Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bikes & Cars in Bejing China

The signage in China uses some unique elements that in the U.S. are a bit uncommon. The lane signage shows the separation of bikes and vehicle lanes (represented by the fence) with a solid line on the sign. The bike sign on the over head mast arm is supported by the post mounted sign which is at the fence. This particular street was a frontage road adjacent to the freeway in Beijing. The signal heads are over to the right which is not compliant with the MUTCD and I would be curious whether there is any significance to the location of the post mounted bicycle signal head and the two that are on the arm other than the need to provide some redundancy in case one of the red indications is out. 
A few other observations is that there does not seem to be confusion between the bicycle signal display and the vehicular signal heads, as is sometimes described in the U.S. that could be that they used to have more bicycle traffic then they appear to have today, so most people are aware of what the bicycle indication is in reference to the other movements at the intersection.Posted by Picasa

E-Bikes for Freight in the Forbidden City Beijing China

E-bikes were everywhere in China. I was surprised to come across this one in the Forbidden City delivering inside one of the markets that was part of the cultural site.
This was only half the load that was carried in
Electronic bikes were very widely used in China.Posted by Picasa

Flying Piegon Bikes in Beijing along the Hutong

I came across these Flying Piegons and thought of the old saying a "Piegons in every home" that seems like an antiquated concept in today's China. Yesterday's Piegons has been replaced with Buicks and Chinese model cars that are being produced at a record pace.Posted by Picasa

Pedestrian Countdown Signal Crossing in Beijing

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Adaptive Control vs. Time of Day Signal Timing Plans

Interesting article that is worthy of a blog post by itself:

There is some debate over the benefits of Adaptive Control on the ITE listserv, here's my response:
Adaptive control is something that I thought was an effective strategy for dealing with changing traffic conditions. As a practitioner that has experience with the SCATS system, completed evaluation for the (now defunct?) OPAC initiative, and read the evaluations of the ACS Lite implementations completed by contractors (Sabra Wang) for the FHWA, it seems that they have their place, but the costs of the software and the modified detection are a lot for an agency to bear. There is also the cost of learning the software and having the maintenance and engineering staff know how to operate two different systems. As an agency with 1,080 signals, the City of Portland has 13 that are adaptive. The additional benefit of the 1%, that the City spent a significant amount of money to "improve" may have been better spent selectively throughout the system on technology that would have put information in the hands of the engineers that operate the remaining 99% of the signals. One could argue, (I could make this argument myself), that the limitation of resources across the board should not be the key limiting factor that we use in the cases, and there are communities like Bellevue, WA and  Oakland County, MI (among others) that have installed enough of an adaptive system that their costs per intersection have come down significantly. My point is this, if an agency has a critical mass of intersections to apply an adaptive system than the engineers and maintenance staff have the ability to learn the system well enough to be effective in its operation. I will still contend there is a lot of functionality in our existing systems that we aren't using and effective gap setting, improved measurement of performance, and recognition and response of problems would serve us well. Here are my takeaways, I am curious if folks agree.

There are several situations where it is worth considering:
1. Surrounding event centers where the traffic ingress/egress are so variable that there isn't a great way to handle this (Portland uses some responsive control that works reasonably well at the NBA arena in Portland).
2. Applied where there is a significant number of intersections where the focus of several staff will handle the challenge of learning the new system.
3. If an agency is looking to mitigate congestion (as oppose to widening an existing street), adaptive control would likely increase capacity by being responsive to traffic increases in the shoulders of the peak by raising the cycle length earlier than a time of day plan. This is my opinion,  studying these effects has not been done carefully (the Portland system included).

Significant limitations of the systems that need to be considered:
1. Limited ability to prioritize transit within the systems. The first answer from our vendor related to transit priority in the adaptive system was non-responsive.
2. Oversaturated operations. Does the system work better when traffic is queued up between intersections? Have you engineered the adaptive system to recognize when congestion occurs?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Hong Kong NW Territory Cycling Infrastructure

I was expecting to see good cycling infrastructure while visiting China. I'd read a few stories highlighting how the status of the bicycle has fallen quite a bit in the past years and how cycling is not considered as a sport. Clearly, there is considerable status in having a car much as it is in the U.S. and on warm summer days in Hong Kong, I understand the usefulness of air conditioning. This post hopes to share the good and bad of Hong Kong cycling infrastructure.

One of the observed problems (which I will cover in more details later) is behavior of cyclists, but that's party a response to the lack of comfort they feel while using the facilities. It is partly due to conflicts from the other users of the streets, but also from the infrastructure provided. I liked the succinct comment I found with a quick search at  "44 percent of people in Beijing use their cars to travel distances of less than 5 kilometres. Most of these journeys could be made on a bicycle. So creating an environment to enable this social change is vital. 
Duan Liren, a traffic consultant for Beijing municipal government, says first and foremost Chinese road users need to understand the concept of Right of Way on bicycle. "If a thief steals 100 yuan, you know it's illegal. Actually this is as wrong as a vehicle driving in a bicycle lane." 
2-way Cycletracks were provided on many of the streets we were on.
At intersections, they use bollards to slow traffic to insure yielding.
As much as right of way and behavior is important, quality infrastructure is critical for people that want to use the facilities that are built. This post is a summary of some cycletrack elements we saw in the Northwest Territory of Hong Kong. In general, the City seems heavily influenced by British traffic (driving) standards and much like I have seen in London, most of the cycling infrastructure was not present on many of the major streets. London is making major strides to change that by committing to a new plan just this past March.  It's not just London that is making bold steps, but cities like New York City among others in the U.S., yet similarly there there are occasional challenges to this new infrastructure.

A weekend mountain biker weaves through the cars that are parked near the bollards.
Bollards at the intersections made it impossible to cycle side by side
with another person continuously. 
During our tour from a local we got to see some of the urban infrastructure. The visit and cycling tour in the NW Territory was a good opportunity to experience the infrastructure from a local's perspective.    The tour guide gave us a troup of the area nearby his home and then out into the “Wetlands, New Towns & Heritage Trails”.
The bollards took varioius form. In order to keep cars out of the facility, signs were placed
at numerous locations even at some locations is might have been unnecessary. 
A private driveway introduced a curve which made this intersection difficult to traverse, especially for a younger rider that may not be as confident on their bike.  

Shenzhen Traffic Management Center Tour

The tour group included some of the speakers from the CICTP
Conference including representatives from Texas DOT, Texas
Transportation Institute, and University of Toronto.
    The human side of the TMC tour included Rob Bertini and I with Rob's host for the day.
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Tour of the Shenzhen Traffic Management Center

We were told that the bottom line says: Multimodal TMC 
As a part of the CICTP conference, we were afforded an opportunity to visit the Shenzhen Multimodal Traffic Management Center. The TMC was in what looked like a bus garage, but it looked like all of the employees drove to work.
The operations of a City of 15 Million requires a large TV screen to make sure you are getting the management activities right. Kidding aside, it was an impressive set of screens across the room and must have been 20 feet high.

GPS data from buses looks like L.A. DOT's system
The TMC gets information from many sources. The sources include security cameras, traffic survelliance, GPS transponders from taxis and buses (picture to the left), freeway speed (picture above) and flow detectors, and freight data from the ports and the ships in the harbor (picture below).

The TMC was impressive as most of them are, we wouldn't tour them if they were not going to have something to look at. One piece of feedback is that I wonder if the point of the TMC is for actual operations or more symbolic. It did seem like they had a good number of people working on code for their public information applications, they have one called "Traffic In Hand" that is available and it includes data and info on all modes including some of their bicycle shops that are available.
Freight shipping is tracked at the TMC

The TMC also provides a dispatch function for pictures that are sent in by the public whth requests to fix things (sort of like the Portland ap - PDX Reporter) which is nice for citizens to be able to help the City do its job even though there are times when the system is used incorrectly.

Video feeds from a wide variety of transit hubs.
They get a lot of survelliance video from the airports, train stations, etc (4059). All of the screens are linked to the workstations. We saw a lot of video cameras throughout the City while we were there and it wasn't clear whether they all come back to the TMC. If they are like the Portland version, there are different departments that have their own systems and they are not totally integrated, but that could be a thing of the past with shared communication systems and technology advances.

The most interesting application was that they have all of the taxis connected with either a 2.5 or 3G cellular connection, so at any point they can pull up where a taxi is and what the most recent fares of the car have been. The polling rate was definitely sub minute level, so that they have a pretty good sense of travel times where the taxis are similar to the NYC Midtown in Motion project.
Taxi Automatic Vehicle Location system for fare checking provides
information on what the last fares were for each driver in the system.

The Traffic In Hand ap also includes information about parking lots, bus stops, and other transit information including information on escalators in the stations .

Visit to China to speak at Universities and the CICTP2013 conference

I was invited to speak at the Chinese Overseas Transportation Association Conference in Shenzhen CICTP 2013. It was my first visit to China and it was memorable. There will be a series of blog posts here on a range of topics including bicycling infrastructure, the Shenzhen Traffic Management Center, observed behavior, pedestrian scramble, speed limits, pedestrian markings & signage, subways, and signal timing.

The trip included a visit to Hong Kong (first point of entry) a City rich in history that afforded some fantastic siteseeing, a seminar at SunYatSen University in Guangzhou (a small town of 11 million), the conference in Shenzhen (the PRC answer to Hong Kong), and a trip to Beijing.

Monday, August 12, 2013

High Speed Rail from Hong Kong to Guangzhou

High speed rail is fun and feels like Home!

Transportation information at the station
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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Traffic Crashes in Portland and Enforcement - A City's Response


PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and City Commissioner Steve Novick have asked Portland Police to provide targeted enforcement on Thursday, designed to improve traffic safety this summer. An unusually high number of traffic fatalities so far this year is cause for concern, they say, and the public needs to know driver awareness can help keep the roadways safe.

“Our message is the same for drivers, for bike riders and for pedestrians,” Mayor Charlie Hales said. “You have the power. If you share our streets, and if you do so without undue distraction, you can make a dramatic difference in the number of injuries and fatalities. But it takes all of us, equally, to make that difference.”

“Safety is the transportation bureau’s top priority,” said City Commissioner Steve Novick, who oversees the bureau. “We’re building safer crosswalks as fast as we can and working with the community to address our high crash corridors. But everyone plays a role by paying attention no matter how you’re getting around.”

“We have had 23 fatal crashes this year compared to 17 at the same time last year,” said Chief Michael Reese.  “People are dying or being injured on Portland’s streets from traffic crashes that often can be avoided.  We usually see a seasonal increase in traffic fatalities this time of year, due to more motor vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians on the road during summer months.  However, we are concerned at the rising number of fatalities this year and we want to remind people to slow down, not drive distracted or impaired and make traffic safety a priority.”

Traffic safety mission details
Why:  23 fatal crashes this year (17 same time last year)

When: Thursday July 25, 2013. 12:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Who: Portland Police Traffic Division, East Precinct and Central Precinct; the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office; and, the Oregon State Police

What: Mission will focus on all traffic violators, including distracted and speeding drivers, pedestrian violations and unsafe bicycle operation.

The first phase of the mission, from noon to 3:30 p.m., will focus on SE Division Street, from SE 82nd to 162nd Avenues.

The second phase of the mission, from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., will be on SW Barbur Boulevard, from SW Hamilton Street to Capitol Highway. 

Both of these areas among the 10 corridors in the city’s High Crash Corridor Program, where the City of Portland is working with residents and businesses to identify traffic safety solutions and encourage compliance and additional enforcement of traffic laws. To learn more about the Transportation Bureau’s High Crash Corridor Program, see:

Statistics about recent traffic crashes
July 24, 2013
·         To date in 2013 there have been 23 fatal traffic crashes in the City of Portland. There were 31 in all of 2012.
·         At this time last year, there had been 17 fatal traffic crashes.
·         Breakdown of 2013 fatalities: 14-motor vehicle; 3-motorcycle; 6-pedestrian; 0-Bicyclists
·         12 of the 23 fatalities have involved impaired drivers with BAC’s ranging from
.15 - .25 %
·         Of the 6 pedestrian fatalities, motor vehicle drivers have been at fault in 4 of them
·         There were 4 traffic fatalities in 6 days from July 5 to 11. Two involved speeding and impaired drivers.
·         Driver/pedestrian distraction or inattention: 4 of the 6 pedestrian fatalities could have been avoided if the pedestrian and/or driver were focused on their actions