Wednesday, September 30, 2015

And except for spelling...

A comment by Bob Planthold on the proposed Idaho Stop ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors:

Relevant to the possible resolution or ordinance for an "Idaho stop" is the following Oregon DOT research paper "Intersection Sight Distance." Though published nearly 18 years ago, the link is still accessible.

Apparently, nobody in SF---including policymakers & their staffs---bothered to look for safety-related research such as this.

While many individuals and even politically influential groups may clamor for an Idaho stop, making public policy by a popularity vote is not prudent. That one constituency wants this change does not mean it is safe for all.

Since many buildings in SF are built to the lot line, the distance between a building and the sidewalk can be as little as 6 feet. Meaning any approaching vehicle, whether human-powered or machine-powered, has very little distance in which to notice anyone approaching from an intersecting street.

Before readers dismiss this as not relevant to the safety implications from (relatively) slower speeds of bicycles, the newer versions of e-bikes are advertised as reaching speeds of 45 km/hr (approx. 28 mph), which is greater than SF's standard speed for roadway use.

Even at a human-powered bike speed of 12-15 mph, the impact of an adult male riding a bicycle on a young child or senior or pregnant woman can---and does---cause serious injury, and even death.

As limited as are the hazards arising from injuries from bicyclists, Vision Zero means ZERO, without exception for any mode of travel.

Beyond the safety problems associated with trying to adopt a version of the Idaho stop, there remains the obvious fact that such a tactic violates California law.

Regrettably, there have been previous attempts by supervisors to ignore aspects of California law regarding vehicles. Early in this century, one supervisor wanted to use SF's "charter city" status to bypass California law by authorizing motorcycles to park on the sidewalk. That ended when the former Senior Action Network mobilized to point out the obvious safety problems, despite threats of "kicking their ass" from one of the leaders of the motorcyclists' ad hoc advocacy group.

A few years later, a current supervisor is reported to have suggested that cars be allowed to park on the sidewalk---at least in his district.

Such statistically-biased and evasive attempts to appease one constituency---whether motorcyclists, car-drivers or bicyclists---makes one wonder how little supervisors, their staffs, and city transportation planners value the most vulnerable road-users---pedestrians.

California's federally-mandated Strategic Highway Safety Plan has recognized pedestrians as also road-users; even MTC reluctantly some years ago finally acknowledged that walking is a separate mode of transportation.

Yet the safety of pedestrians is not part of the reports & statements from SF's officialdom.

The impetus for the Idaho stop was magnified by a publicity stunt that seems to have escaped a sense of logic and proportion. The numbers of bicyclists participating in that "Wiggle" stunt was far greater than the number of bicyclists normally using the Wiggle during those hours. Because the numbers were "upped," that skewed the actual results of any perceived delay.

"Delay," or perception thereof, seems the major motivation for considering this evasion of California law, yet there has been no mention of SAFETY.

Is that any way to respond to and implement Vision ZERO?

Bob Planthold

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Chart of the day

Kevin Drum, Mother Jones