Welcome to the War on Cars Watch, a weekly blog to bring together all the stories that affect motorists with regards to street planning such as road diets, and traffic calming as well as programs such as Vision Zero and Complete Streets.
Please read this blog and let us know what you think by commenting below!
Since the Watch was on vacation the Holiday Season the dates for this blog are from January 9-15, 2019.
Here are some National News Headlines concerning the War on Cars:
Bad news for motorists: Former NHTSA Chief Nicole Nason Nominated to Lead FHWA. Here is her bio from the NMA perspective:
On January 3, 2019, Nicole Nason, assistant secretary of the Bureau of Administration, was officially nominated to take on new posts to lead the Federal Highway Administration, where she would oversee surface transportation policy at a time when the U.S. Department of Transportation proceeds with initiatives related to autonomous vehicles and infrastructure funding. If confirmed, Nason would succeed Greg Nadeau at FHWA.
Prior to Nason’s stint at the State Department’s Bureau of Administration, she led the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration during the George W. Bush administration. At NHTSA, she helped lead the development of seat belt rules for school buses as well as the rulemaking for electronic stability control systems. She also was integral in the crafting of fuel-economy standards.
Also, as a member of the national board of Mothers against Drunk Driving, she championed highway safety and promoted strict law enforcement.
Two editorials this week on the news that bicycle commuting is down in most places:
- Editorial: Is the bike-lane fever breaking?, Boston Globe
- Viewpoint: The Death of Bike Commuting Has Been Greatly Exaggerated, Bicycling.com
There were a number of stories on the difficulties of Mobility as a Service:
- Ford axes its Chariot Shuttles, Proves Mobility is Hard, Wired.com
- Infrastructure Watch: Bird Quietly Ends a Much-Hyped Bike Lane Subsidy, USA Streetsblog.com
- Viewpoint: Uber and Lyft Don’t Reduce Cars. Transit Does, USA Streetsblog.com
- Transportation experts see Uber and Lyft as the future. But rural communities still don’t use them., Vox.com
- Are Uber & Lyft Really Keeping Drunk Drivers Off the Streets?, Milwaukee Magazine.com
Here is a story on shaming reporters for reporting the news about traffic accidents: Viewpoint: Six Ways the Media is Still Blaming the Victim (War on Cars Watch).
Federal Appeals Court: Not Need for Passenger ID in Traffic Stop in Arizona – Great News for auto privacy!
Lots of news this past week on how messed up the state’s DMV really is….Not only is REAL ID was not nationally certified like everyone thought who received a REAL ID starting last January, the new Governor could not even believe that the offices could not even take credit cards. Here are a few of the stories:
We are on the Vision Zero Watch:
- Opinion: 6 steps Berkeley, CA should take to make our streets safe for all people (Vision Zero Watch)
- Los Angeles targets 80 of its deadliest streets for possible road diets, intersections for Vision Zero projects
Two posts on the ongoing struggle between the new police transparency law and the state’ police unions:
- California police unions are preparing to battle new transparency law in the courtroom, Los Angeles Times
- California Police Fight To Stop New Law Releasing Their Misconduct Records, Reason.com
Attack on the 85th Percentile begins in the state legislature: California: New Bill (SB 127) Aimed At Safer State-Owned Roads, Highways for Pedestrians, and Bikes
California Commentary from NMA Member Michael Jabbra
My two cents on the California DMV: Yes, it’s true that they won’t take credit cards at their field offices. So I brought some cash – no big deal. Carrying cash isn’t hard. If you make an appointment online, they will see you at that time – but you might have to wait a few weeks for that appointment.
Regarding Vision Zero: Again, always blaming the drivers. I’ve driven on some of the streets mentioned here. Temple Street is already choked with traffic. However, almost every corner in downtown Los Angeles has a traffic light, with a marked crosswalk. In other words, there’s plenty of room for pedestrians to cross safely. Pacific Coast Highway and Temescal Canyon Road are also bad. Heck, most of PCH is bad for everyone’s safety. Taking away lanes there would make congestion even worse. Pedestrian barriers to prevent jaywalking might be the only solution there.
As for bicycle riders – they can try obeying the law. I see bicycle riders blow through stop signs and red lights regularly, but if they see a driver doing that, these hypocrites go bananas. Drivers, pedestrians, and bicycle riders alike would all do well to put down the phones and pay attention.
SB 127: State Senator Scott Weiner is at it again. Last year, it was a bill (SB 827) that would have taken zoning and building controls away from local neighborhoods so that high-rise buildings could be built near mass transit stops – as part of the plan to take us all out of our cars.
Some state highways in my area already have bicycle lanes and sidewalks. PCH – a state highway – doesn’t always have sidewalks; this is especially true in the Malibu area. As for bike lanes – again, that would mean taking lanes away from drivers. California state law already counts bicycles as vehicles, which means cyclists must obey the California Vehicle Code – just like drivers. This means they can ride in traffic lanes, without separate bicycle lanes. Where practical, drivers are obliged to give bicycles three feet of clearance when passing. The problem is that this is not always practical.
A final note: I am not knee jerk anti-bicycle. I have a bicycle. I enjoy riding. But I resent the notion that drivers are always wrong in traffic accidents (though sometimes they are), and I don’t think that major roads are meant for bicycles. Cyclists, try using side streets whenever possible; it’s safer for everyone involved. I do that. Furthermore, I resent the constant anti-vehicle push, whether it’s in the name of safety or reducing congestion or reducing pollution. Stop nudging people out of cars. Nudging has a way of becoming shoving at the policy level. Let people make their own choices – including the choice to drive all by themselves in internal-combustion vehicles!
Remember that toll mess in Florida last summer? Still not over: Florida: 7 months late Toll-By-Plate bills to show up in your mailbox
Yet another city that wants to mess with Parking in America: Indianapolis, IN City-County Council approves proposal to further restrict free parking hours
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is at it again furthering his agenda on the War on Cars: Boston Mayor pitches to state lawmakers a new tax on parking garages, solo trips on Uber, Lyft. In the meantime, the state has released its new Bicycle Plan with the idea of making all forms of transportation equal.
Detroit also came out with its rather ambitious Bicycle Plan last week as well.
Beware of what you write on Social Media about police stops (Even though everyone has the right to Freedom of Speech): New Hampshire: He Disparaged the Police on Facebook. So They Arrested Him. A similar incident happened in the last six months in Kentucky.
Some good news on Civil Asset Forfeiture: New Mexico Appeals Court Shuts down Car Confiscation Program
Some big trouble in NYC—the city had been preparing for the L-Train shutdown by building new bike lanes to accommodate new bike commuters. The Governor pulled the plug two weeks ago. Now, a fight has begun over the bike lanes that were put in place:
- NYC: Greenwich Village Residents Demand Removal of Bike Lanes since L-Train Shutdown is no more: City Council Speaker Corey Johnson Says He’s Willing to Listen
After this story ran, those very same bike lanes were vandalized.
Also, TransAlt is calling for a NYC Bike Tsar like London has.
Congestion Pricing for Manhattan is also often in the news:
- A better way to attack congestion: Before passing a charge on all who enter Manhattan’s central business district, address the root of the problem, Ubers and Lyfts
- Transportation mess is driving this brewery owner to drink. Congestion pricing would help get workers in and beer out
- Progressive pricing–The new Legislature ought to speed to a fair traffic-congestion fee
- New York: Congestion Pricing Has More Positive Momentum But Remains Uphill Battle in Albany
- NYC Editorial: Why I love congestion pricing but hate the taxi-Uber surcharge
Here is some good news for motorists though coming out of New York: Education, occupation no longer factors in New York State auto insurance rates
Why does it cost so much to make bike lanes? And why can’t projects correctly determine how much they will cost instead lowballing. This hurts all infrastructure projects.
Is Vision Zero Coming to Cincinnati, OH? City council member files motion for pedestrian safety program. This is the same council member who is pushing red-light cameras even though voters banned them over 10 years ago.
We thought the Federal Government was shut down. Apparently it is now when it comes to tolling: FHWA says Oregon’s tolling plans ‘likely’ eligible for approval
Not much to say on this except not surprised: In racially diverse 14th District, Philly police target black drivers 3 times more than whites, analysis shows
The PA Turnpike funding is in turmoil—much to do with the OOIDA and NMA lawsuit against it. Is chaos ahead for transportation funding in Pa.? | Opinion
This story really made us mad: Round Rock, Pflugerville may have to reimburse Texas DOT if frontage road is completed along SH 45 – The reason—the Private Public Partnership will lose money with the nearby toll road—Outrageous!
Great News for those who worked hard to not only get this question on the ballot but also worked hard to encourage voters to vote for better police transparency.
Here are some Headlines Internationally
- Fiat Chrysler reviews Italy plan after new taxes on polluting cars
- The Italian city of Bari will start paying people that cycle to work
- Zimbabwe fuel protests grow violent; gas prices now highest in the world
Commentary from NMA Foundation Executive Director James C. Walker
FHWA Nicole Nason as a board member of MADD may support reducing the BAC level for presumptive guilt to 0.05 which will make criminals of responsible social drinkers. It also tends to divert scarce enforcement and prosecutorial resources toward moderate alcohol users with a BAC of 0.05 to 0.07, drivers with little more risks of being in accidents than drivers with under 0.05. Something like 25% of the fatal accidents involve a driver with a BAC of 0.14 and higher. We should be focusing our scarce resources versus the drivers with the highest risks to get the best safety gains.
There are mixed results with bike commuting, up in some places but down in many others. Even in bike friendly cities, rarely do bicycle commuters make up 5% of the flow. The removal of lanes and other restrictions that negatively affect the overwhelming percentage of people that move by cars is simply not justified.
Uber, Lyft, and other ride share systems are perhaps an example of “Be careful what you ask for, you might get it.” Cities have found they do not reduce total vehicle traffic and in many cases they increase the total, by providing timely door-to-door transport.
Pedestrian advocates vigorously deny the NHTSA data that over 60% of pedestrian fatalities involve actions by the pedestrians that materially increased their risks. Safety is a JOINT responsibility for all groups – pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. It is NOT – as some pedestrian advocates claim – only the responsibility of vehicle drivers.
Vision Zero is an absolutely impossible goal unless there is no interchange between vehicles versus pedestrians & cyclists AND all vehicles are restricted to perhaps a 15 mph actual speed under all circumstances. The program is being exploited to reduce peoples’ freedom of travel in vehicles and/or to increase enforcement revenue. It is important for people who value the freedom of travel to speak out locally whenever significant restrictions of any kind are proposed. Look for these pressures to increase.
On the new California bill SB 127, the devil is always in the details. NO ONE objects to well-marked & well-lit crosswalks and proper sidewalks wherever pedestrian volumes justify them. The problems arise when vehicle lanes that are usually serving 90+% of the total traffic flow are taken away to serve well under 10% or even less than 5% of the flow travelling by bicycle on the main collector and arterials streets that are vital for commerce. Strangling commerce is NOT the right answer.
Hopefully Indianapolis businesses will strongly object to the new parking restrictions – especially with the revenue to be dedicated to an unrelated issue.
Montana’s proposal to end license suspensions for non-driving offenses and the proposals in many states to end or restrict license suspensions for the inability to pay high fines and fees need to be supported. Draconian license suspensions for drivers who are not a danger on the roads is effectively the same as putting them in Debtors Prisons. But Debtors Prisons are a despicable practice that civilized societies ended over a century ago.
The attackers of West Village Bike Lanes should be prosecuted. The place to fight for these issues is at city councils – NOT by endangering anyone.
It is bold of a Cincinnati council member to propose bringing back red-light cameras after they were voted out. Ticket camera rackets have lost 37 of 41 votes so far.
The NMA & OOIDA lawsuit versus the Pennsylvania Turnpike is having effects around the state with venues that depend upon part of the $450 million a year the state steals from Turnpike revenues. But even Governor Wolf admitted in a public interview that the tolls are way too high on the Turnpike. Tolls could be cut by about half without the $450 million a year being stolen by the state for unrelated projects.