Archive for August, 2010

Robert Raburn for BART District 4

Given events of the past year, it is interesting that the race for BART District 4 has gone unreported. District 4 is where a BART police officer shot dead an unarmed passenger on a train platform. And Coliseum/Oakland Airport station, also in District 4, is the location of the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC). BART lost a $70 million grant for that white-elephant project due to Civil Rights violations.

The District 4 incumbant, Carole Ward Allen, is the major cheerleader for the OAC. For that reason alone, she does not deserve re-election.

Ward’s opponent, Robert Raburn, has an incredible public service record. For more than 20 years, Raburn has been in the trenches promoting alternatives to the automobile.

Raburn is the one who got BART to relax its restrictions for on-board bicycle access to trains. He sucessfully lobbied for secure bike parking at BART stations (eLockers, BikeStations, etc). Raburn is the one who developed the Safe-Routes-to-Transit program, which provides the bike/ped infrastructure for accessing transit stations.

The list goes on and on: the Bay Trail, the Bay Bridge bike path, and ‘Complete Streets’ policy at Caltrans.

Many of Raburn’s accomplishments have been adopted nationwide. Even if you don’t live in the Bay Area, chances are your local transit agency modeled its bikes-on-train policy after BART.

Most importantly, Raburn knows the BART organization inside and out, making him an excellent choice for serving on the Board.

He is in for a tough fight, however. Carole Ward Allen will have lots of help from the contracting mafia. If you live in the BART district, consider lending Raburn your support.

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National Petroleum Radio

The Bike Plan has been held up by a 4-year court injunction. The local bus system went through a round of 10% service cuts. Is San Francisco doing too much for non-motorized transport?

That’s the question KQED, my local Public Radio station, asks on yesterday’s ‘Forum’ program. With special guests: anti-bike nut Rob Anderson, Ken Cleavland to represent the real estate lobby, and Timothy Papandreou to represent the pathetic MTA.

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Back in 2001, the Northern Alameda Chapter of Sierra Club (SF Bay Area) stunned cyclists by opposing a ‘complete streets’ project on Marin Ave. Running through the cities of Berkeley and Albany, Marin Ave isn’t some major commercial thoroughfare, but rather a quiet residential street massively over-built for the traffic volume. The superfluous lanes contributed to speeding and dangerous passing. As such, the Sierra Club resolution disregarded the pressing need for traffic calming, and bike/ped improvements.

Due to outcry by neighbors and cyclists, the Sierra Club rescinded its resolution, and did finally endorse the traffic calming project. But the whole sorry episode of Marin Ave generated considerable mistrust among advocates that the so-called environmental group wasn’t entirely supportive of the Sustainable Transport concept.

Flash forward a decade, and so little has changed.

Up for re-election in Berkeley is Councilmember Kriss Worthington. He was the key swing vote that killed the BRT project in Berkeley. He was the key swing vote that killed the ‘Complete Streets’ project for Telegraph. His candidate statement even boasts of killing the “bad” BRT.

So, guess which District 7 candidate gets the Sierra Club endorsement?


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The Perverse Impact of Motorcycle Helmets

Recently came across an excellent paper by Dr. John Adams on the perverse impact of compulsory motorcycle helmet legislation:

An experiment
The ‘experiment’ conducted in the USA during the latter half of the 1970s in which twenty-eight states repealed laws that made the wearing of motorcycle helmets compulsory is unlikely ever to be improved upon. It comes as close to being an ideal ‘controlled’ experiment as any scientist could wish for; over a few years a geographically diverse sample of states, containing about 47% of the country’s motorcycle population, repealed their motorcycle helmet laws — a measure which it was widely predicted would cause a substantial increase in the numbers of motorcyclists killed. How have the predictions fared?

What happened was that the motorcycle fatality rate increased in states where helmet laws were repealed. This result was widely interpretted by safety ‘experts’ of the efficacy of helmet legislation.

However, what Dr. Adams did was to compare fatality rate against states where helmet laws were not repealed. Result: the fatality rate also increased in helmet-wearing states — by an ever greater factor!

The motorcycle helmet ‘experiment’ provides more strong evidence of the Risk Compensation theory. Safety devices intended to protect drivers instead encourage more risky behavior:

The risk compensation hypothesis is essentially common sense. There is a wealth of evidence from everyday experience that suggests that people’s behaviour is influenced by their perception of risk. People tend to be more cautious when up high ladders than when up low ladders. They tend to take more care when standing on the edge of a high precipice than when standing on a low kerb. They tend to slow down when they encounter bends in the road or patches of fog and to speed up when the road becomes straight or the visibility good — and so on. The possible illustrations of the phenomenon are countless.

There is an impressive amount of propaganda designed to encourage people to believe that they are very much less vulnerable when using seat belts and motorcycle helmets, and common sense suggests that driving behaviour will be influenced by safety devices that diminish the user’s sense of vulnerability. What unaided common sense cannot predict is whether the behavioural changes induced by a safety device will partly, completely, or more than completely nullify the intended effect of the device.

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