Thursday, August 30, 2007
by Gregg Easterbrook, in the Los Angeles Times - August 5, 2007
Suppose 245,000 americans had died in terrorist attacks since Sept.
11, 2001. The United States would be beside itself, utterly gripped
by a sense of national emergency. Political leaders would speak of
nothing else, the United States military would stand at maximum
readiness, and the White House would vow not to rest until the danger
to Americans had been utterly eradicated.
Yet 245,000 Americans have died because of one specific threat since
9/11, and no one seems to care. While the tragedy of 3,000 lives lost
on 9/11 has justified two wars, in which thousands of U.S. soldiers
made the ultimate sacrifice, the tragedy of 245,000 lives lost in
traffic accidents on the nation's roads during the same period has
justified . . . pretty much no response at all. Terrorism is on the
front page day in and day out, but the media rarely even mention road
deaths. A few days ago, the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration announced that 42,642 Americans died in traffic in
2006. Did you hear this reported anywhere?
This phenomenon is not just American, it is global. Traffic deaths
are the fastest-rising cause of death in the world. Yet you've heard
far more about H5N1 avian influenza, which has killed 192 people
worldwide since being detected five years ago, than about the 6
million people who have died in traffic accidents in the same period.
Last year alone, 1.2 million people were killed on the world's roads,
versus about 100,000 dead as a result of combat. The last decade is
believed to be the first time in history that roads posed a greater
danger to human beings than fighting (which is partly a reflection of
the decline of war).
Global prosperity is rising fast, which means that global car
ownership is rising fast, and both of those things are good -- but
they also mean that global traffic deaths are rising as well.
Worldwide, traffic deaths look exactly like a pandemic -- increasing
in most nations, with local rapid spikes.
Two forces seem at play in skewed perceptions of these risks. The
first is the fundamental difference between harm because of accidents
and harm because of deliberate action; the second, society's strange
assumption that traffic fatalities cannot be avoided.
The loss of life caused by terrorism on 9/11 -- or similar losses in
other acts of terror or war -- has a wholly different moral standing
than loss of life in accidents. Terrorists are criminals whose intent
is homicide. Those who act illegally or immorally must be opposed
even if that means engaging in complex, expensive, perilous
undertakings, as the United States has since the darkness of 9/11. A
life lost in a traffic accident is very sad, but it does not involve
an offense against morality or human dignity. Most traffic accidents
are just that -- accidents. In that sense, it may be reasonable that
3,000 deaths because of terrorism have a disproportionate effect on
Next, cars and trucks possess utility. They are vital to our economy
and to our personal freedom. Having millions of cars and trucks
roaring every which way is necessary for the American economy to be
so productive. Environmental Protection Agency figures show that, in
the last three decades, vehicle-miles traveled have risen 170% in the
United States. Some of this may be unnecessary, but most vehicle-
miles happen because they serve someone's interest. If the use of
cars were restricted, accidents would certainly decline, but so would
economic productivity and personal freedom.
Here's where the big faults in our thinking come into play. Do the
media downplay road dangers in part because the auto industry is the
No. 1 advertiser on TV and among the top advertisers for newspapers?
Detroit would much rather Brian Williams or Katie Couric titter about
Paris Hilton, or the L.A. Times feature articles on Waziristan, than
hear about 42,642 dead on the roads last year.
Typical Americans are to blame as well. Because we don't want to
contemplate dying in a car crash, we seem to assume that highway
fatalities cannot be reduced, that they fall into the "stuff happens"
category. This isn't so. Risks of driving or of crossing the street
-- each year more pedestrians die in the United States than the death
toll of 9/11 -- could be reduced significantly without any sacrifice
of freedom by car owners.
Relative to passenger-miles traveled, traffic fatalities have
declined in the United States owing to anti-lock brakes, air bags,
impact engineering (a hidden safety feature of most new vehicles) and
the big rise in shoulder-harness use (your seat belt is much more
important to safety than air bags). Tougher laws and social awareness
have reduced drunk driving. Yet fatalities per mile traveled have not
fallen as much as might be expected given improved technology and
less alcohol-impaired driving. There appear to be two key reasons:
cellphones and horsepower.
Driving while yakking may seem harmless to you, but try telling that
to the loved ones of the hundreds or even thousands who die each year
in totally avoidable phone-related accidents. Holding a cellphone
while driving will become illegal in California in 2008. But the odds
of getting stopped are slight. Automated cameras now issue speeding
tickets; why can't they issue tickets to owners of cars photographed
with a driver using a phone?
Another idea is to pass laws under which, if a driver is on the phone
at the moment of a crash, he or she is presumed to be at fault. It is
well past time for legislatures to stop waffling on this issue and
take action. People make phone calls while driving because they know
they can get away with it. This is more important than human life?
The ever-rising horsepower of cars, SUVs and pickup trucks is another
reason road fatalities stay high. Twenty years ago, the average new
passenger vehicle had 119 horsepower and went from zero to 60 in 13
seconds; this year's averages are 220 horsepower and zero to 60 in
9.5 seconds. New cars, SUVs and pickup trucks of this model year are
the "fastest and most powerful vehicles since the EPA began compiling
data," the federal agency recently said. Even many new family sedans
are ridiculously overpowered. Car & Driver magazine recently tested
the new, 268-horsepower Toyota Camry: It did zero to 60 in 5.8
seconds, which was Corvette acceleration a generation ago.
Cars with high horsepower and rapid acceleration are easy to lose
control of, especially for young drivers. Tap the accelerator in a
tight curve for just an instant in that Camry -- to say nothing of
socially irresponsible monstrosities such as the 520-horsepower
Porsche Cayenne SUV -- and you can lose control. High-horsepower cars
enable cutting off and other forms of aggressive driving; cutting off
and sudden lane changes are leading causes of highway collisions. A
generation ago, a small percentage of American drivers had high-
horsepower vehicles. Now the majority do! Is it a coincidence that
road rage and high horsepower have occurred simultaneously? High
horsepower makes road rage possible, which in turn adds to the death
The proliferation of high horsepower cars is doubly wrong because it
links to ever-rising petroleum use and greenhouse gases. Automakers
have significantly increased powertrain efficiency in the last 20
years -- but the gains have gone into horsepower, not fuel
efficiency. Other things being equal, if new-vehicle horsepower were
reduced by one-third, miles per gallon would rise by one-third. One
decade of sales of new vehicles with one-third higher horsepower
accounts for the amount of oil the United States imports from the
Persian Gulf region. Reduce horsepower by a third and end U.S.
Persian Gulf oil dependence. Yes, it's that simple. If only we'd
actually do it!
Because horsepower is an arms race -- if one automaker offers more,
all must -- federal legislation to limit horsepower would offer a
good-news trifecta: Higher mpg, reduced greenhouse-gas emissions and
lower road fatalities as average motorists stop acting like they're
at a NASCAR track.
Why doesn't Congress act to end the horsepower wars? Please don't
counter that "no one can tell me what I can drive." The Constitution
says you've got a right to own a gun and to read a newspaper.
Firearms and materials related to 1st Amendment expression are the
only categories of possessions given protected status by the
Constitution; courts consistently rule that vehicles on public roads
can be regulated for public purposes such as safety.
Horsepower regulation and serious enforcement against cellphone use
while driving might save thousands of lives a year. Such reforms
might also prevent many billions of dollars in economic losses and
make a big dent in the other road-danger figure no one talks about --
2.6 million Americans injured in traffic crashes last year.
Other reforms, such as pedestrian-activated warning lights at
crosswalks, could also reduce traffic deaths in the United States.
Numerous reforms could reduce traffic deaths in developing countries.
As a nation, we find common ground in agreeing that even one death
from terrorism cannot be tolerated. Why are tens of thousands of
annual road deaths OK?
* Gregg Easterbrook is a fellow of the Brookings Institution and author
of "The Progress Paradox." Lauren Hovel of Barnard College provided
research assistance for this article.
is a fellow of the Brookings Institution and author of "The Progress Paradox."
Lauren Hovel of Barnard College provided research assistance for this article.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Click here for details
Thank you Bay Area Commuter Services for adding students to the program!
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Monday, August 20, 2007
Transportation Secretary Mary Peters talks about infrastructure problems and travel initiatives.
Peters cited "bicycle paths" as a prime example of the waste
Last night on the PBS NewsHour with Jim Leher, DOT Secretary Mary Peters was interviewed by Gwen Ifill. Peters, when asked about a possible gas tax increase, repeated President Bush's response - No, there can be no tax increase because Congress is wasting the money they already get. Peters cited "bicycle paths" as a prime example of the waste because bicycles are not a transportation use of the gas tax money. It is disappointing that the administration is attacking Jim Oberstar for his efforts to get the Minneapolis bridge repaired along with raising all the funding for transportation maintenance, by using Oberstar's support for bicycles as a weapon.The League of American Bicyclists feels strongly that this should not go without a response and we have sent a letter to Secretary Peters voicing our view. Click here to view our response. For those of you who feel strongly about bicycling issues, we would also urge you to contact the Secretary to share your personal viewpoints.To view a copy of the program click here
Thursday, August 16, 2007
MARY PETERS: Well, there's about probably some 10 percent to 20 percent of the current spending that is going to projects that really are not transportation, directly transportation-related. Some of that money is being spent on things, as I said earlier, like bike paths or trails. Some is being spent on museums, on restoring lighthouses, as I indicated.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
From the Executive Summary:
. . . . . . the purposes of the Conserve by Bicycle Program are to:
• conserve energy by increasing the number of miles ridden on bicycles and
reducing the usage of petroleum-based fuels,
• increase cycling efficiency by improving interconnectivity of roadways, transit,
and bicycle facilities,
• reduce traffic congestion on existing roads,
• increase recreational opportunities in Florida,
• provide healthy transportation and recreation alternatives to reduce obesity and
decrease long-term health costs, and
• create safe ways for children to travel to school by supporting the Safe Paths to
Check out the full report at:
Monday, August 13, 2007
H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Institute
I started commuting by bicycle two months ago. I live in Temple Terrace and work at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Institute as a Research Administrator. My ride covers mostly neighborhood streets and this makes for very nice morning and afternoon commuting. I started riding instead of driving to save money on gas, wear and tear on my car and for the health benefits of weight loss. I have lost 10 pounds so far! I am also a member of Tampa BayCycle’s Elite 100, and I successfully recruited 10 people who tried cycling during the month of May.
I got into cycling by trail riding on the weekends, and I currently own two mountain bikes. Along with other coworkers, we are trying to help Moffitt have a greater awareness of employees who commute by bicycle to work. We have access to showers at work; so by the time I get to my desk, my coworkers are completely unaware that I rode my bike to work. I bike about 75 miles a week, that’s 60 during the week back and forth to work, and then trail riding on the weekends is around 15 miles.
So far, my commute has been easy. I carry an extra tube, portable pump and a multi-tool just in case I need to change a tire or make small adjustments. I did have a driver harass me from their car at the same spot on my route each day, so I take another route to avoid this driver. Some people tell me its great and some tell me I’m crazy. It’s just something that you get up every morning and do, just like getting in your car to go to work. The best thing that I have learned is to take command of my lane. I noticed that when I do this, drivers respect my space on the road.
I’ve noticed that since I have been bicycle commuting my stress level has gone down. Even when it rains and I’m on my bike, I am not as stressed as when I’m in the car and it’s raining. I’m sure part of it has to do with the fact that my commute is mostly on neighborhood streets, but it’s nice to enjoy the commute to and from work.
I do wish that there were public service announcements or newspaper ads making drivers aware of the fact that there are bicyclists on the road. Drivers should acknowledge and respect the fact that especially during the week, bicyclist are only trying to do the same thing – get to work or home from work and that the same traffic rules apply. Bicycles do belong.
Monday, August 6, 2007
By a vote of 221-189, the House passed H.R. 2776, the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2007. The Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2007 would accelerate the use of clean domestic renewable energy sources and alternative fuels. The bill provides longterm tax incentives encouraging the production of electricity from renewable energy - including energy derived from wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, river currents, ocean tides, landfill gas, and trash combustion resources. The bill also provides tax incentives for the production of renewable fuels such as cellulosic alcohol, biodiesel and renewable diesel.
To pay for these renewable energy and conservation incentives, the bill repeals approximately $16 billion in tax breaks for oil and gas companies that were given during an era of record profits. To ensure that oil and gas companies are paying their fair share of taxes, it closes a tax loophole that allows big oil and gas companies to game the system by understating their foreign oil and gas extraction income. It also closes the “Hummer” Tax Loophole, fixing a serious mistake that provides an extra tax incentive for businesses buying luxury SUVs, while exempting vehicles that are used for legitimate business purposes.
Sunday, August 5, 2007
*OVERTAKING AND PASSING A VEHICLE
[§§316.083, 316.085, & 366.0875]
The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle
proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the
left thereof at a safe distance and shall not again
drive to the right side of the roadway until safely
clear of the overtaken vehicle. A driver overtaking a
bicycle must maintain a horizontal clearance of at
least 3 feet [§316.083]. Three feet is a minimum
"safe distance" for passing a cyclist under typical
urban conditions; when the passing vehicle is large,
towing a trailer, or traveling at much higher speed,
greater lateral clearance is needed.
No vehicle shall be driven to the left side of the center
of the roadway in overtaking and passing another
vehicle proceeding in the same direction unless
the left side is clearly visible and free of oncoming
traffic for a sufficient distance ahead to permit passing
to be made without interfering with the operation
of any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction.
In every event an overtaking vehicle must
return to an authorized lane of travel as soon as
practicable and, in the event the passing movement
involves the use of a lane authorized for vehicles
approaching from the opposite direction, before
coming within 200 feet of any approaching vehicle
The prohibition of passing in a no-passing zone
does not apply when an obstruction exists making it
necessary to drive to the left of the center of the
highway [§316.0875(3)]. Thus, when a cyclist is
traveling so slowly as to constitute an "obstruction,"
a motorist may cross the center line in a no-passing
zone to pass the cyclist if the way is clear to do so,
i.e., when it can be seen that any oncoming traffic is
far enough ahead that the motorist could finish
passing before coming within 200 feet of an oncoming
About 1 percent of bicycle-motor vehicle crashes
involve motorists who misjudge the width or
length necessary to pass a cyclist. Close passing
causes some cyclists to "hug the curb," or
ride on the sidewalk, where crash risk actually