Monday, November 30, 2015

Last chance to comment on plan to remove the Fresno Fulton Mall - act now!

On December 3rd, at 1:30pm, the Fresno City Council will be presented with the last step of the process to eliminate the Fulton Mall and turn it into a street. They will vote on whether to award the contract or not to begin the destruction of the pedestrian mall.

At this point, the project is 11 months late and, more importantly, $3 million dollars over budget.

At $23.05 million, American Paving had the lowest of three bids for the project. The other two bidders were Lewis C. Nelson at $23.3 million and Granite Construction at $27.68 million. Right off , the city is eliminating a bid alternative that will save around $600,000. That takes American Paving’s bid to $22.4 million. The cash on hand for the project – around $20 million – means City Hall now needs to either cut around $2.4 million from the proposal or find some additional revenue. It looks like the city isn’t counting on the latter.

“We have to do it with the resources we have available,” Swearengin said.
Fresno Bee
While the mayor is pushing through, the final decision to sign the cheque is up to the City Council - a council which is wary about projects that are late and over budget.

That means, if you are interested in saving the Fulton Mall, you have one last opportunity to contact your council member and tell them why you don't think they should approve the plan.

You can find who your representative is here:

Their emails are formatted as 

Remember, you can see my analysis of the construction diagrams here

I've written a letter addressing the following points:
  1. The project is already over-cost and delayed, can we trust the other promises the city has made?
  2. The mayor is promising to bring a list of changes to cut the budget - shouldn't the vote be delayed so the people of Fresno can review those changes? Details matter. We should know what's being chopped and have a time to comment.
  3. The plan should be modified into a phased approach, so the cost and time of the conversion of one block (the northern-most) can be analyzed to see if it will hold true for the entire project. For these types of projects they always fund buried power-lines and sewer lines that weren't mapped - adding millions in costs and months of delays.

I hope you can do the same, and feel free to recommend your own talking points in the comments below.
Read more here:

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Fresno is finally getting a Tesla Supercharger

Over the past few years, I've posted about how Fresno is severely lacking in electric vehicle charging infrastructure. It's especially disturbing because the state has put so many incentives in place, and yet, instead of deploying the chargers where the worst air quality is, they're all installed in the Bay Area or LA. Three years ago, there were a grand total of zero public chargers in the area. Fortunately, that has improved. Now, Fresno State offers public chargers, and there are a few others scattered across town.

However. one of the biggest backers of electric vehicle chargers has been Tesla, and they've been MIA. They have been deploying a network of proprietary "superchargers" nationwide to help sell their cars:
Superchargers are free connectors that charge Model S in minutes instead of hours. Stations are strategically placed to minimize stops during long distance travel and are conveniently located near restaurants, shopping centers, and WiFi hot spots. Each station contains multiple Superchargers to help you get back on the road quickly. 
Although the original intention was to act as fueling stations along long-distance route, Tesla quickly began saturating markets with them.

This March, I noticed that as their network kept expanding, there was one giant hole - you guessed it, the Central Valley. Only a single station on I-5 between San Francisco in LA.

Forget serving the Fresno market - Tesla didn't even appear interested in servicing 99 or even the massive market of people driving to the national parks.

It looks like that will change within the next month.

Look closely and you'll see that the Tesla map now features a grey "coming soon" icon in the Fresno area.

 photo charger1_zps96cuoem3.png

Additional snooping has revealed the exact location - At Herndon and 99, in the new strip mall.
 photo charger2_zpsonyw1sqn.png

Electric cars may be green, but massive parking lots are anything but

  photo charger4_zpsylc3gw34.png

It's a surprising location. While it serves the 99 market well, it's not ideal for folks going to Yosemite, Sequoia, or China Peak. The ideal location, of course, would be in the downtown triangle, where all the freeways meet. A secondary location would be Fashion Fair, right off 41, or River Park.

 photo charger3_zpsshjzifsf.png

This new center is a bit isolated, but it is better than nothing. It is certainly good to see that the folks at Tesla finally discovered the center of the state. Maybe one of them tried to drive to Sequoia and realized they wouldn't be able to make the trip.

Construction has yet to begin, so it is unknown if it will be up and running before the holiday travel season.

It would be nice to see additional stations in the future. Aside from downtown, River Park, and Fashion Fair, the 180 and Temperance area would be a good choice, along with 168 and Temperance near the Clovis Hospital.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

If high viz is so important, why don't US police lead by example?

It's that time of the year again, when you leave work at your usual time and suddenly get hit with a blast of 10pm darkness. Although the thermometer says "perfect biking and walking weather," our corporate overlords demand we work our regular hours, which happen to extend past sunset. As such, the evening commute becomes a nighttime affair.

Cue the "be visible" safety campaigns kicking into high gear. The Boston Globe has an article on being visible at night:

In self-defense, “push yourself into the driver’s awareness as much as you can” by exploiting biological motion, said Jonathan Dobres, a research scientist at MIT’s AgeLab. “Make yourself as big and bright and reflective as you can. You’re really helping the brain of a driver figure out, ‘Oh, that’s not a road sign, that’s a person moving around.’ ”
Boston Globe
 Streetsblog reports on a Halloween campaign: 

So what should be a holiday for care-free fun is marked by admonishments, directed at parents and kids, to avoid getting killed by motorists, like this tweet from the Federal Highway Administration. There’s also the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has been tweeting all week about how children should “be seen.”

And others tweet:
 photo highviz1_zpsigpvw4jv.jpg

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Periodically, lawmakers call for measures to require people walking and bicycling at night to wear reflective clothing, such as in Oregon earlier this year.

On one hand, these messages make a decent point. It's dark. Being visible is good.

On the other hand, many see it as victim blaming. After all, isn't it the responsibility of those operating machinery to do so safely? Why put the onus on those doing something as simple as walking home?

Regardless of that debate, the push for "high viz" got me thinking: If it's so important, so critical for safety, why aren't the police departments the first the suit up in the highest visibility gear possible?

Shouldn't they be leading by example? Aren't they the most sensitive to the value of visibility?

Indeed, the fact that they are not is even more questionable when one looks across the pond, at departments that do practice what they preach.

Take, for example, your typical US beat patrolman. Walking the street. Doing their thing.

  photo highviz3_zpsqjq31wmc.jpg

Los Angeles:
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Notice anything?

Yup, dark, dark, DARK clothing.
  photo highviz912_zpsbwehd2f6.jpg

Must be a nightmare to spot these officers crossing the street at night. In fact, if a pedestrian wearing this color was hit at night by an inattentive driver, they would absolutely be blamed for not making themselves visible.

Doesn't have to be that way though.

From what I've seen, it appears that some police departments take visibility a tad more serious, especially in Europe. One can't walk around London without seeing this uniform:

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This curious oversight by American police departments appears to extend to all forms of policing.

Take bicycle patrols. Nothing is more important for bicyclists than being visible right?

And yet, once again, the standard appears to be dark clothing.

NYC bicycle police officers appear to have a small reflective strip on their arm.

 photo highviz8_zpshigxhiye.jpg

Los Angeles has nothing:
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And Boston does appear to do a good job:
 photo highviz901_zpsg6jqtpxc.jpg

But London still does better:
 photo highviz902_zps8nxsmaxf.jpg photo highviz903_zpsspacg6nq.jpg

In New York City, especially, the blatant disregard for the lifesaving benefits of high visibility clothing extend to the mounted unit:

 photo highviz904_zps3lvdfyxa.jpg

Compare to these Australian units:
 photo highviz905_zpsnxfyk52j.jpg

Check out those lovely leg reflectors!

What's especially curious is that American police departments are well aware of the dangers police officers can face due to poor visibility. Indeed, they've successfully lobbied for laws around the country that protect police officers making traffic stops, by requiring motorists to change lanes when approaching.

These are called the "move over laws"

More than 150 U.S. law enforcement officers have been killed since 1999 after being struck by vehicles along America's highways, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. To lower that deadly toll, a new coalition of traffic safety and law enforcement groups is launching a nationwide public awareness campaign to protect emergency personnel along our nation's roadsides.

Forty three states have passed “Move Over” laws, which require motorists to “Move Over” and change lanes to give safe clearance to law enforcement officers on roadsides.
Move Over America

Interesting. They've chosen to address the safety concern by making the drivers liable for the collision, rather than blaming the victim (the police officer) for not being visible.

And yet when it comes to the general public, the solution to fatalities seems to be to put the onus on the victim to be more visible.

I don't get it. Rather than lobbying for, and getting laws passed, and then educating the motoring public on a new law, wouldn't it make more sense to stop painting their cars dark black, like this:

 photo highviz906_zps9fldfmtg.jpg
 photo highviz907_zpsleswcdew.jpg

And adopt international standards like this?

 photo highviz908_zpszaszsmww.jpg
 photo highviz909_zpskfenkdip.jpg

Less of this:
 photo highviz910_zpsr2momigk.jpg

And more of this:
 photo highviz911_zpsfycjnecv.jpg

What's the problem? Is it not cool? Is it not intimidating enough?

Sure, high visibility is kind of dorky, but doesn't safety come first?

Maybe people would take these safety messages more seriously if the police departments that issued them practiced what they preached.