Above the Law

Why even bother having drunk-driving laws if they are not enforceable?

A judge told TV personality Katie Price she was lucky to avoid prison at her sentencing for a drink-driving crash. The former model flipped her car near Partridge Green, West Sussex, on her way to visit a friend on 28 September. District Judge Amanda Kelly, who handed Price a 16-week suspended jail term, said her “incredibly selfish” actions “could have easily killed somebody”.

District Judge Kelly, sentencing, told the 43-year-old, who has been banned from driving on five separate occasions, she had “one of the worst driving records I have seen“. “You appear to think that you are above the law,” she told Price.

If she can get banned from driving — on FIVE separate occassions — and still keep driving anyway, then yeah she is above the law.

Price was taken to hospital, where she told police: “I took drugs, I should not be driving, I admit it all.” The court heard a drugs wipe gave a positive reading for cocaine and a roadside breath test was positive for alcohol.

Joe Harrington, defending, said: “It’s a complicated driving history. Things tend to be quite complicated with this lady. “She does not deal with her problems, particularly with paperwork.”

$65 billion.

That is how much the telecom giants will get from the Infrastructure bill Biden just signed into law. Supposedly, this money was for expanding broadband service to rural areas. Past history predicts the telecoms will instead use the money in metropolitan areas, where they can earn higher ROI. The law has no restrictions on where the money is to be spent, leaving those decisions largely to the states.

This map shows where the California PUC will be using the funds to build out the Open Access Middle-Mile network. The Bay Area (which hardly lacks for service) will be well served — while many large rural areas will not see a dime.

King County has delayed a vote on repealing its draconian helmet law. That law is often used by police as a pretext to harass homeless and people of color. It also hasn’t done anything to make cycling safer:

The King County Board of Health held a public hearing Thursday about repealing the law, which requires all bicyclists to wear a helmet. According to the proposed resolution in support of repealing the law, data shows that cyclists of color receive tickets more frequently than white cyclists under the current helmet regulation, and that it is a common reason for law enforcement to engage with unhoused people. Ultimately, the board decided to delay a vote on the repeal until at least late November in order to get more information and allow for further discussion from relevant stakeholders.

Dr. Rivara, father of the bike helmet hysteria, is of course pushing King County to retain the law. He wrote an editorial which again repeats his claim that helmets “reduce the risk of brain injury by 88%.”

As most readers know, this statistic has been widely debunked. In 2013, the Feds were forced to withdraw the long-standing claim from their websites as other studies failed to replicate this result. Dr. Rivara also predicted a spike in head injuries from public bike share programs, when in fact bike share had the opposite effect of making streets overall safer for cyclists.

CA Governor Newsom vetoed AB-122, the bill which would have permitted cyclists to treat stop signs as yield. If that wasn’t infuriating enough, his veto message directly blames bicyclists for getting killed on the state’s roadways:

Veto message

Obviously, this is a gross misinterpretation of the SWITRS data. Here is what the CA Assembly legislative analyst reported:

Traffic collisions killed 455 cyclist in California between 2016 and 2018, the highest rate in any three-year period since the mid-1990s. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 27% of cyclist fatalities occur at intersections. Failing to stop at a stop sign makes up a very small portion of the number of cyclists killed every year in California. Between 2015 and 2020, 25 cyclists have died as a result of failing to stop at a stop sign. CHP data places the fault with the cyclist in 22 of the 25 cases.

So the official figures show less than 5% of bike fatalities involve a moving violation at a stop sign (which in any case would still be illegal under AB-122). And that presumes the CHP correctly assigned fault, which is often not the case.

Texas (yes, Texas!) has passed a new pedestrian safety measure. It would actually penalize drivers who severely injure someone walking or biking:

A new safety law that is now in effect in Texas could see a driver go to jail if they hit someone walking or cycling. Senate Bill 1055 was signed into law by Governor Abbott in June, and drivers can now go to jail if they cause bodily harm to a pedestrian. The new law says drivers who cause bodily harm to pedestrians will face stiff consequences which include being charged with a class A misdemeanor and possible time behind bars.

Senate Bill 1055 was signed after a Houston mother was killed by a driver while crossing the street with her son; the driver in that accident walked away without any charges. 

“You can spend up to a year in jail. So now, we’re talking about jailtime, not a ticket where you go pay a fine. Although, there could be a fine up to $4,000,” said Sgt. Charlie Eipper of the Wichita Falls Police Department.

The real question is whether the new law will be enforced. Perhaps Texas can implement a bounty system…

The “E-BIKE” Act would have provided a refundable tax credit up to $1,500 on the purchase of a new e-bike. Authored by Congressmen Panetta (D-Calif) and Blumenauer (D-Ore), it would have paid up to 30% of the cost of a new e-bike.

But now the bill has gone into the Legislative buzzsaw of the House Ways and “Means-Testing” Committee, and has been significantly watered down — to the point of being largely useless. The e-Bike refundable tax credit is now just 15% of the purchase price, capped at $1,500 total. And the credit phases out starting at $75,000 of adjusted gross income.

For comparison, the same bill would provide a $12,000 subsidy for the purchase of a $74,000 F150 electric pickup truck to a family with $800,000 annual income.

(For details, see Sec. 136401/136407 here)

Biking in the Matrix

The trailer for the new “Matrix 4” film is out, and if you look carefully at the bookshelf in the therapist’s office there is a copy of “Velo City” sitting on the bookshelf. The book is a celebration of bike culture and its ongoing (r)evolution.

Senator Chris Murphy is the author of various Buy-America bills over the past decade. It is one of his top priorities — and yet he can’t understand why HSR costs are so damn high:

This the same Senator who killed a plan by Amtrak to build a 30-mile bypass around the slow tracks along the Connecticut shoreline. The bypass would have reduced NY-Boston travel time by a remarkable 20%. Amtrak proposed building the route inland through open terrain, so as to keep construction costs low. However, the Senator demanded the route stick to the same curvy ROW where it will be very costly and complex to do any speed improvements.

If Senator Murphy wants to discover the reason US high-speed rail costs are so much higher, he can start by looking in the mirror.

Some cities do infill-development. Then there is Waltham, MA — which used eminent domain to protect a parking lot:

The city is preparing to take a parking lot between the Boys & Girls Club and the library by eminent domain. The city council approved on Monday spending just under $1.4 million on a parking lot across the street from the Waltham Boys & Girls Club. Mayor Jeannette McCarthy is proposing to take the lot by eminent domain to keep as a municipal parking lot. Although there is a municipal garage within walking distance, the library and the Boys & Girls Club share street parking.

The 12,000 square foot property that fits about 40 parking spaces was listed for $1.4 million in February, according to Realtor.com, which mentioned that condominiums, singles, two families, commercial bays with offices above are allowed by right in that space.

Waltham also took a nearby property at 481 Main St, and will demolish the building there to make into yet another parking lot.

The revised EIR for the SF-SJ segment has been published, although it hardly changed from the 2020 version. A few observations from both documents:

1. The existing 4th/King HSR station will get fare gates. Page 2-77 states: “The existing 4th and King Street Station would serve as the interim terminal station for the project until the DTX provides HSR access to the SFTC. Station improvements would include installing a booth for HSR ticketing and support services, adding HSR fare gates, and modifying existing tracks and platforms.”

2. Transfers between Caltrain and HSR at Millbrae will be done through the upper concourse. This is similar to the baldy designed transfer currently done between BART and Caltrain at Millbrae. There will be no cross-platform transfers between the express and local trains.

3. The upper concourse at Millbrae is extended all the way to El Camino Real, for no apparent reason. The southbound Caltrain is at-grade, and the west entrance is at-grade, but this diagram suggests these passengers will have to travel all the way up and down the concourse just to go from street to platform.

Click to enlarge