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  1.  

    Jamison Wieser

    I live in San Francisco and visit Seattle, staying in Capitol Hill 3-4 times a year. Most my friends up there drive or Uber to get around. During my last visit in June for Pride Weekend I had a few opportunities to ask friends what they thought.

    First and foremost my takeaway was frustration from all the traffic changes that were happening almost daily. That’s not just the broadway bike lanes, that’s the streetcar line, Capitol Hill Station construction, every other traffic and transit project going on within 20 miles, and a building boom that has this ally or that shut down at some random day or time.

    I have a particularly insightful friend thought that drivers were being sent mixed signals: at the crosswalks drivers are supposed to stay out of the green, but mid-block the green marks the driveways where motorists should be driving over. He understood the logic, but it was still backwards to him: the entire lane should be green *except* for the driveways, and even then they should have some special striping to indicate a mixing zone.

    Something like what I’ve sketched out here.

  2.  

    Guest

    I live in San Francisco and visit Seattle, staying in Capitol Hill 3-4 times a year. Most my friends up there drive or Uber to get around. During my last visit in June for Pride Weekend I had a few opportunities to ask friends what they thought.

    First and foremost my takeaway was frustration from all the traffic changes that were happening almost daily. That’s not just the broadway bike lanes, that’s the streetcar line, Capitol Hill Station construction, every other traffic and transit project going on within 20 miles, and a building boom that has this ally or that shut down at some random day or time.

    I have a particularly insightful friend thought that drivers were being sent mixed signals: at the crosswalks drivers are supposed to stay out of the green, but mid-block the green marks the driveways where motorists should be driving over. He understood the logic, but it was still backwards to him: the entire lane should be green *except* for the driveways, and even then they should have something special.

  3.  

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  4.  

    Kevin Love

    “Could it be that we parents are, after all, a drain on the cities we love?”

    Could it be that if there are no children, the city will cease to exist in a generation? Or else be a real parasite by offloading the costs of the next generation onto somewhere else.

  5.  

    Latverian Diplomat

    Huh? If anything I’m implying the complete opposite. If fatalities per mile driven is relatively LOWER than fatalities per capita that means miles driven is a significant factor in the total number of fatalities.

    Looking at just the one statistic for deaths per capita tells you the US has a problem, but it doesn’t tell you whether miles driven is part of it or not. That’s the multiple angles/root cause connection you seem to be misunderstanding.

  6.  

    EastBayer

    In this post, you seem to be implying that the “root cause” is NOT primarily that Americans drive more, which is a strange position to hold.

  7.  

    Latverian Diplomat

    Sure my point was not that the US shouldn’t do better or can’t learn from other countries (like Australia or Sweden) that are working harder on safety than we are.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/22/automobiles/22SAFETY.html?_r=0

    Just that it’s a complex problem with many variables.

  8.  

    94110

    At this point I’m wondering where the Ferguson related articles are. From being stopped for Jaywalking, to stroads for accommodation of military vehicles, to locking the gate all summer long on one of the two routes that thousand of people use to get home.

    The biggest story in the news right now stems from a Jaywalking offense, and Streetsblog has no comment?

  9.  

    Bing Wu

    You’re right that Americans drive more on average than in most other countries, and according to this chart the stats look better when death rates are per billion km driven although America is still behind Australia(!)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_traffic-related_death_rate

  10.  

    Wewilliewinkleman

    Nowhere in the article does it call children parasites. So to my mind why do you need to frame this issue in such a way to make it appear that the Washington Post did not fairly cover the issue.

    The article fairly laid out the dichotomy. If there are no close by parks or decent schools, or affordable housing, how do you keep and retain families in cities.? Basically it said if you want to keep and attract families, the city government, taxpayers, and parents all have to agree to be taxed in accordance to the services so desired. However once the taxes do go up, you may find those in the middle pushed out. How do you solve this? Its not easy. And there are no fast answers. That’s what the article says.

  11.  

    Latverian Diplomat

  12.  

    Wewilliewinkleman

    I disagree. The article fairly laid out the dichotomy. If there are no close by parks or decent schools, or affordable housing, how do you keep and retain families? Basically it said if you want to keep and attract families, the city government, taxpayers, and parents all have to agree to be taxed in accordance to the services so desired. However once the taxes do go up, you may find those in the middle pushed out. How do you solve this dichotomy? Its not easy. And there are no fast answers. That’s what the article says.

  13.  

    Kenny Easwaran

    I think you could say the same thing about most American cities. The problems facing people in the suburbs of Melbourne also face people in the suburbs of Chicago, Boston, Houston, Atlanta, and many other major cities in the United States. My point is just that the fraction of Australians residing in the central urban areas of the capitol cities is larger than the fraction of Americans residing in the central urban areas of the ten or twenty American cities with equivalent transit situations.

  14.  

    bargal20

    The claim that Australian cities have better transit systems than their American counterparts is a myth. For example, Melbourne has the most extensive transit system in Australia, but has not extended that system to deal with the city’s explosive growth in the bast 20 years. Public transport infrastructure, such as the train signalling system, is ancient and unreliable. New outlying suburbs are almost completely reliant on private transport, and governments here are in thrall to road construction lobby groups.

  15.  

    Kenny Easwaran

    Is that actually right? A higher percentage of Australians live in major cities than Americans, and several of those major cities have quite good transit, at least by American standards.

  16.  

    Latverian Diplomat

    You miss my point. I am not trying to make the US look better or hide the problem.

    The importance of considering miles driven is that it’s a factor in which policy choices will do the most to reduce deaths. As argued, for example, here:

    http://www.citylab.com/commute/2013/02/4-reasons-us-trails-world-road-safety/4608/

  17.  

    Jeffrey Baker

    The idea of cities full of brunching 20-somethings is so disgusting that I just can’t stand it. One of the things I like best about NYC is that people don’t run off to the suburbs just to reproduce. As a result you see people of all ages walking down the street. When was the last time I saw a group of teenagers walking down Valencia in SF? You’ve never seen that, at least not in the last 25 years.

    To buy into the article’s premise you really have to accept a society that’s ultimately materialistic.

  18.  

    Milneburg

    The system was becoming worthless BEFORE “Katrina”, more properly called BARTHELEMY’S FLOOD. Our “beloved” criminal mayor “Slimy Sidney” Barthelemy deliberately wrecked RTA, destroying the efficient organization inherited from New Orleans Public Service Inc. He purged most of the experienced employees, replacing them with worthless political hacks, who caused more than one near disaster by their criminal negligence. One of the few that got ANY coverage from our Joseph Goebbels news media happened on July 31, 1991 when a crowded streetcar caught fire from a defective controller(“rebuilt” by a political hack contractor). Of course the equally corrupt USDOT(to which it was reported in detail by a private citizen) swept the whole thing under the rug.
    Of course the sole purpose of the construction project is to provide pork and graft for politicians and their buddies.They could care less if the whole system collapses once they get THEIR loot out of it.

  19.  

    steverinoCT

    If it’s pedestrians who are getting killed, no wonder more folks are driving! It’s us against them!

  20.  

    bargal20

    I doubt very much that Americans drive more than Australians.

  21.  

    lowtechcyclist

    Bingo. The key unit is people, not miles. If every American drove 10 times as much as we do, and we had the same number of accidents and fatalities, we wouldn’t be any safer: the same proportion of us would still be getting killed and injured.

    The extra miles we drive are just an added drain on our time and energy.

  22.  

    Latverian Diplomat

    Oh I agree, and policies that enabled Americans to drive less would help on this issue and others (e.g. pollution). But I think it’s important to look at data like this from multiple angles and be sure we’re teasing out the root causes correctly.

  23.  

    Streetsblog Network

    What about Australia. They’re doing considerably better than us. And so is Canada, a lot, lot better, in fact. Japan as well. It’s not just Europe. And comparing developing nations, on progress anyway, is almost apples to oranges. Developing nations that are seeing increased adoption of private vehicles are in a completely different stage than countries like the US and Europe. And when you look at developed nations, we’re the worst, essentially.

  24.  

    Kenny Easwaran

    That sounds exactly right. I don’t have any strong opinions on whether the physical presence of children in a city is a good or bad thing for a city, but children certainly need to exist somewhere for a city to continue existing, so if they’re not going to be in the city (perhaps because it has been decided that they ruin all the good things of being in a city?!) then cities ought to be paying taxes to the places that are going to do the dirty work of raising children. (Of course, if it turns out that the physical presence of children is actually a boon to urbanism, so that cities benefit from their presence, then the costs of hosting children should be shared by the non-urban places, which still benefit from the existence of children in cities.)

  25.  

    Streetsblog Network

    Yeah but that’s part of the problem. And American still scores badly by the way. If Americans have to travel 4 miles round trip to buy bread, instead of .5 in the UK or something, Americans aren’t any better off for it. Part of the reason so many Americans are getting killed for sure is because so many are driving around a lot in cars. If you adjust for that, it makes America’s performance look better than it is. Even so, it’s still very bad.

  26.  

    überfahr

    The most traffic related deaths happen in Africa. The “American region” ranks second lowest in traffic related deaths in per capita terms, behind the European region, according to WHO (pg. 6 http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/road_safety_status/2013/report/en/ . This needs to be said, given the focus on year-to-year change rather than absolute terms. But to your point: the US has a lot to learn from Europe in this domain (hard to believe watching the Germans and Austrians on the Autobahn …).

  27.  

    Brandon

    In the U.S, cities don’t think regionally. Most cities think they can poach the good things from their neighbors but foist off all the costs. Of course children need to live somewhere (so their parents can come to our city to work), but just not in our city. Some cities and suburbs hope that large expensive houses which appeal to parents (preserved with strictly enforced large lot zoning) will offset the cost of providing education. No city want to have low income parents which means they end up congregating usually in the central city or a few of the worse off suburbs, without the taxes needed to provide decent education. This whole issue could be solve if education wasn’t supported primary by local taxes, but we used a National tax to guarantee an appropriate level of education for every child.

  28.  

    Douglas John Bowen

    As recently as two years ago, website chatterers insisted few if any children were to be found in Hoboken, N.J. — even as those non-existent children were flooding the sidewalks, parks, and schools. Not every adult who chose to have kids has resisted fleeing the Mile Square City for the supposedly better, safer suburbs of New Jersey. But many adults have elected to stay, and raise families. It is gratifying to know Seattle is another example of this, though I wouldn’t be shocked to learn the pattern is being repeated in plenty of places nationwide.

  29.  

    Latverian Diplomat

    The essential point is fine, and the US lags in many areas of using good policy to protect the lives and health of ordinary citizens. But, how would looking at fatalities per passenger mile change things? Don’t Americans just flat out drive more?

  30.  

    Brandon

    Even if you spend the same, more of the money from services stays in a community than if you spent it on goods. And in some central cities you still have to leave the city to go back to back to school shopping.

  31.  

    Kenny Easwaran

    I think both answers to this question are getting at the wrong issue. Sure, children cost a city more money in the short term than they bring in directly in taxes. But the same is true of lots of valuable things – every city would love for parks to be located just outside their borders, where residents can take advantage of them, but the city doesn’t have to pay for upkeep. New residents work the same way – that’s why so many cities want to be job centers, but make it incredibly hard to build housing. Silicon Valley and the entire SF Bay Area are a symptom of that – every city wants fancy jobs that pay taxes, but want the residents that need food, water, schools, parks, etc. to live somewhere else.

    The right way to think of it is that children (like residents and parks, not to mention power plants, factories, and sewage treatment centers) are something that a city needs to be provided somewhere, in order for that city to continue to thrive. Cities can try to push the costs of these things onto their neighbors, and when the costs are measured in land use (as with power plants and factories), that can even be a slightly reasonable tactic. But with these other things, we have to pay the cost somehow, and the question is just whether a city wants to pay for what is needed for its upkeep.

  32.  

    frontporchswing

    C’mon. We’re much safer than Cambodia.

  33.  

    Bolwerk

    You know, there is a pretty big gulf between “does not benefis” and “parasite.” The “drain” isn’t on behalf of the parents. It’s for the children, and nearly everyone who was ever a child was a similar “drain” at some point whether they were in a city or not.

    The parasites are the suburbanites and their enablers in state and federal governments who pillage resources from the city without contributing anything economically themselves other than perhaps workers.

  34.  

    Amy Smolens

    What about putting a green straight-arrow instead of a green light for cars? That would indicate that drivers may proceed straight, and coupled with the red right-turn-arrow, might get the point across better.
    Good suggestions by mcas and Jass, too.

  35.  

    BJToepper

    The UK and the Netherlands are interesting examples of two approaches to pedestrian safety, both yielding similar results. In London, you’ll find quite a lot of fencing and barricades alongside roads, making it difficult to enter the road except at designated areas. This prevents jay-walking and protects pedestrians from cars. In Amsterdam, by contrast, there is less fencing, and planners have severely restricted car access to the city, or required them to act as the “guest” of other road users. In the Dam, the center of the city, there’s just a single lane for cars going one way, the rest of the space given over to pedestrians, cyclists, and trams.

    I find the difference in approach reflective of the priority each city gives to certain usages. London seems to prioritize cars over others, while Amsterdam prioritizes pedestrian/cyclist usage.

    Google Street View Examples:

    Pedestrian fencing around Buckingham Palace: http://goo.gl/maps/aLcex

    The Dam’s single car lane: http://goo.gl/maps/loqAr

  36.  

    BcycleSEA

    The smurf turds are actually really rather awful. I thought that was going to be the “thing to fix.” They aren’t bolted and move pretty easily INTO THE BIKE LANE, presumably when cars hit them. They are too heavy to be moved back out by just a mere human/bicycle, so we seem to be expected to file a maintenance request every time. Also, graffiti magnets! Terrible.

  37.  

    Martin Daley

    Fantastic article, Streetsblog! Here in Albany, NY we’re engaged in an advocacy effort to ensure bike and pedestrian access is preserved when the Livingston Avenue Rail Bridge, across the Hudson River, is rebuilt as part of New York’s High Speed Rail Plan. The bridge was built with a walkway (it closed due to neglect decades ago) and a coalition of 40 organizations is asking state DOT, Federal Rail, Amtrak, and CSX to support bike and pedestrian connections across the replacement bridge. Folks can read more at our website. http://livingstonavebridge.com/

  38.  

    Bolwerk

    Government spending by definition is not a “drain on GDP.” Government spending is a critical component of the GDP.

  39.  

    Michael Andersen

    These text signs are actually in place already at most if not all of these — you can barely see them in the photos above. (Barely.)

  40.  

    Michael Andersen

    Families are great, but wouldn’t parents presumably be finding some other (maybe less purely local) way to spend that $1400 if not on day care? Wouldn’t a few folks currently in the child care industry have found their way to other jobs serving cocktails to singletons or whatever? It’s not just the spending of money that adds to GDP, it’s the creation of new value that gets passed to someone else in exchange for cash. Kids provide incalculable value to the world in exchange for all that child care but they give their best stuff away for free, so GDP can’t measure it.

    If what we’re looking at is GDP, seems to me it’s the dependency ratio that matters. So sure, kids and retirees are a drain on GDP. But that’s a limitation of GDP, not a problem with kids and retirees.

    I’ve been loving Jennifer’s series, too.

  41.  

    Michael Andersen

    At the risk of veering into touchier subjects (not my intent) I had no idea Israel did so well in these rankings – unexpected given the casualty rate elsewhere in the MENA region.

  42.  

    Garl Boyd Latham

    Andrew,

    If all the shippers who are “voicing concerns” get their way, it will require at least some re-regulation, whether anyone is willing to publicly admit they want the Staggers Act to be repealed, or not.

    While we’re at it, I honestly don’t believe our blessed government is capable of being proactive about ANYTHING! Moreover, I can’t imagine that “any house of congress” has considered the possibility – or even the theoretical NEED – of a “border to border, ocean to ocean Conrail for the country to [mis]manage”. Just attempting to wrap my mind around that idea has given me a headache!

    Our elected officials simply look for ways to generate votes. Shippers see an opportunity to reap higher profits (which, presumably, is all right – for them).

    As with most things in life, I’m sure there’s enough blame to go ’round.

    If I may be candid, it makes me a bit uncomfortable to be forced into the position of industry cheerleader. That’s the A.A.R.’s job!

    I simply think your point of view is unjustifiably one-sided. You can pretend all you want about “monopolies” and “fair share”; the way it once was is no more – and the way it is now has been working, at least to an extent.

    Show me the political will to do something – ANYTHING – substantive about transportation, then we can discuss all those bad ol’ railroad companies and their horrific excesses.

    In the meantime, if it is indeed too late to “discuss anything with the railroads,” we’ll need to ride this out and see what happens.

    As I’ve so often said: it may be different, but it’s never boring!

    Garl

  43.  

    Southeasterner

    I also live in Seattle and agree with you 100%. Just this morning I watched a car run a red light right in front of a police car an almost take out a pedestrian. No action.

  44.  

    JimthePE

    According to FHWA, centerlines can be expected to reduce crashes by 33%.

    This will vary depending on the road or street and the types of crashes occurring there. They reduce “lane departure” (head-on and run-off-road) crashes more than intersection crashes for example.

    A fairly straight, low speed street might be a good candidate for this. A higher speed, curvy rural highway would not.

  45.  

    KL

    Anyone know if this is permanent?

  46.  

    AL M

    Excellent article and completely true. As it seems to be federal policy to do nothing to help actual Amerikans but does everything to help big box construction contractors and faceless government technocrats

  47.  

    Hagen Hammons

    No, “Rails-”With”-Trails is correct, as what this article is referring- a trail within an “active” railroad corridor. Rails-”To”-Trails are trails along “abandoned” railroad corridors, aka, the railroad line is not present.

  48.  

    Gezellig

    Going to Seattle and Vancouver next month–will definitely have to try this stretch!

  49.  

    Biking in a skirt

    Decent. Far better than most edge facilities. I’d actually use this.

  50.  

    Jass

    Another solution is a text “bike signal” sign below or above it. Honestly, the bike symbol can be confused with an arrow pretty easily. In the picture above the bike looks like a circle.