Archive for October 28th, 2008


From today’s Globe and Mail.

“Is cellphone use by drivers dangerous? Yes, it increases the risk of a crash or near-crash by 1.3 times (2.8 times, when dialling), the Alberta review found. But then, eating hikes the risk by 1.6 times, inserting a CD by 2.3 times, applying makeup by 3.1 times and looking at, say, a billboard or someone on the sidewalk by 3.7 times. An insect in a vehicle raises the odds of a crash by 6.4 times.”

It’s that last bit that caught my eye. I know my wife virtually climbed out of the seat when a spider once dangled down from the rear-view mirror. And I’ve had some scrapes with bees. I’ve no idea where the data comes from in the governmental study, or whether all insects carry equal crash risks.

Posted on Tuesday, October 28th, 2008 at 4:11 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Europe’s Worst Road Sign

I know most of you are paying attention to only one election, but let’s not overlook that the results of another ballot are in. It’s “Europe’s Most Stupid Road Sign”.

Posted on Tuesday, October 28th, 2008 at 4:04 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Speaking of Bikes…

Via David Hembrow, check out this trailer for Van Der Valk, an early 70s Brit cop show set in Amsterdam. Note that you only see a few cyclists (and one horse-drawn wagon); it might as well be Starsky and Hutch cruising around their fictive Southern California. It’s an interesting reminder that cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen were not just natural cycling hotbeds, but became so through very conscious decisions made by planners and politicians.

Posted on Tuesday, October 28th, 2008 at 3:50 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Word of the Day: Bikeism

Adrian, a psychology grad student in Australia, wrote in with mention of a disturbing episode in Australia, recounted here, of a car driver going after some cyclists in an “Around the Bay Day” event (for charity, mind you).

What one editorialist also found objectionable, however, was the link at the bottom of the page where readers could vote on that day’s opinion question. The question was: Are cyclists responsible road users?

Not really the first question that comes to mind after reading the original article (I’m almost afraid to know what the answer was). As the writer put it, “OK. If those hooligans had bowled over a bunch of grannies going to church, would readers be having their say on whether senior citizens are responsible road users?” A more contextually appropriate question to vote on, in my opinion, would have been: Should drivers who commit what is essentially aggravated assault with a deadly weapon have their driving rights permanently revoked? (uh, yeah)

The writer went on to coin the word “bikeism” to describe the dynamics he thought were at work — tarring an entire class of people with the extreme acts committed by a few (or a stereotypical image of that behavior). “Unfortunately, many motorists who don’t ride bikes and don’t understand cycling seem to think that all cyclists are ego-driven menaces who run red lights.” (more…)

Posted on Tuesday, October 28th, 2008 at 3:35 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Two Roads Diverged

I was intrigued by two different strands of thought in the news this past weekend. From the New York Times, in a piece on a car-sharing program in Europe, by Daimler.

“Car2go is a daring step for an automaker. According to the Ademe survey, when car owners adhere to a car-sharing program, most of them get rid of their own cars. Car sharing works because owning a car in a city can be a pain.
“In Europe, the relationship between people and cars is changing,” said Gildo Pastor, chief executive of Venturi Automobiles in Monaco. “Young people today want a computer, a telephone. The car is not at the center of their thoughts. In the city you can’t park, and it costs a fortune to insure it.”
Venturi is one of a dozen European companies developing small electric cars for proposed car-sharing programs. In 2010, Paris plans to introduce AutoLib, a car-sharing service with 2,000 electric cars in 700 Paris parking lots with charging stations and a similar number in suburbs…
Being environmentally kind is one attraction of car sharing. People in the Paris study drove half as far each month after they joined, and some car-sharing programs compensate for carbon emissions by paying third-party companies to capture carbon.

And then this bit of alternate reality, from the head of BMW:

“There are many studies that say it took 120 years to get to 800 million cars around the globe, and that it will take only another 30 years to double that volume,” he says. “If that is true, the best is still ahead of us.”

Posted on Tuesday, October 28th, 2008 at 10:43 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

Please send tips, news, research papers, links, photos (bad road signs, outrageous bumper stickers, spectacularly awful acts of driving or parking or anything traffic-related), or ideas for my Transport column to me at:

For publicity inquiries, please contact Kate Runde at Vintage:

For editorial inquiries, please contact Zoe Pagnamenta at The Zoe Pagnamenta Agency:

For speaking engagement inquiries, please contact
Kim Thornton at the Random House Speakers Bureau:

Order Traffic from:

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Random House | Powell’s

U.S. Paperback UK Paperback
Traffic UK
Drive-on-the-left types can order the book from

For UK publicity enquiries please contact Rosie Glaisher at Penguin.

Upcoming Talks

April 9, 2008.
California Office of Traffic Safety Summit
San Francisco, CA.

May 19, 2009
University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies
Bloomington, MN

June 23, 2009
Driving Assessment 2009
Big Sky, Montana

June 26, 2009
PRI World Congress
Rotterdam, The Netherlands

June 27, 2009
Day of Architecture
Utrecht, The Netherlands

July 13, 2009
Association of Transportation Safety Information Professionals (ATSIP)
Phoenix, AZ.

August 12-14
Texas Department of Transportation “Save a Life Summit”
San Antonio, Texas

September 2, 2009
Governors Highway Safety Association Annual Meeting
Savannah, Georgia

September 11, 2009
Oregon Transportation Summit
Portland, Oregon

October 8
Honda R&D Americas
Raymond, Ohio

October 10-11
INFORMS Roundtable
San Diego, CA

October 21, 2009
California State University-San Bernardino, Leonard Transportation Center
San Bernardino, CA

November 5
Southern New England Planning Association Planning Conference
Uncasville, Connecticut

January 6
Texas Transportation Forum
Austin, TX

January 19
Yale University
(with Donald Shoup; details to come)

Monday, February 22
Yale University School of Architecture
Eero Saarinen Lecture

Friday, March 19
University of Delaware
Delaware Center for Transportation

April 5-7
University of Utah
Salt Lake City
McMurrin Lectureship

April 19
International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (Organization Management Workshop)
Austin, Texas

Monday, April 26
Edmonton Traffic Safety Conference
Edmonton, Canada

Monday, June 7
Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals
Niagara Falls, Ontario

Wednesday, July 6
Fondo de Prevención Vial
Bogotá, Colombia

Tuesday, August 31
Royal Automobile Club
Perth, Australia

Wednesday, September 1
Australasian Road Safety Conference
Canberra, Australia

Wednesday, September 22

Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s
Traffic Incident Management Enhancement Program
Statewide Conference
Wisconsin Dells, WI

Wednesday, October 20
Rutgers University
Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation
Piscataway, NJ

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Ontario Injury Prevention Resource Centre
Injury Prevention Forum

Monday, May 2
Idaho Public Driver Education Conference
Boise, Idaho

Tuesday, June 2, 2011
California Association of Cities
Costa Mesa, California

Sunday, August 21, 2011
American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Attitudes: Iniciativa Social de Audi
Madrid, Spain

April 16, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Gardens Theatre, QUT
Brisbane, Australia

April 17, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Centennial Plaza, Sydney
Sydney, Australia

April 19, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Melbourne Town Hall
Melbourne, Australia

January 30, 2013
University of Minnesota City Engineers Association Meeting
Minneapolis, MN

January 31, 2013
Metropolis and Mobile Life
School of Architecture, University of Toronto

February 22, 2013
ISL Engineering
Edmonton, Canada

March 1, 2013
Australian Road Summit
Melbourne, Australia

May 8, 2013
New York State Association of
Transportation Engineers
Rochester, NY

August 18, 2013 “Ingenuity” Conference
San Francisco, CA

September 26, 2013
TransComm 2013
(Meeting of American Association
of State Highway and Transportation
Officials’ Subcommittee on Transportation
Grand Rapids MI



October 2008

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