Archive for June 18th, 2009

‘From New York to the Netherlands’

Am I dating myself by quoting that old lyric fragment from Downtown Science?

But it describes my itinerary next week, as I’ll be at the P.R.I. World Congress in Rotterdam and the Day of Architecture, in Utrecht. It’s my first time in the latter city, and I may have a spare moment or two if anyone has any recommendations.

The latter event by the way will be held at an intriguing (and very traffic-appropriate) building, just off the A2 motorway, called “The Wave,” as depicted below.

Posted on Thursday, June 18th, 2009 at 2:31 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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The Bicycle and Human Evolution

I enjoyed this passage from David Metz’ book The Limits to Travel:

All in all, the available evidence supports the idea that man has evolved to travel long distances by both walking and running. As man developed technologies, these could be exploited to travel farther and faster. Thus the origins of much of the history and geography of mankind that we learnt in school, not least the willingness of people to migrate from where they were born to other cities or strange new countries in search of a better life. This has had implications for our own evolution. Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London (UCL), has pointed out that if one’s ancestors came from the same village they may well have been related, but this is much less likely if they were born hundreds of miles apart. In 19th-century Oxfordshire, the average distance between birthplaces of marriage partners was less than ten miles. Now it is more than 50, and in the US it is several hundred. A consequence of this increasing mobility is that the world’s populations are beginning to merge genetically. Steve Jones suggests that the most important event in recent human evolution has been the invention of the bicycle.

Do I detect a new field of evolutionary transport biology?

Posted on Thursday, June 18th, 2009 at 2:04 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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The Latest Traffic Illusion

This “canyon” is found along the bike path near Regent’s Canal in London. And you thought sidewalk chalk art was just for tourists. No word on any reduction in actual injuries, or any rise in perceptual ones.

(Thanks Tim)

Posted on Thursday, June 18th, 2009 at 2:02 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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A Passing Fancy

I’m fascinated by all the curious would-be traffic safety devices lingering in dusty patent offices around the world, a collection of better brake lights, more evocative horns, elaborate safety harnesses, etc., that have never made it onto the road (for better or worse).

I came across the one above, recently, via Modern Mechanix. It’s evidently meant as a way to make passing other vehicles on two-lane roads a safer proposition.

But a few problems come to mind:

1.) As with all new signals, there is the problem that many drivers don’t use the existing signals they have.

2.) What if a driver is distracted or doesn’t care to respond to your request for passing clearance?

3.) Are we really to trust the driver ahead to tell us if it’s safe to pass?

4.) Does the driver ahead want to be held liable if it turned out it wasn’t safe to pass?

Posted on Thursday, June 18th, 2009 at 11:03 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



June 2009
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