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Helmet hysteria strikes again. This time, female lacrosse players in Florida are the victims:

Boys’ lacrosse teams nationwide have worn hard-shell helmets for many years. Girls, who play by vastly different rules that generally forbid contact, have historically spurned most protective gear. In Florida, where lacrosse is a new sport, state officials instead reasoned that all lacrosse players are at risk for head trauma and defied the sport’s traditionalists by mandating a soft form of headgear for everyone in a girls’ lacrosse game or practice.

Ann Carpenetti, vice president of lacrosse operations at US Lacrosse, the sport’s national governing body, called Florida’s decision “irresponsible” and said the headgear decision could make the game more hazardous because it might embolden players to be more aggressive.

Coaches across the state have panned the new rule. “It serves no purpose, other than being a costly distraction to parents and the players,” said Nikki Krakower, the coach of the girls’ team at Gainesville High School. “It’s ridiculous.”

Opponents of the mandate said the new rule was especially flawed because the Florida-approved headgear — the type used most commonly is a 10-millimeter-thick headband — is flimsy. “A headband is only going to prevent minor contusions and abrasions if they happen in the two inches the headband covers,” said Lynn Millinoff, the coach of the girls’ team at Buchholz High School in Gainesville. “But Florida officials seem to think they’re smarter than the entire rest of the lacrosse-playing world.”

As you can see from the picture, the thing isn’t even a helmet. Other than perhaps serving as a hair band, it doesn’t serve any purpose.

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Residents in Coronado are fed up with dangerous Caltrans highways:

Another traffic accident in Coronado, just a week after a man was killed in the same area, has neighbors on edge. On Tuesday afternoon, a woman suffered minor injuries when her car was t-boned pulling out onto Third Street from B Avenue.

“I heard a Godawful boom, crash, screeching of brakes,” said Thomas Slattery, who lives around the corner. The crash came as no surprise to him. “It’s depressingly frequent.”

Last week, a 70-year-old man was hit and killed trying to cross Fourth Street near A Avenue.

And the solution…

Third and Fourth Streets are state routes owned by Caltrans. The state recently conducted a speed survey to estimate traffic patterns. Based on the results, the speed limit may actually be increased from 25 miles per hour to 30 or 35. Until a decision is made, police are not able to enforce the speed limit using radar.

“Their goal, people need to understand, is to move traffic as efficiently and fast as they can, to get you from point A to point B,” Coronado Councilmember Carrie Downey told 10News. “Traffic calming is the antithesis.”

Caltrans logic: If too many drivers are speeding, then just keep raising the speed limit until there is no more speeding. Problem solved.

SWITRS map of fatalities and serious injuries in Coronado shows the Caltrans highways to be a major hazard

SWITRS map of fatalities and serious injuries in Coronado shows the Caltrans highways to be a major hazard (click to enlarge)

The saga over incompatible platform height continues. Caltrain staff has given a preview of what the new bilevel commuter trains may look like. The design is as bad as feared:

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Other blogs have already reported on problems this will cause for wheelchair and bike access, so I won’t go into that here. The really big issue that I have not seen mentioned is the dwell time.

Note how the high door would probably only be half-width. That is because having 4 wide doors reduces the structural integrity of the railcar. This will double the dwell time at the Transbay Terminal, and other busy stations. By comparison, BART’s next-generation railcars will have 3 double doors.

The constricted vestibule area also doesn’t help matters. Though if there is one silver lining, the crowded vestibule space precludes having on-board bathrooms — which is probably why staff wants to eliminate all the ADA bathrooms.

The thing is that “blending” commuter and high-speed rail isn’t exactly a new concept. It is done all over the world, and I struggle to find even one example where an agency took this approach for shared platform access. Well ok, there is one example: NJT and Acela — but that just goes to prove the point.

 

Here is another one of those ridiculous subsidies for the auto industry:

Individuals in disadvantaged census tracts who make up to four times the federal poverty level will be able to trade in their pre-1994 models and receive as much as $12,000 toward the cost of a new or used fuel-efficient vehicle.

A $4.8 million pilot, expected to replace about 600 cars, is currently rolling out in the San Joaquin Valley and South Coast air districts. The Air Resources Board plans to expand the program, which is funded by cap-and-trade auction revenue, by about 10 times next year.

Whereas cap-and-trade started with the best of intentions, it really has turned into a joke of a program. It provides no dedicated funding for bike projects (and only minimal support for transit services), and instead is being used to subsidize private car purchases.

Even viewed as an anti-poverty measure, this is a bad idea. Car ownership is really costly, and it is a mistake to encourage low-income families to hang onto cars when there are much lower cost transportation alternatives.

 

Conor Friedersdorf has been reporting on Amtrak passengers getting the DEA shakedown:

“I found my backpack moved and open, and my wallet, which was set down on the room table, had $60 missing,” he said. “I told one of the dining car attendants that I felt Amtrak and the DEA violated my rights. She told me that Amtrak is forced to give passenger info to Feds, that the DEA comes on every trip, usually arresting someone in the sleeping car or taking all their money.”

[…]

Last year, the Associated Press reported that the DEA “paid an Amtrak secretary $854,460 over nearly 20 years to obtain confidential information about train passengers, which the DEA could have lawfully obtained for free through a law enforcement network.” (This was reportedly done so that the DEA could avoid sharing seized assets with Amtrak police, which hints at how lucrative such seizures are.)

The ACLU has filed a Freedom of Information Act request, to determine the scope of the problem.

The motorcycle fatality rate has more than doubled over the past 20 years. The GHSA is once again ignoring street design and driver behavior, and instead promoting helmets:

Motorcycle fatalities for 2014 remained stubbornly high, a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association said. Though motorcycles account for only 3 percent of vehicles on the road, their riders and passengers account for 14 percent of all U.S. motor vehicle-related deaths.

Estimated total fatalities for 2014 will total 4,584, GHSA said, when the data set is complete. That’s a 1.8 percent drop from 2013, when 4,668 people died in motorcycle incidents.

But that fatality rate is double the number of deaths tabulated during the late 1990s, GHSA said — and are more stark because automobile traffic deaths have dropped, due to improved auto safety features. Motorcycle deaths accounted for only 5 percent of all U.S. motor vehicle deaths in 1997, but represented 14 percent of all motor vehicle deaths in 2013.

Only 19 of the 50 states have universal helmet laws, most of the remainders requiring helmets only for riders under 18 or in some cases 21. In those states, the GHSA report stated, helmet use is typically below 50 percent.

The GHSA report came down squarely against limited or lax helmet laws. “Motorcycle deaths … were substantially lower in states with universal laws than in those with no laws or laws applying only to young motorcyclists.”

In fact, mandatory motorcycle helmet laws actually have the opposite effect — causing an increase in the fatality rate.

The IMF has published a new paper on global fossil fuel subsidies. The problem is worse than you thought:

1. Post-tax energy subsidies are dramatically higher than previously estimated—$4.9 trillion (6.5 percent of global GDP) in 2013, and projected to reach $5.3 trillion (6.5 percent of global GDP) in 2015.

2. Post-tax subsidies are large and pervasive in both advanced and developing economies and among oil-producing and non-oil-producing countries alike. But these subsidies are especially large (about 13–18 percent) relative to GDP in Emerging and Developing Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan (MENAP), and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

3. Among different energy products, coal accounts for the biggest subsidies, given its high environmental damage and because (unlike for road fuels) no country imposes meaningful excises on its consumption.

4. Most energy subsidies arise from the failure to adequately charge for the cost of domestic environmental damage—only about one-quarter of the total is from climate change—so unilateral reform of energy subsidies is mostly in countries’ own interests, although global coordination could strengthen such efforts.

5. The fiscal, environmental, and welfare impacts of energy subsidy reform are potentially enormous. Eliminating post-tax subsidies in 2015 could raise government revenue by $2.9 trillion (3.6 percent of global GDP), cut global CO2 emissions by more than 20 percent, and cut pre-mature air pollution deaths by more than half. After allowing for the higher energy costs faced by consumers, this action would raise global economic welfare by $1.8 trillion (2.2 percent of global GDP).

Correcting the price imbalance would improve the economy, improve the environment, and improve public health. A win-win-win proposition.

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