Author of Blog: Daniel Day
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Friday, January 12, 2018

The Driverless Car, an opportunity being missed.

In a state that has an idiotic belief system that a car and only a car is a form of transportation, I'm throwing all my support to the towards a future where all motor vehicles being computer driven. Right now, we are at the cusp of this technology, and we can start writing the rules in which self driving vehicles will operate under.

If you are wondering why I am a big advocate for the driverless car, it is because of what happened a few years ago when a person riding a fixie stopped right at an intersection where a Google car was being tested. As the gentleman riding the fixie came to a stop, he never once put his feet on the ground which is called a trackstand, an ability that most people, including the engineers where unaware that you could do that on a bicycle, especially on a fixie.   The two computer programmers quickly got to their keyboard and started to write the code to teach the car identify the stopped cyclist.  This act alone pretty much told me that we should be embracing the driverless car because the way thing are right now, a car has more rights than you or I bicycling or walking.

The vision written by for the driverless car is a world where people don't own cars anymore because it's cheaper to use an Uber, Lyft or a former vehicle manufacturer providing car sharing services.  Even Walmart and Target will get into the game by providing free rides to and from their stores.  Now, I'm not going to be getting into a conversation about the effects on Public Transportation and VIA, but it will have an effect but I'll leave that for another blog post.

With our civic leaders giving into drivers complaints that bicycle lanes and useless sharrows are graffiti and cause imaginary problems, we are stuck with infrastructure that don't meet the demands of Vision Zero and the demands of 21st Century.  We are also stuck with unsafe drivers who feel that it's their right to run over people protesting or riding a bicycle.  We are also stuck with drunk drivers who have no alternatives to get around other than by operating a motor vehicle after hanging out at a bar.

Whether you like it or not, autonomous automobiles are coming, and we are at the cusp of the technology.  But what I find frightening is that the Bicycle and Pedestrian advocates associations like Bike Texas and the League of American Bicyclist are ignoring the opportunity to dictate the rules of self-driving cars interactions with vulnerable road users and land use policies which even with the vision of SA Tomorrow 2040, they leave bicycles out of the plans when it comes to the inner city. 

You've probably heard about the three laws of Robotics that Isaac Asimov wrote down in his famous novel, I, Robot.  They are
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
Shouldn't we be making sure that those who are manufacturing driverless cars do not hit people in the first place?  Shouldn't a driverless car be programmed to operate at 20 mph down narrow urban neighborhood streets and when someone is walking across the street, "jaywalking," slow down, flash their lights to signal the pedestrian to safely proceed?  I'm a truck driver and when I come to a pedestrian whether at a truck stop, or driving my rig through a small town's downtown, I flash my high-beams to tell the person crossing the street that it's okay to cross.  For the life of me, I cannot understand why the people at Scientific American can't come to the same conclusion

Shared Lane Markings, or "Sharrows" are road markings used to indicate share space.  What they really show is a city unwilling to inconvenience drivers in the slightest. And because San Antonio isn't willing to inconvenience drivers in the slightest, we see people who are in motorized wheelchairs not even on the sidewalks, but on the streets because the sidewalks are unsafe and they suck. (Image 71.1)  (#sasidewalkssuck.)  But it's not just people that are in wheelchairs that are in the area designated for moving motor vehicles, but every other vulnerable road user.  You've probably seen on freeway to slower traffic keep right.  Well shouldn't we designate driverless cars to use the left lane going down stroads that have more than 4 travel lanes?  And because these cars are in the left lane, shouldn't they be allowed to drive just a little bit faster than the speed limit?  By doing this, and as more and more people get into driverless cars, over time this will free up the right lane for vulnerable road users.  These cars will still get into the right lane to make that right turn, but if we limit the travel lanes to be to the farthest left, then we'll have that right lane free for the vulnerable road user. 

2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
You've probably seen headlines like this, Self-Driving Mercedes-Benzes Will Prioritize Occupant Safety over Pedestrians stating that a driverless car might just go onto the sidewalk to protect it's human cargo.  I am here to tell people that this won't happen because these cars will not follow the other vehicle so close that the stopping distance is less than the following distance. Also all collisions that have occurred with a driverless car so far was because the human behind the driverless vehicle was following to close. 

Yet we hear these headlines over and over again.  This one from NPR warning about how bicycles will need a transponder for erratic behavior, yet in the story, cyclist in Pittsburgh prefer driverless cars than the cars driven by human beings.  This goes back to my suggestion that driverless cars should be in the left lane where available and possible and by doing this, we won't need to worry about cyclist "erratic behavior."  And to avoid more of this "erratic behavior", should we teach cyclist to make left turns by waiting at the red light on the street they're making the left turn to?  Also programming the car to recognize the standard hand signals would also lead to less confusion.

But leave it to fear mongering journalist with a headline of "Robot-human smackdown: Self-driving car and bicyclist collide in San Francisco."  What this story leaves out is that the engineers probably wrote code to prevent this or at least reduce this from happening again.  

If I'm worried about anything, I'm worried about people who feel that they own the road reprogramming their vehicles to disregard human life.  You know, how most people drive, and the disregarding of human life that is encourage by traffic engineers including here in San Antonio.    You've probably heard this before, how some people want to kill us for being environmental friendly, for believing that we who choose not to drive don't pay for the roadway.  If we don't have mandatory  minimums for reprogramming driverless vehicles to disregard human life, we will not see justice with these heinous crimes because as we all know, a car currently has more rights than you or I walking or bicycling.  I know it should be jail time and that imprisonment should last no less than 3 yrs.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Now for this part in relating to Asimov's Laws, it's harder to connect this law to what driverless cars do, but already they'll be protecting their occupants over the people on the outside as well as their own existence.  To explain this part, I'll have to relate to my experience of being an 18 wheeler driver.
As a Truck Driver, you're responsible for an 80ft vehicle weighing up to 80,000 lbs (today's cars weigh up to 2,000 pounds) and in the safety videos they make us watch once a month, they'll describe allowing other people to cut you off, and you better be prepared to stop. It's about getting the entire picture of where you are driving and thinking 2, 3, even 5 steps ahead in making maneuvers such as lane changes or right turns.  The company that I drive for rams home this thought, "its not about who's right or wrong in a car crash, it's about avoiding the collision in the first place."  And it's that thought process that I'm confident that will also be the first and forethought concept of how driverless cars safety rules will be govern.

Already Germany is the only country to make self driving car regulations. Here are the key elements of their decision:   
  • Automated and connected driving is an ethical imperative if the systems cause fewer accidents than human drivers (positive balance of risk).    
  • Damage to property must take precedence over personal injury. In hazardous situations, the protection of human life must always have top priority.     
  • In the event of unavoidable accident situations, any distinction between individuals based on personal features (age, gender, physical or mental constitution) is impermissible.     
  • In every driving situation, it must be clearly regulated and apparent who is responsible for the driving task: the human or the computer.     
  • It must be documented and stored who is driving (to resolve possible issues of liability, among other things).     
  • Drivers must always be able to decide themselves whether their vehicle data are to be forwarded and used (data sovereignty).
Land Use Policies....
Did you know in San Antonio, we have a ordnance, § 35-526. Parking and Loading Standards dictating the amount of minimum parking spots you have to have for your business or apartment.  This is just one reason why rent cost in places where it's easier to live without a car are going up to $1,000 a month.  It's why when SA Tomorrow 2040 came out with vehicle parking over protected bicycle lanes in many of it's inner city corridors.

I wrote back in October 2014 on where to live if you wanted to live in San Antonio car free, you had to live in a certain area in and around downtown.  With the majority of our population living outside this 'square' the need to provide service to an ever increasing aging population with crumbling infrastructure will become more expensive. The way things are going, VIA will have a harder time providing regular bus service because more of their funding will be diverted to paratransit operations.  And as car crashes become more rarer, laws will be further passed to limit repeated offenders of DUI and DWI to have to own a driverless cars.

As Uber and Lyft become the main provider of transportation, parking garages will become hot real estate commodities because these companies will need and want to have cars ready in heavily congested area.  If parking garages are not enough, they will buy on street parking making it almost impossible to build protected bicycle lanes where they are needed in Downtown.

One of the fears that have been mention by the media is a car that drops off a person and continues to drive around the block until it's ready to be called for.  I guarantee that this isn't going to happen because the car will not have enough energy to go around the block, but will most likely drive back to it's origin.  If that origin happens to be more than 30 miles away, it will park at a designated parking area that is set aside by the manufacture, or programed by the service he/she leases to.

As you can see in the image above, (Image 72.2) a space for two parking spots is enough to make a studio apartment.  The reason why VIA sucks in San Antonio is because we lack the density to make transit viable.  Before this occurs, shouldn't we make a sure that we have a occupancy minimum or a parking maximum in our most walkable places? We here in San Antonio don't understand that a parking lot is unproductive piece of property. We don't understand that because the supply of housing is low, the price is high, and having more housing will eventually lower costs.

As owning a car becomes more cost prohibited, people will turn to driverless car services companies.  Like any for profit company, their main thing isn't about providing services like VIA, but to earn as much money as possible. They will do what car manufacturers have done for decades, make walking a crime, make bicycling undesirable, and make public transit suck. If you don't think that this is going to happen, think again. We already we are seeing Uber and Lyft take away from transit trips and walking trips.

One of the hopes of the driverless cars is that it will bring back the urban fabric that has been missing from the times of the Streetcar, before GM took out those streetcar systems to get more people to buy their products.  I hate to break it to you, but these companies are for making money. They will figure out that having places far apart from each other with large acres of parking will increase their profits.  For Profit companies already work hard to influence local governments, not to mention state and federal.  But if we were able to create laws that make it a crime to have a vacant lots and a parking maximums in all our communities, then we would force these giants to heal to a better future.

I wrote two scenarios, both based on my, what I perceive to be my future.  One is a dark world where people are getting tickets on Probandt because it's against the law.  The other is a brighter world where my co-workers are riding their bicycles to work because the built environment is friendly to vulnerable road users.  I encourage you to read both and ask yourself, do you want the one where your struggling to get by, where VIA is garbage, or do you want one where you're riding with your grand kids to the Alamo from your house, maybe as far away as SW Military? 

71.1:  Person in a wheelchair going south on N Colorado between Ruiz and Martin.
72.2:  An Illustration on how two unused parking spaces are enough to make a small studio.

A Wonderful Driverless Future.

The year is 2040 and the driverless car has replaced the motorist.  In this scenario, I describe a world where the car companies Do Not Write the rules of the road. And at least for San Antonio, we have retain and built upon it's roots, not allowing the sprawl to get out of hand. I using the prices of today as I do not know where inflation is heading.  Please before reading this story, read my original post "The Driverless Car, an opportunity being missed."

I got some good news today.  All my coworkers have decided to join me in riding their bicycles to work everyday except when it rain or during blue northern.  I convinced my friend Ted, who is suffering from diabetes, to start riding his bicycle to and from work.  It's been three weeks since he started and he loves it.  Because of him, everyone else started doing it to. And It wouldn't have been possible if the majority of people didn't use driverless cars.  Driverless cars don't care that you are in the way, or running a red light.  They ain't trying to get revenge for hogging an entire lane, they give you plenty of room when passing by.  Because of this technology, there's fewer cars on the road.  

Ever since the City of San Antonio decided to start a war on vacant lots back in 2020, we have for the first time, managed to turn an old subdivision over the recharge zone back into undeveloped land.  We've noticed something that the Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas, have been saying for years, that impervious cover over the recharge zone was causing the big floods and reduced our water supply in the Edwards Aquifer.  Today, the aquifer level is at 700 ft above sea level, a feat that hasn't been achieved for over half a century. It last hit that level back in the early 1990's.

Activists have made their worries known that the Driverless Car Coalition have been tearing down old buildings in other cities to make way for parking garages and lots. Back in 2027, The Driverless Car Coalition, a lobbying group focused on coordinating all driverless car parking in San Antonio and other cities throughout North America, tried to remove the old Greyhound Station leaving nothing but a parking garage. However, due to a Mayor and City Council that had the leadership and foresight to make it law that any new parking garage that is built, the first five floors should be used for either ground floor retail, apartments or office spaces. The Driverless Car Coalition brought in Elon Musk to fear monger that if the 30 story parking garage wasn't built with the first five floors, that there wouldn't be enough parking for driverless cars, thus perpetuating the myth that cars would go around the block endlessly trying to find a parking space. He got his parking garage. However with the first five floors comprised of retail and low income apartments as per city ordnance.

The reason why we don't have empty cars going around in circles is because we have so many options to get around downtown.  Not just transit, but also protected bicycle paths down the major streets like Commerce, Navarro, and even Alamo St. VIA use small driverless buses to supplement the regular routes between major destinations.  So when my friends back in the early 2000s asked me why there wasn't any express buses from downtown to the Medical Center, I said that VIA  can't afford it.  Today, they have small driverless buses between destinations like the Medical Center Transit center to not just downtown, but to places like North Star, Kel-Lac and to even the other side of town like Brooks City Base.

A lot of the old Walmarts and other huge retail spaces on the edge of town are still parking lots, but they're always packed with driverless cars waiting to be called upon at charging stations.

As for me, I'm a truck attendant.  Basically a truck driver, but the computer does the driving.  I'm there to basically take over the vehicle if the computer goes,down, if there's a route that the computer can't understand, or be there to call a mechanic if something breaks down en-route.

I get to work everyday by riding my bicycle.  Because of this, I'm able to save money for my driverless car rental services.  Many of my coworkers pay up to $200 a month, but I pay only $50. I use Ford because they provide free rides to and from HEB, but I also have up to 10 rides per month in a pick up so I can on the weekends, go traveling to a state park or even the Gulf Coast.  It's easier to bring your bicycles along in a pick up than a car. They have offered me early retirement and I have thought about taking up on their offer, but I not ready to make bike lobbing in San Antonio and the State of Texas my number one job, a job that I won't be paid to do.

A "horrible" Driverless Future

The year is 2040 and the driverless car has replaced the motorist.  In this scenario, I describe where the car companies write the rules of the road and pretty much have bought our local governments so people are forced to use their services.  I using the prices of today as I do not know where inflation is heading. Before reading this story, please read my post "The Driverless Car, an opportunity being missed."

I'm thinking about taking early retirement today since I was unable to make it into work today.  I was cycling on Bandera Rd out to my job when a cop decided to pull me over and gave me a ticket for riding my bicycle on a State Owned Highway.  Ever since the State of Texas in the last legislative Session, made it illegal to ride your bicycle on State Owned Highways, I had to spend more for my driverless car service.  I was hoping just to pay $100 a month to Ford up to 10 rides per month including pick up truck service so I could go out to other cities and visit state parks on the weekend.  Now I'm torn between spending $300 a month to get to work and still have the ability to visit state parks and far flung places, and $200 for local services with pick up truck service at a $20 premium per use with a $50 surcharge for out of town use.  I like Ford because of their agreement with HEB to use their service free of charge to get to and from their stores.

What's worse, several of my friends just riding their bicycles on Probandt got ticketed after SAPD decided to do a crackdown. I saw post after post in the the Southtown Neighborhood Facebook group about how they were giving tickets to everyone riding a bicycle on Probandt.  Bike San Antonio issued a statement condemning the situation.  However, the reason why SAPD were able to give out all those tickets is because Probandt is a State Owned Highway.  It's still okay to use your bicycle in the inner city for the most part, but slowly that's changing.

Yesterday, city council voted to demolish three historic landmarks including the Alameda theater so the Driverless Car Coalition can use the created empty lots for parking and charging.  Two of the speakers that spoke out against the removal of the Alameda Theater laughingly shrugged off my warning that I gave in 2018 about how if we're not careful, these places will be removed to make room for parking lots. As I sat behind them, I openly snarked at them, constantly pointing out how I warned about this vote years before it took place.  After a few minutes of my rude behavior, they changed seats, moving to the other side of the Council Chambers. I remained seated waiting for my turn to speak against the proposal. 

In my speech before city council, I pointed out how the Driverless Car Coalition, a lobbying group focused on coordinating all driverless car parking in San Antonio and other cities throughout North America were doing this to increase their profits by making it more difficult for people to walk between places. This organization has purchased tons of empty lots and old shopping centers and turned them into parking lots and charging stations. Even though I pointed out during the speech that half of their lots are mainly empty except for a handful of cars.  The city council response was that more people are moving into town and they are going to need those empty lots for the increase in car services. The real purpose in tearing down such historic landmarks is to make sure we will have an excuse to use their service by making sure all places are distant and difficult to walk between.  They even reduced our tree coverage and managed to bypass the tree ordnance when it came to vacant lots that the Coalition acquired through the decades.

VIA services have been reduced throughout the city and county.  As driverless car service fees risen, it's making it harder for people with fixed incomes to get around. Back in 2030 made a deal with Uber to take over areas where circulators, (the 600 routes) operate to increase Crosstown and Express Bus routes, Today, VIA is reducing their Crosstown services so to just two routes. Apparently the Driverless Car Coalition convinced them that it would be cheaper to provide all crosstown routes with shared driverless vehicles that can be obtained after a short wait.  But there's hardly ever a short wait to use the Uber/VIA services.  Wait times can b eup to two hrs and during rainy and cold days, it can be up to four hours.  It's not going to affect me much, but still, it going to affect those of us who depend on crosstown routes to get around.

I love riding my bicycle everyday and it shows how I'm fit and in better health than my fellow coworkers. But with San Antonio going down the drain, I really don't see fighting for this city being worthwhile anymore. It's becoming Detroit with no culture.  

Sunday, October 29, 2017

What isn't Mentioned on Transportation in San Antonio

As I was watching the recent League of Women Voters of the San Antonio Area forum called, “Transportation Needs of San Antonio: How are we preparing for the future?”, I was expecting the usual talking point that rail will save the day, and I got that. But I was surprised to see that Ana Sandoval, council woman for district 7, point out the problem, how we punish people for not having a car are paid less and many job ads demanding that you have "reliable transportation."

I have personal experience with this for my lack of car ownership always puts me at a disadvantage when looking for work.  I lost count the number of times that I've been denied employment for not owning a car.  It was this experience that lead me to create my map on where you could live without a car in San Antonio for when I lived in that square, I found work. (Image 23.1)

Another problem that was pointed out by Bill Barker, Adjunct Associate Professor in Urban and Regional Planning at UTSA. He pointed out how at the turn of the 21st century, there was plenty of money for passenger rail projects, now all that money is now focus on the Northeast Corridor.  He mention that we need a 21st Century solution for transportation.  The problem with that is that we don't have the money for 21st century.  What we need is a 19th century solution to our transportation needs for as virtually everyone mentioned on the board, that the federal money is drying up.

So how did communities before the 20th century pay for infrastructure improvement with out the federal government?  Well they formed their own corporations to raise money to pay for churches, roads and even public transit systems like electric trolleys. To make sure that their investments (the key word here) wasn't a waste of money, they made sure that the value of the land was tied to the improvement.   Their examples can be seen in mountainous areas throughout the Appalachians with roads that have the word "Pike in their name and many of the churches that are in the community built before 1920.

I found out about this while reading the book, "Decline and Fall: The End of Empire and the Future of Democracy in 21st Century America" by John Michael Greer.  On pages 216 through 217...
      "De Tocqueville wrote: “The Americans make associations to give entertainments, to found institutions for education, to build inns, to construct churches, to diffuse books, and to send missionaries to the antipodes; and in this manner they found hospitals, prisons, and schools. If it be proposed to advance some truth or to foster some feeling by the encouragement of a great example, they found a society. Whenever, at the head of some new undertaking, you find the government in France, or a man of rank in England, in the United States you are sure to find an association. I met with several kinds of association in America of which I confess I had no previous notion; and I have often admired the extreme skill with which the inhabitants of the United States succeed in proposing a common object to the exertions of a great many men, and getting them voluntarily to pursue it.”3The types of associations de Tocqueville encountered used an assortment of ingenious legal structures borrowed, for the most part, from English common law. Those of my readers who dislike the role of corporations in contemporary American life may be interested to know that the distant and much less toxic ancestor of today’s corporate structure was one of them. A corporation, back in those days, was not a privileged legal pseudo-person with more rights and fewer responsibilities than a human being. It was simply a group of people who set out to accomplish some purpose, and got a charter from the state government allowing them to raise money for that purpose by selling shares of stock. Most had single purposes — building a hospital, say, or a canal — and limited lifespans, defined either as a fixed number of years or until the purpose of the corporation was completed."

If we are to do the same thing today lets say to provide passenger rail between Dallas and San Antonio, we are going to have to form a corporation to either lease the tracks from Union Pacific, or lay down our own tracks.  We are going to have to find a way to make money so we can pay back the lenders who paid for the initial cost such as buying passenger equipment and locomotives. We need to show how having a passenger rail station raises the land values and use those raises in land values to pay for the service because ticket revenue isn't enough to pay for the service at all.

If you read between the lines of this forum on transportation, it is that we are literately up the river without a paddle, with no money to pay for expanding highways, no money for buses or light rail and no way to translate any transportation improvements with higher land values that equals to future money for transportation needs.  Sorry folks, but there's no more money coming from the federal government, there's no money that is going to be gain with existing sales tax or gasoline tax.  So what is the ancient solutions to transportation?  Build things near each other, and that is what needed to be mentioned in the League of Women Voters of the San Antonio Area forum called, “Transportation Needs of San Antonio: How are we preparing for the future."

23.1:   My map of where you should live without a car featured in the blog post "Where 2 Live in SA W/O a CAR."  If you want to make one of your own, I recommend that you use yahoo maps instead of Google.  Make sure you put down that these are walking directions and they are...http://yhoo.it/1F7QFuy
Hildebrand at Broadway
Club Dr at Wilson Blvd
Cupples Rd at Brady Blvd
Brady Blvd at S Zarzamora
S Zarzamora at W Southcross
E Southcross at Gevers St
Gevers St at Walters
Walters at Sherman St
Sherman St at N Pine
N Pine at Josephine
Josephine at N Alamo
N Alamo at Broadway
Broadway at Hildebrand.

Friday, September 22, 2017

A Car has More Rights

You've probably seen my tweets where I say, "A car has more rights than you or I walking or biking,"  and that is totally true. (Image 69.1)  When cars hit people, it isn't the fault of the driver, but the fault of the person being in the way of the car. It doesn't matter that the walk sign was on and the person was in the crosswalk, or a bicycle was stopped at a red light, the car is always given a pass when collisions occur.

It never occurred to me that if I get hit by a car, and I have been hit both walking and biking, that I would have less rights than the driver of the car.  But over the years, I started to realize after reading several stories.

The first story came from Freakanomics podcast called the "The Perfect Crime." In the show, they found out "that if you are driving your car and run over a pedestrian, there’s a good chance — especially if you live in New York — that you’ll barely be punished."  In the podcast they explore why someone would rarely be punished and the conclusion they came to that the cops have a hard time relating to the pedestrian, but relating to the driver.  One guy's solutions to all these deaths in NYC, and I kid you not is to have everyone wear helmets. (Image 69.2)

If you live in some cities, being hit by a car is a crime, yes you the person just walking around can be charged with a crime of being hit by a car. The first example happened in Atlanta, GA back in 2010.  A Mother just got off the bus and did what most of do, cross right in the middle of the stroad to get to her apartment where she was struck by a car.  Despite the driver having a history of hit and runs, the mother was sentenced to 36 months in prison.  Quote from story:  "Despite the fact that Atlanta-area municipalities continue to build roads, like the one where Nelson’s son was killed, with inadequate pedestrian crossings and sidewalks, and despite the fact that the federal government continues to vastly underfund pedestrian safety infrastructure on federally-funded roads and highways, the courts have pointed the finger at Nelson, blaming her for the death of her son on a road that was designed with no regard for pedestrian safety."

Another story comes from Ville Platte, Louisiana where three teenagers were charged with misdemeanors for not wearing reflecting clothing after getting hit by a truck.  No charges where given to the driver of the vehicle.  And if you try to go out and put a stop to dangerous driving, you'll get a ticket for jaywalking.  That what happened to a Mother who lives on the far Northside here in San Antonio.  She made a sign and stuck it in her front yard.  When that didn't work, well she went out in the middle of the street with the sign.  For doing that, she got a jaywalking ticket.

So how did it become like this?  It started with "E. B. Lefferts, who put forth a radical idea: don’t blame cars, blame human recklessness."  If you would ask a person back during the early 1900s, and ask him what the streets are for, he would have said "they're for people."  People back then were very outraged when a person was killed by a car.  After Lefferts,  when you were to ask a person what the streets are for, they would say that "they're for cars." 

In the bicycling and pedestrian advocacy community, we call this "Victim Blaming." Instead of putting the blame on the distracted driver, we put the blame of the person who was hit by the distracted driver.  Treehugger.com post about this stuff all the time.  Just do a google search with treehugger and victim blaming, and you'll come up with these results.  The Same with Streetsblog USA.

Another reason why it's easier to blame the victim, (the bicyclist or pedestrian) is because of the lever effect. You probably heard of this question before.  There's a trolley coming down a track and it's about to hit 5 people working, yet you can save those 5 people by flipping a lever which would change the track of the trolley to a track where one person is working.  Nine out of ten people said yes they would flip the lever.  However if you would ask would you push a guy off a bridge to warn the 5 people working, then 9 out of 10 people would say no.  And that's what a car is, a lever which makes it easier to kill.  "

Seemingly confirming that a car is really no different than a lever, Treehugger.com did a story back in July 2017 called " New study looks at attitudes of drivers toward cyclists, and it ain't pretty."  Tara Goddard did her PHD thesis called "Exploring Drivers’ Attitudes and Behaviors toward Bicyclists: The Effect of Explicit and Implicit Attitudes on Self-Reported Safety Behaviors."  In the study she find out why people who drive have such a terrible attitude towards bicyclist and the conclusion she comes to is disturbing.  A "car essentially anonymizes drivers," basically making the driver a faceless victim.  She also found out that the bigger the vehicle, or the status of the vehicle, the less likely to yield to the vulnerable road user. (Image 69.3)

As technology has evolved, the ways to be distracted as a driver is immense.  If you ride a bicycle, you already have notice waiting at a traffic light and seeing someone texting on their phone or talking on their phone without a hands free device.  Brand new cars are sold with built in GPS, so it's no coincidence that the blame is on distracted walking and biking.  When the manufacture put in a screen in your car, or your cell phone rings while you're driving, you are going to be distracted. Add to that cars built after 2004 have shocks that absorb virtually every bump.  You could feel the changes in speed when I drove my first car, a 1987 Ford Thunderbird.  When I drove a rental car in 2016, a Toyota, I couldn't even feel the difference in speeds let alone the bumps I ran over.  Top that, there was a screen right below the radio, a big distraction.

Spread by news sources such as the Today Show and the NY Times, they wrongfully point out that the increase in pedestrian deaths is because of being distracted while walking.  And if you don't think that this misinformation campaign is having an effect here in San Antonio, then think again.  If you look at the last page of San Antonio's Vision Zero Brochure, than you would see how that they advise people, both walking and bicycling to wear bright clothing, i.e. to look like a construction warning device. My question is that how are drivers going to notice you looking like a traffic cone when they're being distracted by reading their GPS or the latest text message?  Leave it up to the Seattle Bike Blog to point out the obvious.  Quote:  "No matter what they are wearing, the person driving is responsible for not hitting them. Period."

We can tell that drivers are being more and more distracted because we are hearing more often that cars are hitting stationary houses. You might think I'm making this up that this is a more common occurrence, but here are the stories that were reported in 2017 alone of a vehicle crashing into a house here in San Antonio....
January 19, 2017: Speeding car crashes into northwest-side house
February 5, 2017:  Driver arrested after crashing into South Side home
March 11, 2017: Car crashes into house on Far West Side, woman injured
April 12, 2017: Driver flees after crashing into South Side Church's Chicken 
May 09, 2017: Car crashes into home on Northeast Side.
May 30, 2017: Late-night crash damages 4 South Side homes
June 23, 2017: SUV crashes into two cars, drives backward into wall of home, police say, 
August 23, 2017: Car crashes through South Side salon
Now we don't blame the house for being hit by the car, but if we were to "Victim Blame" the house for being hit by a car, we would hear headlines like 'House in the way of car when hit,' or 'House wasn't wearing helmet when hit by car. We never hear 'Driver didn't see house when he hit it because the house wasn't wearing reflective clothing,' and yet we are to blame the person walking or biking when they get hit by a car.

Another problem is that we don't blame the traffic engineer for designing a terrible place to walk or bicycle.  Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), which lays out rules for pavement markings and traffic signals and signs, aren't adopting rules to make protected bicycle lanes standard. (Image 69.4)  So when we hear stories like this one, "Elderly woman struck, killed on Broadway Street by minivan carrying family of 4," it fails to point out that the wide travel lanes encourage speeding, nor will it  point out that reducing the number of vehicle lanes from four to two would reduce car crashes. These stories will never point out that there wasn't a crosswalk in walking distance or the nearest traffic controlled intersection lacked a crosswalk.   Another one "SAPD: 61-year-old pedestrian killed in hit-and-run crash on Southeast Side" fails to point out how there's no traffic calming devices or that the travel lanes are two wide.  And this one "Woman killed in Northwest Side hit-and-run identified" fails to point out that despite crossing is on the other side of the intersection and would have caused the person 5 more minutes to cross.  After a while, you say fuck it, and just go.  And if you're blaming the victim in this case, then go walk it everyday, I guarantee that you'll do what she did.  The story will also fail to point out that the crossing times are virtually less than 20 seconds and takes up to 5 minutes to activate.  The story also fails to mention that the intersection wasn't given a second thought for people walking because the engineers failed to count the number of people walking by.  The story also failed to mention that the driver didn't take the necessary steps to prevent the collision. 

So the next time you hear that someone was killed while crossing a stroad, or riding their bicycle without a helmet.  Instead of blaming the cyclist for not wearing a helmet, or the person for jaywalking where no crosswalk was in a reasonable distance, we should be blaming the traffic engineers for designing a deadly space, for making sure that driving as their only means of transportation. By pointing out that the driver was being distracted, not paying attention to operating his/her vehicle.  By doing this, we'll start to acknowledge the real reason people die because of walking or bicycling.  Not because the person walking was looking at their cell phone in a crosswalk with the walk signal on, or the cyclist not wearing a helmet.  It was because the driver was distracted, it was because the traffic engineer designed the stroad for speeding, not safety.  This is why I'm a big supporter of autonomous automobiles because the politicians are making excuses, the engineers aren't designing safe infrastructure, and the police and media are quick to blame the victim in every crash.

A link will be posted to my next story: "The Driverless Car, an opportunity being missed."  As soon as it is posted.

69.1: Link to Tweet:  https://twitter.com/BikeSanAntonio/status/901211958262853632

69.2: Source for photo:  https://twitter.com/modacitylife/status/900376544308150272

69.3 Source for tweet:  https://twitter.com/KostelecPlan/status/909774284599394306

69.4 A Blog posting by Transportation Psychologist on Sept 2, 2017.

Friday, September 8, 2017

#ivotebike2017 Results/New Bicycle Advocacy Group

The San Antonio Municipal City elections are finally over.  And this is our city council.
District 1:   Roberto C. Trevino
District 2:   William 'Cruz' Shaw
District 3:   Rebecca J. Viagran
District 4:   Rey Saldaña
District 5:   Shirley Gonzales
District 6:   Greg Brockhouse
District 7:   Ana Sandoval
District 8:   Manny Pelaez
District 9:   John Courage
District 10: Clayton Perry
Mayor:       Ron Nirenberg

After the election, I decided to take a break from this blog and just focus on hobbies and work.  Every time I tried to sit down and write this, well nothing came out.  I wondered how is a community that cannot represent itself is going to make changes in the transportation policy of San Antonio.  Sure there's the Bicycle Collective, but I hardly ever hear about them.

The most successful grass roots transportation group is the Toll Party here in San Antonio.  Their dictator, Terri Hall, is pretty much the reason why I can say for the next twenty years is that San Antonio will not have any toll roads, any HOV, any express bus lanes.  There's is no such similar person here when it comes to VIA or bicycling. She, Terri Hall managed to get Tommy Adkissons to allow her to speak for hours at the Transportation Policy Board Meetings just to get the toll roads from being built.  And Because she has no job, she can devote the entirety of her time to this cause.

On a side note, I did learn that Tommy Adkisson's Mother was anti toll road, so at least we know why Terri Hall was allowed to violate the average 3 minutes to speak. 

About 3 weeks ago, I was notified that the Bicycle Collective changed it's name to Bike San Antonio.  This is being spear headed by Janel Sterbentz, a newcomer to our city. She notice how there's no bicycle advocacy group here, so with out even realizing it, she called her group Bike San Antonio, and didn't discover until she created her page bikesanantonio.org that I already had a blog called Bicycle San Antonio.  The head of the bicycle Collective, Cristian Sandoval has since handed the reigns of that group to Janel.

Janel has years of experience working for the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) and the Bike East Bay (formerly East Bay Bicycle Coalition) .  She also received a degree in Urban Studies from Portland State University. 

There's a meeting for interested cyclist and potential board members set up on at the Summermoon Coffee Bar, 3233 N Saint Mary's St on Thursday, September 14 at 6 PM. Fora link to the Facebook event page, please click here: https://www.facebook.com/events/132841887329289/?ti=as

I hope everyone who wants to make San Antonio A bicycle friendly place does attend. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

SA Mission Stadium Downtown, an Opportunity Lost.

All this talk about building an empty sports stadium in downtown reminds me of the warning I made to then Mayor Ivy Taylor. (Image 67.1)  You can invest in an empty stadium, or you can invest in free bus rides for all residence of San Antonio.  It's time that we get our priorities straight, and I stand by that statement.  We can make it more rewarding to use VIA or we can invest in an empty stadium. 

Now lets get one thing straight, I'm not against building a sport stadium downtown, I'm against using public funds to build it.  But to often we don't think like a Wall Street investor when putting down money into our infrastructure.  All to often, we don't treat public works project like an investment to the tax payer but a cost to buy something pretty.  We don't weigh the investment with possible return on investment as well as the maintenance cost that goes along with such an investment.  As a result, we see the spending of tax dollars, and the need to constantly look for additional funds to keep what we already have up and running. 

The promise I constantly hear is that it will improve the local economy. Well we already have the answer to that and it's a big fat no.  We heard this promise with the Alamodome, we heard this promise with the AT&T center, and yet the area around these stadiums are pretty much as dead as they were before they were built.  What's spurring the development on the Eastside isn't the Alamodome or AT&T Center, but $3.7 million investment put into restoring a bridge over the railroad tracks for people and bicycles, not cars.

After my tweet, I got a rebuttal from Jeff Long, Assistant GM San Antonio Missions Baseball (AA, Texas League, Padres). (Image 67.2)  He tweeted the image of the response to an empty stadium comment.  Well go to the Alamodome or the AT&T Center nearly everyday of the week and you'll see an empty stadium.  Also if the Spurs are getting way more people to go to their games, then why is the area around the AT&T Center empty?

San Antonio isn't the only city with this problem for Cincinnati was promised a big return with their tax payer subsidized stadium for the Bengals and the Reds.  In the end, it didn't spur development, but created a $14 million dollar shortfall.  When I had the chance to visited Cincinnati, I found that the action wasn't around Great American Stadium, but around Washington Park and Finlay Market.   The same with the Major League Sport Stadiums in downtown Minneapolis.  I've been to Minneapolis and there's hardly anything happening around those stadiums except a transfer from the Blue Line to the Green Line, no retail, no bars or restaurants.  Again the action in downtown Minneapolis isn't around either Stadium but on Nicollet Mall.  And finally, lets point out American Airlines Center where the Dallas Mavericks play.  Located at the far west of West-End, going to the Light Rail Station (Victory Station) and you'll see the same thing, no retail, no bars or restaurants.  Again most if not all are located nearer to the West-End Light Rail Station.  So please tell me again how is a new stadium going to improve the economy downtown?

St Louis has been going through this with the owners of the Rams for several years now and they have still voted no.

And before I get a rebuttal that sports teams bring in people and help promote the local city in tourism and growth, evidence fails to show that major sport teams help at promoting tourism or growth.  We only need to look 80 miles north and see that Austin has been getting way more growth than Dallas, or San Antonio and last I checked, Austin doesn't have a major sports team unless you count the Longhorns, a college team.  One simply needs to look at the motto for Austin which is "Keep Austin Weird" to find out why so many tech companies have been moving to the State Capital instead of San Antonio. 

So what's the opportunity that will be lost if the SA Missions decide to move downtown?  The opportunity to for transit oriented development and to have a stadium with light rail access.  Mayor Ron Nirenberg campaign promises was to bring light rail to San Antonio and the current Mission Stadium is located at the corner of US-90 and Callahan Rd.  If one just looks at VIA's long range plan, is that they plan to put any light rail on Old Hwy 90 West.  With Plenty of room to build a bigger baseball field and to turn the land around it into development that the owners of the Missions can earn a bigger return on investment all while supporting the transit services provided by VIA.

Currently VIA is updating their Long Range Plan and you can help by taking their latest survey before August 5, 2017.

And with the threat of the Missions leaving San Antonio for a more friendlier city, my response is a firmly "bye bye."  If you don't value your fans, then chances are you'll not fare better in another city.  These days, sport teams would rather give the finger to their home towns than value their fans/customers.  It is a sign of the times by those who own the means of production who would rather send their businesses overseas or have those same businesses go down in flames in a promise of a big payoff to the CEO.  These short term gains will eventually leave all, owners and customers pennyless with nothing to show the next generation except a big fat bankruptcy and a empty stadium.
It will be sad to see such an opportunity lost for San Antonio, VIA, and the SA Missions.  I can only hope that people who are going to be making these decisions will look pass fame and glory and the big folly and see the opportunity right in front of them.  I understand that they probably won't see it, but that's just one of the reasons why I write this blog. 

67.1 My meme tweet warning against building a sport stadium. 
67.2 The Picture that Jeff Long tweeted showing the attendance for local sport teams here in Bexar County. 
67.3  The previous VIA's Long Range Plan Map.  Can be seen at these blogs , "Mr Nirenberg, Ever think of Walking?" and "Streetcar IV: The Future of Rail in SA". 
67.4  A Google Satellite Picture of Nelson W. Wolff Municipal Stadium, where the SA Missions currently play.