Archive for August 28th, 2009

Temporary Traffic Circles, Explained

As per the earliest post. And yes, they are ugly.

Posted on Friday, August 28th, 2009 at 1:50 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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In Praise of Traffic Tickets

Is more or less the theme of my latest column at Slate.

Coincidentally, reader Lucas had this morning sent me a horrifying story from the Atlanta Journal Constitution about a young Nepalese girl, having just arrived in the U.S., who was struck by an SUV driver who illegally passed a MARTA bus.

One particular passage stood out:

A Clarkston police officer parked on the shoulder of Ponce de Leon Avenue witnessed the accident, Scipio said. The officer had just written six tickets to other drivers for passing on a double line and he was about to go after Armwood when Sukmaya was hit.

Scipio said Armwood saw the patrolman on the side of the road and “he still passed another vehicle.”

I haven’t seen the link between enforcement and public health made quite so painfully clear and close as this example. But it raises an obvious, if often overlooked point: A majority of crashes are not only “human factors” related, but involve some traffic violation, whether speed, failing to signal, etc. — and violations are, as has been discussed in the literature (here for example), clearly different (and clearly more dangerous) than errors (though the press tends to lump both under the rubric of “accidents”). The issue here is not simply ticketing drivers (though I’m all for doing far more of that, and with more meaningful penalties), but taking more strenuous measures against those who seem to have a knack for racking them up (and often, inevitably it can seem, going on to do greater damage).

Posted on Friday, August 28th, 2009 at 1:30 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Attention Please

This morning, I had read Eric Felten’s interesting take in the WSJ on the presence of hazards in places like the Grand Canyon, and why we shouldn’t install things like hand-rails, even on dangerous trails.

Then I came across, via Brainiac, a splendid website from the U.K. called “Attention Please” that chronicles warning sign overkill. Its stated mission:

This is a Manifesto Club photo-album, capturing unnecessary, absurd or patronising safety warnings in public spaces. By turning our cameras on needless safety tape and signage, we hope to expose those who put them there – and encourage a more rational approach.

One of their gripes, vis a vis the Grand Canyon:

Even in our national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty there are up to 45 signs per mile, destroying any feeling of wilderness or tranquility.

Posted on Friday, August 28th, 2009 at 12:32 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Boston Bound

The tour is cranking up in earnest and just to let you know I’ll be at the venerable Harvard Bookstore, in Cambridge, Mass., on Wednesday, September 9th, to talk about the book.

Details here. Hope to see you there.

Posted on Friday, August 28th, 2009 at 11:35 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Google’s “Real Time” Traffic Data

The blogosphere has gone nuts over the idea that Google Mobile Maps will be showing real-time traffic maps, with information generated by the very people (at least those with Android phones, and a few other devices) navigating that traffic (yes, this is what Dash does/did, on a smaller scale). We can crowdsource our way out of congestion!

As Wired notes, “The new service takes this data from everyone and combines it, using Google’s big brain, to give a pretty accurate picture of traffic conditions, which are then piped back to your device.”

Question is just how “pretty” is pretty. As Roadguy notes, the reality looks better on screen than on the street. Google’s Big Brain is still developing, apparently.

Posted on Friday, August 28th, 2009 at 9:44 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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SatNav Mashups

(Horn honk to Kottke)

Posted on Friday, August 28th, 2009 at 9:37 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Commuted Sentence

Gives “traffic justice” a whole new meaning. Man cheats on wife, has to tell rush-hour commuters about it.

Posted on Friday, August 28th, 2009 at 9:24 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Self-Enforcing Roads

Via USA Today an interesting tale of a driver tracking down another (drunk) driver who had hit him and then fled.

Posted on Friday, August 28th, 2009 at 7:45 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:

Amazon | B&N | Borders
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



August 2009

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