Friday, May 30, 2014

Speed Kills

In the rankings for 2011 street safety the California Office of Traffic Safety has bestowed Laguna Beach the distinction of most dangerous city - receiving the lowest score for pedestrian traffic safety in the rankings for 107 cities (first by size of city, third for miles driven). The previous rankings were measured for 98 cities in 2009 posted previously here.   

The NYPD  post their Mission Statement this way:

Move Traffic, Move Traffic, Move Traffic,
Reduce Accidents, Move Traffic,
Reduce injuries related to accidents, Move Traffic.
Reduce death related to accidents, Move Traffic!

Laguna Beach is trifurcated by two Caltrans highways, the South Coast Highway and Laguna Canyon Road. Although written differently the Caltrans mission is similar:  as a convenience to the motorist, move traffic.

The Journal for Urban Technology shows these sobering results from NYC accidents between pedestrians and automobiles. For accidents with automobiles traveling 40mph the collision with pedestrians is fatal in 85 out of 100 accidents.

This chart shows the stopping distance required for automobiles at three speeds, 20,30,35 miles per hour.  The stopping distance at 35mph is 250 feet. If a  standard intersection is 36 feet across a car moving 35mph requires the space for 7 full intersections to stop.

The charts show the solution to pedestrian fatalities involves little expense, no additional staff, no major infrastructure and works instantaneously. Simply slow-down motorist traffic. 95% of pedestrians survive collisions with 20mph vehicles.
LCAD Croswalk Posted Speed: 45mph
"Executive Order -  a Mayoral Stradegy for Traffic Safety", Transportation Alternatives, NYC, NY.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Trip Mode-Share for US and Global Cities

This chart shows the transportation mode-share for major cities with over one million inhabitants. Notice the balance between transport modes, this is what balanced-mobility looks like - on paper at least.

This chart shows the transportation mode-share for US cities with over one million inhabitants. The over-reliance on the private motor vehicle is clear. Shifting to a balanced mode-share such as Boston, Portland and San Francisco have done will remove cars from the road (latent demand relaxed) and reduce auto congestion. (Data Wikipedia)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Benefit of Balanced Mode-Share

Popular culture says when traffic conditions become too congested simply add more lanes. We look to highway authorities for solutions and they respond in kind. The trouble is building more car infrastructure simply attracts more cars and for a coastal community like Laguna there is no room to add wider roads. Adding more cars begs the question, where you gonna park 'em all?

In a town with little room to accommodate more automobiles  a multi-modal approach to moving people might serve us better. For every person walking biking or using public transit (Municipal Bus, Trolleys, OCTA) we remove one person driving a car and free a parking space. But how do we know if a multi-modal system will serve us well? Do we know how many people are already using each mode? Could more people participate in each mode?

Let's take an assessment, what-if we could measure all the travel trips people make for work, pleasure, commuting, or errands nation-wide? Fortunately the National Household Travel Survey has done just that. This post shows study results by The Victoria Transport Policy Institute for 375,000 reported trips in locations across the nation.*

POV = cars, vans, Suv's, motorcycles
Results show the mode- share for walking, biking, public transit and the Personal Owned Vehicle is dominated by POV across the nation. In Laguna the same result is evident during school commutes and the summer tourist season. This chart shows the number of trips made for short trips, long trips and those in-between, for each mode-share. To be comprehensive the researchers counted the trip from your parked car to your destination as a walking trip.*

POV= cars, vans, Suv's, motorcycles

This chart shows the portion of trips made as a percentage of the total number of trips in the study, for each distance category, for each mode-share. This chart shows 41% of all the trips nation-wide are under 3 miles long. Trips 2.1-3 miles long are not served by walking, biking or transit services. Trips greater than 2.1 miles are the exclusive domain of the POV.

How do we spend our time when traveling, how far do we go and which mode-share is used most? This chart shows how we portion our trips, time traveled, and distance traveled for each mode-share. Among the modes we highly favor taking most trips with a POV.

These charts show nation-wide the automobile is king while other transportation modes are totally underutilized. Balancing the mode-share with walking biking and public transit nation-wide would reduce automobile congestion. Anyone stuck in Laguna traffic would reasonably conclude a balanced mode-share would serve Laguna as well. 
*From 1983, 1990, 1995, 2001, 2005, and 2009 and the latest results were published 24 April 2014 by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute. Trip data considers mixed-use within a trip. Walking data includes walking from the parked automobile to the destination. See "Short and Sweet, Analysis of Shorter Trips using National Household Survey Data", 24 April 2014, Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute.

Monday, May 19, 2014

City Transit Survey

UPDATE: 800 surveys received so far, the input period has been extended to June 6 2014.

The city of Laguna Beach is conducting a transit analysis of the transit system sponsored by Laguna Beach. The analysis will look at ways to improve service generate revenue and contain costs. The transit system consists of
  • Mainline Blue and White Bus
  • Laguna Beach Summer Trolley
  • Sally's Fund Van
  • Taxi Voucher Program
 The city Planning Department would like your help to improve the system by taking a short survey and giving your opinion. Please contribute by taking the city survey and read more details on the survey page here.

Stakeholder meetings were held in January and February, you can participate in the next one at a time and date to be determined. -LS

Saturday, May 10, 2014


On May 1 a Dana Point cyclist was killed when he collided with a motorist on PCH. Meanwhile in Laguna this is the view from the same highway at 7:30am. Workers park on the shoulder waiting to gain access to communities at Emerald Bay and Irvine Cove. In a letter to City Council local Laguna resident  Max Isles describes the scene:

This section of PCH is a "no stopping at any time" zone. I have called the LB police many times but nothing is done. I assume the "no stopping" is for safety reasons which would make perfect sense as sections the shoulder are not sufficiently wide to accommodate many vehicles so they protrude into the carriage way. This is a hazard and a danger to motorist but a very real and great danger to cyclists, forcing them out into the fast moving traffic. The vehicles are those of construction workers who are not granted access until 7:30am.

Dana Point accommodates bicyclists with on-road bicycle lanes and a lower vehicle speed limit - improvements made mandatory by state stature. Despite the roadway improvements another cyclist was killed. In Laguna no roadway improvements are made for cyclists and despite the obvious hazard to both motorists and cyclists nothing is done.

In Dana Point the cyclist was struck at 11:15pm on PCH at Blue Lantern. Have motor vehicle accidents become a tolerable cost of driving? The deceased 38 year old leaves behind a wife and young children, are they to grieve in private because nothing will be done? See the previous post Friday May 9 2014 at Laguna Streets.  -LS

Friday, May 9, 2014

Are Traffic Fatalities an Acceptable Loss?

This is from the former Commissioner Department of Transportation Washington DC. The source is an executive summary from Transportation Alternatives, New York City.

“The numbers are staggering: we’re worried
about murder; we’re worried about terrorism;
we’ve lost 3,000 people to terrorism in the United
States in the past 10 years, obviously we’ve got
to worry about that, but in those ten years we’ve
lost 400,000 people on our roads. We’re worried
about US deaths in Iraq, and that’s 5,000 people
and we lose 5,000 in two months, or more than
5,000 in two months on our roads,” says former
DOT First Deputy Commissioner Sam Schwartz,
“It’s not taken seriously. I’ve never heard anyone
in the U.S. say what they are saying in European
countries or cities, of zero deaths as a goal.”

Then the report says " This (auto collisions) is the number one killer of New York City children." Today Americans tolerate 40,000 deaths per year from motor vehicle accidents  as an acceptable loss to be grieved in private.

In 1970's Netherlands the automobile proliferated just like it had in the United States, the motorcar was so successful that pedestrians were put on notice. School children were killed in collisions with the motorcar to the point Dutch citizens led a protest to solve the problem (video).  That revolution resulted in a balanced transportation plan in the Netherlands today, the same plan began in New York City more recently. "Build it and they will come."

Expect more traffic and automobile related fatalities in Laguna's future until we too adopt the Netherland's balanced mobility plan.  -LS

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Romancing the Automobile a Historical Perspective

"Let HERTZ put you in the Drivers Seat"
Baby boomers remember the 1959 jingle “Let Hertz put you in the drivers seat" because of their enduring love-affair with the automobile. In Los Angeles the song goes “nobody walks in L.A." (Missing Persons). The car gave Americans freedom of mobility; it allowed them to work in the city but commute privately from the suburbs. The car held a particular attraction for Americans who by now had a century-long love affair with them, we live in a nation where urban design was conceived and designed around cars because Americans wanted them.
We grew up with versions of this story, but it’s an invention. It’s not all wrong but the omissions distort the history of the so-called love affair with the automobile. Groucho Marx explained to television viewers that the history of the automobile in America was the history of a “burning love affair”—a “romance” between American men and “the new girl in town.”’  By 1961 the automobile was enduring intense criticism for eroding American cities, for killing tens of thousands in pedestrian and vehicle accidents and the cause of smog.  The Groucho story defended the automobile not so much by denying these costs but justifying them.

It wasn’t always like this, early automobile use and trend setting policy came from New York City.  Streets in 1900 were public spaces. They were not the special province of any single class of street user. While pedestrians preferred sidewalks, they strode freely into the street wherever they pleased. The tracks of street railways followed the centerlines of streets. Cyclists, pushcart vendors, and children used streets freely.
By prevailing norms, the car, used as intended, was a misuser of streets. Car crashes made these norms plainly visible. Given the complex mix of street uses of a century ago, it is no surprise that cars were often involved in crashes, by 1928 the pedestrian death toll reached 26,000. What’s more surprising is the allocation of blame. By far the most common serious crash was a motor vehicle striking a pedestrian, No matter where the pedestrian was, however, the driver was almost automatically blamed. “Juries in accident cases involving a motorist and a pedestrian almost invariably give the pedestrian the benefit of the doubt,” a safety expert explained in 1923. 

Vested interests in car infrastructure perceived a threat. If frequent auto accidents persisted and drivers bore the blame for all pedestrian fatalities, these interests could not improve the car’s image. In an effort to prevent crashes, auto clubs auto dealers and taxi companies urged motorists to drive with caution, but these efforts could not legitimize their hidden agenda to claim the street for automobile use. 

The campaign to claim the street from the pedestrian began in 1910.
  •  The term “Jay-Walker" compared free-roaming pedestrains to boorish fools
  •  In 1920 Charles M. Hayes President of Chicago Motor Club said to fend off “unbearable restrictions” to automobile penetration, people would be taught “the streets are made for vehicles to run upon.”
  •  The Jay-Walker epithet became a tool in an effort to redefine what a street is for
  •  1922 Boy Scouts were recruited to serve pedestrians with “Jay-Walker” cards
  •  In 1923 Cincinnati, 42,000 people petitioned for an ordinance to compel drivers to install a mechanical speed governor that would limit cars to 25 mph.
  •  Vested auto interests partnered with the National Automobile Chamber of Commerce to crush the ordinance.
  •  According to NACC’s George M. Graham, and auto manufacturer, the lesson of Cincinnati was that “pedestrians must be educated to know that automobiles have rights.”
  • The NACC begins to launder automobile accident reporting prior to newspaper printing
  •  By 1924 the magistrate of New York City’s traffic court deemed it fashionable to “ascribe from 70 to 90 per cent of all accidents to jaywalking.”
  •  In 1924 Auto Club of Southern California and allies secured passage of a new traffic ordinance regulating pedestrians, in effect outlawing jaywalking
Excerpts from these references: “Joy Riders and Jay Walkers”, Peter Norton, Transportation Alternatives, NYC
"Pedestrians", National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Friday, May 2, 2014

Rethinking Streets a HOW-2 Guide

This is a design guide and photo album of 25 streets nationwide before-and-after taking a "road-diet" . From the University of Oregon Sustainable Initiative. Download your pdf copy from

"An Evidence-Based Guide to 25 Complete Street Transformations"

Thursday, May 1, 2014

May is National Bike Month

May is National Bike Month, sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists and celebrated in communities from coast to coast. Established in 1956, National Bike Month is a chance to showcase the many benefits of bicycling — and encourage more folks to giving biking a try.

National Bike Month is an opportunity to celebrate the unique flexibility and convenience of the bicycle and the many reasons we ride.

As a national sponsor the league offers many resources and events to promote the bicycle for commuting, sport riding, leasure, health and fitness.