?

The piece skirts around the real issue: Driver speeds (from experience people in the Atlanta region treat small neighborhood streets as high-speed shortcuts). It could have also noted the much greater likelihood of a pedestrian dying when struck by an SUV, rather than a car.

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Posted on Wednesday, February 4th, 2009 at 5:27 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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The Plight of the North American Biped

I like the deadpan, nature-doc (or is it Ken Burns?) feel of this piece by B.C. Brown.

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Posted on Wednesday, February 4th, 2009 at 4:33 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
7 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

Welfare Cadillacs

No, I’m not talking about the mythical drivers of the 1970s, riding their luxe mobiles down to the benefits office to collect their check.

I’m talking about Detroit. Congress seems intent on handing yet another short-sighted free ride to the automakers. As reports the Wall Street Journal, Congress has come up with the following piece of “policy”: “The $11.5 billion auto amendment, adopted 71-26, would give an income-tax deduction to car buyers for both sales taxes and interest payments on auto loans.” This even as the newspapers are filled with stories of transit systems with expanding riderships nevertheless having to cut back for lack of funding.

There are, seemingly, no further requirements on this latest gift to the industry — e.g. no stricture that it be used only for high-mileage or hybrid vehicles, nothing that might make Detroit (or American consumers, for that matter) wake up and face reality.

Do you see a pattern here? Let’s review. There was the time Congress eviscerated the tax credit for hybrid vehicles — the more that are sold, the more the credit erodes (how’s that for incentives?). In Europe, the tax credits for lower-emitting vehicles don’t erode. Then there was the time Congress enacted tax breaks for “light duty” vehicles (the ones family farmers used to use back in the days such a creature existed), encouraging an entire generation to move away from higher-mileage vehicles into unsustainable suburban trucks. And then, as Daniel Sperling and Deborah Gordon note in their new book Two Billion Cars (which I’ve reviewed in the next Wilson Quarterly), there was the old “two fleet rule” for imports and domestics, “added at the request of the UAW, which hoped Detroit would be forced to keep building small cars to offset sales of gas guzzlers. This worked for a short time, but the share of imported parts rose in Detroit’s ‘domestically built’ cars defined as having at least 75 percent domestic content).”

The pattern seems to be: Detroit, caught in its oligopolistic slumber, runs ashore on the shoals of global socio-economic reality; Congress finds some short-term way to help them that leaves them precariously ill-prepared for the future. Repeat.

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Posted on Wednesday, February 4th, 2009 at 4:28 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

Please send tips, news, research papers, links, photos (bad road signs, outrageous bumper stickers, spectacularly awful acts of driving or parking or anything traffic-related), or ideas for my Slate.com Transport column to me at: info@howwedrive.com.

For publicity inquiries, please contact Kate Runde at Vintage: krunde@randomhouse.com.

For editorial inquiries, please contact Zoe Pagnamenta at The Zoe Pagnamenta Agency: zoe@zpagency.com.

For speaking engagement inquiries, please contact
Kim Thornton at the Random House Speakers Bureau: rhspeakers@randomhouse.com.

Order Traffic from:

Amazon | B&N | Borders
Random House | Powell’s

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U.S. Paperback UK Paperback
Traffic UK
Drive-on-the-left types can order the book from Amazon.co.uk.

For UK publicity enquiries please contact Rosie Glaisher at Penguin.

Upcoming Talks

April 9, 2008.
California Office of Traffic Safety Summit
San Francisco, CA.

May 19, 2009
University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies
Bloomington, MN

June 23, 2009
Driving Assessment 2009
Big Sky, Montana

June 26, 2009
PRI World Congress
Rotterdam, The Netherlands

June 27, 2009
Day of Architecture
Utrecht, The Netherlands

July 13, 2009
Association of Transportation Safety Information Professionals (ATSIP)
Phoenix, AZ.

August 12-14
Texas Department of Transportation “Save a Life Summit”
San Antonio, Texas

September 2, 2009
Governors Highway Safety Association Annual Meeting
Savannah, Georgia

September 11, 2009
Oregon Transportation Summit
Portland, Oregon

October 8
Honda R&D Americas
Raymond, Ohio

October 10-11
INFORMS Roundtable
San Diego, CA

October 21, 2009
California State University-San Bernardino, Leonard Transportation Center
San Bernardino, CA

November 5
Southern New England Planning Association Planning Conference
Uncasville, Connecticut

January 6
Texas Transportation Forum
Austin, TX

January 19
Yale University
(with Donald Shoup; details to come)

Monday, February 22
Yale University School of Architecture
Eero Saarinen Lecture

Friday, March 19
University of Delaware
Delaware Center for Transportation

April 5-7
University of Utah
Salt Lake City
McMurrin Lectureship

April 19
International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (Organization Management Workshop)
Austin, Texas

Monday, April 26
Edmonton Traffic Safety Conference
Edmonton, Canada

Monday, June 7
Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals
Niagara Falls, Ontario

Wednesday, July 6
Fondo de Prevención Vial
Bogotá, Colombia

Tuesday, August 31
Royal Automobile Club
Perth, Australia

Wednesday, September 1
Australasian Road Safety Conference
Canberra, Australia

Wednesday, September 22

Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s
Traffic Incident Management Enhancement Program
Statewide Conference
Wisconsin Dells, WI

Wednesday, October 20
Rutgers University
Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation
Piscataway, NJ

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Ontario Injury Prevention Resource Centre
Injury Prevention Forum
Toronto

Monday, May 2
Idaho Public Driver Education Conference
Boise, Idaho

Tuesday, June 2, 2011
California Association of Cities
Costa Mesa, California

Sunday, August 21, 2011
American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Attitudes: Iniciativa Social de Audi
Madrid, Spain

April 16, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Gardens Theatre, QUT
Brisbane, Australia

April 17, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Centennial Plaza, Sydney
Sydney, Australia

April 19, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Melbourne Town Hall
Melbourne, Australia

January 30, 2013
University of Minnesota City Engineers Association Meeting
Minneapolis, MN

January 31, 2013
Metropolis and Mobile Life
School of Architecture, University of Toronto

February 22, 2013
ISL Engineering
Edmonton, Canada

March 1, 2013
Australian Road Summit
Melbourne, Australia

May 8, 2013
New York State Association of
Transportation Engineers
Rochester, NY

August 18, 2013
BoingBoing.com “Ingenuity” Conference
San Francisco, CA

September 26, 2013
TransComm 2013
(Meeting of American Association
of State Highway and Transportation
Officials’ Subcommittee on Transportation
Communications.
Grand Rapids MI

 

 

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