Streetsblog DC has a good roundup on Vancouver, where by some miraculous intervention unseen in the rest of North America, they have a rising population (up 4.5% since 2006) and decreasing traffic (vehicle counts 20-30% in the same time span). Impossible, you say? It’s pretty freaking straightforward — increase population density and the mix of land uses, give people walking, biking, and transit options that work, and stop prioritizing automotive uses of the streets. Seriously. It Works™. Nobody should be surprised by this. Refusing to allow the population and density of your city to grow because you fear traffic congestion and knife fights over curbside parking spaces means you’re hell bent on providing a crappy car-centered transportation system.
Two bicyclists have been killed at the intersection of US-36 and Violet Avenue since 2009. The most recent was TJ Doherty, on July 24th, 2012. Both cyclists were headed southeast on US-36, and were hit by cars traveling northwest, making left turns onto Violet. In this area US-36 is just outside of Boulder’s city limits, in the county, but it’s the Colorado Dept. of Transportation (CDOT) that’s responsible for it. Looking at the aerial view below we can explore why this intersection might be particularly dangerous for cyclists.
Northwest bound vehicles on US-36 have a dedicated left turn lane, and no obligation to stop before making their turn. The angle that Violet Ave. makes with the highway is quite oblique, meaning that it can be taken at high speed, and because US-36 has a speed limit of 55 mph in this area, cars often will take it at high speed if they don’t see any oncoming traffic.
From a southeast bound bicycle’s point of view, there’s no obviously correct place to be on the road, if they’re planning to proceed through the intersection. The shoulder on the west side of the road narrows to a few inches, and it’s to the right of a right-turn-only lane. If you ride all the way to the right, you risk a vehicle turning in front of you onto Violet. Your intent to continue through the intersection is also unclear to oncoming traffic. Most cyclists instead take a position that’s well within the right turn lane, to prevent right-turning vehicles from passing them and immediately turning right in front of them. However, this lane position still leaves their intent ambiguous to oncoming traffic. Alternatively, you might choose to straddle the line separating the through travel lane and the right turn lane. This makes the bike relatively visible, and more clearly conveys the intent to continue through the intersection, at the expense of potentially sandwiching the cyclist between right turning vehicles and very fast moving through traffic. If the cyclist instead chooses to behave exactly like a motor vehicle, moving into the through lane of traffic, the very large difference in speed between the bike and the other vehicles in that lane creates a hazard. Thus, there’s no right place for a cyclist to be on this road if they’re planning to continue through the intersection.
When we combine the unavoidable ambiguity of the through cyclist’s intent with the very high left-turning speeds of oncoming traffic, we have a recipe for disaster. A recipe which has killed two people in three years.
The Atlantic Cities takes a look at the Economics of Traffic Congestion. It turns out that congestion is positively correlated with per-capita GDP, and there’s little evidence to suggest that traffic congestion ends up inhibiting economic development significantly. In their words it’s nothing more than a metric of how convenient it is to drive an automobile. But many cities still insist on “Level of Service” as a metric of success in their transportation master planning process, under the assumption that congestion must necessarily be bad for the economy.
A new study from the University of Toronto clearly shows that additional free road capacity — either from adding actual road, or shifting people from driving to transit — has no effect on congestion. Traffic expands to fill the available capacity, no matter how much you add, and the net public benefit from the investment in additional road capacity is negative.
The strange experience of a car-free parent who finds herself and her kids in a (Zip)car for the afternoon. When do kids start noticing what’s normal, and what’s not? How do you get them not to care?
In the US we wouldn’t think twice about a young testosterone laden driver endangering the lives of four cyclists with his “monster truck”. If anything, we’d probably blame the cyclists — especially if they weren’t wearing helmets. But how is it different from someone carelessly brandishing a gun in your face? That’s how seriously they seem to take it in the Netherlands:
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Continue reading Links for the week of September 4th, 2009
Hello Mr. Singh,
As a person who uses a bicycle as almost my only form of transportation, not being detected by traffic signals often makes me feel like some kind of outlaw, even though I am very explicitly operating my vehicle within California law. This difference between the letter and the implementation of the law contributes to the mistaken perception, by drivers, law enforcement officials and cyclists alike, that bikes somehow have both fewer legal rights and less responsibility to obey the rules of the road.
It has come to my attention that there is nobody on the California Traffic Control Devices Committee (CTCDC) who represents the interests of the non-motorized elements of traffic, though there are multiple representatives from the state’s automobile clubs. Under AB 1581 (now CVC 21450.5) bicycles are entitled to be detected by the devices that CTCDC oversees, but with no representation on the committee it seems unlikely that the decisions it takes will reflect our needs. Many other jurisdictions (e.g. Copenhagen, Denmark) that have decided to incorporate cycling meaningfully into their transportation networks have successfully solved the technical problems associated with detecting and directing the flow of bicycle traffic, and so I do not feel that “we don’t have the technology” is really a viable excuse. What we lack is the political will, and I think that having some direct representation of non-motorized traffic on the CTCDC would help facilitate finding that political will.