Motordom
October 17, 2019

Global Growth of SUVs Means the ICE Age is Not Over

You can forget about reducing vehicular emissions, a major source of climate change, if we can’t change our habits. As the International Energy Agency has stated while there are 350 plus of different electric models of vehicles planned in the next five years, only 7 percent of all automobiles will be electric by 2030.  Around the world sales of internal combustion engine vehicles (ICE) have fallen 2 percent, the first reduction in ten years. Surprisingly China and India have had substantial declines in the purchase of ICE vehicles, by 14 percent and 10 percent respectively.

The real challenge~and you see it in marketing everywhere~is the ICE motor vehicle manufacturers peddling of their darling, the SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle)  built on a truck frame that gets around car regulations due to its truck platform. These SUVs are killing machines, and along with trucks represent 60 percent of all vehicle purchases and directly responsible for a 46 percent increase of pedestrian deaths. As well, drivers of SUVs are 11 percent more likely to die in an accident.

Automakers advertise the SUV’s as safe rolling dens for drivers, and there are now globally 200 million SUVs, up from 35 million ten years ago. Sales of SUVs have also doubled in a decade.

The numbers are staggering~half of all vehicles sold in the United States are SUVs, and in gas conscious Europe, one-third of all purchases are for SUVs.

And they have an appeal. “In China, SUVs are considered symbols of wealth and status. In India, sales are currently lower, but consumer preferences are changing as more and more people can afford SUVs. Similarly, in Africa, the rapid pace of urbanisation and economic development means that demand for premium and luxury vehicles is relatively strong.”

Given that 25 percent of global oil goes to vehicular consumption, and the related CO2 emissions, “The global fleet of SUVs has seen its emissions growing by nearly 0.55 Gt CO2 during the last decade to roughly 0.7 Gt CO2. As a consequence, SUVs were the second-largest contributor to the increase in global CO2 emissions since 2010 after the power sector, but ahead of heavy industry (including iron & steel, cement, aluminium), as well as trucks and aviation.”

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I have been writing about how SUVs and trucks which make up 60 percent of all vehicle purchases have been responsible for a 46 percent increase in pedestrian deaths.

Never doubt the power and strength of the motor vehicle lobby. A SUV  (sport utility vehicle) is a vehicle built on a truck platform with a “high profile” on the street. Statistics show that SUVs with the high front end grille are twice as likely to kill pedestrians because of the high engine profile, but this information has not been well publicized. In the United States a federal initiative to include pedestrian crash survival into the vehicle ranking system was halted by opposing automakers.

It was the City of London England that banned a certain type of truck when the city realized that it was responsible for 50 per cent of all cycling mortalities and over 20 per cent of all pedestrian deaths. Of course there was pushback, but the Mayor of London just said no.

Laura Laker  in  the Guardian  now asks the question~is it time to ban SUVs from our cities? SUVs are heavily marketed and are highly profitable for car companies, but they are also deadly. Drivers have an 11 percent increase in the chance of fatality in them, as their size and bulk is connected with more reckless driving. They are also killing machines in the conventional sense. In September a SUV driver in Berlin lost control of his vehicle and killed four people on a sidewalk, a grandmother and grandson and two twenty year old men.

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So much to unpack with some of the City of Vancouver’s most recent initiatives, so let’s get started. If you have been anywhere near  Broadway, you may have seen the street appearing~well, red.  It appears the City of Vancouver and TransLink decided it would be a Good Idea to use this rather berryfruit juicy colour as a demonstration project to show where the B-Line bus stop zones are.

The City of Vancouver in the twitterverse got right on the messaging by warning drivers to “Steer clear of the red zone! Along with @Translink, we’re piloting red zones at key bus stops to remind people bus stops aren’t for cars. A single stopped car can slow down hundreds of people. If the red zones work, we’ll look for rolling out more in the future”.

Just a small quibble, people don’t need to be reminded that bus stop zones  are not for cars, drivers do. And those drivers would also react just as well to increased enforcement at bus zones, so hopefully the Police will work in partnership with TransLink to enhance monitoring.

But back to the temporary installation of this strange red paint on city streets-what is with the really bright colour? Take a look at the Washington D.C. bus lane below which at least is in the more muted burgundy palette and edged and stenciled as a “bus only zone”.

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Besides the sights of Paris, the sounds can be fairly intense, especially if you are walking close to a motorway. As this article on Engadget.com states Paris is trialling “noise radar” that focuses in on powerful muscle cars with loud muffler noise. Using a quartet of microphones appended to street poles, the system triangulates on noise and uplinks with a CCTV camera to pinpoint the offending vehicle.

It’s no surprise that these devices have been located near bars in Paris’ entertainment districts as well as around major buildings. With nearly sixty of the noise radar systems installed, there is a two year trial to figure out if this technology works, and also to ascertain what noise level will result in fines.

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Following great feedback from the Vision Zero Summit, UBC’s Bureau of Integrated Transportation Safety and Advanced Mobility, in partnership with BC Centre for Disease Control, will host an International Road Safety Symposium to continue supporting expertise and knowledge exchange for road safety across BC. Renowned international experts from the Netherlands, Australia, and Canada will join municipal and provincial experts to discuss and share their experience and recent research with a focus on application, implementation and equity at the local level. The symposium will provide a forum for dialogue with all attendees to allow for focused discussions on specific issues and solutions.

The two days will cover:

International Expert Presentations followed by discussions on:
Road Safety Challenges in the Smart Mobility era
Causation and Prevention – how to best develop a crash prevention program
Road User Distraction
Transportation and Health
The Safe Systems Approach and critical success factors

Interactive Attendee Panel Discussions:
Active Road User Safety
Speed Management
Legal and illicit substances and road safety
Data Driven Transport safety -“linchpin” data issues, big data, and data-sharing opportunities
New and Advanced Mobility (e.g. ride-hailing, e-scooters)

Our distinguished line-up of international experts include:

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They’re on their way, Vancouver is behind, it’s going to be messy, but it’s inevitable: electric scooters and, no doubt, a whole bunch of related technologies.

Thomas sends along a piece from The Economist that describes what’s happening in Europe.  (Unfortunately, the whole piece is behind a paywall, but here are the opening paragraphs):

Streets ahead

Europe is edging towards making post-car cities a reality

 Hurtling along a “cycle highway” by the River Scheldt in Antwerp recently, Charlemagne (the author) only noticed the electric scooter when it was too late. Spinning tyre met stationary scooter, British journalist separated from Belgian bike and Anglo-Saxon words were uttered. How irritating and obnoxious these twiggy little devices can seem with their silly names (“Lime”, “Poppy”, “Zero”) and their sudden invasion of the pavements of every large European city. Everywhere they seem to be in the way, abandoned precisely at those points where prams, pedestrians or speeding journalists need to pass.

And yet your columnist refuses to hold a grudge, because the rise of the electric scooter is part of a broader and welcome phenomenon: the gradual retreat of the car from the European city. Across the continent, apps and satellite-tracking have spawned bike- and scooter-rental schemes that allow city-dwellers to beat the traffic. Networks of cycle paths are growing and creeping outwards; that of Paris will by next year have grown by 50% in five years. Municipal governments are lowering speed limits, introducing car bans and car-free days, pedestrianising streets and replacing car parks with bike parks.

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From today’s staff report on the 2019 Greenest City Action Plan Implementation Update:

The chart says that by 2018 people in Vancouver took more trips by foot, bike and transit than by motor vehicles.  And did it sooner than expected.

That’s not news to a lot of people who read PT – but it’s still extraordinary.  Especially since those targets are often overly ambitious, assuming that the politicians who vote for them won’t be around to see the results.

Here’s another chart that affirms the previous one: distances driven are consistently dropping.

We’re doing something very right.

So to the doubters and deniers: don’t ignore real achievement or dismiss success.  It’s too easy to be cynical, and it’s destructive.

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Kevin Quinlan, who was working in the mayor’s office at the time of the Burrard-bike-lane blow-up, apparently saved files of the coverage, perhaps with the intent of doing what he does here – a delicious reiteration of how over-the-top most of the assumptions and criticism was at the time.  Here are excerpts from his Twitter thread.

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@KQ_VanCity

Guess who is 10! Happy birthday, Burrard bridge bike lane: today marks 10 years since the Burrard Bridge bike lane opened. Let’s take a casual bike ride back through time and look at the calm, nuanced media commentary that greeted the plucky bike lane in 2009.

Quick refresher: 6 car lanes on the Burrard bridge went down to five, to enable separated bike lanes to keep people from falling into traffic. Months of media hysteria that it would be a complete disaster. it would fail within days!

Political opponents tried to get ‘Gregor’s gridlock’ to become a catchy slogan (lasted about as long as ‘who let the dogs out’.) Radio pundits predicted Mayor and Vision would be trounced in next election. Nobody bikes! It rains! Social engineering! Radical green agenda! . On first day, morning commute had news choppers flying overhead. CKNW set up a live booth on Burrard at Drake to talk live to all those angry commuters stuck in traffic. ARE YOU MAD CALL IN NOW AND GIVE US A PIECE OF YOUR MIND NOW HERE’S A RADIO AD FOR ALARM FORCE. . The Burrard Bridge bike lane media commentary has aged really well. Vancouver Sun: BURRARD BRIDGE BIKE LANES DOOMED TO FAILURE. Not just won’t work: DOOMED TO FAIL. Like a curse. .

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While we rely on police forces to ensure the security and safety of citizens, we don’t think about what it like for police to stop or enforce speed limits on highways. Think of it~those police officers  are vulnerable road users without the protection of a vehicular steel cage flagging vehicles to pull over. Why are we using such a 19th century enforcement to maintaining speed limits and enhancing safety on our roads?

In June I wrote about the man with numbers, pollster Mario Canseco’s  findings that 58% of British Columbians say they would “definitely” or “probably” like to see the speed limit reduced to 30 km/h on all residential streets in their own municipality, while keeping the speed limit on arterial and collector roads at 50 km/h.”  That indicated that in our cities and towns we are willing to look at reduced speeds to enhance livability and quality of life in those places, as well as dramatically increase the survivability of pedestrians and cyclists involved in crashes. But how about speeding at intersections and major roads in British Columbia?

Last summer Mario Canseco’s Research Co. conducted another poll that showed that 70% of  people in British Columbia were  supportive of the use of a camera system  to enforce  speed limits in this province, and make intersections safer.

In the online survey of a representative sample of British Columbians, seven-in-ten residents (70%) approve of the use of speed-on-green cameras, or red light cameras that also capture vehicles that are speeding through intersections. Automated speed enforcement works by using cameras or sensors to pick up a vehicle speeding. A ticket is then issued to the owner of the vehicle. Driver’s license points are not issued as the driver of the vehicle cannot be identified.

Mario’s latest article in Business in Vancouver discusses the findings of the provincial government when it studied speed and crash statistics from 140 intersections which have red light cameras. What the government found is troubling~”The findings revealed that, during the course of an average week, 201 cars drive at least 30 km/h over the advertised speed limit.”

The provincial government is converting 35 existing  red light cameras to “speed-on-green” equipment to photograph vehicles at speed through intersections.While there are two cameras in Langley, three in Burnaby and seven in Surrey, there will be twelve in Vancouver.

The government’s approach is similar to that adopted by the City of Delta.

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While the City of Vancouver dithers about reducing speeds to 30 km/h in their neighbourhoods, the City of Montreal just gets it done, and they are reducing speed on their arterial roads too. Montreal is not just doing lip service to Vision Zero, the concept that no serious injuries or deaths should result on city roads. They identified reducing speed limits as essential, especially where pedestrians and cyclists used the street.

In Vancouver we don’t talk about Vision Zero officially, as the previous Vision controlled council did not like the term for their own political reasons. It’s time  for this Council to take control and bring the right term  back.

It has been proven internationally that the one way to save lives on roads is to lower speed limits. That increases the survivability of a crash for a pedestrian and cyclist, and also allows for more reaction time for the driver. It is also more sustainable to travel at slower speeds, and allows the streets to function in a sociable way for residents walking and cycling, instead of just facilitating fast vehicular traffic.

As the CBC reports some of Montreal’s  boroughs have already adopted speed limits of 30 km/h in neighbourhoods and 40 km/h on arterial roads. Listen to the messaging from the Mayor of Montreal, who says that not only is it important to methodically implement slower speed limits for enhanced street use and livability, but that those limits need to be lowered quickly. They are serious about reducing injuries and saving lives.

Montreal’s Vision Zero plan is direct and to the point. Besides reducing speeds, they are banning heavy trucks from some of the street network, improving safety around schools, and improving crosswalk visibility. I have already written about the City of London banning certain trucks and requiring sideguards on others. London realized that one kind of truck was in three years responsible for 70 percent of that city’s cycling deaths. Those trucks  are now completely banned from the inner core of London.

The City of Montreal has buy-in from the  public health department, Quebec’s automobile insurance board and both the Federal and Provincial Ministries of Transport. Montreal has also led a fulsome public process engaging with citizens and over thirty different groups, including the trucking industry.

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