It’s often been my experience that drivers of large trucks are more professional than those in PSVs (public service vehicles – ones that carry passengers). They are more aware of us, less aggressive and especially much more conciliatory when you talk to them after an ‘incident’. I get the clear impression that they know they’ll be in big trouble from their employers if you escalate a complaint.
Which makes me wonder how we might work through bus companies and other organisations to influence the behaviour of the drivers they employ. Drivers of minibuses and taxis, not to mention smaller vans, may be less constrained by employers than those of large good vehicles and companies that value their public profile. Bus companies should be able to closely manage their drivers, but don’t always seem to.
Do you agree? Are drivers from some types of employer more considerate / less aggressive? Could we show that certain groups of drivers who are more closely managed drive better, and hence put pressure on other organisations (eg. bus companies) to make their drivers perform better around cyclists?
A few years ago, the New York Times published a five-sentence brief about a man who “intentionally ran over five people” with an SUV after a fight in North Bellmore, Long Island. The driver, the Times reported, “fled the scene of the accident.” The police later located the vehicle that “they believed was involved in the accident.” One of the victims was in critical condition.
Ho hum. News briefs about the previous day’s car crashes are as routine as box scores and the weather forecast. Yet, in this case, the Times’ (and, presumably, the Nassau County cops’) choice of one particular word stood out: If a man intentionally ran over five people, how could that possibly be considered an accident? If, instead of car keys, the man had picked up a gun and shot five people, would the press and police have called that an “accident” too? No. They’d have called it “attempted homicide.” Yet, for some reason when the weapon is a car, when the violence on our streets is done with a motor vehicle, it’s always just an “accident.”
So, is it any surprise that the NYPD’s “Accident” Investigation Squad so frequently declares “no criminality suspected” after a motor vehicle is used to kill a pedestrian or cyclist on New York City streets? After all, they don’t call themselves the Motor Vehicle Manslaughter Squad. They don’t think of themselves as homicide detectives, or cars as weapons, or drivers as killers. The word “accident” implies no fault. It’s what we call it when a toddler makes a small mess. “Don’t cry over spilled milk,” we say. The assumption is built into the name of the NYPD bureaucracy itself: Death by motor vehicle is an “accident” before the investigators even get to what may very well be the scene of a crime. The Accident Investigation Squad is there to clean up and keep the traffic moving.
Though it may sometimes seem otherwise, New York City drivers don’t wake up in the morning intending to harm pedestrians and cyclists. Most crashes are unintentional and “accident” is not an inaccurate word to describe them. But the fact remains: Driver negligence is the number one cause of crashes, and it’s no big surprise—or accident—when negligent driving hurts and kills people on crowded city streets. In fact, our legal system has a word for this type of unintentional killing: “Manslaughter.” Lots of work needs to be done and lots of things need to change to fix the way the NYPD deals with pedestrians and cyclists who have been injured and killed by negligent drivers. But if it’s true that small changes in language can have a big impact on public policy, then the easiest change is simply this: Stop calling car crashes “accidents.”
Many cyclists already know they are faster than cars, particularly in peak hour traffic. Yet even cyclists may be surprised at how much time bicycles can save in any city when all time costs are considered. Dr. Paul Tranter, who has written a chapter in the upcoming “City Cycling” book, tells us why.
You may already know it, but in most cities throughout the world, cycling is a “faster” mode of transportation than the car. But for those that still aren’t convinced, it’s time to learn about “effective speed”.
“Effective speed is calculated using the standard formula: speed equals distance divided by time. Time here includes not only the time spent moving; it also includes the time devoted to enabling the movement to occur,” explains Dr. Paul Tranter, a geography Professor at the University of New South Wales, and an author from the upcoming City Cycling book.
“For car drivers, a significant (and usually ignored) time cost is the time spent at work to earn the money to pay for all the expenses associated with the mode of transport.”
And he’s right. All too often, car drivers rarely consider the total time devoted to their machines. If you’re not convinced, here’s a little anecdote that Tranter tells to make to change your mind:
Imagine that you live in a village in the 1800s and that your job each day is to collect water from a nearby stream. This task takes you an hour each day. To “save time,” you construct a machine consisting of a system of pulleys, cables, levers, and springs to collect the water for you. With this machine, simply by pulling a lever, you can send your bucket to the stream and have it returned full of water. You appear to have saved yourself an hour each day. However, to get the machine to work, you must spend an hour each day winding up the spring that powers the machine. Should you consider this time in any decision about the effectiveness of the machine?
“Many motorists—and city governments—seem to ignore this time spent earning money to pay for the transportation costs, that is, the time spent winding up the spring,” explains Tranter.
We shouldn’t forget this concept of effective speed is nothing new. Ivan Ilich, in his 1974 book “Energy and Equity” outlined it perfectly:
“The typical American male devotes more than 1,600 hours a year to his car. He sits in it while it goes and while it stands idling. He spends four of his sixteen waking hours on the road or gathering his resources for it. … The model American puts in 1,600 hours to get 7,500 miles: less than five miles per hour.”
How fast is your city?
Tranter, in the upcoming “City Cycling” book, has gone to the trouble to finding just how fast cars really by crunching data on income and travel times. The results almost beggar belief.
Effective speeds for car speeds varied from 18.3 km/h in Canberra, Australia, to a mere 3 km/h in Nairobi. When the external costs are taken into account, the effective speeds for car drivers range from a high of 15.9 km/h (Canberra) to a low of 2.2 km/h (Nairobi).
“We then used these estimates to calculate how slow cyclists could cycle and still be effectively faster than a car. When both direct and indirect costs are considered, cyclists in Canberra would need to average only 18.3 km/h to be faster than a car driver. In New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Hamburg, cyclists would not need to travel faster than 13 km/h to be faster than a car,” says Tranter, before adding:
“To be effectively faster than the number-one-selling car in Australia, a cyclist in Canberra would need to cycle at only 12.7 km/h. In all other Australian cities, the cyclists could travel slower than this, and still be faster than the top-selling car.”
So what does this mean for governments?
If city governments wish to invest wisely in transportation, they need to understand that increasing the average trip speeds of private motor vehicles doesn’t actually save time. This argument applies to any city in the world.
“Those cities that invest most effectively in cycling infrastructure will find that their cities become the fastest cities in the world,” says Tranter.
Thankfully, when we’re on a bicycle we don’t always have to rush. Taking it slowly is part of the fun. But we can still feel smug as cars go past knowing who’s really the fasted.
After being hit by a taxi, Anthony has been discussing with Transport Department about installing an Advanced Stop box for cyclists on southbound Waterloo Road at the junction with Wylie Road.
Advanced Stop Lines/Boxes are used around the world, giving cyclists a safe and visible place to stop and wait at traffic lights, whilst having a minimal effect on space for cars and other vehicles. ASL’s have made a large impact in London in particular where they are installed in large numbers. It is time for Hong Kong to embrace the bicycle as a feasible mode of transport and enable it with simple measures like these.
The proposed stop box is in the centre of the photo on the left, between the two drains, taking up no existing traffic waiting space whilst enabling cyclists to wait for the traffic lights in safety.
Next time you’re just minding your own business, riding your bike, and someone drives by and shouts something at you, perhaps the best reply is to smile, wave, and say “you’re welcome.”
As Jay Walljasper at Shareable Cities reminds us today, more bicycling is good news for everyone — not just cyclists:
Even if you will never ride a bike in your life, you still see benefits from increased levels of biking. More bicyclists mean less congestion in the streets and less need for expensive road projects that divert government money from other important problems. Off-road paths, bike lanes, sidewalks and other bike and ped improvements cost a fraction of what it takes to widen streets and highways. It’s proven that bicycling and walking increase people’s health and reduce obesity, which will translate into huge cost savings for government and a boost for our economy.
Policies that are good for bicyclists actually benefit everyone on the streets. Good conditions for bicycling also create good conditions for pedestrians. And what makes the streets safer for bikes, also makes them safer for motorists.
Higher gas prices (which have topped four bucks for the third time in four years) means more Americans are looking for other ways to get around. Bikes offer people more choices in transportation. This is especially true for people whose communities are not well served by mass transportation or where distances are too far to walk to work or shopping.
Kinda ironic that these are the activities that get targeted as “money wasters” by most governments around the world.
A short, sharp message from Transport for London headlines their latest PR campaign warning about the danger of HGV lorries.
Thousands of handlebar leaflets are being put on bikes all over London and there will be posters re-enforcing the message.
The posters give a very quick warning to all cyclists. Beware of all lorries, staying behind is the safest option.
Being hit by a large lorry is thankfully rare but always serious and more likely to be fatal than any other crash. If there is a junction nearby, don’t try to overtake as lorries turn quickly, cutting across your path.
Recognise that lorry drivers may not be able to see you
Never cycle up the left side of a lorry stopped at a junction
Look out for lorries turning left from beside or behind you
Don’t stop too close to the front of a stopped lorry and stay away from the lorry’s front near side. If a lorry comes up behind you, move forward enough to ensure you are in the driver’s field of vision
Take up a visible position at lights or advanced stop lines: three metres out in front and not by the left kerb or very close to the lorry
Behind a lorry is often the safest place to be. When you need to overtake a large lorry, do so on the right-hand side, so that the driver can see you
Transport for London is keen to point out that it is also targeting lorry drivers. – The HK Government does not even target car drivers, but it would be a great and necessary step for them to also target lorry drivers.
They will be putting on information events at channel ports and lorry service areas, aimed at drivers heading for London. – This kind of informational event is perfectly possible on Hong Kong also, around the container ports and at the road crossings from mainland china.
Under renewal terms for franchises beginning 2013, currently held by New World First Bus, Long Win Bus and Citybus on the airport and North Lantau network, passengers must be allowed to bring foldable bicycles on board.
(Reported in SCMP, 28 Feb 2012. But we are not sure where that news came from. Will post here when we find it.)
On 12 January, HKCAll took the harbourfront cycleway a step closer to reality with a presentation to the Hong Kong Island Task Force of the Harbourfront Commission. We showed how the Island Eastern Corridor boardwalk, proposed by Planning Department’s consultant, would be enhanced by and could accommodate the cycleway.
Great thanks go to Matteo for allowing us to use his photo of the delivery cyclist. He writes on his own blog about riding vintage Fuji bikes "There is something special about these vintage fuji bicycles. It is inexplainable, but it is real. They are quality. They are beautiful. They surpass expectation.". See more at Fuji Crazy
Many thanks also to Christopher Dewolf for his photo of cycling at sunset in Ma on Shan. His photos can be found at his Flickr Site, and some of his many writings & photos can be found at Urbanphoto.net
Huge Thanks to Jason Findlay for the photo of the Harbourfront bike Ride 5 near Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter