Archive for the ‘Cities’ Category

Country Driving

I’ve only met one Westerner who had a Chinese driving license, but his story more or less echoed that of Peter Hessler in his fascinating new book Country Driving:

By the summer of 2001, when I applied to the Beijing Public Safety Traffic Bureau, I had lived in China for five years. During that time I had traveled passively by bus and plane, boat and train; I dozed across provinces and slept through towns. But sitting behind the wheel woke me up. That was happening everywhere: in Beijing alone, almost a thousand new drivers registered on average each day, the pioneers of a nationwide auto boom. Most of them came from the growing middle class, for whom a car represented mobility, prosperity, modernity. For me, it meant adventure. The questions of the written driver’s exam suggested a world where nothing could be taken for granted:

223. If you come to a road that has been flooded, you should
a) accelerate, so the motor doesn’t flood.
b) stop, examine the water to make sure it’s shallow, and drive across slowly.
c) find a pedestrian and make him cross ahead of you.

282. When approaching a railroad crossing, you should
a) accelerate and cross.
b) accelerate only if you see a train approaching.
c) slow down and make sure it’s safe before crossing.

Chinese applicants for a license were required to have a medical checkup, take the written exam, enroll in a technical course, and then complete a two-day driving test; but the process had been pared down for people who already held overseas certification. I took the foreigner’s test on a gray, muggy morning, the sky draped low over the city like a shroud of wet silk. The examiner was in his forties, and he wore white cotton driving gloves, the fingers stained by Red Pagoda Mountain cigarettes. He lit one up as soon as I entered the automobile. It was a Volkswagen Santana, the nation’s most popular passenger vehicle. When I touched the steering wheel my hands felt slick with sweat.

“Start the car,” the examiner said, and I turned the key. “Drive forward.”

A block of streets had been cordoned off expressly for the purpose of testing new drivers. It felt like a neighborhood waiting for life to begin: there weren’t any other cars, or bicycles, or people; not a single shop or makeshift stand lined the sidewalk. No tricycles loaded down with goods, no flatbed carts puttering behind two-stroke engines, no cabs darting like fish for a fare. Nobody was turning without signaling; nobody was stepping off a curb without looking. I had never seen such a peaceful street in Beijing, and in the years that followed I sometimes wished I had had time to savor it. But after I had gone about fifty yards the examiner spoke again.

“Pull over,” he said. “You can turn off the car.”

The examiner filled out forms, his pen moving efficiently. He had barely burned through a quarter of a Red Pagoda Mountain. One of the last things he said to me was, “You’re a very good driver.”

Posted on Sunday, March 21st, 2010 at 8:02 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Kafka in Texas

Dan C. sends along this link to a case of a Texas cyclist who has been repeatedly arrested for the apparently radical (though seemingly legal) act of riding his bike on a road (and we’re not talking about an Interstate Highway here, but 30 mph local roads). Read all about it (and donate to his defense) here. As Commute Orlando points out, this sort of thing is not uncommon.

Posted on Friday, March 19th, 2010 at 6:58 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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A Ramp All the Way

I was grooving on this almost Ed Ruscha-style illustration (“27 Onramp Configurations”?) in a new paper from David Levinson and Lei Zhang, “Ramp Metering and Freeway Bottleneck Capacity,” in Transportation Research: A Policy and Practice 44(4), May 2010, Pages 218-235.

The findings were sanguine on ramp metering:

Traffic flow characteristics at twenty-seven active freeway bottlenecks in the Twin Cities are studied for seven weeks without ramp metering and seven weeks with ramp metering. A series of hypotheses regarding the relationship between ramp metering and the capacity of active bottlenecks are developed and tested against empirical traffic data. The results demonstrate with strong evidence that ramp metering can increase bottleneck capacity. It achieves that by:

(1) postponing and sometimes eliminating bottleneck activation – the average duration of the pre-queue transition period across all studied bottlenecks is 73 percent longer with ramp metering than without;

(2) accommodating higher flows during the pre-queue transition period than without metering – the average flow rate during the transition period is 2 percent higher with metering than without (with a 2% standard deviation);

(3) and increasing queue discharge flow rates after breakdown – the average queue discharge flow rate is 3 percent higher with metering than without (with a 3% standard deviation).
Therefore, ramp meters can reduce freeway delays through not only increased capacity at segments upstream of bottlenecks (type I capacity increase), but also increased capacity at bottlenecks themselves (type II capacity increase). Previously, ramp metering is considered to be effective only when freeway traffic is successfully restricted in uncongested states. The existence of type II capacity increase suggests there are benefits to meter entrance ramps even after breakdown has occurred. This study focuses on the impacts of ramp metering on freeway bottleneck capacity. The causes of such impacts should be more thoroughly examined by future studies, so that the findings can provide more guidance to the development of ramp control strategies. It should also be noted that both types of capacity increases on the freeway mainline are at the expense of degraded conditions at the on-ramps and possibly arterial network. Therefore, without more comprehensive system-wide analysis, the findings of this paper, though in favor of ramp metering, do not necessarily justify its deployment.

Posted on Wednesday, March 17th, 2010 at 7:39 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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The Next Hundred Million

I’ve reviewed Joel Kotkin’s new book, The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050, over at the Wilson Quarterly. It begins thusly:

Joel Kotkin, along with his ­some-time ­nemesis Richard Florida, is perhaps the leading purveyor of a kind of ­psycho­economic demography, a predictive chronicler armed with Census tract data, Pew surveys, and some old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting, all recounted in an urgent, assuaging, insider-y ­tone—­a kind of Kiplinger Report for the national soul. I can imagine Kotkin and Florida randomly encountering each ­other—­in, say, the Admiral’s Club at DFW, as each is en route to his assignation with civic leaders eager to sup the ­sooth—­and engaging in a ­dueling-­PowerPoint exer­cise, with Florida touting his “creative class” metro­poles and their ­cappuccino-­fueled dyna­mism, and Kotkin his “ephem­eral cities”—places such as Port­land that are elaborate stage sets for hip urban play, ultimately overregulated and hostile to the wants of average Ameri­cans, who would find fuller expression of their economic (and reproductive) potential in a place such as Boise. Only one man would be left standing amid the acrid tang of overheated hard drives, but I’m not sure ­which.

Posted on Thursday, February 25th, 2010 at 8:49 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Leafy Streets

We’ve seen that slime mold can function as an incipient urban planner, but leaves offer lessons too, notes the Economist:

Traditionally, biologists have celebrated the trunk, branch and twig system of a tree as no accident. Many mathematical formulas have suggested it is the best, least wasteful way to design a distribution network. But the very end of such a network, the leaf, has a different architecture. Unlike the xylem and phloem, the veins in a leaf cross-link and loop. Francis Corson of Rockefeller University in New York used computer models to examine why these loops exist.

From an evolutionary point of view, loops seem inefficient because of the redundancy inherent in a looped network. Dr Corson’s models show, however, that this inefficiency is true only if demand for water and the nutrients it contains is constant. By studying fluctuations in demand he discovered one purpose of the loops: they allow for a more nuanced delivery system. Flows can be rerouted through the network in response to local pressures in the environment, such as different evaporation rates in different parts of a leaf.

It’s interesting to think of this configuration vis a vis urban/suburban street networks, when less permeable systems push traffic to larger arterial systems — a benefit for those living in the less permeable areas (say, the second photo above, which I believe comes from a stalled subdivision in Florida), until of course there’s some traffic issue on the main line and less opportunity for rerouting flows. The leaf has no cul-de-sacs, no dead-ends.

Posted on Tuesday, February 16th, 2010 at 10:16 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Times Square

The new Times Square is here to stay (at least while Bloomberg is in office). I haven’t had a chance to delve into the report, but Streetsblog has all the details. Weather report: Expect reactionary piffle in the morning’s New York Post.

Posted on Thursday, February 11th, 2010 at 3:43 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Unlivable Streets

Peter sends along this troubling video of a woman struck by a bus — I’m sure any number of you out there could dissect the many things wrong with that street (not sure where it is).

Almost as disturbing as the video is the fact that its categorized on Digg as “comedy,” which in the world of Internet culture, I’m sure it is.

Posted on Monday, February 8th, 2010 at 12:17 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Abu Dhabi Street Design Manual

Writing that “previous design guidance was influenced by documents such as the AASHTO Green Book, which is inappropriate for urban streets where modes of transport other than the automobile are present,” Nelson/Nygaard has made available its Abu Dhabi Street Design Manual, which provides guidance to “design streets that create a safe environment for all users; transition from a vehicle-trip based society to a multimodal society; introduce fine-grained street networks into the existing super-block pattern.”

It is, they suggest, “perhaps one of the most progressive in the world.”

Judge for yourself here.

Posted on Wednesday, January 27th, 2010 at 10:10 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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As If Traffic In Moscow Wasn’t Bad Enough

Via the Moscow Times:

An enormous television screen showing a pornographic film caused a midnight traffic jam along Moscow’s Garden Ring Road as stunned motorists slammed on the brakes to gawk at the writhing naked bodies.

The owner of the 9-by-6-meter advertising screen said hackers had broken into the screen’s computer system and turned on the porn. “They were either acting out of hooliganism or were from a rival company,” Viktor Laptev, commercial director of advertising firm, told RIA-Novosti.

Authorities said they are investigating the incident, which lasted about 20 minutes. “Within three minutes we found it out, and within 15 minutes the screen was shut off,” said the deputy head of Moscow’s advertising committee, Alexander Menchuk, Interfax reported.

I can’t help be reminded of one of James Howard Kunstler’s favorite words: Clusterfuck.

Posted on Monday, January 18th, 2010 at 9:10 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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‘City Permeability’

A useful addition to the urbanist lexicon.

Posted on Friday, December 18th, 2009 at 11:24 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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American Idle

In my latest Slate column, I consider the drive-through.

One thing that struck me was the historical novelty of the form; McDonald’s didn’t begin to unroll them until the mid-1970s, and they now, rather shockingly, account for the majority of their restaurant business. It’s a subtle, yet indicative, symbol of how much American society has changed, driving-wise, in a few decades. At one moment, most children, like me, were walking to school, and while we may have driven to McDonald’s, we actually got out of the car to eat our meal (and something like McDonald’s, pre-drive-through, was then an occasional novelty, at least for me).

Posted on Saturday, December 12th, 2009 at 1:26 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Pedestrian Crossing Behavior: Lemmings or the Lone Wolf?

I was walking down New York City’s Fifth Avenue yesterday (the windows at Bergdorf Goodman are a particular pleasure this year), which as usual around this time of year was incredibly crowded — I begin to feel less like a person than a permanent obstruction to someone’s snapshot. The corners were particularly bulging with people — for some reason the police were actually blocking pedestrian crossings with yellow tape at around 51st Street — and it’s always interesting to note the little patterns: The Europeans and out-of-towners tend to wait for signals, while the intrepid New Yorkers often sail through. And sometimes, one pedestrian’s bold move can fool others into thinking the signal has changed, when in reality there is a yellow taxi bearing down on the crosswalk. At times things can get so crowded that the mass essentially sort of spills into the street, perhaps triggered by some early crosser but now possessed of an energy all its own.

In any case, I was thinking of this when I came across a study by Tova Rosenbloom, “Crossing at a red light: Behaviour of individuals and groups,” in the journal Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour (and, by the way, the idea that this journal goes all the way to ‘F’ gives you an idea of how complex and wide-ranging the field is). In any case, Rosenbloom, looking at pedestrian behavior in Tel Aviv, came to a rather different finding than what I suspected might be the case based on my Fifth Avenue perambulations, and she offers a few reasons as to why this might be.

She writes:

The first hypothesis of the study was that more people would break the law (i.e. cross on a red light) while standing alone than people waiting with others on the curb. The findings of this study support this hypothesis. The more pedestrians present at the curb, the lower was the rate of people crossing on red. Two explanations may account for this pattern: one is theoretical while the other is pragmatic.

The theory of Social Control (Hirschi, 1969) describes the mechanism behind obedient behaviour as the motivation to be rewarded just for being conformist. Normal individuals have inner controllers that prevent them from breaking the law and therefore encourage them to behave in a normative fashion. The sanctions of society are greater deterrents for normative people than are formal sanctions (Hirschi & Gottfredson, 1994).

Indeed, people who reach a crosswalk alone when the light is red are less concerned with social criticism and so break the law more easily, while those surrounded by other pedestrians waiting for the green light feel more committed to social order and to social norms and therefore tend to stick to social norms, although not all of them, of course. It should be clarified that it is the immediate social constraints that make people feel more committed to social order. In other words, a transient social state operates to engage pedestrian behaviour. This is also consistent with the social learning explanatory framework (Bandura, 1969).

This being true, this tendency might potentially have some beneficial implications. Hirschi (2004) assumes that strengthening the ties to conventional social institutions might increase the commitment of individuals to normative behaviour. Authorities might want to apply this principle by implementing public educational programs for increasing self-control and hence normative and safer behaviour.

This tendency does have exceptions however. Comprehensive research (Ben-Moshe, unpublished Master’s thesis, 2003) that examined the road crossing decisions of young children and adolescents (6, 9 and 13 year old boys and girls) revealed an opposite trend. Each participant standing with his/her peer group on a crosswalk was much more lax regarding risk-taking in crossing the street than the same participant standing alone. Thus, the mechanism of social facilitation ([Corston and Colman, 1996] and [Sanna and Shotland, 1990]) works differently when teenagers are involved. Support for this notion is found in other studies ([Christensen and Morrongiello, 1997] and [Miller and Byrnes, 1997]) which point to the adolescent tendency to take more risks in the presence of their peer group. Carsaro and Eder (1990) tried to explain that values such as social acceptance, social solidarity and popularity are much more considered among adolescents than among mature people.

An important perspective of road behaviour, such as pedestrians’ road crossing, is the cultural context of the society (e.g. Levine, Norenzayan, & Philbrick, 2001). The behavioural norms of society might be reflected, for example, in the tendency to walk alone or in groups (Rosenbloom et al., 2004).

The current study was conducted in an urban setting at a pedestrian crosswalk in the largest Israeli metropolis – Tel Aviv, which is not typified by any unique features that can be found in other regions in Israel where minorities lives (such as the ultra-orthodox citizens, for example, who walk together in large families and groups as documented by Rosenbloom et al., 2004). So, it can be predicted that individualism-collectivism, for example, could play an important role in explaining people’s behaviour. Sagy, Orr, and Bar-On (1999) found that religious students scored higher in a questionnaire than the secular students on items emphasizing collectivist orientation.

In addition, the decision to cross streets when the light is red is probably influenced by the traffic law associated with crossing on red. In Ireland, for example, crossing in red light for pedestrians is not a traffic violation but rather a warning for pedestrians to be careful while crossing the street. In Israel it is forbidden by law, and those who violate this law take the risk of being fined by the police ( In a way, the current study’s findings are in line with these norms since people usually do not intend to violate the laws but do control each other’s behaviour.

What then, could be the pragmatic explanation for crossing intersections on red when alone? From past experience, people know that the larger the group of people waiting on the curb, the shorter the waiting time is likely to be. In a quick ‘cost-benefit’ calculation they decide it is worth investing a few more seconds to be on the safe side. Here, our recommendation is to install more traffic lights that also indicate the time remaining for the light to change. Further research on this topic is recommended.

From a pragmatic point of view, large groups of pedestrians should have a stronger feeling of safety than individuals have, due to the “safety in numbers” effect (Harrell, 1991) that they feel when many other pedestrians are also crossing. One might assume that oncoming traffic is better able to see pedestrians and come to a stop when there are many of them grouped on the crosswalk or many of them beginning to cross on red. Consequently, there may be greater confidence that drivers would stop under these (crowd) conditions, eliminating the need for caution by the pedestrians.

Posted on Thursday, December 10th, 2009 at 9:38 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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End-of-Year Holiday Road Read Roundup

Seeing Traffic positioned on a reading list recommended by Foreign Policy’s “Top 100” thinkers had me in mind of book lists, and so I thought I’d round up the transportation-related books (or at least marginally so) that have crossed my desk this year and would make good holiday purchases for your mobility-minded friends (or yourself).

In no particular order:

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1.) Joe Moran, On Roads. I’ve noted my interest in this book before, but suffice it to say it’s cracking cultural history of the U.K. motorway system, a must-buy for bitumen boffins everywhere.

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2.) Ted Conover, The Routes of Man. OK, this one’s not out until February, but the galleys of this book accompanied me on a cross-country flight, and I was hooked. A far-flung, elegiac, honest examination of roads and their impact on us and society, Conover’s book ranges from the tangled “go slows” of Lagos, Nigeria to an (illicit) “capitalist road” trip in China.

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3. The Yugo: The and Fall of the Worst Car in History, by Jason Vinc. If you’re old enough to remember actually riding in one of these things, and enough of an automotive-cultural obsessive to remember, say, the Yugo’s appearance in the plot-line of Moonlighting, then this tale of geo-political commerce is for you. And as Vinc reminds us, the Yugo was the “fastest-selling first-year European import in American history.”

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4. Carjacked, by Catherine Lutz and Anne Lutz Fernandez.
OK, this is turning into next year’s list — this one’s not out until early January — but in Carjacked, an anthropologist and writer delve into American car culture — the romance that longed ago turned into marriage — and offer a thorough, gimlet-eyed assessment. Sample quote: “In the period from 1979 to 2002, the period in which seat belts, air bags and other improvements in vehicle crashworthiness were installed, U.S. crash deaths declined by just 16 percent, while those in Great Britain declined by 46 percent, in Canada by 50 percent, and in Australia by 51 percent.”

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5. Waiting on a Train, by James McCommons. Shifting from road to rails, McCommon’s book is a cross-country trip into the modern-day heart of U.S. passenger rail (“service that the Bulgarians would be ashamed of,” notes James Howard Kunstler in his intro), laying bare the roots of its decline and offering a way forward for the country’s most embattled mode. And I’ve not read it yet, but Matthew Engel’s Eleven Minutes Late, a “train journey to the soul of Britain,” is definitely on my list.

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6. Jeff Mapes, Pedaling Revolution. Another one I’ve banged on about before about, but the go-to work on cycling as a form of transportation in America today. And full disclosure: The guy did lend me a bike to ride in Portland.

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7. City: Rediscovering the Center. By William H. Whyte.
One of those rare books — reissued in paperback in 2009 — that actually lives up to the promise of “changing the way you see the world.” Along with the writing of Joseph Mitchell, I can’t think of any other title that has so influenced my experience of living in New York City.

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Cars: Freedom, Style, Sex, Power, Motion, Colour, Everything (text by Stephen Bayley).
Because sometimes you just really want to look at a pretty picture of a 1955 Citroën DS.

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9. Jeff in Venice, by Geoff Dyer. One of my favorite writers, and his description of driving in India does not disappoint.

Suggestions are welcome for others I may have left out.

Posted on Monday, December 7th, 2009 at 4:19 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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My First Congestion

Another delight from Copenhagenize.

Perhaps one could, with Lego Mindstorms, create an electronic congestion charging cordon?

Posted on Wednesday, November 4th, 2009 at 9:14 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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The Latest Slate Column

Headlines stretch things: I wouldn’t call it so much a “defense of jaywalking” as a challenge to the idea that it ranks as the key issue in pedestrian safety. In any case it’s here.

And my Slate colleague Christopher Beam, in my absence, contributed this excellent column on the eternal issue of bicycles and traffic laws.

Posted on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009 at 7:58 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Guns, Germs, and Bikes

I was struck recently, as I read David Byrne’s The Bicycle Diaries, by this passage, which refers to the author’s time in Buenos Aires:

Built on the floodplain of La Plata River, the city is fairly flat, and with the temperate weather and the streets more or less on a grid it is perfect for cycling around. Despite this I could count on one hand the number of locals I saw on bikes. Why? Would I inevitably find out the reason no one else was pedaling around here? Was there some dark secret explanation about to pounce on me? Am I a naive fool? Is it because the driving is so reckless, the theft so rampant, the gas so cheap, and a car such a necessary symbol of status? Is it so uncool to ride a bike here that even messengers find other ways of getting around?

I don’t think it is any of those reasons. I think the idea of cycling is simply off the radar here. The cycling meme hasn’t been dropped into the mix, or it never took hold. I am inclined to agree with Jared Diamond, who claims in his book Collapse that people develop cultural affinities for certain foods, ways of getting around, clothes, and habits of being that become so ingrained that they will, in his telling, persist in maintaining their habits even to the piont of driving themselves and sometimes their whole civilization to extinction.

I’ve not been to Buenos Aires, and it would certainly make an interesting South American point of comparison to, say, Bogota, where an activist mayor and many others helped to transform cycling in that city (and did I just read that Santiago is pursuing bike lanes rather energetically?). But it is an interesting question: The mixture of infrastructure, social norms, behavioral change, incentives, and whatever else is needed to get a bike culture off the ground. After all, as Mikael has noted of Copenhagen, for example, these things are not necessarily a fait accompli; Copenhagen could easily resemble Madrid or any other more auto-intensive European capital today were it not for a set of discrete historical events — and ongoing campaigns. Any cycling Porteñas happen to be reading and care to comment?

I thought of this again recently when an old chum from Portland, Steve Johnson at PSU, sent along his interesting essay on the prehistory of Portland’s bike renaissance. In the early 1970s, for example, he writes: “Sam Oakland estimated there to be about 400 people riding bicycles into downtown Portland on a daily basis (Frazier, 1971).” The number over the Hawthorne Bridge in 1975? 200. It’s a bit higher than that today, and the piece chronicles the long story of bureaucratic finagling, community activism, the endless hours of debates — bike lanes or bike education? — the entrenched opposition, the long miles traveled, etc., that have all led to this historical moment.

Posted on Monday, November 2nd, 2009 at 2:14 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Shibuya Circus

London’s Oxford Circus is one of those Yogi Berri-esque ‘so popular no one goes there anymore’ sorts of urban spaces — I once did a little bit there for the BBC with Scottish-Sikh funnyman Hardeep Singh Kohli on “pedestrian rage” on the overcrowded street. It’s just gotten some relief in the form of a diagonal crossing (i.e., “scramble”), modeled on the crossing at Hachikō Square in Shibuya, Tokyo, a place one can easily lose a few hours just watching the action from a nearby donut shop). The video above describes the dynamics and shows the “before.” The impressive “after” can be viewed here.

Notes the BBC:

In homage to its Far Eastern inspiration, Mr Johnson struck a two-metre high cymbal as Japanese musicians played taiko drums.

A giant X, in the form of 60m (196ft) of red ribbon was also unfurled by devotees of cult Japanese Manga characters dressed in colourful costumes.

As with elsewhere in the city, pedestrian barricades have been removed (“giving shoppers and workers that visit annually around 70% more freedom to move,” notes the BBC).

I don’t know precisely when the first diagonal crossing was unveiled, though its popularity is certainly linked to Henry Barnes, NYC’s former traffic capo, who first unveiled it in Denver (where it earned the name ‘Barnes Dance’; he himself noted it had been tried elsewhere previously).

Here’s Barnes from his memoir, The Man with the Red and Green Eyes:

As things stood now, a downtown shopper needed a four-leaf clover, a voodoo charm, and a St. Christopher’s medal to make it in one piece from one curbstone to the other. As far as I was concerned–a traffic engineer with Methodist leanings–I didn’t think that the Almighty should be bothered with problems which we, ourselves, were capable of solving. Therefore, I was going to aid and abet prayers and benedictions with a practical scheme: Henceforth, the pedestrian–as far as Denver was concerned–was going to be blessed with a complete interval in the traffic signal cycle all his own. First of all, there would be the usual red and green signals for vehicular traffic. Let the cars have their way, moving straight through or making right turns. Then a red light for all vehicles while the pedestrians were given their own signal. In this interim, the street crossers could move directly or diagonally to their objectives, having free access to all four corners while all cars waited for a change of lights.

It’s hardly common, but does pop up in places with extraordinary pedestrian volumes or some other special circumstances, as in the historic-entertainment district of San Diego, where fellow INFORMS attendee Sean Devine snapped the photo below (alas, I didn’t experience the crossing myself, as I was out looking at seals).

Here’s another one, in Toronto, captured in time-lapse glory.

Scramble from Sam Javanrouh on Vimeo.

(thanks James)

Posted on Monday, November 2nd, 2009 at 8:13 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Transportation Fact of the Day (Mouse Edition)

At a conference this weekend, a Disney logistics guy told me that the number of buses Disney operates to ferry visitors around the Magic Kingdom would, if it were a municipal system, make it the 21st largest in the U.S. (Not to mention those other 20 cities don’t have monorails).

Posted on Monday, October 12th, 2009 at 10:15 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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When Compliance Kills

The BBC reports on what may be a troubling trend or a statistical aberration:

Many of the fatalities involving cyclists happen in collisions with a heavy goods vehicle (HGV). This year, seven of the eight people killed by lorries in London have been women.

Considering that women make only 28% of the UK’s cycling journeys, this seems extremely high.

One of the offered reasons seems to involve compliance with traffic regulations (the sort of thing drivers are always accusing cyclists of violating):

In 2007, an internal report for Transport for London concluded women cyclists are far more likely to be killed by lorries because, unlike men, they tend to obey red lights and wait at junctions in the driver’s blind spot.

This means that if the lorry turns left, the driver cannot see the cyclist as the vehicle cuts across the bike’s path.

The report said that male cyclists are generally quicker getting away from a red light – or, indeed, jump red lights – and so get out of the danger area.

Posted on Saturday, October 10th, 2009 at 8:21 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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What’s Missing from Google Earth? Traffic!

Via Engadget.

Posted on Friday, October 2nd, 2009 at 9:03 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:

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

Order Traffic from:

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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



December 2020

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