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News & Notes

bikes-flickr

Photo (cc) Cristina Valencia

→ The Washington Post: Actually, cyclists make city streets safer

In the hysteria that predated the launch of New York’s bike-sharing system last year, many critics cried that the bikes would make the city’s streets less safe. All those cyclists wouldn’t be wearing helmets! They’d have no insurance! Accidents would skyrocket, and with them lawsuits against the city. Fatalities would triple!

The system’s safety record quickly turned out to be less sensational. But this was as bike advocates expected. Biking — as with walking — offers a prime example of the power of crowds. As more people bike and walk, cycling and pedestrian fatalities actually decline. That’s because the more people bike and walk, the more drivers become attuned to their presence (either on sidewalks or road shoulders), and the more cities are likely to invest in the kind of infrastructure explicitly meant to protect them (all of which further encourages more cyclists and pedestrians).


→ The Boston Globe: Boston’s parking solution is not more parking

Northeastern University professor Stephanie Pollack has studied gentrification around transit stops across the country, and she’s found that one of the biggest mistakes municipalities make is requiring too much parking. Pollack’s data show that, given the choice, residents will self-select: Heavy drivers choose to live in homes that provide parking, and residents who don’t own cars will choose transit-oriented, low-parking homes. This is especially true for renters. So the answer to an urban parking crunch isn’t adding supply. It’s recognizing that parking demand isn’t monolithic. Urban parking is a choice, and if Boston really does have too many cars already, the answer isn’t to build room for more.

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→ ProJo: Pedestrian safety on Providence’s Federal Hill takes giant step forward

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In 2013 the state, in cooperation with the city, installed on Atwells 14 sidewalk “bumpouts,” 7 neon green crosswalk signs that are supposed to be more vivid than the standard highway orange, and other signs; upgraded some pedestrian-crossing signals; and restriped to create a 3-foot buffer zone on both sides of the avenue.

Nothing has been done to improve pedestrian safety at the intersection of Atwells and Dean, which is basically an extention of the Route 6/10 highway off-ramp.

Scheduled this year are the installation of additional traffic signal improvements, including 12 unusual pedestrian crossing signals; the painting of “25 mph,” the speed limit, and “PED XING” on the pavement; and the painting of 11 additional crosswalks.

The pedestrian crossing signal, called a “rectangular rapid flashing beacon,” would be unique in Rhode Island. It is a pedestrian-activated LED array attached to a pedestrian crossing sign that irregularly flashes an amber or white light that Urso said is impossible for a motorist to ignore.

Now if we can just stop people getting stabbed to death and drunks driving up on the sidewalks, it’ll be a nice place.

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News & Notes

Electric car charging.

Electric car charging station in St. Petersburg, FL. Photo (cc) CityofStPete

→ Grist: States promise to sell one new EV for every 24 people by 2025

They’re starting to step up. Eight states that represent, according to the New York Times, “a quarter of the national car market” just announced they’re going to work together on creating a better system for drivers of electric vehicles. They are, in descending order of population size, California, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont, and they say their goal is to help get 3.3 million new EVs sold by 2025. With a combined population of 79 million people, that means one EV for every 24 people.

How are they going to do it? By creating a system that will give EV owners something only gas-guzzling car drivers have now: certainty about where and when and how they’ll be able to fuel up.

I’m all for things that help improve the environment, but I’ve got to say, I’m a little sad that the environmental press is not being more thoughtful on this story. Reduced carbon emissions are wonderful, but it is not simply the carbon which is problematic, it is safety (for people inside and outside of cars) land-use, household budgets, and more. These are among the things states are supposed to do to encourage electric cars:

  • More charging stations
  • Building codes that require chargers at workplaces and “multifamily residences”
  • Reduced tolls
  • Better parking
  • Cheaper electricity prices

These are all things that encourage more driving; encouraging sprawl, paving land, putting pedestrians and cyclists in conflict with auto-traffic (I don’t think you’re any less dead after getting run over by an electric vehicle than you are getting run over by a gas powered one), and leaving individuals and families tied to the expense of a car (granted, made less so by reducing the costs of powering the vehicle).

Rhode Island seems quite proud of itself for being part of this group of states, but Rhode Island continues to poorly support alternatives to automobile use, namely mass transit and cycling infrastructure.

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News & Notes

Walking in the ditch

Photo (cc) Transportation for America

→ Greater Greater Washington: When we lost the War on Pedestrians

Every new bike lane, speed camera, or change in parking requirements becomes an attack in what organizations like AAA decry as a “War on Cars.” But in the 1920s, there was a different war over our streets. And pedestrians lost.


→ Cincinnati Business Courier: City tosses out residential parking requirements

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory (D) has approved an amendment to the city’s zoning code that eliminates parking requirements for many residential developments and substantially reduces them for others.

Under the new regulations, any residential development with 20 or fewer housing units would not have to provide any parking, while those with more than 20 units would have to provide 0.75 spaces per housing unit above 20. That means a development with 32 housing units would need to provide nine parking spaces.

“The goal of the ordinance is to encourage development in the urban core by permitting developers to determine their own parking needs for downtown developments,” explained Simpson, who is vice chair of council’s Livable Communities Committee. “I firmly believe that the market will work to meet parking demands better than government minimum parking requirements.”

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Curb extensions being installed on Atwells

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Atwells Avenue at Sutton Street.

It has been nearly three years since City Councilman Terry Hassett was struck and severely injured by a hit and run driver on Atwells Avenue; one in a long line of pedestrian injuries and fatalities on the Avenue. Now, we are finally seeing some action on building pedestrian safety interventions.

After the Councilman was struck, we listed some recommended safety interventions including curb extensions such as those being installed now.

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Atwells Avenue at America Street.

Hopefully we’ll continue to see more of this type of infrastructure installed in the city to promote pedestrian safety.

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Interim pedestrian safety improvement at LaSalle Square

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From the Mayor’s Facebook page:

The City completed traffic changes to the intersection of Empire and Fountain Streets earlier today. Motor vehicle traffic proceeding from Empire Street is now required to use the traffic signal to turn left onto Fountain Street, improving pedestrian safety in the area.

This interim step will calm traffic coming from Broadway and Atwells Avenue into LaSalle Square making the pedestrian crossing on Fountain Street outside Hasbro safer and easier. Next spring, the City will begin work on the Downtown Circulator Phase III pdf which will rebuild LaSalle Square and other area streets entirely.

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News & Notes

→ Streetsblog: The Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America, and Why It Barely Registers

In 2010, 4,280 pedestrians were killed in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and another 70,000 were injured. That’s one death every two hours.

It’s impossible to quantify the human toll of traffic fatalities, but as David Nelson at Project for Public Spaces points out, AAA estimates that traffic crashes cost America $300 billion annually in the form of medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other factors. That works out to three times the annual cost of congestion reported by the Texas Transportation Institute. But while we’re spending billions “fighting congestion” with expensive new roads, getting a handle on pedestrian deaths and injuries is almost a non-issue at your average state DOT.


→ The New York Times: Where ‘Share the Road’ Is Taken Literally

“Woonerf” is what the Dutch call a special kind of street or group of streets that functions as shared public space — for pedestrians, cyclists, children and, in some cases, for slow-moving, cautiously driven cars as well.

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Joyriders vs. Jaywalkers: U.Va.’s Peter Norton Examines a Collision of Cultures

In 1909, “jaywalker” was an obscure Midwestern colloquial term that referred to a country hick in the city who got in the way of other pedestrians. But with the rise of the automobile, people connected with the auto industry used “jaywalker” to mean a pedestrian who crosses the street against regulations.

“Most people living in cities didn’t think fast cars belonged in streets,” Norton said. “So when cars hit pedestrians, it was always the driver’s fault. Angry city residents wrote letters to their newspapers denouncing ‘joy riders’ and ‘speed demons.’ But some people wanted to give cars a rightful claim to street space. The word ‘jaywalker’ was one way to do this. By casting doubt on pedestrians’ place in the street, it strengthened cars’ claim to street space. Making streets places for cars took not just regulations and devices such as traffic lights — language was also part of the struggle.”

Related to the discussion here.

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