Along for the Ride #175
Urbanization of impairment, bike lash, and urban ~expertise~
Heya friends, happy Friday!
Each week there are more and more readers here (welcome!). A few weeks a go there was a bunch of folks from New Zealand who started to subscribe, and this week there are number of folks who seem to be researchers at San Jose State University! Very cool to see readership grow in every corner of the world, and grateful each of you are here. Also for those of you joining from Academia, I apologise in advance for my grammar!!
Quick reminder! I love having people recommend reads / contribute their own work to this newsletter, so don’t be shy and reach out, would love to hear from you!
Read of the Week
We need to talk about Bike Lash
Wired published a piece this past week talking about how the “battle” over building new bike lanes is often riddled with misconceptions. Bike lanes cause traffic, bike lanes remove parking which hurts businesses, and so on. For most of the general public it is hard / unintuitive to think that cars cause traffic and bike lanes help ease congestion. Moreover, plenty of businesses are often shocked to learn that bike lanes statistically boost business in comparison to car parking. “Bike Lash” the phenomena of people being Really Angry About Bike Lanes™️, is typically founded on myth and not actual science. It comes from a place of assumption and discomfort with change.
In this article, the author notes that if science won’t change the mind of businesses and other road users, customers and access to them might be the only thing that does.
Government and Policy
Designing cities for people with disabilities
Curbed discusses concepts from urban design to housing access with David Gissen, and how they relate to people with disabilities. In Glissen’s new book, The Architecture of Disability, he takes each of these concepts even further.
“Gissen uses the term urbanization of impairment to describe a radical shift in perspective — one you might get just by including more disabled architects and planners. It begins with the acknowledgment that physical comfort means a lot more to people with disabilities than it does to those without them. Construction noise can disorient the blind. Sunshine beating on a sweltering sidewalk can debilitate wheelchair users, who tend to overheat, so street trees and shaded bus stops become necessities rather than urban frills.”
I also encountered an interesting article this week about how urban planning can better include aging populations, and in particular factor in Dementia to their design (World Crunch).
Every once and a while I do things like link out to the Very Reputable Source™️ that is hotcars.com. If you can get through the very annoyingly placed ads, the content is actually quite useful detailing which States allow what on their public roads. The TLDR is that as of January 2023 a total of 34 states have published legislation on autonomous vehicles.
Why we should repeal Jaywalking Laws
Transportation for America discusses how repealing Jaywalking would not only address racial and social justice issues, but the effort could also lead towards more just and safe street design.
“One of the intersections of transportation safety and social justice is how we structure our safety strategy with an emphasis on victim-blaming. American transportation planners and engineers have built roadways that mix high-speed traffic with turning vehicles and people walking and biking, killing thousands of people every year. Meanwhile, collision reports focus on whether the person killed while walking or biking was wearing reflective clothing or a helmet, and police clamp down hard on people “jaywalking” without paying significant attention to street design.”
As Nashville acts towards Vision Zero, is the plan a war on cars?
Nashville has created a Citizen Committee / Task Force that will convene for the first next week to “coordinate with Metro staff” on the city’s implementation of Vision Zero. Given that 2022 was Nashville’s deadliest year on record with 49 pedestrian fatalities, the meeting could be seen as a reckoning. However many against safer street infrastructure not as a fight to save human life, but rather as a fight to annihilate car usage. The two are different, and it is important to recognize that.
“Forty-nine people died last year just for existing on our streets. Trying to get somewhere without a car shouldn’t be a death sentence. I’m tired of seeing Nashville make plan after plan and doing nothing to implement them. We have designs in place, we have funding in place. We need to step up and start making changes on our streets.”
Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) do not push traffic onto bigger roads
How is this for a ✨ Myth Buster ✨? The Guardian reported last week that across 46 (!!) low-traffic neighbourhoods, the number of cars on major roads has significantly reduced (!!). Given the whole point of LTNs is essentially to reduce congestion and promote more sustainable modes of transportation, I’m going to go ahead and call this a resounding success.
“The research, which was based on traffic count data before and after the installation of 46 so-called LTNs in London, found a reduction in motor traffic within the zones of 32.7% when measured as the median, and a 46.9% drop when calculated as the mean.”
The more you know!
Loneliness isn’t just an individual experience, it’s the shared experience resulting from poor urban design (The Conversation)
FBI Director says that AVs pose a new threat for terrorist attacks at World Economic Forum (IOT World)
The Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and Luxembourg are asking the European Commission to set a deadline for ending sales of new buses and trucks with internal combustion engines (Electrive)
The UK launched their first autonomous bus (!) between Edinburgh and Fife (BBC)
Outrider raises $73m for autonomous trucks
This isn’t the “trucking” that you’re probably picturing: driving on big open highways, coast to coast. This is the trucks you see in a warehouse or the airport, transporting bulk items from one side of a yard to another. As TechCrunch astutely points out: “Autonomous vehicle technology may no longer be the fuel powering the hype machine. But companies applying the technology to agriculture, commercial and logistics applications are still attracting venture capital.”
Research and Academia
Once upon a time I had a job title of “Mobility Solutions Expert” and not even I knew what that meant. This piece of research out of UCL examines the entire concept of somebody being an “expert” in urbanism and what that could possibly even mean.
“Expertise is a central and under-explored component of cities and urban life with increasing prominence in a politically populist and post-Covid era. Yet there remains a pressing need to investigate the particular ways that urban expertise is produced and circulated, and how it is involved in not only forms of control but can be enacted into more progressive knowledge practices. Crucial in developing a research and activist agenda around urban expertise will be greater efforts to blur distinctions drawn between so-called experts and communities, fuller accounts of the historical contexts and pathways shaping contemporary manifestations of urban expertise, and new efforts to use the politics of urban life to think afresh about the place and possibilities for the expert.”
How can we design ethical AVs?
Stanford researchers are arguing that our existing social contract around driving should apply to automated vehicles, and as they put it “essentially solving the trolley problem.”
“As we researched these questions, we realized that in addition to the traffic code, there are appellate decisions and jury instructions that help flesh out the social contract that has developed during the hundred-plus years we’ve been driving cars. And the core of that social contract revolves around exercising a duty of care to other road users by following the traffic laws except when necessary to avoid a collision. Essentially: In the same situations where it seems reasonable to break the law ethically, it is also reasonable to violate the traffic code legally.”
Researchers at the University of Delaware are exploring how they can help bridge the gap between driving simulations and real-world tests for AVs.
“The problem with simulations is that they are doomed to succeed,” Malikopoulos said. “When you run a simulation, everything runs perfectly — there’s no miscommunication between vehicles, for example. But when you go into the real world, there’s information delays, GPS errors — and those communication errors can have severe negative implications in safety. The advantage of our Scaled Smart City is that it can help us see and address all of the drawbacks with our algorithms before we do real-world testing in a vehicle.”
The disillusions of sharrows
This article talks about all the ways in which cities use cheap, un-impactful interventions (I won’t dare call them actual infrastructure here) such as sharrows (see above) to paint a picture of supporting road safety without actually having to take any risks that might actually … improve road safety.
“Sharrows do, however, accomplish something pernicious which I did not anticipate. They allow officials to take credit for doing something for bicycle safety without impacting car traffic, even though that something is next to nothing. It’s just pretending, and it’s worse than being honest about priorities. It’s insulting to the public to encourage bicycling by painting bike symbols on the street but doing nothing to actually make riding a bike any safer.”
That’s all from me. Have a beautiful weekend friends.
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