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#1 2008-06-03 02:57:54

tomwald
Moderator
From: 78722
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 288

City of Austin - APD launches online traffic survey

From http://www.cityofaustin.org/news/2008/t … 060208.htm

APD launches online traffic survey
June 2, 2008
The Austin Police Department announced today that its Highway Enforcement Command has launched an online traffic survey and is asking Austin drivers to help identify the most pressing driving safety issues in the community.

Again, the link: http://www.cityofaustin.org/news/2008/t … 060208.htm
Let's see 100% participation from the bicycling community for this survey.

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#2 2008-06-03 10:12:51

Adriel
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Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 91

Re: City of Austin - APD launches online traffic survey

I filled it out and left this comment:

1) drivers need to be educated to drive slower, do not be in as much of a hurry, and also, they need to understand that bicycles are a valid form of transportation and not just a toy.  Speed limits should be lowered to 25/30 everywhere there will be mixed traffic, and this should be enforced.
2) People should have to take a physical driving test every 10 years to verify they are still capable of driving, mailing renewals for 50 years is not a good policy.

I posted it here because if you agree with either of those, you can reword it and add it to the comments.

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#3 2008-06-03 10:20:47

m1ek
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Registered: 2008-06-02
Posts: 153

Re: City of Austin - APD launches online traffic survey

Those of you who don't drive should probably just stay out of this kind of survey - because comments like 'speed limit everywhere should be 25/30' or Amy Babich's ridiculous similar complaint will immediately get your entire survey thrown into the mental equivalent of the trash.

The world we've built here could not function under those conditions. Even for cyclists; if trucks couldn't go 45 on suburban arterials, the goods and services you use would not be able to be economically delivered, for instance; nor could the employees who sell you things possibly arrive to work under the conditions you think ought to be mandated.

Yes, in true urban areas, lower speed limits are justified unless limited access is provided - but the "urban" area of Austin doesn't extend out very far - a bit north of UT to just south of the river. Anywhere else, and calling for a 30 mph max speed limit will inevitably brand you as a lunatic.

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#4 2008-06-03 11:12:19

Jason
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-31
Posts: 48
Website

Re: City of Austin - APD launches online traffic survey

I've posted a link to this on my website and sent it out to my mailing list as well. Though the survey is very driver-centric I think it could be used to communicate some of our less-extreme safety desires to the city, such as driver/cyclist education on co-existing with alternative forms of transportation, and asking the city to actually prosecute people who either inattentively or maliciously break the law and endanger cyclists. I've been in a car-on-car accident and the officers (who weren't on the scene until 15 minutes after the accident) had no problems whatsoever leveling blame and issuing a ticket. Why is it so hard when one of the people involved is a cyclist?

With regards to speed limits, I have no problem with where they stand currently but much like other traffic laws would like to see them ENFORCED. A speed limit is not a midpoint to aim for, it's a LIMIT. At the same time I don't  agree with your statement that people couldn't get to work if speed limits were lowered. I manage to do it every day without EVER exceeding 25mph on my ride to work (maybe on the downhill home I occasionally break it), and I live well beyond the north border of your "urban" area and work well beyond the southern one. I don't even know why I'm arguing as I don't think speed limits should be lowered, I just disagree with the assumption that it's not possible. ;)

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#5 2008-06-03 11:43:53

damicoaustin
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 143
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Re: City of Austin - APD launches online traffic survey

I would encourage everyone to mention that APD needs to implement the Street Smarts Task Force recommendations. (which address crash statistics/reporting, uniform tolerance policies for bicyclists, training for APD, public education for motorists/bicycles).

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#6 2008-06-03 12:37:52

m1ek
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Registered: 2008-06-02
Posts: 153

Re: City of Austin - APD launches online traffic survey

Jason, the point is that most people don't live as close to work as you or I do, and most delivery trucks travel a lot farther than you do on your bike. Again, it's due to a fundamental misunderstanding of how our economy actually works, and how little of our built environment actually qualifies as 'urban'.

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#7 2008-06-03 13:33:55

RonB
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Registered: 2008-05-28
Posts: 20

Re: City of Austin - APD launches online traffic survey

IMHO, I don't think speed limits are an economic issue.  They are just the safe speed for which a route can be taken.  If they were changed, people would compensate, and things would advance.  It happens all the time.  Economy has nothing to do with it.  Does Lamar have its current speed limits because there are a ton of businesses on it, or because it is one of the major roads in Austin?  If anything the businesses followed the big road because it give them more visibility.

That being said, I don't see it being practical to call for a flat reduction of speed limits on shared use roads.  While it would be nice, I don't see it happening.  I would call it a very bicycle-centric suggestion, and since we are talking mixed use, we need to consider both sides.

IMHO, the speed limit isn't the problem - the biggest issue is driver awareness of bicyclists.  If motorists were more aware of the bicyclists on the road, then it would not matter what the speed limit was, so long as it was safe-reasonable for the route in question.

I think the key here is to try to look at the argument from both sides - motorists and bicycles, and figure out a good/realistic compromise.

Last edited by RonB (2008-06-03 13:35:40)

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#8 2008-06-03 13:52:14

Jason
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-31
Posts: 48
Website

Re: City of Austin - APD launches online traffic survey

Believe me, 183 and Burnet to Southwest Parkway and William Cannon (34 mile round-trip) is no walk in the park but it's entirely doable on a bicycle by anyone in a reasonably healthy state of physical fitness. Hell, I do a longer commute by bike now than I did by car when I was working for Dell in Round Rock.  A car in the hands of a mostly-untrained civilian is an incredibly dangerous and lethal weapon. All it takes is a second of inattentiveness to turn that 2 ton transportation device into a 2 ton unguided projectile. While I understand WHY people would put their own time-savings and comfort ahead of the safety of others (imho selfishness and irresponsibility) I don't think it's right. Freight vehicles and mass transit make sense, single occupant SUVs, not so much.

You're right that most of our "urban" development over the past hundred years has been very automobile-centric and has led to this current state of urban sprawl and ugly, stretched-out cities. New Urbanism or whatever they're calling it now addresses some of these issues with mixed-use development and more varied zoning. I'm hoping and praying that the current gas crunch will wake people up to the realization that living 50 miles from where they work and driving that SUV by themselves is not a financially viable lifestyle. Car-free does seem impossible when looking through the smog-tinted glasses of American Car Culture, but car-light seems much more doable, especially if the City of Austin people would implement a few of the suggestions put forth by the Street Smarts Task Force.

Asking people who don't drive to stay out of the survey seems incredibly counter-productive to me. They, more than any other segment of traffic, are directly affected by the traffic dangers and roadway hazards and would be the greatest benefactors (measured in personal safety) of ANY changes made due to this survey. I encourage EVERYONE who primarily commutes via an alternative form of transportation (bike, scooter, motorcycle, bus, walk) to fill this survey out, and BE SPECIFIC on how they could increase your safety. Maybe they'll realize how many people they're leaving out in the cold by only focusing on the segment of the population that sits behind a steering wheel.

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#9 2008-06-03 16:16:20

m1ek
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Registered: 2008-06-02
Posts: 153

Re: City of Austin - APD launches online traffic survey

And on the other hand, if the police get a bunch of crazy Amy Babich-style responses, they will mentally file ALL responses having to do with bicycles in the crazy bin.

Ron, the point is that if you suddenly changed the speed limits on all roads within city limits to 30 at most, the existing economy would suffer drastically; not that it would be impossible to build a city from scratch with that constraint (although it would have to be much, much, much more dense).

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#10 2008-06-03 17:14:40

tomwald
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From: 78722
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 288

Re: City of Austin - APD launches online traffic survey

I suggest that responders try to keep most of their open-ended responses to things that APD has direct control over.

Also, if anyone has a concern about their suggestions or comments sounding too radical or crazy, then consider making suggestions for what next few steps APD can take to get to your 'radical utopia'.  Car culture grew gradually and it is currently quite popular, so it'll likely take some time for it to look less attractive to enough people for what seem like radical ideas now to seem reasonable in the mainstream.

Asking the APD to enforce existing traffic laws more in cases where there is a clear danger from violations is probably not going to seem radical to police officers.  I would include in this requests to enforce existing speed limits and especially anything else that is already explicitly mentioned in the survey.

I really think that some people in the APD are sincerely concerned about the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians.  I think that is why bicyclists and pedestrians are mentioned explicitly in this survey.

I also strongly recommend avoiding delivering insults to the APD via the survey... in case anyone was considering doing that.  As the saying goes, you'll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

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#11 2008-06-03 19:47:27

Adriel
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Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 91

Re: City of Austin - APD launches online traffic survey

4 Things:

1) I said mixed use roads, not all roads.  I drive a car and ride a bike, and I would not have a problem with lower speed limits, however I think I was not clear.  The speed limits should be lower on enough roads so that a bicycle or a pedestrian could choose these roads to get anywhere in the city, yet mopac and 35 etc should be as fast as we can make them.  The point is to encourage people in a hurry to stay the hell off mixed use roads.

2) If they toss my suggestions in the rubbish bin because I would like to cycle more and drive less and also do that more safely, this survey is a pile of crap and we shouldn't take it seriously anyway.  I doubt they would throw 500-1000 suggestions away because they were too pro-bike, I believe it would show just how many people are pro-bike.

3) I want to reiterate, I drive a car a decent amount at least 100 miles a week (It used to be 200-300 but I replace as much car travel as I can with bike travel), but I have learned to drive more attentively, and slower, and even in my car people harass me if I go too slowly for them. 
One thing that helps me in my car is to remember that even if it feels like I am going slowly, the difference between driving aggressively and driving peacefully is about 2-3mph average when you count stops etc etc.  and at 28mph instead of 32mph average (And if you think a car averages more than 30-35mph you are seriously deluded and should do some Google searches).  I will STILL get there almost twice as fast as on my bike!

4) I hope the world we have built changes into something more friendly to nature and people, and less headed towards planetary suicide.  So comments like "The world we have built could not survive" do not carry that much weight.  Cars kill about 4000 people a year I think in the world we have created.  Thats one 911 catastrophe every year.  And honestly, at $4 a gallon and hopefully $6/gallon soon, the car-centric world we have built is about to come crashing down anyway.  Or at least be significantly altered.

Last edited by Adriel (2008-06-03 19:57:21)

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#12 2008-06-03 21:31:18

dougmc
Administrator
Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 553

Re: City of Austin - APD launches online traffic survey

Adriel wrote:

Cars kill about 4000 people a year I think in the world we have created

Which world are you referring to?  Roughly 40,000 people/year die in the US alone in road accidents, and the vast majority of those involve cars.

Last edited by dougmc (2008-06-03 21:32:13)

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#13 2008-06-04 08:31:15

Adriel
Member
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 91

Re: City of Austin - APD launches online traffic survey

wow, that is much much worse than I realized. 42,000 traffic fatalities in 2004.  ok so almost 1 911 tragedy a month because of america's love affair with cars.  Time to admit that cars are not worth the deaths.  Maybe we can fix the system, but it sure as hell isnt working out for about 42,000 people a year.

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#14 2008-06-04 10:06:27

m1ek
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Registered: 2008-06-02
Posts: 153

Re: City of Austin - APD launches online traffic survey

Adriel, there's a lot of room between freeways and residential streets - roads like Braker (45 mph speed limit; more like 55 mph design speed); Burnet (45,40,35 depending on location); etc. Putting a maximum speed limit of 30 on all these roads would cripple Austin - it's an incredibly stupid idea.

And the speed of motor vehicle traffic on a given roadway has nearly nothing to do with safety anyways - the key is visibility, intersection design, roadway geometry, etc. Consider how much safer it is to ride your bike on the shoulder of Loop 360 even though the cars go 70, compared to a city roadway of your choice.

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#15 2008-06-04 18:55:16

Adriel
Member
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 91

Re: City of Austin - APD launches online traffic survey

All I am saying is 42,000 people would have preferred to have gotten there a little later last year than where they actually ended up, in hindsight.  (If they have any hindsight, which is more of a philisophical/spiritual question).

But the more I have thought about it since this discussion started, the more I believe reckless driving is more of a problem than speed limits.   If I could amend my survey I think my comment would be more along the lines of ticket more tailgaters, and enforce reckless driving laws.  (passing unsafely, etc etc)  forget whether or not a bicycle is around, these people are endangering cars and cyclists alike.

C'mon yall, if you moved to texas you need to learn to drive like a texan :)  With courtesy and patience.  If you want to drive like you did in LA, or New York, move back.  :)

Last edited by Adriel (2008-06-04 18:55:50)

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#16 2008-06-05 14:39:24

seth
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From: Austin, TX (Hyde Park)
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 53
Website

Re: City of Austin - APD launches online traffic survey

Just filled out the survey. In the free-form text box, I encouraged the police to update defensive driving classes to educate drivers that bicyclists have a right to take up an entire road lane and that they have as much right to be on the road as cars.

Seth

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#17 2008-06-06 22:58:01

Tower of Pedal
Member
Registered: 2008-06-06
Posts: 7

Re: City of Austin - APD launches online traffic survey

m1ek wrote:

Those of you who don't drive should probably just stay out of this kind of survey - because comments like 'speed limit everywhere should be 25/30' or Amy Babich's ridiculous similar complaint will immediately get your entire survey thrown into the mental equivalent of the trash.

Your right. It'd be a shame to get written off as a kook. (We want to make sure everyone's opinion is given equal opportunity for expression.)

I don't know how much speed limit has to do with safety, either. I would assume intersections are probably the most dangerous. Especially if there's a small bike lane, and the rider hasn't taken the lane. I pretty much take the lane all the time now adays. I still get yelled at, usually by trucks around the Drag, but it seems much safer than bike lanes, or anything. I think people should be educated about bikes more in driver training.

Last edited by Tower of Pedal (2008-06-06 22:58:24)

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