Along for the Ride #149
🚧 on transportation safety 🚧
Heya friends, happy Friday!
I am really excited to announce that next week will be both my 150th edition of this newsletter, and 🥁 drumroll please 🥁 the newsletter’s fourth birthday!!!! In the weirdest way, it makes me feel very old having a newsletter that has somehow stuck around this long. More sappy words to come next week (figured I’d give you a warning!!), but thank you for being here on this journey with me. I appreciate each and every one of you.
If you’d like to help me reach new people feel free to (a) like this newsletter, it’s free and brings me GREAT joy, and (b) share AFTR with your friends / lovers / enemies / frenemies because we all need transport news right?!
I maintain that with every new subscriber a bike lane gets its wings and a dedicated bus lane is born, so if you believe in magic, myths, and modal-shift I’d encourage you to share AFTR this week. As a thank you, here’s a little jam I was listening to this week while writing, and I dedicate it to you, favoured reader. Thank you, thank you, thank you 💖
Also ❤️ happy 🧡 Pride 💛 month 💚 everybody!! 💙 More queer urban planning goodness to come this month. 😘
Ok onto the news!
Read of the Week
Those who know me well will know the handful of stories I have of being injured when cycling, including being hit by a driver my second time cycling in London. It was a harrowing experience that still haunts me. Reading this New Yorker article about how deadly driving has become immediately put a lump in my throat. It’s hard to share the daily spew of abuse I receive just choosing to cycling in City, hoping and praying I make it to my end destination in one piece. It feels increasingly frightening in the last two weeks here in San Francisco where six pedestrians and a cyclist were recently murdered by drivers at known high-collision intersections.
This article should be essential reading for anybody who sits behind a wheel and wields the power that a car entails. For now I’ll call out some important stats the article references:
Ninety-seven (!) per cent of U.S. streets on which pedestrians are struck and killed have three or more lanes.
The average pedestrian, if struck by a car moving at forty miles per hour, has about a fifty-per-cent chance of survival. If the car is going twenty miles per hour, the pedestrian has more than a ninety-per-cent chance.
In 2020, despite deepening knowledge about how to build safer streets and a pandemic-related decline in car traffic, more pedestrians in the U.S. were killed than at any time since 1989.
What we know is that vehicle speed is the largest determinant of crash outcomes, and street design is a reliable means to control vehicle speeds, and we need to do everything in our power to create safer street design to protect all road users.
“Nobody ever looks at the car as a weapon,” Naparstek said. “The basic rule that I discovered over the years is if you ever want to murder someone in New York City, do it with a car.”
Government and Policy
The first of three (!) articles suggested by my friend and subscriber Bridget this week. Thank you B!! Washington DC is leveraging what little power local governments have to push back against the ever-increasing growth in vehicle size and mass by mandating higher registration fees for larger vehicles such as SUVs and pick-up trucks. The plan would be for any vehicle over 6,000 pounds to pay an annual $500 vehicle registration fee, almost seven times the cost to register a modest sedan in the city. We love to see it. If you’re wondering why, here’s a great recap on why Very Big Cars™️ wreak havoc on city streets.
Paris plans for post Olympic streets
Another Bridget find! So I’ve never really been a traditional sports person (I know you’re surprised!!), but as an architecture nut I love and loathe some of the buildings and infrastructure that have emerged through the Olympics. Shout out to Vancouver’s SkyTrain line, the London Aquatic Centre, and Munich’s Olympiastadion for being 🤸♀️sports cute 🤸♀️. I imagine there will be plenty to love in Paris once they wrap their Olympic games as they are already planning to remove lanes from cars, and get the city ready for all the active travel to come before and after the games. À bientôt Paris, à bientôt.
The UK invests in active travel
Remember last week when I shared that the DfT had £40M for an AV commercialization competition? Well this week they have £200M for walking and cycling schemes and that is a ratio in the right directions friends. The intent is to create a ‘golden age’ of cycling and walking across the country, and welp, I am very interested in seeing that type of commitment.
The more you know!
Crossrail finally opened in London! It was meant to open the year I moved to London, so I’ve been waiting in hot anticipation for six years across two continents for this moment. Shout out to Bridget for this one too! (Bloomberg)
Why has China built so many metro / subway systems? (That’s)
What do people with disabilities want States to spend their money on to improve their safety? (Pew)
Our friends at PopSci have a “quick guide to what’s going on with [AVs] right now”, and it gives a very useful company by company overview. They haven’t gotten to the debate about not calling AVs “driverless vehicles” or “self-driving cars”, so we’ll give ‘em a couple months to catch up on the discourse. If you want to know more here’s a scientific article about “autonowashing” which is essentially the greenwashing of vehicle automation.
When an AV blocks emergency services
Filed under: when “growing pains” are actually dangerous. Earlier in April an AV (operated by Cruise) blocked a fire truck in San Francisco, delaying the truck. The incident resulted in property damage and personal injuries according to SFFD.
“On an early April morning, around 4 am, a San Francisco Fire Department truck responding to a fire tried to pass a doubled-parked garbage truck by using the opposing lane. But a traveling autonomous vehicle, operated by the General Motors subsidiary Cruise without anyone inside, was blocking its path. While a human might have reversed to clear the lane, the Cruise car stayed put. The fire truck only passed the blockage when the garbage truck driver ran from their work to move their vehicle.”
Cruise has been awarded the first permit to charge riders for driver-free rides in California. Cruise said it would launch paid services within the next couple of weeks using up to 30 driverless Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles. Important to note that the California Public Utilities Company (CPUC) granted this permit despite objection from the local government (transit, police, and fire departments) … which imho is overwhelmingly a very frightening precedence to set.
The more you know!
Pony.AI had their license to operate revoked in California after numerous safety violations (The Verge)
Nayva is bringing AV shuttles to six EU cities (Business Wire)
China’s Geely launches nine satellites to help AV navigation (SpaceflightNow)
Letters to the Editor from a Tesla owner
“I am the generally happy owner of two Tesla Model 3 electric vehicles. They drive beautifully, and my energy cost to drive them equates to about $1.50 a gallon. Ironically, their single weakness is the driver assist technology for which they are so lauded by some. Based on my own personal experience, that anyone pays the $12,000 upgrade cost for so-called full self-driving, let alone actually uses it on the road, leaves me gobsmacked.”
Will AVs make bus drivers more important or less?
“According to a team of Carnegie Mellon researchers, though, the rise in vehicle automation technology — at least in the imperfect form in which it’s expected to exist for the next few decades — may actually make trained transit professionals more important than ever before, and possibly even elevate their societal status and pay to a level similar to commercial airline pilots as the two jobs become more and more similar.”
Extra Bits + Bobs
Transport themed plays!
Picture this, Ralph Fiennes playing Robert Moses at the Bridge Theatre in London. That’s right London readers, you can go to a transport themed play and see Voldemort become even more evil in the span of 2.5 hours! Tickets for Straight Line Crazy are here. Shout out to AFTR subscriber Jack for this share!
Coming to a city near you!!
I will be in NYC July 10th - 22nd and would love to see you / ride the 14th Street bus lane / cycle over the Brooklyn Bridge / attempt to not disintegrate in the heat with you. Feel free to reach out if you’ll be around!
And after that…. it’s a short leap back across the pond for me! Back to my spiritual home in London from the 23rd through the first week of August. Fingers crossed TfL’s new ebikes will be roaming by then, because you know I’m about the have the multi-modal trip of my life with those ebikes and the Elizabeth Line.
Newsletters you should subscribe to!
Shout out to fellow newsletter writer and friend of AFTR, Alex Mitchell and his brain-child Su$tainable Mobility that follows the dollars and cents of the mobility industry.
That’s all from me. Have a beautiful weekend friends!