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Cyclist killed in Oakland

2015-10-23 17:34:54
Wow, that is a shame. It doesn't look like you can avoid something like that with our current infrastructure. Thanks for the links. Thoughts go out to the victim's family and friends. So sad and so young.
2015-10-23 18:56:22
FWIW, the title of that PG article has been changed to "Woman killed in bicycle-car accident in Oakland."
2015-10-24 09:40:38
"This is one of the ways to get caught that is really unavoidable." Well... I'm going to lose my shit on the next asshole on the internet that says bicyclists should follow the law and rules of the road. (jonawebb not at all directed at you, just using that statement as a launch pad) Susan Hicks was stopped at a light, lawfully following the rules of the road. If she had been a lawbreaking cyclist, blown off the light, instead of sitting between cars, following infrastructure designed for ridiculous 5,000 lb. metal tanks and not her, she would probably be alive. Fuck traffic law. Follow it, or break it if it's not designed to keep you alive.
2015-10-24 10:01:29
Whenever something like this happens, the natural human reaction is to say, that wouldn't have happened to me because I do "x". And there's always something you can find between what is reported in the press (which is of course just an approximation of what really happened) and what you would do. But it's not really true. We can ride as safely as possible, and still have something like this happen to us. Getting caught between two cars is pretty much the worst case scenario for riding in traffic.
2015-10-24 10:31:28
> Getting caught between two cars is pretty much the worst case scenario for riding in traffic. ...but one of the reasons we should be making it possible for people to, y'know, not have to ride in traffic...
2015-10-24 11:17:01
I suppose the older I get, the more fatalistic I become. I have adopted the world-view that there is an anvil hanging from a frayed rope swinging precariously above all of us. For some of us it is called "cancer" or "heart disease". For others it's "multi-car pileup on the turnpike". I guess I rationalize the dangers inherent not just in cycling but in life the same way. I'm going to die eventually. But I have realized reading this terrible and saddening news, that not all "anvils" are the same. And that, in fact, some are avoidable. This death was not by the hand of god, loosing an anvil from the sky to take her unawares. This was avoidable. This is bigger than cycling and infrastructure and laws, etc. This is life on earth 2015. This is human kind in a hurry, self absorbed, face in a phone, outta my way-here I come narcissism. This is the result of the fundamental lack of empathy or even concern for our fellow humans. Welcome to the new world. And good-bye Susan Hicks. And to that anvil up there with my name on it: f*ck off.
2015-10-24 12:31:36
…but one of the reasons we should be making it possible for people to, y’know, not have to ride in traffic…
I guess i don't really understand this assertion. If this collision had involved a motorcycle or motor scooter, the outcome would have basically been the same. Should motorcycles and motor scooters "not have to ride in traffic"?
2015-10-24 12:37:59
I've long been arguing for a bike lane on Forbes, BTW. Four lane roads with space for parking in a very dense urban area should have lanes as a matter of course. Let alone next to a university.
2015-10-24 12:49:33
PG posted another article. "Police said that a car headed eastbound on Forbes Avenue veered into one of two left-turn lanes at South Bellefield Avenue and hit the rear of a vehicle waiting for the red light to change. That vehicle was pushed forward, police said, pinning Ms. Hicks between its front bumper and the rear bumper of another SUV -- identified by Mr. Bane as his." "An autopsy today by the Allegheny County medical examiner’s office determined that Ms. Hicks died from injuries to her trunk; her death was ruled accidental."
2015-10-24 14:02:52
There was another story about Susan Hicks' death here: In response to the multiple victim-blaming comments there, I wrote: Paul Bacharach: Strobe lights on bicycles wouldn’t have prevented this death - the bicycle wasn’t even the first vehicle hit. Will Hoh: A helmet (she had one) obviously didn’t prevent this death. Will Hoh: A pedestrian could have been killed by a speeding car just as easily as a cyclist. Avoiding bicycling wouldn’t have prevented such a death. What could prevent deaths like this is: enforce motor vehicle speed limit on Forbes Ave, add a protected bike lane to narrow the road and discourage speeding by cars, make sure that deaths and injuries from reckless car driving result in lengthy suspension of license, at least, not just “no charges were filed”. It is said that "If you want to kill someone, do it with a car."
2015-10-24 14:31:00
"This is bigger than cycling and infrastructure and laws, etc. This is life on earth 2015. This is human kind in a hurry, self absorbed, face in a phone, outta my way-here I come narcissism. This is the result of the fundamental lack of empathy or even concern for our fellow humans." I agree this is true with a percentage of people out there. Sadly, it is a dangerously high percentage and it seems to be getting worse. I am not sure why. Times are great in so many ways, yet people seem to always be upset and aggressive driving. Odd. I also ride to the beat of my own drummer and always will. I often go through a red light to get to a much safer place and will do what it takes to get away from cars. The older I get the further I want to be from motor vehicles. I feel very sad about this death. Seems to happen much too often!
2015-10-24 15:02:46
From the trib article - "no charges were filed." Will charges be filed? The driver who caused the crash can be charged with something, right?
2015-10-24 19:47:53
Probably not. In order to be charged, the driver would have had to be breaking the law in some way. Just making a mistake doesn't count. No law punishes that. But we do need a law that says that drivers who kill or seriously injure someone, or who cause major property damage, through failure to exercise due care, need to be retested--at least. And Forbes needs a bike lane.
2015-10-24 21:16:58
Jon - we may have discussed this before, I'm not sure - but I don't think you're correct when you say, In order to be charged, the driver would have had to be breaking the law in some way. Just making a mistake doesn’t count. No law punishes that. There's two opportunities for law enforcement: Homicide by Vehicle and involuntary manslaughter.
To prove involuntary manslaughter, a prosecutor must show that the defendant caused the victim's death by reckless or grossly negligent conduct while engaging a lawful or unlawful activity. A lawful act such as driving a car may be the basis for involuntary manslaughter if the defendant drove recklessly. The prosecutor must show a causal link between the defendant's reckless or negligent conduct and the victim's death. If the chain of events leading to the homicide does not trace back directly or substantially to the defendant, the state may have difficult time with proving involuntary manslaughter. - See more at:
§ 3732. Homicide by vehicle. (a) Offense.--Any person who recklessly or with gross negligence causes the death of another person while engaged in the violation of any law of this Commonwealth or municipal ordinance applying to the operation or use of a vehicle or to the regulation of traffic except section 3802 (relating to driving under influence of alcohol or controlled substance) is guilty of homicide by vehicle, a felony of the third degree, when the violation is the cause of death. (b) Sentencing.-- (1) In addition to any other penalty provided by law, a person convicted of a violation of subsection (a) may be sentenced to an additional term not to exceed five years' confinement if at trial the prosecution proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the offense occurred in an active work zone as defined in section 102 (relating to definitions). (2) The prosecution must indicate intent to proceed under this section in the indictment or information which commences the prosecution. (3) The Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing, pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S. § 2154 (relating to adoption of guidelines for sentencing), shall provide for a sentencing enhancement for an offense under this section when the violation occurred in an active work zone as defined in section 102.
2015-10-24 21:43:02
The candlelight vigil in honor of Susan Hicks on Saturday was very moving. crash location marks on road ghost bike was locked up across the street from the Carnegie Museum Dippy looked away
2015-10-24 23:43:44
Seems pretty straightforward to inspect damage to the moving car and the car struck, and from that estimate the velocity of the moving car. For sake of argument, let's say 35 mph. Is traveling 35 in a 25 zone grounds for gross negligence?
2015-10-25 05:14:23
I anxiously await hearing any facts regarding the driver, or greater details on the events of the incident. I strongly suspect that neither the Pittsburgh PD nor Stephen Zappala's political ambitions have any place for prosecuting the killing of a cyclist. But let's go make a huge deal out of the killing of a frigging police dog, K?
2015-10-25 07:33:11
The news I was watching this morning said, this was ruled an accident and no charges are being filed. Not sure if that is the end of it or not?
2015-10-25 08:46:41
Building bike lanes is nice and all but being "bike/ped friendly" starts with reigning in the obvious and persistent threat to our lives. Unfortunately, there is zero political will to hold drivers accountable for their actions, even when someone is murdered.
2015-10-25 10:38:05
Is traveling 35 in a 25 zone grounds for gross negligence? If the law says you can't even get a traffic ticket for going 30 mph in a 25 mph zone, I doubt going 35 could be gross negligence. I'm not sure a normal bike lane would have helped here, since she was in a left-turning lane. But perhaps it would have narrowed the lanes and maybe resulted in lower speeds. That's assuming speed was a factor in this crash. We don't know that. It could be the original driver had some medical issue and lost control while going at a legal speed, or perhaps failed to check his blind spot when merging. Or his car might have developed some fault and pulled to the left, perhaps. Until the police determine what caused the collision, it's premature to charge anyone. And I assume they want to at least interview that first driver who went to the hospital with an "unspecified medical emergency" before they decide they know what happened. For all we know, he had a stroke or something, and may be unable to communicate for some time. Better infrastructure can reduce some risks of being in a world with cars, but not all.
2015-10-25 12:00:08
I think a protected bike lane could have helped. If it was on the left side of Forbes, she would have been in the bike lane waiting to turn left. If the bike lane was on the right side of forbes, a bike box could have been constructed on the south side of the forbes/belefield intersection allowing a kind of copenhagen left. She also would have been more protected from traffic in this case because the intersection is only a T there. Modifications to the stop light would need to be made for the latter case, but it still would have helped. If either of these cases were present, she could still be alive today.
2015-10-25 12:16:08
I talked with my friend, the former city traffic engineer, today about Forbes. It is a state road there, but the city has control over traffic signals, striping, etc. So it could add a protected bike lane without PennDOT getting involved. On the charging issue, negligence means something specific in the law. You have to intentionally fail to do something you're supposed to do. That didn't happen here. The driver made a mistake. We need a different law, which punishes failure to exercise due care, in some appropriate way, for example by suspension and retesting. We don't have that law now.
2015-10-25 12:27:41
§ 3714. Careless driving. (a) General rule.--Any person who drives a vehicle in careless disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of careless driving, a summary offense. (b) Unintentional death.--If the person who violates this section unintentionally causes the death of another person as a result of the violation, the person shall, upon conviction, be sentenced to pay a fine of $500.
Hard to see how ramming a significantly heavier vehicle hard enough to shove it into a person--with enough force for that person to be impaled on a blunt object--isn't evidence of "careless disregard for the safety of persons or property", but maybe that's just me; I'm not a lawyer.
2015-10-25 13:34:14
I couldn't find "careless disregard" but here's reckless disregard: An act of proceeding to do something with a conscious awareness of danger, while ignoring any potential consequences of so doing. Reckless disregard, while not necessarily suggesting an intent to cause harm, is a harsher condition than ordinary negligence. Can we agree this doesn't apply to making a mistake and hitting someone? And, BTW, that road is ridiculous. I was riding there today, and the right lane is outrageously wide. I was taking the lane, riding to the left of the center, and an asshole still had space to squeeze past me.
2015-10-25 16:25:59
The right lane on that stretch is meant to accommodate parking for school buses that bring pupils for programs at the museum. It would make sense to have a white line delimit the parking lane (maybe with a bump-out to go with it). It would likely moderate through speeds. I like the idea of a box at Bellefield, and a lane coming from Bigelow. No one should have to dodge across 3-4 lanes just to be able to left-turn. Could the lanes be narrowed as well? A change in signal timing would help cyclists start on crossing Forbes. And there's always speed tables and curb extensions. All of this is standard traffic engineering. Why do we need deaths to have to talk about it? Speed limit enforcement would be nice as well. And, well... we can dream. None of the above might have prevented the "accident" but anything that complicates speeding and forces drivers to pay closer attention to what they are doing can only help.
2015-10-25 18:43:02
> Can we agree this doesn’t apply to making a mistake and hitting someone? Hitting the curb or tapping the bumper of the next car while parking is a mistake. Attempting to move into a lane which is already occupied would seem to be a violation of § 3309: >A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from the lane until the driver has first ascertained that the movement can be made with safety. ... which is labeled a "Serious traffic violation" in section 1603 (mostly definitions of commercial-driver terms) and is sufficiently serious the fine us doubled in work zones. .. We talk a lot here about things which aren't taught in driver's ed or tested on the licence exam. I took driver's ed in a different state, but I'm pretty sure looking all around to make sure a lane was clear before trying to get over was covered on my PA licence exam....
2015-10-25 19:01:17
I don't get it - when does the police report come out? Why did the coroner rule it an accident before the police investigation was completed?
2015-10-25 19:53:43
I suspect that the driver must have been speeding. I couldn't imagine someone going 25mph could push a car with enough force to move it forward like what was necessary here. In addition, almost everyone speeds here so it is a reasonably good assumption. If you are going over the speed limit, you are disregarding the law in a manner that you know could cause someone grave bodily harm. Then there's the part above about not changing lanes into another car. It's possible that there is absolutely no political will to do so, however. Looking at google maps, I also notice that the two lanes closer to the light are solid lines. Was this were the accident took place? If so, that is also breaking the law.
2015-10-25 21:41:48
I am glad to read this thread and see that other people are questioning the driver and his/her actions. I swear, driving makes people idiots. Realizing at the last second that you missed your turn? Well, why not continue safely, then harness the power of geometry and make two left turns to return to Bellefield....? Or, just poke your front end into the left land, and really, really hope that everyone else will become invisible so your most important schedule and convenience are not compromised.
2015-10-26 07:03:28
I'm not arguing that the driver didn't break the law. I'm saying that I can't see any justification for a careless driving charge. I hope the driver got a ticket for trying to merge where another car already was. But that isn't enough. I want to see a driver who injures or kills someone, or who causes serious property damage, through failure to exercise due care, to face, at least, license suspension and retesting.
2015-10-26 07:56:31
I find it hard to believe that the driver was not charged with careless/reckless driving, especially since a death happened. As far as riding bikes on Forbes, driving a CAR is dangerous enough. Especially on the area where the Museum is. I see many times cars cut over 3 lanes at the last minute, because they do not know where they are going, or what ever. I had a few close ones driving. Speed is another factor. I have never, and will never take my bike out on that street. Too many idiots out there. Please be careful out there!
2015-10-26 08:23:54
Once again, the law doesn't say: "if someone dies, then someone was careless." It says: "In order to prove someone was careless, you have to show that they consciously knew they were doing something dangerous, and went ahead and did it anyway." How could you possibly prove that in this case? That's why I think we need a different law, which is focused more on outcomes (someone dies or is seriously injured, or there is major property damage) and on behavior that is easier to prove (the driver didn't exercise due care) -- not intent.
2015-10-26 08:37:53
I'm still trying to process this. Susan Hicks, from everything I can gather, was riding in the exact same manner I would have been riding at that location. I'd agree with the assessment that the driver who caused this multiple vehicle collision must have been going over 25mph. Normally, when riding in heavy traffic I stop really closely behind the vehicle I'm trailing, right off the bumper, usually. I think I'm going to re-evaluate that, now, maybe leave a half to full car space between me and the vehicle I'm stopped behind. I'm also wondering what makes the most sense, advocating really hard (harder maybe) w/ the City and PennDOT, like what was done when James Price and Anthony Green were killed on Penn; advocating for the driver who killed Susan Hicks to be held accountable for their actions? Some of both? It boils down to what occurred to Susan Hicks could have happened to me, or any one of us, out there. That scares the shit out of me, and I'm infuriated.
2015-10-26 09:28:14
Well said JZ, but "maybe leave a half to full car space between me and the vehicle I’m stopped behind" be careful attempting this because if you leave too much room cars will try to cut in front of you even if the space isn't big enough for them to fit. I was knocked off my bike by a driver attempting to do this a few years ago while in stop-n-go traffic.
2015-10-26 10:31:05
Jona, how to prove? umm, they wrecked into a another car, that is proof. had they been aware or more cautious, they would have NOT wrecked. Not aware of their surroundings, maybe they were texting, who knows...there are many ways to prove they had violated. It's like the one posting , saying A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from the lane until the driver has first ascertained that the movement can be made with safety. Did they? NO! case closed. Bill in mail.
2015-10-26 10:47:55
In the "bike-lane" discussion: the question of left-turning bikes could be addressed by marking a bike-box across the straight-through lanes and directing turning cyclists to start from the bike-box or, perhaps more in line with current practices: build a bike lane, in the far-right lane, the length of Forbes across Oakland. (remove stationary, privately owned car storage in the roadway for moving vehicles {bikes}) Use a curb to separate the bike lane from the car lanes. Use floating bus stops on that curb for transit users. Designate No-left-turns for bicycles along the corridor; provide for Copenhagen-lefts instead.
2015-10-26 10:49:20
Please also note, that stopping right on the back end of a vehicle, how do you know that vehicle won't drift back on you? Stay at least a bike length away, and that includes the rear side, which is a blind spot possibly.
2015-10-26 10:50:31
If there was a protected bike lane along the right side of Forbes past the museum, cyclists could stop at Bellefield street and make their lefts during the all-stop pedestrian walk signal that is already in effect at that location. Forbes is a war-zone at rush hour and I'm not the least bit surprised somebody got killed out there. I've done exactly what she was attempting to do and pedaling down that 4 lane runway to turn left amidst flying, shifting traffic is one of the most dangerous maneuvers i can think of in the city, right up there with the highway sprint to get from the 40th street bridge into Millvale.
2015-10-26 11:10:17
I don't have to make lefts off Forbes or Fifth but clearly they'd suck. Just merging left on Fifth as you're exiting Oakland already kinda sucks. All ways stops are nice low stress things and I think would work well in conjunction with bike lanes in the lead up. Major bonus if we could get some bike boxes. And actually, the combo would be much, much more than the sum of the parts.
2015-10-26 11:32:33
Has anyone heard from the city's bike/ped coordinator as to whether there is any chance of lanes going in on Forbes? Compared to penn, this would be quite the over-hall considering all of the bus stops. I thought I heard from someone that at some point CMU was willing to contribute money for bike lanes, but the city never made it happen. Maybe Pitt, CMU, and UPMC can contribute some funding to make this a feasibility.
2015-10-26 11:37:27
@Marko82 Legit question, then. How do we as riders mitigate the risk of what happened to Susan Hicks, happening to us (specifically for what we have control over, i.e. personal riding behavior and tactics in the street)? What we do has an element of risk attached to it, much like stepping in and out of the shower every morning. The argument of developing specific on street separated bike infrastructure, driver education, enforcement of existing laws aside...what can we do *now* to mitigate risk? Thinking out loud, is the larger threat from vehicles, like in your experience, merging into you? Or is it from driver initiated strikes from behind?
2015-10-26 11:40:36
@JZ, I'm not sure there is much we as cyclists can do in this particular circumstance to limit our risks. (Since I've been hit) I'm personally more concerned with side strikes during rush hour like this particular situation, because I usually only have to worry about ONE car stopping behind me, while MANY cars will potentially pass me on my right - each potentially wanting to cheat into my lane by using whatever space I've left them. Later in the evening when the percentage of drunk drivers is higher, I get more concerned with getting hit from behind. But I don't think there is a one size fits all answer on what to do. Of course as the loss of Susan points out, we are all vulnerable no matter how "safe" we try to be.
2015-10-26 12:11:51
I'm ashamed to admit this, but I'm glad that I had family arriving from out-of-town on Friday to keep me semi-distracted & away from the events this weekend. Everytime I think about what happened to Suzan I feel the urge to puck and start crying (I still have PTSD from an event that happened to my family when I was a child and we lost someone). Life is so fragile.... Regardless, it won't stop me riding my bike on the streets... I hope more details are provided regarding the person who caused all this, specially since it seems to point out to f'ing negligence. My sincere condolences to her family and those who knew her.
2015-10-26 12:28:54
Legit question, then. How do we as riders mitigate the risk of what happened to Susan Hicks, happening to us (specifically for what we have control over, i.e. personal riding behavior and tactics in the street)? What we do has an element of risk attached to it, much like stepping in and out of the shower every morning.
While there isn't a simple answer, cyclists (any two wheeled road user, in fact) are vulnerable in traffic. In a number of countries where the environment is otherwise hostile (London is a good example) the rider can at least filter to the front to the sanctuary of protected bike boxes. Filtering also enables usage of all available road to allow making progress and controlling your space.
2015-10-26 13:13:25
Unbelievable. Add the crash that occurred in East Liberty a few weeks ago (the woman in the wheelchair who was hit by the driver who ran the stop sign) and this is 4 people involved in extremely severe crashes within about 1 mile of each other in just over a month. Three deaths. We NEED safer streets.
2015-10-26 15:52:51
Some comments from bikepgh’s facebook page are excerpted below: Michael J. Bane i WAS UNFORTUNATELY DRIVING THE SUBARU IN THE FRONT OF ALL THIS. IT IS MY UNDERSTANDING THAT THE DRIVER OF THE CAR IN THE REAR HAD A SUSPENDED LICENCE AND A WARRANT OUT FOR HIS ARREST. THIS DRIVER IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE ACCIDENT FELL TO THE GROUND OUTSIDE HIS CAR. Like · Reply · 2 · October 23 at 11:19pm Michael J. Bane The biker was pinned between the blue suv and my rear bumper. I was on my knees beside her trying to comfort her and assure her help was on its way when she stopped breathing. I dont think I have ever felt so helpless... My heart goes out to her and I am so sorry for everyone loss. Like · Reply · 11 · October 23 at 11:22pm Cathy Filipcic My heart goes out to all.....if the driver was at fault then why are no charges being filed and police are saying that this was just a dreadful accident. Like · Reply · October 24 at 8:05pm Michael J. Bane I really do not know what happened ... I was in front of everything and did not see anything... I just reapeated what I was was told after I gave my statement to one of the homicide investigators... I am sure the investigators do not want to say anything untill they are completed with their investigation. All I can say is that I heard a collision and then I was hit quickly after... Like · Reply · October 24 at 8:47pm
2015-10-26 16:33:29
I don't do this myself, but for those wondering "how could I have avoided this specific instance?" -- if cyclists didn't stop in left-turn lanes - standing in the street among the cars and trucks - and made Copenhagen lefts instead, we'd reduce our exposure. It's facile to say it after the event, but to those looking for "how could I keep that from happening to me" perhaps it's food for thought.
2015-10-26 18:06:02
It was an Accident, a bad and sad one.The one who caused the Accident did not go out to kill anyone that day and will hurt for the rest of that persons life .People who kill cops build bombs go into schools to kill children have a gun in hand to kill someone knowing its wrong thats another sad story that's not an Accident,,,,,,
2015-10-26 23:13:44
Bicycle heaven, IMO drivers need to be held responsible for their actions on the road. This driver MAY have simply screwed up that day (until the investigation is complete we do not know for sure and Michael Bane's comments suggest otherwise) but that does not mean he/she should get off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. At minimum, driving poorly enough that you kill someone and cause severe damage to multiple other vehicles should result in a license suspension and mandatory drivers ed. Driving is not a right. It is a privilege.
2015-10-27 07:29:46
I also disagree with that sentiment. If we agreed to that, we would also have to allow people who were driving under the influence, texting, racing at extreme speeds, etc. go because they didn't intend to harm anyone. These things are illegal because they are inherently dangerous and everyone who receives a license is taught this. It is very likely (although we don't know for sure) that the driver did a number of illegal maneuvers, which are illegal because they are dangerous. Even if the person had a seizure or something, if the driver was going over the speed limit before the medical emergency, the person should still be held responsible for the event because going faster than the speed limit is dangerous and you are recklessly putting other lives in danger. In this case, that recklessness led to death. Just because the driver didn't mean to kill someone, does not mean that the person holds no blame. Everyone needs to be held accountable for their actions.
2015-10-27 07:49:57
How long do police investigations normally take? I'm furious actually that we're not hearing anything more about this. Where's the Bike Ped coordinator? The mayor, city council...? Media doing anything but obituary? There are clear signs of recklessness, enough to just affirm publicly that this is being investigated, give a sense of timeline, talk about all the ways we need to be working towards safer streets which doesn't just mean bike lanes - how many deaths before those happen? Do. Not. Understand. the lack of response.
2015-10-27 07:58:38
@sparkles, even after the investigation is over it can take a long time before anything public happens. But I would be gobsmacked if the driver is given anything other than a traffic ticket. I don't think current law supports it, and even if it does, it never happens. I still think we should have a law that requires suspension and retesting in these cases, when it can be shown the driver didn't exercise due care.
2015-10-27 09:05:25
To bring attention to this, would doing something like a die-in at forbes/bellefield on Friday during rush hour, 1 week after the accident, be something to consider? I know they do these in London, has one ever been done in Pittsburgh?
2015-10-27 09:07:35
I think a demonstration is a great idea.
2015-10-27 09:24:10
"Where’s the Bike Ped coordinator? The mayor, city council…? Media doing anything but obituary? " @sparkles Ask them. Larry Walsh - Post Gazette (covers bike related news for PG) Post Your Problems Post Gazette letters to the editor Pgh Police, Zone 4 (Cover zone where Susan Hicks was killed) Community Relations Officers: Shannon Leshen - Thomas Pauley - David Conti - Trib Review (wrote Trib story on Susan Hicks vigil) Tribune Review letters to the editor Pgh311 (If you tweet them, I've found it helpful to also tweet the City Councilperson/Mayor/responsible org/entity who is responsible for the district/subject you are commenting on) Enter comments under either: Permits - Pedestrian/Bicycle Concerns - (stupid that the web designer buried Bike/Ped concerns this deep and without any other options other than replace bollard and bike trail maintenance) or Public Safety - Traffic City Council District 8 - Dan Gilman Chief of Staff: Director of Communications: Legislative Associate: Mary Griffin Online petition We can drive policy on this. If as many people who signed the petition take additional actions/make noise, ask about it, letters start flooding media, they can't ignore it and have to respond now...or later during the election cycle when they are asked why they chose not to respond.
2015-10-27 09:39:22
I've been thinking about Bike Snob this week. JZ thanks so much for all of that contact info. I'll be using it.
2015-10-27 10:28:14
I understand how hard it would be to prosecute drivers for inadvertant mistakes. OTOH, when drivers are a known hazard, they should have their driver's license removed without a criminal proceeding. Driving should not be viewed as a right and a necessity. Being sober should not be license to drive like a drunkard. [Preaching to the choir, I know. I'm frustrated.]
2015-10-27 10:56:36
I slightly edited the list of links at added it to the Wiki at Please feel free to add other names etc. Do not underestimate the power of contacting a public official and making your voice heard. A direct meeting is best, then a (physical) letter, then a phone call, then email.
2015-10-27 11:00:49
I love the guerrilla die-in on Forbes Ave and I'd participate. (by which I mean, not coordinated/ licensed) Stu spent considerable time looking into a Die-In a few years ago and IIRC there was major paperwork involved.
2015-10-27 12:35:08
Short version, about $150 in permits and a week lead time. Considerable footwork in notifying affected agencies like police, Port Authority; probably also Pitt, media. Or just wildcat get 200 people and illegally shut down the damned street. Money/time/effort or consequences. Pick one.
2015-10-27 16:23:33
Or just whack a couple cars together. No problem then, right? /snark
2015-10-27 16:26:08
Talk to the folks who organized the protests for Michael Brown et al. in Oakland? Those involved a 4+-minute die-in on Fifth at Darragh, and again at Bigelow. No memory whether they got permits or just did it, though I do recall a march into the teeth of traffic...
2015-10-27 16:27:49
With the recent pedestrian deaths in Oakland as well, the protest could have a more general purpose in terms of bike/ped safety in Oakland. We could push for the enforcement of traffic laws, prosecution/rovocation of licenses of those who cause deaths, and better bike/ped infrastructure. This could get more people involved and possibly make a bigger impact.
2015-10-27 16:51:54
On a related note, Hill District Consensus Group, Oakland Planning & Development, and Bike PGH will host another candlelight vigil, Thursday evening at Centre & Allequippa/University, site of Monday's crash.
2015-10-27 16:54:54
Possibly more effective than a die-in (but definitely illegal) would be to ride a blood-painted bike to someplace on Forbes during rush hour, then abandon it in the street. Similar to what cyclists in Boulder are doing to protest removal of bike lanes: Speaking theoretically, this could keep happening until the city accommodates bike traffic through the heart of Oakland.
2015-10-28 09:59:45
I have learned that the mother of the bus driver involved in the Centre and Alequippa incident died the same day. Please keep this man in your thoughts at tonight's vigil.
2015-10-29 04:19:53
The Oakland Green Team is meeting on Thursday, November 19, at 6:00 pm at the Oakland Career Center, 294 Semple St, 15213. Pat Hassett will be there, and the agenda includes further discussion of making Oakland streets safer. Unfortunately, I have a conflict — but I hope others will attend. There is now some momentum for improving the Oakland situation, let’s keep the pressure on. Here’s the agenda:
2015-11-17 17:35:16
OK, here's an idea about speeds in Oakland. (I heard this suggested recently and would love to credit the source, but I can't figure out where I heard it. Searching doesn't give any hints.) Let's create 15 mph school zones for Pitt and CMU. My first reaction was "nah, that' just for K-12, not for colleges". But I looked up the PA code (quoted below) and didn't see any such restriction. As I read the code, you can create a 15 mph school zone speed limit "during the normal hours that walking students are arriving at or leaving school" -- which for Pitt and CMU would be pretty much all day. It looks like "local authorities" make a diagram and submit the request. There are details about who handles the request. A school zone can only be 1600 ft long, so the Pitt school zone could be from Forbes and Bigelow past Schenley Plaza and the museum to about the Electric Garage. Another one could run past CMU from the CIC driveway to the entrance to Mudge House (or from Beeler St not quite to the mid-block crossing in front of Heinz). Presumably you could also put school zones on Fifth. So, what's wrong with this idea? Sure, it would be unpopular with drivers, probably also with whoever would have to enforce it. But even if it wasn't eventually implemented, why not use it as a negotiating position? OK, here's the relevant section of the PA code: § 212.501. School zone speed limits. (a) Establishment. A 15 miles per hour school zone speed limit may be established in a school zone during the normal hours that walking students are arriving at or leaving school, under 75 Pa.C.S. § 3365(b) (relating to special speed limitations). (1) To establish a school zone, local authorities shall be responsible to prepare and submit a drawing showing the locations where students walk along or across roadways that are adjacent to school property, the hours that students are going to or from school and the proposed limits for the school zone to the Department for approval. (2) The Department is responsible for approving the establishment of all school zones, including the locations and hours of operation, except local authorities shall be responsible for approving school zones at the following locations: (i) On local highways when the municipality has received municipal traffic engineering certification under Chapter 205 (relating to municipal traffic engineering certification). (ii) On State-designated highways when the municipality has entered into an agreement with the Department thereby transferring to the local authorities the authority to install traffic-control devices without specific Department approval. (iii) On highways in cities of the first and second class, except not on expressways. (3) The duration of a 15 miles per hour school zone speed limit should be only long enough to include the time that walking students routinely arrive at or leave school. (b) Posting. A school zone speed limit shall be posted on official traffic-control devices as follows: (1) At the beginning of the school zone speed limit, one of the following signs or groups of signs shall be posted either on the right side of the roadway or over the roadway: (i) A Speed Limit Sign (R2-1) with the appropriate school zone speed limit, with a School Panel (S4-3) mounted above the Speed Limit Sign (R2-1) and a When Flashing Sign (S4-4) mounted below the Speed Limit Sign (R2-1), with two flashing speed limit sign beacons. (ii) A Speed Limit Sign (R2-1) with the appropriate school zone speed limit, with a School Panel (S4-3) mounted above the Speed Limit Sign (R2-1) and a Restricted Hours Panel (R10-20A) mounted below the Speed Limit Sign (R2-1). (iii) A School Speed Limit When Flashing Sign with a blank-out ‘‘15’’ and flashers as illustrated in the Traffic Signal Design Handbook (Department Publication 149M). (2) An End School Zone Sign (S5-2) shall be posted on the right side of the roadway to define the end of the school zone speed limit. (3) The limits of a school zone may extend beyond the school property lines to improve the sight distance or to encompass a school crosswalk, except that the length of the zone may not be greater than 1,600 feet.
2015-11-19 02:19:12
@Mary: I believe @Vannevar proposed that idea recently. And a fine idea it is.
2015-11-19 05:54:22
I'd tweak it slightly, Forbes from about Atwood to Bellefield, where it adjoins Pitt property, and similarly on Fifth from Craig to Halket. Or whatever 1600 feet works out to that most closely aligns with Pitt property. Splitting hairs, though. However done, I like it.
2015-11-19 07:32:06
Hi @Mary: details here: so the pitch goes like this: the best thing to improve safety and survivability is: slow traffic down. The standard response of the existing paradigm is: separate protected lanes, reducing parking, doing it block-by-block: politics, budget, change, expense, resistance; churches, hospitals, agita. But let's do this a different way using a wheel that's already invented: just declare Pitt, CMU, and Carlow as "school zones". This would generate an "Oasis Of Slow" in the key risk areas. The wrinkle is: the state legislation pretty specifically identifies primary & secondary (high) schools. It would take executive action to declare the public-safety-need and this solution, and local politics with PennDot to make it happen. The force is strong with Team Peduto. This would take initiative from the Mayor's office. As has been said, let's make them do the things they want to do. If Pittsburgh can legislate sick days for large employers and decriminalize marijuana, we can surely do this. Details: Monday-Friday, 8am to 8pm. They could include Saturday 8am to 4pm and not offend me. No problems with churches or emergency vehicles.
2015-11-19 08:30:39
The school zone idea could be a good approach, but as @Vannevar points it would require executive action. It's worth a try. In the meanwhile, could we just, maybe, try to enforce the existing speed limit? All the legal detail is already worked out. Even the signs are up. All we need is for the city and the police to do their job. What am I missing here?
2015-11-19 09:01:22
That local law enforcement has to use 1937 technology to enforce speed limits, by state law. The ironic side to this story is that someone looking out a window a few floors up can do a better job of determining vehicle speed than LEO at street level. Mr. Bauman's tool shows every vehicle at every moment. That's why I think all the cops need to do is grab the plate numbers off a street level video camera. I'm sure there is plate recognition technology on the street somewhere. All we'd need to do is hook the two together, and have the police mail out warnings (at first), by the truckload. Mail it to everyone going 26+. Send 1,000 a day, if it's automated. Make sure *everyone* knows about this. Then, after a few weeks of this, have LEO actually employ that 1937 technology to cite what motorists they can, and haul some people into court. If certain people showed up on the warning list 15 times, and were on the high side of 40 for five of those, that should help the magistrate with his/her decision on issuing a fine.
2015-11-19 09:15:52
In the meanwhile, could we just, maybe, try to enforce the existing speed limit? All the legal detail is already worked out. Even the signs are up. All we need is for the city and the police to do their job. What am I missing here?
Seriously. I've been wondering the same thing. Are there actual impediments (policy, conflicting state-versus-local laws, other) or simply a lack of will/manpower? Who would be best to talk to to find out, in an authoritative manner, what obstacles need to be overcome? (Note that I don't mean "what reasons can *we* come up with that might be true?"...while entertaining, such speculations do little to foster change.) I know there's pending legislation to allow local PA cops to use radar (House Bill 71/Senate Bill 535), but I'm not sure where that stands...seems to have been referred to the Transportation committee early this year, with no motion since.
2015-11-19 09:30:46
@reddan and @Vannevar -- thanks for bringing @Vannevar 's details into the thread. I searched pretty thoroughly on multiple sources, but this blog didn't get swept into the net. I found the K-12 trap: it's in the definition of "school", not the definition of "school zone". PA Code section 212.1 (Definitions) says School—A public, private or parochial facility for the education of students in grades kindergarten through 12. School zone—A portion of a highway that at least partially abuts a school property or extends beyond the school property line that is used by students to walk to or from school or to or from a school bus pick-up or drop-off location at a school.
2015-11-19 09:48:56
There was a bike-ped meeting in Oakland on November 4 in response to the petition. Lots of city folks gave updates on their plans, but there was a remarkable lack of willingness to take concrete action in the short term. The community police officer from the local zone was there (sorry, I didn't get his name). Speed enforcement was discussed. It was reported that there are quarterly speed enforcement blitzes with Pittsburgh City, Pitt, and CMU Police cooperating. Except that it has been several quarters since this was done. Here and at other meetings there has been real reluctance to do speed enforcement. So yes, we should press hard on this. The next opportunity is tonight (Th 11/19) at the Oakland Green Team (i.e., bike/ped) meeting -- 6:00 pm at the Oakland Career Center, 294 Semple St, 15213. If we could get school zones, I'd put Schenley Drive in the vicinity of Tech St on the list. As for the Bauman data, it's great. Looks like it's data on Forbes between the Cathedral and Schenley Plaza -- cars coming from the stoplight at Bieglow headed for the stoplight at Dippy. They're coming out of Oakland, where there is a stoplight almost every block. To get up above 35mph at the location Bauman studied, you have to be seriously lead-footed coming out of the Bigelow intersection. Are they accelerating trying to beat the light at Dippy? If so, let's get that light re-timed so racing for it doesn't work.
2015-11-19 10:02:24
I like the idea and it's great if doable. I don't know how light timing changes propagate. Let's say they can't change it because of XYZ change in the traffic pattern. So, police can only be there so much, and can't use reasonable technology to police speeds. What about stoplights? The idea is this (I've proposed this once before, but I think it's worth a repeat in this context). When someone exceeds a threshold speed where they're creating a hostile and dangerous environment, wherever we set the bar (I'd prefer lower, but the current 25mph speed limit would still be a great improvement), and have that AUTOMATICALLY trigger a move to the red phase, say, 3 seconds before they'd reach the intersection. Combine with red light cameras in case someone is feeling motivated to double down on stupid. Have these signs throughout Oakland at these intersections making it very clear how it works. Make it so idiot motorists triggering the reds get an earful from OTHER MOTORISTS. If it works, roll out in other pedestrian/business heavy corridors.
2015-11-19 10:34:48
@byogman I think the lights in Oakland are timed for about 22-23 mph, or at least that's what it seemed to be when I was driving through regularly. How many of the drivers know this, or even understand that driving a steady and correct pace through a series of timed lights gets you there just as quickly as racing for the next red light? Would an education campaign on this topic help? Rational drivers would presumably adopt the speed that's designed into the timing. But what fraction of the drivers are rational and what fraction just want to beat out any car they can pass in some sort of competitive frenzy? If they're mostly rational, the less drastic measure of providing information would help. If they're mostly irrational and competitive, it would take your approach. A great place for this would be Schenley Drive -- put a detector at the top and a stoplight at the bottom that forces speeders to wait until 25mph would have brought them to the light, with a sign saying so. This doesn't require any speed measurement -- just note when cars enter Schenley Drive and set the light to turn green an appropriate number of seconds later. Schenley Drive traffic might be a little to heavy for this to work, but it might.
2015-11-19 10:53:27
My impression is that the light at Schenley Drive Extension (by Dippy) is the last of the timed lights. Bellefield is almost always green to go straight (unless a Ped hits the walk button; not sure if that's synchronized). And then Craig is definitely not synchronized. Just changing that would probably help out.
2015-11-19 11:54:09
I can't make that meeting tonight. Can someone please bring up my idea?
2015-11-19 12:19:18
Matt, I share your impression that those two lights are problematic. I can feel my stress level rise on Forbes from the point I pass Schenley Plaza. Unfortunately I doubt think fixing the timing is enough. Mary, I think fact that driver's don't "get it" now, is a pretty clear sign that they won't "get it" in the future because of some nice signs. It's just easier as a semi-unconscious driver (and let's be honest here that's what most are) to pay no particular attention to speed and then just slow down when there's a red staring them in the face than it is to hold the line on speed. The only way you get the latter in practice is if the next light is pretty close and the driver toward the front of the green wave or if they're just stuck behind somebody. So we do need to wake them up, and Stu, I think your idea has merit, but I don't think it's as practicable as penalizing with lights since it requires manual intervention and putting together information from two perspectives. If they've delayed several quarters doing the routine stuff when is THIS going to happen? They'll definitely fall asleep in the interim. I'll also admit that I'm perhaps a bit in love with the idea of other motorists cursing out those who speed badly the way those who speed badly curse out everyone else, and perhaps giving them an earful at the light. But the bigger factor is that it works directly against the motivation for speeding, immediately, and is always on. Unfortunately, I can't be at the meeting to voice support for either, but good luck to everyone!
2015-11-19 13:26:19
In England, they simply put a big sign on many main downtown roads that says "speed camera" along with a camera icon and the speed limit. They don't try to be sneaky and "catch" the speeders with secret cameras. Everyone goes slow in these business districts. Even someone who has never been to England before knows exactly what it means. Instant behavior changer. No police necessary. No ACTUAL CAMERAS are even necessary really.
2015-11-19 13:42:48
I’ll also admit that I’m perhaps a bit in love with the idea of other motorists cursing out those who speed badly the way those who speed badly curse out everyone else, and perhaps giving them an earful at the light.
Unfortunately, motorists already curse each other out and yell at one another at lights, and it has no perceptible effect on behavior (other than to jack up tempers further). Trying to encourage drivers to rage more, even as an attempt to encourage peer-group shaming for purposes of behavioral modification, is not something I find appealing. That said, I really do like the idea of some form of direct, personal, and immediate consequences of speeding.
2015-11-19 13:50:05
I'm doubtful that changes to the light timing will happen without careful engineering study, which costs $$$. My friend, the traffic engineer, spends a fair bit of time doing traffic simulations of Oakland (compute intensive, BTW), as part of his company's BRT work. I suspect the city will insist that this sort of thing is necessary for any change to the Forbes / Fifth corridor, including, alas, changes to the striping, narrowing the lanes, etc. Unless there's a way to persuade CMU and Pitt to care about the people who work and study there, and to invest some money in their safety, I don't think it can happen without Federal funding. Enforcement seems like an easier get, but it's also unlikely to do more than shut us up. After it's over, of course people go back to treating the wide open spaces like invitations to speed, as they do everywhere else.
2015-11-19 13:55:07
It's not a bad thing that light timing changes require study. I will stake the tiniest bit of hope in the idea that my red light as punishment ~might~ not require quite the same degree of scrutiny since there's good reason to believe that those conditions will start rare and become vastly rarer once people "get it" and the overall effect on traffic flow should be to make it much smoother.
2015-11-19 15:04:05
I'll drop by before the Oakland Green Team meeting tonight. It's unfortunate that it coincides with the OpenPittsburgh/Students for Urban Data Science meeting (6:30 at CMU); I had promised to give a short intro to the project there… and I'm hoping to find folks who will help me.
2015-11-19 15:11:28
Quoth @byogman:
I will stake the tiniest bit of hope in the idea that my red light as punishment ~might~ not require quite the same degree of scrutiny
I would venture to guess that it will require more scrutiny than simply changing the timing. Changing the timing of lights has plenty of historical precedent, and, more importantly, hard data regarding results. However, it'd be really easy to implement on a temporary basis, with no systemic changes needed. Station cops with a radar gun (not for purposes of enforcement, but just to monitor speeds), and give them override control of the lights in question. Whenever they see a vehicle traveling over X speed, trip the yellow-to-red cycle. Putting up a few prominent "new traffic patterns ahead' signs would probably be a good idea, though.
2015-11-19 15:27:24
The unknown always triggers suspicion so you're doubtless right, but devil's advocate question. Why would stationing cops to do this not require a traffic study but programming in the behavior require it? It's not like it would be hard to turn off the behavior. The only difference is the degree to which it relies on expensive and generally more fallible humans.
2015-11-19 15:51:46
The only difference is the degree to which it relies on expensive and generally more fallible humans.
The only difference is how quickly you could test your hypothesis in real-world conditions. Using existing resources is generally faster than building new systems. My point re: utilizing LEOs was not to discourage flow analysis; it was that an initial manual implementation for real-world testing *after* initial analysis would be fairly trivial, compared to implementing a new automated traffic control system. Once the results from the real-world test have validated the analysis, then it's time to talk about automation.
2015-11-19 16:22:50
@byogman: your scheme is novel, but also problematic. As already noted, people in cars already have enough anger toward each other. But more importantly, enforcing laws is the job of the police, not me in my car… in 2015… when everyone is gun-happy… and crazy… etc., etc. Inciting driver-on-driver violence is no solution. (Although it just occurred to me that with your idea, being so hyperbolic, you were possibly trolling. If so, please ignore my comments.)
2015-11-19 16:27:33
On reflection... Speed limits should be enforced. But in the end punishment is not the right way to change human behavior. The world needs to be arranged so that the right behaviors happen simply because the environment make it the rational thing to do. Otherwise people simply focus on beating the system (I would). Unfortunately people have to notice the contingencies. The lights on Forbes can in fact be traversed without stopping; I agree it's 20-25mph (and btw Liberty westbound is ~25-30mph). But there's nothing there to tell you that. So, actually, the stuff that counts as "calming" is probably the better solution. I could go for tables. Robotic machine guns on the Cathedral would be a bit much. Well, ok, maybe for cars going >40mph...
2015-11-19 19:27:02
Just wanted to respond to some comments about the driver in this crash. They are being charged criminally. 4 counts.
2015-11-19 20:21:30
courtney do you have a link to an article?
2015-11-19 20:44:30
No. Susan lived with me. I was told by her family earlier this week. I don't know all four of the charges, but one was vehicular manslaughter. I hope that is helpful to the discussion.
2015-11-19 21:15:36
@courtney thank you for posting what you know. I hope that the individual who was responsible for this is held accountable for their actions. condolences to you, I'm sorry.
2015-11-19 21:23:30
Wow. This is the most remarkable thing I've read on this message board.
2015-11-20 08:48:06
@courtney I'm so sorry. Thanks for letting us know.
2015-11-20 09:02:29
courtney, thanks so much for updating us. I'm so sorry for your loss. I hope some real change will occur as a result of this senseless act.
2015-11-20 09:09:54
Observations about the traffic lights in that area (made while I'm stopped on a cross-street): At some point in the cycle the Forbes lights at Bigelow, Schenley Park Ext, Bellefield and maybe Craig are all green. For a noticeable amount of time. I think it would be natural for a driver, approaching Bigelow from Bouquet, to see this as a straightaway and simply start speeding up. Maybe hoping (irrationally) to make it through all the lights in one shot. So we get speeding. What if the cycle were altered so that cars see something different? (Yes, timing traffic cycles is its own field and it's all more complicated. But maybe there's a workable solution.) I like that idea of sensors that trip when (any) car goes >25mph and cause the next lights to go red. This contingency could even be signed so people learn what they should do to avoid it. Maybe there's a way to fix that stretch without having to build stuff. [yes, I'm waiting for dinner to cook.]
2015-11-24 20:30:26
I love the solution to mitigate speeding by forcing a light change when speeding is detected. Put up lots of signs indicating this is what happens. People will stop wanting to speed. If enough people decide they don't want to speed, it will slow down the ones who want to by reducing their opportunities to speed. Seems like you could add that as a workable parameter on top of the Surtac system.
2015-11-25 10:35:07
I'm all for some sort of active sensor... the light timing, as is, doesn't work. It may work in an ideal scenario in which only one car is involved, but when you have a line and it takes a minute before everyone is going when the light changes from red to green, then the lights fall out of sync for a bunch of drivers. Those drivers in turn get frustrated and act aggressively. I don't think it's a need to see the road as a highway when a driver sees all the green lights, so much as a desire to get through the lights before they change... again, and again, and again. It's conditioning, in my opinion. Whatever approach is taken, it needs to be active instead of passive. It needs to be able to correct itself for variations in traffic patterns or else good intentions can easily turn into unintended responses. Traffic doesn't tend to respond as expected... so it would take a lot of tinkering to get right. I really like the idea of lights all turning red when an excessive speeder is detected. It's certainly a worthwhile idea, to a point. If only we had a world class university or two near by that could put students to work on such a scheme.
2015-11-27 00:06:21
I have a rant stewing about the whole Surtrac situation, but this is probably not the appropriate thread for it.
2015-11-27 09:42:09
Timed lights - if you go through a light that just turned red, you can speed for quite a bit before you start hitting red lights. Maybe we should consider paying people to enforce the law? Wouldn't that be unusual?
2015-11-28 00:18:25
But Pittsburgh is short on traffic cops (they're understaffed), and labor is expensive. As with many things, automation is the answer. At least an important part of the answer.
2015-11-28 15:10:10
Ultimately we want to get to where enforcement is not necessary because street design causes people (in cars, on bikes, on foot) to do the right thing, so that everyone is safe by default. We aren't there yet. What we need first is some sort of traffic calming measures so last-second veers into cars in adjacent lanes don't kill people. As just stated, we don't have the manpower to place cops at every corner, and even if we did, we're just plugging up the magisterial system with time consuming paperwork. I don't think strict enforcement is a viable option in the short term, either. Traffic lights cost a lot of money, easily a quarter million dollars. Retiming them runs into tens of thousands of dollars and months of time at the least, in figuring out what to do, getting the necessary clearances, and actually making it happen. If we want real results right away, we need to think outside the box. Implement my suggestion. I bet with the right help from the police, Mr. Bauman, and other bright minds, we could have a functional system in place in a matter of weeks.
2015-11-29 10:49:21
Apologies, but I have to rant for a sec. Why is it an article of faith that traffic lights, pedestrian signals, etc... are a mind boggling expense? I swear the more I hear that the stupider and more pathetic it sounds. A shielded system for switching between lights is trivially easy and nowadays programmability in a tiny form factor with tiny power consumption, using standard interfaces, and in standard programming languages is also dirt cheap. What is THE REAL PROBLEM here and can we kill it and move onto more interesting problems with a better toolset already?
2015-11-29 14:57:53
No need for faith...just read pricetags. One's personal definition of mind-boggling may vary, of course, but hard numbers (such as "$55K-$75K for a new pedestrian signal at a crosswalk" are easy to come by. See, for example, for various cost summaries. Interesting stuff, such as the cost of retiming averaging about $3000/intersection, or the cost of adding adaptive signal control being between $20K and $80K per intersection. (Adaptive signal control, wherein the timing of the lights changes dynamically based on demand, would seem pertinent to the discussion, effectively, what's being discussed is adding speed sensors and some logic to an adaptive signaling network.) I can't speak to what portion of those expenses is warranted, versus pork, bloat, kickbacks, etc. [ETA:] Also, costs for a new signal, rather than updating an existing one, range from $250K-$500K, per various sources (such as the Washington state DOT).
2015-11-29 15:57:27
There are definitely plausible looking starting points at in the low three digits not the low to mid 5 digits. Doubtless minus programmability, but that's so, so trivial now. Even if you have to hack it apart, spice a couple wires, maybe even run an extra wire between signals, for a quarter mill a pop? Stop making excuses and git r done. I mean, we're bringing the control software responsibility to CMU and SurTrac anyway. Why the hell couldn't we ask it to be built to a standard interface do with commodity hardware?
2015-11-29 16:22:44
cost of retiming averaging about $3000/intersection, or the cost of adding adaptive signal control being between $20K and $80K per intersection. Well, gosh; sounds like a lot. But maybe we should consider some context. What's the cost, per-incident, of services dealing with each dead (or dying, or crippled) pedestrian or cyclist? Don't forget to include the victim's lost productivity. I'll give you a pass on the pain-and-suffering; but feel free to add it in.
2015-11-29 17:04:09
@Ahlir: personally, I think a couple of grand to retime an intersection sounds like a frickin' bargain. Retiming the entirety of 5th Ave in Oakland for what, $30K? That's worth it just to TRY a new timing sequence, even if it turns out to suck and we need to revert. As far as an adaptive signal system goes, I don't know enough about them to have an opinion as to their value. But, if they can be demonstrated to improve matters, I'd advocate for ponying up the cash where it makes sense. @Byogman: I don't doubt that there are ways to economize. My point in introducing real numbers is to encourage people not to assume, as an article of faith, that change is simple and easy until proven otherwise. Without understanding the existing costs, it's not realistic to hand-wave them away.
2015-11-29 17:39:05
A lot of times people outside an industry look at the prices and say, why do things cost so much? And the reason usually is, you're only looking at a small part of the cost. For example, traffic lights have to be 100% reliable, basically, in all kinds of weather, for years; they probably have to pass legal certifications; and the city would have a lot to explain if they used a nonstandard, cheaper, design and there was an accident that could be attributed to it. The cost pressure just doesn't work the way you think it should.
2015-11-29 18:43:45
Remember, the prices of the equipment is but a part of the total cost. Other elements include engineering effort for design and detailed plans, installation labor, probably some reporting and housekeeping and approvals, modification of related equipment, testing, ... I don't know the relative costs for this sort of infrastructure, but my rule of thumb for home renovation and remodeling is that labor costs about as much as materials. Another example: If you want to put "bike route" signs up on the road, the cost isn't just the cost of the signs. You also need mounting hardware, often posts and concrete to set the posts, PennDOT approval of the sign design (count on two or three iterations), detailed plan of which signs and arrows go where, verification that the route is completely signed and signs are at the required distances from various things, approval of PennDOT and probably a local authority on sign placement, safety stuff to protect whoever's installing the sign, and salaries for all the people doing all those things. And maybe I forgot something. Heaven forfend that someone might decide you need a public meeting. So comparing alibaba quotes (which are probably just for equipment and perhaps not certified equipment) with DOT costs is apples and oranges. It also wouldn't surprise me if the alibaba quote was for a single component and numerous other components were required to actually make an installation.
2015-11-29 19:37:32
This is going to be my last post on this slightly afield subject, in this thread at least. If there's new real material let's start a new one. I'm just saying, what does anyone have evidence of that you're actually getting for that quarter mil plus that we know isn't buy-able commercially for small fractions of a penny on the dollar (via an order from Alibaba and a trip to radioshack). Software, sure, but that's something we're doing here. Anything else, really? Because navigating the bureaucracy and the labor to mount this thing properly isn't going to be a part of the quarter mil plus quote anyway. A lot goes unchallenged that should be challenged. Inertia is very powerful, rarely more so than in government. Perhaps that may be contractual arrangements, perhaps that may be which part of the process PennDOT or the city is prepared to own, perhaps that is a certification process and a tolerated monopoly or effective collusion facilitated by it, but the end result is awfully stupid and handicaps us in serious ways, ways that cost lives and ruin others (seriously, how many places need pedestrian signals and can't get them because of cost?). Someone should be made accountable to this disaster.
2015-11-29 22:33:48
I wrote a letter to Mayor Peduto at asking for followup on Susan Hicks' death. In particular I asked for the driver to be charged with involuntary manslaughter. It's been two and a half months and I've heard nothing (other than unconfirmed rumors). Perhaps others could write to the chief of police or to local newspapers?
2016-01-13 17:21:03
In case you're interested, this was my letter to Peduto: Why has the driver that killed Susan Hicks not yet been charged? Susan Hicks was killed on October 23 when she, on bicycle, and two cars stopped at a light on Forbes Ave were struck in a chain reaction collision. The car that struck them must have been traveling very fast to cause a chain reaction with the two other cars and a bicycle. This sounds like involuntary manslaughter, at least. The amazing turnout at the candlelight vigil the next day is a sign of the vulnerability that cyclists and pedestrians in Oakland feel about speeding cars. People that walk and bike in that area fear that the city will not stop the cars from speeding, that the city will not send a signal to other drivers that they need to slow down. Please take steps immediately to see that charges are brought against the driver that caused Susan Hicks' death!
2016-01-14 14:19:51
Paul, may I ask - isn't charging more in the District Attorney's portfolio than the mayor's? I don't think the mayor has line authority over charges unless the police dept files them at the scene, immediately at the time of the event.
2016-01-14 19:58:18
You're probably right, Vannevar.
2016-01-14 22:44:28
Echoing what Sully said... Big missed opportunity here to push a filtering law into the county legislature. Susan Hicks would not have been trapped had she filtered to the front of the light. Filtering is safer. California knows it, and most of Europe too?
2016-01-17 00:44:29
I think filtering is legal. At least, it's described in the PennDOT bicycle handbook
2016-01-17 08:20:50
There's an argument you can make that it's legal, based on that and some ambiguity in the way the law describes "lanes". It's not a great argument. Actual legislation would be much better. But I think it would need to be at the state level. As far as I know, the state doesn't delegate roadway rules like that to counties or cities.
2016-01-17 11:26:07
Anyway, while Susan Hicks wouldn't have been killed if she hadn't been caught between those cars, making rules based on how a particular accident could have been avoided isn't useful. In the case of the Susan Hicks death, suppose she'd been filtering forward at the point where the car that tried to merge into the lane collided with the car on the end. The result could be the same. Just because filtering would have helped in one scenario doesn't mean it would make us safer in general. Maybe there's a statistical argument that filtering makes us safer; but if there is I've never seen it. I do it, cautiously, in heavy traffic, because it saves time. I don't see how maneuvering along the sides of cars stopped in traffic is particularly safe.
2016-01-17 14:52:42
But I think it would need to be at the state level. As far as I know, the state doesn’t delegate roadway rules like that to counties or cities.
I don't think they're barred from legislating, it's just uncommon. i.e. NYC has outlawed rights on red, which doesn't carry anywhere else in the state.
Maybe there’s a statistical argument that filtering makes us safer; but if there is I’ve never seen it. I do it, cautiously, in heavy traffic, because it saves time. I don’t see how maneuvering along the sides of cars stopped in traffic is particularly safe.
There's been plenty of studies and statistics produced. Mostly in the motorcycle industry, given the higher usage as transport, but the dangers are the same. etc etc...keep Googling.
2016-01-23 15:17:03
An interesting perspective. I'd say one very important difference between bicycle filtering and motorcycle filtering is available acceleration. It's much easier to find useful opportunities on a bike, but you have a very low top end on acceleration and speed, so you really have to watch that that's consistent with the traffic you're setting yourself up to have to merge back into.
2016-01-23 21:04:51
I don't see the issue, try not to overthink it. If you're filtering, you're passing vehicles. If you come on a car and you're not gaining enough to pass it, then ease up and slot back in. Traffic doesn't go from 5 - 20 mph in a blink of the eye. If you're just riding between lanes when not filtering, then you might need to get your head checked. If the UK, champions of health and safety, can figure it out, I'm sure us in the Wild West can too.
2016-01-24 13:43:09
I'd just say aggressive tailgating and feelings of agreivement have, in my experience, occasionally, made for a more stressful experience than "ease up and slot back in" suggests, and I've limited filtering to more uniformly stalled traffic in response. YMMV. In those situations a motorcycle would not have been wonderful or anything, but it would have been better than the bicycle.
2016-01-25 09:13:29
I remember driving in California years ago and seeing the motorcycles filtering. I didn't know they were allowed to do that, at the time. I can see how filtering limits certain kinds of rear end collisions, and the statistics do suggest that might be true for motorcycles, but keep in mind that those particular accidents are pretty rare for bicyclists. Dooring is much more common, and filtering puts you in exactly the place where it is likely to occur. So I'm not convinced that encouraging it legally would make cyclists safer.
2016-01-25 09:35:57
As far as charges go, recall that it took a year for charges to happen on the killing around Swickley. Not surprised this is going to take forever too, if ever
2016-01-25 11:37:22
For what it's worth, motorcycle filtering is pretty routine around big cities. I've seen it for ages on the highways around New York and Paris. I've even seen bikes passing each other on the Paris ring road (yes, in between car lanes). The bikers even seem to get annoyed if you're not giving them enough room to get by... I see no issue with bicycle filtering. Of course, be careful.
2016-01-25 19:30:33
From yesterday's OPDC newsletter: Safe Oakland Streets for all The important bit of this is that they have created a web page with an overview of current projects in Oakland, and they plan to keep it updated (though I note that the Neville St committee is missing). Page at From the newsletter:
It's been four months since Susan Hicks, Carol Christine Williamson and Henry Walker died in tragic collisions in Oakland. During those months, many of you have called, emailed, and tweeted us asking one powerful question: "Is anyone going to do anything about this?" OPDC has compiled a comprehensive report of all the projects in the works to improve infrastructure for everyone who moves through Oakland. Some are massive undertaking that will take years to complete. Others are lower-hanging fruits that will bring small but meaningful improvements in the short term.
2016-03-16 09:16:01
Can't access that site from work. I do wonder what Pitt's position is on this, considering two of the individuals and their families were Pitt staff.
2016-03-16 10:15:19
> I do wonder what Pitt’s position is on this, considering two of individuals and their families were Pitt staff. We've got bike racks! (No, really. )
2016-03-16 10:27:34
Reminder: The Bike Pittsburgh/Traffic21 DIY Speed Monitoring workshop with @mbaumann is _tonight_, 6pm at CMU's Studio for Creative Inquiry (CFA 111). Folks from Open PGH will also be there to get started on a project with Traffic21 for improved data standards and reporting for ped/bike crashes and other concerns, and we're hoping to get a regular transportation-data meetup going. Also: the Susan Hicks Memorial Commute is this Friday, 5PM.
2016-03-22 15:35:11
The memorial commute was covered here: Listen to the last sentences of the video there. This is intolerable. It is not acceptable that a cyclist doing everything right gets killed by a speeding car and the investigation consists of a single sentence "according to police no charges will be filed since her death was ruled accidental" and the whole thing is swept under the rug. If it was due to recklessness and speeding then it wasn't an accident. I suggest that all Pittsburgh cyclists write to Stephen Zappala and local news media and demand that appropriate charges (involuntary manslaughter?) be brought against the driver. What if Zappala and the Post-Gazette got 100 letters and phone calls a day? Start here:
2016-03-30 00:32:43
Paul, that TV journalist is wrong. The police did their job and the case is now in the DA's office whose job it is to decide to prosecute or not. The police don't make those determinations. I would love to know who the journalist talked to at the police department who told her that. I heard from the DA's office and they told me that the case remains under review, but cannot divulge any more information without violating the Criminal History Record Information Act. We're very frustrated too, and we're doing what we can to make sure Susan and her family and the community get justice. But until the case is no longer under review and DA's office announces they are not prosecuting, there is still hope.
2016-03-30 15:29:43
Could BikePgh ask its members to call the Allegheny County district attorney's office to insist on justice in the Susan Hicks case? Judging by the near-spontaneous turnout of over 200 people at the Susan Hicks memorial event (in the rain), the day after she was killed, I'd guess that this is a cause many people would rally around. I've already written to Zappala, Peduto, and PG reporters asking them to do more followup on the Susan Hicks case. What if 25% of BikePgh members wrote personalized letters, also?
2016-03-30 15:56:05
I feel your frustration, but I don't think we're quite there yet, Paul. They are now in communication with us and have declared that they're still working on the case. When the communication stops and/or the case is closed without justice I would then cross that bridge. What I can promise you is that we're working on this with friends and family and will keep our members in the loop.
2016-03-30 16:08:19
@Scott What I can promise you is that we’re working on this with friends and family and will keep our members in the loop. Yes. Please.
2016-03-31 11:46:08 "David Witherspoon, 49, of Beltzhoover, is charged with homicide by vehicle in the death of Susan Hicks, 34, according to the affidavit of probable cause filed Friday. "... In addition to the charge of homicide by vehicle, Witherspoon is also charged with accidents involving death while not properly licensed, involuntary manslaughter, possession of a controlled substance, driving without a license, following too closely and careless driving."
2016-04-22 13:58:11
Congratulations to the people who worked on getting this to happen.
2016-04-22 14:15:58
Woah, they threw the book at him here. Lots of charges. Just for clarification, what vehicle was he driving?
2016-04-22 15:06:46
they found and smelled weed in his car and his pee was positive for synthetic THC. Also witnesses said he didn't even hit the brakes before the crash and there were no tire marks on the pavement. He was clearly impaired.
2016-04-22 16:10:45
...considering researchers don't use MVA anymore but MVC... Since truly nothing is an "accident."
2016-04-23 15:39:16
I worry that the outrage over this accident and the drugs involved will lead to it being a rather poor precedent for cases of drivers injuring or killing cyclists. Already it seems that there isn't reasoned analysis because of the drugs. For example, he did not have "synthetic marijuana". What he had is was another smokeable herb that has absolutely nothing to do with marijuana. This is important because it really does matter which one is involved here. The only similarity they have is that they're both plants. In the same way that not all pills have the same affect on the body, the same thing is true with smoked plants. It is a shame that nobody seems to care about the exact substance he may have been impaired by. Next, the presence of marijuana in the car shouldn't necessarily launch a lynch mob. It could be equivalent to having a six pack in the trunk. So far the reporting has been ambiguous, not indicating if it was the smell of smoked or unsmoked. Also, speeding. Was he speeding by the average amount or above and beyond the norm? Both should result in convictions but there is a difference. With that said, other reports on the guy's record suggests that he is probably an asshole that deserves jail time for accidentally killing a woman. In a way, i would have preferred if his sobriety was not under question and that he got sentenced anyway. With these other factors thrown in, it doesn't seem like our culture will be swayed toward making all drivers accountable for speeding, distracted driving, etc.
2016-04-25 12:02:28
I agree with the above person's concerns. I'm also suspicious about the speeding aspect, as my sources told me the driver actually wasn't speeding. Which makes a HUGE case for a bike lane. Regardless, the end result is that this loss of life could have been prevented if Susan was not in the same lane as cars.
2016-04-25 15:18:43
Beltzhoover man to stand trial for causing fatal accident A Beltzhoover man accused of causing a chain-reaction crash last year that killed a bicyclist in Oakland will stand trial on charges including homicide by vehicle and involuntary manslaughter. David Witherspoon Wednesday waived his right to a preliminary hearing in City Court, Downtown.
2016-07-14 08:54:44
As an aside, the Pittsburgh police officer recently killed on a motorcycle was killed in the same manner as Susan Hicks, hit from behind, crushed against the vehicle in front. The writing in this story is completely incompetent, begins by saying her motorcycle "collided" with the vehicle in front, eventually gets around to mentioning that she was struck from behind. Also uses the term "accident". Also feels it necessary to point out she was wearing a helmet. What bullshit, this writer needs to have their fingers broken. What the hell is wrong with people? That is rhetorical.
2016-07-19 11:18:30
There was a nice remembrance of Susan Hicks in a University of Pittsburgh newsletter: excerpt: As a cultural anthropologist, Susan conducted her research by living among the people she was studying, and for her, this meant long stretches of time in Siberia, specifically, in Russia's Sakha Republic. Susan already spoke Russian fluently, but to really integrate herself into the indigenous community, she also became one of the very few non-native speakers of Sakha. As a colleague from Yakutia wrote after hearing of Susan's tragic death, “All of Siberia is crying. Susan was ours; our ambassador to the West.” There are not many 30-something Americans who have spent years living and studying in Siberia and who translated those experiences into a professional career in academia, developing and leading study abroad programs and serving as adviser to undergraduate and graduate students studying Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union. Susan was a truly unique individual.
2017-01-30 13:11:19
Carrick man pleads guilty in crash that killed Pitt professor Witherspoon, of Carrick, pleaded guilty to one count each of accidents involving death while not properly licensed, involuntary manslaughter, two counts of possession of a controlled substance and three summary citations. Common Pleas Judge David Cashman scheduled sentencing for May 18.
2017-02-22 08:40:21
The man who killed Susan was sentenced today. Word is he got 4.5 - 9 years plus probation
2017-05-18 13:20:08
Update: 3.5 to 7 years for one charge. 1.5 to 3 for the other. Which means he'll be serving 5 to 10 years plus 3 years probation
2017-05-18 13:23:07
I was just alerted not to read the comments section on these articles.
2017-05-18 14:33:46
Hey All- It's been two years. Lots has changed, lots more change on the way. The Friends and Family of Susan Hicks want to get together next Monday, Oct 23 to remember Susan, acknowledge all that's been done, and go on a short ride to the Butterjoint for the traditional toast. We’ll be gathering at the Susan Hicks Ghost Bike on Forbes Ave (between Bigelow and Bellefield), followed by a short program. Invited officials include: PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards, State Rep Dan Frankel’s office, Mayor Bill Peduto’s office, Councilman Dan Gilman, and staff from the Office of Mobility and Infrastructure. Following the event, join us for a short bike ride to the Butterjoint (214 N Craig St) for mingling and a toast to Susan Hicks. Monday, October 23, 2017 at 4:30pm Susan Hicks Ghost Bike Memorial on Forbes Ave, between Bellefield and Bigelow Proceeds from a Susan Hicks inspired cocktail will be donated to the Susan Hicks Memorial Fund. Sponsored by Friends of Susan Hicks (FOSH) and BikePGH. More info here.  
2017-10-13 14:14:41