By Mika Rekai - Friday, January 11, 2013 - 0 Comments
Traffic wardens are targeting those on foot
In China’s densely populated cities, it’s not uncommon to see cars driving on the wrong side of the street, barrelling down bike lanes or even parked on the sidewalks. In the last two decades, as the number of motorists has grown astronomically, Chinese roads have become a Wild West of traffic violations. In 2011, nearly 70,000 people were killed in traffic accidents, and tens of thousands more were injured. But last month, traffic wardens began fining some of China’s most prevalent lawbreakers: pedestrians.
While some have lauded the government for enforcing any traffic laws at all—speed limits and red lights are routinely ignored—critics say targeting pedestrians is ineffective and unfair.
“Chinese drivers don’t stop at traffic lights, so either you jaywalk or you don’t cross the street,” says Tyler Ehler, a Canadian student living in Nanjing. The problem, says Ehler, is the driving class has simply grown too large, too fast—“teenagers are learning to drive at the same time as their parents.” A country full of new drivers, he says, is bound to have its share of traffic accidents.
While some dismiss traffic accidents as mere growing pains, others question whether China’s thousands of road fatalities are an inevitable consequence of its rise.
By David Agren - Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 10:28 AM - 0 Comments
Suddenly pedalling isn’t only for the poor in congested Mexico City
The prospect of cycling Mexico City’s mad streets alongside its famously distracted drivers seemed like suicide to Adrienne Grigoli, 36. Especially since the government did away with driver exams. So when Ecobici, a bicycle sharing service, was first pitched to her office, the human resources manager was sure “everyone was going to get run over.” Then there were the negative perceptions: Mexicans consider cycling a poor man’s pursuit, associated with vendors peddling tamales from pots pushed on tricycles.
Still, five of Grigoli’s employees signed up for Ecobici, which charges a $30 annual fee to borrow a three-speed bike for unlimited 45-minute loans. Another 15 eventually followed, including Grigoli, an expat Brazilian who moved to Mexico City as a teen in the mid-’90s and had, until then, always considered cycling, “kind of chafa”—slang for something cheap, uncool and of questionable quality. She became a convert in this mega-city of nearly nine million—another 11 million live in the sprawling suburbs—where cycling has suddenly become stylish and cyclists are claiming their places on the Mexican capital’s crowded thoroughfares.
Ecobici launched two years ago with 1,200 bikes spread throughout a business district and nearby Condesa, a neighbourhood known for its leafy streets and hip cafés. It has since become so popular that a waiting list for new members had swelled to six weeks. Its recent expansion to the posh Polanco district puts bicycles for borrowing on streets better known for selling a range of luxury items, from Louis Vuitton bags to bulletproof SUVs. “For many people it’s more of a fashion statement than a method of transportation,” said Diego Ramón; at his Jack Rabbit Retro Bikes, granny-style two-wheelers with fat tires and handlebar baskets fly off the shelves.
By the editors - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 at 10:40 AM - 7 Comments
The roundabout is becoming more commonplace on Canadian roads
There’s a revolution occurring on Canadian streets. And it’s moving in a counter-clockwise direction.
The roundabout, once unique to Europe, is becoming commonplace in many parts of Canada. Fans of these circular intersections point to reductions in congestion and accidents as evidence that they’re simply a better way to move traffic. Anyone on foot, however, may require a bit more convincing.
Always prone to moving in packs, city planners across the country are rapidly adopting roundabouts as their preferred means of trafﬁc control. Prince Edward Island recently installed two roundabouts on the Charlottetown bypass, part of the Trans-Canada Highway. Last year, Winnipeg removed numerous stop signs at neighbourhood intersections in favour of small, traffic-calming roundabouts. Calgary now considers them to be the intersection of choice in new developments and is making plans for dozens more. Hamilton, Waterloo Region in southwestern Ontario, Montreal and Halifax all have new roundabouts. Even Yorkton, Sask., is in on the trend.
By Ken MacQueen and Patricia Treble - Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 10:10 AM - 108 Comments
The crime rate is down but police forces are growing. We’re poorer as a result, but not necessarily any safer.
This spring, Tamara Cartwright dropped off an envelope at her local post office outside Lethbridge, Alta. A friend had sent her a jar of hemp-based ointment, so she replied with a thank you card, wrote her name and return address on the envelope and, in a decision certain to haunt her for years to come, enclosed four grams of her homegrown marijuana, enough for perhaps four cigarettes. On an April morning some days later she returned to the post office to pick up another package. Moments later, police pulled her over, handcuffed her, put her in a cruiser and hauled her off to the police station.
It made quite a spectacle, says the 41-year-old mother of four, who suffers from colitis and is one of more than 10,000 medical marijuana patients registered with Health Canada. “It was embarrassing,” she says. “I was still in my pyjamas.” She emerged four hours later with a trafficking charge for giving away those four grams.
Her charge is part of a recent marked increase in arrests for cannabis offences. Cannabis arrests jumped 13 per cent in 2010 to 75,126. Of those, almost 57,000 were for simple possession, a 14 per cent jump from the year before. (The statistics reflect cases where the arrest was the most serious charge a person faced, not the thousands more where a pot charge was tacked onto a string of more serious crimes.) The cannabis arrest rate is an anomaly at a time when the overall crime rate in 2010 fell to its lowest level since the mid-1970s.
By Jen Cutts - Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 11:10 AM - 0 Comments
The U.K. is handing out parking tickets at record levels
There’s nothing like a parking ticket to ruin an otherwise pleasant day, and in the U.K., they’re being ruined at record levels. The 4.2 million tickets issued by town halls in England and Wales (excluding London) from April 2009 to March 2010 was nearly twice the number in 2002-03, according to figures from the country’s Traffic Penalty Tribunal. The increase has led to accusations that councils are using the resulting funds to fill out their budgets, which were shrunk by deep spending cuts announced by the British government last October. “We can only suspect they do want to increase revenue,” says Paul Watters, a spokesman for the Automobile Association, commenting on the rise in tickets, as well as plans by some councils to step up fine amounts.
The tribunal, however, insists the increase is simply a result of more communities opting to take over parking enforcement from police, which has been an option since 1992. The U.K.’s Traffic Management Act states councils aren’t allowed to generate revenue through fines and must reinvest in improving transportation. But “local authority finances are complex,” says Watters. “It is hard to prove any sleight of hand.”
By Andrew Coyne - Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 9:20 AM - 217 Comments
Our rush hours rank with the world’s worst. Andrew Coyne has the solution.
Day breaks over Canada, and across the country, the morning commuter rises, dresses, hops into his car and is transformed into . . . traffic. Immobilizing, enervating, infuriating traffic, glaciers of metal improbably forcing their way down the nation’s roads each morning, only to have to force their way back up the same roads later in the day.
In Halifax, drivers seethe as they inch through the Armdale Rotary. In Montreal, it’s the seemingly hours-long grind along the infamous Autoroute Décarie. Toronto commuters visibly age waiting for something to move on the “Don Valley Parking Lot.” Calgarians have ample time each day to regret taking Deerfoot Trail, while in the Lower Mainland of B.C., drivers debate which is worse: the bottleneck on the Port Mann bridge or the eternal stretches of Highway 1 on either side of it.
By Tom Henheffer - Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 2:40 PM - 0 Comments
Should signals follow traffic, not vice versa?
Brakes squealing, horns honking—traffic congestion is a huge problem, and it’s only getting bigger. But researchers with the Santa Fe Institute, a non-profit think tank that examines complex systems, are working to alleviate the smoky urban gridlock. The institute recently released a study proposing a new way to reduce road congestion: changing how traffic lights work. Currently most signals are on timers programmed to turn green or red according to the expected number of vehicles passing through intersections at certain times throughout the day—a system, scientists say, that’s due for an upgrade.
“Because of the large variability in the number of cars behind each red light, it means that although we have an optimal scheme, it’s optimal for a situation that does not occur,” Dirk Helbing, external professor with the Santa Fe Institute and co-author of the study, told Wired magazine. He proposes a new system, where signals respond to traffic instead of attempting to control it. This is accomplished by placing sensors at intersections to measure incoming and outgoing cars and alert other signals when a large volume is coming. The lights change once a certain number of vehicles pile up, creating a small local flow through several intersections that speeds up traffic globally and allows lots of cars to move through a string of green lights.
A simulation in Dresden, Germany, had traffic delays for trams and buses falling by more than half, while pedestrians and cars saw declines in wait times of 36 and nine per cent. Cities such as Dresden and Zurich are now considering implementing the system, and all that’s left is to see if it works on the large scale, or if it will become another nuisance set to leave commuters stranded before a series of red lights.
By Nancy Macdonald - Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
Drivers ignore painted lanes for cyclists. Vancouver decided there was only one way to fix that problem.
Separated bike lanes are every cyclist’s dream. And when a single weekend in May left five cyclists dead in a series of accidents in Ontario and Quebec, many Canadians—non-cyclists, too—alighted on the idea.
Vancouver is going a long way toward bringing the two groups together by keeping them apart: it’s creating a protected bike network that makes it safer and easier to cycle the city core. This fall, the city is adding a two-way, bikes-only, separated roadway along Hornby Street, running north-south through the downtown.
It joins another separated bike route that bisects the city east-west along Dunsmuir Street. They meet new, protected bike lanes on two of the busiest downtown entry points: the Burrard Street bridge and the Dunsmuir viaduct. By late fall, cyclists will be able to enter and ride downtown without having to wrangle for space with a car—and vice versa. The network went up over the past 12 months, as city engineers quietly stole a lane (sometimes two) from drivers with every new leg.
By Stephanie Findlay - Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 9:20 AM - 0 Comments
Zebra stripes for a police traffic safety campaign
Last week, Moscow’s trafﬁc police announced they were going to paint horses and ponies to look like zebras. Why? To remind drivers to drive safely, of course. It’s a literal stunt: the city’s crosswalks are in a zebra style (like the one John, Paul, Ringo and George strode on for the Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover). The faux zebras are part of a campaign to draw attention to children’s safety during the start of the new school year. They will be stationed at five of the city’s busiest crosswalks in central Moscow, and children can ride the animals and learn about traffic rules.
Traffic is a huge concern in Moscow. Last week, Mayor Yury Luzhkov asked the Kremlin for a $130-billion handout to fix the capital’s clogged roads. One survey of 20 world cities found that Moscow had the worst traffic delays of all. The average reported delay was 2.5 hours, and more than 40 per cent of respondents said they had been stuck for over three hours—three times other cities’ averages. At least with the imitation zebras, the kids will have some way to pass the time.
By Julia Belluz - Thursday, August 26, 2010 at 2:00 PM - 0 Comments
Winnipeg traffic crusaders recently launched the Just One Second campaign
Extending the amber traffic light by a second is all that is needed to cut intersection accidents and red-light violations, according to a pair of self-appointed Winnipeg traffic crusaders who recently launched the Just One Second campaign. Since 44-year-old Larry Stefanuik took early retirement from his job as a traffic cop, he and businessman Todd Dube have been on a mission to make local intersections safer places where people get fewer tickets.
By Julia Belluz - Thursday, August 19, 2010 at 1:00 PM - 0 Comments
Thousands in New Dehli are using Facebook to snitch on fellow commuters
Just when you thought Facebook was only good for organizing parties and stalking ex-boyfriends, the social networking site has become a weapon in the ﬁght against traffic crime in India.
Police in New Delhi—a city of 12 million people (more than half of whom are motorists) and about 5,000 trafﬁc cops—recently launched a Facebook page in the hopes of improving communication with the public. But the site has turned into a hub for airing grievances and tattling.
By Martin Patriquin - Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 5:27 PM - 28 Comments
‘The plan is to get people to stop taking two tonnes of metal to work everyday’
The Montreal borough of Plateau Mont-Royal is many things to many people: a formerly bohemian yuppie respite; a congenial melting pot of English, French and many other backgrounds; a trendy, boozy hotspot for tourists and university students. However, the eight square kilometers of this central Montreal burg is fast becoming known as something else: the scourge of the suburban driver.
Starting this fall, the Plateau will be home to what its administration calls “traffic calming initiatives” that will make driving through the neighbourhood a wee bit trickier. They include reversing the direction of certain streets, narrowing others, widening sidewalks, and installing a bevy of bicycle paths throughout.
The changes will make room for what Plateau mayor Luc Ferrandez describes as “secure, pleasant and user-friendly streets,” though these will come at the expense of convenience for commuters. That’s because the Plateau is a major thoroughfare for the vast (and ever-growing) suburbs on the north shore of Montreal—something Ferrandez, an avid cyclist, has watched for years with pursed lips.
By Nancy Macdonald - Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 8:20 AM - 1 Comment
The RCMP took the credit, but the price of gas is the likely reason
B.C. is reporting a stunning 26 per cent drop in traffic fatalities this year over last, according to the Ministry of Public Safety. The RCMP was quick to take the credit, attributing the “unbelievable” plunge to “strategic enforcement,” which included crackdowns on street racing, seat belt non-compliance and impaired driving. But since none of these strategies is new to 2008, the RCMP’s claim is a bit hard to swallow. The more likely cause for the drop in fatalities is twofold: record-high gas prices, and the dramatic downturn of the B.C. economy in the second half of the year.
No other provinces have yet reported their 2008 statistics. But the Ottawa-based Traffic Injury Research Foundation reports that 25 U.S. states are also showing double-digit decreases in traffic fatalities. Indeed, the decline in B.C.—which, in an Angus Reid poll, led the country in turning to bikes and public transit when gas prices rose—is larger than in any U.S. jurisdiction. The largest decline in the U.S. was in Virginia, which reported a drop in fatalities of 20 per cent.
By Jason Kirby - Monday, October 27, 2008 at 11:58 AM - 2 Comments
Part of our story on the Joy of Frugality in the latest issue of…
Part of our story on the Joy of Frugality in the latest issue of the magazine looks at the question of whether economic downturns can actually be good for your health. Several researchers, including Christopher Ruhm at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, have dug into the numbers. And they’ve found that yes, recessions (in the short term at least) can make you live longer. Continue…