Along for the Ride #152
On banning cars, protecting bike lanes, and staying afloat.
Heya friends, happy Friday?
What a really-bad-horrible-absolutely-awful week we’ve had. Living in the US this week has given new meaning and depth to the word ‘disheartening’. I believe many of you have already been bombarded with resources of where you can donate and what you can do, so I’ll just leave it with this: if you need some somebody to listen or commiserate with I’m just an email way.
This week I’m grateful for friends who strolled through parks with me, encouraged me to go for evening swims in the ocean, and listened to me cry (special shout-out to my mom—a beloved subscriber to my whole life, not just this newsletter!—for that one). I hope you are able to find moment of joy and passion in these very precedented times.
Read of the Week
A lot of this article is about what we really mean when activists say things like “ban cars”. It’s very easy for me to shout that out with a belly full of ~spirit~ but I agree it actually doesn’t capture what I’m really trying to say which is:
I hope my choice to commute in not a car doesn’t kill me today
I hope everybody can chose a commuting option that helps keep them safe (and alive)—including drivers (I know gasp)
I hope we are able to decarbonize transportation, the largest contributor of GHG in the US
Amongst many other very rational thoughts grounded in a deep sense of love for my fellow road users
“So if “ban cars” doesn’t really mean “ban cars,” why don’t we say what we really mean? Well, “ban cars under specific circumstances and situations” is a bit cumbersome as a hashtag. And while the two-word slogan is a catchy overstatement, it prompts a conversation about the benefits of freeing society from car dependence, at least among those open to the message.”
Government and Policy
Whispers in safer, protected infrastructure: yes. Shoutout to AFTR reader Bridget for sharing.
NextCity explores how we can combat increased traffic fatalities in the US (currently at a sixteen year high) without further harming Black and Brown communities. “… we should create a new traffic safety framework with racial equity and mobility justice operationalized from the beginning and created by Black and Brown people in neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by traffic violence.”
California is arguably the epicenter of the autonomous vehicle industry, and yet there’s one thing it doesn’t have: heavy duty autonomous trucks. A coalition of companies are lobbying Gov. Newsom to update legislation to include trucks over 10,000 pounds that are currently excluded from public roads.
The UK government has an open call for evidence from researchers, industry experts, and nerdy folks like you and me to consider multiple paths for the development of AVs—from private use to public transport and more. I know y’all have some ideas, so hop to it!
It’s hard to see TfL be so underfunded by the DfT given the outsized impact the organization has on the whole country’s ability to low-key cope. But, in good news, TfL is getting creative to improve their finances by fining drivers parked in bike lanes using CCTV cameras. “Vehicles driving in cycle lanes put cyclists in danger and can deter people from choosing to cycle.” Much common sense, much wow.
The more you know!
Toronto wants to kill the smart city (MIT Tech Review)
Vancouver mandates EV charging at gas stations by 2025 (Electric Autonomy)
It was announced a few months back that Cruise was awarded the first permit to allow them to charge passengers for AV trips in San Francisco, and well the day has come. Riders can now hail an AV for their journey and they will be whizzed away in a state-of-the-art AV.
But not everything has gone picture perfect—shocking!—as this week numerous cars sans drivers stalled in the middle of city streets requiring back-up drivers to break the cars free from their paralysis. According to a Cruise spokesperson, they “had an issue earlier this week that caused some of our vehicles to cluster together. While it was resolved and no passengers were impacted, we apologize to anyone who was inconvenienced.”
An inconvenience is when your tooth paste drips onto your shirt before you rush out the door, a cluster of autonomous vehicles that block traffic and can’t cope in an urban environment is something else entirely: a danger.
Research and Academia
“We analyzed four suburban corridors in the Toronto (Canada) region developed during different periods of suburbanization. We found that the walkability of corridors declined as modernist planning ideas were more fully implemented, and then walkability increased as new urbanist ideas began to influence planning in the 1990s. Over time, however, the retrofit potential declined across all corridors studied, with patterns of lots and development becoming ever more static. Understanding these patterns is important to developing successful strategies for retrofitting suburban arterials.”
“The issue, it appears, may not be merely that automated systems themselves have flaws but also that drivers are relying too heavily on systems that aren’t designed to do all the work without human input. After all, when something is called “full self-driving” it’s easy to expect, consciously or subconsciously, that it will fully drive itself. Even when software supposedly requires drivers to pay attention, the fact that a car can take care of some things can lull people into thinking the car will take care of all things — or into relaxing more generally, so that if something does go wrong they are unprepared to respond.”
“A focus on building “smart cities” risks turning cities into technology projects. We talk about “users” rather than people. Monthly and “daily active” numbers instead of residents. Stakeholders and subscribers instead of citizens. This also risks a transactional—and limiting—approach to city improvement, focusing on immediate returns on investment or achievements that can be distilled into KPIs.
Truly smart cities recognize the ambiguity of lives and livelihoods, and they are driven by outcomes beyond the implementation of “solutions.” They are defined by their residents’ talents, relationships, and sense of ownership—not by the technology that is deployed there.”
Extra Bits + Bobs
Come hang out with me! The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is hosting their annual Golden Wheel Awards on July 28th. The event is a fundraiser for the organization as well, and if you’re interested in donating or sponsoring the event I know the org would appreciate every extra dollar.
Jobs you should apply for: Bloomberg Philanthropies is hiring for a Senior Manager of Government Innovation. I think you’re perfect for the job :)
Newsletters you should subscribe to: Grateful for my friend James Gleave who recently recommended my newsletter to his subscribers. If you’re looking for a daily dose of mobility news, then look no further!
That’s all from me. Have a beautiful weekend friends.