Morning Links: Auto-centric traffic safety denier op-ed in OC Register, cross-border bike rescue, and why people keep dying

One quick bit of advice before we get started. 

With all the fires in California this week, it’s important to note that wildfire smoke can cause problems ranging from allergies and irritated eyes to lasting lung damage. 

So if you can smell smoke, don’t ride. If you have to ride, wear a mask.

And stop by your local hardware store or pharmacy to get one that really works.

Your lungs will thank you. 

Photo by Denniz Futalan from Pexels.

………

File this one under you’ve got to be kidding.

An op-ed in the Orange County Register makes some of the most blatant auto-centric, traffic safety denier arguments for the preservation of automotive hegemony we’ve yet seen.

Starting with the photo and captions of the “recent” road diets in Playa Del Rey.

LA Department of Transportation crews began restoring a second eastbound lane of traffic on Culver Boulevard between Nicholson Street and Jefferson Boulevard in Playa Del Rey while adding bollards as barriers to protect new bike/walk lanes. A recent “road diet” caused gridlock and backlash from commuters. Work is expected to be complete by Monday morning commute. Photo by Robert Casillas, Daily Breeze/SCNG

Only problem is, those road diets and bike lanes were removed two year ago. after climate friendly progressive mayor had them unceremoniously yanked out.

Evidently, it’s taken LADOT a long damn time to finish the work.

Or maybe our friendly neighborhood traffic safety denier authors — one a senior fellow with the Cato Institute, which is funded by the anti-transit Koch Brothers, the other an attorney and member of traffic safety denier pressure group Keep LA Moving — didn’t bother to do even the most basic fact checking.

Or maybe just didn’t care.

As demonstrated by their lead paragraphs, repeating the myth that a recent road diet prevented the evacuation of Paradise CA, leading to the deaths of 86 people.

Except it’s not true, according to the town’s mayor.

Mayor Jody Jones said Tuesday that the evacuation of Paradise, begun at 7:46 a.m Nov. 8, was complete by 3 p.m. Residents who arrived at a shelter in Oroville said the 16-mile exodus took 2½ hours, better than the three-hour evacuation in 2008 that sparked the Butte County Grand Jury’s investigation.

“I don’t believe that it really mattered,” Jones said of the changes made on Skyway. “I don’t think there’s any town in the world prepared with a roadway infrastructure that could evacuate their entire town all at once. They’re just not built to do that.”

That’s right.

The evacuation route took half an hour less than the same journey ten years earlier — six years before the road was even installed.

Then there’s this whopper.

The mass-produced automobile is one of the greatest inventions in American history because it brought both physical and economic mobility to the masses. These benefits were accompanied by pollution and safety issues, but such problems have dramatically declined. Cars today are 99 percent cleaner than cars in 1970, and fatality rates per 100 million vehicle miles have declined more than 75 percent.

Ask anyone who rides a bike or walks if they feel safer on the streets.

Never mind that this great invention they cite is literally one of the least efficient ways to move human beings from one place to another. And has the entire world on the brink of a climate disaster.

But hey, they’re not as bad as they used to be, right?

Or how about this?

The numbers reveal that fatalities plummeted 21 percent after the 2008 financial crisis. This was because total driving fell by 2.3 percent, reducing congestion and apparently increasing safety. When driving and congestion increased again during the economic recovery, fatalities also increased, though not by as much as they had declined.

This suggests that small reductions in traffic congestion can save many lives. Congestion especially makes intersections and streets more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists.

However, there is a much better case to be made that while congestion may increase the risk of collisions, the severity of crashes decreases along with the decrease in speeds.

As we’ve seen in LA, the risk of traffic fatalities actually increases dramatically when streets are less congested, enabling drivers to speed and drive more aggressively.

Studies have found that for every pedestrian whose life might be saved by slowing traffic, anywhere from 35 to 85 people will die from sudden cardiac arrest due to delayed emergency response. This doesn’t even count other medical emergencies, structure fires, or other emergency service needs.

Someone please show us these studies, because they defy all comprehension.

Or maybe the Federal Highway Administration has no idea what they’re talking about when they say that not only do road diets not slow down emergency response times, they can actually improve them.

Then our traffic safety denier guides bring it down to the local level, LA style.

Los Angeles installed a road diet on Venice Boulevard, a tsunami, fire, and earthquake evacuation route, converting two of six traffic lanes into bicycle lanes. Auto traffic declined yet bicycle-auto accidents increased, a problem worsened by the difficulty emergency vehicles had in reaching injured cyclists.

Which is funny, since the road diet on Venice Blvd, aka the Mar Vista Great Streets project, actually reduced injury collisions involving people on bicycles, while eliminating severe injury collisions.

And average response times for the Mar Vista fire station are just 30 seconds longer than the citywide average.

Yes, every second matters. But clearly, the roads aren’t as congested and impassible as they would have us believe.

Let’s end on this note.

Calculations using the Department of Transportation’s National Transit Database reveal that transit in Los Angeles and most cities not named New York uses more energy and emits more greenhouse gases per passenger mile than the average car or SUV. Autos use even more energy and pollute the most in congested traffic, so increasing congestion or forcing people onto transit are the wrong ways to protect the environment.

The solution is not to force people to keep driving, which has already resulted in ever increasing traffic congestion virtually everywhere, with or without road diets.

It’s to provide viable alternatives to driving in order to get more of those cars, trucks and SUVs off the road. And the way to do that is by making bicycling, walking and transit safer, more pleasant and more efficient.

Not by doing the exact opposite.

Note: I debunked many of these and other similar myths by the Keep LA Moving half of these traffic safety denier authors in a response to his equally wacky Wall Street Journal op-ed earlier this year.

Sadly, it’s clear they’ll still get a platform, though, as long as newspapers keep excluding opinion pieces from any form of fact checking.

………

David Drexler forwards news of a stolen bicycle returned to its owner, despite being taken across the border into Mexico.

Thanks in part to Bike Index.

BIKE INDEX AIDS IN RARE CROSS-BORDER RECOVERY
San Diego, Coronado, and Tijuana police forces collaborate expertly after receiving a tip on Bike Index to recover this $6,000 bicycle.

“Hi think I saw your bike on a swap meet place in Tijuana, which was a very weird place for me find an awesome bike. I’ve got the feeling that it was stolen so I took some pics and sent them to your phone. I hope it’s your stolen bike.” In August, a bike was stolen from outside of the Hotel del Coronado. A month later, someone messaged the registrant using Bike Index, believing they saw the bike at a swap meet in Mexico. Officers in Tijuana recovered the bike and met officers from the San Diego and Coronado police at the border to return the stolen bike to the owner. Cross-border recoveries are extremely rare! We’ve only had two others in our history: one bike found in Guadalajara and another found in Mexico City.

So what are you waiting for?

Register your own bike, already. Before it’s too late.

………

This is why people keep dying on the streets.

The family of a Michigan man is understandably upset about a plea deal that would mean just one year in jail for the hit-and-run driver who killed him as he was riding his bike, instead of the maximum of 15-years behind bars.

After a New York trucker was convicted of killing a bike rider while driving with a suspended license, the judge sentenced him to…wait for it…another suspended sentence. Which probably won’t keep him off the roads, either.

A Malaysian judge dropped all charges and freed a woman who had slammed her car into a group of teenaged bike riders, killing eight young men; the judge ruled the police had failed to sufficiently investigate the crash. And even gave her back her driver’s license so she could do it again.

………

The LACBC offers a few slogans for your Climate Strike sign at this Friday’s City Hall protest, which will feature 16-year old climate activist Greta Thunberg.

………

The war on cars may be a myth, but the war on bikes is all too real.

Brooklyn garbage collectors respond to the recent deaths of bike riders killed by garbage truck drivers by walling off a bike lane with garbage cans to protest this damn bike riders. No, really.

Then there’s this, from our own LA backyard.

Meanwhile, CiclaValley says the new Safe Lanes app is the best way to record and report drivers who block bike lanes.

………

Local

Here’s a better version of the Eastsider’s story about construction work on the new Red Car Pedestrian Bridge over the LA River that we linked to yesterday. Thanks to Patrick Pascal for the link.

West Hollywood ranked in the bottom third of America’s Best Small Cities, but scored a top 20 ranking for quality of life, due in part to its bikeshare system. Which has now been removed.

It’s not just bike riders who are dying in LA-area hit-and-runs.

 

State

The California Transportation Commission will livestream a symposium on the state’s Active Transportation Program today and tomorrow.

San Diego residents can look forward to a number of street disruptions in the South Bay Area for construction of the South Bay Rapid transit system starting, uh, yesterday. Thanks to Robert Leone for the heads-up.

More news from down south, where the bikeways program of the San Diego Association of Governments, aka SANDAG, is on hold for a year after falling behind schedule and $79 million over budget. Smart thinking. Nothing will get them back on track like falling even further behind.

Sacramento residents discuss how they’d make biking and walking safer.

 

National

Great long read from Cycling Tips’ James Huang, aka the Angry Asian, who says enough already, it’s time the bike industry did something about traffic deaths, while a Kentucky newspaper says not only are more pedestrians dying on our streets, but even more carnage lies ahead.

Vox says carfree zones could be the future of cities. Exactly what former state legislator Mike Gatto called for in Sunday’s Daily News.

He gets it. A writer for a public interest research group says with the dangers posed by climate change, bike riders getting scared off the roads by safety fears should be a big red flag, and we already know how to fix it.

A driving website recommends the best bike bells, calling them a must-have for a “safe, care-free ride.” Because evidently, a bell can be heard above a bumping sound system in a hermetically sealed, virtually soundproof motor vehicle, instantly alerting the driver he’s about to run over your ass. Right?

Outside tests three popular e-cargo bikes, and likes the Tern best. But says the much cheaper RadWagon will still get you there.

Evidently, they don’t get a lot of bike-riding Buddhist monks in Memphis. Or headline proof readers, for that matter.

When Boston park benches get in the way of bike stunts, just take an angle cutter and remove them. The benches, that is.

This is how Vision Zero is supposed to work. New York responds to this year’s epidemic of bicycling deaths with a $1.7 billion commitment to build 250 miles of protected bike lanes. Meanwhile, Los Angeles is committed to building bupkis.

A bike rider says he was tackled off his bike while riding on a DC trail and robbed at gunpoint, with the thief taking his bike, pannier, wallet and everything else he had with him.

The admittedly drunk New Orleans driver who killed two people riding bikes and injured several others at a Mardi Gras parade has changed his plea and and admitted guilt to all charges; he now faces up to 80 years behind bars.

A kindhearted anonymous donor dropped off a new bicycle for a Florida chef after his was stolen while he was at work; he can’t drive due to epilepsy and relies on his bicycle to get anywhere.

 

International

Interesting idea. A new bike stem comes with a built-in bike computer and 800 lumen headlight.

A brazen British bike thief literally followed a woman into a local shop to steal her new bike, after she took it in because she’d forgotten her lock.

In an absolutely brilliant step, a Belgian TV show takes politicians on a bike ride to show them the poor state of bicycle infrastructure, then confronts them with 500 relatives of people on bicycles who died because of it. Maybe if an LA TV station tried that, we might actually see some changes around here.

The City Fix offers three key lessons from The Netherlands to help spur bicycling in your own city.

A Pakistani man was killed when a glass-coated kite string fell on him, slitting his throat as he rode his bike; coated strings are used for popular kite battles in which the goal is to cut the strings of other kites.

Japanese internet users are in a tizzy after a mom is caught on video smacking her son in the head and knocking him down, for riding his bike in front of a car without looking.

 

Competitive Cycling

Bicycling likes next year’s Giro course, of course.

Good for them. After the lead rider in a Brazilian bike race got hit by a driver on an open course while the cop responsible for stopping traffic stood idly by checking his phone (see below), the entire peloton laid down their bikes and walked off in protest.

But maybe you’re more into Brompton racing.

 

Finally…

Mutant bikes and the people who love them. Who hasn’t dreamed of one day owning a shape-shifting aero bike helmet?

And nothing like getting dropped by a little kid.

 

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