Friday, January 29, 2010

Help Support Ban on Texting While Driving

The following comes from our friend and ally Lisa Cunningham of Coastal Cyclists

There is a new bill in the SC legislature that would ban texting while driving and would also ban using a cell phone without a hands-free device. PCC supports this ban, since texting while driving has been proven to be as dangerous as driving drunk. As cyclists, we are especially vulnerable to the dangers of distracted driving. As you all know, two expert cyclists were killed in SC in 2007 by a driver who was distracted by a cell phone.

The PCC has produced a position paper on this issue, and Rachael has provided talking points and contact info for the relevant State Representatives. CLICK HERE OR PASTE THIS URL INTO YOUR BROWSER WINDOW.
http://archive. constantcontact. com/fs004/ 1102329574334/ archive/11029639 06072.html

(LISA SAID: This bill WAS scheduled to be debated by the Transportation Committee last Wednesday. Nevertheless, check out the PCC talking points on the link above, and contact your state reps and senators to support it ASAP.!)
Lisa Cunningham

Thursday, January 28, 2010


The prestigious Alliance for Biking and Walking (formerly Thunderhead Alliance) has published a new study which examines state spending on bicycling and pedestrian provisions as well as accident rates.

The study puts South Carolina just above the absolute bottom, ranking it 47th out of all 50 states, spending approximately 44 cents per person during the period considered.

For more, click here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Times Lays It out: Perils of Walking While On Cell Phone

January 17, 2010
Driven to Distraction
Forget Gum. Walking and Using Phone Is Risky.

SAN FRANCISCO — On the day of the collision last month, visibility was good. The sidewalk was not under repair. As she walked, Tiffany Briggs, 25, was talking to her grandmother on her cellphone, lost in conversation.

Very lost.

“I ran into a truck,” Ms. Briggs said.

It was parked in a driveway.

Distracted driving has gained much attention lately because of the inflated crash risk posed by drivers using cellphones to talk and text.

But there is another growing problem caused by lower-stakes multitasking — distracted walking — which combines a pedestrian, an electronic device and an unseen crack in the sidewalk, the pole of a stop sign, a toy left on the living room floor or a parked (or sometimes moving) car.

The era of the mobile gadget is making mobility that much more perilous, particularly on crowded streets and in downtown areas where multiple multitaskers veer and swerve and walk to the beat of their own devices.

Most times, the mishaps for a distracted walker are minor, like the lightly dinged head and broken fingernail that Ms. Briggs suffered, a jammed digit or a sprained ankle, and, the befallen say, a nasty case of hurt pride. Of course, the injuries can sometimes be serious — and they are on the rise.

Slightly more than 1,000 pedestrians visited emergency rooms in 2008 because they got distracted and tripped, fell or ran into something while using a cellphone to talk or text. That was twice the number from 2007, which had nearly doubled from 2006, according to a study conducted by Ohio State University, which says it is the first to estimate such accidents.

“It’s the tip of the iceberg,” said Jack L. Nasar, a professor of city and regional planning at Ohio State, noting that the number of mishaps is probably much higher considering that most of the injuries are not severe enough to require a hospital visit. What is more, he said, texting is rising sharply and devices like the iPhone have thousands of new, engaging applications to preoccupy phone users.

Mr. Nasar supervised the statistical analysis, which was done by Derek Troyer, one of his graduate students. He looked at records of emergency room visits compiled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Examples of such visits include a 16-year-old boy who walked into a telephone pole while texting and suffered a concussion; a 28-year-old man who tripped and fractured a finger on the hand gripping his cellphone; and a 68-year-old man who fell off the porch while talking on a cellphone, spraining a thumb and an ankle and causing dizziness.

Young people injured themselves more often. About half the visits Mr. Troyer studied were by people under 30, and a quarter were 16 to 20 years old. But more than a quarter of those injured were 41 to 60 years old.

Pedestrians, like drivers, have long been distracted by myriad tasks, like snacking or reading on the go. But the constant interaction with electronic devices has made single-tasking seem boring or even unproductive.

Cognitive psychologists, neurologists and other researchers are beginning to study the impact of constant multitasking, whether behind a desk or the wheel or on foot. It might stand to reason that someone looking at a phone to read a message would misstep, but the researchers are finding that just talking on a phone takes its own considerable toll on cognition and awareness.

Sometimes, pedestrians using their phones do not notice objects or people that are right in front of them — even a clown riding a unicycle. That was the finding of a recent study at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., by a psychology professor, Ira Hyman, and his students.

One of the students dressed as a clown and unicycled around a central square on campus. About half the people walking past by themselves said they had seen the clown, and the number was slightly higher for people walking in pairs. But only 25 percent of people talking on a cellphone said they had, Mr. Hyman said.

He said the term commonly applied to such preoccupation is “inattention blindness,” meaning a person can be looking at an object but fail to register it or process what it is.

Particularly fascinating, Mr. Hyman said, is that people walking in pairs were more than twice as likely to see the clown as were people talking on a cellphone, suggesting that the act of simply having a conversation is not the cause of inattention blindness.

One possible explanation is that a cellphone conversation taxes not just auditory resources in the brain but also visual functions, said Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco. That combination, he said, prompts the listener to, for example, create visual imagery related to the conversation in a way that overrides or obscures the processing of real images.

By comparison, walking and chewing gum (that age-old measure of pedestrian skill at multitasking) is a snap.

“Walking and chewing are repetitive, well-practiced tasks that become automatic,” Dr. Gazzaley said. “They don’t compete for resources like texting and walking.”

Further, he said, the cellphone gives people a constant opportunity to pursue goals that feel more important than walking down the street.

“An animal would never walk into a pole,” he said, noting survival instincts would trump other priorities.

For Shalamar Jones, 19, the priority was keeping in touch with her boyfriend. Last month while she was Christmas shopping in a mall near San Francisco, she was texting him when — bam! — she walked into the window of a New York & Company store, thinking it was a door.

“I thought it was open,” she said, noting that no harm was done. “I just started laughing at myself.”

The worst part is the humiliation, said Christopher Black, 20, an art student at San Francisco State University who 18 months ago had his own pratfall.

At the time, Mr. Black said, the sidewalks were packed with pedestrians. So he decided he could move faster if he walked in the street, keeping close to the parked cars. The trouble is he was also texting — with a woman he was flirting with.

He unwittingly started to veer into the road, prompting an oncoming car to honk. He said he instinctively jumped toward the sidewalk but, in the process, forgot about the line of parked cars.

“I splayed against the side of the car, and the phone hit the ground,” he said. He and his phone were uninjured, except for his pride. “It was pretty significantly embarrassing.”

Thursday, January 14, 2010


On display now at the Charleston Civic Design Center, and only through January 27th is the promising regional Metro-Charleston Bike Plan by the Clemson Architecture Center in Charleston (CAC.C).

There have been other such plans in varying levels of detail in the past, the most comprehensive one done several years ago under the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments. This new one one is based on interviews with bike activists, urban designers, and local government experts, the visionary Plan proposes to address the greatest obstacle to Charleston’s being a premiere biking community: bike access between the local communities.

Charleston Moves Director Tom Bradford was among the many people who participated in discussions upon which the plan was constructed. He said he feels that this plan is very promising, especially since it was unveiled at a time when communities are beginning to pay much more attention to the role of alternative forms of transportation.

The CAC.C Bike Plan proposes four Bike Links that radiate from the peninsula, and a Bike Belt that, with the aid of water taxis, would make a loop connecting James Island, West Ashley, North Charleston, Daniel Island, and Mt. Pleasant. Each of these bikeways would be separated from vehicular traffic to encourage use and optimize safety; each would have a landscape treatment symbolic of its off-peninsula community. The system of bikeways and small parks would be a civic amenity as well as bike-friendly infrastructure.

Serving both commuters and recreational riders, tourists and locals, the Bike Plan would provide the inter-regional connections needed to make the metro-area safe, fun, and viable for cyclists. It would also make a secondary system of simple road-striping lanes, together with the bike-friendly streets we already enjoy, a completely viable transportation system.

Discussions are now underway about using this plan as a basis for a broad-based public and private sector initiative to see that actual progress is made toward "connecting the dots" for bicyclists. Stay tuned!

The exhibit at the Civic Design Center (85 Calhoun Street) will close January 27.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Mark Your Calendar

The annual Ride of Silence will be held May 19.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Post & Courier Editorial: Pay Attention to Cyclists' Needs

Charleston Moves salutes the Post and Courier which consistently "gets it" when it comes to sharing the road and the implications that has for motorists, cyclists, politicians and planners. Please see further comments below the editorial.

Sad reminder of bike needs

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Not every bicycle death could have been prevented by safe bike lanes, paths and helmets. But every death resulting from a bicycle accident demonstrates how far the Lowcountry must go before bicycling is a safe, accessible, way for citizens to get around.

Last Sunday, Eduardo Gomez Ortiz was killed after he fell from his bicycle into traffic and was struck by a vehicle. According to Charleston police, Mr. Ortiz fell while trying to avoid construction obstacles on the Burnet R. Maybank Bridge over the Wappoo Cut.

The driver of the car that hit him will not be charged, and a report with all the details has not been issued.

But Mr. Ortiz' tragic death serves as a reminder of why local municipalities should waste no more time meeting the needs of those who want to use their bikes, instead of cars, for transportation, to reduce their carbon footprints, to avoid hunting for parking spaces or to get exercise.

If there are places where it is dangerous to bike, look for ways to make them safer. Not every road can be made bike-friendly, but set a goal to provide safe ways for bicyclists to get to the places that would be most helpful to the most people.

Commit to providing bike lanes on all new roads and adding them when significant work is done on existing ones.

Educate bicyclists and motorists about how to coexist safely. The laws are on the books. They need to be enforced.

Meanwhile, cyclists should take additional safety measures. Wear a protective helmet. Bike defensively. If a route appears unsafe, don't take it -- either walk your bike until it gets safe again or take another route, even if it is longer.

The city of Charleston has some encouraging plans which, while as yet indefinite, include providing a safe way across the Maybank Bridge.

Local governments can't guarantee safety, but cyclists need better odds than they now have.

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(from Charleston Moves)
We couldn't have said it better. But we are concerned about the death of Mr. Ortiz and the details of the accident that claimed his life.
Clearly, the intersection where it occurred is especially dangerous now that it is being reconstructed. Clearly, that stretch of Folly Road is dangerous under any circumstance.
The motorist involved in the accident was not charged which suggests the Charleston Police Department believed he or she was not at fault. But, as the Post and Courier reports, no complete report on the accident has been released. So, it is not possible for the public to make its own judgement about the facts in the matter.