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The Monday Roundup: NYC aftermath, vision zero fire truck, Uber’s strange ad, and more

Posted by on November 6th, 2017 at 10:00 am

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This week’s Monday Roundup is sponsored by Left Coast Bicycles, offering mobile bike repair at your home or workplace throughout the Portland Metro area.

Here are the best stories that came across our desks last week:

Auto industry funds anti-walking propaganda: Treehugger breaks down how America’s “culture of fear” — filtered through an American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons PR campaign supported by auto manufactuers — is shifting blame for unsafe streets away from drivers and onto walkers.

Beer bikes banned: Amsterdam has outlawed those huge, pedal-powered “beer bikes” after many complaints of rowdy tourists made them a “nuisance”.

Residential bike parking: Portland’s ubiquitous blue bike staple racks rarely reach into residential areas. We need more places to park near homes. What to do? The Dutch use “bicycle hangars” and other neighborhood facilities.

Vision Zero fire truck: San Francisco officials purchased new fire engines with many features that aim to make them safer for use in dense urban areas where lots of people walk and bike.

Bicycle traffic school: The southern California city of El Monte has long allowed auto users to get traffic ticket fines waived by attending a safe driving class. Now bicycle users can do the same thing.

Dockless bike share in Minneapolis-St. Paul: In a place where the existing, kiosk-based bike share system shuts down in winter, dockless bikes could fill an important gap in mobility needs.

Normalization of speeding: An entire article about driving over the speed limit and “gunning it” (an interesting phrase given all the talk about cars as weapons) that completely ignores the fact that driving too fast for conditions is dangerous.

Not speeding is the problem? Really?: An article that relies on a police officer as its single source of expertise tries to make the case that we’d all be safer and happier if everyone drove faster. (Fact check: That’s not the case at all. Higher speeds mean more people will be killed and injured.)

It’s our fault: Finally, despite the willfull ignorance of Donald Trump and his friends, the U.S. government has told the truth about climate change: It is caused by humans.

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DUI-E: I like the way Washington has reframed distracted driving violations as “driving under the influence of electronics.”

AVs are not so smart: A driverless shuttle van being used as a demo at the Intelligent Transportation Systems World Congress in Montreal malfunctioned. Conference goers got out and walked.


New York City Terror Attack Aftermath

Make trucks harder to get: Lloyd Alter at Treehugger (and others) think we need to make dangerous vehicles like SUVs and trucks much harder to come by.

Car-centric infra the problem: We need to ban cars from dense downtown areas; or at least get rid of the majority of them. Think that’s crazy? Many great cities are well on their way.

Safe street activists FTW: Many articles focused on the fact that — given the new era of weaponized motor vehicles — perhaps its time for public and politicians to embrace the ideas of transportation reform activists. Writing in the NY Times, Yonah Freemark puts is clearly: “By redesigning streets, we can protect pedestrians and cyclists from both careless drivers and malicious ones.”

Terrorism = everyday traffic violence: For New Yorker Teka Lark, it doesn’t matter what motivates a person behind the wheel, we need to stop bowing to the motor vehicle menace: “The authorities would rather pedestrians and cyclists die than force motorists to slow down and go the long way around.”

Push for bollards: After the attack, NYC City Council rep Ydanis Rodriquez renewed his call for more bollards to protect bike paths and other public spaces.

But not like this: The City of New York placed jersey barriers on the Hudson Greenway Path (and soon at 56 other locations); but the installation is completely wrong and an insult to people who walk and bike.


Uber’s ad: And finally today, check out the new ad from Uber — and remember this is a company that encourages people to use cars in cities. Am I missing something?

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Kyle Banerjee
Guest

The idea that making trucks harder to get will somehow prevent terrorism is nonsense. They are simply necessary for modern life — it’s not like the functions they fulfill can be taken up by small vehicles and bikes.

However, one thing that would help is to change the licensing regime that allows people to drive them and registration fees. That would at least encourage people not to drive trucks unless they really needed to.

When I moved to OR, I was shocked to find that the DL that everyone gets by default allows you to drive up to 26,000 lbs. This is way higher than where I moved from (IL) where the current limit is 16,000 lbs — but I could have sworn it was 8,000 a couple decades ago.

In any case, it takes a totally different skill set to drive a 26,000 lb vehicle than a regular car, particularly if you’re towing which you’re allowed to do. Towing should really require an endorsement and the weight limit should be way lower.

Too often, the worst drivers get themselves in the hardest to drive vehicles (as anyone who’s shared curves with land yachts on 101 knows too well). At the very least, they can be trained better.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

I think the RV industry drives a lot of these rules. Which is why you can’t drive a school bus without a CDL unless you take a bunch of the seats out and then magically it is fine…

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

I used to make parts for the RV industry, and believe it or not it is perfectly legal to drive the largest Class A RV’s that can weigh 40,000 lbs or more and be max legal truck length with nothing but a standard drivers license. Then of course you can tow a large SUV in addition to your giant motor home. I always though this was crazy.

MJS
Guest
MJS

I also can’t imagine how much of a burden it would be to rent a moving van if I had to take an additional licensing course and/or pass additional tests. It would basically force almost everyone to use a moving company to move houses and apartments, which could be prohibitively expensive and logistically challenging.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Of course, one could argue that it shouldn’t be on the public to bear the costs (in safety terms) of you moving to a new apartment.

Dave
Guest
Dave

So what? How safely can most people drive anything bigger than a Honda Accord?

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

I rented a huge U-Haul once to move to a new apartment. It was terrifying. I never realized how small the streets are when you don’t know what you’re doing in a truck of that size.

KTaylor
Guest
KTaylor

I had the same experience! I always feel a horrible sense of dread whenever I see one of those things careening toward me. It’s crazy that people are allowed to drive them with no specialized training.

resopmok
Guest
resopmok

I sometimes question how safely most people can even drive a small vehicle like that. My evidence is all anecdotal, though..

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

Or, an entirely new solution would arise to this new problem, because there are some things our free market is good at. Maybe U-Haul could park a truck at your house, then provide a professional driver to drive it to the destination when ready. Yes, it’d add to your cost, but it’d hardly be substantial.

wsbob
Guest

“The idea that making trucks harder to get will somehow prevent terrorism is nonsense. …” banerjee

I think the idea about more restrictive use of trucks, is that it may ‘help’ prevent some terrorism acts, not all of them. And since restriction on use of trucks or any motor vehicles for that matter, fits into the heavy sense of resentment some active transportation activist minded people hold towards use of motor vehicles and the people that use them…it kind of figures that ideas about restricting use of trucks would have some appeal to them.

It doesn’t seem that people interested in perpetrating an act of terrorism, really need a vehicle at all. Simply walking provides the mobility terrorist require. If they need a vehicle, stealing one is not a major obstacle. Maybe people renting trucks, should be screened more carefully than they are; what screening is required to rent a name brand rental truck like a Ryder, or the lightweight truck available to customers at any Home Depot? Maybe has changed, but it used to be that the first hour of rental of an HD truck was free.

Unfortunately, the sense of morality, ethics and values that is the defining priority for most people, among other things, precluding their turning personal thoughts of frustration and anger felt towards others, into acts of terrorism against other people, has crumbled for certain people and groups in this world. Increasingly it seems acts of terrorism is a thing to do. Short of a world wide police state, I’m not sure there’s anything that really can be effective at reversing the growing trend of terrorist acts some people are embracing. Except maybe renewed interest, belief and faith that morality, ethics and values still can resolve individuals’ and small groups’ problems.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Apparently Timothy McVeigh used a rented Ryder van to blow up the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995. Hardly a large vehicle at all, though probably overloaded with its 5,000 lbs of explosive chemicals.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

Where in IL are you from?

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

I lived in the sticks, but went to Murphysboro schools.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

Dang, a Southern IL boy! I’m from outside of Chicago.

soren
Guest
soren

SUVs and hemi duallies are necessary for modern life?

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

What, you expect me to roll coal in a Honda???

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A
KTaylor
Guest
KTaylor

Ugh.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

Its interesting that back in the 1950’s through 1970’s almost no-one who was not a farmer, logger or tradesperson drove a pickup truck, and in that era a much higher percentage of the population was employed in this portion of the economy. But here we are in the apex of the information economy ( 2017) and every yahoo and his brother is driving around in a giant pickup truck even though the most they ever haul is an Ikea shelf or a keg.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

Have you ever driven a pick-up from the ’50s or ’60s? They weren’t much pleasure to drive, unlike those padded music rooms people cruise around in these days.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Ah yes — column shift manual with no power steering. Definitely unlike some of the more modern ones I’ve driven

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Exactly. But that’s still a lot of people.

Pete
Guest
Pete

At 12 years old I learned to drive my dad’s F350 SuperCab ‘Camper Special’ (which is what he used it for, plus hauling granite). The thing was gigantic. My mom also drove it, and many people would honk at the sight of a female driving such a truck. We drove to Virginia (from Boston) to move my sister and the CB radio rang out the whole way down with ceaseless propositions from truckers.

wsbob
Guest

Same width as a standard cab F-150, but longer wheelbase for the rear passenger section. Never was sure what the -350 designation indicates. Compared to the half ton -150, I think that may be for 1 ton capacity, so…heavier springs, bigger, heavier duty tires. They’re not as big as they seem. Are they much more difficult to drive than a standard sized sedan? Maybe at first.

Pete
Guest
Pete

150 is 1/2-ton, 250 is 3/4-ton, and 350 is 1-ton, for the most part. Camper Special had the longer wheelbase, Crew Cab (jump seats), two batteries, two gas tanks, heavy duty alternator, low-gear differentials, and beefed up rear springs. Probably worse gas mileage than a modern Hummer. Today I drive an extended-length E250 SuperVan on occasion (I call it ‘Beast of Burden’ or ‘the Poor Man’s RV’, but friends call it ‘the rapist van’ due to lack of windows… until they need to borrow it, of course).

I found the opposite problem – learning to parallel park in Boston and SF with long wheelbase trucks was much easier than overshooting the Acura Integra that I put 344K miles on… to this day I still struggle with short turning radii.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

They might make things much more convenient for some people, and the market provides what people want to buy.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“…and the market provides what people want to buy.”

Which is EXACTLY why the market is often such a poor arbiter of policy choices. I may prefer cheap gas as a consumer of gasoline; but I may prefer to prefer expensive gas as a citizen of the world who recognizes the damages that follow from ubiquitous cheap gas.

KTaylor
Guest
KTaylor

Hear, hear — it’s high time we found a way for things of value to justify themselves other than by making money. A lot of really valuable things (truly functional transit, clean air and water, biodiversity) don’t – or at least they don’t affect the bottom line until way too late to do anything about it.

KTaylor
Guest
KTaylor

Yes to this! I remember the first time I saw an SUV presented as a cool car and I was totally puzzled. The only person I knew who had one was my friend’s dad. It was a frumpy dad car.

Dave
Guest
Dave

Kyle, think of this–the size jump from a small passenger car to a standard pickup truck isn’t as big as the difference in carrying capacity. Think Chevy Cruz to Chevy Silverado without big tires. The jump up to bigger vans and RV’s is huge. Almost nothing scares me riding a bike but driving on the freeway and seeing the words “1-800-RV4-Rent” on a vehicle in the next land makes my blood run cold.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

I hear you. I also find the emblems “U Haul,” “Ryder,” “Penske,” and the like disconcerting.

I do think that if something is going to be used as a passenger vehicle, it should be subject to the safety standards associated with them.

9watts
Guest
9watts

CAFE’s two tiered rules are the elephant in the room, the cause of most of what we are debating here.

wsbob
Guest

“…The jump up to bigger vans and RV’s is huge. …” Dave

I don’t know what size and type of vans you had in mind. Maybe something like a big moving van, but not a semi. Some types of RV’s, definitely give cause for concern that the driver has somehow been qualified to operate a vehicle that’s much larger than a standard sized domestic sedan.

Examples I’m thinking of, are commercial bus(like greyhound has used.) and standard sized school bus to RV conversions. Some of the larger travel trailers and 5th wheels pulled behind large pickup trucks. Also, a lot of engine incorporated RV’s that the old Winnebago’s inspired. In terms of width, height and weight, some of those rigs are just huge in comparison to domestic sedans. They can be scary to drive up alongside, let alone riding alongside them.

Actually, I don’t know whether the state requires non-pro drivers to have certification and training beyond that of a standards driver’s license test to operate them, but whether it does or not, is something worth looking into. On the other hand, I’m also not aware of whether there is a relatively greater than usual incidence, compared to sedans, of these type vehicles being involved in traffic collisions. Or their being used for devious ends, like y’know, blowing people up or rolling over them to kill and hurt them. Hard to persuade for restrictions if the vehicles are just scary to be on the road with, but isn’t actually resulting in actual harm to people.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

I don’t have a problem with normal DLs allowing driving something like a ProMaster, Transit Connect, or Sprinter. These have GVWR up to about 11,000 lb but drive essentially like a minivan and with similar visibility.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“it’s not like the functions they fulfill can be taken up by small vehicles and bikes.”

Of course they could.
Most of what comes in all those trucks we don’t need, could do without. Re-localizing our economies, without all that transport would be good for everyone – except Amazon, of course.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

If you define away everything as being unnecessary — building supplies, food, equipment, goods (including stuff in bike shops), etc., I suppose.

But not realistic in a major city. The reason they use trucks is that they’re far more efficient than small vehicles.

9watts
Guest
9watts

Silly.

We got along just fine before fossil fuels, and we will again. I’m not saying backing out of this is going to be easy or painless, but it is possible, and soon enough we’ll discover that the sooner we start working out the details the easier the landing will be for all of us.

The fact that we’ve let all the prior arrangements, technologies, habits for moving things and people without fossil fuels atrophy, wither, rust is unfortunate, but this set of decisions regrettable as it is has no bearing on the fact that we need to figure it out.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

You might want to check out mortality rates and some other aspects of daily life when we got on fine without them.

When we get rid of fossil fuels, we can return to cutting down and burning trees and burning wood like we did in the good ol’ days, and trap beaver and bear for furs to keep us warm in the winter.

There are only 2.4 million people in the Portland metro area. Shouldn’t be hard to support a population like that…

9watts
Guest
9watts

The fact that is may seem comforting to pretend this has nothing to do with us, that we can keep on ignoring it has no bearing on the probability that we’ll need to face that particular music.
Smokers may similarly prefer not to take stock of their health prospects either, stick with the knowledge that *some* people who smoked their whole life lived to a ripe old age. Or earthquakes. Easier—much easier—in the short run not to go to the trouble to bolt our houses to their foundations, stock up on water and food, or practice living without the various amenities currently piped in. But our reluctance to do any of this has no bearing on whether or when or how likely these changes will upset our orderly lives.

turnips
Guest
turnips

there was an article in the New Yorker a few weeks ago. September 18th issue. called “The Case Against Civilization.” it’s a good read. civilization obviously predates the widespread use of fossil fuels by a fair bit, but it’s good to remember that modern doesn’t necessarily mean better, especially in terms of human quality of life. or even in terms of mortality rates, if that’s your preferred metric.

BradWagon
Subscriber

lol, you do realize there are other technologies and energy sources besides fossil fuels right? Are the two options either burn oil or go back to frontiersmen practices?

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

True, the day when the falling EROI of liquid fossil fuels makes them economically useless is not far away. When that day comes we will be very sad that we filled the waterfront and rail yards with condos, and scrapped off our best nearby topsoil to built crackerbox subdivisions.

Trek 3900
Guest
Trek 3900

bikeninja,

Yes, FFs will go away some day. Then we’ll be driving cars powered by something else – likely electricity – generated by solar PV, or nuclear, etc.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

Other people might have different needs than you. How would you like it if they told you what you “needed”?

9watts
Guest
9watts

Of course they have different needs, and different wants, and different preferences.

The point isn’t that we all have the same needs or wants, but that none of us can continue to act as if the world was still empty enough to satisfy either, never mind both.

It isn’t about my wants or your needs, but about limits, constraints, & recognizing when we’ve crossed into what is called overshoot; where our appetites and the planet’s ability to satisfy them diverge.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

I heartily agree that a class C license should be much more restrictive than it currently is and that those who choose to drive even light trucks should be required to have additional training. However, I think the bigger issue is the complete lack of follow-up on what little knowledge and training requirements we currently have.

It is insane to have people take one driving test, likely out of state, and one knowledge test and be licensed forever. Laws change, bad habits form, previous knowledge fades and memories even get corrupted. We really need shorter renewal times and mandatory knowledge tests for renewals (and better tests, but that’s another topic).

Commercial licenses have the same problems. How nuts is it that after my next license renewal I will be able to drive down the road with 105,500 pounds until my 73rd birthday with only a “fog the mirror” medical exam every other year. By that time, it will have been over a third of a century since any representative of the state examined my driving, and he was an employee of the company I worked for.

In a way, it’s amazing we have so few deaths and injuries with such a system.

Trek 3900
Guest
Trek 3900

Have an accident and see how long your employer allows you to drive for them.

Trek 3900
Guest
Trek 3900

In Illinois you can rent a truck up to 26,000 pounds to move your own personal property but they have to give you some training – not sure what that involves. Down near bottom of this page:
https://www.drive-safely.net/illinois-drivers-license-classifications/

Stephan
Guest
Stephan

The article about bike storage is really important, especially as Portland gets more dense (very, very slowly, but still). It speaks to the Portland’s car-centric policies that it required (still requires?) houses to have a driveway, but no space to park bikes. As a result, many residential houses have plenty of space to park your car(s) but not enough space to park your bike safely. I would not want to advocate for mandatory bike parking space but perhaps the city could encourage it more.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

If we’re talking about houses, seems the homeowner should decide if he wants to install a rack or store bikes in the house or garage, etc. If we’re talking about apartments, for sure they should have bike racks and bike parking.

9watts
Guest
9watts

horse rings!

Trek 3900
Guest
Trek 3900

Stephan,
I’d wager that a very large percentage of homes in Portland, and in the USA in general, have at least one bicycle parked somewhere on the property – many times in the garage.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Might the Uber commercial make more sense if it was related to Amazon cardboard box clutter?

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

I was thinking that the boxes should be MUCH larger.

Pete
Guest
Pete

They were moving too slow (regardless of conditions), but at least adequately reflected a lack of signaled turns.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

I really like the Uber commercial but it should be an ad to promote cycling, walking and mass transit as it pokes fun at the logical impossibility of 2 square foot humans (footprint) trying to get around in and store 60 square foot ( footprint) automobiles in a dense urban environment. It of course does not try and show how riding in an Uber automobile would help the situation, because it doesn’t, except perhaps for parking.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

And in fact, makes it worse. Uber is using venture capital money to subsidize taxi trips in our cities. Public transit use is decreasing, and traffic is increasing. Uber is part of the problem, not the solution.

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

Oh, you must have missed the “Let’s Ride Together” punchline at the end. You know, because these are rise sharing companies where people share rides. Just some ordinary people sharing rides and taking cars off the road. It says so right on the brochure!

Evan Manvel
Guest
Evan Manvel

The Uber ad would make more sense if the boxes had Uber stickers on them and the people were going around in circles looking for someone to put in the second seat.

And then said “our hopeful future” and had empty AV boxes driving around clogging the streets while trying to find someone.

The data show Uber, as currently implemented, makes traffic worse. Which isn’t surprising.

If they changed their pricing structure so it made more sense for people to take UberPool or whatever their actual shared ride product is called, then maybe it might eventually improve traffic.

Greg Spencer
Guest
Greg Spencer

Hey Evan, can you give a link with the research showing that Uber makes traffic worse in cities?
I’m skeptical of this. My family of four lives in NE Portland (near corner of Sandy and NE 82nd) and if it weren’t for ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, it would be much more difficult and expensive to not own a car. We do practically all our commuting, neighborhood travel and daily shopping by bicycle. For longer trips, or ones in really bad weather, we take TriMet for many trips. But for some trips, TriMet is way too slow. So we resort to Uber or Lyft in these cases.
When we lived in Europe, we were also without a car, but we did a lot more of our non-bike travel by public transport because it was so convenient. In Portland, public transit doesn’t have near the frequency or comprehensive coverage. We find Uber and Lyft to be great options when trying to do without owning a car. And I find that because each Uber trip costs quite a lot relative to other option, it’s a great incentive to choose those more sustainable options.

Evan Manvel
Guest
Evan Manvel

Thanks for asking! Sorry I was lazy when I first posted. Thought the research had made the rounds, but it hadn’t.

New York:
https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2017/02/27/its-settled-uber-is-making-nyc-gridlock-worse/

Denver:
https://mobilitylab.org/2017/04/03/study-uber-and-lyft-add-traffic-reduce-efficiency-on-denver-and-boulder-roads-streetsblog-denver/

So, it may well be that it reduces car ownership. But that’s not the same as making traffic better. Because for all the people like you who may swap out three personal car trips for two bike trips and an Uber trip, there are people who swap out three transit trips for three Uber trips.

In short, two effects seem to be stronger than those in your example:

(1) there are people (Uber drivers) driving around waiting for a passenger who would otherwise not be driving around, resulting in more traffic

(2) there are people leaving transit to go to Uber, resulting in more traffic

As I noted, this isn’t necessarily how it has to be, just how the data have shown it currently is.

Michael Andersen
Subscriber

One policy that might improve the first problem: turning one parking space every block or three into a loading zone and letting taxi services pay the public to give their drivers access to it.

Seems like this would also lead to less distracted driving, sudden pulls into bike lanes, etc.

Sam
Guest
Sam

For no good reason other than that I find them annoying, I’m glad Amsterdam to a stand against beer bikes and wish Portland would do the same.

Sam
Guest
Sam

…took a stand…

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

What about the beer barge?

CaptainKarma
Guest
CaptainKarma

What deters me from riding my bike everywhere, all the time, is the odds of it not being there when I come out of the theater, or grocery, etc. While I appreciate the bike theft recovery programs, prevention would be far more effective in getting cars off the street.

Vince
Guest
Vince

I find myself in the same situation. It is odd that I can park my motorized transportation and assume it will be there when I come back. But the bike that I use for errands? Garage sale or cast off bike is all I am willing to risk when I go in the store because I can’t expect that it will be there when I return.

Greg Spencer
Guest
Greg Spencer

I would support any policies like the one Michael Anderson proposed that make people pay for their road usage. And for revenues collected to go to transit improvements. Uber and Lyft wouldn’t be nearly as successful if these companies were charged a toll for this public resource.

turnips
Guest
turnips

SF could have saved a lot of money. search “kei fire truck”.