Motordom
April 17, 2020

Friday File: Highway as Flyway~Drivers Tailgate Anyway

Yesterday motorists south of Quebec City witnessed a Piper PA-28 Cherokee airplane do a classic textbook descent landing squarely in the center of three westbound lanes on Highway 40.

What is curious is that the traffic surrounding the airplane continues to follow the airplane which slowly works its way to the outside lane . You can see one vehicle dodge around the airplane as it is moving, and also see that vehicles did not stop when the plane landed. As one pundit on YouTube pointed out “Good to know you can make a magnificent landing like that AND STILL get tailgated by a crappy hatchback”.

As Sgt. Helene Nepton of the Quebec Provincial  Police stated “Fortunately, the aircraft landed without a collision, and then no one was injured. In fact, traffic was able to resume quickly in the area.”

Because as you know it is all about driver convenience and timeliness, even during the Covid-19 crisis.

Image:Airsoc.com

 

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Another wonderful image from Diane Sampson of a  British cars cargo from the SS “Mostun” Vancouver January 24, 1959 . This is from the Vancouver Archives Collection.

The Mostun was from Belfast and travelled a route from Belfast to Chemainus on Vancouver Island. In the photo  a Morris Oxford Estate is beside a Riley One Point Five , with a  Hillman Husky and Hillman Minx sedans behind.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s British cars were the first to market a small car that was economical as well as reliable. That market was eventually replaced by Japanese cars in the late 1960’s.

The vehicles often had their wheels removed and stored inside the car, and then packed in wooden crates. This method allowed for more cars to be packed into the boat’s hold. There is a story of a ship fire in Vancouver harbour on the ship Dongeday in 1952 that was fuelled by the wooden crates. The City’s fireboat responded and got the fire out, but unfortunately also doused the cars with a whole lot of saltwater.

 

 

Surprisingly 22  of these waterlogged and damaged Austin automobiles were dumped into Burrard Inlet near Howe Sound. A customs officer oversaw the operation of these vehicles being loaded on a barge minus batteries and tires and then winched into the water.

Of course Vancouverites saw the opportunity, and a tugboat crew was found dragging the seafloor trying to find the vehicles. A story in The Sun admonished “The legal situation is ticklish. The cars have paid no duty…and ownership is still vested with the company that had them dunked.”

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I was researching the evolution of vehicular traffic in New York City and stumbled across a series of letters to the editor written about “Explosion Whistles”. Apparently in the mid 1920’s Ford vehicles were equipped with ear splitting whistles that were powered by exhaust, and were the “loudest and shrillest warning signal in use”.

As this 1924 letter to the Editor of the New York Times states

“May I ask your attention and active co-operation in an effort to do away with the terrible nuisance of the so called “explosion whistle”  now used by a great number of automobile trucks in the city? The reckless driving of automobile trucks throughout New York is a matter which has caused great concern to citizens, and has resulted in tremendous loss of life in recent years, and I believe that the use of these loud explosion whistles is a contributing factor to this danger, since trucks depend upon the affect of their loud whistles to frighten pedestrians and other vehicles out of the way”.

So how loud were these whistles? One Model T restorer said he removed the explosion whistle from his  1923 Ford vehicle because “I was uneasy about waking the dead. However, for cars having questionable brakes, it also seemed a probable advantage to lift folks out of their shoes a block away. “

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Another example from Ian Robertson.  From Commercial Real Estate:

As public transport usage among Sydney’s CBD workforce surges, and the number of cars entering the city each day falls, developers and landlords may soon face the challenge of figuring out what to do with basement spaces that don’t meet modern building codes. …

At the same time public transit patronage among the CBD workforce has been undergoing a significant increase.  Transport for NSW estimates that between 7000 and 8000 fewer cars entered the city each day over the three years to 2018 …

Developers and building landlords nowadays are less concerned with onsite parking provisions, opting to use more of the building’s floor plan for office space or building infrastructure like end-of-trip facilities or gyms in an attempt to future-proof buildings against declining demand for parking spaces. …The City of Sydney has planning controls which encourage the reduction of parking spaces as part of redevelopment plans for existing sites, allowing developers to pursue additional height levels in exchange for adaptive reuse of basement spaces.

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It will probably get worse.

From The Guardian:

London has achieved the impossible by eradicating the private car – and still having desperate traffic congestion,” says Prof Tony Travers, the director of LSE London, a research centre at the London School of Economics that explores the city’s economic and social concerns. “People keep saying we need to get the cars off the road. In central London, there aren’t any.” …

London brought in (a congestion charge) 17 years ago. … The number of cars in the City of London fell 15% either side of the introduction in 2003 of the congestion charge – allied since April 2019 with an ultra-low emission zone that more than doubles the daily charge for older diesel cars to £24. The city is also blessed with quicker, cheaper public transport alternatives. …

So why is traffic moving more slowly than ever?  Among most analysts, there is consensus on two underlying reasons: more vans and more Ubers. But in case we should feel righteously smug, Travers adds a list of contributors to the gridlock: “Cycle lanes, in some places, are bad. Ubiquitous four-way pedestrian crossing. Wider pavements. Any one of those makes perfect sense individually. But the buses are completely screwed.”

The bus easily outstrips the tube and rail as the main mode of transport for Londoners – even more so among disabled people, those with mobility problems and the poorest residents. Frozen prices, plus the introduction in 2016 of the hopper fare, which allows unlimited journeys within one hour for the cost of one trip, have made buses even cheaper under the current mayor, Sadiq Khan. However, the network has shrunk and patronage has declined in the past four years….

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Last Fall Consumer Reports revealed that although most Americans killed in car crashes are male, data shows that it is fact women that are at a greater risk of death or serious injury in a car crash. A female driver or front row passenger with a seatbelt is 17 percent more likely to die, and 73 percent more likely to have a serious injury.

Crash researchers have known for forty years that the bodies of male and female react differently in crashes,  but automotive research still stubbornly clings to the “50th percentile male” which is understood to be a 171 pound 5 foot 9 inch dummy  first developed in the 1970’s. And that crash test dummy has not substantially changed, despite the fact that the average American man weighs 26 pounds more.

It was not until 2003 that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) used a scaled down male dummy to represent a woman. This dummy was so scaled down that it also could double as a 13 year old child. It is a 5th percentile crash dummy as even to  1970’s standards it represented only 5 percent of women.

Crash tests do not recognize that  half the drivers in the United States are now female. The 5th percentile female crash dummy rides as a passenger, not a driver. As Consumer Reports writer Keith Barry states “Because automotive design is directly influenced by the results of safety testing, any bias in the way cars are crash-tested translates into the way cars are manufactured. So if safety tests don’t prioritize female occupants, carmakers won’t necessarily make changes to better protect them.”

Automotive safety relies on regulation to do the right thing. Using crash dummies that are not smaller models of male dummies is the first step, along with recognizing that women’s  structures are different than men’s. Today’s average female is five inches shorter and 27 pounds lighter than the average male, and wear seatbelts differently and sit closer to the steering console.

While there is a new generation of dummies coming, there is still no plan to build an average female for crash tests. Called THOR (Test Device for Human Occupant Restraint) these new models are due to be used in Europe this year for testing and will collect more data than previous crash test dummies.

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In this Strange But True tale from Tsawwassen, this image was sent in of a brand new crosswalk installation on 53A Street. But take a look at this truck which on Friday the 13th was parked right on the sidewalk  at 8:15 a.m, blocking the access used by kids on their way to school.

And who was in the truck? It was the contractor,  Crown Contracting,  (their website says they build “bright, safer streets”) which had won the bid to construct the crosswalk in the first place. The driver left the vehicle blocking the sidewalk while he read through his cell phone , despite the fact there is lots of parking on the street.

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Last week three people within 30 hours in Metro Vancouver lost their lives doing a very simple act-walking on the street. A senior was mowed down by a truck driver in the early afternoon. And a 40 year old woman and a  man in his thirties lost their lives at 5:00 a.m. and 5:50 p.m., both times on dark streets. The man had tried to cross the street near the Ladner McDonald’s,had tripped on the median and was then struck by a vehicle driver. He was the father of three children ranging from 13 years to 18 months. His eldest children had lost their mother ten years ago.

There is already a go fund me page for the young family of that  Dad, Robbie Oliver, who was self-employed as a roofer. He was well loved and respected in Ladner, and the community has already held a candlelight vigil for him at the site of the accident.

We somehow have to stop thinking that  these needless deaths are necessary collateral to the use of vehicles. This CBC article with author Neil Aranson  talks about making cars smarter . The large denlike vehicles so popular today increase the likelihood of a pedestrian fatality by 50 percent. Neil who wrote ” No Accident: Eliminating Injury and Death on Canadian Roads” also suggests that while the European Union and Japan require pedestrian survivable design in their manufacturing rules, North America does not.  Outrage and insistence is needed to get vehicular manufacturers to do better.

But there is more to safe streets than vehicular design. Speed, visibility, road design, and driver behaviour  are also important factors.  The B.C. Coroners Service in their 2019 report identified that “from 2008 to 2016, more than one-third of traffic fatalities involved drugs or alcohol.

Of the 314 traffic fatalities in B.C. in 2018, 18 percent were pedestrians. Across the province 43 pedestrians died in 2017; that number increased to 58 people in 2018. ICBC, the insurance corporation estimates that in Metro Vancouver 2,100 vehicular crashes involve a pedestrian annually. A study done by Transport Canada in 2011 showed that 63 percent of fatalities at urban intersections were pedestrians aged 65 or older.

November, December and January are the danger months for pedestrians in Metro Vancouver. There is darkness, rain, and road glare and many intersections are not well lit. The City of Vancouver has hinted at installing more Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPIs) which allow a pedestrian a “lead green time” when crossing. NACTO (the National Association of City and Transportation Officials) cite LPIs as reducing pedestrian crashes by 60 percent. There are several thousand LPIs installed in New York City, and the cost per intersection is minimal at $1,200 U.S. dollars.

Reducing speed at intersections allows for drivers to have more reaction time. And in Europe as part of Vision Zero (Zero deaths on the road) Finland requires pedestrians to wear some type of small reflective toggle.

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As noted below, the Expo Line, which opened in 1985, has transformed the corridor along which it runs, especially at many of its station areas.  In that same time, nothing much has happened along Central Broadway.  Some of the blocks between Granville and Broadway seem curiously untouched since the 1970s.

The blocks between Granville and Burrard have some of the widest sidewalks in the city – and some of the least active street life.

This block from Burrard to Cypress has never had street trees, for no apparent reason:

At six lanes, it feels more like an urban highway than a streetcar arterial.  This is Motordom 2.0 – a redesigning of the city for the car and truck.

Because of the width of the road at six lanes and the height of the buildings at one and two storeys, there is no sense of enclosure, no ‘village’ feeling.  The Broadway subway offers the chance for a complete reordering when the train comes through  – a case where higher heights and densities will actually give the street a more ‘European’ feeling.

A classic example is in central Paris, where the ratio was set by Baron Haussmann in a 1859 degree that determined the height of the buildings as a function of the width of the street:

Six lanes allows five storeys, plus mansard roof (and no doubt higher storeys than our nine to ten feet for residential).  Even without street trees, it works.

 

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