War on Cars Watch for May 8, 2019

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! Check out the NMA’s War on Cars Watch Facebook Page where we feature a story a day!

NMA Communications Director Shelia Dunn compiles the list, with commentary from NMA Member Michael Jabbra (marked with an MJ). NMA Foundation Executive Director James C. Walker gives us his considerable wisdom at the end of this week’s list.

Editor’s Note: The next War on Cars Watch will be posted on May 22, 2019

Information from May 1-6, 2019

National

MJ: This is an interesting idea for making officers and civilians alike safer. And best of all, it doesn’t cost a lot or require more laws, rules, and regulations.

MJ: The author of this article has two good points – namely that not all laws are really about public safety, and that laws need to be updated sometimes – but then throws the baby out with the bathwater by suggesting that bikes need not stop at stop signs. When I’m riding my bike, I stop at stop signs and red lights because 1) it’s the law, and 2) it saves my life. Yes, it’s a little harder to get going again after stopping because you have to pedal, but I’d rather do that than get splattered across the road by blowing through a red light or stop sign. But of course, it’s always more fun for the anti-driving crowd to automatically blame the driver. Bikers and pedestrians are never at fault because their methods of transportation doesn’t emit carbon!

MJ: Yes, drugs should be legal and the drug war (and its bastard offspring, civil asset forfeiture) should end immediately. But let’s not mix driving with drugs or booze. I have no sympathy for impaired drivers.

International

California

MJ: I usually like Steve Lopez’s columns, but this one seems to have too much faith in technology (driverless cars).

MJ: In theory, this is a good idea, but the question is where to put the bike lanes without stealing road space from drivers and creating more congestion.

Colorado

District of Columbia

MJ: At least Washington D.C. already has a good subway system. Long ago, I spent four months there as an intern without a car. I got along okay.

Florida

Georgia

Illinois

Massachusetts

Maryland

Nevada

New York

North Carolina

Texas

Wisconsin

 

Commentary from NMA Foundation Executive Director James C. Walker

The AAA review of methods to set speed limits notes two criteria I want to comment on.

The Top reason for raising a limit is a change or changes in infrastructure, network, land use or road function (63%).  JCW – These are good reasons but they left out the most important reason of maximizing safety by matching the limit to the actual 85thpercentile speed of free flowing traffic under good conditions.

The top reason to lower a speed is receiving requests from the public to improve safety (76%).  JCW – This reason is totally invalid because so few members of the public have any technical knowledge of traffic safety engineering.

Transit ridership is falling in most areas for several reasons including: poor service, the rise of door-to-door services like Uber & Lyft, the low cost of driving today, and time.

Our counterpart group in Great Britain, the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD), addressed the Transport Committee on why the efforts to reduce traffic fatalities has stalled. They explained that the emphasis on for-profit enforcement is simply wrong and detracts from other efforts that would produce far better results. I and some other NMA members are in regular contact with members of the ABD to share ideas and knowledge.

I added this comment to the article on St. Petersburg embracing Complete Streets:

Taking travel lanes away from cars on busy collectors and arterials that carry the bulk of the commuting and shopping traffic that support commerce is a wrong-headed idea. 

Improving pedestrian crosswalks with better signage and lighting is a GOOD idea. Creating bike lanes on more minor streets roughly parallel to the high volume collectors and arterials is a GOOD idea. Advance pedestrian signals at downtown high pedestrian count intersections allowing pedestrians to start crossing before drivers get green lights is a GOOD idea. Pedestrian demand buttons on major collectors and arterials in areas with low pedestrian counts are a GOOD idea.

There are many ways to improve safety without choking off critical car traffic.

James C. Walker is a life member of the National Motorists Association. He is also a board member and executive director of the National Motorists Association Foundation.

Commentary from California Member Michael Jabbra

Let’s be honest: The anti-car drive (pun intended!!) has some basis in reality. That is to say, internal combustion engines really do pollute, although emissions have improved a lot over the past few decades. And congestion really is a problem in major cities, regardless of how the vehicles are powered. I know – I’ve wasted lots of time in Los Angeles traffic jams.

With that said, however, the solutions proffered by environmentalists and imposed by governments seems always to be punishment and coercion. It is not yet a crime to own and drive a vehicle; even the most fanatical “Vision Zero” acolyte knows that a frontal assault won’t work. So they chip away – a road diet here, lowered speed limits there, congestion charges (which are more likely to go to public employee retirement pensions rather than improved infrastructure and mass transit), telling apartment developers not to provide sufficient parking for all tenants (thereby forcing them to park in the street). The idea seems to be to make driving such an annoying experience that we will all throw our car keys out the window and walk and bike or take mass transit everywhere, singing Kumbaya. (Oh yes, there’s ride sharing too.)

This is unrealistic.

Some people have to drive their children to school, or to extracurricular activities such as games. Some people have to drive a long distance to their jobs; I was one of those unfortunates until a few months ago. Some people have cargo. For example, can a gardener carry a lawnmower in a bicycle basket, or drag it onto the bus? I don’t think so. And – big surprise – biking or walking become less attractive if it’s pouring rain, or excessively cold or hot. Furthermore, the mass transit systems don’t always go where people want to go. For example, I enjoy camping, fishing, hiking and off-road bicycle riding, sometimes in remote areas. The only way for me to get there is by driving my own car. (What? You want me to try ride-sharing? Cell phone service is unreliable or nonexistent in those areas, so I would be stuck. No thanks.)

The push for mass transit would be better if it just offered the mass transit as a choice. Instead, it’s about punishment for drivers (because of carbon emissions and congestion), and partly because ride-share companies, e-scooter companies, and mass transit public employee unions all want to capture drivers to keep themselves in business. Most of all, it’s about forcing people to depend on others for transportation instead of having one’s own individual transportation. We take this for granted because it’s existed for so long, but we should remember that having your own means to go anywhere, anytime is very empowering. Unfortunately, a lot of politicians, bureaucrats, activists, and professors believe in control rather than freedom.

My recommendation to policymakers (for what it’s worth, since I don’t have enough money to engage in the legalized bribery known as campaign financing) is to let people make their own choices. Some people might choose to drive. More people might take mass transit if it was safer and went where people want to go, when they want to go. Let people take ride-sharing instead of trying to discourage it. Some people might even choose different methods on different days, depending on their different needs. Bottom line: Leave people alone. It’s called freedom. That’s what the National Motorists’ Association is about: freedom to make your own driving choices.

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