Posts Tagged ‘traffic’

What precisely is an accident?

March 25, 2013

@bellevillebikes (their website)  tweeted today a link to an article about pedestrian-car crashes, who was at fault and if the word ‘accident’ should be used.  The first paragraph:

In 2010, the last year the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHSTA) published such figures, a startling 4,280 pedestrians were hit and killed in traffic and 70,000 were injured. For many states, this past year was one of the most deadly in a decade, ending a general decline in pedestrian fatalities. Even still, there is a disturbing cultural willingness to accept these deaths as a necessary evil. The public increasingly blames the victims. The police rarely prosecute, and if they do, the courts are often lenient. In 2012, 136 pedestrians were killed and another 11,621 were injured in New York City alone—and in all that time, only one sober, unacquainted driver was charged.

As a fan of alternative forms of transportation, I try to follow news on the subject.  From Korea, and even more appropriate for a cycling advocate, comes news of this ‘accident’:

Seoul – A truck driver who killed three South Korean professional cyclists in a road accident has admitted he was watching a television mounted on his dashboard at the time, police said Thursday.

Tom Vandebilt, author of one of my favorite books, Traffic, has an entire blog category for misuse of the word ‘accident‘.  One excellent example is of a ‘bicycle accident’ caused by a  taxi.

The LAPD issued a directive instructing officers that a motorist can be held responsible for causing a bicycle accident even if he or she did not make direct contact with the rider — and can be arrested for fleeing the scene, Box said.

In other words, striking a bike with your car is “causing a bicycle accident.”


Updated: Asks “is it time for the NYPD to investigate bicycle accidents?

Advocates for pedestrians and cyclists have long argued the NYPD should dedicate more resources to collision investigations. For Stephan, the issue hits close to home. A year and a half ago, two good friends were struck and killed by motorists in the same week, and Stephan was struck by a vehicle earlier this year while biking along Kent Ave in Brooklyn. He said the NYPD’s reluctance to carry out full investigations of these incidents points to a larger cultural bias that tends to favor drivers and views cyclists as menaces to city streets.

“I think there’s a culture of windshield perspective in the NYPD,” he said. “A lot of the officers are from Staten Island or other places where they grew up driving. Drivers don’t want to see other drivers prosecuted.”

There’s some encouraging news for cyclists, however. Earlier this month, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly sent a letter to the City Council outlining a new policy in which the department has increased the size of its collision investigation squad and loosened the conditions for dispatching investigators. According to the letter, posted in full on, the squad had previously responded only to accidents where a victim was either dead or likely to die. Under the new guidelines, the squad will respond if there is serious injury or if a police department duty captain believes circumstances warrant action.

Driving in China

August 25, 2010

The news is full of both reports of a 100 km long traffic jam and a futuristic way to prevent such jams.


A traffic jam stretching more than 60 miles in China has entered its ninth day with no end in sight, state media reported.

Cars and trucks have been slowed to a crawl since August 14 on the National Expressway 110, which is also known as the G110, the major route from Beijing to Zhangjiakou, Xinhua News reported.

I must admit I first thought the drivers and their vehicles had not moved for nine days.  I suppose that is possible, but it seems more likely that the trip only feels like nine days induration.  Individual drivers have not been stuck for nine days but the stretch of parkway (get it?  Parkway?  Ha, ha, ha, ha!) has been congested for nine days.

UPDATED: I might have been too hasty.  From Yahoo News (with my bolding):

BEIJING, China – A massive traffic jam in north China that stretches for dozens of kilometres and hit its 10-day mark Tuesday stems from road construction in Beijing that won’t be finished until the middle of next month, an official said.

Bumper-to-bumper gridlock spanning 100 kilometres with vehicles moving little more than a kilometre a day at one point has improved since this weekend, said Zhang Minghai, director of Zhangjiakou city’s Traffic Management Bureau general office.

Some drivers have been stuck in the jam for five days, China Central Television reported Tuesday. But Zhang said he wasn’t sure when the situation along the Beijing-Zhangjiakou highway would return to normal.

Original post resumes:

Although the people might not be stuck for nine days, they are stuck for long enough to want to eat and be entertained.  As in Korea, locals are willing to deliver those services:

Residents from communities alongside the expressway have seen opportunity in the traffic slowdown, setting up food and drink kiosks for the drivers.

Some drivers have complained of price gouging. One truck driver, identified by his last name Huang, told the Global Times that “instant noodles are sold at four times the original price while I wait in the congestion.

With the poor quality food and forced inactivity, I guess driving does cause obesity.

So, what could reduce traffic and make these jams either a thing of the past or a part of the scenery?

How about a bus that straddles traffic (photo from this link)?  This monster, a train in all but name, can hold over a thousand passengers

Though it is called the “straddling bus,” Huashi’s invention resembles a train in many respects — but it requires neither elevated tracks nor extensive tunneling. Its passenger compartment spans the width of two traffic lanes and sits high above the road surface, on a pair of fencelike stilts that leave the road clear for ordinary cars to pass underneath. It runs along a fixed route.

Huashi Future Parking’s outsize invention — six meters, or about 20 feet, wide — is to be powered by a combination of municipal electricity and solar power derived from panels mounted on the roofs of the vehicles and at bus stops.

I don’t know if the ‘solar power’ link will work after being cut-n-pasted from another site.  Here it is again.  Still, as with the new Prius, solar panels on the vehicle will probably never be more than a gimmick.  In the Prius, the solar panel powers a fan so you can keep cool with the engine off.  I would not expect better from the Chinese bus, even with the approving report of China’s solar panel production found in the former link.  I guess the solar panels aren’t a bad idea, it is merely so very limited.

However it is powered, I would travel to China just to ride such a bus.

Pay parking is good

August 16, 2010

Or so claims Tyler Cowan at Marginal Revolution.  He writes an economics column for the New York Times. In a recent post, he discussed free parking and who actually pays for it…everyone but the motorist.

If most parking were pay parking, people would think more carefully about where they were going.  This is true for me, at least.  If I am going into downtown Busan, I much prefer public transit.

Indeed, this is an area where Busan, and Korea in general, might be said to be ahead of the US.  Or at least be seen as a location where the experiment is being carried out.

And the results are … mixed to negative.  Well, one thing that is required with pay parking is an functioning and active police presence.  In Korea, if you can’t find a parking space and will only take, oh, say, twenty minutes, most drivers opt to park in the bus lane or otherwise in the rightmost lane.  Hey, it’s free!  There are tow trucks to collect damaged cars but none to seize illegally parked cars to free up driving space.

I try to restrict my driving -and I’m not doing as well as I would like – and I usually use pay parking when I do drive.

I think increasing the percentage of pay parking spaces is wise but it is ineffective on it’s own.


Oh, if you are going into downtown Busan, the Busan English Library near Buam Subway Station has a great free parking area.  I don’t know if they want you to use it, but it is usually empty.  Check out a book and you’re fine.


To see videos of bad driving in Korea, visit Repatriate Me. I think everyone who drives will be familiar with the driving they see there.



I see Marginal Revolution can’t let the subject go.  There are two new posts on the subject: 1, 2.

Bus Rapid Transit systems in China

July 17, 2010

I lived in Masan thirteen years ago and one thing I particularly noticed was the number of buses on the road.  If there were ten cars, there were eight buses.  I’m mostly talking about public transit buses, so add on the myriad shuttle buses that every hagwon and dojang has.  The roads were already crowded, but everything moved pretty quickly.

Thirteen years later, there are many more drivers (including me) and more private cars (including mine)*.  I would like to see more buses but I do wonder if Busan has reached a saturation point with buses.  More are needed, as I have been turned away from full buses in the past -they were too full to accept new passengers.  Yet,the bus lanes are full of parked cars so the buses are swerving into other lanes.

—-my son is asking to go outside and I don’t have a full conclusion or ending to this post.  I mostly wanted to describe the problem.  I’ll finish here, by quoting an article about Bus Rapid Transit in China:

With their rising incomes and access to freshly paved roads, many will be tempted to emulate Americans and buy cars. Some will ride the gleaming rail networks funded by Beijing. But in the past two years, China has also become the world’s fastest-growing market for high-speed city buses.

In February, the southern city of Guangzhou rolled out China’s latest effort, a 14-mile stretch of a main road striped with bus-only lanes down the middle. The sleek buses race between raised stations that resemble train stops. Ridership has already shattered the figures of other bus systems in Asia. Now the system beats out the ridership of every metro line in mainland China except Beijing’s.


* Note The Onion: 98% of the US commuters favor public transportation.  Seriously, I would prefer a bus ride if I could sit down and read during the trip.  That would provide added value for me.

Koreans in South Africa aren’t taking their medicine?

July 9, 2010

There are two reports in the news about Korean dancers in South Africa dyeing of malaria.

Spellcheck suggested “dyeing” after I incorrectly

typed “dieing” – surely their word means adding

colour to clothes and such though.  What is the right word?

First, my condolences to the families of Koh Eun-joo and Kim Su-yeon.

Second, how could this happen?  The Korea Herald article (KH is no longer appearing on my browser as a malware site) on Miss Kim is short and merely reports her name and occupation.  The Joongang article on Miss Koh sheds more light.  I don’t like to use such long excerpts from a newspaper article, but malaria is serious business.

Kim Su-yeon, 27, was one of two performers in the 45-member troupe to contract the disease, and one of 11 members who had been given chloroquine, a malaria pill that is “not very effective in Africa,” said an official from the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention who asked to be identified only as Im.

“The pills were prescribed by a village doctor before they left. The other 34 were given drugs before their departure by the National Medical Center,” Im said. “It would have been better if they had been given better information before this happened, because that information is not hard to get. It’s on our Web site.”

Im said the 11 performers given chloroquine were all from Namwon, where the National Center for Korean Folk Performing Arts is located. He said mefloquine is usually prescribed as a preventive against malaria.

Kim started showing signs of malaria on June 3 but thought it was simply a cold. The day after she returned to Korea from Egypt on June 5, a hospital diagnosed her as suffering from the mosquito-borne parasitic disease, said Park Min-kwon from the Korean Culture and Information Service, which directed the Korean Culture Festival.

“Another member was also diagnosed with worse symptoms than Kim, but she’s doing better now,” Park said. “All 45 team members were given malaria pills before we left.”

Alright, more news on Malaria in Korea and elsewhere: Gangwon Notes*, the CDC and Wikipedia’s page on chloroquine.

Now, prevention is better than cure, as there are few good cures for malaria.  Part of prevention is done through drugs, but I wonder if the dancers were also preventing mosquito bites.  Nets or fans are important at night (preventing malaria is more important than fears of fandeath, after all) but these are for cheap accommodations.  Reputable hotels should have had properly sealed rooms with AC  if necessary – there should have been no need to open a window at night.

I wonder if the so very glamourous life of mid-level Korean entertainers is the problem.  Extra! Korea posted recently on a newspaper article about  entertainer’s incomes and living arrangements.  I also did so years ago at Gangwon Notes*.


* Yes, I linked to myself twice in this post.  I don’t know how many people read this and what percent of them also read Gangwon Notes, but I’ve discussed malaria on my blogs for four or five years and SurprisesAplenty.wordpress doesn’t show that background.  Also, I am a great writer and you should feel lucky to have a chance to read further of my work.

“Green” cars? Maybe, with a good paint job.

June 22, 2010

I have always felt the Jaguar looked good in a dark green.  It’s a beautiful car – and by the total lack of mention of a specific model or year, you can accurately judge my knowledge of cars.

In the Joongang Ilbo, I learned about Korea’s first Electric bus.

The bus has an average speed of 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph) and can run 120 kilometers (75 miles) on a fully charged battery.

The 50-seat bus uses three 100-kilowatt driving motors that power a 402-horsepower internal combustion engine.

Hyundai said the bus satisfies all the requirements set by the Ministry of Land, Transport, and Maritime Affairs for a transportation vehicle with “zero” emission.

“Zero emission.”  I guess that is true, while the bus is in use.  Does the Ministry of L, T and M Affairs think the batteries are charged by magic, though?  Although I can’t be bothered to check on the facts (I’m a blogger, what do facts matter?), I suspect that most of Korea’s electricity comes from hydro-electric and nuclear, with few fossil-fuel powered generators.  Alright, lets investigate for one minute:

Hmm, mostly hydro and nuclear, with about a quarter from Oil and Gas.  Takes a bit of the wind out of my sails.

Still, the power does come partly from fossil fuels, and those fuels are charging a battery; we can expect loses of between a third and a half in charging a battery.  I am unconvinced that the bus will use significantly less fuel than a fuel  powered bus.

I am convinced that few people will see the fuel and CO2 being emitted as it is happening at a distant power plant and not on the street in front of them.  Maybe, this is a good thing in it’s own right.  Now we aren’t spreading poison in high population areas.  That’s good, but it isn’t ‘zero emission’.

Scientific American has an article about the Leaf, an electrically powered car.  I read it before seeing the Hyundae article, so I can’t claim the points above are my own.

In the months after Nissan’s announcement last year that it would soon introduce the Leaf, the world’s first mass-market electric vehicle, the company embarked on a 24-city “zero-emission tour” to show off the technology. The Leaf’s electric motor draws its energy from a battery pack that plugs into an outlet in your garage. It has no engine, no gas tank and no tailpipe. And during the time the car is on the road, it is truly a zero-emission machine. But at night, in your garage, that battery pack must refill the energy lost to the day’s driving with fresh electrons culled from a nearby power plant. And zero emission it ain’t.

You can see, for instance, that I used, “isn’t” instead of “ain’t”.  Still, if I link to the original, it can’t be plagiarism.

traveling in Busan

June 17, 2010

I’ve heard many air-defense drill sirens, but this is the first time I’d seen students hiding during them.

The photo kinda fits – the imaginary pilots are traveling somewhere, right?

As previously promised, I rode my bike to work on Wednesday – and nearly collapsed in class, I felt so dizzy and tired.  The route was surprisingly good – I was on a bike path for 11km along the Nakdong River and for a few km along a drainage ditch or sewage ditch or river wannabe – anyway, it had a good bike path.  Later, near the university, I found this sidewalk – for ants, maybe?

While driving to work a month ago, I ran a red light.  Today, I photographed the light.

See it?  No, how about now?

No?  Now?

If Vanderbilt is looking for ways to improve transportation (see previous post), I suggest clearing the view of the traffic lights.

Could cable cars be a step ahead for Busan’s public transit?

June 15, 2010

Via Freakenomics*, I  learned that Tom Vanderbilt is asking for ideas to improve public transportation.  In a Slate article describing Nimble Cities, he asks for suggestions “make transportation in and between cities more efficient, safe, and pleasant.”

Here is your chance. Welcome to “Nimble Cities,” the second in Slate‘s Hive series, a project designed to harvest the world’s collective wisdom to solve the world’s most pressing problems. We are asking you, essentially, to become transportation hackers (and we’re talking not simply cars but the whole of urban and interurban movement). We are looking for your best ideas. They may be your own wild brainstorms, or they may be examples, whether grand or mundane, of things you’ve experienced in your own city or while traveling. But we want your best proposals for solving an increasingly relevant problem: how to move the most people around and between cities in the most efficient, safe, and perhaps even pleasurable manner. And then we want you to vote on which of those submissions you think are best.

I read Vanderbilt’s Traffic, a book about why we drive the way we do.  It’s a great book about psychology and the history of safe driving ideas and how they work (or not) in the real world.

Anyway, I need to think further about any ideas to improve public transportation because I am an enthusiast on the subject myself.  My suggestion of cable cars is not entirely crazy: Pusan is chopped up by steep mountains most trips to – are also trips around -.  Cable cars or jet packs would go far in shortening the distance traveled here.

More seriously, better organization for multi-mode transit would help.  “Multi-mode transit” – a phrase I have just coined – refers to using more than one means of transportation, or more than one vehicle, even the same type of vehicle, to get somewhere.  To get to Nampodong, a shopping district in Busan, I need to take two buses or a bus and a subway.  To get to work, I need to take three buses or a bus and a subway with two transfers and another bus.  I could omit the final bus if I chose to walk a kilometre uphill – up a seriously steep hill.  Well, that is, if I used public transit to get to work.

The buses are cheap enough, I feel,  and frequent enough.  Still, they are incredibly crowded, with some riders standing on the steps (inside the doors, but right at the doors).  My car is air conditioned and I can listen to my podcasts and not be crowded and jostled.  I can drink some Coke or iced tea while I drive.  What can buses offer that I don’t have?

Buses are cheaper than driving – at least for my car- gained through family as a sort of offer I couldn’t refuse, but not that good on gas.  If the bus were less crowded, I could read a book, and even prepare for class.  I could talk on the phone.  I could rest and even maybe even sleep.  Is the answer for buses more of the same?

A cable car would be value-added by virtue of the great views offered.  Placed to minimize transportation time, they could be placed away from the main hiking routes, slightly diluting the inevitable complaints from hikers (like me).  It may be that the weight of the gondolas would be carried free because the descending ones would match the ascending ones.

I’m liking this idea more and more.

Tomorrow, I’m riding my bike to work.  Maybe.


* I read but didn’t care for the Freakonomics book and have heard negative reviews of Superfreakonomics, but I do enjoy their blog.  Well, that’s a little harsher than I mean to be about the books.  I did learn a lot about economics from Freakenomics and found the research fascinating.  I just felt they didn’t give other explanations for the phenomena they were investigating enough credit.  Although their work on cheating teachers felt right, their explanation for reduced crime rates seemed a lucky bit of correlation rather than causation – the explanation was legalized abortion starting twenty years ago – the unwanted and high-risk children that would have caused so much crime were aborted.

Driving to work: it’s so easy

June 3, 2010

And I hate it.

I live 20 km or 40 minutes from work by car and probably a little more than an hour by public transport.  One of the big problems for me is the nature of the public transport I would have to use: two or more crowded buses or a bus, a roundabout subway ride and possibly a third bus.

One problem is that my university high up on the side of a mountain.  I am from Gangwondo (well, seven years there; it feels like home) and Gangwondo is known for rugged mountains, but I haven’t seen a city like Busan before.  A coworker who’s lived in San Francisco says the steep roads are comparable.

Anyway, I remain interested in alternate modes of transportation but I’m having trouble committing to them right now.

My previous blog had several posts about traffic and transportation.  I saw two articles recently that I recommend and this post seems the right place.

In Slate, Vanderbilt, author of Traffic, a fascinating book that I have yet to review properly, describes efforts to make a better stop sign.  I think there may have been a contest but I set the idea aside until I saw today’s article about traffic and connected the two.  Maybe tomorrow I will have time to look at the contest or the results.

In Scientific American, there is an article about encouraging walking through careful urban planning.  I wrote in 2008 about weak planning in Korea discouraging pedestrian traffic.

I hope I soon get back into writing real posts and not mere placeholders.

becoming or staying slim

May 12, 2010

When I visit my hometown, I see giant people climb out of giant cars (or SUVS, mostly).  Here, in Busan, but also in Korea generally, I see slim people and the younger they are – to young adulthood – the taller they are.

While I don’t have any news about how or why the generation entering the workforce is the tallest I’ve seen in Korea (I figure it is the increased amount of protein in their diets), I just read an interesting post about land-use in cities correlated to obesity.  The results aren’t startling, but until a test or two are done, it isn’t really known.

In “Walking and Obesity: the City Life and the Country Life“, Sci reports on a journal article that tracked 10,000 people in and around Atlanta, Georgia.

The people living in areas with maximally diverse land-use (residential, commercial and etc) were most likely to be slim, while those in single-use areas (think suburban residential) were more likely to be obese.

1) The more the land use is mixed where you are, the less of a probability you have of being obese. This is presumably related to walking more, but the correlation was only effective for African-American females.

2) The more you walk, the less probability you have of being obese.

3) The more time you spend in a car, the MORE probability you have of being obese.

Sounds pretty simple, don’t it? But this isn’t the easiest thing. Many people HAVE to drive to work, and often do not have enough leisure time outside of it to make up the car time with other physical activity. In addition, many people will walk more when they have somewhere to go, and suburban residential neighborhoods don’t really go in for that kind of thing. But it DOES provide some interesting data for people looking to plan new residential communities. If you make things more walkable (especially work and necessities), maybe people will walk more, and maybe that will translate to smaller probabilities of obesity and improvements in health. Maybe those people planning those overly picturesque walkable communities are on to something.

As I understand it, in suburban places where it is safe to walk, there is little nearby to walk to.  I don’t know if the neighborhood I grew up in on Muskoka Road 14 could be called suburban, but if we wanted to go to the convenience store, we had to drive.

And yet, we were fairly serious walkers.  Some studies show that families that eat together are closest, that sharing meal time means having good discussion time.  I don’t know, but walking to Finch’s gravelpit and to Sharp’s Creek was what I remember most about being together as a family (we also had nearly every dinner together).  Did I complain about how boring it was, I wonder?  Certainly, there was usually nothing on the TV, on the two channels we received.

Hmm, more stream-of-semi-consciousness.  Perhaps that’s what separates this blog from Gangwon Notes.

Anyway, everything is walking distance in Korea.  I now have a car and use it nearly everyday, but I really don’t need to.  A lot of the time, not driving is more convenient – no parking problems.

I guess it’s time to leave the car at home.  Well, tomorrow; it’s bedtime now.