Cars Are Death Machines. Self-Driving Tech Won’t Change That.

What Does This Street In Zürich Mean?

If you see how cars, streetcars, bikes, and pedestrians use this Swiss street, you can better understand what’s wrong with so many other urban thoroughfares.

Author    Norman Garrick

Above is a picture of a pretty typical city street in Zürich, Switzerland.What do you see?

In some ways, this scene represents a kind of Rorschach Test for transportation and urban planning. If you are a passenger on a tram riding on one of the two sets of rails that take up most of the street, this scene represents freedom of movement and a sense that transit is privileged in Zürich. If you’re a pedestrian, this is a relatively comfortable street to be on, with useful services, restaurants, and a few interesting stores (check out the model train store at the corner with Haldenbachstrasse). If you’re on a bike, this, like most other streets in Zürich, is OK, but not great.

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The Planet Can’t Survive Our Transportation Habits

Author Laura Bliss

A landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released Monday spelled out a grim planetary future in no uncertain terms. If greenhouse gases warm the atmosphere by as much as 1.5 degrees Celsius, the most dire effects of climate change will be unleashed. Coastlines will be submerged, droughts and wildfires exacerbated, coral reefs exterminated, severe food shortages and poverty deepened. And humanity has only a fast-closing 12-year window to make the changes necessary to avoid this fate.

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Very Bad Bus Signs and How to Make Them Better

Author Laura Bliss Sep 19, 2019

Of all the challenges that riding the bus can present to riders, few seem as easy to correct as abysmal signage. From simple omissions of useful facts, to total illegibility, to plain nonexistence, bad signs are pervasive in public transit. Rail systems are no stranger to this—looking at you, Penn Station—but the problem is especially rampant in city bus systems, which often get the least amount of aesthetic and infrastructural attention from their municipal overseers.

When I put out a call on Twitter for examples of transit signage fails, I received a host of offenders from coast to coast. In San Francisco—a “transit first” city—bus route numbers are spray-painted in tiny font onto adjacent, often weathered telephone poles. In Tampa, some bus stop signs consist of stumpy metal flags planted in tire-shaped weights. Wichita, Kansas,* has signs that are simply repurposed street parking placards; in Nashville, bus signs don’t even mention which routes appear there. Pittsburgh has bus signs that don’t mention the name of the transit agency. And the lack of wayfinding infrastructure at transit stations in Denver leaves riders wandering vast plains of asphalt.

Scooters Offer Chance to Rethink Urban Rights of Way

William Fulton on Aug 29, 2019

From Central Park West to San Diego’s hip North Park neighborhood, cities are removing parking spaces, replacing them with bike lanes, and getting pushback from residents and business owners.

In urban neighborhoods across the country, well-capitalized electric scooter companies are invading, sometimes met with support from policymakers who see them as a useful transportation mode and sometimes met with resistance from residents and politicians who view them as a safety hazard and little more than metal street litter.

What’s really going on here? Depending on how you look view transportation, bikes and scooters are the key to future, clean urban mobility or a sideshow that distracts from maintaining mobility across large metropolis. But I think the basic problem – the reason we’re having a hyper-emotional discussion about these transportation modes on both sides – is that we’re not framing the issue right.

The problem isn’t that bikes and scooters are necessary or that they’re a menace. The problem is that, in urban locations across America, we need an intermediate mode of travel between cars and walking – an easy to way to travel between a half-mile and two miles. In the transit business, this is called the “first and last mile” problem. Cars are a hassle and walking is too far, so these intermediate modes need a right of way, whether they are bikes, scooters, Segways or vehicles that haven’t been invented yet.

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