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Welcome 2017

6 Jan

Goodbye 2016!  What a wild ride we’ve had this past year—in self-driving cars and buses, on bikes and trains, walking and driving.  Let’s take a look back on the good and not so good.

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Technology and its potential took a front seat in transportation news this year.  Uber launched its first fleet of autonomous vehicles for use with its ride-hailing service in Pittsburgh this year and it seems clear that this is just the beginning. US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx predicted that “By 2021, we will see autonomous vehicles in operation across the country in ways that we [only] imagine today… Families will be able to walk out of their homes and call a vehicle, and that vehicle will take them to work or to school.”

There was increased interest on how the autonomous vehicle industry should be regulated, especially after Tesla cars using the autopilot feature were involved in three crashes, one of them fatal. The feature was in the testing phase, and the drivers were supposed to have their hands on the wheel.  At the end of 2016, Michigan became the first state to pass self-driving regulations.

In 2016 we also saw the first self-driving buses. Helsinki started testing two of the world’s first self-driving buses, and they are looking into using them as a “last mile” solution to ta take commuters to larger transit hubs.

Looking to use new technology to improve transportation, the US Department of Transportation launched the Smart City Challenge, challenging cities to develop ideas for an integrated, first-of-its-kind smart transportation system that would use data, applications, and technology to help people and goods move more quickly, cheaply, and efficiently.  Columbus, Ohio walked away the winner.

Smart bikes ruled with more cities and towns, both large and small adding bike share as an option in their community.  Locally, Princeton University expanded their Bike Share program in 2016, and anyone can use the bikes by signing up for an account with Zagster.  The Bike Share system also exists beyond campus with stations at Princeton Forrestal Center, Princeton Shopping Center and the Institute for Advanced Studies.

Ridesharing became easier than ever this year with apps and other options for the occasional ride-share, and there are also the more traditional commuter options like your TMA’s ride matching programs. They are free, and you can be matched with someone who lives/works near you and has same the schedule.

Safety unfortunately took a backseat this year.  New Jersey saw an increase in the number of traffic fatalities, 607 people lost their lives in a crash last year, 8% higher than in 2015.

New Jersey’s depleted Transportation Trust Fund resulted in a work stoppage on state transportation projects this summer, but the passage of a $.23 increase in the gas tax has given the State a dedicated source of funding for infrastructure projects and improvements.

Infrastructure was a winner in the 2016 election; many cities passed transit-oriented and biking measures—a hopeful sign  for 2017 that people are willing to reduce their driving  and looking for other options!

What do you think? What have we missed?  Let us know; we want to hear from you.

October 16- 22 is Teen Driver Safety Week

20 Oct

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) designated October 16 to October 22 Teen Driver Safety Week. NHTSA is spreading the message on social media, through web videos, and other types of media that make it more likely to reach teens. Statistics show that car crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers, 15 – 19 years old. Many of these fatal car crashes have these causes in common:  cellphone use while driving, speeding, drugs and alcohol, having extra passengers in the car, and not wearing a seat belt.

16-22

Source: trafficsafetymarketing.gov

That is why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that parents impose the following rules:

  1. No cell phone use while driving – When you are distracted, your reaction time slows down,  you can’t execute emergency maneuvers, and you are less likely to be able to avoid collisions with other vehicles.
  2. No speeding– Every time you increase your speed, the stopping distance increases, and your chance of being able to control the car decreases.
  3. No alcohol– Driving impaired impacts your reaction time, your judgment, your vision, and it is not legal.
  4. No extra passengers – No more than one passenger at all times. When you have more than one passenger in the car, the risk of getting distracted increases and so is the risk of getting into an accident.
  5. No driving or riding without a seatbelt– Wearing a seatbelt can significantly reduce your chances of being seriously injured or even killed in a car crash. You and your passenger have to wear a seatbelt.

For more information, resources, and statistics regarding teen driving, please visit www.safercar.gov/parents .

And as always, stay safe!

October 18th- 24th is Teen Driver Safety Week

16 Oct

Parents, take some time next week to start the driving risks conversation with your teen. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ( NHTSA) designated October 18th to October 24th Teen Driver Safety Week. Teens may be a little, let’s say… apprehensive about the topic, but this NHTSA “5 to Drive” campaign is a good way to make them listen. Statistics show that car crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers, 15 – 19 years old. Many of these fatal car crashes have these causes in common:  cellphone use while driving, speeding, drugs and alcohol, having extra passengers in the car, and not wearing a seat belt.

Source: trafficsafetymarketing.gov

Source: trafficsafetymarketing.gov

That is why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that parents impose the following rules:

  1. No cell phone use while driving – When you are distracted, your reaction time slows down,  you can’t execute emergency maneuvers, and you are less likely to be able to avoid collisions with other vehicles.
  2. No speeding – Every time you increase your speed, the stopping distance increases, and your chance of being able to control the car decreases.
  3. No alcohol – Driving impaired impacts your reaction time, your judgment, your vision, and it is not legal.
  4. No extra passengers – No more than one passenger at all times. When you have more than one passenger in the car, the risk of getting distracted increases and so is the risk of getting into an accident.
  5. No driving or riding without a seatbelt – Wearing a seatbelt can significantly reduce your chances of being seriously injured or even killed in a car crash. You and your passenger have to wear a seatbelt.

For more information, resources, and statistics regarding teen driving, please visit www.safercar.gov/parents .

And as always, stay safe!

Sources:  http://www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov/teens

Do You Really Know Your Car’s Safety Features?

9 Oct

Cars are getting safer.  Additional safety features are standard in most new cars.  There’s just one problem…it turns out that many of us are not familiar with the features in our own vehicles.

In a study conducted by University of Iowa and the National Safety Council, 40% of people interviewed said their car behaved in a way they weren’t expecting and 32% said that their car reacted in unexpected ways in certain situation. Perhaps not surprisingly, the majority of people who had their car behave in an unexpected way turned to Google for answers. But the problem with that is that’s “reactive” not “proactive”.   A new campaign launched by mycardoeswhat.org wants to change that and get you to know your car better and make the most of the safety features in your car. Here are a few of the features they describe on their website (the website is very informative and also has many informative videos).

  1. Back-up camera – helps you see directly behind you while backing. Remember to also use your mirrors while backing up, do not rely only on the camera
  2. Anti-lock braking system – help steer in an emergency by restoring traction to your tires
  3. Blind spot monitor – warn you of cars driving in your blind spot
  4. Forward collision warning – alerts you of an impending collision with a slow or a stopped car in front of you
  5. Lane departure warning – uses visual, vibrations, or sound warnings to alert you when you drift out of lane
  6. Tire pressure monitoring system – all the cars manufactured after 2007 have this feature, warning you if you have overinflated or underinflated tires
  7. Adaptive cruise control – maintains your speed and your following distance. Click here for a video of how it works
  8. Adaptive headlights – adapt to changing road conditions
  9. Automatic emergency braking – can apply the brakes to help prevent a crash into a vehicle ahead
  10. Automatic parallel parking – helps you parallel park into a spot, although you are still responsible for braking
  11. Drowsiness alert – alerts you when you are drowsy and will suggest you to take a break when safe to do so
  12. Electronic stability control –helps stabilize the car and prevents losing control in curves and emergency steering maneuvers
  13. High speed alert – sound alert when you’re speeding
  14. Night vision – very useful especially during this time of the year, allows you to see objects better at night by using night-vision technology
  15. Pedestrian detection – uses advanced sensors to detect subtle and slower people movements
  16. Road surface warning – this is a recently introduced feature that warns you about road conditions such as icy roads
  17. Sideview camera – it activates when you use the turn signal or if you activate it manually and shows you an expanded view of the lane beside you
  18. Traction control – works in the background and makes driving smoother by helping maintain control of the car on icy roads or rainy weather

Do you know how many of these features you have on your car? Do you know how to use them? For the full list and detailed explanations of how these features work and how the warnings may look on your dashboard, please go to www.mycardoeswhat.org.

Stay safe!

Sources: www.mycardoeswhat.org , University of Iowa 

 

 

Bike Commuter Journal – Bright Bike Lights

15 May

Bike commuters can rejoice in the vast number of new choices to improve your visibility and to light up the road at night like never before. We’ll look at 5 options, including the lights that GMTMA uses as part of our Highway Traffic Safety grant. The Lights that we have at GMTMA are Planet Bike Blinky Safety, they are very lightweight, 2 LEDs, easily removable and run on nickel-sized CR2032 batteries.

Bike lights are useful in the day as well as required by law at night – for example, a rider close to the edge of the road on a tree-lined street is very difficult to see, so lights provide a big safety improvement.

Lights are of course white in front and red in back, and vary by strength, quality and source of power. Overall, there are lights to be seen by drivers and lights to see the road – we’ll concentrate on LED lights that are currently dominating the industry.

Pt Pleasant Boro Surf Taco 2 Yrs LaterThe free lights we give to bike commuters are Planet Bike Blinky Safety, they are very light, 2 LEDs, easily removable and run on nickel-sized CR2032 batteries that are claimed to give up to 100 hrs of runtime on the blinking setting. Click here to see a very useful visualization comparison tool. The lights pictured were still working 2 years after we gave them to the restaurant workers as part of our HTS program.

Another very lightweight offering uses 16 LEDs producing 80 lumens (much brighter than the lights using only 2 LEDs), are easily removable via a rubber strap, has multiple blinking modes, and are claimed to run up to 6 hours on pulse mode via USB-rechargeable lithium ion batteries (I get about 3.5 hrs).

At the upper end of the battery lights are those developed for mountain bike racing, where 24 hour events demand being able to see as if in daytime – this offering uses 6 LEDs that can produce an astounding 3600 lumens, but only for 1.5 hrs – lower settings allow for up to 16.5 hrs runtime, and software is provided so you can program your own settings.

The US doesn’t regulate bicycle lights, so if you’re a motorist approaching a cyclist sporting 3600 lumens in the opposite lane, be ready to be blinded. German regulations provide for not blinding oncoming traffic, so let’s look at 2 offerings that conform to German street regulations, both with power provided from a front hub dynamo.

Supernova E3 Pro 2 at walking speed

Supernova E3 Pro 2 at walking speed

This offering (beam pictured above in hall) provides 205 lumens, and can be paired with a 3-LED rear light – a capacitor stores enough energy for keeping lit while waiting for lights. The weight of the hub dynamo plus headlight is lighter than the high-powered mountain bike light, which has a lot of battery weight.

Busch Muller Luxos headlight and tail lightThis last offering (pictured above, see the beam pattern on the hedge) provides 70 or 90 lux (lux = lumens / square meter, this discussion compares 80 lux to a hallway, i.e. indoor lighting), and senses outside lighting conditions and adjusts the light level accordingly, plus offers the ability to charge your phone via USB. It uses an internal battery to mediate the charging capability, provide power while waiting for traffic lights and provide the 90 lux floodlight. It also senses your speed, and broadens the light beam at low speed, so you can make safer turns, for example, see the pics below to contrast the standing light, when the bike is not moving(top), with the low speed wide beam, when the bike is moving slowly (bottom).

Busch Muller Luxos U standing light in hall

Busch Muller Luxos U standing light in hall

Busch Muller Luxos U headlight beam slow moving in hall

Busch Muller Luxos U headlight beam slow moving in hall

Here’s a good illustration and discussion of different light patterns of various headlights – it’s not just brightness that matters.

And as always, contact us if you would like to be a guest blogger on the GMTMA blog.

Hello neighbor! Do you rent your car?

20 Mar

In last week’s blog post I talked about how my husband and I have been a one car family for the last six years and how we schedule and maintain a shared calendar to make it work.  But that even with coordination, sometimes we need a second car. That is when I mentioned using Zipcar.

The founder of the car sharing company Zipcar (car sharing is something we like to encourage here at GMTMA), Robin Chase, is a woman. Since March is Women’s History Month, this is a great time to mention women in transportation and share with you a TED Talk. In this talk, Robin Chase talks about how she came to the Zipcar idea and why car sharing is so important to her.

Robin Chase recently sold her share in Zipcar, moved to France with her husband and child, and started another car  sharing company – Buzzcar. The Buzzcar model takes the idea of car sharing to a whole new level; it allows people to rent their own car to friends and neighbors. Ms. Chase called that new business model “investing in a community”.

This is a very engaging talk and Robin Chase is an inspiring woman. Let us know what you think.

Why is Bill Ford talking about the environment?

16 Jan

The answer: Ford (Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Company) is looking for ways to keep our freedom to move around while we reduce the emissions of CO2 and spend less time in traffic.  An increase in population means having more cars on the streets and more traffic. And while people can switch to electric cars in an effort to cut the CO2 emissions, that alone does not help with the other issue – the traffic! In this TED talk, Bill Ford (yes, his great-grandfather was that Ford) talks about possible solutions like building smart streets, smart parking, smart cars and smart public transportation. We would like to add biking and walking as a way to reduce the number of cars on the road.

It’s a fascinating way to think about the future of our mobility while also thinking about sustainability!