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The GHSA just tweeted this:

There is a lot to unpack here. Let’s start with the fact that this report was put out by the automotive industry. The report actually found that countries with the lowest helmet use (Netherlands, Denmark) were much safer for cyclists compared to countries with high helmet use (UK). Based on that, one would conclude helmets provide no benefit. Tanya Mohn, who is a self-described travel blogger, somehow misconstrued this as saying helmets save lives. The policy “experts” at the GHSA then retweet Mohn’s posting to its audience.

So this is the state of our discourse today — though given GHSRA’s history of promoting helmets over bike infrastructure, none of this comes as a surprise.

HB 5058 has been signed by the Governor, meaning police in Virginia can no longer hassle pedestrians:

HB 5058 Marijuana and certain traffic offenses; issuing citations, etc,

Introduced by: Patrick A. Hope

Issuing citations; possession of marijuana and certain traffic offenses.

The bill prohibits a law-enforcement officer from stopping a pedestrian for jaywalking or entering a highway where the pedestrian cannot be seen. The bill provides that law-enforcement officers are not permitted to stop a motor vehicle for an expired safety inspection or registration sticker until the first day of the fourth month after the original expiration date. The bill also provides that no evidence discovered or obtained due to an impermissible stop, including evidence obtained with the person’s consent, is admissible in any trial, hearing, or other proceeding.

Nobody could have predicted:

Seattle police have written a decreasing number of citations under the county’s all-ages helmet law, even as bikeshares like Lime and Jump arrived in recent years. However, of the citations the police have issued since 2017, at least 43% were given to people struggling with homelessness, according to an analysis of court records by Crosscut. Since 2019, that number was 60%. The total is almost certainly an undercount.

Even Dr. Fred Rivara, UW Medicine’s chief of general pediatrics, who has become an outspoken advocate of wearing helmets, questions the law’s efficacy. “I still firmly believe in the importance of helmets,” he said. “Whether having a law enforced now would help to boost that, I don’t know. It’s an open question.”

Dr Rivara is, of course, obscuring his role in promoting helmet legislation:

There have been a number of such positive reactions to Buttegieg’s nomination to head DOT. People making such comments have probably not looked at his actual performance as Mayor….which is not good.

As Mayor, Buttegieg had a traffic signal removed from a busy arterial, directly in front of a bus transportation center. It was there that an 11 year-old was killed while trying to cross the street trying to get to his school bus. Four other intersections near schools also had traffic lights removed:

City officials had planned since May 2016 to install traffic signals at the downtown intersection where an 11-year-old boy was struck and killed Monday, and activation was expected next week, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said Tuesday. Following a consultant’s 2015 study finding that vehicular and pedestrian traffic at the corner of South and Michigan streets didn’t warrant a traffic light, the city placed a bag over the light Feb. 1, 2016, as it did at a handful of downtown intersections.

Following the study by American Structurepoint Inc., the city bagged and evaluated lights at four other intersections: Calvert and Michigan, and Calvert and Main. Those signals were put back in last fall because schools were located nearby. Broadway’s signal was removed permanently. One near the fire station on South Michigan Street was reactivated.

Buttigieg was asked whether he thinks the boy’s death was attributable to any mistakes made by his staff. “Any time anything bad happens in the city, finger-pointing happens,” he said. “I get it. I’m in charge. But I also think what you had here was professional engineers acting on recommendations based on expertise, and based on everything we knew, making the best decision that we could. 

Berkeley just opened a fancy new $40 million parking garage — then COVID-19 hit. The garage requires debt financing, but nobody is paying to park there. The city is tapping a one-time emergency bond reserve fund, but if there is a further economic downturn the impact to the General Fund would be considerable. The problem isn’t only the downtown garage but the other parking facilities as well:

$3 million taken from General Fund to cover deficit

Over the past decade, NSW police doubled the number of fines handed out for riding without a helmet, and the cost of the fine increased by more than 700%. That is one of the conclusions of Dr. Quilter (Policing mandatory bicycle helmet laws in NSW: Fair cop or unjust gouge?). Dr. Quilter also found the helmet law was disproportionately used against cyclists in low-income areas and youths:

“We were seeing people with $10,000 to $50,000 worth of fines,” Dr Quilter said. “In some cases, a huge amount [$5000-$12,000] worth of fines were bicycle offences alone. Some people got 10 fines in one interaction.” Sometimes fines were given to a child riding both to and from school on the same day, she said.

Bike fines have become the “quickest and easiest route” to a search and the “socio-economic litmus test” of policing as they disproportionately hit those in lower-income areas, Redfern legal centre police accountability practice head Samantha Lee said.

Often for a young person, a bike is their only mode of transport, and if they get stopped for riding on the footpath, asked why they haven’t got a helmet, that escalates into a search and they may get annoyed and swear. “It leads to the trifecta,” Ms Lee said. “Fine for not wearing a helmet, fine for offensive language, and then fine for resisting arrest.”

Meanwhile, there is not much policing of actual hazards:

I’m sure this will greatly enhance the visitor experience of seeing these majestic trees:

The state’s long-standing proposal to widen part of Highway 101 in Richardson Grove State Park in Humboldt County, to make room for bigger trucks, took a step forward Wednesday when a federal appeals court said Caltrans had adequately considered any likely impact on towering, ancient redwoods living alongside the highway.

The project hit a roadblock in May 2019 when U.S. District Judge William Alsup of San Francisco rejected the state Department of Transportation’s conclusion that it would cause “no significant impact” to the environment. Alsup said there was evidence that the road-widening could suffocate some of the 300-foot redwoods — some of them 3,000 years old — cause root disease in others and worsen damage to trees hit by trucks that skidded off the highway.

But the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Caltrans had conducted an adequate review, and found that the construction would not threaten the life of any old-growth redwoods. The court also accepted the department’s findings that the project would not diminish visitors’ enjoyment of the park by increasing traffic or noise from the highway.

The “zoning” doesn’t exist in nature. Its rules come from city councils and landmark preservation commissions. Those with most influence over making the rules have been white homeowners and NIMBY’s – which is why for 40 years most economic gains have gone to the top.

The timing would have been fortuitous. Had the VTA simply stuck with its original cut-cover tunnel plans for BART phase-2, then some of the most disruptive construction might have occurred during the COVID shutdown.

As most know, the BART phase-2 tunnel was originally planned as conventional cut-cover, and considerable engineering work had been done on that design. But the cut-cover plan was derailed when San Jose demanded a more complicated deep-bore design. This led to years of delays (not to mention billions in cost overruns).

The reason for the unusual demand was to reduce disruption of local business. Those businesses have now been destroyed anyway by COVID — so all the extra tunnel expense was for nothing. Downtown San Jose will now get a double whammy: COVID followed by BART construction. This was probably not the outcome they were expecting.

One can imagine in some alternate universe that the VTA took advantage of the COVID shutdown to expedite construction. While the pandemic was not predictable, any major delay in the planning pipeline reduces flexibility in construction scheduling. Compare to the controversy over the LACMTA Purple line extension through Beverly Hills. Rather than give in to irrational demands, the LACMTA stuck with original plans, and then expedited that plan when COVID hit.

Project schedule as of July 2016

Sacramento St in Berkeley is currently under construction for what is described as a “complete streets” project. Here is the existing conditions:

As you can see, this is an extremely wide 4-lane arterial running through a residential neighborhood. The roadway has very low traffic volumes, leading to speeding and dangerous passing. The obvious solution would be a road diet to reduce speeds and space for buffered bike lanes (or perhaps even cycletracks). Instead, the city is only proposing to put in some new intersection treatments without doing any lane reductions or other measures to reduce speeding.

Let’s compare to a very similar project going on along Oakland’s 14th Ave. Here is the existing road configuration, which as you can see is also a 4-lane residential arterial:

Given the similarity of the two streets, one might expect these neighboring cities to implement similar solutions. But aside from the intersection treatments, the approaches are quite different. Berkeley is not adding bike lanes and will maintain its street as a dangerous high-speed thoroughfare. Oakland is doing a full road diet to calm traffic. Thus, the Oakland project is complete, the Berkeley one is not. The sad thing is that the Berkeley project sits directly outside a BART station and connects to a popular bike trail. The top community concern in meetings was slowing traffic, so how did Berkeley end up doing the bare minimum?

Oakland 14th Ave road diet
Berkeley “Complete” Streets project