CONTACTTRAFFICABOUT TOM VANDERBILTOTHER WRITING CONTACT ABOUT THE BOOK

Archive for June 22nd, 2009

‘The Slaughter of Pedestrians’

And speaking of urban speeds:

“A speed of twenty miles an hour within the city is dangerous, the speed of thirty miles an hour permitted by the Callan law is reckless and should be made dangerous.”

From the New York Times, 1912.

Car stopping distance has improved since then, whether human reaction times have is another question (particularly when they are in-texticated or otherwise impaired); the non-linear upward graph of car speed and risk of pedestrian death certainly hasn’t changed (and may have gotten worse with heaver vehicles with different profiles).

What has also obviously changed is the language — the quote in the title comes from the same article — which itself reflects the cultural accommodation of the city and culture to the car (and, as historian Peter Norton has shown, a gradual shifting in the balance of responsibility for safety onto the pedestrian).

(thanks Beany)

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Posted on Monday, June 22nd, 2009 at 9:13 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
4 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

A Speed Nudge?

Speed limit signs tell the driver how fast they can legally drive. What if they actually told them something more useful — namely how fast to drive so that one is assured of not having to stop at the next light?

The following press release came to me recently:

Information Display Company, a leading developer and manufacturer of radar speed sign technology today announced the launch of TrafficFlow Manager, a driver alert display that works with traffic signal timing to alleviate traffic congestion. When mounted along a route with timed traffic signals, the display informs drivers that the lights are synchronized and lets them know the proper speed they must maintain in order to avoid having to stop for a red light.

The benefits of light synchronization are obvious; for example:

A report issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation showed that a traffic light synchronization program in Texas reduced delays by 24.6 percent and fuel consumption by 14.2 percent. A similar program in Austin Texas saved commuters 2.3 million hours of their time and 1.2 million gallons of fuel usage.

There are obvious limitations — for one, the systems are more expensive than conventional lights (and not sure where that money is coming from in current municipal budgets); for another, when competing traffic demand is high, synchronization schemes often break down.

Another question is whether an unbroken string of green, in urban areas for example, encourages speeding. Which is why I was intrigued by the idea of this “functional” speed limit sign. As I’ve said before, I’m constantly amazed by the inefficiency of drivers in New York, accelerating from red light to red light, often beyond the speed limit itself. But the question begs: If, upon getting a green, if drivers knew that driving 28 mph would get them to the next light when it was going to change, and that to go faster would simply cause them to have to come to another stop, would they actually drive at that speed?

This strikes me as in the spirit of a Nudge — there’s nothing (except that pesky old law) standing in your way of making any speed choice you like, but you are given clear information on what the best choice is. Still, questions loom — what if someone joins the street from a side-street, and has no idea of where they are in the synchronization scheme, and may drive faster for fear of the light turning red.

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Posted on Monday, June 22nd, 2009 at 9:04 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
23 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.
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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