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Archive for August, 2009

links for 2009-08-18

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Matthew Yglesias suggests that pervasive traffic-law breaking by both bicycles and automobiles is partly attributable to an excess of rules including (but not necessarily limited to) overuse of traffic-control devices.  Ryan Avent stakes out a better position in suggesting that traffic control properly should be aimed at restricting the behavior of the potentially most-dangerous vehicles on the road, i.e. automobiles.

In this light, the primary fault is in subjecting bikes and autos to the same traffic controls.  Particularly in urban and suburban areas, much automobile control is largely for the purpose of “traffic calming,” e.g. impeding traffic via quasi-random stop signs, speed humps, lane narrowing, and the like, so that drivers are discouraged from barreling down 25 mph residential streets at 40.  That’s rarely an issue for bike traffic.  In fact, if a car slowly rolls through a stop sign installed for calming purposes, as often happens, the driver really isn’t grossly violating the spirit of the sign; the snooty spandex-clad cyclist who just rolls on through even less so — though in either case, this argument should not be expected to win the day with a traffic cop.  Nevertheless, being prepared to yield the right-of-way is more important in many cases than coming to a complete stop.

Less-restrictive controls for bikes are an option.  Indeed, along the heavily-trafficked Southwest Path in Madison, the city replaced stop signs with yield signs at some campus-vicinity intersections where the path carries more traffic than the cross streets.  On shared streets, setting separate controls for bikes and cars is not beyond comprehension; for example, it’s already present where streets are marked as dead-ending for cars but not for bikes and peds.

More broadly, being assigned the rights and responsibilities of automobiles is a mixed blessing for cyclists.  Merely having a right to the road is fine for a (small) segment of the cycling population, but not having to live with auto-centric traffic engineering is better.

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links for 2009-08-17

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The headline of this post would be as useful as the actual headline for a round of USA Today/Gallup polling on the effect of the economic stimulus package, headlined as “57% don’t see stimulus working.”

In fact, a 41% plurality thinks the stimulus has helped (right answer!) and a minority of the 57% thinks the stimulus has actually hurt.  The 33% who see no effect have what’s probably the right answer for people answering the question based on their own personal econometers, and the 24 percent is roughly of the magnitude of the scarily large minority who thought George W. Bush did a bang-up job.  Insofar as the last group has been aggressively fed with anti-stimulus messages via conservative politicians and right-wing media (e.g.), not to mention much hand-wringing on deficits from “sensible” deficit-hawk moderates, the negative views are not that impressive.

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links for 2009-08-15

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links for 2009-08-14

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links for 2009-08-13

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links for 2009-08-12

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links for 2009-08-11

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links for 2009-08-10

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