Art & Culture
December 5, 2018

Why Tim Davis ❤ Amsterdam – 2

In this second part, Tim Davis takes a look at how Amsterdam priorizes pedestrians.  (I’ve left the emphases intact to capture some of Davis Speak.) 

 

For those who think that Amsterdam prioritizes cyclists over pedestrians, the *opposite* is true. In fact, the very center of Amsterdam is so dense (especially in summer, when these were taken) that NO ONE bikes.

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In a world where ‘athleisure wear’ is a thing and the sneaker is the biggest selling shoe, in a town that is home to Lulu Lemon and MEC, it’s not news that we signal through our clothing that we are active, outdoor-loving people.  I was contemplating that when taking a crowded Seabus the other day and noticed this:

By far the majority of people had backpacks or bags slung over their shoulders.  They’re a very practical way, of course, to carry all our daily needs – or go for a day hike.  Which in a way is what we’re doing more and more as we switch from mode to mode in our daily journeys, and walk between them.

It’s well-correlated common sense that transit users get more physical activity.  Now with more frequent transit (and even car share, which often requires a short walk), we’re walking (and measuring our walks) more often.  Even with cycling and bike-share, a backpack makes the most sense.  Not surprising, then, that we choose our clothing to match our active-transport needs, and make a fashion statement about our lifestyle as we do.

 

 

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November 23, 2018

This sign is on a main motor vehicle thoroughfare on Granville Island.

It’s a bit ambiguous, but judging from recent pedestrian campaigns, the administrators are aiming the message at those oblivious waddlers among the duck population.

They’re probably colourful enough, what with the fancy feathers and all, so no earnest exhortations about wearing neon-lime-green vests.

But I am surprised that the ducks aren’t pictured waving little flags in their bills.

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From Halifax Nova Scotia,  The Globe and Mail reports on the “Crosswalk Safety Society” that are placing “high-visibility flags” on crosswalks where there are no crossing lights and no safety features. While staff at the Halifax Regional Municipality urged Council to get rid of these flags and create safer pedestrian crossings, council voted to continue with the flags being available at those crosswalks. And these flags are not inexpensive, with the Crosswalk Safety Society shelling out $250 to outfit each crosswalk with them.

Only 2 to 6 percent of pedestrians use these flags to wave at cars when they are crossing, and when a reporter watched an intersection for two hours, pedestrians did not use the flags at all.

The concept of intersection flags have been tested in Berkeley California and in Seattle and were dismissed as being ineffective and giving pedestrians a fake sense of confidence. It also puts the onus on the pedestrian for getting the driver’s attention and stopping a vehicle, something that should be the responsibility of the driver.  For small children, using flags is one more thing to take attention away from the important task of simply safely crossing the road.

Kudos to municipal staff in Halifax that conducted their own tests at two intersections, crossing each of them three hundred times.  “They found that drivers gave way 94 per cent of the time when flags were being carried and 89 per cent of the time at crossings where there were no flags. Driver compliance was lowest, at 86 per cent, when flags were present but not carried”.

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We are now into the danger months of November, December and January when most pedestrian fatalities occur. Most are at dusk, and most when pedestrians are legally crossing the street.  It is internationally recognized that pedestrians, the most vulnerable road users can benefit from improved road design including raised crosswalks, and shorter crossing distances. Lowering road speed, changing driver behaviour and ensuring good lighting also helps. But Price Tags is exploring  examples from both ends of the country that make streets safer for pedestrians-one bureaucratic, and one flag waving.

The first post is from Victoria British Columbia where elementary students at George Jay Elementary cross the street at Cook Street between Princess and Queens Avenues. Even though there are crosswalk markings and signage vehicles do not slow down at this intersection. The crossing guard (they have those in Victoria) stated  “A lot of close calls. Holding the kid back, and if I didn’t hold the kid back, he would be under the vehicle.”

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Spotted on Georgia, a scooter (non-electric).  This one struck me as odd only because it was so rare.

 

Why hasn’t there been a sudden inundation of dockless electric scooters like Lime, Bird and others that have appeared in cities from San Diego to Seattle?  It’s surely only a matter of time.

To councillors (who would like to avoid having to make decisions on any more bike lanes), get ready for their presence on sidewalks.  If you want to avoid that conflict, then that may mean making provision for scooter/bike lanes.

 

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When The Guardian started talking about “Noddy” housing, they are not referring to the wooden cartoon character that drove around in a yellow and red taxi with a police officer  named Mr. Plod.  “Noddy housing” refers in this context to buildings that are built with low quality and little design feature, and in Britain refer to small houses built in the last thirty years by larger property development corporations.

In talking about “Noddy” or suburban tract low quality housing,  the true costs of living in suburbia are discussed,  a concept already explored in Price Tags in the enterprising work of transportation expert Todd Litman.  Todd was talking about was the false economy of living in cheaper housing farther out from where people work, where car dependency and a lack of transit options means driving more and driving longer, with higher commuting costs.

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Some recent stories about the impact of ride-hailing companies, particularly Uber, and the longer term implications.

First, another confirming story that ride-hailing is measurably increasing congestion – from Tech Crunch:

In San Francisco … ride-hailing services are undoubtedly partially to blame (for the rise in traffic and congestion), but not entirely to blame, according to a new study from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. …

Between 2010 and 2016, according to the SFCTA, ride-hailing services accounted for:

  • 51 percent of the increase in daily vehicle hours of delay
  • 47 percent of the increase in vehicle miles traveled
  • 55 percent of the average speed decline
  • 25 percent of total vehicle congestion citywide

So not surprising, then, that Uber wants to address the problem of congestion by supporting a mechanism that would reduce ‘free-riders’ on the streets they help congest.

From the Seattle Times:

Uber says it plans to spend money lobbying for congestion pricing in Seattle as part of a $10 million push for “sustainable mobility” policies in various cities.

The ride-hail app company and its rival, Lyft, have previously expressed support for the idea of tolling downtown streets in Seattle, where Mayor Jenny Durkan’s administration is working to develop a proposal.

But Uber’s new commitment to actively press for congestion pricing in the city, shared with The Seattle Times last week, could be the biggest boost yet for an effort certain to encounter political roadblocks, including concerns about affordability.

Uber thinks big and it thinks strategically – literally globally.   It can afford to.

From Vanity Fair:

The Wall Street Journal reported that the company had received proposals from Wall Street banks estimating its initial public offering at a market valuation as high as $120 billion, virtually twice its current private-market valuation, and larger than the combined market capitalizations of General Motors , Ford Motor Company, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. …

Uber … has a large, global footprint, and is possibly a primordial holding company for a series of future companies …  Uber already has one of the largest food-delivery platforms around today, and it is expanding its freight business, which has the possibility to grow infinitely. And then there’s the driverless car I.P. that the company owns, not to mention the investments in other global ride-sharing services …

“Some people see Uber as a car company,” (an Uber insider said).  “Uber sees itself as the next potential Amazon.”

I think this is bigger than even the evolution of another Amazon (if it first doesn’t buy or dominate Uber.)

We’re still thinking about transportation as essentially a problem of hardware: expensive pieces of metal crammed with technology, jamming the streets and highways. Motordom 1.0.

We analyse the problem from the point of view of the user, each distinguished by the hardware of choice: car or truck drivers, transit users, cyclists (and okay, maybe shoe wearers).

We assume this is primarily a problem for government – the owner of the streets, the licensor of vehicles, the regulator of traffic.

We need to shift our focus to Motordom 2.0 – the integration of every imaginable mode of movement, joined by information technology, delivered to us by a service provider who sells us transportation in the way telecommunications providers sell us data.  The TSP: the Transportation Service Provider.

We should be thinking not about hardware but about what Motordom 2.0 will really be about – issues of ownership, regulation, taxation and equality.  Above all, the vision we have for our urban environments, what we build, for whom, and who gets to decide.

Uber or its successor will likely want to be that decider – the shaper of cities, the creator of wealth, the leader of civilization.  Because that’s what we call what we build, how we move, and who rules over it all.

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Charleson Park, Saturday, while I escaped for a few hours from the steady drumbeat of 2018 civic election tweets, robocalls, e-mail and paper flyers. The well-known bullshit overdrive.

I do have to express my disappointment that there’s no one busting photo-ops in a chicken suit. What the hell, already!  Have we grown up a bit or something?

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