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The Monday Roundup: Self-driving cars and human sacrifice, Milt Olin settlement, freeway fails, and more

Posted by on June 4th, 2018 at 10:59 am

Welcome to the week. Here are the best stories we came across in the past seven days.

But wait! Here’s a brief word from our sponsor… This week’s Monday Roundup is brought to you by the Whiskey Run MTB Festival, happening June 9th on freshly-built singletrack in the forests of Oregon’s southern coast.

And now, on with the news…

Planning, privilege, and new voices: A fascinating read (and listen) from Streetsblog LA about “accidental planner” Monique López who went from front lines of environmental justice activism to the pearly gates of the planning field — all while being a queer, low-income person of color.

Just stop building them!: Fascinating (and quite unfortunate) to see state leaders in Texas stress out about how to pay for $32 billion in freeway megaprojects as if that’s the only way to solve their growth and congestion problems.

Adding lanes doesn’t work: Surprise, surprise! Curbed reports that a recently completed, 10-mile carpool lane on one of the busiest freeways in America (I-405 in Los Angeles) has only made commutes slower.

Settlement in Milt Olin case: A court has awarded Olin’s estate $11.75 million in a high-profile case of distracted driving. Olin was struck by a police officer who initially tried to blame Olin for swerving; but the court found that it was the officer who swerved while he was distracted with a device in his patrol car.

Don’t knock ’em: There’s one group of people who never seem to bash scooters: Those who have actually ridden them.

We’re making drivers worse: One of my fears about this “self-driving” phase we’re in is that we’re training people to be less attentive behind the wheel. This USA Today story only validates that concern.

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Congress looking into it: Two U.S. Senators have asked automakers to explain safety protocols for their use of testing autonomous driving features on public roads.

Just kidding, they’re still deadly: Years after all the headlines about how driverless cars would fix all our road safety problems, the truth is leaking out. This study says it’s still cool if they only reduce 75 percent of the crashes. And this writer says we should just get over it and realize that self-driving cars will kill people. All in the name of progress, right?!

Fire safe streets: Access for fire trucks and vulnerable users does not have to be mutually exclusive reports Angie Schmitt from Streetsblog in a story based on a recent webinar hosted by the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

Citi Bike’s top riders: Not only has NYC’s bike share been a huge success at its five-year anniversary, its operators awarded riders with the most trips and miles during a party in Prospect Park.

Space for cars, but not people: Tom from Seattle Bike Blog uses a personal story to illustrate the absurdity of car-centric planning rules.

A rocket for Elon: Bike Snob NYC does not hide his disdain for tech titan and outspoken promoter of himself, Elon Musk.

Is biking elitist?: A great piece about a neighborhood in Chicago with a relatively high percentage of daily bike riders who don’t fit the typical mold.

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

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24 Comments
  • Jim Lee June 4, 2018 at 11:35 am

    I’d like to see data and calculations that support immunity of autonomous vehicles to “accidents.”

    And now the AV lobby is telling us that we always must be fully alert, aware, ready to respond in our AV. In other words we must act exactly as we would in an “ordinary” vehicle.

    Scam, or what? Why bother?

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    • Austin D June 4, 2018 at 11:44 am

      If the statistics show that AV will reduce the number of traffic collisions by 75%, why wouldn’t we support it? I’ve recently moved away from Portland and every day I’m appalled at how seemingly every single person in the bay area drives. Every single ride I have someone miss me by inches or intentionally not stop for me when I have the right of way. AV, if they aren’t already, should be programmed to follow every single traffic law no matter how small. That alone should bring peace of mind to pedestrians. I’ll take my chances with an AV over some entitled asshole in a BMW every day of the week.

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      • B. Carfree June 4, 2018 at 1:36 pm

        I also accept that AV will result in some CARnage. However, the loss of life will no doubt be lessened. Also, each programming error that results in a death can be corrected in every similarly programmed vehicle, something we can’t do with human drivers, so the death rate should go down over time (as opposed to what’s currently going on).

        I dearly hope we don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good in this battle against pure evil. If only more of my fellow Boomers would recognize that we are approaching, or already at, the age at which we need to hand over the car keys the push for AV would be unstoppable.

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        • Kyle Banerjee June 4, 2018 at 1:55 pm

          Plenty of people should have never had the keys to begin with. AV tech could mitigate practical challenges as well as stigma associated with not driving.

          Whatever the case, I know I’d rather ride among AVs than totally incompetent or repeat drunk drivers.

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        • Al Dimond June 4, 2018 at 3:23 pm

          When it comes to “pure evil”, we should remember specifically who is doing what. Uber has been aggressive about testing on public streets while also being quite aggressive about driving down costs and reducing precautions — this is why it wasn’t too surprising that it was an Uber vehicle that killed a person crossing the street in front of it. Tesla has been aggressive about pushing out a questionable model of partial autonomy onto public streets while blaming its users for being exactly as inattentive as you’d expect users of a car promising to steer itself to be. Both companies have basked in the glow of more scrupulous researchers. There’s a lot of promise there, but it doesn’t excuse every practice.

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        • GlowBoy June 5, 2018 at 2:07 pm

          Of course there will be deaths that will occur as a result of AVs that wouldn’t have occurred with humans behind the wheel.

          But it will be a small fraction of the forty thousand deaths caused every year by humans behind the wheel. The sooner we get distractible, egocentric humans out from behind the wheel, the better off we humans will be.

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          • GlowBoy June 5, 2018 at 2:24 pm

            I acknowledge that AVs may increase the number of drivers on the road, not least because it will enable car use by those who currently drive, either long-term or temporarily due to intoxication. Still worth the lives it will save, and we should mitigate the increase by working harder to reduce demand for car transportation.

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            • 9watts June 5, 2018 at 9:03 pm

              Increase the number of drivers?

              Oh, you mean ‘drivers.’

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              • GlowBoy June 6, 2018 at 11:13 am

                Oops, bad editing. Let’s try again:

                I acknowledge that AVs may increase the number of cars on the road, not least because it will enable car use by those who currently don’t drive, either long-term or temporarily due to intoxication. Still worth the lives it will save, and we should mitigate the increase by working harder to reduce overall demand for car transportation.

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      • Pete June 4, 2018 at 3:43 pm

        1) Automated Vehicles will mean more cars on the road, not less drivers.
        2) If you’ve recently moved to the bay area, you may not have realized BMWs are out; the most entitled a-holes are driving Teslas now.

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      • Pete June 4, 2018 at 3:50 pm

        Also, a tip for biking around silicon valley: if you see a car with roof-mounted lidar and it’s speeding, AV mode is off, so be cautious. If the lidar is spinning and the car is moving steadily at or below the speed limit, you’re free to swerve or ride at its front bumper to see what happens.

        Bike commuting in silicon valley is the best kept secret here, and it’s never boring.

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  • Al Dimond June 4, 2018 at 12:02 pm

    Naturally the Chicago Tribune (not just a print newspaper, but one that’s long been known as an establishment-conservative voice) is going to write a story starting with the assumption that anyone on a bike is a hipster or an “elite”. Real surveys and studies seem to show pretty uniform cycling rates across income groups — we shouldn’t be fooled.

    Gentrification in Chicago neighborhoods tends to follow broader economic trends and bigger investments. Before the 2008 recession Pilsen was starting to gentrify, starting with galleries and hip bars mostly on its eastern edge (near Halsted), and it felt inevitable that it would gentrify quickly.

    The “606 gentrification” story is probably overblown — the trail being built, and gentrification occurring, are more like results of common causes (or even a situation where early gentrification boosted trail efforts) than one causing the other. I don’t blame neighborhood activists for seeing it that way, as the overwhelming financial force of gentrification is a scary thing to confront, but we should expect more of a city’s main newspaper. Some of the city’s best parks, beaches, and trails have been on the south and west sides for decades without causing mass gentrification!

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  • Que June 4, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    E scooters huh.

    From the article.
    “On that first ride, a few things became apparent. First, I was more likely to respect traffic laws on a scooter than on a bike..”
    “Doesn’t riding in the bike lane annoy cyclists? Yes, of course. Cyclists are annoyed by most stimuli. ”
    “I spent 20 minutes searching the neighborhood for a scooter so that I wouldn’t have to take a Lyft.”

    Sounds like more bs techbro drivel to me. E scooters might be perfectly fine but consider the tone of the articles you link to..

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    • Kyle Banerjee June 4, 2018 at 1:24 pm

      “There’s one group of people who never seem to bash scooters: Those who have actually ridden them.”

      The same could be said for lifted pickups with glasspacks…

      The devil is in the details, starting with how and where people actually ride them. If people mostly use sense, it could be just fine. But if too many people buzz peds, do goofy things like, “you immediately lurch forward and pass them [cyclists], only to watch them pass you five seconds later,” I wouldn’t be so optimistic.

      BN, waterfront park, Esplanade, and Willamette Greenway will be good testing grounds for these. A lot of people will logically want to use them there, there’s a good mix of cyclists and peds. Many cyclists riding along BN don’t even slow down for red lights, presumably the same will be true for scooters. Could be interesting if many riders don’t slow down when they’re crossing BN with the light.

      I wonder how they perform on hills?

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    • John Liu June 4, 2018 at 1:56 pm

      “Don’t knock ’em: There’s one group of people who never seem to bash scooters: Those who have actually ridden them.”

      People who own SUVs don’t usually bash them either. What’s the point being made?

      This line from the article may be the most prophetic thing about it: “the personal-injury lawsuits over these things are going to be spectacularly lit.”

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      • bikeninja June 4, 2018 at 2:29 pm

        I think these electric scooters will end up being the 2018 version of Lawn Darts.

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        • Johnny Bye Carter June 5, 2018 at 12:01 am

          Lawn darts are still a thing. They’re just fancy now so not everybody has them.

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    • mark June 4, 2018 at 5:19 pm

      I really like the picture at the top of that scooter article. You can see the cyclist looking annoyed as he leaves the bike lane to pass three scooterists.

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      • Kyle Banerjee June 5, 2018 at 9:22 am

        A couple questions:

        1) Why do you think he’s annoyed and not simply focused on what’s ahead? It’s a clean pass.

        2) Why do you see annoying people as a good thing?

        *If* he is annoyed because they pulled right in front of him after the light, they’re being inconsiderate. Likewise, blocking the path so no one can go faster is also inconsiderate.

        For all the guff I get for being elitist, I always ride and position myself to it as easy as possible for all road users to proceed, be they a 28mph e-cyclist as occurred this morning or scofflaws that ignore red lights (who curiously tend to be slow cyclists despite their inability to be delayed).

        If you really want to make cycling inaccessible, encourage inconsiderate behavior. This will encourage close unsafe passes which will intimidate all but the most confident and stable riders.

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  • KristenT June 4, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    Your Texas article appears to be behind a paywall.

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    • Pete June 4, 2018 at 4:03 pm

      If you’re using Google Chrome, copy the link from here and try opening an “incognito window” and pasting the link into there. (Paywall showed up on second article for me).

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  • Dan A June 4, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    Cop kills Olin with car after sending 9 text messages to his wife just minutes before the crash. Then he lies about the cyclist supposedly swerving into his lane and taking evasive action to avoid the cyclist, both of which never happened. Then he throws away the phone, preventing it from becoming evidence, he gets transferred to another department (to a job he asked for) and the county pays nearly $12 million in settlement. Cop is still employed with LASD.

    Yep.

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    • Pete June 4, 2018 at 3:53 pm

      Are you telling me the cop didn’t have to pay the $12M himself?? 😉

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      • Dan A June 4, 2018 at 5:08 pm

        The cop was reprimanded for violating department policy. What policy was that? All we heard in the DA’s statement was that he was acting within the scope of his duties while typing on his computer and so was acting lawfully. What was the reprimand? Take a paid week off?

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