Tagdriving

Smartphones replace cars. Cars become smartphones.

Teens’ smartphone use means they don’t want to drive. Car makers’ solution? Turn cars into smartphones.

The Los Angeles Times reported in March 2013, along with many other outlets, that “fewer 16-year-olds are rushing to get their driver’s licenses today than 30 years ago as smartphones and computers keep adolescents connected to one another.”

Smartphones maintain friendships more than any car can. According to Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd, who’s been interviewing hundreds of teenagers, “Teens aren’t addicted to social media. They’re addicted to each other.” (Plus not every teen needs a car if their friends have one. Where’s Uber for friends? That, or transit or safe cycle infrastructure, would help solve the “I need a ride to work at the mall” issue.)

Driving is on the decline as more people choose to take transit, bike, walk, or work from home (and not unemployment).

intel cars with bicycle parts

Marketing images from Intel’s blog post about cars becoming smartphones.

What’s a car maker to do?

The first thing a car maker does to fight this (losing) battle is to turn the car into a smartphone. It’s definitely in Intel’s interest, and that’s why they’re promoting the story, but Chevrolet will soon be integrating National Public Radio – better known as NPR – as an in-dash app. It will use the car’s location to find the nearest NPR affiliate. Yeah, my smartphone already does that.

The second thing they do is to market the product differently. Cars? They’re not stuck in traffic*, they’re an accessory to your bicycle. Two of the images used in Intel’s blog post feature bicycles in some way. The first shows a bicycle helmet sitting on a car dashboard. The second shows how everyone who works at a proposed Land Rover dealership is apparently going to bike there, given all the bikes parked at an adjacent shelter.

The new place to put your smartphone when you take the train.

* I’m looking at you, Nissan marketing staff. Your commercial for the Rogue that shows the mini SUV driving atop a train full of commuters in order to bypass road congestion (and got a lot of flack) is more ridiculous than Cadillac’s commercial showing a car blowing the doors of other cars, while their drivers look on in disbelief, in order to advertise the 400+ horsepower it has (completely impractical for driving in the urban area the commercial showcases).

Happy birthday Gas Tax, it’s time to retire

Descending

Traffic congestion (right) won’t change until we give transit infrastructure (left) a better footing on which to compete.

Today’s apparently the birthday of the Yosemite National Park, NASA, and also the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax.

It’s time to go. Peter Rogoff, the administrator of the Federal Transit Administration said as much yesterday at the American Public Transportation Association annual meeting.

A meeting attendee asked Rogoff, during the Q&A session following his speech, about the insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund, where gas tax revenues go, and from which payments for road, transit, and bike projects are drawn. Rogoff replied,

We see a lot of governors taking this on. Wyoming raised its gas tax 15 cents. And on any given weekend there are more Democrats drinking beer in my backyard than in the entire Wyoming legislature. All options are being considered. Gas tax has diminishing returns. We can’t simultaneously lower independence on foreign oil and fund transportation systems dependent on the consumption of oil.

Here’s why the per-gallon gas tax is unsustainable: it loses purchasing power because of inflation. If it were sales tax based on the total cost of your fillup, this would be a completely different story, by decreasing driving instead of decreasing gas use (and yes, they are different because as cars become more fuel efficient, driving can remain the same or go up while gas use can remain the same or go down).

So “goodbye gas tax, hello mileage tax?”

Cross-posted to the Center for Permaculture and Appropriate Technology.

Current madness of the week: investigating car crashes

Gravity should have prevented this car crash, as would not placing buildings near roadways. But we’ve figured out how to defy gravity. Photo by Katherine Hodges.

“Police closed the street to investigate”.

What a waste of time. The investigation will conclude the same way as any other, with one or more of the following contributing factors: exceeding the speed limit, alcohol, a deficiency in someone’s driving skills or knowledge, or some defect in the road (I’m excluding poor road design as it could almost always be better, designed in such a way to reduce the occurrence of poor quality driving).

The story: a person driving an SUV side swipes another SUV. The driver loses control and then hits the center concrete barrier. The SUV flips over and the driver dies. (Yes, this is in relation to an incident on I-294 in Glenview this weekend.)

We already know how to fix all of these issues.

Illinois licenses the dumbest drivers

I took this photo to capture the sign, which I think has design problems. I didn’t know when taking it that it’d help me illustrate this story. The issue is this: From the left lane, one can make a left turn at an obtuse angle or an acute angle, but not two obtuse left turns. The same is true for the right lane: you can make an acute or obtuse right turn, but not two obtuse right turns.

On my ride home from Pequod’s Pizza tonight, I stopped at a red light in the left-most lane (there are two lanes, see photo) at Clybourn Avenue and Belmont Avenue, getting ready to turn left from northwest-bound Clybourn onto westbound Belmont.

A guy in a car behind me peaks his head out the window and asks, “Buddy could you move right a little bit?”

“I’m turning onto Belmont”, I explain, while pointing in the direction of Belmont Avenue and my specific left turn.

“So am I”, he says.

“Then according to that sign [to which I pointed], we’re both in the correct lane!”, I reply. (See photo of the sign.) I don’t remember if he said anything beyond that. I made the left turn, with he behind me, and when he passed me in the left lane (while I was cycling in the right lane) he honked.

Illinois licenses the dumbest drivers.

An enjoyable Friday morning collecting car speeds on Clark Street

Watch this 7 second video of a person driving a late model Toyota Camry in Lincoln Park at 50 MPH, next to the park. 

mean 30.83 mph
median 31
mode 30
min 17
max 50
frequency: 121 cars
greater than 30 mph: 65 cars
% greater than 30 mph: 53.72%

Statistics exclude the three buses counted at 26, 18, 20. Time was 8:23 to 8:38 on Friday, May 4, 2012, at Clark Street and Menomenee Street. The street width at where I collected the data is 65’9″ (789 inches). This location is eligible for a speed camera as it is within 1/8 mile of a park and is thus a “Children’s Safety Zone”.

I’m still working on the report for an article to be published on Grid Chicago. I used this Bushnell Velocity Speed Gun.

Driving in the protected bike lane, eh

Updated 4/5/12 to add links to other discussions on this topic, my response to one of the discussions, and a link to my tweet mention this issue to 25th Ward Alderman Solis. 

I was hanging out on 18th Street on Tuesday, watching traffic as I often do, and interviewing Alyson Fletcher about her bike count project. I captured this driver of a Chevy Malibu casually driving in the protected bike lane.

Aside from emailing this to Alderman Solis and the Chicago Department of Transportation, I have no idea what to do about this (I haven’t done either of those things yet – maybe you, as a resident, should do that; I tweeted to Alderman Solis on April 4, 2012). I think the design could be modified to physically prevent automobile traffic here (except, perhaps, emergency vehicles). Other things could be added to make this more apparent as a bike lane, by adding more color and doubling the size of the pavement bicycle symbols.

I also photographed two other people driving in the bike lane. Is there not a place where people can cycle without the danger of drivers impeding their space?

Kia Forte driver.

BMW driver.

Follow the discussion elsewhere:

  • The Expired Meter - Author poses question about possible lack of clarity in the signage, symbols, or road design that sends the message that the curbside lane is for cycling only. I haven’t investigated this part. I don’t know if there are signs at the entrances to the lane that describe it as “right lane bike only” (I’m not sure if this sign is acceptable to the MUTCD – I can’t find it there – but there are many instances of it being used in Chicago). However, that sign’s posted restriction is further than what’s necessary. A sign that says “bike lane” (R3-17) is sufficient to cause that any driving in said lane is a citable offense under Municipal Code of Chicago 9-40-060.
  • EveryBlock - I posted it here.
  • Grid Chicago – I posted this about this topic later on Grid Chicago asking which bike issues most concerns readers.

Carnage culture dispatch #1

I’ve been a “fan” of carnage culture news and discussion for several years, mainly since I started reading Streetsblog (probably in 2007) and their Weekly Carnage series. I write about “carnage culture” here and a little bit on Grid Chicago. But on Grid Chicago I tend to keep the coverage about crash data plus more “reasonable” (a euphemism for less angry, maybe) and objective.

Carnage culture to me is a description of the level of life and property damage Americans are willing to accept as a cost of doing business, and a cost of living. And I think that level of acceptability is much too high. Is the person responsible for these crashes paying for the damage they caused? Did the City bill the driver for the trees, curbs, landscaping, and guardrail he ran into?

I present here the first Chicago Crash Diary. From the photos and background information I received from a reader, combined with the Illinois Department of Transportation crash data, I was able to “reconstruct” a particular damaging crash in 2010. I made a color flyer from this information to quickly distill the details.

It seems continuing our system of having extremely high health care costs (without an equivalent return in quality or faster care when compared to countries with lower health care costs) is an acceptable cost of perpetuating backward ideas about society’s responsibility to take care of its members and refusing to allow a system that shares health care costs for those not already covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or child health insurance programs.

This is like carnage culture: we accept the damage to property, to human lives, and to society, to continue a culture (including our built environment) that depends on and glorifies automobile ownership and driving to places where other modes suffice. Our culture that allows unlicensed drivers, uninsured drivers, drivers with limited education (driver’s education is not needed for those 18 and older), being distracted by cellphones, and lax enforcement,* is the same one that allows $300 billion to be spent on “picking up the pieces” after crashes (study from AAA by Cambridge Systematics). But ours is the same culture that builds its cities and neighborhoods and places of employment to only be accessible by those who can drive.

The cost of crashes are based on the Federal Highway Administration’s comprehensive costs for traffic fatalities and injuries that assign a dollar value to a variety of components, including medical and emergency services, lost earnings and household production, property damage, and lost quality of life, among other things. [This story is interesting because the press release's angle was that crash costs are three times higher than congestion costs, which is constantly in the news; congestion is apparently something we care more about.]

I don’t think $35 per month liability insurance, or the police, district attorneys, and courts, are protecting us from this damage.

*I could go on. Just search for “top causes of car crashes”.

Policy insight for Wednesday, August 3, 2011

WORD CHOICE

Biker versus bicyclist?
Person riding bike or bicyclist?
“Avid cyclist” or “bicycling enthusiast”? Are you really enthused about bicycling? How avid does one need to be so that others will consider him or her an “avid cyclist”?

Bicycling on Milwaukee Avenue

What about driver versus motorist? Motorist can imply that it’s a person who enjoys motoring.
Or, car versus motorist?
Did the car hit you, or did a person driving a car hit you?

“The car stopped and talked to the guy. The car left-hooked my friend.” Do cars talk? Do cars operate by themselves?

Crash versus accident? (don’t have time to talk about this)

When you describe a bicycling riding, and you say they had to “SWERVE out of the way,” do you think that some people may interpret that as the bicyclist doing something they shouldn’t be doing? Maybe they were just swerving to avoid a pothole and crashed, or they swerved to avoid getting hit by someone driving a car when the cyclist disobeyed a red signal. A more objective phrase would be, “the bicyclist maneuvered to avoid hitting the pothole.” In that sense, I’ve made it seem like the bicyclist was riding assertively and in their best interest. Notice earlier how I said “disobeyed a red signal” instead of “blew a red light”?

POINT
When we open our dialogue in order to understand others and to be understand ourselves, language and word choice matters. Be specific, but more importantly be descriptive so that you’re not misunderstood.

Some have called Mayor Rahm Emanuel an “avid cyclist.” Does this photo of him make you think of yourself as someone who bicycles, or your peers?

Cross posted to Moving DesignRead more policy insights from Steven Vance. 

Dummy

What was going through this driver’s head (do they have a brain?) when, as soon as the light turned green, they peeled away from the stop bar, turning the wrong way down a one-way street?

Were there not enough indicators that this is a one-way street against their direction? There were arrows, a “no left turn” sign, a stop bar the full width of the street, a DO NOT ENTER sign, and a “one way” sign.

Or is the driver entitled to do whatever they want?

The 3-way street

Update June 12, 2011: Added a link to and excerpt from commentary by David Hembrow, a British blogger in the Netherlands.

How does a 3-way street work? Easy, just watch the video.

I like the term “aggressive yield” to describe the situation when a motorist does yield to pedestrians crossing the street, but in a way where they inch forward continually, slowly pushing, with a buffer or air, the people out of the way.

I really like the comment from Tuesday by Anthony Ball:

those red markers are just showing the limits of tolerable risk as established by years of system development. If the collision speeds were higher, those red circles would be far few – it’s simply a system finding its own point of stability.

If you really want to wreak havoc – try to control that system without corrective feedback (eg more rules, lights, controls, etc) and you’ll see the system kill people while it tries to find new stable relationships.

don’t forget that rules, signs, lights, etc have no direct impact on the system – they only work through the interpretation of the users.

What did David Hembrow have to say? David lives in the Netherlands and disagrees with the common sentiment that these conflicts are caused by selfish users.

I don’t see the behaviour at this junction as being about “bad habits”. What I see is simply a very badly designed junction which almost invites people to behave in the way that they do.

Dutch road junctions don’t look like and work like this – they are different for a reason: it removes the conflicts and improves safety. A long-standing theme of Dutch road design is the concept of Sustainable Safety. The concept is to remove conflict so that collisions are rare and the consequences of those which remain are relatively small. Roads are made self-explanatory so that bad behaviour is reduced and the way people behave is changed.

Reading this reminds me of the work of the students in George Aye’s class at SAIC, “Living in a Smart City.” The students attempted, through an intersection redesign, to reduce the stresses that lead to crashes.

Where are the 3-way streets in your city? Grand/Halsted/Milwaukee in Chicago comes to my mind easily. Also a lot of streets in the Loop. Oh yeah, and The Crotch, at Milwaukee/North/Damen.

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