Friday, May 19, 2017

You are a terrorist and you don't even know about it

It's the Bike To Work Day today and I somehow managed to do it for the first time in years. For some reason, in the past several years I always missed this event, but it didn't bother me much, as I ride on the other 364 days of the year anyway.

It's been an eventful week. The spring is in full swing, which means that trees just erupted producing tons of pollen leading to my sneezing, itching and aching for the last few days. 

Then it got worse. It's 75F (24C) early in the morning only to get much, much hotter (over 90F) later in the day. At this point I'm close to park my bike and hide in a fridge. Knock on the door when September is here.

What else happened this week? Oh yes, several new scandals in the White House, but that's nothing new. Our president is busy doing the right thing - fighting terrorism. Unfortunately, the focus is in a wrong place. There is a real terror happening on our streets and no one gives a damn about it. In fact, you (or someone you know) are likely a terrorist. You just don't think about it.
Just an accident, "not terrorism" so nothing to worry about. (CBS News)

Yesterday a driver (with multiple earlier DUIs) mowed the crowd in Times Square, killing 1 and injuring 22 pedestrians. Press quickly reported it wasn't an "act of terrorism" so everything is fine. Just a normal day in America, right? A cost of our way of life.

On the same day an 8-year old boy was ran over by an inattentive driver in Wellesley's school parking lot and taken to hospital with severe injuries. Seems like the parent was rushing to drop kids off and get to work. Yet another example of "not terrorism" that happens every day.

School zones are "a total madhouse" anyway. It's a problem we created with bad road design, lack of public transport and no bike lanes. My solution was simple - large "no car zone" around every elementary school in the country. Kids (and parents) have legs - they can walk.

So there you go. People drive, people die. Unfortunately, the dead ones are mostly the least protected ones - pedestrians and cyclists. They're being killed daily by terrorists in cars. 

Nothing will change until we recognize the problem and our politicians fail to do so. Marty Walsh, Mayor of Boston, said recently that pedestrians and cyclists share the blame of accidents. According to him,
"You’ve got to understand, cars are going to hit you."
You see, it's that simple. Either you can join the terrorists in cars or be stupid and try to walk or bike. Just don't complain when you get hit by a car. Oops, it happens.

That was yesterday. Today, since it's the Bike To Work Day and after a huge public outrage, our Mayor decided to fix the damage slightly and "announced a commitment to increase Boston's Vision Zero investment by $1 million" in 2018. Sounds good but I don't believe it until I see it working. You see, Vision Zero has been a great talking point for most politicians - it's a great idea that can win them many supporters without doing nothing (but talking).

Implementing it, however, is a completely different animal and no one says it's going to be easy. Take protected bike lanes, for example. In New York, they are a source of chaos. Apparently, in eyes of terrorists, err... I mean, drivers, bike lanes lead to traffic headaches. I think that's probably because it hurts them to see cyclists just riding by, when they are stuck in their own traffic.

With over 30,000 Americans dying each year on roads, traffic collisions are much deadlier than terrorism. Now, what are we going to do about it?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A boring solution

"musking" - the depositing of musk for scent marking by badgers and similar animals. (Oxford Dictionary)
Elon Musk, who is aspiring to become a visionary, technological leader Steve Jobs once was, is leaving his "musk" all over the place.

First, he manufactured some nice, electric Tesla cars and attempted to solve home power issues with Powerwall, then focused on electrification of other means of transport such as trucks and buses, only to finish with The Boring Company that would bring us underground tunnels as the ultimate solution to our traffic problems.

But it worries me that he's exerting his energy in wrong places. As much as cool-looking and technologically-advanced Tesla cars may be, electric cars won't solve any congestion problems because of this:
What Musk fails to notice is that any new solution he envisions still supports to the old "one person per car" policy and as such, requires far too much of precious road space than available. It doesn't matter if his car is electric, autonomous, or travels underground on a 124mph "skate". As long as it only transports one person per vehicle, it's wasteful, pointless and far worse than the old XIX century invention - rail.

Sorry Elon, but space for cars in our cities is severely limited and drilling tunnels underground is not going to change it. It would be far more efficient to build a real high-speed rail between Boston and Washington D.C. that could carry millions of passengers a year, connecting all major cities on the way, than building tunnels for high-speed electric cars.

The only thing I truly like about his idea of tunnels is that they put cars underground. That's a great way of giving streets back to people. And when we already bury our metal boxes deep under, let's just keep them there. At least within the city limits.