Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Videos: Transit Activity in Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, NYC, and LA.

So I managed to get a flu or cold or something on Christmas Day so I'm home sick from work. Here's what's keeping me entertained: 

Friday, December 21, 2012

On being a pedestrian

In the last few weeks, Metro Vancouver was confronted with the sad reality that our streets are hostile environments to people where, within a short period of time, more than 5 people were struck by vehicles. A Vancouver Police Department spokesperson said, almost too bluntly as to imply it was business as usual, that multiple pedestrians are struck daily. This is unacceptable.

There should be no debate: our streets must be safe for all users. We can go back and forth over who's to blame for certain accidents but it's usually the pedestrian or cyclist that ends up hurt or worse, dead. Our way of thinking focuses blame on the minority road users for not following the rules or, more ridiculously, not wearing 'safety' gear when out for a walk at night. Blame the victim has to stop. No one deserved to be killed or maimed by a car. We live with a transportation system that favours automobile travel over all other modes. Human nature doesn't change with the mode that you choose but when one drives, the results are often more deadly

The Vancouver Police Department seems to think that the status quo is fine but perhaps pedestrians should wear reflective arm bands. This week, I personally had an incredulous experience with the VPD: Walking North on Burrard Street, I tried to cross 3rd avenue and a driver was trying to turn right onto Burrard and was slowly coasting forward, blocking the crosswalk, while only looking over his left shoulder the entire time. I stood at the curb and waved to get the driver's attention to show him that I was there. He didn't see me so I tapped his windshield with my umbrella handle and he still didn't hear or see me. I waved again more vigorously and he finally saw me and let me cross. A VPD cruiser going South on Burrard stopped and the officer rolled down his window and told me to approach. They put on their lights and I walked INTO the street with car traffic. He got out of the car and then escorted me back to the sidewalk where he told me that touching cars will get me a charge of mischief. I didn't say anything to the officer and he eventually let me continue on my way to work after a short lecture on how I should yield to the car.

Walking is one of the most natural things that humans do. We shouldn't restrict or criminalize being a pedestrian. What we really need to do is tame the bull. For those of you that think there's a war on the car, pedestrians are not on the winning side. Between 2005 and 2011, pedestrians accounted for 56% of Vancouver's traffic fatalities. ICBC data has been compiled into a map to show you where Vancouver's deadliest places for pedestrians are:

Believe it or not, we have a solution that prevents deaths and doesn't require people to stop driving: lower the speed limits. The BC government knows this:

Reducing Speed Reduces the Effects of Impact

Reducing the effects of vehicle impact is possible by maintaining a safe driving speed. By driving at a safe speed, you have more time to react and more distance for braking.
Ideally, you want your speed at impact to be zero (or better yet: no impact at all). However, in order for the vehicle to decelerate to zero, it needs to travel through the stopping distance. Stopping distance takes into account the road conditions, your reaction time, the distance between your vehicle and possible point of impact, and the speed of the vehicle. You do have control of your speed.
  • A pedestrian hit at 30km/h has a 90% chance of SURVIVING.
  • A pedestrian hit at 50km/h has an 80% chance of BEING KILLED.
At least this way, if you want to blame the victim, they'll be alive for you to do it.