War on Cars Watch for November 1, 2018

Welcome to the first edition of this new weekly blog only on the National Motorists Association’s website!

The National Office has seen an escalation over the last 6 months on the war on cars, which is really on motorists. This blog will give you highlights of the week’s stories and commentary from NMA Foundation Executive Director James C. Walker and California NMA Member Michael Jabbra.  Please read this blog and let us know what you think by commenting below!

The headlines will be in alphabetical state order after the national focus with an international focus at the end.

National

Probably one of the more interesting editorials this past week came from the head of the National Automobile Dealers Association: NADA Study: No Sign of the Personal Vehicle Ownership Apocalypse.

Ridesharing companies’ number one goal (we think even before making a profit) is replace car ownership. For some reason, Uber thinks they can do that with Jump Bikes.

Some are now saying that Electric Cars may not even be good enough in reducing vehicle emissions. Others believe that since climate change has no bearing on whether someone drives solo or not, perhaps behavioral modeling will.

California

A personal injury class action lawsuit has begun in California over the dangers of E-Scooters. With the variety of laws on E-Scooters (whether they can be used on sidewalks or bike lanes or streets), this is indeed a traffic safety issue.  Rideshare companies primary move is to get rid of cars and replace them with car, bicycle, scooter rideshares.

In Los Angeles, road diets (reducing lanes and kicking out street parking for bike lanes) are starving small businesses according to the LA Daily News.

The city of Los Angeles city council wants WAZE to stop giving motorists short-cuts through neighborhoods. This should be an interesting tug-of-war between company/motorist rights vs. neighborhood rights.

A San Francisco editorial insists that Uber and Lyft must work with the city to ease traffic congestion.  Indeed, since they are much of the problem, they need to help with the solution (and it’s not scooters either).

San Francisco pushes for a trail of Valencia Street becoming car-free 24/7. Building a road diet on Embarcadero began last week.

Colorado

The increasing number of car crashes complicates Boulder, Colorado’s march toward Vision Zero. The NMA maintains that even though the goal of zero deaths is admirable, the program is financially unsustainable.

Washington, D.C.

The same thing is happening in our nation’s capital.  As traffic deaths rise, officials propose more bike lanes and slower speeds.  Instead they should work to make the traffic flow more smoothly with better intersections. Throwing more money at this problem is not the answer. Officials are promising to double the 10 miles of protected lanes by 2024—bicycle advocates complain this new program is lackluster.

Georgia

Atlanta Bicycle Coalition is fighting with the city to keep the “Complete Streets” project in the Renew Atlanta plans. Complete Streets partnered with Vision Zero proponents last year.  This is another program that has over 1000 US cities involved that is ultimately too expensive to maintain.

Louisiana

New Orleans bike lanes are angering the business owners on Baronne Street–again.

Massachusetts

The city of Burlington has changed its policy so that the city can apply for Complete Streets MassDOT grant money. Ninety-five towns have already had projects approved.

Cambridge and Watertown have begun testing a shared bus/bike lane along the Mount Auburn corridor. Are those two modes of transportation compatible?

North Carolina

Vision Zero is the reason Charlotte has given on why the city wants to reduce speed limits all over. The NMA maintains that the best way to keep all road users safe is maintain traffic flow at the 85th percentile. Reducing speed limits will just be another way for the city to police for profit.

Durham is working on a plan to “nudge” drivers out of their cars.

New York

New bike lanes are coming to Staten Island’s East Shore.

Oregon

A recent study in Portland found that E-Scooter riders were not bicycle riders. Some Portland businesses have also indicated support for kicking cars off the Transit Mall.

Pennsylvania

Philadelphia released their one year update to their Vision Zero Plan.

Washington State

A new coalition has formed in Seattle called Move All Seattle Sustainably. In a letter to the city, MASS is pushing the city council for a deeper investment in Seattle’s transit plan and budget. They are particularly not happy with the insufficient investment in Vision Zero. They are also concerned with what city planners are calling the “period of maximum constraint,” or the time when multiple road and construction projects will come all at once grinding the city to a halt. Depending on when that is of course, alt-transportation won’t be enough in our estimation.

In the ongoing 35th Avenue Northwest road diet fiasco, the city has hired a mediator to work with those who support and oppose the project. There have been death threats, vandalism and now the two sides are arguing over the mediator. Opponents of the road diets have now registered a political-action committee with a citywide agenda, indicating more fights in other parts of the city could be on their way.

International Scene

Canada

Saskatoon is buying into the “speed kills” rhetoric and is thinking of lowering speed limits citywide.

France

A great deal has been going on in France lately. The Legislative body approved the cities’ use of congestion pricing to reduce traffic congestion. Might reduce congestion in the short term but long term congestion pricing is not a good solution because it restricts the flow of goods and services and increases the prices for hard working people.

A city court has ruled that Paris can keep their car ban along the Seine Quay. This now allows the three kilometer road next to the Seine River can now be used exclusively by pedestrians and cyclists. This plan was a major victory for the mayor but not one for motorists since was heavy use thoroughfare through Paris.

Paris is also one of four international cities that asked automakers this week to stop making gas-burning cars after a World Health Organization study was issued.

Germany

Deutsch Welle posted this editorial: The War on Automobiles is a War on Freedom.

Commentary from NMA Foundation Executive Director James C. Walker

The groups that are trying to drastically reduce car use fail or refuse to recognize the most important elements of travel in our personal cars. It is private, comfortable, faster, unlimited in times of travel, unlimited in destinations, facilitates multiple stops on one trip, facilitates carrying items for work & shopping purchases, and is often more cost effective than paying for transit.

More cycling can be an answer for SOME people, but most will not agree to travel that way in four season weather, carrying items for work or shopping, and continue to do so at older ages.

Road Diets and other forms of car-hater traffic calming are heavily pushed by the well organized and vocal pedestrian and cyclist lobbies. The NMA and other groups that understand the benefits of private cars will continue to cause cars to be the mode of travel for over 80% of trips need to better combat the minorities trying to choke off car travel on our main urban collector and arterial streets.

The Uber & Lyft effects are a clear example of “be careful what you wish for, you might get it“. In many big cities, using these services will increase congestion because they are convenient for short trips into downtowns so they can increase the total number of vehicles on the road. In some cities, Uber & Lyft are lobbying for congestion fees which they would pay ONCE per plate number while being able to make unlimited numbers of trips into the congestion zones.  It is a scam.

It is totally unrealistic in cities to have the main collector & arterial streets operate at the actual low travel speeds of low volume neighborhood subdivision streets – it will strangle commerce. Cities need to make travel on these main collectors & arterials smooth and efficient, and use other methods to help protect pedestrians and cyclists. Advance pedestrian walk signals help. Putting bike lanes on more minor streets that are roughly parallel to the collectors & arterials works well. Many European cities put marked bike lanes on sidewalks to separate cyclists from both vehicle traffic and pedestrians.

Vision Zero is really Zero Vi$ion in many places with high profit motives for using ineffective enforcement methods and improper traffic safety engineering to produce profits, not safety.

Our “friends” (not !) at the IIHS made the point for us proving that just lowering speed limits does not work.  In their study in Boston with limits lowered from 30 mph to 25, the mean speeds before and after were 24.8 mph and the 85th percentile speeds before and after were 31.0 for a MASSIVE reduction in actual speeds of 0.0 mph.  The tortured text claimed safety gains, but improving safety with a reduction in the actual travel speeds of 0.0 mph is utter nonsense.

Some European countries and cities seem willing to accept drastic and dictatorial reductions in freedom of travel by car.  We should NOT accept this in the USA, where we have a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” — NOT one “of the bureaucrats, by the bureaucrats, and for the bureaucrats“.

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.

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Leave a Comment

3 Responses to “War on Cars Watch for November 1, 2018”

  1. Shane Turner says:

    This really has nothing to do with this topic but I wonder if this might be the case of you had a speed limit of 85 mph for 75 miles of rural Nevada and another 75 miles speed limit posted as reasonable and prudent. Would you think that the 85th, 90th, and 95th percentile speeds would be close to the same regardless whether the speed limit is 85 or reasonable and prudent? Now this would be on a nice day, on a large multi-lane divided highway, very little to no traffic, and having a decent car capable of higher speeds. Like for instance if the speed limit is 85 let’s say the 85th to 95th percentile speed ranges from 94 to 100 mph. So even if the speed limit was posted as reasonable and prudent wouldn’t you expect the 85th to 95th percentile speed to be around 97-105 mph? I just wonder how this may work out. Thank You for any information.

  2. James C. Walker says:

    Hi Shane,

    I don’t think there would be much difference for most drivers whether the limit was 85 mph or Reasonable and Prudent. Most drivers are not comfortable at speeds much above the mid-80s. I did some Lidar studies on I-10 in Texas in areas posted at 80. The 85th percentile speeds were 81 to 84 mph with only 1% at 90 mph or higher – under perfect conditions where a competent driver in a modern car could go 100 mph quite safely.

    What I think you would see are occasional drivers testing “what will she do” – with much less risk of a huge ticket. Nevada and Montana (daytime) had reasonable and prudent limits before 1974 with no real issues. Today, I would prefer the 85 limit because US drivers are not used to the extreme speeds that Germans see on the roughly half of the Autobahn system that has no speed limit. The 85th percentile speeds there tend to be in the 95-100 mph range (150-160 kph), but with full understanding and respect for the occasional Porsche/Mercedes/Ferrari coming up on the left at 150+ mph.

    • Shane C Turner says:

      To me setting the cruise around 80-90 mph feels comfortable to me. If I were on a long road trip and the speed limit was reasonable and prudent I may do small spurts of 100-115 mph here and there but mainly would keep closer to 85-90 mph because your gas mileage goes down This would be provided my car is in good condition, weather permitting, and a multi lane divided interstate highway. I am not sure how people can go 150 mph or more. I watch it on youtube and it just looks too fast. Even 100 or 110 mph looks and feels fast. I am however grateful the speed limit in Kansas is 75 mph because when it was 70 I felt like I had to look over my shoulder when going 84 mph.