It doesn’t matter what the law says if you’re dead.

The law is pretty clear. Sexual assault is a crime and perpetrators should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law no matter how the victim presented themselves. In theory, a young lady should be able to walk alone through a shady part of town after having a few drinks and while dressed scantily without any fear of being assaulted because she is under the protection of the law. In reality, such a choice would be very stupid and being legally in the right would be of the coldest of comforts after one has been assaulted.

In theory, I should be able to leave my wallet full of cash on a table in a seedy bar while I go to the washroom and expect it to still be there when I get back because it would be against the law for somebody to steal it. In reality that choice would be idiocy and I likely would lose my wallet. I could scream indignantly to my heart’s content but would not get satisfaction despite my being legally in the right.

What I am getting at is that if we truly want to mitigate crimes and victims we need to look at prevention as well as simply legislation against criminal actions.

Calgary has some of the safest pedestrian stats on the entire planet.

Despite our great record on pedestrian safety, our local anti-auto ideologues have been working to manufacture a false pedestrian crisis by loudly and hysterically highlighting every reported pedestrian incident as they happen. Never mind that in a city of over a million people that having less than one incident per day is actually incredibly safe. Never mind that the pedestrian is often at fault rather than the automotive or train operator. Never mind that these incidents are often minor (though they can often be tragic too). These people want to create a scenario where folks feel that autos are too plentiful and going too fast in hopes of justifying more expensive and idiotic infrastructure such as underutilized bike lanes in order to hinder traffic.

The fact that traffic hindrance costs millions of hours in productivity and is terrible for the environment is lost on these ideologues. They have a simplistic goal of creating a downtown hipster’s Nirvana where the personal vehicles no longer exist and all folks walk to the local coffee collective together to read poetry while bills and taxes somehow magically pay themselves. If it means grossly exaggerating pedestrian incidents in the city, so be it.

All that being said, it certainly is a good thing to try and reduce pedestrian incidents on the streets even if the stats are already good. What we need to focus on though is what actually will work rather than what will hinder cars.

Below is a rather graphic video. It is a collection of pedestrians getting nailed by cars as they mindlessly walk out into busy streets. Many of these pedestrians were in crosswalks and were legally in the right. Alas, the law and a coat of white paint did not protect them from the law of physics and many have been grievously injured and killed.

 

The bottom line is that it is incumbent on pedestrians to pay attention to their surroundings because in a traffic incident, they clearly have the most to lose. It doesn’t matter what the damn law is and cracking down further on cars isn’t the answer if mitigation of actual accidents is truly the goal. We need to change that entrenched and entitled attitude that many pedestrians have where they seem to think that white paint can stop a car dead in it’s tracks.

To any drivers reading this, I know you have seen incidents where pedestrians simply stride into the street without pause or looking left and right as they know they are in a crosswalk. How many times have you had to slam on the brakes and think to your self “I sure am glad I wasn’t adjusting the heat in the car or something or I would have nailed that foolish son of a bitch”.

Hitting one of those crosswalk buttons to make the light flash does not bring cars and trucks to an immediate stop. It takes time for the lights to register, for the brakes to be applied and for the vehicle to stop. One of the things we need to do is change those lights so that they don’t immediately light up upon pushing the button.

I worked in Stillwater Oklahoma for a few months a few years back. It is a college town and at lunchtime or class breaks, the streets and walks are completely flooded with students. Despite this, traffic flowed rather well. The reason was that while there were countless light controlled pedestrian crossings, those lights did not turn on immediately when a pedestrian hit the button. The lights were much like traffic lights in general. The pedestrian would hit the button and wait. Within perhaps 30 seconds, the light would flash a warning to drivers and then would go red so that pedestrians could cross. This forced pedestrians to pause and pay attention. This also gave warning to drivers. On top of it all, it made things more efficient as 20-30 pedestrians would cross and then the light would change so that autos could move again. Otherwise we would see that endless stream of pedestrians that often frustrates drivers into unsafe actions and mires traffic for blocks.

Scramble crossings are another good idea to move large numbers of pedestrians with minimal impact on traffic. Like the lights in Stillwater though, they are only on for certain periods and pedestrians are not allowed in the roadways otherwise.

With uncontrolled crossings, there still is no substitute for pedestrian awareness and education. People need to look out before stepping into that damned street no matter how legally right they are. How can they assume that the driver coming down the road is paying attention? The price is too high to assume that the law will protect you.

Barney covered it well with children. It seems that the lesson didn’t stick into adulthood with many.

 

Law enforcement is still important of course. Drivers should be heavily ticketed for blowing through crosswalks and lights. It is terribly dangerous and should not be taken lightly.

That said, we need to see more crackdowns on jaywalking and dangerous pedestrian practices too. Many pedestrian accidents are fully the fault of the pedestrian.

More than anything though if we truly want to mitigate damage we need to look towards personal responsibility.

That means dropping the anti-auto rhetoric and seeking real solutions.

I don’t expect that from Calgary’s distorted transportation department soon unfortunately but perhaps we will see change after next year’s election.

In the meantime, don’t forget to look both ways….

 

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Rookie Calgary Councilor Evan Woolley jumps on the anti-auto bandwagon.

Macleod Trail

Emboldened by the knowledge that Calgary city hall is actually stupid enough to pursue a plan to close a lane on Macleod Trail to make a bike track for an inconsequential number of cyclists, newly elected hipster in chief Evan Woolley has decided to make his first mark on city hall by upping the anti-car idiocy ante by proposing that 11th and 12th avenues be changed from the currently efficient and highly utilized one way streets that they are into two way streets. Those familiar with Calgary’s downtown know that both of those avenues are critical for commuting east to west without having to actually enter the core. The proposal defies all common sense unless of course one’s intention is to actually hinder our already congested traffic further.

Wooley did a number of interviews where he tossed out some anecdotes and vaguely referenced a supposed demand by businesses in the area to make the road two way. Woolley even admitted that he likely would earn the ire of traffic engineers (people who deal in facts) with his absurd proposal.

One way streets greatly increase traffic flow in that they allow for better synchronization of the traffic lights and vehicles are not held up by left turning traffic. One way streets are also much safer for both pedestrians and vehicles as there are far fewer points of potential conflict as demonstrated by the image below.

onewaysafe

Cars idle less on one-way streets as the traffic flows with many less starts and stops thus saving energy and reducing emissions so any “green” case against one-way streets holds no water.

There were vapid mumblings with the usual buzzwords about “walkability” and the ever important “vibrancy” but really there is no case to support this inane proposal to choke traffic in Calgary’s beltline. Really folks, do you fear to walk in areas with one way streets? Is that what keeps you in the house? Let’s get real here.

One of my favorite literary characters is Sherlock Holmes and one of his most famous quotes was: “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” There is no case for traffic flow, environment, costs or safety in changing these streets. What remains is an ideological agenda to hinder automotive movement by any means possible and Evan Woolley is clearly on that path here.

In that area we have 10 St, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th,19th and 20th streets that are all two way, all are horrible for traffic and all can contain that ever elusive “vibrancy” if need be. Those streets will all become much more congested if Woolley has his way as well and I suspect that “walkable vibrancy” may be lost as frustrated drivers speed down those congested streets.

17th Avenue is a perfect example of what will happen if these streets are changed as Woolley wants to do. The word for that avenue is gridlock and people avoid traveling down it in droves.

People will not all jump on bicycles and ride transit no matter how hard you harass automotive users Evan. People will simply move further from the core and will stay away whenever possible. Hardly leads to a “vibrant” community in the long run and actually encourages that evil “sprawl” that the hipster set so dearly loves to decry.

This is still only Mr. Woolley’s first year as a city councilor. Perhaps this notion was simply a rookie error as he got taken up in his ideological zeal for a moment. If this is a sign of Evan’s thinking in years to come, I think Brian Pincott may have a competitor for the most ideologically extreme member of Calgary city council and that is saying quite a bit.

Evan will be asking for tax dollars to study this foolishness and rest assured a more formal pitch will be coming soon. We can safely assume that they will want to plant some bike tracks on there while they are at it too. Calgarians had best speak up and slap Mr. Woolley into some reality here sooner rather than later or it may make for a tough 4 years in office for Mr. Woolley and Calgarians alike. We have 140,000 downtown commuters and they need to get to work and back.

More resources on one-way streets vs. two-way can be found below.

http://www.i2i.org/articles/2-2005.pdf

http://www.epa.gov/otaq/stateresources/policy/transp/tcms/traff_improv.pdf

http://www.ite.org/membersonly/itejournal/pdf/Jha98a47.pdf

 

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Shortsighted opposition to new pipelines is damaging our environment

Today while checking on some things in the field on a program in Pennsylvania I came across a stark reminder of the consequences of successful opposition to pretty much all new conventional energy infrastructure in North America. While tracking one large and degrading gas pipeline through the bush, I encountered another pipeline that had failed and was leaking natural gas at a pretty high rate as can be seen and heard in the video I took below.

Pennsylvania’s oil rush began in the 1860s and much of the infrastructure out here is simply ancient. Fracturing technology has brought a new boom to these regions as fields that had been previously considered to be depleted are being brought back to life with new production of both oil and gas in shale formations. Unfortunately, while the existing pipeline infrastructure is old and failing it is damned near impossible to get any large new energy distribution projects approved as myopic and self-serving environmentalists will immediately hinder the process through lobbying and legal challenges. What this foolishness has led to is an increase in environmental damage as well as creating a very dangerous working environment for energy and agricultural workers in areas where pipelines are failing.

It is absolutely undeniable that modern pipelines are far and away the most safe, economical and environmentally friendly way to transport oil and gas. Modern pipeline failures occur on occasion and most often these are due to human error in excavation without proper utility location having been done beforehand. A pipeline can’t be faulted for leaking when a fool hits it with a backhoe shovel. With the literally billions of barrels and cubic feet of energy products being moved all over the world the amount that actually gets lost due to leaks is nearly microscopic in scope and getting smaller all the time as our technology improves.

Demand is not going away for oil and gas any time soon. Environmentalists can harp on all they like about wind, solar and geothermal power but the reality is that these forms of energy are not even remotely close to replacing carbon based energy at this time and we still need to provide oil and gas to people. We are doing this with pipelines and these pipelines are becoming old.

Like it or not, populations are growing and usage of fossil fuels is increasing along with that. Due to myopic opposition, new pipelines are not being built as they should and producers are being forced to either use old pipelines that really should be replaced or are even transporting product through trains and trucks which burn fossil fuels in transporting product and are much more likely to have an accident leading to spills than pipelines will ever be.

If we really care about the environment and about safety we need to expedite new pipeline projects rather than hinder them. We have to be realistic rather than idealistic. New and ever improving pipeline construction and monitoring technology means nothing if we are still forced to use pipelines that are 40, 50 or even 100 years old. Lets build new pipelines so we can shut down these old ones before more product leaks into the environment or people possibly get killed in a large rupture.

Until the flux-capacitor or dilithium crystals leave the world of science fiction and become a reality, we will need fossil fuels in our lives. It’s time to set aside the hysteria spread by multinational corporations such as Greenpeace and take a realistic look at what needs to be done to move oil and gas safely.

Just as we will never see a highway with 0 fatalities we will never be able to move oil and gas with a 100% risk free means. We can come pretty damn close though if we could just put the new pipes in the ground. Until then we unfortunately will only see more spills and accidents.

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