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Saturday, September 28, 2019

Priority Sign Repair

On September 17th, the New York Post ran a story about an overhead bus lane sign that was covered in chewing gum. The sign had gradually been accumulating gum for years, but the media attention soon brought this to an end (at least for the moment).

Mayor Bill de Blasio was asked about the sign two days later. Then, sometime before the morning of September 23rd, a new sign was already installed.

Depending on whether DOT started processing a work order for the sign on the day of the initial news story, or the day the when the Mayor was asked about it, the replacement took a total of only 3-5 calendar days. With the weekend, that was a 1-3 business day response.

That is faster than stop signs are replaced in my neighborhood when somebody reports that a car knocked them down.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Barriers Against What?

There have been dire warnings recently that car manufacturers might try to exert their influence to take over city streets at the expense of pedestrians (again). A recent flare up followed the suggestion that some executives were considering the installation of gates at intersections to keep pedestrians from crossing against the light and interfering with autonomous vehicles. The backlash from urbanists was immediate: We should not repeat the mistakes of the past when cars were first introduced into cities. People should not be penned in on the sidewalks like cattle. Etc.

A couple of examples:

Caution is warranted, of course. The ability of autonomous cars to successfully navigate dense pedestrian areas is dubious, and some of the materials released by the auto industry have been outright frightening (see below). I agree with the need to be vigilant about the policies that may redesign our cities very quickly, setting new patterns that may hold for generations to come. In this case, though, it seems like a knee jerk response of the "if it's good for cars, it must be bad for pedestrians" variety. The idea surfaced, after all, as a solution to the potential problem of pedestrians interfering with the automated vehicles, which might become paralyzed if people deliberately walk in front of them, knowing that safety procedures designed to avoid injuring people will make them stop.

Nonetheless, I am fairly optimistic that automated vehicles can be leveraged to transform the places we live for the better, and I see crossing gates as an acceptable tradeoff. Likely enough, they could become a welcome addition to our streetscape.