A cold day today. For the first time this year it feels like a typical New England winter. Of course, this means that if you need to get anywhere, you should probably drive. Roads always get plowing priority in America and bike lanes or sidewalks are now used for snow storage.
If you've driven to work today, chances are you were sitting inside your comfortable, over-sized SUV, starring at a large infotainment screen on your dashboard. Before work you wanted to grab a cup of coffee at your favorite cafe but there was no place to park your truck, err... I mean, car. Most parking spots were gone since they put that stupid bike lane there and the only ones left were too small for your new SUV. You gave up on coffee and drove straight to your office instead, bitching on the way that "Whoopi Goldberg was right and this city is going to hell".
Apparently, that's what some New Yorkers thought as well posting these home-made signs in the middle of street and announcing that now bike lane on 12th Street is cancelled because it "only benefits other people".
I see. So whoever posted these signs is trying to tell us that since he/she doesn't use bike lanes, they are not needed. Great! Now we can officially "cancel" all senior centers, retirement homes and baseball stadiums - it's because I don't have any use of these facilities and they "only benefit other people".
This is exactly the kind of antisocial behavior we have to daily deal with here in the United States. It's always about "me" and not "us". This is why we don't have good public transport, national health care, public kindergartens, etc. Basically we are acting like a bunch of selfish idiots on a desert island.
But at least we have something great. I mean, literally great - giant cars.
During the last 4 years SUVs have surpassed sedans as the best-selling vehicles. Essentially, what we have now is "autobesity epidemic" in this country.
You may think - "So what? These cars are safer, right?" Well, they are - but only for those inside. For everyone else, large and heavy SUVs are just much more dangerous. If you're a driver of a small sedan you are unlikely to survive a collision with giant SUV or a pick-up truck. The difference in mass and kinetic energy is substantial so your logical decision is to buy a SUV as well. This leads to an "arms race" and soon everyone will be driving large SUVs around.
Unfortunately, things look even worse if you like to walk or ride your bike instead. That's because big cars kill. The hoods are so much higher above the ground, compared to a small sedan that drivers simply can't see anything right in front of their cars.
Not only does that Ram 3500 have a front end higher than my head, it has a 750 watt sound system, noise cancellation and special acoustic glass so the driver will never hear me scream. https://t.co/U7rrDjJiLE pic.twitter.com/5PnT488aKY— Lloyd Alter (@lloydalter) January 15, 2019
These problems are evident in numbers. Here's a couple of charts I stole (or borrowed) from Peter Flax's Twitter. As you can see, "between 2010 and 2016, the number of US pedestrians killed by cars went up a staggering 39%":
Which can be attributed to more and more large cars (SUVs and similar) being sold.
Of course, that's not the only reason why more Americans drive in traffic collisions. Driver's distraction is certainly another factor. It's not the news anymore that drivers look at their cell phone screens more than they look at the road ahead. And if they drive a giant car, they might not even know they hit you. When they do - they will just drive away and issue some ridiculous apology later on.
But it gets worse. As we have seen on the last Consumer Electronics Show, car manufacturers plan a very bright future for us. It's going to be bright from all those screens placed in front of drivers eyes. Apparently, car makers think that today's drivers are still not distracted enough with their cell phones and it's perfectly acceptable to place a widescreen TV on the dashboard and an iPad on the steering wheel.
Byton's prototype for the "dashboard of the future".
I hope something like this will never become legal but on the other hand, I'd be fine with it, but only if these screens were disabled when car is moving, when cars finally come with systems that disable cell phones inside moving vehicle and when cars would automatically slow down to 10mph when you take your eyes off the road.
Unfortunately, I realize that's not what most people would want to buy. Instead, we are entering a post-jaywalking era, when pedestrians would not necessarily be blamed for just crossing the street, but for either "distracted walking" or... not wearing appropriate sensors!
This was a big news at CES too - something called C-V2X technology that makes vehicles smarter. It allows cars to communicate with each other, possibly avoiding collisions. Sounds good? Maybe. The problem is - pedestrians, bicyclists and dogs do not have built-in C-V2X sensors and that would make them invisible to these automated cars.
C-V2X technology sounds good on paper. Cars will automatically detect other cars and road users and initiate avoidance. But reality is that anyone who tries to cross the street or ride a bike without a device—like kids, old folks, poor people—will be blamed for their own death. pic.twitter.com/0eYQBB6YPF— Peter Flax (@Pflax1) January 11, 2019
While it may look bad now when media is reporting that a cyclist hit by a truck wasn't wearing a helmet (thus implying victim's fault), soon we may see reports that "pedestrian wasn't wearing a C-V2X sensor" and that wasn't driver's fault even though he was playing Fortnite on his steering wheel-mounted iPad.
I certainly hope that's not what the future really brings.Come on kids, stay visible out there. pic.twitter.com/bFoxMCzzqk— Tom Flood (@tomflood1) October 30, 2018