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The Monday Roundup: Finnish urbanism, cities defying DOTs and more

Posted by on December 29th, 2014 at 8:52 am

helsinki

Helsinki plans to add 250,000 residents by 2050 by
creating a “networked” transportation system
that would make a combination of modes more useful
than car ownership.
(Renderings: Helsinki Strategic Urban Planning Division)

Happy holidays! Things will still be a little slower than usual on BikePortland this week but we’ll have new posts each day this week. To start things off, here are the bike links from around the world that caught our eyes:

Finnish urbanism: If your children become urban planners, it looks like they’ll be taking study tours of Helsinki to see how it’s done.

Civic disobedience: Is your state’s DOT blocking cities from making their streets safer, fairer and more prosperous? Then your city’s DOT should take a lesson from the gay marriage movement and start making changes without permission, argues Transport Providence.

The Oregonian vs. “Climate Change”: The state’s largest newspaper has decided that “climate change” (the quote marks are theirs) isn’t worth writing editorials about because it isn’t an Oregon issue. (As Oregon Business noted, “it is unclear whether the Oregonian will cover the carbon tax debate expected to take place during the 2015 legislative session.”)

Yellow jacket power: Should “high-viz” doubters eat their hats? A Danish study just found that yellow jackets with reflective stripes cut auto collision risk 48 percent.

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Close-call database: This is one of the slickest attempts we’ve seen to build a national database for bike safety hotspots. (You can log in with a Strava account.)

Transportation progress: CityLab has a pretty good roundup of the major developments in transportation this year, including the Copenhagen Wheel e-bike retrofit and the spread of Vision Zero.

Gas price plunge: As of Dec. 22, the national average gas price had fallen every day for 88 days straight, a record — but public transit ridership is still rising, at least for now. (Biking trends are harder to measure, of course.)

Autonomous car: Following on its May model of a self-driving car, Google now has its first working prototype.

Biking deaths up: The number of people who died on bikes inched up 1.2 percent in 2013 to the highest absolute number since 2006. But that doesn’t account for ridership that Census figures suggest is continuing to inch up, too.

Southern urbanism: The latest city to focus on using biking improvements to avoid choking on future traffic is Charleston, SC.

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9watts
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9watts

I have to hand it to the Oregonlive commenters this time around. Almost 1000 comments on their we’re-not-going-to-talk-about-it editorial. My favorite was the Editor, Erik Lukens’ reply to commenter Diane:
“Actually, we didn’t ignore readers who wanted us to include climate change in our 2015 agenda. If we had, we would not have written this editorial explaining why we’re not going to include it. We simply disagree with some readers on this subject, and figured we’d explain why. ”

This is obviously a personal thing with him. He has kept busy the last few days writing shallow, ideological replies to people’s passionate comments.

Rob
Guest
Rob

Absolutely, Eric is an ideological warrior. This is his thumb in the eye as he goes down gracelessly on this issue.

Anne Hawley
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Anne Hawley

Oh! So that’s the actual, real editorial We. It sounds so lame.

Jeff
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Jeff

As an editorial and news outlet, the Oregonian is almost completely irrelevant. I wouldn’t put too much weight on anything, their editors, reporters, OR commenters.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“A Danish study just found that yellow jackets with reflective stripes cut auto collision risk 48 percent.”

“A Swedish study found that across-the-board 20mph speed limits within city limits cut auto collision risk by 78 percent.”
🙂

9watts
Guest
9watts

But a very cool study all the same. Thanks for alerting us to this. Should enliven any future conversations on this topic here.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

Heh. But guess which one is more likely to become law after legislators “get a look at the numbers” and decide to take a “strictly rational approach” to safer streets. “It just makes sense”.

colton
Guest
colton

Am I the only one who feels this is a tired old argument that lacks any substance? Other than children under 16 needing to wear a helmet, I can’t think of any other fashion laws I’m held to by the police.

Anne Hawley
Guest
Anne Hawley

While you’ll never see me in hi-viz clothing, I’d hesitate to call safety gear advice (or mandates) “fashion laws.” By that definition, seatbelts and leather belts are similar.

colton
Guest
colton

Call them what you will (advice, mandates or laws), but there is very little evidence to suggest that we’ll ever be required to wear hi-vis.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

Not yet. But just in case we want to make some, here’s some sample text from an ordinance enacted by Fox Point, WI:

“23.08 Visibility Requirements for Pedestrians*
(a) Pedestrians must be clearly visible; No person may walk, run, stand, or otherwise be present on a public roadway between one-half hour after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise unless such person i[s] clearly visible…
(b) …A person is clearly visible if, and only if, the person satisfies one or more of the following requirements:
a. Reflective Clothing; At least 4 square inches of the persons outer layer is reflectorized such that it is visible at 500 feet (front and rear)
b. Reflectors; Such person is equipped with reflectors with a diameter of 2 inches (front and rear)
c. Flashlight; a flashlight that is lit and worn or carried and visible at 500 feet from front and red in color and lit or carried, visible at 500 feet to
rear.”

Granted, this is a small town in Wisconsin, and they allow for a flashlight to be worn or just carried in lieu of reflective clothing, but the sentiment is out there that pedestrians and cyclists need to “protect themselves”, and by golly, we’ll force them to if they won’t do it out of their own “common sense”. For cyclists, it starts with all-ages helmet laws (such as in Vancouver, WA) and goes from there. I don’t have a bit of a hard time imagining that legal bike light requirements soon won’t be considered “enough” to make yourself visible to poor, harried drivers who are just trying to get through the drive-thru in time to make it home for dinner.

Enough kooky ideas come up in the state legislature (mandatory bike licensing and license plates, banning passengers from trailers, banning passengers under six years old) or in other states or cities (mandatory reflective clothing, mandatory helmets for all ages), that it isn’t that far-fetched to think some of them might happen here.

jeff bernards
Guest
jeff bernards

For now it’s probably easier to wear a yellow jacket than it will be to get a 20 mph speed limit. Wear the yellow jacket for now.

9watts
Guest
9watts

Well sure, but the problem with your approach is that we’ll never get the 20mph speed limit. Just because it conforms with carhead, is easier to *imagine*, offloads responsibility onto the vulnerable, doesn’t mean it is prudent, or will lead to better outcomes in the long run.

Jon
Guest
Jon

Based on previous article comments it was easy to guess that the high visibility clothing study would be a tough sell on Bikeportland. When did safety become entirely the responsibility of the state via laws? The study seemed to have very clear results. If you are visible you are much less likely to be involved in a multi-party accident. I also wish that people would drive slower, not drink alcohol and drive, not text and drive, etc. but I personally can’t stop someone from doing those things. Wearing high visibility clothing is something I personally can do to decrease the chance that someone runs a car into me.

9watts
Guest
9watts

Jon,
Of the past dozen or so conversations about high viz clothing here on bikeportland that I can recall, not a one was framed around the question:

Is it sensible to wear high viz clothing?

They were instead framed around the question:

Should a public (or in the case of the Bike Gallery, a private) entity focus in their PR campaign on high viz clothing’s safety benefits, to the exclusion of some other easily imagined but almost never mentioned behaviors?

There is a significant difference, and you are objecting to a conversation that we’ve not, by and large, been having.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“Jon,
Of the past dozen or so conversations about high viz clothing here on bikeportland that I can recall, not a one was framed around the question:

Is it sensible to wear high viz clothing?

They were instead framed around the question:

Should a public (or in the case of the Bike Gallery, a private) entity focus in their PR campaign on high viz clothing’s safety benefits, to the exclusion of some other easily imagined but almost never mentioned behaviors? …” watts

Nah, I don’t think bikportland’s past stories and consequential comment section discussions about hi-vis clothing were framed around the question you suggest they were. That is, questions regarding the ethics of public and private entities relative to their encouragement of use of hi-vis gear by people as vulnerable road users.

The stories bikeportland wrote about Bike Gallery, ODOT, Tri Met and the city of Portland encouraging the use of hi-vis gear by people as vulnerable road users, basically dwelt on a far more simple question. Never clearly stated in those stories, a question coming out of them more or less seemed to fall along the lines of ‘Do you like ODOT, Tri Met, etc, advising you as someone that rides a bike, walks, etc, to wear hi-vis gear?’.

Amongst bikeportland readers and story writers convinced that riding a bike on city streets and county roads, poses no danger to people riding, recommendations, period, that vulnerable road users are wise to use hi-vis gear, doesn’t seem to go over well.

9watts
Guest
9watts

I’m glad we agree, wsbob.

Dan M.
Guest
Dan M.

Plus I like the ability to ride my bike over 20mph when the topography allows. I want access and facilities, not a nanny.

Rob
Guest
Rob

The Oregonian can’t seriously pimp the deniers anymore but they have no interest in progress, so they are taking their ball and going home.

9watts
Guest
9watts

‘taking their ball and going home’
I wonder if it would be fair to say ‘taking our ball’? Once upon a time, the paper (of record) had responsibilities to its readership, to the public, to intellectual rigor and honesty.

Mike
Guest
Mike

If you don’t buy their paper and do not pay for ad space, then why should they care about you? You are not their customer and they are a business.

9watts
Guest
9watts

call me old fashioned, but I believe (imagine?) that the paper isn’t just a business, but a social institution that performs (or should perform) certain public functions. You’ve heard of the Fourth Estate?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Estate

Ché
Guest
Ché

Ok. You’re old fashioned. There is a reason that the readership and viewership is increasingly exclusive to retirement aged people: They grew up with journalism as a social institution and are the only ones clutching to the idea that “news” from large corporations is in any way related to the concept of the fourth estate when it’s actually manipulation influenced by their paid sponsors and the ideologies of the mega rich who own these corporations.

9watts
Guest
9watts

I think we’re saying pretty much the same thing, Che’

soren
Guest

The Danish hiviz jacket study reinforced my belief that hi viz is not particularly useful at night:

control group: 30 injury accidents.
hi viz group: 36 injury accidents.

The study also showed an increase in solo accidents from 150 to 199. perhaps wearing a hi viz yellow jacket magically enhances cycling skill…

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“The Danish hiviz jacket study reinforced my belief that hi viz is not particularly useful at night: …” soren

Why do you feel the need to rely on findings of a study to enforce or reinforce your belief about efficacy of hi-vis gear worn by vulnerable road users, when you can see with your own eyes how well it works in actual use?

The other night, I was driving a streetlight lit, but dark, rather curvy two lane road, fifteen to twenty miles mph. Many people run, walk and bike on this road. Up ahead, fifty to seventy-five feet away, the silhouettes of some moving objects, back lit by light from the streetlight, were vaguely visible. Except that seemingly in the general area of the silhouettes a big, square area of bright light, somewhat moving, projected back to me in my vehicle.

The bright light projected back to me, was from my headlights, reflecting off the lower half of a running jacket worn by someone running opposite the direction of traffic, along the far right side of lane I was driving in. The reflective panel of the jacket reflected quite a bit of light back from my headlights, even when, due to the curve of the road, the headlights’ beam was maybe fifteen degrees off from being at a ninety degree angle to the reflective panel.

At initial sight of the moving silhouettes, except for the reflective panel, there was little to indicate that was being seen, was anything other than trees or shrubbery moving with the wind. The reflective hi vis panel of the jacket, immensely enhanced visibility of the runner to myself, driving the vehicle.

soren
Guest
soren

Call me crazy but I prefer evidence to “my own [anecdotal] eyes”.

soren
Guest
soren

wsbob, perhaps you should re-read what i wrote. my comment did not in any way address (or criticize) reflective elements/features.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

I guess you’re saying that certain results or conclusions of the study spoken of, provides evidence you feel is more reliable to you than your own eyes, to reinforce your belief that hi viz is not particularly useful at night.

If it’s hi-vis colors alone that you believe aren’t particularly useful at night towards enhancing visibility of people walking and biking to people driving, that seems reasonable. Though usually, gear that’s made of hi-vis material, will also have some form of reflective material used with it, enhancing visibility of the gear at night. I’m fairly sure though, that in many low light situations at night, hi-vis colors and otherwise light colors, will be considerably more useful towards aiding visibility, than dark colors can be.

gutterbunnybikes
Guest
gutterbunnybikes

Problems with the study (all but 9 and 10 are quoted from the study).

1) “The project has been carried out in collaboration with TrygFonden
who was in charge of the design and production of the bicycle jacket. ”

2) “Each year, only one per thousand of the Danish population is involved in a bicycle accident which is registered by either the police or the emergency room. Thus, bicycle accidents are a rare occurrence for the
individual person (Statistics Denmark, 2014).”

3) “the test and control group participants received an e-mail with a link
to an internet based questionnaire.”

4) “The participants were recruited via the project website, http://www.cykeljakken.dk, which besides receiving registrations also described the project and was used to give information to the participants during the project period.”

5) “Since the participants are volunteers, they cannot be expected to be representatives of Danish cyclists that ride their bikes more than three times a week and are over 18 years old, neither in attitude or behaviour.”

6) “The participants are on average 46 years old and as such probably significantly older than the average cyclist and most likely also more safety conscious.”

7) “Another uncertainty factor in this project is to which degree the test group wears the jacket.”

8) “The average usage rate over the year was 77 %, but with great variations during the 12 months of the project”

9) “An explanation to the fewer solo accidents in the test group could be that the participants in the experiment are volunteers who believe in the effect of the jacket and thus have been affected by their belief to report
accidents in such a manner that the test group reported fewer accidents than they should have objectively and the control group most likely a bit more.”

10) Charts don’t copy and paste well here, but look at the charts and the vast majority of accidents occurred during daytime hours which is when the high vis is least effective.

11) Check out Table 3 under usage. Where those that were wearing the jackets had reported incidents more than 3 times more than those that didn’t.

soren
Guest
soren

I think most studies find that hi viz colored fabric is not particularly effective at night. Moreover, since this jacket had large reflective elements the design did a poor job of testing “high viz” fabrics (e.g. it’s conceivable that a dark colored jacket with reflective accents would have had the same effect).

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

But look at the different in multi-party accident rate in the summer daytime, when the reflective features wouldn’t have been a factor. Test group had 58 accidents in summer vs 103 for control group. Test group had 93 accidents in daylight vs 167 for control group.

soren
Guest
soren

I’m not disputing that bright colors could help during the day time. Some of the studies I recall found a significant effect on driver perception and/or frequency of near misses during the day.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

We could construe “hi-viz” to mean “highly visible in the current environment“. E.g., black jacket with reflective elements could be considered “hi-viz” at night, but not during the day. Bright orange with no reflective elements would be “hi-viz” during the day, but not at night. I don’t think the study made a distinction between “day-glo” and “reflective”; it just used jackets that could be considered High-Visibility at any time of the day or night.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…a dark colored jacket with reflective accents…” soren

This is what some sport apparel companies do to capture the market consisting of people that recognize the need to enhance their visibility to people that drive, but that don’t like wearing hi-vis colors.

It’s this kind of styling that was used in the jacket I described in my earlier comment. As the person wearing the jacket came within fifteen to twenty feet from the front of my vehicle, I was able to notice that the top half, non-reflective park of the jacket was black. The lower, reflective half of the jacket, once the car’s headlight beams weren’t reflecting off it so much, appeared to be the standard silver gray similar to that used on safety vests.

Still, I think that in a comparison of visibility of two of the same jackets side by side, except one of them having the upper body non-reflective half in a light or hi-vis color, I think the jacket having the light or hi-vis color upper half, would be the considerably more visible of the two.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

I’d better clarify the following: the standard silver gray similar to that used on safety vests.

What I’m saying is standard silver gray, is the color of the reflective material itself, rather than the body material of safety vests, which commonly are hi-vis orange or green.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

I don’t think high viz (yellow, fluorescent, etc) jackets make a big difference at night. They are better than head-to-toe black. However, this jacket also had large reflective features, which should help at night.

But the jacket won’t make any difference in a solo crash; if it is going to do anything, it will be in a multi-part accident. So, instead of looking at table 3 (all accidents) as you did, look at table 4 (just multi-party accidents) and we see: accidents in darkness were test group (jacket) 14 (5 with injury), control group (no jacket), 28 (10).

The no-jacket group had twice as many accidents at night involving another party (car, bike, ped) as the jacket group did.

Anne Hawley
Guest
Anne Hawley

I registered on the close call database and had a look at the few reports they’ve collected so far. The scary, aggressive, dangerous incidents from the US south make me realize that what little trouble I have around the streets of Portland is bad manners rather than an outright threat. The occasional engine-gunning to beat me to the stop sign on a side street has nothin’ on the texting-while-driving crowd around here for posing a danger.

Champs
Guest
Champs

I dunno, my ride on SE Clinton on Saturday night turned up some incredibly aggressive driving.

Thanks to shifts in riding patterns, it was my first visit in a few months, but hardly the first rodeo on that street. It is not hard to see what people are complaining about. Conditions have deteriorated. They are neither normal nor acceptable for a neighborhood greenway.

Anne Hawley
Guest
Anne Hawley

Yeah, my little orbit is confined mostly to Northeast – and I can choose to avoid rush hours – but when I was commuting downtown, the air of aggression was decidedly more noticeable. The Clinton Street situation seems to be a pressure cooker caused by construction zone inconvenience, the like of which I don’t have to deal with personally.

That said, I might start adding texting driver incidents to the database. The arguments in *favor* of texting while driving in today’s Oregonlive piece on the motorcycle cop in Eugene reflect an aggressive attitude, only a half step away from deliberate endangerment of other road users.

Nicholas Skaggs
Guest
Nicholas Skaggs

From my friend Mark, regarding the Oregonian:

“Were not going to write about climate change because it’s a discussion best held on a national and federal level. Except when we do write about climate change we will write negatively about any steps Oregon might be taking to help alleviate the causes of climate change.

Oregon is only 1.2% of the U.S. Population, which is only 4.4% of the worlds population, which means that we can only talk about climate change on a federal level.

Except when we do talk about climate change, which we did last week, when we lambasted the governor for trying to make a difference, because not adding a drop to the bucket is hurtful to Oregonians, and it’s a discussion best held on a national and federal level.

Even though all of our readers suggested we focus on climate change, if you’ve read the Oregonian you know we have a distinct view, we decided not to cover climate change because it’s best talked about on a national and federal level.

Except when we do we’re definitely in support of the exploiters and the people who are producing carbon emissions, which we don’t talk about as being part of the problem, because that conversation is best held on a national and federal level.”

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

I haven’t read the Oregonian’ story about the paper reporting in future about global warming, as referred to this bikeportland Monday Roundup, and very well likely won’t. Reasons for not reading it are numerous.

The main reason is that over the last fifteen or twenty years, the paper’s quality of reporting has deteriorated greatly. I figure the real reason the paper won’t write about global warming in future, if that really is the papers’ position, is that the paper no longer has sufficient staff to competently write about the issue.

The Oregonians’ change in format from a big broadsheet loose leaf format to its present compact stapled format, is just another of the ills that is working to deteriorate the papers quality. Why anyone leading this now little newspaper could think its readers need staples to hold the paper together, is difficult to figure out. Use of those staples for this paper are a pointless and wasteful use of global resources that in itself, contributes unnecessarily to global warming. I won’t be surprised if any day now, the top three names on the Oregonian’s head honcho lineup to be changed to read: Larry, Moe and Curly.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“I figure the real reason the paper won’t write about global warming in future, if that really is the papers’ position, is that the paper no longer has sufficient staff to competently write about the issue. ”

Well, if you read between the lines you will discover that staffing is very far down the list of reasons. Eric Lukens and Co. are ideologically opposed to climate change. They can’t allow this to be, so they have decided, against the express (and invited) suggestions of their readership, to pretend it is not an issue. Really says a lot, when you pause and reflect on it.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Only ninjaness magically enhances cycling skill.

Justin
Guest
Justin

I love that Helsinki’s attitude regarding their urban development is: “hey, we know we’re already great, we just want to capitalize on everything that makes our city awesome so that it stays this way (and gets even better)”.

That kind of attitude is the total opposite of the “good enough” apathy that plagues our city’s leadership.

The decreasing marginal returns on improvement should never be an excuse to stop trying to improve.

Peter W
Guest

> The state’s largest newspaper has decided that “climate change” (the quote marks are theirs) isn’t worth writing editorials about…

FYI the O editors are on twitter. I’m sure they’d love to hear your thoughts.

@LukensErik @mhester9777 @helenjung @LenReedJr

http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2008/08/about_the_editors.html

Also, in case you haven’t seen this:

http://thesockeye.org/2014/07/03/5216/ (a bit about N. Christian Anderson and the Oregonian)

Doug Klotz
Guest
Doug Klotz

Does anybody think PBOT should be challenging ODOT on some issues?

Does anybody think they will?

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

Your last point is wrong – re-read the table.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

Sorry, not sure why that comment was placed there instead of further up.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

By the way, what is going on with the moderation feature? I’m finding that if I type long detailed comments (more than a few sentences), they are often held for moderation and then disappear forever. Not all the time, but maybe 1/5th of the time.