Archive for June, 2013

This is sure to make Sacramento safer for pedestrians, and encourage cycling:

Bicyclists racing along the American River bike trail in Sacramento will soon risk speeding tickets for exceeding the 15 mph speed limit.

Sacramento County has been issuing warnings this month to cyclists caught on a speed detector going 20 to 25 mph.

Soon, they will face a $50 fine for the first offense and $100 for a second citation.

Ranger Sgt. Randy Lewis stood along the bike trail Friday afternoon with an infrared speed detector, calling out speeds to cyclists as they passed.

“Going 23, slow it down!” he shouted.

I am sure police will also start ticketing drivers for going 5 mph over the limit on city streets…


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London Bike Boom

I bicycled around London quite a bit back in the 1990’s. Back then, it was a lot like the US — no dedicated cycling infrastructure, and only  a few hard-core cycling types.

But now…Holy Cow!

The full extent of how cycling has taken over London can be revealed today.

The biggest ever census of bike use in the city reveals one in four road users during the morning rush hour is a cyclist – and on key routes such as river crossings and roundabouts bikes even outnumber all other vehicles.

The study for City Hall reveals that Theobalds Road, Holborn, is London’s busiest bike street as 64 per cent of vehicles passing along it in the morning peak are bikes, followed by Kennington Park Road, which runs between Kennington and Oval (57 per cent) and Old Street, Shoreditch (49 per cent).

At 29 of the 164 monitoring locations, cyclists made up the majority of vehicles on the road in a further sign that the 21st century bike boom is helping London close the gap on Amsterdam as a leading cycle capital.

Amsterdam? Not yet, but soon:

Bikes now account for 24 per cent of all road traffic in central London during the morning peak and 16 per cent across the whole day.

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FRA “Flexibility” On Quiet Zones

FRA Quiet Zone rule is an unfunded Federal mandate. It forces local communities to either pay for grade-crossing improvements, or else be subjected to 96+ decibel horn blasts. Senators Udall and Bennet want the FRA to show more flexibility. Here is the response from Administrator Joseph C. Szabo:

We are open to the utmost, highest level of flexibility provided that an equivalent level of safety can be achieved. That’s the goal. That’s all we need is that good science be applied to show that whatever creative approach a community is choosing to use will generate an equivalent or superior level of safety.

I really don’t see how this is possible. How does a community prove equivalent level of safety when the original FRA horn rule is based on junk science? According to the FRA’s own figures, the horn rule would prevent just 13 fatalities over a period of 20 years. When you consider the gigantic costs (hundreds of thousands of dollars per crossing), the cost-effectiveness of this regulation is absurd. Indeed, when you consider all the other safety improvements that might have been built with that money, the regulation is very counter-productive.

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The BMJ has an article on the effects of Canadian bike helmet legislation. Between 1994-2003, Canadian provinces with mandatory bike helmet laws saw a 54% reduction in bike-related head injuries as compared to only 33.1% in provinces without helmet laws.

So helmet laws work, right? Well, not exactly…

As the article notes, injury rates were already on a downward trend. And there are confounding factors (such as new bike facilities, fewer cyclists, enforcement, etc) that may also explain the reduction.

After taking baseline trends into consideration, however, we were unable to detect an independent effect of legislation on the rate of hospital admissions for cycling related head injuries.

Conclusions: Reductions in the rates of admissions to hospital for cycling related head injuries were greater in provinces with helmet legislation, but injury rates were already decreasing before the implementation of legislation and the rate of decline was not appreciably altered on introduction of legislation. While helmets reduce the risk of head injuries and we encourage their use, in the Canadian context of existing safety campaigns, improvements to the cycling infrastructure, and the passive uptake of helmets, the incremental contribution of provincial helmet legislation to reduce hospital admissions for head injuries seems to have been minimal.

Here are the time-series graphs. The vertical dotted line shows when the helmet law went into effect. As you can see, injury rates were declining anyway, with the law having no effect.


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A recent FDOT project on Hwy-40 in Ormond Beach provides a lesson in how not to do bike/ped improvements:

The beautification project along Granada Boulevard in Ormond Beach was designed to slow down motorists while making it more attractive for pedestrians, businesses and others.

Signs soon began popping up along the newly paved section of the busy thoroughfare urging motorists to share the road with bicycles.

Jack Gonzalez, though, says he finds himself these days riding in the gutters. “It used to be a lot safer, you would at least have some space,” said Gonzalez, who owns The Bike Shop on nearby Yonge Street.

Gonzalez isn’t the only one concerned about bicyclists riding on the main road through the city’s downtown. One elected city official believes there is a potential for disaster. “It’s a tragedy in the making, I just hope and pray it doesn’t happen,” said City Commissioner Troy Kent, whose zone includes downtown and who recently took up biking.

Earlier this year, crews transformed a section of State Road 40 from Washington to Beach Street by narrowing the lanes and adding medians in an attempt to slow traffic and make the road more pedestrian-friendly.

To be precise: what the FDOT did was to add a median barrier. It is a highway engineering solution to increase the throughput on a major arterial. Medians encourage drivers to go faster, without worrying about oncoming traffic. To make room for the median, the outside lane was reduced to 11′. Previously, cyclists had a wide outside lane, but now they have to ride in the middle of 35 mph traffic. But don’t worry — FDOT added Sharrows so now it is more bike “friendly”.

If FDOT had actually been serious about slowing traffic, they would have implemented a road-diet.

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Toronto streetcars keep getting stuck in traffic. An obvious solution: making King St. car-free, at least during rush hours. This has infuriated the Mayor:

Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Councillor Doug Ford condemned the idea of closing downtown King St. to car traffic on their radio show Sunday.

“You cannot shut down King St. for streetcars. We need to phase out streetcars,” said Mayor Ford, who would replace them with buses.

Councillor Karen Stintz, who chairs the TTC board, is to move a motion there Monday, asking staff to look into the feasibility of banning cars from King St. in rush hour during the 2015 Pan Am Games.

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First bikeshare, now this. Bertrand Delanoë is obviously a socialist tyrant:

The Mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoë (PS) Wednesday inaugurated the new space dedicated to the promenade and leisure created on the left bank of the Seine between the Pont de l’Alma and the Musée d’Orsay (seventh arrondissement).

The project, one of the most emblematic of the second term of the mayor, is also one of the most controversial: the area of ​​4.5 hectares, which includes sports facilities, gardens, dining areas and relaxation, was done by closing circulation Expressway on left bank 2.3 km.

Automobile associations and business groups, relayed by the Paris right and Rachida Dati, UMP mayor of the seventh arrondissement, denounced in unison the project as a source of congestion and pollution. The project was even blocked by the previous government, anxious to avoid hampering the economic dynamism of the metropolis.

The travel time of motorists from east to west was extended by seven minutes, in line with expectations, according to the City.

“I wanted a place to live, a place that respects one of the most beautiful places in the world, also part of the heritage of humanity, making it to life, especially for children, but not limited to all generations to all lovers of Paris, “said the mayor of Paris to the press.


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Most cities would be ecstatic to reach a 32% bicycle mode share. But according to the NY Times, that is a bad thing:

About 6:30 weekday mornings, throngs of bicycles, with a smattering of motor scooters and pedestrians, pour off the ferries that carry bikers and other passengers free of charge across the IJ (pronounced “eye”) harbor, clogging the streets and causing traffic jams down behind Amsterdam’s main train station.

“In the afternoon it’s even more,” moaned Erwin Schoof, a metalworker in his 20s who lives in the canal-laced center of town and battles the chaos daily to cross to his job. Willem van Heijningen, a railway official responsible for bikes around the station, said, “It’s not a war zone, but it’s the next thing to it.”

War zone!?

Part of the problem is that many Amsterdamers are not satisfied with just one bike, and often do not care where they leave those they have. “I have three,” said Timo Klein, 23, an economics student, picking one of his out from a scattering of dozens of bikes on the central Dam Square, some still usable, others clearly wrecks. “If one breaks down, I don’t have to use public transportation,” like buses or trams, which in the city’s narrow, clogged roadways are slower than bikes.

Just imagine all the space they could be saving by trading in their 3 bikes for 1 car.

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California’s Amtrak Capitol Corridor carries a minuscule number of passengers, but is spending a whopping $325 million on capital improvement projects. What exactly are we getting for that money?

  • $70 million for the Sacramento station relocation. In effect, a real estate development funded in part by transit dollars.

  • New platforms at Sacramento and San Jose, and the new Fairfield-Vacaville station — plus $50 million for new rolling stock. Of course, no consideration whatsoever to provide level-platform boarding at the new platforms. (The new trains, by the way, are ludicrously over-priced thanks to FRA and Buy-America.)

  • $50 million for track improvements along the Oakland-San Jose segment. Prop 1A (High-Speed Rail Bond) is paying for this. Ridership on this segment of the Capitol Corridor has always been under-performing, and will get worse once the BART-SJ extension opens.

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Some of the best cycling anywhere can be found in California’s remote Del Norte county. In particular, Hwy 199 running from Crescent City to Grants Pass (OR). Now Caltrans wants to make “improvements” to Hwy 199, in order to permit heavy over-sized trucks to use the highway:

Friends of Del Norte, Center for Biological Diversity, and Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) filed suit in state court challenging the $26 million “197/199 Safe STAA Access Project.” The project would increase unsafe heavy and oversized truck use on narrow roadways along the designated “wild and scenic” Smith River Canyon, increasing the likelihood of deadly accidents and toxic spills, especially in dangerous winter conditions. The project would harm old-growth trees and habitat for protected salmon runs and hurt tourism and local residents.

“The North Coast has been under assault by massive Caltrans projects that the agency refuses to examine for their cumulative impacts on local communities and sensitive environments,” said Gary Graham Hughes, executive director of EPIC. “For Caltrans to barge ahead with this huge project on the precious Smith River after the explosion of controversy around the Willits Bypass project in Mendocino County shows that the agency is completely oblivious to concerns of North Coast residents.”

“Another bad idea by Caltrans, trying to jam an unnecessarily wide highway into a narrow canyon despite the impacts,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Public distrust of Caltrans is at an all-time high with revelations of Caltrans quality-control issues on the new Bay Bridge, conflict over the massive Willits Bypass project, the need for court and federal intervention to resolve Caltrans problems with the Niles Canyon project, and the agency’s proposal to needlessly vandalize the ancient redwoods of Richardson Grove State Park.”

The purpose of the project is to create a reliever route for I5. This isn’t for the benefit of Del Norte county, as most of the trucks would just be passing through.

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