My tolerance may have been low because of the bicyclist who had been run over that afternoon, the 8th Boston-area death in the past two years – five by right-turning trucks, two by buses, one by a drunk driver – and I was thinking that it could have been me. But there it was, the rant that everyone who bikes regularly (and every city’s bike coordinator) hears from people outside their normal social circles: “I’ve got nothing against bicycles. But the bicyclists out there are crazy. They’re a menace. It’s not safe; they run red lights; they don’t wear helmets; they almost hit me; they’re blocking the road. You’ve got to do something!”Read more
MassDOT deserves enormous credit for trying to connect its investment decisions with the desired outcomes. It’s a challenging and complicated undertaking, constrained in many ways by federal reporting requirements, limited data, and unverified impact-calculating methodologies. The fact that their first attempt, the very impressive WeMove Massachusetts: Planning for Performance tool, is deeply flawed (for example, defining mobility solely as car travel) is much less important than the Agency’s public willingness to admit those flaws and commit itself to an iterative improvement process. This is something that every public— and private – organization needs to take on, not merely to better serve its stakeholders but also to be better in control of its own fate.Read more
Techno-utopians. It wasn’t long ago that we were being told that digital Information and Communication Technologies would solve nearly every problem and transform the world in wonderful ways, small and big. Cars would be routed around congestion; government would more accurately chart population needs. Although there were some efforts to broaden the scope of “smart” to include people as well as systems, the vision was primarily about technology.
We’ve all seen the graph: a person hit by a car going 40 miles per hour (mph) has an 85% chance of being killed. Reducing the speed to 30 mph cuts the odds of death in half; reducing speed to 20 mph drops the fatality rate by an astounding 94%. Even more dramatically, at 5 mph cars (and very cautious trucks), bikes, and pedestrians can all safely share the same street space. According to the US Department of Transportation, about 33% of vehicle-related deaths are speeding-related. Of those, around 40% occur in urban areas.
MassDOT’S HEALTHY TRANSPORTATION POLICY DIRECTIVE: Framing Economic Needs as Public Health Measures Strengthens Both
MassDOT’s recently issued Healthy Transportation Policy Directive could actualize the most profound transformation in the state’s transportation system since the anti-highway movement convinced Governor Frank Sargent to cancel the massive Inner Belt project (the first time any state had done this) and his Transportation Secretary, Alan Altshuler, got the state’s Congressional delegation to pass legislation allowing Highway Fund money to be used for mass transit. If carried through, it will push Massachusetts to the front of national efforts to modernize our transportation infrastructure.Read more
You might have the impression, as once did I, that the passage of a bill by the Legislature and it’s signing by the chief executive makes it a law. But trial lawyers know better. A law is just a bunch of words waiting for judicial interpretation.Read more
PREPARING FOR SNOW: WHEN SHOULD BIKE LANES GET PRIORITY?
Most municipalities and most state agencies have carefully negotiated lists of which streets get plowed clear of snow in what priority order. First priority usually goes to busy highways and arterials, hospitals and schools, fire stations and emergency services.Read more
There are situations where the danger is so great, the potential damage so devastating, the outrage to decency so powerful that you feel that immediate, radical change becomes an emotional and moral imperative. And you do everything you can to advocate, to make the world take notice, to make people in power take action. Right now.
But, with few exceptions, change happens slowly. Creating change requires getting decision-makers to act, attracting the support of powerful interests, or mobilizing important enough segments of the media and/or the public – none of which usually happens quickly. And then implementing significant change requires transforming systems, which almost always have enormous inertial drag towards the status quo. And having an impact requires the changed processes and outcomes to replace current conditions, which can be incremental and uncertain.Read more
The revelation during the hunt for the Marathon Bombers of how totally we are all tracked by the rapidly expanding web of electronic systems, and Edward Snowden’s disclosure of how easily it is for government’s security agencies to tap into those data streams, should change the nature of the comparatively trivial debate about installing red-light violation cameras at dangerous intersections. But it has also revealed a generation fault line in people’s perceptions about the trade-offs involved.
Paradigm shift. A fundamental change in one’s core understanding of a situation. It’s hard to do. It takes abandoning everything you’ve been taught and believed and that made sense, then adopting something totally new and perhaps both untried and unsettling. It takes going from a belief that the sun goes around the earth to understanding that it’s exactly the opposite. And, as Galileo found out, there is often a powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – an Inquisition – ready to attack you for questioning orthodoxy.Read more