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Old 09-12-08, 08:03 AM   #1
DougG
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"Traffic" Book

I was thinking of posting this in the A&S section, but why start yet another flame war? I am reading the recent book "Traffic" by Tom Vanderbilt, and find that it has a lot of info in it that cyclists would find interesting. Cyclists are mentioned specifically in a number of places, and in other places the things he points out are applicable to cycles as well as cars.

The book goes into the psychology, physiology, etc. of roads and traffic conditions, and tries to explain a number of seeming contradictions, such as why the most dangerous roads may actually be the safest (the safer they make a road, the faster people tend to drive on it, and have more accidents).

Anyway, there are more interesting examples and anecdotes than I could number here. It's a fairly fast read and highly recommended for anyone that uses the public roads: cars, cyclists, or even pedestrians (as in more people get hit in legal crosswalks than when jaywalking, because jaywalkers pay closer attention to the traffic).
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Old 09-14-08, 04:36 AM   #2
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I thought this book was great. (I bought it for $10 and read it on my Amazon Kindle.) It was fascinating, and very relevant to cyclists as well as motorists. Lots of good anecdotes, but it also summarizes the best studies. (Who knew they spent so much time studying all this stuff?) It is quite up-to-date, including info on the recent study by the guy who tried to find out if cars passed closer if you were wearing a helmet or not (or were trying to pass as a woman by wearing a wig!)

It's a bit discouraging though. The more money they spend to improve things, the worse they get. The more you try "logical" or "common-sense" solutions you find out they have bad unintended consequences. One of the most interesting books I've read in a long time.
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Old 09-14-08, 07:10 AM   #3
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Thanks for reminding me to add this to my hold list at the library. I read the reviews when it was published, and never added it to my list.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DougG View Post
more people get hit in legal crosswalks than when jaywalking, because jaywalkers pay closer attention to the traffic).
I disagree with that conclusion. I've been car-free since 1999. For the first seven years I did it by bus and on foot.

Crosswalks are almost always at intersections. All users have multiple directions to check for traffic. Few do. For example, right-on-red drivers tend to look only to the left, and seldom check to their right--the crosswalk.

I learned to ALWAYS cross mid-block. There are only two directions to check, thus, only half the traffic to contend with, which automatically reduces accident potential by 50%. Further, when I pop out into the road, drivers notice, because I'm not "supposed" to be there. As with cycling, drivers who see you are considerably less likely to hit you.
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Old 09-14-08, 08:35 AM   #4
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... All users have multiple directions to check for traffic. Few do.
I learned to ALWAYS cross mid-block...
Great point!

I've started doing this, but only selectively, when I deem that the particular intersection has more than the usual level of danger...

case in illustration: after numerous drag-racing related deaths, a relatively quiet, wide, long straightaway in a residential area was reworked by the city traffic division to have two pinched roundabouts and reduced shoulders to replace intersections which only had stop signs on the sidestreets. The result is that commuting motorists and bicyclists can no longer safely co-exist on this formerly safe bike commuting route. After this change, mid-block crossing here is far more safe, that is, until I get killed by an invisible Prius. Gotta learn to not expect cars to be audible! Also have to get a good helmet mounted mirror.
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Old 09-14-08, 08:46 AM   #5
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I'm with the police at a major university, and we have several signal-protected crosswalks between the dorm area and main campus.
We watch the kiddies cross these intersections every day, and there seem to be several types.
First, the ones who blithely believe that they are invincible, and simply walk across the intersection with their nose in a book and IPods in their ears.
Then, the ones who are somewhat observant, but pay no attention to the signals whatever.
Finally, those that actually try to use the signals to their advantage.

Being in police work, I have a healthy respect for the lunatics that drive cars, and never trust anyone!
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Old 09-14-08, 01:04 PM   #6
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Similar topic, I have noticed lately that more and more cars would rather try to squeeze between me and oncoming traffic that slow down to let traffic clear, and that more and more cars coming to a stop sign will run the stop sign ,even speeding up, rather than have to wait for me and my bike to get past them. My take, people are too damn busy to let anything get in their way, too rude to give a crap how they act, and too self important to think they should ever yield to anyone, especially a bicyclist.

Hows the traffic book see things as far a general social attitude?
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Old 09-14-08, 02:30 PM   #7
John E
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Quote:
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... I learned to ALWAYS cross mid-block. ...
Tell that to the judge. I happen to concur with you, and my favorite place to cross a divided highway with a nice wide median is between intersections, but I have to do so somewhat furtively. My understanding of California law is that anti-jaywalking laws are written to apply to urban situations and to forbid crossing between two signal- or stop-controlled intersections, but what about a divided prime arterial in which the intersections are a km or so apart?

I do know a local cyclist who prefers to be on the controlled street at a two-way stop sign, rather than on the through street, because the onus is completely on him to cross only when it is safe to do so, without having to assume that a motorist will honor a stop sign.
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