Mass. Highway: Bigger bike lanes, scaled-back traffic signals

Foster St. signal (Source: Town of Arlington)

Wider bicycle lanes and changes to the Thorndike and Foster traffic signals are among the suggestions made to the Town this winter by state engineers at Mass. Highway.

The agency’s written comments to the Town’s proposed 25% plans for Mass. Ave. are generally supportive and include advice and many suggestions.

The Town’s response could include changes to its plans.

Most of the comments read as a punch list of things to include in the drawings or otherwise address—everything from drainage to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The suggestions shed light both on Mass. Highway’s disposition towards the plan leading up to public hearings, and on design elements that are still in play.

For instance, despite Mass. Highway’s agreement to include traffic signals at Foster/Linwood and at Thorndike/Teel, Traffic Operations Engineer Michael Galvin (in a December 9 memo) says that those intersections “do not meet any…signal warrants.” He suggests that the town set these lights “on flashing operation now.”

Keeping these signals was a major concern at a community meeting of hundreds of residents at the Hardy School in April of 2009.

Galvin proposes making this change now, as a test, to

evaluate whether flashing intersection control beacons would provide as good or better service than red-yellow-green signals.

The Town negotiated an agreement with Mass. Highway to keep these signals, but apparently Galvin wants Arlington to reconsider.

Meanwhile, in another December 9 memo, Luciano Rabito wants wider bike lanes:

I would like to see the bike lane width increased to 6 feet…. Since the space is there for the most part we should try to do better than the minimum for bikes.

Rabito is Mass. Highway’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Accommodation Engineer; the Town has proposed 5-foot bike lanes.

Proposed parking

The staff at Mass. Highway’s District-4 office suggests “a raised median at Lake Street in lieu of the flush median currently shown there” and questions the plan for new parking on Grafton St.

In the same memo, dated January 25, an unidentified member of the staff suggests eliminating one of the two crosswalks across Mass. Ave. at the new Bates Rd. traffic signal.

These and other ideas are interesting, but they also shed light generally on Mass. Highway’s approach and even the fate of the Town’s proposal.

My reading of these tea leaves follows in red.

Gone, first of all, is the adversarial tone of the comments from last year. Many comments identify issues to be addressed in the 75% plan submission, which assumes acceptance of today’s 25% plans.

Second, this is not your father’s transit policy. Mass. Highway has never had problems with the proposed 3-lane configuration (just one outbound), even a year ago when the tone was so very different.

There is a debate over bike lanes, but not about whether to have them. Rather the issue is how wide they should be.

Indeed, Mass Highway has an in-house Bicycle/Pedestrian Accommodation Engineer, probably hired to ensure compliance with the 1996 law requiring bicycle and pedestrian accommodation in road projects.

The final decision about the 25% plans rests with the Highway Commissioner, who will act following a public hearing in town. Nonetheless the support of the staff puts Arlington in a very strong position going into that process.

Note: Mass, Highway’s comments are available online from both the Arlington Advocate and Youralington.com.

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28 comments so far

  1. dr2chase on

    Any evaluation of flashing vs red-yellow-green signals, should include pedestrian traffic at the intersection (I assume this is the issue for parents at Hardy School). If it goes down with the flashing signal, that’s a problem. Lack of accidents could simply be a result of scaring pedestrians away.

    • Adam Auster on

      DR, as I read the comment, the pedestrian-activated walk lights would remain. That is, you’d still stop traffic completely by pressing the walk button.

      Any change to that would almost certainly be a deal-breaker.

      The Town deserves credit for winning these traffic signals for the community, state warrants notwithstanding.

  2. Chad Gibson on

    If they change those lights to flashing from red-yellow-green, hopefully they will keep the pedestrian activated walk signals. That is critical.

  3. Mark Kaepplein on

    Adam, thanks for explaining some of the comments from memos for people. As engineers, I see them sticking with technical details except Neil Boudreau: “The Town is particularly desirous of having this a multimodal project incorporating vehicular, pedestrian, bicycle, and transit concerns.”

    I support safer pedestrian crossings, but bike lanes leave little width for center refuge median islands (with walk buttons and signal heads to further alert drivers to pedestrians). Strobe type lights are showing up locally, so I hope for that too. Inattentive drivers too often miss red lights among other things. Too bad pedestrian safety lost to cyclist desire for speed.

    Crosswalk paint now is overdue for freshening-up. The glass micro-spheres on the surface that enhance visibility are virtually gone now. I also noticed new sidewalk sections and those with ADA compliant ramps have already cracked. Cheers to the town for specifying 6″ thick concrete instead of the standard 4″.

  4. Adam Auster on

    Mark, I don’t follow you about the bike lanes blocking the refuge islands, since both coexist in the Town’s plan. Island design to follow in 75%-design process, I assume.

  5. Mark Kaepplein on

    Its hard to give 5′ wide raised pedestrian refuge islands when 10′ of road width is given to the less numerous cyclists.

    Bike lanes take up 10′ (2×5′) of width with variable 4′(2×2′) of buffer to parking, or as MassDOT suggests 12′ (2×6′) of bike lane and 2′ (2×1′) of buffer. I assume the extra marked foot makes it easier for cyclists to ride two abreast or pass one another. I’m just saying that dedicating 12′ of width to bikes makes it harder to find 5′ for a pedestrian refuge. The 25% plan didn’t even call for a raised refuge in the most popular crossing place (Lake). Instead, they were put by Dunkin’ Donuts where more width was available due to removal of another (half the current) traffic lanes.

    At Wednesday’s meeting, I pleaded that curb moves should be reduced, saving complication, conflicts, drainage moves, utility pole moves, tree cutting, cost, schedule, and risk. Most of them widen sidewalks, some narrow wider sections of Mass Ave.. The only sidewalk area too narrow is in front of the resturant (Olivios?) directly accross from Lake. There isn’t room there for snow, but having a snow bank in the road instead of parking has the same net effect only in winter that proposed jutting out the curb there does year ’round. I think they have big windows that open, so a few outdoor seats is isn’t worth the server hassle and pedestrian conflicts if the sidewalk was widened.

    I have a historical backstory on parking space length and width. In the late 70’s as a teen, I rember the government push for fuel economy. Right on Red became the national default, and everyone should get 4-cyl compact cars instead of (5-7 L.) V-8 land yachts. Parking spaces got downsized to encourage that along with the number of spaces at places so having too few encouraged carpooling. Government priority changed to safety, so larger cars with more impact absorbing crumple zones now requires bigger parking spaces and relaxed restrictions. Child car seat laws also encourage big SUV and Mini van purchases and they need bigger spaces too. I hope the next policy shift comes soon, when they realize constricting roads just puts drivers on residential streets endangering kids, or out of work because transportation costs are now too high. Allowing Right on Red is a fair trade-off for less residential side street traffic. Arterial roads are for transit and Mass Ave. is an artery.

    There is concern that development of Faces and Mugar properties on Rt. 2 near Lake will add traffic to that overburdened road, driving yet more traffic to side streets. High density is exactly what “Sustainable Communities” advocates call for – here it is! Eventually Cambridge will realize their policies of traffic congestion are driving big employers out and fix them. I’m a little grumpy after crawling along from 3:30-4:30PM the six or so miles from Arlington to Roxbury via Mass Ave. then Tremont Street (6 mph).

    • dr2chase on

      Mark, where bike lanes are adjacent to parking, six feet of “bike lane” is really four feet of “door lane” and two feet of bike lane.

      As far as auto size and safety goes, most of the size is for marketing, not safety. The Scandinavian cars have consistently been near the top of the crumple+safety list, but they are nowhere near the top of the size list.

      I don’t think that Cambridge has a stated policy of traffic congestion; they simply have too many cars, and not enough roads. People don’t like having their houses torn up for more roads, and people don’t like giving up their cars, and poof, congestion. My answer for traffic congestion would be more bicycles, but most people don’t feel safe mixing it up with cars on our streets. We could make room, but short-term, that would add to congestion, and since we only focus on the short-term, no-go. Cambridge has some nominal “bike routes” and “bike paths”, but they are not direct (i.e., bikes don’t get Concord Ave; and the PDW path follows the river) or too narrow (PDW) and filled with joggers (PDW) and undermaintained (PDW).

      In addition, Cambridge has not done a good job connecting to neighboring towns. Belmont actually has a pretty wide, comfortable road (Concord Ave) connecting to the Cambridge line near Fresh Pond; until recently, the Cambridge side was awful, now it is half-awful. Coming from Watertown, your choices also suck. There is a nice route out of Alewife, but it is aimed at Davis Square, not Harvard Square. You guys are going to redo Mass Ave, it might be nice, but when you get to the Cambridge line, bleah! But this doesn’t look like policy, it just looks like your standard town behavior, of responding specifically to voter whining, and nothing else, and not taking the long view or the regional view.

      • Mark Kaepplein on

        Auto size and hp may be to make up for other shortcomings! Seriously, there are two other factors. Drivers like to be up high to see better (but roll over easier). High vechicles are easier to get kids in and out of mandated child car seats, another stupid government policy. Seat belts with adjustable shoulder belt mount height and anti-submarine belt work nearly as well, and people who can’t afford their own cars can still safely belt kids in taxi’s and borrowed cars. The government has increased small car weight by about 800 lbs in 25 years. My 1986 Honda Civic weighed about 1800 lbs. A Civic or Mini today, 800 lbs heavier. Smart for two convertable is similar in weight, but slow and half the vehicle! Mini, btw, small, safe, fun, but too heavy and needs high-octane. Couple all these with government not expanding roads much since 1980 and the result is our current nightmare. We can’t easily fix bad federal policies or get roads expanded, but we can keep our local road from getting downsized.

        Light motorcycles and scooters are an answer used in the developing world! 100 mpg because no 3000lb vehicle overhead for 200lb driver. Small road and parking footprint, much less natural resource intensive than cars, greater range than bicycles.

        For decades people have worried that population growth was not ultimately sustainable, yet only China has done much of anything about it! Once, their roads were congested with bicycles instead of cars and pedestrians. All take up space. Motorbikes are small like bikes and just have a flatter user/space chart. The reality is cycling is as unpopular as celibacy and zero or negative population growth! Some compromise is better.

        Concord Ave in Belmont is a great road for riding. Such little commerce and low traffic are rare. Its like a straight parkway narrowed to car+bike lanes from two narrow vehicle lanes of that era.

        Cambridge must want cyclists to live and work in the Peoples Republic, not live somewhere else! Links to some Cambridge polcies are near the bottom of this page: http://westernavenue.info They have a Growth Policy and a Climate Protection Plan. The Boston Metropolitain Planning Organization, metrofuture, and others do take a regional view and promote “transportation equity”. Towns and cities are supposed to just serve themselves and these groups do the coordination, data, and funding guidence.

        • dr2chase on

          E-bikes and scooters are also extremely popular in China; I stumbled across this reading theoildrum ( links from that gathered here: http://dr2chase.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/e-bikes-in-china/ ).

          I think that their economy can grow to car-buying wealth, faster than they can build the roads and parking places to put them. It is true that you can make a traffic jam out of bicycles, but it takes an order of magnitude more people for a given amount of pavement to do it. The fact that they already have bicycle traffic jams, says to me that upsizing all those bikes to cars simply cannot happen. And, given the incredible traffic that would result, even after only a fraction transitioned to cars, e-bikes and e-scooters become a net win, because they move fast enough (faster than a traffic jam) and can filter through (and cost less to buy, and less to operate), and require less storage space).

          I haven’t paid much attention to car weight, except to note that the car I drive now (1992 Honda Civic) weighs just about the same as the car I learned to drive in (1967 Saab 96). And weight, is not the same as size; a Mini may be heavy, but it is compact, and will fit in a tiny parking space.

          I think Cambridge is trying to be nicer to bikes traveling into Cambridge, but only recently, and they’re still learning. Their fix to Concord Ave (between Belmont and Fresh Pond) is pretty nice inbound — no clue how they’re going to make outbound work.

          • Mark Kaepplein on

            Interesting blog post! Dan Burden reported meeting with Chinese officials some years ago on transportation. They viewed bicycles as a problem! E2W growth there is mostly fueled by motorbike bans in cities, then dirt-cheap prices matching equally crude motorbikes. If motorbikes had fuel injection, efficiency would go way up and pollution down. Add catalytic converters, efficiency goes down a little and pollution down more; all without outright bans. Purchase price goes up, fuel down. BTW, lead-acid batteries can be quite good, and some Li-ion quite bad. I’m still using the original battery in my ’97 Miata after 130Kmi. Its a (discontinued) lead gel cell, though lead glass mat type replacements are available. Yes, 13 years and going, and its small like a Honda Fit battery.

            Given bans, E2W works in China. People favor cheap over the environment every time. China has most of the world’s rare earth element production needed for electric vehicles, still pricy for the masses to use high efficiency brushless motors. I don’t think there is enough lithium or rare earth elements for large scale electric vehicle deployment … except for light 2 wheeled ones.

            Cycling takes a hit after the oil runs out. Roads are made from oil waste (tar). Your tires and lubricants come from oil. Cement road building is energy intensive; mining, transportation, and processing.

            • dr2chase on

              I’ve heard that there *is* enough lithium, but that’s a recent development. And everything takes a hit after the oil runs out. I’ve got my fingers crossed for a soft landing, but hope is not a plan. Plan is to get as many people as possible onto bikes ASAP, but that’s not exactly working either :-).

              It’s kinda bizarre for them to see bicycles as a problem, given the density that they have had for so long. If everyone’s using them already, you’d be crazy to quit (unless, of course, you were an oil or auto industry investor).

    • dr2chase on

      Found the bike lane/door zone video that Explains It All: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TQ7aID1jHs

      (via Ana Pereira, http://www.cenasapedal.com/blog/2011/02/14/ouch/, Portuguese, includes dooring videos).

  6. Mark Kaepplein on

    Interesting and thought provoking.

    First one: I guess we need two lanes so cyclists can use the left one when needed. Video exaggerates worst case scenario. Car drivers need to be as observant as cyclists, looking for car occupants in stationary vehicles and expect opening doors, thus not having to swerve suddenly. Its what I do.

    Second: a.) Cyclists need to slow or stop when risky situations arise, most don’t. It would have saved the rider who passed a vehicle in Boston, only to get his wheel stuck in the train tracks, then hit by a bus. b.) Don’t pass on the right. c.) Car occupants need to exercise great care around crazy cyclists. d.) Rear seat passenger didn’t have benefit of side mirror to see rider, while exiting drivers do – don’t pass on right. Cyclists need to look in at car occupants and evaluate risks, as any driver or pedestrian should.

  7. Mark Kaepplein on

    I just checked for new published research papers and found a few relevant.

    http://trb.metapress.com/content/u5161j1237q82234/?p=deb97cc3cd60418e9d944b8abe3f25d0&pi=5
    Done at Northeastern shows marking narrow parking lanes the most effective way to keep parked cars close to the curb, with 6′, then 7′ widths being best Bike lane markings are ignored! Marking parking, perhaps with a fog line at 6′ or 7′ instead of 8′, yields a safer 15′ or 16′ wide curb lane due to better parking compliance with 1′ maximum curb distance. Six foot wide parking lane marking yielded 99% compliance!!!

    http://trb.metapress.com/content/3314405k3170h077/?p=29d177f2cba04a8192a90589c8cc5c7c&pi=4
    Indicates that cyclists don’t always position themselves wisely in bike lanes to avoid car doors, hence, more buffer is better. MassDOT is behind the times in their suggestion of wider bike lane, less buffer. The paper claims bike lanes are safer, but we would need to read the paper to see the justification as supporting research is sparse – such claims are more indicative of author bias.

    Another paper in the same collection, “Latent Bicycle Commuting Demand and Effects of Gender on Commuter Cycling and Accident Rates” http://trb.metapress.com/content/j85x8g66k1545860/?p=ee71b629883d413cba017bda6bf34468&pi=3
    repeats what is already well known, 75% of bike commuters are men, women are more safety conscious than men, both perceive bike lanes as safer, and bike lanes have no effect on women wanting to fix their hair after riding :). Not mentioned in the abstract, but a barrier here is parents needing to drop off kids at school on the way to work, and pick them up from day care on the way home – easier with a car than bicycle.

    A trip to the Volpe Transportation library in Kendall Sq. or the MassDOT library in Boston are free alternatives to $25 fees for each article in the publication: http://www.trb.org/Main/Blurbs/Bicycles_2010_164774.aspx

    • Adam Auster on

      So, Furth et al. (your first hyperlink) find that narrower parking lanes causes drivers to park closer to the curb. But Duthie et al. (your second) find that a buffer between parked cars and bikes is best.

      Aren’t these two ideas in conflict? Or does the Town’s plan for 8-foot-wide parking stalls marked within 10-foot parking lanes anticipate these ideas, by providing a 2-foot buffer built in? Maye those parking stalls should be narrower.

      I do not grasp the basis for MassDOT’s recommendation to transfer space from buffer to lane. This is a one-foot strip of pavement at the right edge of the bike lane that bicycles should probably stay out of, so isn’t it better as a buffer, and not in the bike lane? As I understand you, Mark, that is what you suggest.

      I am struck by this finding from the abstract for Duthie et al.:

      bicycle lanes create a safer and more predictable riding environment relative to wide outside lanes

      That’s a much stronger statement than you will find even in the FDR, but it reflects the general thinking at MassDOT about the superiority of bike lanes versus shared travel lanes (“wide outside lanes”) on Mass. Ave.

      • Mark Kaepplein on

        The ideas aren’t in conflict! Marking 6′ or 7′ wide spaces/stalls in a 10′ parking lane insures more actual door zone buffer for cyclists. Drivers will only get close to the curb when parking/fog line force them, not any other lines. The paper is newer than the Town’s plan.

        I think FST made a better call than MassDOT on allocating buffer vs. a wider bike lane. Its moot wrt Mass Ave. because there isn’t room for a bike lane with 4 travel lanes!

        Duthie et al did make a stronger statement, which I don’t think is supported by research, showing their bias. MassDOT is more cautious making fewer unsupportable claims. I will let you know if I go read the paper and what citations they use to support the claim.

        • Adam Auster on

          FST was careful to note that there were no data showing bike lanes are safer than shared travel lanes.

          Although surveys have shown that most bicyclists prefer dedicated bike lanes, there is no real evidence to demonstrate that one method of bicycle accommodation is actually safer than another when part of a new multimodal facility.

          If Duthie et al. have something new, I think everyone would like to know what that is.

          FST was clear that a 5-ft. bike lane is better than a shared lane that is insufficiently wide, e.g. 14 feet.

          • Mark Kaepplein on

            I don’t know where the research data is showing 14′ is “insufficiently wide”. There seems to be only one paper on wide curb lane vs bike lane safety. Again, I’ll try and get to the library to read it to see what role width plays.

            In any case, FST/Town should respond back to MassDOT showing they were better on buffer, using the paper citation!

            The next paragraph of the Functional Design Report from your quoted section (pp 32-3), FST claims: “Even minimal widening of the roadway facility along these constrained sections would have a substantial impact to existing sidewalks, trees, signs, hydrants, utility poles, etc. and add significant cost to the project. Consequently, the revised design for Massachusetts Avenue does not increase existing roadway width along these sections of the corridor and, instead, widens existing sidewalks in a number of critical locations, specifically the Lake Street/Capitol Square area between Orvis Road and Milton Street and at crosswalk locations.”

            FST contradict themselves, as their sidewalk widening and side street narrowing have the same effect of “substantial impact to existing sidewalks, trees, signs, hydrants, utility poles, etc. and add significant cost to the project.” Tack on extra costs for moving and adding storm drains and moving gas (phone, electric too?) lines that DOT pointed out in FST’s plans!

            Self contradiction seems the norm in transportation. People who claim widening roadways to reduce congestion is futile; more drivers just come fill it up, also claim Mass Ave., Broadway in East Somerville, and all the bridges over the Charles in Boston have excess capacity that should be given over to bike lanes and wider sidewalks! How can demand be insatiable at the same time 20-year transit capacity can be in excess?! Clearly, the first claim is false; transportation starvation can be satiated.

            • dr2chase on

              I think the resolution of the apparent contradiction is whether you are talking about widening individual lanes, or adding lanes, and the existence of other choke points.

              Clearly, if there is a choke point, wider lanes (or more lanes) leading to the choke point, do not actually add capacity, and the space could be devoted to some other purpose (not all choke points are easily removed — for instance, getting cars in/out of Alewife).

              For a given lane, I am told that (at least for city traffic) making the lane wider does not add capacity. Traffic can flow faster in spots, but it’s the nature of city traffic that statistically, there will be choke points (that come, and go, and move around). Don’t know the source.

              My experience living in like Houston and near Clearwater, FL, is that people will consume new traffic capacity after it appears. That’s not a study, it’s just what I’ve seen.

              My favorite traffic contradiction, is that (1) there’s no sense for towns to invent their own arbitrary (low) speed limits, because” traffic seeks a safe speed” and (2) “diagonal-nose-in-parking is a bad idea, because it’s less safe”. WTF? If traffic seeks a safe speed, DNI-parking should result in reduced speed, not reduced safety, right?

  8. dr2chase on

    Amusing datapoint from NYC, on the Prospect Park West bike lane, that has generated much grumpiness from “respectable citizens”:

    http://xoxosoma.com/ppw/

    Might not be directly relevant to Mass Ave renovation, except that claims of traffic impediment because of street narrowing are completely overblown.

    • Mark Kaepplein on

      The lying statistic is travel time. DOT measured it at the posted speed limit. Everyone else, going the 85-percentile speed, noticed longer transit times! The road is designed for use at greater than posted speed. Excess space on sidewalks is why cyclists used them.

      Much like Cambridge’s distortion of Western Ave. transit time – an “acceptable” 3.5-8 minutes. That works out to between walking speed and jogging speed. Cambridge says DCR (Dept. of Congestion and Recession) controls lights on Mem Drive and bridges over Charles and back-up is there. A dept. for kayaking and biking shouldn’t control vital roads and be replacing vehicle lanes with bike lanes on all their bridges. Patrick needs to clean house at DCR and MAPC!

      • dr2chase on

        What you say sounds plausible, but I don’t see it documented anywhere.

        I do note, yet another traffic contradiction. “Everybody knows” that the 85th percentile speed is the “safest”. Therefore, how is it possible that by changing the road, and not reducing the volume, they reduced they number of crashes, injury crashes, and injuries? This seems to contradict the 85th %ile = safest speed claim, since usage was unchanged, speed was reduced, and so were crashes.

        By-the-way, if your car is stuck at a walking-jogging speed, may I suggest (ahem) riding a bike? I know it’s not an option for everyone — three weeks ago, I had to drive to a doctor’s appointment because of a trashed tendon/muscle — but most people, most days, can. I was struck in traffic, wondering WTF was wrong with all the other people who were in my way — were they all disabled too? It seemed highly unlikely.

        • Mark Kaepplein on

          I’m not sure the 85% speed is safest, its just the speed most feel comfortable going, they perceive risk to be acceptable. Perception doesn’t equal reality.

          What is contradictory are simultaneous claims by some that widening roads is futile, traffic will grow to fill availability. at the same time, claim that 20-yr. excess capacity exists on Mass Ave. and bridges over the Charles such that vehicle lanes can be made bike lanes!

          The DOT seems to think traveling like a chain gang is safest and ideal, so designs promote that (along with removing Slower Traffic Keep Right signs so slow drivers block all lanes). Cyclists in their LOV lane, not stopping at lights are much faster. LOV = Low Occupancy Vehicle.

          • dr2chase on

            I’ve seen the 85% claim elsewhere, I suspect it might have been true on a particular highway once upon a time (I’m trying to imagine how you collect the data to determine that thus-and-such a speed is safest — crashes are pretty rare).

            The PPW data does suggests that removing width does not reduce capacity, because automobile use was essentially unchanged. I think you’re right to be skeptical of excess capacity on Mass Ave, certainly in Cambridge — at least, if you waste all that space on cars :-).

            And based on my observations, a bicycle is no more an LOV than most automobiles; riding home, one person/vehicle is pretty much the rule. If we declared that the only LOVs allowed on the road were bicycles, we would take a huge bite out of our traffic and parking problems, as well as providing gainful employment for people who would otherwise beg at intersections :-).

            And semi-seriously, sure, bikes are almost entirely 1 person/bike, but bike lanes are typically about half the width of car lanes (5 vs 10, or 6 vs 12), so generally, they use the road width more efficiently than the typical car.

            • Mark Kaepplein on

              My memory returned, and 85% is most applicable on highways. When drivers don’t act predictably or telegraph intentions well (moving to left side of their lane indicates interest in moving left one lane), risk is lower when drivers have small speed deltas.

              Before the dream to make bike riders out of car drivers, the policy was to promote carpooling by forcing employers to ration an inadequate number of parking spaces. Car pooling didn’t increase and employers had trouble hiring more workers. Somewhere around 70-85% of commuters drive alone. MBTA bus drivers average about 8 passengers.

              Motorcycles and scooters put much of the same demand on public facilities, while offering greater travel range. Users suffer the same exposure to elemnets, but higher fees and costs. A popular transit option in much of the world, ignored here.

              BTW, the guy who posted the stats in NYC thinks DOT times were done at speed limits.

              • dr2chase on

                Motorcycles and scooters lack the public health benefits, unfortunately, which dwarf the crash costs that people focus on so much (sigh).

                I’m still curious how they measured that 85% stat — think about the amount of data collection that would be involved (it predates cheap computers, that I know).

                The issue with measuring travel times with speeding, especially when there’s a measurable difference in the crash/injury rate, is that it puts you into a peculiar situation w.r.t. traffic laws. I could get home much more quickly on my bicycle, if I just ran lights when there was no cross traffic (which is often enough). But “everyone agrees” that cyclists who run lights, are Bad People, and this behavior should not be encouraged. By similar logic, I have to also conclude that drivers who speed are also Bad People (especially in this case, because we actually measured a worse outcome), and so I can’t really sign on to legitimizing their behavior because a particular change in infrastructure, removed a reward/incentive for lawbreaking.

                Or to put it differently, a traffic jam that only impedes speeders who are measured-more-likely to hurt other people, sounds like a feature, not a bug. Why would we want to reward, enable, or encourage harm to others?

              • Mark Kaepplein on

                Reply to dr2chase,
                In MA, death occurs at low speeds, not high! Some of that must be attributed to our clogged roads needing expansion, not contraction! http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2011/tables/11s1107.pdf
                Speeding is breaking the law by degrees, like running a yellow light. Anyone flying through a stop or red light is absolute, thus viewed more harshly.

                The frustration you felt stuck in traffic, professionals call “traffic calming!”

                Diagonal nose in parking is dangerous when backing out to leave. Backing into parking spaces is safer because there are not obstructed cars passing by while reversing. Its a big issue for older drivers and other with reduced neck movements, narrowed field of vision, and presbyopia.

  9. dr2chase on

    Diagonal nose-in parking cannot be dangerous, because “traffic seeks a safe speed” (that’s what I’ve been told ever so often by the measure-speeds-to-set-limits crowd). Surely, you mean, it slows traffic down :-). Unless traffic doesn’t really seek a safe speed, of course.

    (See “traffic contradictions”, above).

    And I think you’re spinning on the classification of traffic laws. After all, stopping is just “zero mph”, which is only a number, not too far from 1mph, which is not all that different from 5mph, which is only half of 10mph.

    On a bicycle, after all, a right-on-red (after “stopping”) is certainly legal, and several local policemen have confirmed for me that U turns are also legal in most places, so who’s to say that the cyclist “running the light”, is not just executing a right turn, a very, very flat U turn, and another right turn? (he says, with tongue firmly in cheek)


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