Infrastructure
January 25, 2018

Officer, the Autonomous Car Caused the Crash.


It is not a good thing to smash your Tesla into the back of a parked fire truck on San Francisco Bay Bridge. A Tesla driver just did and was reported to be twice over the legal level for blood alcohol. His defense? The car was driving. As reported in the Vancouver Sun “according to the California Highway Patrol, the driver explained that his Tesla electric vehicle “had been set on autopilot,” obviating the need for him to be in control of the vehicle or, well, sober.”
The California Highway Patrol nixed that idea, and the driver was sent to jail.  But it also brings up an interesting point~is the car the designated driver if someone is intoxicated? Wasn’t the whole idea of autopilot to give the driver the luxury of paying attention to other things besides driving? Even though cars are like dens on wheels loaded with lots of fun gadgetry, Tesla still states its autopilot system is “not fully autonomous”. You can drive fast, have a good time, but “the company instructs drivers to be alert because they are ultimately responsible for their vehicle and whatever it smacks into.”
In 2016  there was the deadly crash when a Tesla Model S and its driver failed to see a tractor-trailer turning onto a divided highway. The driver had relied on the autopilot, and in the “last 37 minutes of his drive, he had his hands on the wheel for just 25 seconds. He also ignored seven dashboard warnings and six audible warnings.” Some reports have cited that he was watching a  movie  at the time of the crash.
While Elon Musk has been saying that there will be no need for an instrument panel in future vehicles, Tesla crashes have been  attracting interest from investigators. Autopilots were supposed to protect occupants and “even pedestrians” from crashes.
While it has not been determined whether the autopilot was on when the Tesla plowed into the fire truck at over 100 kilometers per hour, the firemen did note that the vehicle was unable to engage the autopilot after. “The car was towed, they said. “No, it didn’t drive itself to the tow yard.”

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If you have lived in the snowy parts of Canada you will be familiar with the requirement to move your car off the street when the street is being plowed. Trust Simon Laprise, a machinist and artist to come up the perfect prank for the police officers ticketing cars that had not moved off the street, as reported in Global News.
Mr. Laprise carefully sculpted in snow  a pretty exact model of the DeLorean DMC-12 in the parking space. That car is the model used in the Back to the Future movies. To make the snowed in vehicle look even more authentic, Mr. Laprise placed a windshield wiper, on the “windshield” as if that was the only remnant not covered in snow.
Sure enough, a member of the Montreal Police force came to ticket the vehicle, only to discover that the vehicle was not a vehicle. They did place a note under the windshield wiper saying that the snow vehicle had “Made their night”.
Snow plows destroyed the snow DeLorean the next day. You can see a YouTube video of the project here.
And you can check out Simon Laprise’s public art page here.

 

 

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As cities mature and the population ages, the classic use of cars as the main way to get places is no longer an option for many seniors. Statistics Canada has reported that in 2009 nearly 30 per cent of seniors with licences have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.  In 2009 that total was 20,000 people. As reported in Vox.com “Americans are getting older: 14 percent are currently over the age of 65, and that’s expected to surpass 20 percent by 2030. Modern medicine has extended people’s lifespans — and people are spending more years with less physical independence. And yet a smaller percentage of seniors move in with family or to retirement homes than in the past.” 
What that means is that there are a whole bunch of senior citizens that should not be driving or cannot drive that live in areas that are car oriented, without good transit connections. Those communities that were seen as perfect for young families with station wagons and SUV’s are not easily connected by transit or alternative ride share services for people without wheels. In the United States, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that drivers over the age of 75 are more likely to be in fatal crashes. Drivers over the age of 85 years of age are more likely to be in fatal crashes than teenagers.
Seniors who are isolated have lower life expectancies and poorer health. While 90 per cent now want to live the rest of their lives in their current home, access to shops, services and social activities like volunteering must continue.  While assisted transit services like HandyDart are available, they must be booked in advance, and are often not on time. Some communities are planning ‘lifetime Communities” districts, which incorporate shops, services, parks and community centres that can all be reached by walking or a wheelchair. Other experts see Uber or Lyft as being vital to fill the gap between HandyDart and the use of a personal car, indeed even calling on cities to name ride sharing as part of paratransit services, with Uber and Lyft even delivering groceries and goods to seniors. These ride share services will provide “an easy means of getting around for people who can no longer drive — allowing millions of seniors to remain in their homes without becoming isolated.” 
It is already being reported that seniors are comprising up to 40 per cent of  Uber rides taken in some communities. Despite fears that the application would be challenging for seniors to use, it has been accepted, and the app now allows others to book for seniors if they do not have a smart phone.  Up to twenty-two per cent of the seniors’ population are “elder orphans” without spouses or children to provide driving assistance, and ride share provides them with independence.  As one  ninety year old observed:  “I can go wherever I want – the road is endless with Uber.”

 

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From StreetsBlog comes this cameo from  Saturday Night Live actress Kate McKinnon depicting Auto Lobbyist Veronica Moss. As StreetsBlog observes: “we were granted unfettered access to Veronica Moss, lobbyist for Automobile Users Trade Organization (AUTO). Veronica gave us a few precious moments inside her SUV to talk about roads, traffic, cyclists, and big cities. After instructing us on proper honking techniques for “old people” and children, she also offered up some choice bons mots. Here’s a sample: “People need to be able to drive their cars – that’s an American right!” “Bikers are a pimple on the butt of any city.”
 
More here.

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The Delta Optimist  has published a  letter that really should have  been their big headline. But never mind~Price Tags Vancouver will do it. We all remember the defeated Liberal government’s bandying around of the proposed multi-billion overbuilt Massey Bridge which would have provided ten lanes on the bridge and led to the industrialization of that part of the Fraser River. The ex premier of the province, Ms. Clark actually got on the podium and when asked during the election why this unsustainable bridge to congestion on each side of it was being built, happily announced “JOBS!”.
It turns out that despite what the past Provincial Liberal government said to the public and continually announced, there was another option to the building of this billion dollar bridge behemoth. Specialists from the Netherlands prepared a presentation~on twinning the existing tunnel in 2013. The Massey Tunnel is named after Douglas Massey’s father, and it was Mr. Massey who made a Freedom Of Information request to the then Provincial Liberal government. That turned up nothing. But a more recent repeated request turned up this Dutch Engineering twin tunnel study and it is publicly available courtesy of the new Transportation Minister, Claire Trevena.
As Mr. Massey wrote in the Optimist: “ A meeting was held on April 4, 2013 between the Ministry of Transportation and Tunnel Engineering Consultants (TEC) of the Netherlands to update the ministry on the state of the art of immersed tunneling.
The content of the 60-page presentation included introduction of TEC worldwide tunnel projects both recent and proposed, and cost-effective options for the George Massey Tunnel. Special attention was given to tunnel safety, earthquake resistance design and comparison with bridge solutions.
The following are quotes taken from that presentation:
1.Tunnels are more suited for various and poor soil conditions.
2. Tunnels are shorter in length than a bridge and have a smaller footprint.
3.Tunnels can be built parallel and close to existing tunnels.
4.Tunnel construction is capable of dealing with severe seismic conditions.
5.Tunnel construction where 80 to 90 per cent of the work could be done by local contractors.
6.Tunnels can be built “safer than an open highway.”
This Dutch team also recommended that they assess the structure and integrity of the current tunnel and increase river depth by using an asphalt mattress instead of riprap. They suggested using longitudinal ventilation and repurpose the existing ventilation ducts as escape pods and for conduits for cyclists and walkers, among other innovative ideas. This report was never made public. As Mr. Massey states ” the former Liberal government never revealed the true facts or alternatives to the public. Instead, it followed the demands of the Port of Vancouver and wrote fear mongering reports that suited its agenda of removing the George Massey Tunnel and deepening the lower Fraser River to suit present and future industrial interests.”
The Dutch have been creating these types of submerged tunnels successfully for years. Looking at twinning the tunnel would preserve the existing habitat and ecosystem of the Fraser, and restrain the industrialization of this sensitive bog and marshland.  Why was this report not released before to the public? And is this a viable option for  creating more capacity crossing the Fraser River?
As Mr. Massey summarizes that this sensitive area is “known the world over as vital component for a continued healthy ecosystem that supports a migratory food source for all marine and wildfowl life from the headwaters of the Fraser River along migratory routes of the Pacific Coast. May the true facts be known.”

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The Retail Council of Canada has released its   annual  report  on how Canada’s shopping malls are doing. Canada’s top malls continue to thrive, but “disruption and re-invention” has been key while “e-commerce” (the Amazoning of retail space) continues to grow. With Sears Canada declaring bankruptcy there’s going to be over 15 million square feet of space available in malls across Canada. That’s the size of fifteen Tsawwassen Mills mega malls.
The report notes that shopping centres are now featuring “food halls” and full-sized restaurants, and are creating “experiences” that are entertaining and enjoyable. Pop up retail is continuing in popularity, and some of the top mall developers are reviewing options to add housing and other institutions to their shopping mall locations.

 Of the top thirty malls in Canada, eight of them have sales of over $1,000 a square foot with Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre ranked first with the highest annual sales per square foot. Eleven of the top 30 malls are in the Greater Toronto Area, and seven are in the Greater Vancouver area “making it the top region per capita for the most productive malls in the country.”  Newcomer Tsawwassen Mills owned by Ivanhoe Cambridge is not included in this stable, as Ivanhoe Cambridge is not releasing statistics on the mall’s performance. Oakridge, Pacific Centre, Metropolis, Richmond,Guilford, Park Royal and Coquitlam shopping centres are in the top thirty for sales by square foot.
What is interesting is that most of these high achieving locations are not suburban malls, but are in urban locations close by density and good transit accessibility to shops and services. Four of the busiest malls nationally are in urban cores-Toronto Eaton’s Centre, Vancouver’s Pacific Centre, the Rideau Centre and the CORE shopping centre in Calgary.  As the report notes “In the United States, none of the country’s top 10 malls are downtown. This can be attributed to factors including stronger urban cores in Canada as well as a combination of history, culture, downtown population concentration and mix, investment priorities, and transit access when compared to most cities south of the border.” 
While Oakridge makes the most of B.C. malls at $1,579.00 per square foot, the lowest performing  B.C. mall in the top thirty, Coquitlam reaps $879.00 per square foot. Compare that with the early indicators from Tsawwassen Mills which used to be available on the Ivanhoe Cambridge site, showing a meagre $279.00 per square foot on retail space. 
You can take a look at the report available here on pedestrian traffic to shopping malls and other details. The Metro Vancouver region continues to have the highest average total sales productivity in Canada with $1,051 per square foot. It will be interesting to see how Tsawwassen Mills built on the most arable floodplain farmland in Canada, away from density and good transit will stack up next to Vancouver’s high performance more urban malls once the developer releases the sales per square foot statistics.
Without any official stats on Tsawwassen Mills Price Tags Vancouver is sharing a  youtube video by Ivanhoe Cambridge. The video features a bunch of similar looking men, no women, no diversity as talking heads describing the developer’s philosophy and how this 1.2 million square foot mall was designed and built. It’s worth noting that in this video the talking heads state that the mall will be the centre of the community which “will build around it”. Here’s hoping they will share  Tsawwassen Mills’ retail statistics soon. https://youtu.be/T12IGP5u2GA Read more »


In a pretty dramatic move to halt air pollution, The New York Times reports on China boldly ceasing the production of car models in China that do not meet fuel economy standards for the country. They stopped over 500 different car models effective January the 1st. This suspension impacted both domestic and foreign  automobile ventures, including partnerships with Volkswagen and Benz.
China produced 28 million vehicles in 2016 and also has scores of smaller-scale car factories. While there is some credence that this new policy  centralizes and consolidates the car industry,  “the measure pointed to a mounting willingness by China to test forceful antipollution policies and assume a leading role in the fight against climate change. The country, which for years prioritized economic growth over environmental protection and now produces more than a quarter of the world’s human-caused greenhouse gases, has emerged as an unlikely bastion of climate action after President Trump’s rejection of the Paris climate agreement.”
China is also providing incentives for power companies to operate more cleanly by creating the largest carbon market. While the Chinese government currently has bonuses to produce “clean energy” vehicles, these will be replaced by quotas for clean energy vehicles in 2020. When you have the biggest consumer demand for cars in the world, global automobile manufacturers  respond in a relatively positive way.  As Michelle Krebs an AutoTrader Group analyst observed ” “The simple fact that China is the biggest market means automakers will be accommodating“. China is now leading the way in auto emission policy, unlike the United States which is looking at relaxing tailpipe emission standards.
This YouTube video from CGTN from January 2017 shows that at that time only one in fifty cars in China were electric, and unfortunately portrays electric vehicles as “cheaper than taking transit”. It does illustrate how remarkable China’s new policy is in demanding the adaptation from automakers to clean energy vehicles in a relatively short time frame.
 
 

 

 
 
 

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Riding a bike that is not in a dedicated bike lane means you are accepting some element of risk but it also means that drivers must follow the Motor Vehicle Act and recognize that all active transportation users have the right to use the road. The Huffington Post reports on an unfortunate incident that has already garnered over three hundred comments by readers. An Ontario journalist named Alex Pierson was  driving to work and took a photo of  a cyclist arduously riding through slush ahead of her car. The journalist posted the photo on Facebook with the following admonishment~”You have to be a real knob to ride a bike on a day like this”.
Now when I first read this I could not understand what she meant, thinking that the cyclist was brave and prudently riding  in winter Ontario conditions. But the Ottawa Police tweeted back, clearly showing that the journalist was, well, being a knob. Responding to Ms. Pierson the Ottawa Police tweeted: “Bicycles have every right to be on the road all year round. For many, it’s their only mode of transportation. Give them room. If you don’t have room to give them at least 1 metre of distance, wait until you do before you go around them.”

Instead of using this as a learning opportunity to treat cyclists the same way she would treat other vehicles on the road and give them clearance and headway, Ms. Pierson  responded “ There is no room on the road when the snow isn’t cleared. That’s why it’s so foolish.

Kudos to the Ottawa Police for not taking any of this attitude and again reminding Ms. Pierson “There is room. You just have to wait for an opportunity to go around”.
It is pretty clear and the information is available on the Ottawa Police website that cyclists are to be given the same courtesy as any other vehicle, and that extra space should be given to them when there is slippery road conditions. They can also occupy any part of the lane. The surprise of this is that a journalist would leave these unfortunate tweets up and then challenge the Ottawa Police on what she believes is her rights as a motorist. But it again points out the need for increased education and enforcement for shared road space, and the desperate need for separated snow cleared bicycle facilities  to stay away from such enfranchised motorists that purport to be right.

 

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You may relate to this. In a Delta neighbourhood there is a  residential street that  is the shortest distance between two arterial roads, favoured by GPS apps, tradesmen and taxis and is a block shorter for arterial short-cutting  cars.There are no sidewalks, no indication that pedestrians are walking on the street which includes a blind corner on a hill with no pedestrian clearance. At 50 kilometers per hour the inevitable has happened, with high traffic volumes and speeds resulting in the killing of a neighbour’s dog, one transmission gutted on a front lawn and cars ending up in neighbours’ yards and through their hedges. Add in a few nearby “golf” communities where older seniors drive to services in their garaged polished cars at speed through this  residential street to get to an arterial. The fact it is a residential local  street and that short cutting should not be happening is not of interest to the GPS apps or drivers, and puts local walkers and cyclists  at risk.
Kudos to  Leonia New Jersey (across the Hudson River from New York City)  which realized that these “alternative routes” don’t just manifest themselves in driver behaviour, but are also suggested by services like Google Maps, Waze and Apple Maps. As the New York Times  notes these apps have resulted in traffic-choked towns where people have been circumventing traffic and choosing shorter routes due to GPS services.  And Leonia  has had enough: “In mid-January, the borough’s police force will close 60 streets to all drivers aside from residents and people employed in the borough during the morning and afternoon rush periods, effectively taking most of the town out of circulation for the popular traffic apps — and for everyone else, for that matter.”
 
“Without question, the game changer has been the navigation apps,” said Tom Rowe, Leonia’s police chief. “In the morning, if I sign onto my Waze account, I find there are 250,000 ‘Wazers’ in the area. When the primary roads become congested, it directs vehicles into Leonia and pushes them onto secondary and tertiary roads. We have had days when people can’t get out of their driveways.”
 
The Waze app uses crowd sourcing to update its information which has resulted in some neighbourhoods “fabricating accidents” to stop the flow of motorists using the app. While defending the app’s right to reroute vehicles from congested roads to residential streets, Waze also says it “shares free traffic data with municipal planners nationwide”, as if the good of more vehicle planning outweighs the rights of residents to the safe and comfortable use of their street. Indeed Waze says that if a road is “private” it will not be used by the app. How many “private streets” in your community?
Unlike other communities that have installed turn restrictions and speed humps, Leonia’s approach has been proactive against congestion and short cutting caused by apps. Residents will be issued special tags for their cars, and other users of the street will be fined $200 in the rush hours. The police department has notified the major traffic and navigation apps of the changes and fully intends to enforce local use of their streets. While other elements like traffic barriers or street closures are the more preferential way to keep traffic out, the approach taken is a policing one.  As the Chief of Police of Leonia says “It’s basically all or nothing . It’s a very extreme measure for very extreme traffic. Would I prefer not to do this? Of course. But I would rather try something and fail than not try anything.”

 

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Lloyd Alter in Tree Hugger has written about two completely avoidable accidents~one in Brooklyn and one in Toronto where bicyclists “lost control and fell under the wheels of a tractor-trailer”. Lloyd notes that in our “blame the vulnerable user” mentality we suggest that the cyclists may have  slipped, or have fallen or was somehow responsible for the lack of control ending their lives. But as Lloyd says “It is a sad coincidence, two cyclists just losing control like that. Bikes are pretty stable and safe. People who ride in December are usually the type of cyclists who ride all year and don’t just fall off their bikes.”
But in the Toronto fatality there was not a separated bike lane on that block, a clear design problem. And looking at the trucks involved in the fatalities, the cyclists went under the rear wheels of trucks that did not have side guards, which are required in most of the world but not in North America, where the industry fights them as being heavy and expensive. In Canada, the Minister of Transport just introduced new rules to make trucking safer, mandating stability control systems and logging devices, but not a peep about side guards.”
Why? “In New York City the need for them is recognized; Mayor de Blasio made them mandatory on all trucks — by 2024. (In the UK, cyclist deaths dropped 61 percent and pedestrian deaths 20 percent when they became mandatory.) They should be mandatory everywhere, and a lot sooner than 2024.”
Since 2015 London England has mandated that any truck operating in the City  MUST have side guards and large side mirrors on each side of the vehicle. Price Tags Vancouver has previously written about  the City of London going even further realizing that 50 per cent of all cycling mortalities and over 20 per cent of all pedestrian deaths result from  a certain kind of truck with poor sight lines/visibility from the truck cab. The statistics in three years pointed out that these  35,000 trucks operating with limited visibility from the cab were responsible for 70 per cent of cyclists deaths. These are largely construction trucks and the Mayor of London is banning them from London streets. With one simple change the City was made safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
And back to Canada~mandatory side guards on trucks  save lives.  As long as large trucks are sharing spaces with cyclists and pedestrians, we should be insisting that truck side guards be installed. As for the  pushback from the trucking association regarding the cost of side guards? In the Vision Zero world of road safety, the impact of restricting these vehicles from causing further mortalities is priceless. Let’s hope Canadian cities follow London’s lead.

 
 

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