Tag Archive for designed to kill

Designed to kill — modern high-profile, blunt-front cars 25% deadlier; and ghost tires installed on LA’s killer highway

It’s not just pickups and SUVs.

While the risk of high-profile vehicles is well documented, a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows even flat-front, mediumheight vehicles present a higher risk of pedestrian fatalities compared with similarly-sized cars with low or sloped front ends.

And guess what the current automotive style trend is.

According to the study, vehicles measuring just 30 to 40 inches from the street to the top of the hood posed a 25% greater risk of pedestrian deaths. And presumably, the same or greater risk to people on bicycles.

According to Streetsblog,

Of course, advocates have long known that high and mighty SUVs and pickup trucks are a significant factor in the 80-percent increase in pedestrian deaths on U.S. roads over the last 14 years. High front ends are associated with higher risk of deadly head and thorax injuries, and studies show vulnerable road users are more likely to be thrown under the wheels of an SUV and sustain even more extensive injuries, rather than being being pushed onto the hood or the roof.

The new study reveals, though, that even cars that Americans think of as “medium sized” aren’t necessarily safe, either. Nearly 35 percent of U.S. vehicles are now designed with a blunt — and significantly more deadly — front end, the study authors said, citing a recent re-design of the Ford Mustang…

“Over the past 30 years, the average U.S. passenger vehicle has gotten about four inches wider, 10 inches longer, eight inches taller and 1,000 pounds heavier,” the Insurance Institute added. “Many vehicles are more than 40 inches tall at the leading edge of the hood.”

And they wonder why traffic deaths have been going up every year.

As long as federal regulations continue to allow the seemingly endless motor vehicle size creep — and allow car makers to literally design their vehicles to kill anyone not safely ensconced in a couple tons of glass and steel — that’s not going to change.

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay.

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Sometimes, though, traffic violence has less to do with the size and shape of the vehicle than the design of the roadway.

And the actions of the driver.

Like on PCH in Malibu, where a driver traveling in excess of 100 mph killed four Pepperdine University students just standing on the side of the roadway, as they made their way to a fraternity party.

Yesterday afternoon, traffic safety nonprofit Streets Are For Everyone, aka SAFE, installed four white ghost tires where they lost their lives.

Or rather, where they were brutally murdered.

The memorials are similar to ghost bikes, to remember those who have been killed by speeding drivers.

But sharing responsibility with their alleged killer are the officials who have done little or nothing to correct the single deadliest surface street in LA County.

Here’s how SAFE put it in their press release.

Any single loss of a loved one and community member due to a preventable traffic collision is tragic. The loss of four in one incident is horrific, but these preventable collisions are made worse by the fact that the short stretch of PCH that travels through residential and business areas of Malibu has been known for decades as a dangerous road with vehicles regularly doing 60-80 MPH and sometimes well over 100.

Since 2010 there have been 58 fatalities (including the four young women just killed) and about 2500 individuals injured. The single largest factor in these crashes is reckless speeding. (Source LA County Sheriff’s Dept and TIMS) For decades the community of Malibu, including various family members of those who have been killed and city officials, has asked Caltrans (the government agency responsible for PCH) to slow down PCH and re-engineer it. Little has been done.

In 2015 the California Office of Traffic Safety commissioned a study of PCH through Pacific Palisades and Malibu called the PCH Pedestrian Safety Project. In that report, there were 130 improvements recommended for the section of PCH in Malibu, including reducing the speed limit of PCH through the most densely populated areas. In the eight years since that report, Caltrans has implemented 6 of the recommendations (the City of Malibu has implemented additional recommendations with Caltrans approval) and none of the most effective recommendations have been accomplished. There is still a 45 MPH speed limit – too fast for the road conditions through Malibu. Drivers still often drive 60+ MPH through this built-up, high-pedestrian area, because there are few stop lights, and traffic calming measures are lacking.

“It’s been eight years since the 2015 safety recommendations were issued. Caltrans has done virtually nothing since then to reduce unsafe driving on PCH in Malibu. EIGHT YEARS! What else has Caltrans been doing over that time that is more important than stopping people being killed at this rate on such a short stretch of road?” – Barry Stewart (Father of Peyton Stewart, killed along with her three friends by a speeding driver on PCH.)

The question is how many more people will have to die before someone, anyone, finally does something to fix the problem.

Because the modest tinkering around the edges that passes for safety improvements on LA’s killer highway clearly haven’t done anything to save lives.

And if the deaths of four innocent young women isn’t enough to convince state, county and local officials to do something, I don’t know what will.

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Speaking of which, the annual World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims is this Sunday.

Maybe someday, carmakers will finally try to design their vehicles to make fewer victims to remember, and traffic engineers and elected officials will build roads that don’t contribute to the problem.

Which is what Vision Zero is all about.

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‘Tis the season.

More bike-centric holiday gift guides, from Bike Rumor, Road.cc and Velo.

Meanwhile, the US Army’s South Korean base Camp Humphreys distributed 80 refurbished bicycles for Veterans Day, ensuring that junior-enlisted soldiers had first choice.

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The war on cars may be a myth, but the war on bikes just keeps on going.

Nope, no bias here. A former Baltimore city council president decried a recent road diet and bike lanes, saying “There are elitist, fanatical people who believe they want to improve the world by getting rid of cars and the way they do it is by narrowing every street that they can, even if it has a negative effect on the city.” Never mind that lane reductions and bike lanes have been repeatedly shown to improve safety for everyone, and often improve traffic flow while increasing sales for local businesses. But sure, just keep hating on people working to make positive changes on our streets. Schmuck. 

No bias here, either. After police ignored a sideswipe hit-and-run by a motor scooter rider that knocked a London man famed for bicycling with his cat off his bike, telling him only that he should wear a helmet, the victim has received thousands of abusive messages on social media — going so far as telling him to kill himself — and been reported to the SPCA for animal abuse.

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Local 

Yes, please. CD5 Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky talked with UCLA’s Daily Bruin student newspaper about her goals for Westwood, including more bus and bike lanes to build more livable communities.

Alhambra’s newly revealed active transportation plan calls for more than 50 miles of new bike lanes, as well as several new pedestrian priority zones. Let’s just hope they follow through. Because, as we’ve learned the hard way here in Los Angeles, a mobility plan is only as good as the city’s commitment to it. 

Santa Monica cops will be conducting another bicycle and pedestrian safety operation today, ticketing anyone committing a traffic violation that could put bike riders or pedestrians at risk. So if you haven’t left for your ride yet, ride to the letter of the law until you cross the city limits, so you’re not the one who gets ticketed. 

 

State

Streetsblog’s Melanie Curry examines the new Calbike survey showing most respondents are afraid to walk or bike on roadways controlled by Caltrans, four years after Governor Newsom vetoed a bill that would have mandated Complete Streets because, in his words, “Caltrans was already doing that.” Apparently not.

The new owner of the 50-year old Leucadia Cyclery is fighting to stay in business, after the owners of the building refused to extend the lease due to “water leaks, electrical problems and its overall vulnerability as high-risk unreinforced masonry.”

It’s been a rough few days in Kern County, where a man riding a bicycle was killed by a driver in Bakersfield yesterday afternoon, while a 21-year old woman was arrested for the hit-and-run that killed a bike-riding woman in Wasco on Sunday.

In better Kern County news, a new bike lane is slated to open in Tehachapi this month.

San Francisco state Assemblymember Phil Ting writes about securing more than $2 million for bicycling programs in the city, including $1.2 million for safety improvements to Arguello Blvd between Golden Gate Park and the Presidio, where champion cyclist Ethan Boyes was killed earlier this year. Maybe someday, a Los Angeles-area legislator will secure funding to fix the site where someone, anyone, was killed on our streets.

 

National

Seattle is nearing completion on a $40 million curb-protected bike lane connecting the Capitol Hill neighborhood with downtown, although design compromises — like rerouting it onto a sidewalk and around light post to avoid inconveniencing drivers — could reduce its effectiveness.

Advocates in my bike-friendly Colorado hometown are working to turn the site of the former college football stadium where I used to smuggle rum inside my tuba on game days into a massive 60 to 80 acre world class bike park. I mean, the statute of limitations for that is over, right?

About damn time. A new Chicago ordinance requires the city to study any fatal crashes to determine the cause, and report all fatal crashes to the public. Now let’s get them to do something like that here. Thanks to Bike Lane Uprising® for the heads-up. 

No bias here. After a 16-year old Chicago boy was killed in a collision while riding his bike, the only mention that the truck that hit him even had a driver was a brief note that the driver was uninjured.

That’s more like it. A 27-year old Michigan man will spend between 3.6 and 15 years behind bars, less four days for time served, for the drunken hit-and-run that killed a 30-year old man riding a bicycle; he was nearly three times the legal alcohol limit when he fled the scene, dragging the victim nearly a mile and a half under his van.

Officials in New York called on retailers and food delivery companies to do more to halt the proliferation of dangerous ebike and e-scooter batteries, after three people were killed in a fire blamed on a lithium ion scooter battery.

A coalition of safe streets and immigrant rights advocates are pushing back against a New York City proposal that would require registration and licensing for ebikes, arguing that it would be dangerous and expensive, and wouldn’t make the streets any safer.

An Emmy-winning Irish filmmaker and photographer’s bike was found at a beach in Queens, after he vanished without a trace last week,

There’s a special place in hell for the New Jersey man accused of robbing a group of kids at gunpoint when they met him to buy a bicycle he’d posted online.

Sad news from Philadelphia, where the local bicycle coalition remembers a former staffer who was killed by a driver while leading a long-distance LGBTQ + BIPOC bikepacking trip.

 

International

Momentum offers a guide to securely storing your cargo bike or ebike.

A writer for Bike Magazine takes a five day bikepacking trip through the Alps, discussing all the gear they brought, as well as the gear they didn’t need.

E-bikesharing services are quickly replacing the popular e-scooters on the streets of Seoul, South Korea.

 

Competitive Cycling

Velo remembers the best moments of the 2023 cycling season.

The Tour de France will stay home in 2025, with the Grand Départ set for Lille in northern France.

$70,000 worth of bicycles belonging to competitors in September’s triathlon World Championship race in Pontevedra, Spain are being held hostage by a subcontractor for the shipping company, which insists they are owed $300,000 in unpaid invoices. However, the roughly 180 people whose bikes they’re holding aren’t the ones who allegedly stiffed them.

 

Finally…

When you’re carrying $6,600 worth of hot electronic gear on your bike, put a damn light on it, already. And at last, a bicycle with a glove box.

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Be safe, and stay healthy. And get vaccinated, already.

Oh, and fuck Putin

1st quarter traffic deaths jump again, proof pickups and SUVs cause more deaths, and holding killer drivers accountable

No, it’s not your imagination.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported yesterday that more people have died on American streets in the first quarter of this year than any year in the past two decades.

Early NHTSA estimates show 9,560 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes through the end of March, a seven percent increase over last year, which saw the highest number of traffic deaths in 16 years.

In other words, we are going the wrong way, at an ever-increasing pace.

There’s a wide range of likely reasons, ranging from speeding and distracted drivers to trucks and SUVs with high, flat grills designed to kill.

None of which are beyond our ability to solve today.

We only need to get enough people to care enough about the lives of innocent victims to demand change.

But so far, that, too, has been beyond our reach.

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On a related note, Ontario, Canada safety advocates say they have the numbers to prove pickups and SUVs cause more deaths, and have written the province’s chief coroner to request an investigation.

One of the studies, from 2021, estimates 8,131 pedestrians between 2000 and 2019 could have survived if they were struck by sedans instead of SUVs or trucks.

Another study, published in the Journal of Safety Research in June, found that while SUVs and trucks made up just 26.1 per cent of pedestrian and cyclist collisions, they accounted for 44.1 per cent of fatalities.  That study also suggested that because of their larger size, SUVs and trucks are more likely to hit vulnerable road users in the chest or head than a sedan.

Maybe they could write a few letters to US officials while they’re at it.

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A writer for Outside takes a deep dive into the aftermath of a tragic New York bicycling collision that took the life of a young woman, to examine why drivers are so seldom held accountable for killing another person.

And what can be done about it.

As part of the story, he looks back to the magazine’s groundbreaking Cycling Deaths project, which attempted to document every bicycling traffic death in 2020, recording nearly 700 fatalities.

In most of the stories we gathered information on, there were no consequences for the driver or even scrutiny of their behavior. Law enforcement rarely issued a ticket to drivers who killed cyclists. Criminal charges for the crash itself were even less common, often occurring only when a driver was intoxicated. It was hard not to read through each case and wonder: Is that the way things should be? Does driving that results in someone’s death cross the legal threshold for punishment that infrequently?

It’s very hard to find comprehensive data on penalties issued after car crashes, but among the safe-streets advocates and legal experts I talked to, it’s generally taken as a matter of course that people who kill cyclists while driving—even recklessly, even illegally—are rarely held legally accountable for their actions. The big picture, those observers say, is that drivers are offered a kind of impunity that doesn’t exist in just about any other situation where a human kills another human. “The judicial system is applying laws in a way that results in widespread injustice to victims of traffic violence,” says Gregory Shill, a law professor at the University of Iowa. “I would go beyond courts—a common root of all this is that we have a high social acceptance of traffic deaths.”

As the story points out, drivers should automatically lose their license if they kill another person, but seldom do.

As Traffic author Tom Vanderbilt put it, a drivers license is too easy to get, and too hard to lose

If I had my way, killer drivers would be sentenced to work-release, required to serve in emergency rooms and morgues during the day to tend to the victims of traffic violence, before returning to their cells at night.

Although the courts would probably consider that cruel and unusual punishment to subject them to that kind of emotional and psychological torment.

Unlike, say, their victims and their loved ones, who have to suffer that pain for the rest of their lives.

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This is who we share the city with, unfortunately.

Maybe they’re care more if it was 58. Or 59.

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Time’s running out to score a great deal on a vintage bike, and support a good cause in the process.

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Yes, your morning commute can be green, and actually make you happy.

Even in chilly Minnesota.

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Remember this the next time you have to lock your bike up to a banged-up wheel-bender rack.

Thanks to Glenn Crider for the heads-up. 

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GCN wants to help you improve your average speed on your bike.

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Our German correspondent Ralph Durham forwards a photo of race walkers at the European Championships in Munich, where he’s working as a volunteer.

And points out that even they have to cope with race motos. Although the slower pace probably means they pose less risk to the racers.

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The war on cars may be a myth, but the war on bikes just keeps on going.

That’s more like it. An Idaho driver has been sentenced to 12 years behind bars, with three years fixed, for chasing bike-riding kids through a public park with his pickup, then running over one boy’s bike after he jumped off. But it’s okay, because he’s really, really sorry. No, really.

Sometimes, it’s the people on two wheels behaving badly.

LAPD officers shot a bike-riding young man waving a machete after he refused orders to drop the knife and allegedly advance on officers; no word on his condition.

Elderly London residents say they’ve stopped walking on a roadway that was closed as part of the city’s Low Traffic Neighborhood, the equivalent of a Slow Street in the US, out of fear of red light-running bicyclists and confusion over who has the right-of-way.

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Local

The Eastsider reports city officials will make the temporary closure of Griffith Park Drive through Griffith Park permanent, after a traffic study showed the closure eliminated cut-through commuter traffic without increasing traffic on Zoo Drive (scroll down).

LADOT is bringing protected bike lanes and bus islands to a one-mile stretch of Central Ave in Watts.

 

State 

A California firm is working with Toshiba to improve the chemistry of ebike batteries to reduce charging times and the risk of battery fires.

A coalition of San Diego advocacy groups have endorsed Alternative D for the planned reconstruction of Park Blvd through Balboa Park, which calls for eliminating parking and installing bus lanes and a separated bike lane.

He gets it. A spokesperson for the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition says the problem isn’t that ebikes are unsafe, it’s a wakeup call to how unsafe the roads are.

Anson Williams, the 72-year old actor who played Potsie in Happy Days back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, is running for mayor of Ojai on a platform that includes expansion of bike paths and trails. He’s got my vote.

This is who we share the road with. A UC Santa Barbara cop was busted for a drunken hit-and-run in Solvang earlier this month; fortunately, his only victim was a parked minivan. Thanks to Ted Faber for the link.

A San Jose homeowner says he’s spent $30,000 to construct reinforced barriers to stop out-of-control drivers, after 23 drivers have slammed into his home since the 680 freeway opened 50 years ago.

 

National

Next City offers more on the recent NACTO report suggesting that bike laws aren’t keeping bike riders safe, while leading to over-policing of people of color.

Cycling Tips offers a beginner’s guide to what matters most in selecting entry-level road and gravel bikes.

More than 2,100 Denver residents have received ebike rebate vouchers up to $1,700 since the program began in April; most putting their ebikes to good use, with around half riding them on a daily basis. On the other hand, California’s fully funded ebike rebate program remains in limbo, apparently awaiting a chilly day in hell. 

Congratulations to Nebraska, which is no longer the nation’s least bike-friendly state; that dishonor now goes to Wyoming, which is unfriendly to bikes and Cheneys, apparently.

Chicago Magazine talks with Christina Whitehouse, the founder of Bike Lane Uprising, an app allowing bike riders to log the location and submit photos of vehicles illegally parked in bike lanes.

No bias here. Chicago cops responded to a protest over drivers running red lights by changing the traffic signal to green for a full five minutes, stranding everyone waiting to cross the street.

A kindhearted Pittsburgh cop bought a new bike and helmet for an eight-year old girl, after firefighters weren’t able to save her bike from a fire at her grandmother’s house.

TMZ offers more information on the death of Ironman triathlete and Norristown PA cop Brian Kozera, who allegedly ran a stop sign on his bike and crashed into the side of a pickup, before being run over by the truck’s rear wheels. As always, the question is whether there were any independent witnesses to the crash, or if investigators are relying on the word of the driver.

 

International

If you’re looking for a new business opportunity, you could do worse than a solar-powered food ebike.

They get it. Calgary, Alberta is installing a bike lane to remove excess road space and slow speeding drivers.

Pilot protected bike lanes on one of Toronto’s busiest streets saw up to a 193% jump in ridership over a single year, while resulting in a less than one minute delay in motor vehicle traffic.

A seven-year old British boy became one of the youngest people to ride from Paris to London after his father was killed in an industrial accident, raising the equivalent of over $42,000 for bereaved children on the 200-mile journey.

The Guardian’s Peter Walker says a proposal to requite license plates on bicycles in the UK makes bicyclists the latest target in the culture wars. The proposed regulations are reminiscent of North Korea, where people are required to pass a bicycle proficiency test and display a metal license plate on their bikes; that country also bans women from riding bikes.

 

Competitive Cycling

For nearly two decades, we’ve been supposed to pretend Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis never won the Tour de France. Now we’re supposed to pretend Nairo Quintana didn’t have a top ten finish in the Tour last year, after UCI stripped him of 6th place for using the prohibited painkiller tramadol; Quintana denies ever using it, of course.

Ramona High School graduate Gwendalyn Gibson, class of 2017, became the only American to win a World Cup mountain bike race this year, after taking first in a West Virginia race last month.

In case you missed it yesterday, NPR offers a good look at gravel racing, and the sport’s emphasis on diversity and inclusion. Thanks to Lionel Mares for the reminder.

This week’s 2022 Para-Cycling Road World Championships somehow slipped under the radar, even as the US is making a good showing.

 

Finally…

Evidently, bike mechanics hate triathletes — and not just because they wear speedos, evidently. That feeling when American tourists have no idea why there are so many bicycles parked at European train stations; thanks to Erik Griswold for the tip.

And now you, too, can have your very own DIY beer stabilization system to avoid spilling your suds as you ride around Burning Man.

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Be safe, and stay healthy. And get vaccinated, already.

Oh, and fuck Putin, too.