Along for the Ride #155
Heya friends, happy Friday!
I know what you’re thinking: two newsletters in one week?! Well between some work deadlines and upcoming travel to London, I have a feeling my typical newsletter schedule might be a bit wonky until the end of August. I’m really just trying to keep you on your toes.
That being said I’ll be back in London (my spiritual home) August 6-20th, if anybody wants to go for a bike ride, geek out over the Elizabeth Line, walk along the canal, or swim in the ponds. Please reach out if you’re around as it would be great to catch-up / meet more of ya!
Government and Policy
Vox researches America’s deadliest road, US-19, a highway in Pasco County, Florida that features all the biggest losers: eight wide lanes, a speed limit between 45-55 mph, and limited (if any crosswalks). The road is a recipe for disaster (if not death). Researchers interested in finding traffic fatality hotspots identified so many along the road, they dove even deeper. “When you add the numbers up, that’s 137 pedestrian fatalities… That’s an incredibly high number. If an airplane crashed there and 137 people died, people would know about it.”
The research focuses on pedestrian fatalities, but I imagine this road is a danger for all road users. Known interventions to slow speed limits, decrease lane width, decrease the number of lanes, increasing cross walks, adding in a BRT line, amongst so many other known interventions would deliver a world of improvement for everybody.
But why build streets for people when you can build them for AVs 🙃. Senate Bill 706 is the nation’s first automated vehicle roadway legislation. “The legislation authorizes the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to designate automated vehicle roadways, enter into agreements with technology partners to operate them, and allows for a user fee to be assessed.” That user fee better be used to fund bus services and bike lanes across the State. This program is sure to impact local traffic congestion in the short term, because in case anybody else has forgotten, this technology is a long ways away from reaching critical mass.
Governing has a super interesting piece about how the Good Roads Movement of the late 19th century began as a grass-roots crusade to improve roads for bicyclists.. and was high-jacked by the automobile industry to build better roads for cars.
“The Good Roads Movement accomplished a majority of its goals, particularly those that benefited the growing automobile industry. But many of its objectives around bicycle transportation remain unfulfilled over 100 years later. Today’s bicycle safety advocates are once again pushing for improved and safer road conditions for cyclists, taking up the same causes as the 19th-century wheelmen.”
OK, I know we all know the answer is austerity, but still. This article also features AFTR reader, friend, a tweeter extraordinaire Hayden Clarkin!
A little bit of digging shows that Amtrak’s service is measurably slower today than it was in the 1940s (before colour TV was invented, folks!). Amtrak says this is because there are more stops and track priority undervaluing passenger travel in favour of freight. Time to get Amtrak some more funding.
Welp, Cruise has officially began their global empire. The AV company has sent two autonomous Chevrolet Bolts to Dubai to begin mapping the city in preparation for a planned launch in 2023. They have a contract as the sole provider of AVs to RTA until 2029, which as a procurement nerd myself, is absolutely bananas. If you didn’t know that Dubai / RTA also has the most ridiculous transportation goal on this planet, well then allow me to inform you! The agency has publicly (!) committed to converting “25% of total transportation trips in Dubai to self-driving [sic] trips by 2030”. Here’s their press release, please go heckle them internet.
In other Cruise related news, the company supposedly lost $5M a day last quarter, and I am bewildered (The Drive). Scratching my head as to how that could be possible.
The more you know!
Motional has started testing their vehicles in San Francisco (CleanTechnica)
Research and Academia
Anybody who knows me well, knows my perceived walkability is very high. In May I accidentally walked the equivalent of a half-marathon in Vancouver in one day just going about my everyday life. This research from UCL considers how subjective vs. objective influences on walkability may actually be what nudges people towards more sustainable modes.
“In recent years, a new focus has been on how people perceive their accessibility as this may be a stronger predictor of travel behaviour than objective elements of accessibility (such as built environment characteristics). Perceived walkability, i.e. how walk-friendly people experience a certain area, however, has only been explored by a limited number of studies. In this review paper, we give an overview of existing studies analysing perceived walkability, which mostly have focused on its effects on walking frequency/duration, physical activity and various aspects of mental well-being. Based on this literature review, a conceptual model is created, emphasising the determinants and effects of perceived walkability and how it is related to objective walkability.”
USF has announced a new initiative asking the following questions: How will smart mobility and automation impact our cities? What kind of policies do we need to ensure sustainable and just outcomes? The initiative being led by William Riggs and Shivani Shukla, and I’m personally very intrigued to see what research they start to publish.
Colour me actually very surprised to see a headline titled “This Is Why Self-Driving Cars Are A Step In The Wrong Direction” from a website called HotCars.com.
“If you think the traffic in your city is now congested and the environment contaminated, imagine a reality in which everyone will be inside a driverless car. This includes even the people who don’t have a driving license, the individuals who avoid driving because they are mediocre or bad drivers, and those who were prohibited to drive because of substance abuse. Basically, every single individual will practically be behind a wheel, yet they aren't driving. This will ultimately lead to having millions of self-driving cars on the road, polluting and poisoning the air in our communities.”
That’s all from me. Have a beautiful weekend friends.
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