Archive for February 2nd, 2009

Green Wave Blues

One of my personal urban pet peeves is that the traffic signals on a street like New York’s Fifth Avenue, on which a majority of users are pedestrians, seemed timed in such a way to interfere as much as possible with smooth ambulatory progress. Seriously, I feel like I have to stop at every single light on Fifth.

From the invaluable Streetfilms comes a look at what would happen if a street like Valencia in San Francisco had its signals timed such that cyclists had a green wave. What about cars, you ask? Isn’t that anti-car-ism? Well, actually, as San Francisco Streetsblog points out: “Recently, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) found that during peak commute times vehicles run more efficiently when signals are timed at the speeds they actually travel during congestion — 12 to 15 mph — rather than the current 25 mph.” Not to mention that cyclist signal compliance rates will inevitably rise. On streets to which you’re trying to attract cycles, why not offer the carrot instead of merely the stick? Synchronization, in a grid city, has its natural limits but it’s certainly worth favoring certain modes on particular streets.

I often find some of the most hazardous urban driving behavior to be people accelerating between lights, or emerging from a pack of congestion. The question is how to get drivers to stick to speeds that are lower overall, but actually promote smoother, more fuel-efficient driving. ISA (intelligent speed adaptation) is probably the most far-reaching tool, but in some ways a political non-starter in the U.S. (for now, at least). I suspect that merely telling drivers through signage that the only way to get a row of greens is to drive 15 or 20 mph will somehow not work (the average driver is an incredibly opportunistic, short-range planner, only concerned with getting to the next red light as fast as possible).

Posted on Monday, February 2nd, 2009 at 4:24 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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If You See Something, Say Something

One theme explored in the book is the usefulness of feedback to the driver, as well as the occasional unwillingness for a driver to want to hear this “feedback” (what we colloquially call ‘back-seat driving’). Some curious process occurs between man and machine by which they suddenly feel themselves above criticism, incapable of making an error, that they alone understand the road and traffic conditions. For anyone to suggest otherwise risks earning their wrath, despite the fact that studies have shown non-teen drivers with passengers are involved in fewer crashes than those flying solo.

A forthcoming study out of Kenya again hints at this dynamic. A pair of researchers at Georgetown University equipped a number of matatu buses, the private fleet of microbuses typical in many developing nations, with posters urging passengers to “heckle and chide” the driver if he is driving too recklessly. Rather like the recent hotline numbers at football games in which patrons can report drunken and abusive fans around them, the posters work on the idea that while everyone may be gripping the seat as the driver slaloms around town, no one individually feels empowered to speak up (a campaign in Ireland called “He Drives, She Dies,” urged a similar thing for female passengers in their boyfriend’s cars — it turns most who are killed or injured do so while passenger to a male driver; research apparently showed that most didn’t want to urge the driver to slow as they feared they would actually increase their speed if they did so).

The research — I’ll be posting again on the paper — apparently shows that buses in which the posters were displayed were involved in fewer crashes than those in which no posters were displayed (the buses account for some 20% of crashes in Kenya).

(Horn honk to Marginal Revolution and Shanta Devarjan)

Posted on Monday, February 2nd, 2009 at 3:18 pm 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.

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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



February 2009

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