Cycling
April 6, 2018

The Friday File~Bollards to Slow Traffic Removed Because they Slowed Traffic


In the kind of story that reminds how much motordom dominates over pedestrian safety and comfort , The Toronto Star reports that flex-post signs near a public school  designed to slow traffic were removed . Why? Because they slowed traffic. Imagine. One week after they were installed, they were removed on the basis of one complaint. As the Toronto Star reports  “the complainant, who said he submitted an email to the mayor’s office and included dash cam footage of traffic significantly slowed down in the 40km/h school zone. The dash cam speedometer registered his truck going about 30 km/h leading up to the flex-post sign, with the speed reducing by about half as he approached it.”
The complainant’s speed was reduced to 5 kilometres per hour while he slowed to manoeuvre around the flexi sign. And that is too slow for motordom, kids’ public school area or not. Even the manager of Traffic Safety and Data Collection responded that “Our initial assessment indicated that the road had sufficient clearance around the sign, but when cars parked adjacent to the sign, we observed traffic slowing significantly or moving around the sign into oncoming traffic.” 
Of course this can also be seen as slowing traffic down enough that they can manoeuvre slowly around each other with lots of reaction time. But that is not Toronto’s take, and the signs were removed  “in the interest of public safety.”  In British Columbia  30 kilometres an hour is the speed in posted school zones. Toronto has not acquiesced to this slower, safer speed for their schools. As one local observed “The problem that I think we have in Toronto is we prioritize the convenience of people driving cars over the safety of anybody who’s not driving a car.”
The City of Toronto is having a tough time implementing  their 80 million dollar version of Vision Zero, which is supposed to  mean that all lives are valuable and no lives are lost due to road violence. The City has controversially suggested merely reducing their death rate from road violence by a percentage instead of completely eliminating deaths as their goal.  Around this Davisville school area  they are proposing installing  zebra markings and school stencils as if that is something novel. It is a soft approach that does not protect vulnerable road users or slow cars down, leaving the impact of collisions still solidly on the pedestrian. The words of the general manager of Transportation Services speaks volumes about the ambiguity of being a pedestrian in Toronto: “It’s a very complex ecosystem, the area around a school, but, from our perspective, student safety is the highest priority. After the pilot is done and we’ve assessed it, my guess is we’ll come forward with it as part of our Vision Zero toolkit.”
There’s nothing complex about slowing traffic and insisting that children and adults have the right to walk safely and comfortably to schools, shops and services. Meanwhile road violence and motordom continues in Toronto~11 pedestrians have been killed in 2018 with an expected 60 pedestrians losing their lives in Toronto by the end of the year.

 
 

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Meanwhile South of the Fraser River where the 20th century rhetoric of motordom and industrialization reign supreme, Gateway Casinos soldiers on with a 70 million dollar casino to be plunked right beside the Delta side of the Massey Tunnel. But wait~Gateway Casinos insist this will “not be just about gambling but would provide an entertainment experience”. 
The property is owned by a company of Ron Toigo of White Spot. For motordom a new parking lot will be created with 800 parking spaces and 200,000 square feet built to accommodate gambling. The same Delta Mayor and City Council still insisting on their ten lane overbuilt Massey Bridge (with one double salary  dipping  provincial liberal MLA who also picks up a pay cheque as a Delta Councillor) still want their casino, located in a spot easily accessible by car. What a surprise. The 1960’s are alive and well in Delta.
The Delta Optimist  reports  “Gateway hopes to begin construction this fall with a grand opening in 2020. The project includes a five-storey, 116-room hotel, meeting space, eateries and a casino with 500 slots, 24 gaming tables and several e-tables. There would be room for further gaming expansion.In a statement, the company notes the community throughout the process has been very engaged and provided valuable feedback that will continue to shape the look and feel of the project.”
It is a bit odd that the language used about the casino is very similar to the language used about the one-sided process to “engage” the community about the last Provincial government’s multi billion dollar Massey Bridge. Regardless, the Delta Mayor and Council have agreed to fast track this proposal, which will provide Delta with an additional two to three million dollars annually with their casino “cut”.
As Gateway casino states this will “grow the community’s economy” by
creating new well-paying jobs in Delta while improving the entertainment and hospitality option in the community…“There is great potential in Delta and a Gateway entertainment destination, with a number of gaming and non-gaming attractions, on the Town and Country site would allow Delta to significantly advance its tourism strategy and deliver on the tourism objectives set out in the strategy.”
Imagine if a seniors’ centre or new rental housing was fast tracked with such enthusiasm or as quickly as this casino is. Despite all the bad news emerging about where casino money is actually from, the City of Delta  hopes to have this casino before Council this month. If you can’t industrialize the Fraser River , you can  still plunk casinos on it.
So last century.

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While the rush to get autonomous vehicles onto the road and testing has meant that many jurisdictions have relaxed their requirements, The New York Times has reported that there has been challenges with Uber’s robotic vehicle project for months before the killing of a pedestrian in Tempe Arizona. It appears that the autonomous vehicles (AV) were having challenges driving through construction zones and next to big scale vehicles, with Uber drivers intervening frequently. And now the numbers are starting to come out~Waymo says that their self-driving cars go an average of 5,600 miles before drivers needed to steer out of trouble, while “Uber was struggling to meet its target of 13 miles per “intervention” in Arizona, according to 100 pages of company documents obtained by The New York Times and two people familiar with the company’s operations in the Phoenix area but not permitted to speak publicly about it.”
In November there were unfortunate remarks of Dara Khorowshahi, Uber’s chief executive who made a case for complete separation of this AV technology from other active transportation road users stating  “With autonomy, the edge cases kill you, so you’ve got to build out for all the edge cases.Which makes it a very, very difficult problem.” Tricky road situations include cyclists and pedestrians, “edge cases” that are hard to predict. Mr. Khorowshahi visited Phoenix to ride in an Uber car without “human intervention” to demonstrate that the cars could handle the edge cases.
The state of Arizona had previously  taken a hands-off attitude to AV’s and did not require any disclosure on the cars’ performance. The Los Angeles Times reports that the Arizona Governor has now halted all Uber tests in the state calling the killing of the pedestrian “an unquestionable failure”. This was not helped along by the auto-parts maker which supplied the Volvo SUV’s radar and camera stating that Uber had “disabled the standard collision-avoidance technology in the vehicle.”
As an automotive analyst for Garner observed “The collection of bad news around Uber creates a reputation in people’s minds. Every other company would get a black eye, too, but they might be forgiven. For Uber, it’s going to be hard to shake.”

 

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With a death of a pedestrian the seemingly relentless march forward of autonomous vehicles has taken a pause as reported by the New York Times.  From a legislative standpoint autonomous vehicles (AVs) are operating in a piece meal legal environment, and the state of Arizona was an early adopter, inviting these vehicles  to be tested on the state’s road network in a “regulation free zone.  “Then on Sunday night, an autonomous car operated by Uber — and with an emergency backup driver behind the wheel — struck and killed a woman on a street in Tempe, Ariz. It was believed to be the first pedestrian death associated with self-driving technology. The company quickly suspended testing in Tempe as well as in Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto. The accident was a reminder that self-driving technology is still in the experimental stage, and governments are still trying to figure out how to regulate it.”
The Uber car, a Volvo XC90 sport utility vehicle outfitted with the company’s sensing system, was in autonomous mode with a human safety driver at the wheel but carrying no passengers when it struck Elaine Herzberg, a 49-year-old woman, on Sunday around 10 p.m. Sgt. Ronald Elcock, a Tempe police spokesman, said during a news conference that a preliminary investigation showed that the vehicle was moving around 40 miles per hour when it struck Ms. Herzberg, who was walking with her bicycle on the street. He said it did not appear as though the car had slowed down before impact and that the Uber safety driver had shown no signs of impairment. The weather was clear and dry.
There has been early discussion on the computer based “ethics” of the autonomous vehicle, and the fact that the vehicle was being designed to save its occupants first. Autonomous vehicles have been hailed as way to stem the annual deaths of over 37,000 (2016 figures) people on the road by safer, logical control. But the technology is only a decade old, and “now starting to experience the unpredictable situations that drivers can face.”
This tragic incident makes clear that autonomous vehicle technology has a long way to go before it is truly safe for the passengers, pedestrians, and drivers who share America’s roads,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut. While autonomous vehicle testing has temporarily halted with this death, investigators  are examining what led to this vehicle’s failure to recognize the pedestrian. Vehicle developers have expressed challenges in teaching the systems to adjust for unpredictable human behaviour. As a professor at Arizona State University expressed “We’ve imagined an event like this as a huge inflection point for the technology and the companies advocating for it,” he said. “They’re going to have to do a lot to prove that the technology is safe.”

 
 
 

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What can London, Stockholm and Singapore teach New York City and other places considering  congestion pricing? The New York Times explores how these fees have been implemented and how they have resulted in less traffic, reduced congestion, and  less air pollution.  “Each city does congestion pricing in its own way. Singapore sets varying fees based on the road and time of day, and adjusts them in response to traffic conditions, with fees going up when there is congestion, and down when there is not. Stockholm also sets varying fees for a congestion zone covering the central city area, with the highest fees at the busiest times of day. But its system is less flexible than Singapore’s since those fees do not regularly fluctuate with traffic and any changes require the approval of Sweden’s Parliament.
“In contrast, London charges a simple flat-rate of $16 per day no matter how often a vehicle goes in and out of a designated congestion zone in the center of the city. In New York, a state task force has proposed a flat rate of $11.52 per day for passenger cars — and $25.34 for trucks — for entering a congestion zone in Manhattan that would stretch from 60th Street south to the Battery. Taxis and ride-hailing cars could face a separate charge of $2 to $5 per ride.”
“All three cities invested heavily in technology and infrastructure before they rolled out their congestion-pricing systems. Stockholm spent the most — $237 million — to set up a system of gantries and cameras in 2007 that register and identify vehicles by snapping photos of license plates, according to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a nonprofit policy and advocacy group based in New York that has compared the three systems.”
Costs were later recovered from congestion fees.  “London receives about $230 million annually in net revenue, while Stockholm’s system raises $155 million and Singapore’s generates $100 million each year, according to the campaign. New York’s task force estimated its proposed congestion plan could raise more than $1 billion annually for public transit.”
Bike lanes, new buses and additional transit services have been added while congestion fees have doubled in London since implemented. Singapore plans to use satellites to replace their physical gantries and camera systems in 2020. And there are troubles even  with road pricing~”London’s gridlock has returned, driven in part by an influx of Uber and ride-hailing cars that did not exist a decade ago. Singapore is working to make its system more efficient and less costly by turning to satellites to replace the physical gantries beginning in 2020.
Daniel Hellden, a vice mayor of Stockholm who oversees the traffic division, said that congestion taxes have raised millions of dollars for building roads and highways, expanding the subway system, and making other investments in public transit. Torbjorn Heierson, a regional director for the Swedish Association of Road Transport Companies, which represents the hauling industry, said that he has come to see the benefits of congestion pricing. “We are expanding public transportation so that private individuals can leave their cars at home and make room for the professional drivers who have goods to deliver”.
You can read the whole article here.
 

 

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It is really hard to believe that a group of researchers would be examining this issue, and even harder to fathom that Elsevier chooses to advance this through their social media and on-line presence.  But here it is~in this article by several French researchers at the aptly named “French Institute of Science and Technology for Transport, Development and Networks, Laboratory for Road Operations, Perception, Simulators and Simulations”  researchers in Versailles actually created a pedestrian dog collar.
Using vibrotactile technology on wristbands that vibrated on pedestrians’ arms when vehicles were approaching,  57 participants were asked to cross a two-way traffic street. Senior pedestrians  are overrepresented in fatal traffic incidents, with the researchers surmising that this was because older people have  “gap” challenges, unable to ascertain the speed of approaching traffic. This same inability to judge traffic speed when crossing a street was discussed in this Price Tags Vancouver post from last year, where researchers found that children under 14 years of age did not have the perceptual judgement or motor skills to safely cross the road.
While the researchers found that the percentage of pedestrians being crashed into by simulated cars decreased, “collisions did not fall to zero, and responses that were in accordance with the wristband advice went up to only 51.6% on average, for all participants. ”  
While the vibrating wristband was shunned by younger participants as something they would ever use, “behavioral intentions to buy and use such a device in the future were greater in both groups of older participants.” This device only reduced by fifty per cent the likelihood of pedestrians being crashed into by vehicles. But as the researchers conclude “This haptic device was able to partly compensate for some age-related gap-acceptance difficulties and reduce street-crossing risks for all users. These findings could be fruitfully applied to the design of devices allowing communication between vehicles, infrastructures, and pedestrians.”
New Zealand Civil Engineer and Phd Candidate Bridget Burdett  summed up this study and its proposed use with automated vehicles  below.

 
 

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Since September 23, four pedestrians have died on Richmond Streets. The Richmond News has now posted a very troubling YouTube video of drivers in  Richmond going through intersections when the lights were clearly red.
Of course no one who is a motorist or a vulnerable road user wants to think that this is actually happening. As one person commented on the video said “The 3 cars running the light are likely the RCMP’s Special O unit located in Richmond. It’s an elite undercover police unit that are involved in surveillance. Look how all three cars approach the intersection, angle to the right, then proceed after crossing at a very high speed. They are clearly in control of their vehicles, not some bad driver who isn’t paying attention. It’s clear these people were trying to get somewhere very quickly, whoever they were.”
The video shows four vehicles going through red lights in the east Cambie neighbourhood on January 31 at 9:30 in the morning. This activity happened within a ten minute time span. As the Richmond News asks, “Were the vehicles’ drivers together and in a coordinated hurry to get somewhere or evade someone? Or were the last two drivers simply, obliviously following the lead of the Toyota?”
Update from a commenter: The Vancouver Sun has a story that some of the drivers were police officers.
Unfortunately that  still does not address the crash rate or the number of  pedestrian fatalities in Richmond, which is approaching one death a month since September 2017.

 

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