Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Cable cars

Speaking of traffic, the local news had a story about cable cars being the most dangerous public transportation in SF:

High Accident Rate On S.F. Cable Cars
The I-Team has uncovered some surprising data on the safety of public transportation that might make you think twice before getting on a cable car.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Mental gridlock

Steve's recent post about no-rules traffic reminded me of interesting, and sometimes surprising, ideas about traffic.

For example, near Steve's house is a wide two lane street that is a dangerous for pedestrians to cross because traffic is moving fast (for a residential area) and the road is so wide that pedestrians spend a long time crossing. It is a road in need of traffic calming. One technique is to reduce the radius of sidewalk curves at intersections (reducing road width -> pedestrians are in the roadway less time).

It is a little counter intuitive, but congested narrow residential streets might be safer for pedestrians. I seem to remember a few years ago a consultant recommended to the City of Reedley not to indulge the instinct to install stop signs willy-nilly, and making wide residential road. Unfortunately, Reedley is now The Land of Many Stop Signs.

Another interesting thing is that the modern traffic roundabouts are more efficient and safer than intersections controlled by stop signs or signals.

There's also provocative data about urban vs. rural traffic fatalities. Somewhere (Tufte?) I saw a map of the US showing by county the traffic fatality rate. That map is essentially the mirror image of a map showing population density by county. I can't find the map on the Web, but the "Partners for Rural Traffic Safety" say

More than half of fatal crashes occur in rural areas: 59 percent of total traffic fatalities for all vehicles and 64 percent for passenger vehicles.

The fatality rate in rural areas is TWICE that of urban areas: 2.6 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled versus 1.1 in urban areas.

Restraint use in rural fatal crashes is LOWER than in urban crashes: 36 percent versus 48 percent.

Finally, the "safer to drive or fly?" question pops up in the Risk Digest:
As for the cliche that the drive to the airport is riskier than
the flight, the researchers concluded that average drivers with
the age distribution of airline passengers are less likely to be
killed on a 50-mile, one-way trip to the airport than on the flight.

Speaking of flying, a new record was set today for amount of time before I get panhandled in San Francisco. This record is likely not to be broken since as I was getting out of the airport-hotel van, I was asked for money immediately.

One more thing, according to the June 2005 Harper's Index:

Portion of the world's motor vehicles that are in China: 1/17

Portion of the world's annual traffic fatalities that are: 1/5

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Here's a few updates on previous postings:

  • Back in February 2006 I mentioned the probability of dying in various ways. There is a really interesting graphic that's a lot easier to understand.
  • In September 2005 I noted that I wasn't much of a Prairie Home Companion fan, but you can listen on the Web. KFSR, the Fresno State radio station, will begin broadcasting the show in December. Some people are still upset that KVPR dumped Prairie Home Companion years ago.
  • Over a year ago I posted a message about free viewers for Microsoft Office documents. I think that is a better way to view MS Office docs without buying office, and it works on Mac OS, Windows, and Linux. And it's free! You can download viewer widgets/gadgets/plugins or use their free online suite.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Nickel and diming it

During a boring summer job between high school and college I imagined my meager hourly wage as nickels dropping onto a pile.

The December 2006 SmartMoney magazine has four paragraphs on the "fastest way to earn 33 percent in 2006." I can't find a legitimate copy of the column on the web, but I found a blog entry where someone had typed it. Hint: it is about nickels. Disclaimer: I have no idea who the blogger is that posted the column -- it's the only copy that Google could find :)

The funny thing was that my nickel-visualizing job took place in a big vault. No, I was never locked in.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The beyond

No matter what your take on it, atheism is a hot topic right now. Besides the recent Wired article, Time also covered it, Julia Sweeney was interviewed in October on NPR's Fresh Air, and Penn Jillette did a "This I Believe" segment on NPR.

And, another plug for the Mennonite astronomer Owen Gingerich, his essay "Is the Cosmos all there is?" and his book that came out in September.