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.
This blog will give you highlights of the week’s stories and commentary from our NMA Foundation Executive Director James C. Walker (is below) and California NMA Member Michael Jabbra (in italics spread throughout and marked MJ). Please read this blog and let us know what you think by commenting below!
**Editor’s Note—this post is longer than usual because we are covering the past two weeks due to the Thanksgiving Holiday.
Governing.com dedicated part of the December magazine to parking minimums in America: Why Cities Don’t Care Anymore about how hard it is to Find Parking
MJ: In other words, cities don’t care about residents or visitors trying to find parking because developers bought off public officials with large campaign contributions. You can be sure that the developers don’t live in those areas!
It is now chic in urban planning to think that everyone is single, lives in a shoebox in the inner city, and commutes via ridesharing or mass transit. Not every city is like Washington D.C., and not everyone wants to live that way, although some do. News flash: Diversity isn’t just skin color or sexual preference. It’s much more. Some of us like living in suburbs and like driving. Get used to it.
New study out: Car Culture Cements Suburban Unsustainability (guess who funded this one?)
Another study we probably did not need: Walmart and Fast Food Sites pose High Risk to Pedestrians
Opinion piece that has us shrugging our shoulders: AVs and Ride-sharing will shrink car ownership, but mainly in cities
The European Answer to School Drop-Off Chaos—close the street to cars in front of the school before and after school. This is the ultimate traffic calming and quite frankly just pushes the drop off to someplace even less safe.
One of the biggest stories in the past two weeks: Camp Fire in Butte County
First an opinion piece was posted in a small newspaper in the Camp Fire area that had the title:
- 2015 Paradise downtown street project reducing 4 lanes to 2, may have created dangerous evacuation bottleneck during the California Camp Fire Evacuation
- Then, the Los Angeles Times did its own story: Paradise narrowed its main road by two lanes despite warnings of gridlock during a major wildfire
MJ: Narrowing roads for “traffic calming” might impede evacuations or emergency responses? Who knew?
Here are some other stories from California:
- Encinitas: Highway 101 Development Project (i.e. Traffic Calming) hits a Roadblock
- Los Angeles County: Currently studying how to find harmony among Bird Scooters, Cars and Pedestrians (what about bicycles?)
- San Diego: Uber drops 300 Electric bikes. Will they last?
- San Fernando Valley: Los Angeles is rolling out a plan to make Reseda Boulevard safer for pedestrians and cyclists (Traffic Calming)
District of Columbia
One of the worst cities to drive in anywhere—the city is exploring reversible lanes and bike lanes on Connecticut Avenue—Yikes!
MJ: I was an intern for a few months in Washington D.C. over ten years ago. D.C. is choked in traffic, but at least the subway system is very well developed; it covers more than the L.A. system. Of course, Washington D.C. is more compact than Los Angeles.
Two contrasting stories about St. Petersburg bike lanes:
- City continues to work on road diet along Martin Luther King Street North
- New bike lanes beckon riders, but many prefer sidewalks
Some good news—Athens-Clarke County Commissioners apparently are having second thoughts about bike lanes in their area
Chicago drivers have had some confusion with the new traffic calming pedestrian islands in Ravenswood Manor—caused a number of accidents and was particularly difficult during the recent snow storm. For some reason, the city did not put up any signs to indicate they had changed the character of the street. Oops!
Two articles from Oak Park, a Chicago suburb:
- Editorial: Road diet benefits on Madison will likely be minimal (then why do it?)
- The city is testing steel rail bump outs for pedestrian islands before they put the more permanent concrete ones in for traffic calming.
Here is a well-written opinion piece from Worcester: Politics and the City: Brakes on speeding with proposed 25 mph limit in Worcester. The city is also thinking about lowering speed limits to a default 25.
Bethesda Magazine posted an editorial about Montgomery County: Pedestrian Safety remains a Challenge under Vision Zero.
As an out shoot of its Complete Streets Program, Kalamazoo has asked the state’s DOT to allow the city to gain control over its busy streets.
The city of Lincoln has released its 144-mile on-street cycling plan and would like residents to comment.
Under the Vision Zero Banner, the city of Charlotte is considering lowering speed limits and making easier for residents to request (and receive) neighborhood speed bumps.
City of Portland Officials have announced how they plan to grow downtown without adding cars.
Harrisburg plans to remove two traffic lanes on State Street and add protected bike lanes. Officials claim this is one of the most dangerous streets in America—narrowing streets and restricting the flow of car traffic could make matters worse.
Arlington County wants to contraflow bike lanes (bikes would ride against the flow of traffic in an unprotected lane at the side). Officials think this will save lives and travel time but it is still illegal in the state.
Unpopular Opinion: You can live in Seattle without a Car, you just don’t want to
Whatcom County (Bellingham) Struggles to Meet ‘Target Zero” Goals.
Mobility as a Service (bike and scooter shares)
From Governing.com: Scooters are everywhere and what should cities do about it?
Medium.com posted this story: Tiny Vehicles and the New Safety in Numbers
New York: NYC might legalize motorized scooters and their sharing. City council members are introducing bills to put these Mobility as a Service machines on the streets.
Uber launched 300 bikes in Seattle for a new try at a bike share scheme.
Commentary from NMA Foundation Executive Director James C. Walker
Many car-hater groups think car ownership and use can be accomplished by making it more and more inconvenient to own, park, and use cars in metro areas. They ignore the fact that a downtown apartment or condo dweller has critical needs to use the car to go AWAY from the downtown areas where they live, work and shop most of the time.
DUH on the Walmart “study” – where more people walk there will be more pedestrian incidents. Can I have the fee the researchers got?
Several cities are discovering that ride-sharing programs INCREASE congestion, so there might be less car ownership but MORE car usage.
Fifty years ago, most kids walked or biked to school. Today it is a minority, 15% by one study. And we ask why we have a child obesity problem with this effect and their staring at tiny screens for a large portion of the day.
Many places like British Colombia want to have all cars be electric. It is a total pipe dream until the range and charging time issues are solved so the cars are as usable as ones with gas or diesel.
Paradise should NEVER have reduced lanes on a critical evacuation route – it killed people.
Traffic calming by choking down major collector and arterial routes like CA Hwy 101 or Martin Luther King in St. Pete Florida is almost never justified. The negatives outweigh the positives, including diversion of frustrated drivers onto smaller streets never designed to carry high traffic loads.
I have driven several reversible-lane arterials in the DC area and they work pretty well because most of the rush hour traffic are regular users. Adding bike lanes to those arterials would be a BAD idea.
The IIHS (Insurance Institute for Higher Surcharges) proved our point with their study in Boston after speed limits were dropped from 30 to 25 mph with a MASSIVE decrease in actual speeds of 0.0 mph. Now they want to go to 20? Perhaps they want to have 90% in non-compliance instead of about 50%. Can you say the term “speed trap”? At least Worcester is questioning the non-functional idea of just painting lower numbers on the signs for no real change in travel speeds.
Many “Zero Vision” cities seek changes that are either useless to safety or even negative. $ome of the change$ like lower $peed limit$ have obviou$ rea$on$ for the citie$ and tho$e rea$on$ do NOT include safety.
The Harrisburg plan to choke down State Street is getting push back from PennDOT because it would almost certainly cause massive congestion and diversion during rush hours.
Seattle is a huge, sprawling metro area. The thought that many people would work, shop, and find leisure activities ONLY in their very local area is idiotic. I have visited relatives there and we needed to travel well beyond easy walking, biking or transit routes for things we wanted to do.
The profusion of motorized scooters in many cities have caused dilemmas for officials. How should they be controlled, where should they be kept, who is responsible for safety, are they motor vehicles, are they equivalent to bikes, do riders need a license, etc., etc. Nobody has good solutions yet.