Shirley Gonzales made no secret of her views on transportation when she ran for the San Antonio City Council in 2013. She laid them out in her answer to a questionnaire: “pedestrians first, followed by cycling, public transportation and private automobiles, in that order.” Gonzales promoted this agenda even though she was running in a city where fewer than 2 percent of commuters walk to work.A few months later, after she’d won the election, the tales of some of her constituents drove the issue home. Most prominent was the story of Sharon Ledesma, a 28-year-old single mother who was crossing a four-lane street one night when a car switched lanes and veered toward her and her two children. Ledesma managed to push the children out of the way. Dominic, who was 11 at the time, and Mallory, who was 8, survived but had serious injuries. Both had broken bones and were on crutches for weeks. Ledesma, however, did not make it. She was declared brain dead at the hospital. The next day, after her kids had a chance to say goodbye, her family took her off life support.Gonzales began to hear from other San Antonio families. The city had one of the highest pedestrian death rates in the country. In fact, 373 pedestrians had died in the metropolitan area over the previous decade. And Gonzales’ own district, largely poor and Hispanic, had some of the most dangerous streets, especially Culebra Road, the arterial where Ledesma died. That four-lane road shares many of the characteristics of other deadly stretches for pedestrians: Cars traveling near the speed limit of 40 mph pass between modest homes and retail outlets, while pedestrians walk along sidewalks separated from the traffic by only a low curb for as much as half a mile between crosswalks.
In the battle of cars versus raised bike lanes, the cars just won a small battle in San Francisco.The city had planned on installing a two-inch raised, mountable lane on a section of Polk Street, where, on average, cars hit one cyclist and one pedestrian every month. But now it’s scrapped that plan in favor of a more traditional lane, which will be protected with soft-hit posts.The switch comes after San Francisco evaluated its first, experimental raised lane on downtown’s Market Street. The lane proved challenging to some cyclists since it debuted in late 2015; at least two collisions occurred (one resulting in a “major injury”) when people tried to roll up onto the path. But the main issue was the raised lane just wasn’t keeping cars away, as evident in angry social-media posts about police cars and a delivery truck blocking cyclists’ right of way.The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency says it believes lanes in these kinds of heavily commercialized corridors should be protected with a line of parked cars (something Oakland recently did, with varying success). But since that’s not possible on Polk, it will have plastic barriers sticking up from a buffer zone, as depicted on the right:
Amazing things happen to a city once people are encouraged to switch to bike commuting: the air quality improves throughout the city, which benefits everyone, not just cyclists. Quieter roads are more pleasant roads to be around, and they’re less congested for those who still insist on driving. And of course riding a bike every day brings all kinds of health benefits to the cyclists themselves.A new study from researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health shows just how big those benefits can be. Per dollar spent, constructing bike lanes is a cheap way to improve public health. For instance back in 2005, New York City spent $10 million on curbing traffic as part of the federally-funded Safe Routes to School program. Sidewalks were widened, bike lanes constructed, and traffic lights re-phased to suit pedestrians. The “net societal benefit” of these changes? The study’s authors estimate it to be $230 million.
One of the most common issues facing public transit riders is the “last kilometre” problem. While rapid transit is frequent, not all of the bus or streetcar routes leading from the stations are, so the final part of a commuter’s journey is often a long wait or a long walk… which can be made easier by bicycle. Bike Share and more bicycle parking in new condos and office towers are already helping to alleviate the last kilometre problem, and now the TTC is making hybrid commutes easier too. New self-service bicycle repair station and parking at Rosedale Station, image by Jack LandauThis week, 20 new self-service bicycle repair stations and six larger bike parking facilities were installed at stations on Toronto’s subway network, giving cyclists a means of storing and repairing their bikes during commutes. The installation of this new cycling infrastructure follows the September 2015 installation of 10 initial bike repair stations, and delivers on a promise made in the TTC’s 2016 Customer Charter.
The battle to reduce traffic fatalities may have hit a roadblock after showing impressive results over the past several years. The latest federal estimates show an 8 percent uptick in traffic deaths over the first half of 2015 compared to the prior year. While the projection covers a short time period, it’s the highest first-half tally since 2009.Traffic safety advocates point to two main factors behind the increase. One is the improving economy, as Americans are traveling more. The other likely culprit is the wide variance in state laws that, according to advocates, aren’t doing nearly enough to curb fatalities.When the economy took a downturn, so too did traffic deaths. But economic recoveries generally coincide with higher fatality rates because families have more discretionary income, take extra vacations and travel more on weekends. Parents also tend to purchase more cars for teenagers, who face the highest risk of accidents.
Source: Why Are Traffic Deaths Rising?