Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Rephrase the Problem

Einstein’s Secret to Amazing Problem Solving's first step is to rephrase the problem;
Words carry strong implicit meaning and, as such, play a major role in how we perceive a problem. In the example above, ‘be productive’ might seem like a sacrifice you’re doing for the company, while ‘make your job easier’ may be more like something you’re doing for your own benefit, but from which the company also benefits. In the end, the problem is still the same, but the feelings — and the points of view — associated with each of them are vastly different.

I've been struggling to talk about transportation without using the tired old bikes vs. cars terminology. For me this isn't about bike vs. cars. It's about everyone reaching their transportation goals and getting to their destination (or just enjoying themselves in the process)

With this in mind, I like the term "active transportation" for all modes of non-motorized travel. I'm sure I'm going to be adding to my list of terms as I work through this blog.

Cyclists ‘Risk Death’ by Obeying Traffic Lights -- Should Bikes and Motorized Vehicles be Subject to the Same Laws?

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In an earlier post I made reference to a finding that cyclists who obey traffic lights are more likely to be killed or maimed.

There are many thought provoking findings in the study. The question going through my mind is if motorized vehicles and non-motorized vehicles should be subject to the same laws.

The study found:
Women cyclists are far more likely to be killed by a lorry because, unlike men, they tend to obey red lights and wait at junctions in the driver’s blind spot....It suggests that some cyclists who break the law by jumping red lights may be safer...There is something wrong if the only way you can survive on a bike is to skip the lights.

It is easy to lump motorized and non-motorized vehicles into the same bucket, however, this study, and casual observations, states that there is a big difference between a cyclist and, lets say, a 16-wheeler. The difference comes down to a non-motorized vehicle's vulnerability to damage and a motorized vehicle's potential to cause damage.

Stop signs and traffic lights are designed to slow down traffic--because of it's potential to cause damage--and allow pedestrians and other traffic to safely cross. Non-motorized vehicles are subjected to laws that were designed for much more dangerous vehicles, but the laws do not sufficiently protect the vulnerable vehicles from the much more dangerous ones.

The apparent answer is no-- non-motorized vehicles should not be subject to the same laws designed for motorized vehicles.

Problems Solving Strategies

While surfing the net I ran across this interesting post titled "Einstein’s Secret to Amazing Problem Solving" I know, I know, the title is bloghype...but the content is pretty interesting nonetheless. I'm going to use the suggested steps to help guide me through my journey to fix Market Street.

1. Rephrase the Problem
2. Expose and Challenge Assumptions
3. Chunk Up
4. Chunk Down
5. Find Multiple Perspectives
6. Use Effective Language Constructs
7. Make It Engaging
8. Reverse the Problem
9. Gather Facts
10. Problem-Solve Your Problem Statement

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Traffic Counting Dodad

Snapped the picture of this guy with his fancy dodad Thursday afternoon at mission and 2nd street.


Shared Places....A Possible Solution?


We've discovered that cyclists don't follow laws and that cars don't follow laws either.

Well, what's the solution then?

I found this clip from NPR's Talk of the Nation. The topic is Shared Spaces-- or making changes to streets so users self regulate the changes you're looking for. They discuss removing traffic signs, stop signs, lights, curbs, and instead of separating spaces letting ordinary human interactions--and human communication--govern. It is also noted that you can use texture, materials, landscaping, and street furniture to give ques on expected behavior.

Listen to the clip and leave a comment if you think this will or will not work on market street.

Cars Don't Follow Traffic Laws Either


In my last post I discussed a study finding cyclists disobeying traffic laws. Anyone who's ever been on the road knows that cars don't obey traffic laws either. Wired covered a study by Purdue University on this exact subject

The article says;
[Mannering's] study of 988 drivers, published in next month's Transportation Research Part F (subscription), found 21 percent of [motor vehicle drivers] think it's perfectly safe to exceed the speed limit by 5 mph. Forty-three percent saw no risk in going 10 mph over and 36 percent say there's no harm driving 20 mph over the speed limit.

What makes that especially dangerous, Mannering said, is when the speed limit actually reflects the safest traveling speed and people still exceed it. That, he said, creates a dangerous situation where some people are following the speed limit and others are zipping past them when they absolutely shouldn't be. As anyone who has ever watched a cement truck merge in front of a speeding sports car can tell you, having two vehicles traveling at wildly different speeds on the same road can be quite risky.

This situation is exacerbated when you throw bikes and pedestrians into the mix, and, in my experince, is one of the main dysfunctions of market street. Motor vehicle divers are frustrated by cyclists, buses, pedestrians, and frequent traffic stops. Instead of waiting behind slower road users many drivers whip passed and cut off people in their quest to get to the next traffic light before everyone else.

On my previous post I said that you can't expect cyclists to follow rules that don't make sense for them. The same goes for motor vehicle drivers. Market street needs to be designed in a way that considers-- and makes sense to all users. As we've seen, laws and enforcement do not solve the problems.

NYC Sudy Finds That, "Cyclists Disobey Traffic Laws"


According to the study;

# Nearly 57 percent of the cyclists observed failed to stop red lights.
# About 13 percent of cyclists (and a quarter of cyclists under the age of 14) were observed riding against traffic.
# Almost 13 percent of cyclists (and more than half of cyclists under the age of 14) were observed riding on sidewalks.
# Nearly 14 percent of cyclists did not use a designated bike lane when one was available.
# Only 36 percent of cyclists wore helmets. About half of female riders wore helmets, compared with just about one-third of the males. Nearly half of the children under the age of 14, and nearly three-quarters of commercial cyclists — like messengers and delivery workers — did not wear a helmet, even though the law requires that both groups use helmets.

The article quotes the author of the study saying the findings “troubling” and “disturbing.” Going to say that, "greater adherence to these traffic laws would help to reduce reports of “conflicts between cyclists and motorists,” and "better training of both drivers and cyclists and the incorporation of bike-safety lessons in school curriculums."

Better education might alleviate the some of symptoms, but statement from Wiley Norvell identified that problem is motorized vehicle-centric planning and design. A study from London tells us that, "Women cyclists are far more likely to be killed by a lorry because, unlike men, they tend to obey red lights and wait at junctions in the driver’s blind spot, according to a study."

Unlike the author of the study, I don't find the results surprising at all. Traffic laws and transportation planning have mostly been develop without consideration for cyclists. It will be a hard time trying to get a road users to follow rules that not only don't make sense, but also put them in danger.

(oh, and I wonder if New York Times purposely chose to use a photo with a truck parked in bike lane or if they didn't even notice the infraction.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Market Street Action Plan

The Market Street Action Plan was approved by the MTA in 2004 and never implemented.
Link (Warning: large .PDF)

Letter to the Editor

Editor - The map included Saturday's cover story about the increase in bicyclists and pedestrians being injured or killed by vehicles draws attention to how dysfunctional market street is. The majority of problem intersections are on market street between 8th and Embarcadero highlighting the fact that Market Street does not function for vehicle, pedestrians, or cyclists. Howard and Folsom work very well for moving traffic, but there is no corridor for cyclists and pedestrians to get down town. Bicycle ridership on Market Street increased 30% between 2007 and 2008 so we have a great opportunity to make Market Street more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. Supervision Daly was on the right track with his recommendation to ban or significantly limit private motor vehicles on Market street. It's also time to rethink the 15 Muni lines running down Market Street. A type of Market Street shuttle would make sense to mitigate congestion.

In addition to being dysfunctional, Market Street is embarrassing. Despite the fact that is the spine of the downtown corridor, neighborhood, city sites, and a major tourist hub, it has been ignored by City Hall and planners for years. The street hasn't been paved for over a decade, and pedestrians and bicyclists utilizing the street are treated like second class citizens — it's no picnic for motorists either. It's time to close the street to vehicles that don't need to be there and reclaim the street for people to use and enjoy. Other cities have closed key avenues to great success — Denver, Minneapolis, and Santa Monica to name a few.


Spike in S.F. traffic deaths, injuries

Saturday, November 15, 2008 the Chronicle reports:

The number of pedestrians and bicyclists injured on the streets of San Francisco spiked in 2007, and overall traffic-related deaths jumped more than 40 percent from the year before, according to new data from the California Highway Patrol.

Map of most dangerous intersections: