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The loneliness of a middle distance pedestrian

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salty

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Sep 18 2013 at 11:42pm #

Geez, even WESA buries the bit about the flags not really working at the very end of the article.

http://wesa.fm/post/councilman-pedestrian-flags-could-make-busy-intersections-safer

Is there any politician willing to stand up and proclaim that aggressive / speeding / red light running / non-yielding drivers are the actual problem and it’s time to do something to address it? It’s just ridiculous.


StuInMcCandless

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Sep 19 2013 at 1:12am #

I wish all these politicians and traffic engineers would talk to me. Since I started riding transit in 1990, I’ve been years (decades?) ahead of the curve in knowing what kind of changes need to be made out there.

First and foremost, city and suburb and rural, is to slow the fuck down, and the second thing is to get people not to drive at all. Make it possible not to drive. And right up there on the top of that list, are funding transit, and enhancing the pedestrian’s lot. Sidewalks new and repaired, ped xing lights that actually stop traffic, shoulders that don’t turn to goo in 0.2″ of rain, tackling knotweed infestations that push you out into the street. Nearly all of these are unbelievably cheap, in the overall scheme of things, but get virtually zero attention.

For years, I think I walked a half hour a day as part of my regular commute. Precious few people can say that they’ve done that, 250 days a year, 10+ years running.

For cyclists, the drain grates thing I’ve been harping on for five years. Hell, a million bucks (the cost of a traffic light at a big intersection) would be a game changer. It’s a wonder nobody has gotten seriously hurt in one of these, or maybe it’s just that the news doesn’t get to us, or it’s that those who actually dare to bike have learned to avoid them, but it’s keeping others from trying.


edmonds59

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Sep 19 2013 at 6:53am #

To go a level higher than what Stu is saying, this entire society needs to slow the fuck down. In all respects. People are hurrying to work and here and there, cutting each other off, and running each other over, stressed out because some dickweed somewhere WANTS THIS NOW! And that report you just killed yourself for is going to sit on someone’s desk, uh, maybe forever. We are burning energy and using resources like there’s no tomorrow. It’s bullshit. Americans work longer hours, harder, for fewer benefits and a lower quality of life than any other developed nation. We are acting like rats trapped in a basement, literally killing ourselves and each other, just because. Anyone really believe this doesn’t relate to traffic fatalities? It does.
That’s my beef.


gg

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Sep 19 2013 at 7:44am #

This all boils down to a disjointed police force that doesn’t want to be bothered informing the speed limit. For some reason, no one can stand up to them in politics. I remember one time I was coming home from the South Side to a DUI checkpoint. Guess what the cop handed me at the DUI checkpoint? I petition to sign that they shouldn’t be doing that. I kid you not. For some reason, speeding around the city is okay regardless of the carnage it causes. On top of all this police shouldn’t be allowed to be off duty security for business owners. That is a complete conflict of interest. I bring this up to show a bigger picture of what is going on in our city. I just don’t think anything will change unless the entire police force is fixed from top to bottom.


bear250220

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Sep 19 2013 at 7:59am #

you guys are right the stuff i see while driving my shift in shadyside and east liberty everyday no one stops for red lights its hard to believe more people dont get hit


Mick

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Sep 19 2013 at 10:36am #

“If you’re a parent walking three or four kids home and you have to cross one of those dangerous intersections, we want you to have a tool that could allow you to be safer as well.”

We actually do have a high priced tool to serve and protect us.

If they could pull themselves away from arresting suspected anarchists, beating black teenagers, and eating donuts, the problem would be easy to fix.

When was the last time someone got a speeding ticket on Wightman? I’m guessing 1989.


Mick

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Sep 19 2013 at 10:41am #

gg wrote:Guess what the cop handed me at the DUI checkpoint? I petition to sign that they shouldn’t be doing that. I kid you not

In my opinion they wre right.

The city shouldn’t be filled with streets where drivers can violate the traffic laws with total impunity – particularly at 2 am on a weekend.

Peppering a few violations of the 4th amendment that focus on DUIs might help a little, but is no substitute for enforcing the traffic laws.

If someone is driving badly, I want them stopped, regardless of how much they have or haven’t drunk.

Being sober should not be license to drive like a drunkard.


Marko82

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Sep 19 2013 at 10:57am #

Mick wrote:Being sober should not be license to drive like a drunkard

I love this statement! Think of any bike/ped “accident” that wasn’t fully prosecuted… yep the phrase works.


Lee

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Sep 19 2013 at 11:37am #

edmonds59: +1


Marko82

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Sep 19 2013 at 1:46pm #

I’m waiting for the Law Department to chime in on this. If the city deploys these at dangerous intersections doesnt that mean that the city is now admitting that an intersection is dangerous? So when a pedestrian is injured or killed their lawyers will have proof that the city knew these crossings were dangerous and did (virtually) nothing to mitigate the danger.


StuInMcCandless

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Sep 19 2013 at 5:15pm #

I have a particular gripe with ped xing lights which give the pedestrian two-maybe-three seconds advance of the light turning green. So you’re half paying attention, the walk light turns on, you just about step off the curb, and the guy behind you pulls out to make the turn, not seeing you because of a telephone pole. Kabam!

What I want to see is every ped-xing light bring traffic to a complete halt in every direction for 30 seconds. Yeah, that will likely slow traffic horribly. Boo fucking hoo!

Prime offender for the first paragraph, though I haven’t been over there in a while: Campbells Run Road at Steubenville Pike in Robinson. I had to cross that one twice a day for seven years. I found it safer to take the lane as a pedestrian, and walk across when I got the green. At least I knew they could see me!

The bus used to let us off about 50 yards short of the corner, on CRR. So what I’d do was, as cars got maybe 100 yards away, to march out into the lane, turn, face them, point at them, then turn and march up to the corner at walking speed, giving zero fucks.

Not a whole helluvalotta people have tried that one, AFAIK.


steevo

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Sep 19 2013 at 8:09pm #

I was on my moto on bigelow going 55mph, which is 20 over. Cars
were angrily passing me. Seriously faster than the flow of traffic
on rt 28.

I stopped to let somebody cross at mathilda / liberty and the car behind
me passed me on the right assuming I was going left sans turn signal.

They can spend all the money the want, but until there is a disincentive
for people (fines/jail etc) … people are going to continue to be assholes.

I hate cops, but somebody needs to calm traffic.


buffalo buffalo

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Sep 19 2013 at 9:29pm #

Bigelow Boulevard: The only place I know of where it is common and accepted to travel at fully three times the posted legal speed limit.


Lee

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Sep 20 2013 at 9:52am #

word. if you try to drive the speed limit, people are Pissed.


WillB

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Sep 20 2013 at 1:43pm #

Part of that is because the speed limit is totally inappropriate for the road (or maybe the other way around). It’s built like a highway, so people drive like it’s a highway. In the case of Bigelow (especially the stretch closest to downtown), it doesn’t really bother me because there aren’t pedestrian crossings, but on streets with bikes and pedestrians, we need traffic calming measures beyond just speed limit signs and the occasional speeding ticket.


Mick

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Sep 20 2013 at 1:55pm #

WillB wrote:the occasional speeding ticket.

That would be a wonderful thing!

But I’m not sure that it has happened at all in the city this century. I mean that literally.


WillB

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Sep 20 2013 at 2:39pm #

Mick wrote:But I’m not sure that it has happened at all in the city this century. I mean that literally.

Agreed. I just meant that even increased enforcement would only amount to occasional speeding tickets. There’s no (desirable) way that we can ticket every speeder, so we should use other tools to change behavior as well. Enforcement plus design.


StuInMcCandless

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Sep 20 2013 at 2:41pm #

Bigelow is merely an egregious example of what goes on regularly all over the city.

Tickets would probably help, but I think the problem is deeper than that, that the infrastructure itself is wrong and invites speeding.

If I had some way to pay my bills and feed my family, I would run for public office, just so I could make some noise to the effect of making it possible *not* to use a car. Problem is, I rather enjoy eating, having heat, and someplace to keep my old record albums, though, so I’ve shied away from the idea. I do not in any way expect I would actually win a political race, and I’m not sure I’d even want the job. But it would take some wrangling at that level to start changing minds.


jonawebb

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Nov 19 2013 at 11:38am #

We definitely need to try this on Penn. In Philly, they’ve hooked a speeding sensor up to the red light, and put up a sign warning drivers:

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20131119_New_sensors_will_trigger_red_light_if_you_speed_on_Kelly_Drive.html


Benzo

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Nov 19 2013 at 12:19pm #

@jonawebb – this is one of my favorite solutions.


edmonds59

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Nov 19 2013 at 1:41pm #

That is an outstanding idea.


Pierce

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Nov 19 2013 at 3:29pm #

I have a hunch that some sections of the town are set to cycle through red lights with slowing down traffic in mind

Second Ave for example through Hazelwood cycles through red lights even when their isn’t cross traffic, which used to annoy the hell out of me when I was coming home from work at 10pm


salty

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Nov 19 2013 at 4:25pm #

Well, Forbes/Fifth through Oakland are a perfect example of that- there’s no point in driving over the speed limit there, but people still do.

Also, most every stop sign in the city is actually a speed control device in disguise.


Mick

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Nov 19 2013 at 6:00pm #

salty wrote:Well, Forbes/Fifth through Oakland are a perfect example of that- there’s no point in driving over the speed limit there, but people still do.

On Fifth, if you blast through the light at Bellefield, at 50, just as it’s turning from yellow to red, you can proceed at 50 MPH down Fifth and the light at Craft will turn green just as you get there.

OTOH, I have beena passenger in a car where the guy gunned it at every light and complained that he had to brake at the next one.


paulheckbert

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Nov 19 2013 at 10:34pm #

Back to the pedestrian flags idea: I’ve seen these in San Jose and I found them to work quite well. They’re a nice way to empower people (kids, elderly, etc) to feel safer: wave the flag as you walk across. It’s fun for the pedestrians and very eye-catching for the drivers.

Yes, the city should definitely try them in several locations. Installing them shouldn’t cost more than $100 per crossing, I would think.


jonawebb

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Nov 25 2013 at 12:44pm #

It sounds like CMU is doing something to improve East Liberty traffic for pedestrians — but I kind of wish they’d focused on buses, pedestrians and cyclists first, instead of putting the priority on improving motorist traffic speed.

http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2013/11/25/CMU-helps-East-Liberty-run-smoother-pedestrians-next-CMU-s-E-End-traffic-effort-turns-to-pedestrian-safety/stories/201311250114


cdavey

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Nov 25 2013 at 1:26pm #

I have come think that a lot of this is traceable back to PennDOT and the standards they set. Penn DOT is about two things; (1) moving traffic (meaning internal combustion powered vehicles), and (2) not getting their butts sued, since everyone sues PennDOT at the drop of a hat for anything.

Then when PennDOT sets its standards, the local municipalities all copy them because if the state thinks they are good enough to keep them out of trouble, then they must be OK for us, too.

End result: PennDOT specs design a road that moves traffic efficiently (read: quickly). But at the same time, they set the speed limit on that road 10 mph slower than the road “reads” to a car driver as a safety allowance so they don’t get sued.

We end up with roads that read “go fast”, with signage that reads “go slow” and that everyone ignores. And that seems to be what we’re describing in this thread in real life.


StuInMcCandless

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Nov 25 2013 at 3:15pm #

Then maybe that’s where we need to make the most noise. PennDOT doesn’t want lawsuits? Then we start suing them anytime there’s a fatality or major injury which can partially be traced to a design decision based on throughput.

In short, we need to start yelling, at high intensity at every point possible, “NO! We DON’T want to get there in a hurry. We want to IMPEDE traffic. We want to MAKE it difficult and long to get from here to there. Because doing anything else contributes to people getting KILLED.”


salty

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Nov 25 2013 at 11:18pm #

“The Target intersection is problematic because it has five lanes, including turn lanes. Also, Penn Circle South does not meet Penn at a 90-degree angle like streets on a grid. It swoops around, sending cars accelerating onto Penn before drivers can see the crosswalk.”

They make this sound like happenstance when the whole intersection was just redesigned and rebuilt to be this way. So, redesign the thing – mostly all it would take is widening the sidewalks to remove some lanes and get rid of the “swoop”.


edmonds59

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Nov 26 2013 at 7:39am #

salty wrote:They make this sound like happenstance when the whole intersection was just redesigned and rebuilt to be this way. So, redesign the thing – mostly all it would take is widening the sidewalks to remove some lanes and get rid of the “swoop”.

Yep. “Traffic” engineers thinking like traffic engineers. Autocentric. A separate certification needs to be required anywhere non-motorized human beings are involved. Most traffic engineers need to be limited to designing interstate highways.


jonawebb

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Nov 26 2013 at 8:05am #

From the CMU engineers point of view the thing just happened and they have to deal with it. I’m sure they weren’t consulted on the intersection design. So that’s what they’re saying.
If only there was some organization, perhaps a government agency, which would actually design our traffic infrastructure in such a way as to keep pedestrians and cyclists safe!


cdavey

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Nov 26 2013 at 9:17am #

We already have a government agency that is supposed to design traffic infrastructure like that. It’s called PennDOT. We see how that works out.

One of the problems is that they have a mindset to do what they know and have always done, are comfortable with and don’t have to think about. A while back in the thread about the Carson Street design someone here quoted a discussion they had with a person who was involved in the initial design. When it was submitted to PennDOT they asked for something more “traditional.” As a result an opportunity was lost for a generation and we got the half-assed abortion that is going to get built.

Another problem is that these bureaucracies are full of lifers that remain while elected officials like governors who could force a change come and go. They outsurvive them. Basically this bureaucratic mindset has to change. I admit I don’t know how to do that. Attrition and the passage of time?

Lastly there is the matter of culture. I suspect it really will take a sea change in the popular will and perception of the car culture as the only means of transportation before much will change. At the moment it isn’t there yet in sufficient force to change things. Too many people still believe in how JH Kunstler puts it — the age of Happy Motoring where we all expect to continue to drive to WalMart forever.

Change that cultural perception, and then we can change the culture of PennDOT. That may simply mean people have to decide to become cyclists one person at a time however they get to it. But there are signs that it’s changing. More millenials are forsaking cars for other means of transportation. And there was that article someone linked to a couple of days ago about how bikes are now outselling cars in Europe. That will eventually come here also. in the meantime, I guess we get to keep fighting the good fight.


Benzo

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Nov 26 2013 at 9:18am #

Software guys write to the minimum spec provided. I’m guessing having pedestrian detection or exclusive right of way was not in the specs.

However, by adding these features in now (or 6 months from now, or whenever they finish updating their software) this will have a net benefit, since they should be able to use this logic on the other intersections that are controlled by this same system. It will hopefully have an even larger benefit than improving just the target intersection.


jonawebb

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Nov 26 2013 at 9:28am #

Change in these agencies comes from the top. I’d be willing to bet that the guys doing the design are fully capable of designing stuff that would benefit pedestrians and cyclists, but they’ve been told to maximize motor vehicle traffic flow. What we need is for the people we elect to make safety for pedestrians and cyclists a higher priority than that.


Benzo

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Nov 26 2013 at 9:37am #

jonawebb wrote:What we need is for the people we elect to make safety for pedestrians and cyclists a higher priority than that.

Nailed it.

That’s why I participated in this:

http://bikepgh.org/2013/11/25/take-action-ask-congress-to-set-bikeped-safety-standards/


Marko82

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Nov 26 2013 at 1:03pm #

In regards to the CMU software; I wonder if there is a good data-log being generated. I hope it’s being analyzed to see how often the ped-button was being pressed and when. It would be even better if they had sensors to pick up pedestrians & notice how often peds don’t press the button. A simple photo sensor would probably work. Then those smart CMU folks would have all the variables not just the cars


paulheckbert

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Nov 26 2013 at 1:27pm #

Marko82 wrote:In regards to the CMU software; I wonder if …

I used to work in the CMU Robotics Institute. I went to http://www.ri.cmu.edu/ri_people.html and looked up the RI researchers mentioned in that PG story, and sent them an email:

Subject: questions about Surtrac on bikepgh
To: Stephen Smith, Greg Barlow

Stephen & Greg: I’m a cyclist and a former member of CMU SCS.
I saw a discussion on the Bike Pittsburgh bboard about the PG story on Surtrac ( http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2013/11/25/CMU-helps-East-Liberty-run-smoother-pedestrians-next-CMU-s-E-End-traffic-effort-turns-to-pedestrian-safety/stories/201311250114 ) where people had questions about your traffic control software. If you’re interested in being part of this small conversation, please see http://bikepgh.org/mb/topic/the-loneliness-of-a-middle-distance-pedestrian/#post-286941

thanks

-Paul


Marko82

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Nov 26 2013 at 1:42pm #

^Cool!

It would be great to hear their take on the system.


Ahlir

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Nov 26 2013 at 6:28pm #

Just to add a bit to the traffic monitoring discussion.

I would be extremely surprised if the intersections were not instrumented in all permissible ways. These systems are based on statistical models, and you want lots of data to make them robust Moreover a good design will be adaptive: the system continues to tune model parameters based on observations, both to get more accurate and to track drifts in car/driver behavior over time.

According to the article they are currently working on modeling pedestrians and differentiating vehicle models (car/bus/car/etc). No mention of bikes in the article but I would hope that’s already on the agenda.

The PI, Stephen Smith, has worked for a long time on automated scheduling and planning. I would trust him to make the right decisions (the roads people willing).

There’s a couple of papers on his pubs page on the topic: here


salty

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Nov 26 2013 at 6:58pm #

Why would you trust the CMU folks to make the right decision? I would trust them to try to optimize the system given some set of goals and some set of constraints – not to make public policy decisions. The most recent article gives me some hope, but what has been done so far has exactly the wrong goals for an urban area – making things more convenient for drivers at the expense of pedestrians. I walk through the experiment zone all the time and I’ll be happy to take anyone who is interested on a walking tour of the area.

Ultimately, it is up to the city planners to set the proper parameters, and the guidance does ultimately have to come from the mayor. Hopefully the new administration will reverse this trend of anti-pedestrian “improvements” so we end up with a city more like Paris and less like Orlando.

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