Thursday, January 08, 2009

www.itoldthepresident.org: traffic improvment suggestions

So, I just found a place where you can make comments to the incoming congress and president about improvements to the traffic system: www.itoldthepresident.org

Being the opinionated person that I am, I had several things I've been thinking about and thought I'd post them here to see what others' thoughts were...

I have several suggestions to improve transportation:
I. Driver Competency: We need to revamp our drivers licensing programs to look more like those in the UK and Germany. This would have several components:
  1. Testing: If tests are made more comprehensive and difficult, and training is optional though available at the applicant's expense we allow the licensing process to remain inexpensive, while demanding that drivers meet a necessary competency level before entering the streets.
  2. Driving System: The US tends to function under the assumption that "slow is safe." We tend to primarily penalize drivers who are traveling fast, while ignoring the far more dangerous infractions of drivers who are traveling slowly. This includes drivers traveling slowly in the passing lane, weaving into other lanes due to lack of attention, etc. By assuming that slow drivers are safe drivers we encourage people to get in their cars and "tune out" making them exceedingly dangerous on the road. A fast-moving driver is generally paying more attention to his/her driving as they realize that they are engaged in a potentially dangerous activity. A slow-moving driver mistakenly thinks that their speed makes the activity of driving safe and pays less attention. Further a "fast lane/slow lane" approach to interstate driving verses a "passing lane/traveling lane" approach makes the road system far less efficient than under the European system. Finally, highways with higher speeds produce more empty (and thus, more safe) highways: if the average speed limit on a highway is increased by roughly 10% (say 55 to 60 MPH), and the average speed of traffic on that highway increases by 10%, that traffic will move through the highway system more quickly, producing a 10% lower traffic density (and thus, a safer highway).
II. More complete streets (see www.completestreets.org): We need to work to make our surface streets more friendly to bicyclists. This includes building bike lanes (not just designating sidewalks as bike-able: you can't maintain sufficient speed on a sidewalk to make bicycling a viable alternative to driving), but also more careful education of the driving population to the rights of bicyclists on streets, as well as a system of penalties for discourteous driving in relation to bicyclists.
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