Archive for August 14th, 2009

Where the Fault Lies in Crosswalk Collisions (Hint: It’s Not the People on Foot)

According to the UC Berkeley Traffic Safety Center, more than 80 percent of crosswalk collisions are related to driver behavior – not pedestrian behavior.

From a salutary editorial in the Sacramento Bee.

Posted on Friday, August 14th, 2009 at 5:17 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Tragedy of the Commons in NYC Subways

A very local-centric post here, but I’m so glad someone wrote about this issue: People using the ’emergency exits’ when exiting subway stations (which is illegal), thus setting off a loud, unpleasant noise; once one person does it, the sheep fall in line and duly follow, thus prolonging the horrible sound (if there’s one thing New York does not need more of, it’s horrible sound). Once one person has does it, of course, you lose out, theoretically, by not joining along; meanwhile, all the law abiding people suffer (although often, really, it takes no longer to go through the turnstile). The excuses given remind us that selfish, short-sighted and contra-the-posted-signs behavior is not limited to drivers. “Quite frankly when I’m leaving the subway it’s always an emergency because I need to get home,” one vile sort told the reporter.

The kicker here is that many exits (like mine, the ‘F’ train at Carroll) are set up with revolving turnstiles that filter the throughput of people exiting. What the steady, uninterrupted stream of people coursing through the emergency exit does is merely shift the bottleneck to the stairwell (where people are delayed by slower people exiting, or the ‘friction’ of those coming down the stairs). So the total egress time may in fact be the same, despite the illusion of progress.

Posted on Friday, August 14th, 2009 at 3:13 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Did the Anschluss Involve a Change of Road Directionality?

Reader Robin notes this in a comment in my previous post:

I remember as child in occupied Austria around 1946 being told that Austria was forcibly switched to RHD when Hitler annexed the country in 1938.

That’s a fascinating, creepy detail — does anyone have any documentation of its truth?

Posted on Friday, August 14th, 2009 at 2:59 pm by: Tom Vanderbilt
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Tech Support

Dear readers, I’ve had some people writing in to say the full blog isn’t posting, or is taking forever, or that they have trouble in general with the Flash animation in the banner (which you may not have even noticed, but take a second to stare at the lovely effect!). Anyone having trouble I’d love to hear at

Posted on Friday, August 14th, 2009 at 10:19 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
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The Leftist Insurgency in Samoa

I’ve got a new piece up at that considers that ever vexing question: Which side of the road should we drive on? And should we all do it the same way?

Here’s the opener:

A revolution is afoot in the small Pacific island nation of Samoa. Mass demonstrations, the biggest the country has ever seen, have rocked the capital. A new political party has formed in an attempt to depose the prime minister. The airwaves crackle with dissent.

As is often the case in political strife, a left-right divide underpins the Samoan turmoil. In this case, left vs. right refers to which side of the road Samoans are meant to drive on. At 6 a.m. on Sept. 7, Samoans, who for over a century have navigated on the right — like their neighbors in American Samoa — will change over to the left.

Posted on Friday, August 14th, 2009 at 9:55 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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