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Breakfast links: The campaigns heat up


Photo by KCIvey on Flickr.
Bowser running on development: Muriel Bowser is making development in Ward 4 a central part of her campaign for mayor. But Mary Cheh says the mayor has much more power over development than a ward councilmember. (Examiner)

New Virginia poll: Governor Bob McDonnell now enjoys 64% approval, including 52% among Democrats, likely thanks to his transportation bill. Ken Cuccinelli leads Terry McAuliffe by 5-10 points in the governor's race with 6 months to go. (Post)

Bikeshare is "awesome": Capital Bikeshare is so great, it even impressed a New Yorker who's not otherwise a huge DC fan. The app is "f***ing great," though the writer encountered empty docks and full stations around the Mall.

Orange Line to Wiehle?: Should Metro have made the Silver Line a branch of the Orange Line? London, New York, and others unify lines that share a route through the core. Metro asked about this on a survey, but riders didn't go for it. (Atlantic Cities)

On the Maryland rails: Senator Barbara Mikulski enthusiastically endorsed Charles County's push for light rail from Branch Avenue to Waldorf, but said the Red Line and Purple Line must come first. (SoMDNews, Ben Ross) ... The Red Baltimore Red Line's planner answers the line's critics. (Baltimore Brew, Fern Shen)

Offices getting denser: With rising rents, new technology, teleworking and more, many companies in downtown DC are packing more workers in less space. (Post)

Credit cards coming to taxis: The head of the DC Taxicab Commission says that credit card machines will be in all cabs by September of this year. (WAMU)

Woman falls onto tracks: A 73 year old woman fell onto the tracks at the Dupont Circle Metro. Fortunately, no trains were nearby, and other riders helped her up. (Examiner)

Virginia private tolls unconstitutional?: A judge has thrown out the public-private partnership for a tunnel road in Portsmouth, VA. The ruling, if upheld, could also block other such private toll road deals around the state (Virginian-Pilot)

And...: 37% more people bought VRE "step-up" tickets to ride Amtrak in March. (Examiner) ... VW donates $10 million to the National Mall. (ABC) ... A 4-year-old darted out into the street in Alexandria and was killed. (Post)

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Nick Casey is a Project Manager at the Center for American Progress. He and his wife live in Takoma DC. Nick is originally from the west side of Cleveland and attended Denison University. His posts do not necessarily reflect the views of his employer.  

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So a couple of box stores that were ill-conceived and wildly unpopular are Bowser's cornerstone? She can be ripped apart on development issues, from the state of Georgia Avenue to the condition of the remaining schools in the Ward.

Unless of course, she is running on the anti-development platform, given her stance on ADUs and parking minimums.

by William on May 6, 2013 9:11 am • linkreport

Regarding the poll:

Seems like they vastly oversampled Republicans. Virginia is not 28 Dem and 26 Repub. Also, all of the quotes were from people 65+... How did that work out?

I am unable to figure out the methodology of this poll, but with those numbers, I am certainly leaning towards thinking they did a pretty poor job in polling. If, however that is not the case, sounds like Transvaginal Ken is going to be Governor.

by Kyle-w on May 6, 2013 9:18 am • linkreport

I think one thing that is ignored in this article about the silver line is a major amount of the riders on this new line will have no intention of going to DC. So to that respect it is a new line, for northern Virginia.

There are over 350,000 jobs along this corridor, not significantly different from the total number of corporate positions in DC. Between Tysons, Herndon, Reston, Ashburn, and Arlington there are a half dozen fortune 500 headquarters and over 100 million sqft of development.

The idea that DC is the focal of the silver line is mis-lead.

by Tysons Engineer on May 6, 2013 9:20 am • linkreport

The VA gubernatorial polling are a little more nuanced than the note above indicates. Only 10% of those polled said they are following the campaign closely and almost half polled said they were undecided or could change their minds. The poll results also showed that name recognition is playing a major role, as McAuliffe holds the lead for the 10% who said they are following the campaign closely.

by ksu499 on May 6, 2013 9:25 am • linkreport

A 4-year-old darted out into the street in Alexandria and was killed.

This is awful. From the Post:

"Ashley Hildebrandt, an Alexandria police spokeswoman, said it appeared that the boy ran into the street as his family
was preparing to cross."

Residential street. Posted speed limit 35 mph. SUV was probably traveling at 40-45 mph. Recipe for disaster. I hate how this stuff is inevitably dismissed as a random tragedy that is unavoidable--or worse yet, the fault of the parents.

If this SUV had been doing 20 mph, and if there were a marked (and if local drivers respected crosswalks) this kid would be alive right now.

by oboe on May 6, 2013 9:31 am • linkreport

@ksu499 It is hard to imagine a state which just voted for Kaine over Allen and Obama over Romney electing someone like Ken Cuccinelli

Clearly the election year is young, and I think when many virginias hear more about Cuccinelli the GOP will wish they had picked Bolling instead (a much better candidate for the direction Virginia is going).

That being said, Virginia has off year elections, and in the past that has meant some much more radical elements being elected than would happen in a standard year (national election) cycle.

by Tysons Engineer on May 6, 2013 9:32 am • linkreport

"SUV was probably traveling at 40-45 mph."

I'm curious how you know this? As for the marked crosswalk, it's a four-year-old child who apparently got excited and distracted by something he saw across the street and got away from the adult he was with. He's not going to look for a marked crosswalk.

by Socket on May 6, 2013 9:36 am • linkreport

Usually polls are pretty accurate, but I feel like it's still pretty early. Has the campaign ad bonanza really hit yet? To me that's when people really start making their choices including whether to vote or not.

by MLD on May 6, 2013 9:36 am • linkreport

NHTSA reports that traffic deaths are up 5% in 2012 to just over 34,000 a year. So sad, especially when they are preventable :(

by Alan B. on May 6, 2013 9:38 am • linkreport

I just noticed my first Gubernatorial campaign ad this week. It was a McAuliffe ad and seemed pretty benign (the sound was muted) about how he has a family or something.

by drumz on May 6, 2013 9:51 am • linkreport

socket - its not certain that the vehicle was going that fast, but in conditions of free flow most people (80% or more?) drive at least 5 MPH over the limit, in most locations. Its a decent first approximation.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 6, 2013 9:55 am • linkreport

6300 block of Stevenson is in the landmark mall area - high density, lots of relatively low income families, but very auto oriented layout - perfect formula for ped safety issues.

Not clear to me if they were crossing Stevenson at Yoakum where there would be an implied crosswalk. No striped crosswalk there.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 6, 2013 9:58 am • linkreport

I'm curious how you know this? As for the marked crosswalk, it's a four-year-old child who apparently got excited and distracted by something he saw across the street and got away from the adult he was with. He's not going to look for a marked crosswalk.

I know this from having driven in the DC Metro area for the last 30 or so years. Four lane suburban traffic sewer with no lights and no crosswalks and a posted speed limit of 35 means--barring traffic congestion--drivers are going at least 40mph. As far as the crosswalk goes, if you go back and read the story, you'll learn that the 4 year old darted out while the family was waiting for a clear chance to cross the street. If there'd been a crosswalk, the family wouldn't have been *waiting* to cross, they would have the right of way.

I know there's a huge amount of cognitive dissonance that makes us want to support the status quo since most of us drive most of the time, and setting high speed limits in residential areas and eliminating crosswalks is a fine way to keep drivers from being inconvenienced. But there's a human cost.

This wasn't a tragic, unpreventable accident--it's a byproduct of the decisions we have made in the way we organize our public spaces. The road design killed this child.

by oboe on May 6, 2013 10:00 am • linkreport

This is the direction we should be heading:

http://www.20splentyforus.org.uk/

by oboe on May 6, 2013 10:03 am • linkreport

"If there'd been a crosswalk, the family wouldn't have been *waiting* to cross, they would have the right of way."

In fact even at marked crosswalks on such roads, its often necessary to wait for a gap in traffic. I do. The law may say I don't need to, but that won't do me much good if I'm no longer alive.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 6, 2013 10:03 am • linkreport

@oboe: I hate how this stuff is inevitably dismissed as a random tragedy that is unavoidable--or worse yet, the fault of the parents.

Actually, it frequently IS unavoidable.

I remember a few years ago in my subdivision, a six-year-old was hit and killed by a Fairfax Connector bus when he jumped out of a car and ran in front of it. The driver wasn't speeding, and the parents weren't at fault, either. It was just an unfortunate series of incidents combined. ('Course, there's no reason on earth the bus should have been on that road in the first place, but that's the County's fault for making a lousy route.)

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on May 6, 2013 10:04 am • linkreport

Oboe - personally I'd like more Hawk lights across NoVa. Easier to get than a 20MPH speed limit.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 6, 2013 10:05 am • linkreport

Ser,

There are freak accidents. The problem is that we often declare things to be freak accidents when they aren't. Could this situation qualify? Sure, but often investigations stop once someone says the magic words and the underlying issues aren't examined.

by drumz on May 6, 2013 10:08 am • linkreport

I actually had a woman honk at me when I was using the striped crosswalk to walk across 14th St yesterday afternoon and Saturday a bunch of drivers on Georgia zoomed by me while I was in the middle of another crosswalk.

Many drivers still seem to think the crosswalk means peds proceed only once all cars are clear of the area, not that they should stop for any pedestrians waiting to cross.

by Alan B. on May 6, 2013 10:12 am • linkreport

I agree the instances mentioned are freak accidents including the child in Alexandria. But do think they are only freak accidents because society has accepted that people should be able to pilot very dangerous objects, very fast without a lot of deference for other uses. I personally think that mindset needs to be adjusted and people need to slow down.

by Alan B. on May 6, 2013 10:17 am • linkreport

Oboe - personally I'd like more Hawk lights across NoVa. Easier to get than a 20MPH speed limit.

True, you'll obviously also get more compliance. My main point was that this isn't some sort of implacable act of God--it's an expression of cultural norms. People like to be able to drive fast. I do too. But this assumed idea that it's normal that parents should have to keep a death grip on their child every moment they're in a public space has always pissed me off. Ever since I had kids, I know I drive about 5-10 mph under the speed limit any time I'm in a residential area--particularly if I see people on sidewalks.

by oboe on May 6, 2013 10:17 am • linkreport

Re Bowser. Check out her claims re: development and her stance on the zoning rewrite here at the 4:47 mark. She sure sounds like someone who supports CAR-Oriented development: http://dc.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=4&clip_id=1639

by fongfong on May 6, 2013 10:24 am • linkreport

Yeah, ok Oboe...when was the last time you saw a 84 year old driver actually driving the speed limit or above? There is just as much chance this driver was driving slower than the speed limit.

There are two crosswalks in the 6300 block of Stevenson Ave in Alexandria, seperated by 618 feet according to Google Earth, or the length of a metro rail platform. Not exactly an onerous distance.

Here OBOE, I fixed it for you. "This wasn't a tragic, unpreventable accident--it's a byproduct of the decisions we have made. Bad luck and unattentive parenting killed this child."

by Crosswalk on May 6, 2013 10:26 am • linkreport

Yes, putting a parent who just lost a child on a huge guilt trip is much more effective than looking at why we have such a problem with traffic fatalities in this country.

by drumz on May 6, 2013 10:28 am • linkreport

@crosswalk You couldn't be more wrong on this. Oboe isnt making the point that the driver was at fault. It is the road design itself, this continued prioritization of commuters in cars rather than local transportation, pedestrians, and bicyclists that continue to kill people in inner suburbs and cities.

This same story happens over and over. Yes sometimes freak accidents occur, but the problem is that the rate of those occurrences is FAR too high just to say that it is an unavoidable circumstance of the modern age, especially when here in the US it is far more likely than in many other countries where people also drive.

We need to start designing roads for all uses, not just vehicles, and then throwing a bone or two for show to non-vehicle uses.

by Tysons Engineer on May 6, 2013 10:40 am • linkreport

"Bad luck and unattentive parenting killed this child."

The mom had another kid she was holding. I'm guessing they were headed to the busstop, which is in between the marked crosswalks.

Placement of bus stops relative to crosswalks is an issue in NoVa as well as the number of crosswalks.

Again, note well, that area has lots 1970s era hi rises, highly segregated land use, etc - the highly elderly population in the high rises is pretty car dependent. Whatever speed they do drive, it may well in many cases exceed whats ideal given their reflexes. Youve also got old low rises with a largely immigrant population, lots of kids, over burdened families, and reliance on walking, local buses, and (very non-elite) biking.

I would say the design issues in the area go well beyond the speed limit and the crosswalks.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 6, 2013 10:46 am • linkreport

No Tysons, "you" couldn't be more wrong. Of course Oboe is blaming the driver. Did you miss this " Posted speed limit 35 mph. SUV was probably traveling at 40-45 mph. If this SUV had been doing 20 mph, and if there were a marked (and if local drivers respected crosswalks) this kid would be alive right now" above?

So he is blaming the driver and "apparent" lack of crosswalks, which I pointed out above was also incorrect.

@Drumz
"Yes, putting a parent who just lost a child on a huge guilt trip"

And yes, putting some random driver, who according to what we know right now, wasn't speeding, didn't leave the scence etc on a guilt trip for killing a kid is a fair and productive thing to do too.

by Crosswalk on May 6, 2013 10:52 am • linkreport

oboe didn't blame the driver, but taking a story where there is no evidence of wrongdoing and assuming the driver was 5-10 mph above the speed limit on a "four lane traffic sewer" (I recall parking on both sides of the road limiting the road to two lanes most of the time) doesn't help any discussions.

I was afraid of seeing this story on this site before I even saw ceefer's comment.

by selxic on May 6, 2013 10:55 am • linkreport

"So he is blaming the driver and "apparent" lack of crosswalks, which I pointed out above was also incorrect"

I read him as blaming the speed limit, not the driver. Whereas you actually blamed "inattentive parenting".

We do not know if the driver was speeding or not. They clearly do not have to feel any guilt for not driving at 20MPH which was 15 MPH below the marked speed, IIUC. OTOH had they been driving at 20MPH (IE had that been the limit, and the limit been enforced - or the limit was 15 with the usual buffer) that would certainly mean less damage that at, say, 35MPH.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 6, 2013 10:57 am • linkreport

"And yes, putting some random driver, who according to what we know right now, wasn't speeding"

Define speeding.

If the driver was driving the speed limit he was speeding. He just wasn't "speeding". That's why the official "speed wasn't an issue" line is such a crock of shit. Of course speed was an issue. Even the "driver's rights" absolutists understand this, as they often make an ad absurdum argument along the lines of "Hey! What do you expect drivers to go 5 mph???"

If people are driving 35-40 mph in a residential area and hit a kid, and kill that kid, speed is an issue. If the car was doing 15 mph they would've had time to stop.

by oboe on May 6, 2013 11:02 am • linkreport

Sometimes, accidents happen and there's no one to blame.

It seems like some posters on this thread are projecting their ideological predjudices onto this unfortunate incident.

by Potowmack on May 6, 2013 11:03 am • linkreport

Of course McDonnell's leading. People seem to think that Virginia has somehow moved on from the far-right, wingnut politics typical of the state for over 100 years just because they elected Obama by the slimmest of margins twice. The truth is that Obama would have never gotten elected without the state's 20% black vote, and there's no way Cuomo/Clinton/Biden/O'Malley wins the state in 2016.

While progressive, ultra-liberal Dems are shoe-ins in the District and Annapolis, its clear that the voters in VA, just like all the other Southern states, will vote for the corrupt, ignorant, racist, homophobic, pro-transvaginal, anti-healthcare, anti-transit, Confederate flag waving Repugnican before they vote for the far more rational "carpet-bagger" Dem.

Crossing the Potomac river is like travelling 150 years back in time, Arlington and Fairfax notwithstanding.

by Wise on May 6, 2013 11:06 am • linkreport

These "freak accidents" happen far to often for people to ignore them (though most do).

I have an ideological prejudice against a system that priotizes ease of movement over making streets safe.

by drumz on May 6, 2013 11:08 am • linkreport

OTOH had they been driving at 20MPH (IE had that been the limit, and the limit been enforced - or the limit was 15 with the usual buffer) that would certainly mean less damage that at, say, 35MPH.

Actually, this stuff has been studied and quantified.

If you hit a child at 40 that child has a 20% chance of survival.

If you hit a child at 30 mph, that child has a 80% chance of survival.

If you hit a child at 20 mph, that child has a 95% chance of survival.

And for those numbers you have to factor in stopping distance. If you're travelling at 20 mph, it's quite likely you'll have enough stopping time to avoid hitting a child (or any pedestrian) completely. As speed goes up, the chances of stopping go down dramatically.

http://www.staffssaferroads.co.uk/know-your-limits/why-speed-kills

by oboe on May 6, 2013 11:08 am • linkreport

"If people are driving 35-40 mph in a residential area and hit a kid, and kill that kid, speed is an issue. If the car was doing 15 mph they would've had time to stop."

oboe, this is a design issue. This isnt some DC street with parallel options, in an area where most local residents will often choose other modes.

This is a 1970s hi rise, unwalkable, traffic hell. It was planned for the auto centric paradise (with the option of express buses to DC). Unfortunately the buildings aged, and the low rises at least are mostly immigrants, who often dont drive. City of Alex has to retrofit into that physical and social reality. And 15MPH speed limits on roads like this is not part of the picture. Not for a long time, anyway. I would either add a crosswalk near the busstop, or move the busstop. And continue to push better design as the area redevelops.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 6, 2013 11:11 am • linkreport

"Sometimes, accidents happen and there's no one to blame."

From NTHSA:

In 2010, 4,280 pedestrians were killed and an estimated 70,000 were injured in traffic crashes in the United States. On average, a pedestrian was killed every two hours and injured every eight minutes in traffic crashes.

Ho hum, stuff happens.

by oboe on May 6, 2013 11:14 am • linkreport

In a nation of 300+ million, several thousand people a year are going to die in traffic accidents. It's just inevitable.

In some instances, the driver is at fault. In others, the pedestrians. And, in some cases, there really is no one to blame.

Who was to blame in this this incident? I don't know, and neither does anyone else, based on the scant facts available. People are trying to assign blame (inattentive parents versus speeding driver) based on nothing but speculation.

by Potowmack on May 6, 2013 11:23 am • linkreport

oboe, this is a design issue. This isnt some DC street with parallel options, in an area where most local residents will often choose other modes.

Understood, I just hate when officials trot out the "speed wasn't a factor" line. Just because a driver wasn't exceeding the legal speed limit does not mean speed wasn't a factor.

by oboe on May 6, 2013 11:25 am • linkreport

@oboe

Thanks for bringing some data to the discussion. The death rate at various speeds is definitely useful information. However, the raw number of deaths of pedestrians killed in accidents doesn't have much meaning on its own.

I honestly have no idea if 4,280 is a lot or not. And, whether it is a lot or not, then we should look at the characteristics of those deaths and what can be done to fix it and what the costs are of those fixes.

For example, I just saw that 3,782 people died of accidental drowning in 2010. Is that a lot? I don't know. What are possible solutions and do they make sense? How would the cost of those solutions compare to the cost of the solutions to pedestrian traffic deaths?

by jh on May 6, 2013 11:26 am • linkreport

Who was to blame in this this incident? I don't know, and neither does anyone else, based on the scant facts available. People are trying to assign blame (inattentive parents versus speeding driver) based on nothing but speculation.

No, (as AWITC pointed out) here the speeding driver was a symptom of the problem, not a cause.

by oboe on May 6, 2013 11:26 am • linkreport

I think pedestrian deaths (and 70,000 injuries short of death) are only a part of the cost, though. We're also talking about residential environments in which every parent must maintain absolute vigilance at every single moment lest their child pay with their life. The fact that this is considered a normal state of affairs is insane. It's no wonder few children walk to school, some schools ban bicycling to school, and rates of childhood obesity have skyrocketed.

by oboe on May 6, 2013 11:33 am • linkreport

We're also talking about residential environments in which every parent must maintain absolute vigilance at every single moment lest their child pay with their life.

There's a lot of hyperbole in that statement. It really isn't that dangerous out there.

by Potowmack on May 6, 2013 11:36 am • linkreport

the bus stops appear to be placed for the convenience of the hirise residents. Assuming of course you live in a hirise on the southside in the morning, and return to one on the north side in the PM.

Which Im guessing no one does.

It would make more sense to move the stop to a crosswalk. The distances involved are not trivial to peds, esp to peds herding along multiple toddlers. Or, if the desire really is to keep the stops away from the cross streets and close to those hi rises, I think striping a midblock crosswalk is not at all unreasonable.

Can anyone tell me why that should NOT be done?

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 6, 2013 11:37 am • linkreport

@oboe

Interesting point. I agree it's a shame that so many parents spend so much time worrying. But, is the worry warranted? What are the death/injury rates in other cultures and do their parents worry as much?

Do you attribute a large portion of child safety to vigilant parenting? I tend to think that a large portion of child safety (and adult safety, too) is that many situations we worry so much about really aren't that dangerous. From what I hear, just about everything is going to kill my kids and in order for them to make it to adulthood, I can't blink for a second.

Admittedly, I live in a quiet (traffic-wise) suburban court that is safe for kids to run around in the street, so my viewpoint is skewed.

by jh on May 6, 2013 11:40 am • linkreport

"There's a lot of hyperbole in that statement. It really isn't that dangerous out there."

I can't speak for Stevenson road, but in parts of Fairfax its MORE dangerous than Oboe states - if you read Oboe as saying a crosswalk solves the problem. There are crosswalks in FFX where few drivers slow for a ped entering the crosswalk. When the ped finds a gap and is in the middle of the crosswalk, their view of yielding is slowing down TO the posted limit and estimating the time they have while you scoot across. heaven help you if you trip.

This has a higher cost, and not just to parents. Some of those elderly folks might be more inclined to walk, use the bus, if crossing roads like that were not so unpleasant (and go tell them to add several hundred feet to their walk) It discourages mode shift from auto, and it deters new types of development and usage.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 6, 2013 11:41 am • linkreport

Admittedly, I live in a quiet (traffic-wise) suburban court that is safe for kids to run around in the street, so my viewpoint is skewed.

And that's it. People put a value of safety on suburbs that they don't for the city because of various reasons (they don't like being held up, views that the city is intrinsically more dangerous, people ignoring poverty, etc.).

Granted the collision in question happened in the "suburbs" but its an urban/dense part (though not very well designed) of the jurisdiction.

by drumz on May 6, 2013 11:45 am • linkreport

@jh,

Do you attribute a large portion of child safety to vigilant parenting? I tend to think that a large portion of child safety (and adult safety, too) is that many situations we worry so much about really aren't that dangerous. From what I hear, just about everything is going to kill my kids and in order for them to make it to adulthood, I can't blink for a second.

For 99% of the "threats" that parents are expected to fret over, I agree with this. Traffic really is one of the only real threats out there. Particularly in a "walkable" TOD environment.

by oboe on May 6, 2013 11:47 am • linkreport

BTW, there is or was an infill development proposal, with an associated traffic calming proposal

http://dockets.alexandriava.gov/fy11/051212ph/di4.pdf

"The proposed development will further enhance pedestrian safety with a number of transportation improvements:
o The installation of pedestrian .count down signals,
o The reduction the radius at the southeast corner of the intersection Stevenson
Avenue and Yoakum Parkway for traffic calming purposes; and
o The relocation and/or replacement of the existing in-pavement warning lights system to align with the new cross walk. (The in-pavement warning lights system is activated by pedestrians and alerts vehicles that pedestrians are crossing the street.)

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 6, 2013 11:47 am • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

I think one problem in the suburbs is the lack of pedestrian traffic. Drivers, including myself, are sometimes surprised to see a pedestrian in a crosswalk that very rarely has pedestrians.

Yeah, I know, the driver should always be paying attention but I think it's just human nature to not notice something that's rarely there. For legal purposes, I think it's fine to place blame on the driver in such a situation, but the solution has to take into account how people actually behave and not just how we would like them to behave.

by jh on May 6, 2013 11:47 am • linkreport

Off-topic: Was a pedestrian killed on the southbound lanes of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (near the MD-DC line) this weekend? I saw the southbound lanes were shutdown and saw a large investigation scene and thought I heard a report on WTOP, but I didn't see any reports when I checked later. I'm not sure if the accident was in Maryland or DC.

by selxic on May 6, 2013 11:56 am • linkreport

"I think one problem in the suburbs is the lack of pedestrian traffic. Drivers, including myself, are sometimes surprised to see a pedestrian in a crosswalk that very rarely has pedestrians."

Thats true, but at least in some places, its a vicious circle - at least where the would be pedestrians have options non-walking options.

"Yeah, I know, the driver should always be paying attention but I think it's just human nature to not notice something that's rarely there. For legal purposes, I think it's fine to place blame on the driver in such a situation, but the solution has to take into account how people actually behave and not just how we would like them to behave."

Im less interested in assigning blame between drivers and peds, than in resolving the design problems. At marked crosswalks where drivers fail to yield I want better treatments - more yield to peds signs, larger yield to ped signs (we have some laughably small ones in FFX) and Hawk lights. And more general traffic calming measures, to bring actual speeds closer to posted speeds. And, where its political feasible, slower speed limits.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 6, 2013 12:02 pm • linkreport

Potowmack, it's not just raw numbers, the rates in the US are not good. Fatality rates in the US are 2 to 3 times what they are in many European countries (many of which have lower speed limits). Obviously it's a complicated issue, but let's stick to the right facts here.

by Alan B. on May 6, 2013 12:27 pm • linkreport

@Alan B.

What's the denominator of the "fatality rates" you are talking about?

by jh on May 6, 2013 12:46 pm • linkreport

@jh - However, the raw number of deaths of pedestrians killed in accidents doesn't have much meaning on its own.

walking makes up ~12% of trips but pedestrians make up ~14% of traffic fatalities. This is not due to uncontrollable circumstances.

by Tina on May 6, 2013 12:56 pm • linkreport

@potowmack-In a nation of 300+ million, several thousand people a year are going to die in traffic accidents. It's just inevitable.

No, it not "inevitable". Traffic fatalities have been reduced substantially with special efforts, like primary seatbelt laws, and drunk driving enforcement and other efforts.

The way we build our environments is not "inevitable". There is a lot that can be done to reduce pedestrian fatalities.

by Tina on May 6, 2013 1:00 pm • linkreport

@jh - the solution has to take into account how people actually behave and not just how we would like them to behave.

Yes -- and the emphasis must be on the actual behavior of how people walk; design for the most vulnerable road user. As has been pointed out this happened in area designated "urban" by its level of development and density.

What's the denominator of the "fatality rates" you are talking about?

Why does that matter? Rate is whats important.

by Tina on May 6, 2013 1:13 pm • linkreport

The numbers are from a WHO report (via wikipedia). The denominator was per 100,000 though I'm not sure why that would make a difference.

by Alan B. on May 6, 2013 1:23 pm • linkreport

And for people that think speed doesnt matter, think about stopping distance. I can't find anything US specific but assuming we follow the same laws of physics as the UK: stopping distance, including average reaction time, at 20mph is about 40 feet and for 40mph is 118 feet. That combined with the fact that the faster a car is going when it hits someone the more damage likely to be done, I think it's pretty irrefutable that driving speed is going to have a huge impact on fatality rates.

by Alan B. on May 6, 2013 1:33 pm • linkreport

"As has been pointed out this happened in area designated "urban" by its level of development and density."

Im not sure its officially designated urban by city of alex - its high density, but classic tower in the park (or in the parking lot) auto centric high density design - with large blocks, highly seperated uses, ped unfriendly set backs, etc. But the infill going in will make it more urban.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 6, 2013 1:37 pm • linkreport

@AWITC -US Census considers it 'urban'

by Tina on May 6, 2013 1:45 pm • linkreport

@Alan B. - I am happy we are in total agreement.

by Tina on May 6, 2013 1:46 pm • linkreport

Road design killed the kid?? No it didn't. It was a tragic case of a child's normal impulsive behavior manifesting itself in a very dangerous way. Sad though it may be, you cannot always protect people from themselves. Regardless of infrastructure design, cars, buses and trains all pose certain levels of unavoidable danger to pedestrians.

by Chris S. on May 6, 2013 1:46 pm • linkreport

@Chris S.- Did this death occur in an area uninfluenced by human technology? No? Then the built environment, and the human behavior in response to the built environment, contributed to it.

do you see a problem with the fact that pedestrians are over-respresented in traffic fatalities? That is a situation that is completely in our control to change.

by Tina on May 6, 2013 1:51 pm • linkreport

cars...pose certain levels of unavoidable danger to pedestrians.

No. The drivers of cars are the danger.

by Tina on May 6, 2013 1:53 pm • linkreport

walking makes up ~12% of trips but pedestrians make up ~14% of traffic fatalities. This is not due to uncontrollable circumstances

That's not a particularly alarming difference, frankly.

by Potowmack on May 6, 2013 2:01 pm • linkreport

@Potowmack -Its a statistically significant difference.

In spite of the fact that < 1.5% of the federal transportation budget is dedicated to pedestrian safety/facilities, ~12% of traffic is made up of pedestrians. There is inequity in distribution of funding and the result is disproportionate morbidity and mortality.

also, your nonchalance at fatality statistics reminds me of:
"One Russian soldier killed is a tragedy. A million Russian soldiers killed is a statistic". (paraphrase.)

by Tina on May 6, 2013 2:07 pm • linkreport

Regardless of infrastructure design, cars, buses and trains all pose certain levels of unavoidable danger to pedestrians.

Go back and look at the speed statistics. Sorry, the danger may be avoidable, but there's a lot that can be done to mitigate the damage that can be done. Road design through residential areas that permits 40-45 mph as a legal, acceptable speed is what kills and maims people. Burying one's head in the sand doesn't change that.

by oboe on May 6, 2013 2:08 pm • linkreport

"may not be avoidable"

by oboe on May 6, 2013 2:09 pm • linkreport

The current level of risk can be lowered along with improving outcome for crashes that do occur. Both can be improved. Tikkun olam.

by Tina on May 6, 2013 2:14 pm • linkreport

@Tina - Drivers of cars and public transportation are responsible for operating their vehicles in a consistently safe manner with respect to pedestrians and other vehicles. But that does not mean they will always be able to avoid a pedestrian if the individual suddenly runs directly in front of the vehicle. If, for example, someone attempts to cross the tracks in front of a Metro train (or more likely MARC train) at the very last second, something bad is likely to occur no matter how good the driver is.

by Chris S. on May 6, 2013 2:16 pm • linkreport

Sad though it may be, you cannot always protect people from themselves.

But, in some cases you can through a lower speed limit that will result in less force at impact, leading to less injury.

by Falls Church on May 6, 2013 2:17 pm • linkreport

@Chris S. -see comment at 1:33 by @Alan B.

by Tina on May 6, 2013 2:18 pm • linkreport

I think that road design should be improved, particularly speed limits should be reduced in all residential areas--maybe even any road that isn't a highway. Before seat-belts and other traffic calming measures, there used to be 70,000 traffic fatalities a year in the U.S. Since our society and government started focusing on traffic safety, traffic deaths have been cut in half to 35,000. I don't know why we should stop there if we haven't exhausted all the ways to improve safety.

by C.C. on May 6, 2013 2:18 pm • linkreport

@Tina - Actually, according to a 2001 DOT publication on tire pressure, it appears the average stopping distance for a passenger car traveling 20 MPH should be under 30 ft in ideal conditions. Nevertheless, if a person suddenly runs in front of a vehicle moving at 20 MPH with only 15 ft to spare, there is going to be an unfortunate accident.

So what then? Reduce the speed limit to 5 mph? At a certain point the streets may become very safe indeed, but extremely inefficient as a means of transportation. Surely a reasonable balance between these two important objectives is desirable.

by Chris S. on May 6, 2013 3:15 pm • linkreport

I love this "argument."

Side A: It's possible to lower the risk of pedestrian fatalities by designing for lower speed.

Side B: Admitting that possibility would be equivalent to blaming the driver for all accidents! And besides, it's not possible to eliminate all fatalities, so it's best not to bother at all.

Seems reasonable.

by Gray on May 6, 2013 3:15 pm • linkreport

@Chris S. re:Safety and transportation
Surely a reasonable balance between these two important objectives is desirable.

Yes.
(1) Recognize walking as transportation.
(2) Respond with equitable distribution of the federal transportation budget: dedicate 12% to pedestrians.

Also, see comment above by @Gray....

by Tina on May 6, 2013 3:21 pm • linkreport

(2) Respond with equitable distribution of the federal transportation budget: dedicate 12% to pedestrians.

Just because 12% of trips are done on foot does not mean, in of itself, that 12% of the federal transportation budget should be spent on pedestrians.

The infrastructure required for me to walk to Safeway to pick up a loaf of bread is relatively modest and inexpensive. On the other hand, the 18-wheeler that delivers the bread to the store requires a higher expenditure in transportation dollars. But, given the relative benefits of the two trips, it's unrealistic to expect the same number of per capita tax dollars to be spent on my trip versus the truck driver's trip.

Just carving up transportation dollars based on pure percentages of the types of trips taken is overly simplistic.

by Potowmack on May 6, 2013 3:42 pm • linkreport

Ok let's try something different.

Odds of pedestrian death at 20 mph ~5%, odds at 30 mph ~40%, odds at 40mph ~80%*

*http://humantransport.org/sidewalks/SpeedKills.htm

Anyone else prefer their odds at 20 mph?

by Alan B. on May 6, 2013 3:53 pm • linkreport

@Potowmack- Do you disagree that the proportion of funding on pedestrian safety/facilities should increase by as much is required to eliminate the disproportionate representation of this form of transportation among fatal traffic injuries?

by Tina on May 6, 2013 3:56 pm • linkreport

@Potowmack -its overly simplistic to disregard all the external costs avoided/benefits in providing for safe walking.

by Tina on May 6, 2013 3:59 pm • linkreport

@Potowmack- Do you disagree that the proportion of funding on pedestrian safety/facilities should increase by as much is required to eliminate the disproportionate representation of this form of transportation among fatal traffic injuries?

I disagree with that because I don't see the difference between the 14% and 12% figures as being all that meaningful.

And before you suggest that I'm not sympathetic to pedestrians, most of my daily travel is done on foot, by bicycle or on metro.

by Potowmack on May 6, 2013 4:18 pm • linkreport

@oboe

"If people are driving 35-40 mph in a residential area and hit a kid, and kill that kid, speed is an issue. If the car was doing 15 mph they would've had time to stop.'

And you absolutely that the driver was driving 35-40 mph or "5-10 mph over the speed limit" because...?

You noise over this unfortunate accident is about as deafening as your silence about the old lady who was killed by a bicycle last year while she was walking on a trail.

by ceefer66 on May 6, 2013 4:30 pm • linkreport

Congratulations, Chris!

So what then? Reduce the speed limit to 5 mph?

You have introduced Godwin's Law to pedestrian safety discussions. Well played!

by Trulee Pist on May 6, 2013 4:35 pm • linkreport

@Potowmack -I disagree with that because I don't see the difference between the 14% and 12% figures as being all that meaningful.

Its a statistically significant difference, whether it "seems" meaningful to you or not.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statistical_significance

by Tina on May 6, 2013 4:35 pm • linkreport

Well, it's a reasonable inference that on a road with a certain speed limit many people still drive above it.

Then you have a situation where people are systematically killed because of roads built for ease of drivers/lax enforcement of traffic laws/apathy of local authorities to investigate collisions and simply write them off as unavoidable.

Naturally the thing to do is to say that people are just complaining and bring up an actual freak incident where a cyclist ran into a frail elderly lady wearing headphones on a trail. This is literally one of two instances I can think of where someone has killed a pedestrian on a bicycle. Fun fact: in the other instance (in San Fransisco) that cyclist was actually charged with a crime!

Plus if you go back and look up the story I'm positive everyone will be saying that the old lady had it coming for her since she had the gall to think that she could walk on a trail (note: I'm being sarcastic, no one said this and recognized the gravity of the situation and this led to an article about how to prevent such future accidents, rather than trying to find any excuse that would put 100% of the blame on a three year old).

by drumz on May 6, 2013 4:40 pm • linkreport

That was in response to Ceefer btw.

by drumz on May 6, 2013 4:41 pm • linkreport

Its a statistically significant difference, whether it "seems" meaningful to you or not.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statistical_significance

Just because something is statistically significant doesn't mean it's worth worrying about.

by Potowmack on May 6, 2013 4:42 pm • linkreport

And you absolutely that the driver was driving 35-40 mph or "5-10 mph over the speed limit" because...?

Funny, you're usually arguing that driving the speed limit is perfectly safe and natural. Or that the posted speed limit is artificially low and should be raised. The posted speed limit there was 35mph. So barring evidence to the contrary, we should assume he was following the law as enforced: 35 mph the universally recognized +5mph. How is this controversial? Or is it only a question of plausible deniability when someone is killed?

You noise over this unfortunate accident is about as deafening as your silence about the old lady who was killed by a bicycle last year while she was walking on a trail.

If I remember correctly, we had a long and thoughtful conversation in the wake of that tragedy here on GGW. Why would I bring it up here? I wouldn't unless I had some sort of cynical agenda.

by oboe on May 6, 2013 4:45 pm • linkreport

You think the thousands of deaths that could be prevented are meaningless? Ok! Now we know what your point of view is!

by Tina on May 6, 2013 4:48 pm • linkreport

I don't think it's necessarily a case of sympathetic or unsympathetic but rather what is doable and not doable and whether the solution is worth the cost. For example, I hated doing 25 mph in residential zones when I was a teenager as much as the next guy, but safety wise it seems like there is a pretty clear argument that it can prevent fatalities. Similiarly, how spend money requires prioritization and I'd personally put safety pretty high.

by Alan B. on May 6, 2013 4:51 pm • linkreport

@Potowmack ^^^ 4:48

by Tina on May 6, 2013 4:52 pm • linkreport

Fun fact: in the other instance (in San Fransisco) that cyclist was actually charged with a crime!

Good point. If cyclists had the same entitlement mentality as drivers, we would have heard how these collisions were an "of course unavoidable tragedy" (unavoidable in the sense that only the victim could have avoided it) and that it just shows that people who walk on multi-use paths do so only by intentionally risking their own lives. And that we need more laws and more enforcement to make sure pedestrian MUP users always keep right and use elaborate hand signals.

Since cyclists are, by and large, not cocooned in this entitlement mindset, that is not the conversation we did have.

by oboe on May 6, 2013 4:52 pm • linkreport

@Potowmack: "We're also talking about residential environments in which every parent must maintain absolute vigilance at every single moment lest their child pay with their life." is not hyperbole.

On the parenting boards, usually a solid majority of commenters (mostly suburban and middle-class) agree that it is unacceptably dangerous for a child to walk along a sidewalk -- not even a street, a sidewalk! -- on its own, because the child could get run over. (Well, kidnapped or run over.)

And when a child does get run over, there is an even more solid majority agreeing that it was the result of negligent (i.e., insufficiently vigilant) parenting. For example, see @Crosswalk, above.

by Miriam on May 6, 2013 4:52 pm • linkreport

@Alan B

I think it does matter what the denominator (and numerator) is when talking about rates. How something is calculated is important to understand before trying to develop theories about the cause. And, just saying the denominator is 100,000 doesn't really address my question. 100,000 what? Total population? Total deaths? Something else?

Sorry if I wasn't really clear what I was asking.

@Tina

I'm not sure why you keep saying it is statistically significant when he's not questioning whether it is statistically significant.

He's not questioning whether we are confident that the difference is really a difference. I think he's just saying there is nothing worrisome to him about the difference and doesn't see the need to focus efforts on closing the gap.

For example, we could present numbers that show the differences in average height between men and women and those numbers could be statistically significant (which just means we had a large enough sample size to be confident it represents the population) and still conclude that we have no problem with there being a difference in average height.

by jh on May 6, 2013 4:53 pm • linkreport

The rates were deaths / 100,000 population. Therefore it should be normalized across countries regardless of size except tiny ones which I wasn't talking about. I agree any other denominator would be kind of silly which is why I glossed over that part.

by Alan B. on May 6, 2013 4:57 pm • linkreport

@jh -a difference in height is not fatal. Disregarding the preventable gap in proportion of pedestrians to proportion of pedestrian fatalities is disregarding all the lives lost unnecessarily; lives lost to preventable causes.

by Tina on May 6, 2013 5:02 pm • linkreport

@jh @ Potowmack -do you think the lives saved attributable to seatbelt use, airbags, car design, 0.08 -OH levels are meaningful? If we, as a culture and society had not implemented those changes the death toll to auto passengers would still be up in to ~70K/year range. We have ways to make car travel less risky. i listed some of them.

We have ways to make travel by foot less risky too. Why do you object to implementing them if you don't object to the implementation of the methods listed above that reduced fatality rates for auto passengers when involved in a crash?

by Tina on May 6, 2013 5:12 pm • linkreport

@Tina

It was just an example about "statistical significance" vs "meaning" and was not comparing height to death. I can use a different example.

Let's say walking makes up 12.00001% of trips and pedestrians make up 12.00002% of traffic-related deaths. That difference could be "statistically significant" without anyone looking for solutions to the difference.

Or, let's say walking makes up 1% of trips and pedestrians make up 20% of traffic-related deaths. It's possible that difference could not be statistically significant due to a small sample size and we aren't confident the numbers properly represent the true population. However, that does not mean people are disregarding the extra deaths if they say the difference is not signficant!

The word "significance" means something different in the phrase "statistical significance" than it means anywhere else it used in life.

by jh on May 6, 2013 5:15 pm • linkreport

14% vs 12% may not seem like much of a difference but it is actually 17% more fatalities (2%/12%) than you would expect if the risk of every mode were the same.

by MLD on May 6, 2013 5:21 pm • linkreport

Im not sure the expenditure on bike ped programs needs to be equal to the proportion of fatalities, or even to the proportion of trips (and there are of course highway expenditures on complete streets and traffic calming that can benefit peds) Im more concerned with evidence that positive ROI projects are not done because we neglect the importance of walkable areas. I would say that an area like this part of City of Alex, is a good example of the kind of place where high ped usage overlaps with relatively unsafe design (despite the crosswalks there). I think a crosswalk at the busstop would be a good idea. The cost of striping would be minimal and would surely be more than met by both improved safety outcomes, and increased walking.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 6, 2013 5:34 pm • linkreport

@jh-thanks, I don't really need a statistics lesson though.

I think you are missing something.

Look-if there is a cause of death in the population and one group of people are disproportionately represented then we investigate whats up with that.

This is transportation. Everyone does it. Its essential for our economy and our lives. That this common, natural, healthful, beneficial-in-so-many-ways mode of transportation is over-represented on a population scale among those killed in traffic is a problem. It's unexpected in the epidemiological sense and therefore it points to a preventable cause.

Pedestrians are not genealogically different from auto occupants. There are 3 things that cause death and disease, genes, environment and behavior. Pedestrian fatality falls to the last two: environment and behavior. Both of these can be modified; in fact we know empirically that modifying the environment has the effect of changing behavior. We can modify our environment to make walking less risky and fatal. The primary danger to people walking is the behavior of drivers - who themselves are responding to the environment they are driving in.

Why do you object to modifying the environment to, at minimum, reduce the proportion of pedestrian fatalities to at least the level we see in auto occupants? What is objectionable about that?

by Tina on May 6, 2013 5:35 pm • linkreport

@MLD -thanks for pointing that out.

by Tina on May 6, 2013 5:38 pm • linkreport

@AWITC -Im not sure the expenditure on bike ped programs needs to be equal to the proportion of fatalities, or even to the proportion of trips

Do you think <1.5% of total budget is acceptable?

by Tina on May 6, 2013 5:41 pm • linkreport

I dunno. Not all ped related expenditure is in the bike/ped program. And some important potential interventions are either not capital expenditures at all (see Oboe's campaign for lower speed limits, better enforcement). And not all bike ped expenditure is safety focused, nor is all road expenditure safety focused (nor should it be).

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 6, 2013 5:50 pm • linkreport

So barring evidence to the contrary, we should assume he was following the law as enforced: 35 mph
Finally...
the universally recognized +5mph.

So barring evidence to the contrary, we should assume he was following the law as enforced: 35 mph minus at least 5 mph because of the narrowed roadways and actual knowledge and experience driving on the road.

Yes, there are statistics that say injuries and death are less likely at lower speeds and stopping distance is shorter at lower speeds, but frankly, speed is irrelevant in this case. The child died. There has been no evidence that the driver was speeding, if he was going the speed limit or if he was going 10 mph. It doesn't matter. The statistics don't conclude there are no deaths or severe injuries at low speeds. They conclude they are less likely. That does not mean the limit should not be reduced, but attempts to use this driver as evidence are a detriment to any genuine attempt at discussion.

by selxic on May 6, 2013 5:57 pm • linkreport

@AWITC - I agree that relative to building roads capable of enduring auto traffic, the investment needed to improve safety for walking and walk-ability is small in comparison. I think thats an argument to make the small investment, as you say, to get a big ROI.

I would be delighted with a 100% increase in funding proportion, from <1.5% to just under ~3%. We could do a lot w/ that. However I threw out 12% of funding for walking b/c 12% of transportation occurs by walking, as an illustration.

Also, if you look at surveys on this topic the big majority of people think that the proportion of transportation funds dedicated to pedestrian facilities is much higher than it actually is (<1.5%) and think its much higher than 12%! Most people think its around 20%, and think it should be....

by Tina on May 6, 2013 5:59 pm • linkreport

@selxic-you seem to be saying "child is dead-nothing could have prevented it." Is that what you're saying?

by Tina on May 6, 2013 6:04 pm • linkreport

Selxic,
Something I notice is that there is always some missing piece of evidence that if we only knew we could totally absolve/blame the driver.

The common thread there is always something but a: these things are hardly investigated and b: when they are, speed is one of the biggest factors.

Add the fact that speeding is so pervasive that its accepted that you must go N+5 to be "really" speeding, it's reasonable to assume that speed is a factor in both this individual instance and most of our driver/ ped collisions.

by drumz on May 6, 2013 6:08 pm • linkreport

Tina, can we agree a child is dead and that is unfortunate? There is no need to further opine or amend that.

by selxic on May 6, 2013 6:35 pm • linkreport

Tina, can we agree a child is dead and that is unfortunate? There is no need to further opine or amend that.

I think we should assume that this event was an outlier--an anomaly that is in no way representative of what happens in 99.9% of such situations. Perhaps the driver was going 10 mph. Who knows? The important thing is, we must never take a tragic event such as the death of a child, extrapolate and learn from it, and advocate for policy changes.

Dans ce meilleur des mondes possibles, tout est au mieux.

by oboe on May 6, 2013 7:02 pm • linkreport

when they are, speed is one of the biggest factors.

Oh, no but see, the spokeswoman from the local police department said that "speed was not a factor." Of course, by that, she meant, "the driver was going the speed limit." Which doesn't really answer anything.

by oboe on May 6, 2013 7:03 pm • linkreport

So let's change tack here:

Let's say that the speed limit is reduced to 20 mph on this road, and marked crosswalks are created at regular intervals. What would you do next to reduce the risk of young children suffering similar accidents?

by Chris S. on May 6, 2013 7:08 pm • linkreport

@Chris S:

For next steps, I would start an enforcement campaign that ensured parked cars kept the sightlines to the crosswalk entry points clear so oncoming traffic could see people as they approach the crossing. And I would start a countywide education & enforcement operation that would aggressively target drivers who failed to treat a crosswalk as a red light as pedestrians approach the crossing.

by oboe on May 6, 2013 7:14 pm • linkreport

@Chris S, yes, what @oboe said. I would add enforcement of the speed limit in addition to the parking and crosswalk respect. The law is useless if its not followed. Will there still be tragic deaths? Of course! Will there be fewer of them! Yes! Thats the goal! Just like with seatbelts, and enforcement of impaired driving, and -if we ever get there-enforcement of distracted driving. Implementation of those things; seatbelts, airbags, impaired driving laws are there to prevent preventable death. And they do. Also, get rid of the 1% liability law.

by Tina on May 6, 2013 8:16 pm • linkreport

My goodness there is a lot of excuse making folk on this thread.

All people are saying is that speed is a factor NOT that the driver was doing anything negligent or illegal.

Jeez people

What is so difficult to understand about this. Your commute shouldn't be the highest priority. First comes peoples lives, next comes your commute. Get it?

And the sad thing is, you dont understand that your quiet little culdesac will be the next road to turn into this. I am already seeing it occur in PWC and Loudoun where people's lots on quiet roads are turning into busy traffic congested thoroughfares where people drive far too fast.

When people are driving to Tysons or Arlington from Hamilton or Fredericksburg through your small town, killing your children, you are going to wonder why VDOT continues to prefer to help them shave 3 minutes off their commute then to ask them to SLOW THE HECK DOWN via a safe posted speed limit.

It isn't that the people are doing anything wrong, its that VDOT and FCDOT need to get serious about protecting these neighborhoods with lower posted speeds, better visibility at intersections, better striping, AND YES better enforcement of the traffic laws.

Get over it, it is not a bill of right for those who live closer in to be in danger and be secondary thoughts to those who live further out.

Whether you can get from your mcmansion to your job in these neighborhoods under an hour could not matter less. YOU made that choice, so why dont YOU take responsibility for that and understand that these neighborhoods should have final say on speed limit.

by tysons engineer on May 6, 2013 8:17 pm • linkreport

And the term YOU is towards society, not any specific poster on this thread. Everyone in society needs to stop asking for someone else to be detrimentally affected to marginally improve a bad decision you have made.

Accountability, demand it from politicians, demand it from businesses, and demand it from yourself

by tysons engineer on May 6, 2013 10:16 pm • linkreport

There is a trade-off between mobility and safety.

1. As many have pointed out, there is steady pressure to reduce commute times and therefore increase traffic speeds. Time is money; slowing things down costs us, and literally takes away time away from better things.
2. Every now and then somebody gets killed and the pressure for safety kicks in.

We go from 1 --> 2 --> 1 --> 2 ... without end. It would be nice if we could decide on a way to balance these conflicting needs.

As a parent every time a little kid is a traffic victim it cuts me horribly, and when I read this story all I could do was grimace in pain.

by goldfish on May 6, 2013 10:22 pm • linkreport

It's not necessarily a trade-off. Proper improvements to infrastructure, transportation corridors, and the entire built environment can improve both safety and mobility.

by worthing on May 7, 2013 9:27 am • linkreport

This incident points to the possibility that the road in question is fundamentally dangerous and needs various enforcement and infrastructure modifications to improve general safety. Certainly we've seen a lot of good suggestions in this thread about possible solutions.

This incident also points to the certainty that children should be better protected from entering roadways unsupervised. Maybe you could install RFID chips in curbs and have kids wear those sneakers with flashing lights which would be triggered (maybe with sound) if they come near the curb. Although there would have to be a way to deactivate this when they are crossing a road with an adult. Or maybe the recently popular kid leash is the way to go, but that could be a little demeaning for a 4 year old. Hmm.. it's s tough nut to crack. I guess it never hurts to make more "never follow a bouncing ball into the street" educational films.

by Chris S. on May 7, 2013 10:05 am • linkreport

@goldfish,

As many have pointed out, there is steady pressure to reduce commute times and therefore increase traffic speeds. Time is money; slowing things down costs us, and literally takes away time away from better things.

And yet, there is as much evidence that slowing things down--particularly in urban settings--positively affects the overall trip time, and in fact can improve total traffic throughput.

http://slate.me/10msqBP

This idea that "if we allow cars to go faster everyone will get where they're going faster" is a naive view.

More interesting thoughts on the subject...
http://amasci.com/amateur/traffic/trafexp.html
http://www.smartmotorist.com/traffic-and-safety-guideline/traffic-jams.html

by oboe on May 7, 2013 10:10 am • linkreport

I kind of get what selxic is getting at, and I agree that we should be awfully wary about using any individual case as representative or instructive, particularly in the absence of definitive evidence. That cuts both ways.

People have suggested that it is warranted to make assumptions based on things that are generally known to be true in these situations, and that may be true in some generic cases, but it is definitely not true when one of the parties in question is an irrational actor. We can assume that if a car were going 20 miles an hour, a normal person would be able to see it ahead of time, judge its speed accurately, and generally not get hit by it. A driver would like wise be able to judge the pedestrian's behavior and predict accurately what would be the person's next moves and adjust accordingly.

All that goes out the window when you're talking about an irrational actor, like a small child or someone severely impaired. That makes this case a particularly bad one about which to try to use generalizations or to draw generalizations from, just as the fatal cyclist-on-pedestrian case is a terrible one from which to draw judgments. That's why we rely on aggregate data, not anecdotes. Also, to make it explicit: whether or not this particular incident was avoidable or not has no bearing on the larger fact that there is way too much negligent driving going on, and it is taking a major and too-often fatal toll on pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers.

More broadly, what we have here is, among other things, a problem with conceptualizing and understanding Right of Way. Awhile back, Benjamin Kabak (rightly) assailed the New York Transit Union's proposal that all trains should enter stations at crawl speed in order to avoid hitting people on the tracks. Kabak argued - and pretty much everyone agreed - that this would create unacceptable, massive, systemic delays affecting millions of commuters. Is this a case of people putting their commutes first, over people's lives, to use Tysons Engineer's phrase? Sure, I suppose. But I think it is a justifiable tradeoff, largely because it is universally accepted (aside from those irrational actors and a smattering of highly impulsive ones) that people should not be in a subway train's ROW, full stop. If they are, and they get hit, then there is someone at fault, but it is not the train driver.

We have similarly near-universal expectations for limited-access freeways (no peds) and sidewalks (no cars...aside from self-created exceptions by the likes of police and WMATA, who seem to delight in parking on sidewalks). As a result of these bright and clear rules, incidents are generally rare. The absolute numbers and rates of pedestrian fatalities on interstates and on sidewalks are pretty low (and any in the latter would pretty much necessarily involve serious negligence). Same for fixed rail incidents.

With multi-modal ROWs, though, you get the inherent potential for conflict. One means of addressing that is to create conditions that make that conflict more survivable, e.g. lower speed limits. This approach has trade-offs which will always leave some people unsatisfied and is bound to be arbitrary to some extent (why 20mph? Because we like round numbers? 23mph is too fast, but 18mph is too slow?).

This is where built environment modifications come in. All the things that clarify whose has the ROW - cameras that catch red light running and box-blocking, HAWK signals, signalized intersections, etc. - are all good things. Modifications that delineate specific use ROWs are also very good: bike lanes and cycletracks for bikes, high-quality and continuous sidewalks for pedestrians, well-marked lanes (including turn lanes!) for cars.

The key, imo, is reducing unpredictability and uncertainty of behavior. As a driver, I would much rather encounter dozens of HAWK crosswalks or the like and have bike lanes galore, which in the vast majority of cases would slow me down only a little or not at all, than deal with the uncertainty of erratic bikers who alternate between the road and the sidewalk because they find existing conditions unacceptable, pedestrians who might dart out in the middle of an unbroken road because the nearest crosswalk/intersection is too far away, etc. This is where there are lots of opportunities that are not zero-sum tradeoffs.

I realize that may run counter to the "share the road" mantra that has become popular, but I think we have to accept that there's no good way to effectively share the road at the same time between cars going even 20mph (much less higher speeds), 10mph bikes, and 3mph pedestrians. Sharing the road at designated and well-defined times and facilities, with limited potential confusion-conflict points, seems like the best system.

by Dizzy on May 7, 2013 10:23 am • linkreport

@worthing May 7, 9:27 Yes!!!

by Tina on May 7, 2013 10:35 am • linkreport

dizzy

thats a 600 ft section between marked crosswalks, which arguably isnt that far if you think of it as a suburban area (despite the density the growing (?) numbers of peds. But in the middle of the section (from looking on Google street view) are busstops. So I think the first thing to do there is a crosswalk.

As Ive said, drivers often do not respect crosswalks in NoVa. At least in FFX there are many crosswalks without even a yield to peds sign, let alone a HAWK signal.

In some places though, the lower speed limit will make sense. I note Stevenson is not really a through route, except for a few hirises in the immediate area.

Im not sure driving at 40 MPH through an area with crosswalks every couple of hundred feet will work all that well - either there are lots of peds and it becomes a very frustrating experience for drivers, or there are few and drivers ignore the crosswalks.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 7, 2013 10:48 am • linkreport

@dizzy -We can assume that if a car were going 20 miles an hour,

If the SUV had been traveling 20mph (1)would result in much greater likelihood that the driver could stop thus avoiding the crash a or, (2)increased greatly likelihood of survival of child if impact did occur.

These two statements are based on a huge dataset; this is not hypothesis on a single data point. Yes, even if the SUV had been traveling at 20mph the impact may have killed the child. Thats true. But ignoring what we know -that reduced speed results in impacts averted thru shorter stopping distance, and better outcomes when there is an impact ignores reality. This is applicable to EVERY crash including this one.

Washing your hands reduces your chances of getting a communicable disease -not all the time though. But you still wash your hands because you know its preventive most of the time-that washing your hands improves your odds regarding getting sick. You don't get sick once and conclude that washing your hands is useless.

by Tina on May 7, 2013 10:49 am • linkreport

@AWAITC

If there are lots of peds, then it shouldn't have a 40mph speed limit. If there are few, then you can signalize the crosswalks - HAWKs are kind of big and clumsy, but new technology developments should make for much cheaper yet still effective signalization - so that when there are peds, it cannot be ignored.

@Tina

My point is that we shouldn't confuse a particular case, with murky details, with broader issues. It's distracting and not helpful.

Comparing... actually, I'm not entirely sure what you're comparing handwashing to here. Going 20mph? Do you think there should be a universal 20mph speed limit on all roads? Or all 'residential' roads? What is a residential road? If one of the goals of urbanism/this blog is that everything (or at least everything within an urban area, however defined) should be mixed use, then would that make all roads residential roads, meaning that all roads should have a 20 mph speed limit?

In any case, there are basically no downsides to washing your hands, so it's not a good comparison. A mass reduction in speed limits would involve some trade-offs. A better metaphor might be washing your hands with anti-bacterial soap all the time. Yea, it's still probably a good idea, at least some of the time. But you should be aware of the tradeoffs (creating a generation of antibiotic-resistant germs) and proceed/plan accordingly.

Yes, reduced speed is always 'safer.' But a perfectly safe system is a perfectly useless one - tradeoffs have to come into play at some point, and the sooner everyone (especially drivers!) embraces the creation and operation of balanced systems, the better.

by Dizzy on May 7, 2013 11:36 am • linkreport

@dizzy- I used hand-washing as a metaphor of a preventive action we take Even Though We Know its is not 100% effective. You don't like it? Substitute wearing seat-belts.

Yes, reduced speed is always 'safer.' But a perfectly safe system is a perfectly useless one -

I never indicated I was looking for zero risk (perfect safety). I, and others, have repeatedly written about risk reduction, not elimination of risk.

see @worthing's comment May 7, 9:27

by Tina on May 7, 2013 12:43 pm • linkreport

@oboe: This idea that "if we allow cars to go faster everyone will get where they're going faster" is a naive view.

Your link points out that minimizing differences in vehicle speeds -- decreasing the fastest speeds, mostly -- on a given road will increase overall throughput. This is an entirely different subject; you are using a superficial similarity to advocate for a blanket reduction in ALL vehicle speeds, which is not the same thing.

And again, I pointed out the trade-off between speed and safety, and lamented that we go from one side of this to the other, hoping that we could reconcile competing needs. Your attempt to divert my point does help with this dilemma, and does not move the discussion forward.

by goldfish on May 7, 2013 5:03 pm • linkreport

We do love to discuss stuff in the abstract, don't we?

I think we change things, one specific instance at a time.

I don't know the actual volume of peds in and near that block of Stevenson. A count by City of Alex would be a start. I don't know if they could justify a Hawk Light. Its NOT effectively a through route - anyone other than folks from the local hirises, who go not more than a mile or so on it, are going to use Edsall, I think. So cutting the speed is probably not a huge cost in terms of traveller time.

I would add a crosswalk, look into if there is enough ped traffic for the hawk light at that one spot. If, as I suspect, total vehicle traffic is not that heavy, and the ped crossing are not focused at that one spot, I think lowering the limit could be considered. I would also do the traffic calming things Alex is considering, and support more infill development among the hirises.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 7, 2013 5:09 pm • linkreport

Well said, Dizzy.

by selxic on May 8, 2013 8:41 am • linkreport

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