Category Archives: traffic safety

Travels in Japan

Japan has a well-tempered travel culture, thank goodness, because tourism is soaring.  Travel elicits curiosity and wonder, and emphasizes our mutual interdependence.  If we can treat everyone equally in public travel spaces, and honor each person’s value and dignity, we are on our way to a better quality of life and facilitating stronger global citizenship.  Japan has a good blueprint for treating everyone like we deserve to be treated, like we’re one big human family.

Osaka has amazing shopping districts, with streets made for walking

Kagoshima in Kyushu has bike share and street greening initiatives

Japan’s traffic system is one of the safer systems in the world.  The photo below shows a few reasons why.  The intersection has huge crosswalks, and the stop bar on the street lane is way behind the crosswalk.  This creates space for pedestrians.  There is no left turn on red in Japan (the U.S.A.’s equivalent of right turn on red), and that reduces possibility for conflict and eases pressure on people walking.  The sight lines at this intersection are open, too, so there is good visibility for all users.  The light gives a pedestrian signal automatically, so no one has to push a button.  The speed limits are also very low (30-40 kph, or 18-25 mph) to increase safety for all.

the van in this photo is a driving school van. Driver training is very intensive in Japan!

Safe streets and lots of good transportation choices makes it easy to relax and access all the good amenities a given place has to offer.  In the the shopping district in Komyoike, where Mai’s parents live, we encountered this country western line dancing gig.  It was cool, upbeat, friendly.

I really love the contrasts and continuity in Japan between historical and present culture.  We went to an Ikebana (art of flower arranging) exhibition in downtown Osaka, and saw this shrine on a rooftop pictured in the photo above.  The photo below is of Osaka’s famous walking mall.

In Japan people are walking everywhere so you get used to it.  Crosswalks, like the one below in Komyoike, are clearly marked and signed.  And the neighborhoods in the newer suburbs have dedicated pathways, mostly off street, to connect to markets, work, parks, schools, and transit.

It’s not all about infrastructure for sure.  Many towns and streets were laid out and built a long time ago, and the car was introduced later.  This is where manners and respect is even more important.  The street pictured below is definitely a “yield street”.  I bicycled this street several times.  There is a transit stop on the left.    People get off the bus and walk on the street.  Bicycles and cars yield to pedestrians and share the road.  There are also other hazards you can see, like open drainage and telephone poles on the side of the road.  These close quarters cultivate cautious users and a culture of sharing!  Courtesy, respect and skills guard our dignity.  Japanese cars and smaller, and pedestrian safety measures are designed into the vehicle.

I experienced travel in Japan from many perspectives, by foot, bicycle, train, plane, automobile, bus, subway.  They were all valuable experiences.  Cycling was a special joy.  The vending machines in Japan are so well positioned, just where I needed them on excursions.  Some machines offer an hot espresso drink, hot or cold, at the base of a long mountain climb.  Thoughtful touches for travelers in Japan make it welcoming, rewarding and inspiring!

Declaration of Interdependence, or, A Beautiful Arrangement

“…the way of the road was the rule for all upon it.”  –Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing
“…cities with a high bicycling rate among the population generally show a much lower risk of fatal crashes for all road users…”  —Marshall & Garrick, Environmental Practice 13:16–27 (2011)

Americans spend so much time on the road we deserve to feel at home there.  Safety for road users is one of the most important indicators for our pursuits of the American dream.  Whether we are driving truck, pedaling a bicycle, pushing a baby stroller, or rolling a wheelchair, sharing our streets is an elemental part of what makes America good.  Streets are a celebration of our public life, and what we see and do there, whether we feel safe and included, speaks to us.

crest-switchback-on-the-edge

We are witnessing an ongoing tragedy on our roads.   Every month on America’s roads we lose more lives than we did in 9/11.  Most of them are persons traveling in automobiles.  None of us are invulnerable.  “We know all this and act as if we don’t” (Tom Vanderbilt, Traffic, p. 275).  The illusion of invulnerability walls off our sensitivities.  If we pay attention to the human vulnerabilities in all of us, we realize something like a Declaration of Interdependence aptly describes the nature of public safety on our roads.  The streets won’t feel safe for any of us until they are functioning safely for all users.   Recognizing this interdependence is key.

placitas-horse-gang

Every human being deserves a safe home, a safe workplace, safe schools, a safe neighborhood and a safe road to travel on in between. Every road is like a bridge from one part of our life to another.  And sometimes the simple act of being on the move is the absolute best place to be in a given moment, feeling wonderfully free.  Safe roads are an essential part of freedom, and we’ll do well securing more mobility freedom for our children, grandchildren, and on down the road toward the infinite horizon for the multitude of generations to come.  Exercising a more responsible freedom on the road helps us reach towards a better vision of the world where people are protected, and expands opportunities to pursue our interests and live our dreams.

placitas-friend-good-friend

From Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan’s song Masters of War

You’ve thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world

We as a people can address actions that instill fear to travel with children on our public roads.  Speak kindly with caring thought and sincerity.  We deserve to be safe.  “This land was made for you and me.”  (Woody Guthrie, This Land is Your Land) .  Begin with peace here.  We are worthy.

Old Town Farm's fresh, local flowers make for a beautiful arrangement by Sansai Studios

Old Town Farm’s fresh, local flowers make for a beautiful arrangement by Sansai Studios

Resources:
Check out my blog post “The Quiet Catastrophe” on Edward Hume’s book Door to Door.
In Learning from Trails I look at our expectations for cooperative use of shared public spaces.
In Ride 2 Recovery I explore roads as a place for healing, particularly for wounded warriors.

Inspiration for Planning

“It is finally, I suppose, a question of which force proves the stronger: the demand for an efficient and expensive highway system designed primarily to serve the working economy of the country, or a new and happy concept of leisure with its own economic structure, its own art forms, and its own claim on a share of the highway. At present we are indifferent to this promise for our culture, and to the extinction which threatens it; is it not time that we included this new part of America in our concern?  It is true that we can no longer enter our towns and cities on avenues leading among meadows and lawns and trees, and that we often enter them instead through roadside slums.  But we can, if we choose, transform these approaches into avenues of gaiety and brilliance, as beautiful as any in the world; and it is not yet too late.”

–J.B. Jackson, Other-Directed Houses, writing from Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1956

atm-aster-city

biopark-glory

Resources–
The quote is from an essay in this work.  Landscape in Sight:  Looking at America
Another encouraging book edited by D.W. Meinig.  The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes
Thanks to University of Nevada, Reno, Geography for introducing me to these works.

The photos are from my cell phone as usual.  First photo is from a ride around the Sandia mountains, and the second from a walk through the ABQ Biopark.  Arigato.

Leadership

‘I started to take a deep interest in not only transportation but land use plans’ –Secretary Foxx

’embedded in our infrastructure are the values of past eras that accepted disconnections, that accepted a view of our country of folks that are in, and folks that are out, and I think we have to have a different idea of our country in the 21st century’  —Secretary Foxx

Or watch the video and view resources on the Ladders of Opportunity website–

https://www.transportation.gov/opportunity

Kalamazoo Strong

“This is about the healing process.”  –Rider from Kalamazoo

“The roads are back to being ours again…this ride is tremendously energizing. ”  –Rider from Kalamazoo

The cycling community is amazing.  700 cyclists gathered in Kalamazoo to finish the Tuesday community ride.  This is one of the most courageous things I’ve seen, to direct the energy toward peace and healing, and to pull the community together for proactive solutions.

‘We didn’t ride with Lance.  Lance rode with us tonight,’ said a Kalamazoo cyclist.

Story here:
http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/lance-armstrong-rallies-kalamazoo-cycling-community-after-tragedy/

Building Community Through Safe Routes To Schools

Most people are worried that kids are going to be worse off than their parents…politicians have simply not paid attention to the best interests of kids…it is all short term decision making.
–Jim Steyer, from Common Sense Media, on Charlie Rose

Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) is a great investment in kids, and the benefits extend beyond healthy commutes to school.   This report from the National Center for SRTS documents how safe walking and bicycling strategies for kids can catalyze community-wide changes.   The report lists five opportunities SRTS presents for extending the benefits of healthy transportation.

Mai flowers one

  • SRTS provides a logical starting point for innovative infrastructure to improve driver and pedestrian safety behavior at crossings.
  • SRTS programs create opportunities to try behaviors and inspire community-wide change.
  • SRTS initiatives serve as starting point for using bold ideas to tackle difficult safety issues like speeding.
  • SRTS creates safe networks for walking and bicycling.
  • SRTS attracts a robust base of support by promoting broader community benefits.

from 5 Ways SRTS Can Help Advance Youth Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety Beyond the Trip to School 

Mai flowers three

Working with school age youth and their families provides a tremendous opportunity to listen to community issues from neighborhood-level perspectives.  It helps prioritize the safety of all street users and balances walking and bicycling considerations with motorized travel.  “SRTS programs bring together diverse people around a common cause: to improve the safety, health, and well-being of all children and their families.  They have helped improve local air quality; increase children and families’ physical activity levels; improve students’ academic achievement and reduce the number of days they are absent from school; reduce school transportation costs; and address the presence of street crime and violence in communities.”
(from Creating Healthier Generations)
 

Mai flowers two

Southwest Bike Initiative is happy to be partnering with ABQ Public Schools on SRTS!

Resources:
National Center for Safe Routes to Schools:  http://www.saferoutesinfo.org/
direct link to the report report from NCSRTS:  Advancing Safe Walking and Bicycling for Youth
Post photos:  from the phone of Sansai Studio, Spring bloom at the University of New Mexico

The Quiet Catastrophe

Door to Door by Edward Humes book cover“He ultimately makes clear that transportation is one of the few big things we can change—our personal choices do have a profound impact.”  —book review of Door to Door

Edward Humes has a book out today called Door to Door. The Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation.  There’s an essay introducing the book in The Atlantic.  A main theme is the high prices we are paying for cars.  Knowledge about the cost of cars is critical to understand, yet somehow it alludes our conscious grasp.  Jim McNamara, a sergeant with the California Highway Patrol, says the car problem is “massive but diffuse. Whether it’s climate change or car crashes, if the problem doesn’t show itself all at once—as when an airliner goes down with dozens or hundreds of people on board—it’s hard to get anyone’s attention.”
Here are some quick facts.

  • since 9/11 more than 400,000 men, women, and children have died on America’s roads
  • California Highway Patrol spends 80% of their time responding to car crashes
  • MIT calculates that 53,000 Americans die prematurely every year from vehicle pollution
  • Car crashes are the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 1 and 39
  • each week car crashes take American lives at a rate equivalent to four airliner crashes

What do we do?  Change our perspective on driving.  Status quo fixes like adding traffic lanes “only attracts more cars.  It’s called the rule of induced demand and it’s like trying to solve overeating by loosening your belt,” Humes writes.  We can start by taking driving more seriously. Gone are the days when driving seemed carefree.  Building local scale economies for food and energy and simplifying our lives helps.  Think of this as opportunity for innovation.

Resources:  Edward Humes’ website has several press releases on his new book.
http://www.edwardhumes.com/
Facts and quotes for this blog post are from:
http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/04/absurd-primacy-of-the-car-in-american-life/476346/
https://hbr.org/2016/04/why-the-future-of-e-commerce-depends-on-better-roads

the good outing we had Sunday at Golden Open Space stays with me for days

good outings, like Sunday’s walk at Golden Open Space, stay with me for days.  Still snow on the Sandias