Washington Bike Law is helping a new company called Placemeter get accurate traffic counts that can not only specify bikes, people, cars, buses, but track their speeds and directions as well. It can even count crashes and close-calls.
Today’s new technology post has a soundtrack… from 1982 (it sounds better than I remember and seems to be on-point here):
How is Washington Bike Law helping? It’s not by coding I assure you! Our office is merely a test location for one of the Placementer sensors… we’ve been monitoring the intersection of Second and Cherry for a few months now, including traffic on the Second Avenue Bike Lane.
What about privacy? Is the “eye in the sky” “The Man“? Not really. According to the Fast Company article, Placemeter “won’t use facial recognition to pinpoint individuals, nor will any people watch the video feeds. It is purposefully staying away from any security-related applications or customers … and couldn’t, say, help with a police search even if it wanted to.”
Who cares then? We do. Bike people. Fast Company quotes Placemeter’s CEO Alex Winters as saying that bike activists interested in making the case for bike lanes could find it useful. “Typically, that kind of data has been out of reach for most community groups”.
Now how might more data be helpful in Seattle, land of process and little action? Consider this recent PI headline:
Recently, I noticed a cement ramp added overnight to a bridge support column for the West Seattle Bridge along the bicycle and pedestrian path. I suspected that it might be a gorilla skate ramp and, when another skate park item was cemented into the path a week or two later, I was sure of it.
The ramp is on the top of this photo, it’s a bit hard to see, but that’s my concern… someone may hit the side of it and crash.
This expanding skate park is in the middle of a bike path intersection with limited visibility and bicyclists coming downhill from the right with a fair bit of speed.
I’m concerned that bicyclists and skaters could collide here.
Now why would skaters do this? Aren’t there safer places to skate… like this waterfront space (complete with anti-skating bars and NO SKATEBOARDING signs):
I suppose I’m willing to cut the skateboarders some slack, but I hope no one gets hurt.
I’ve also noticed some other new ramps in Pioneer Square that I whole-heartily endorse
Seattle is so inconsistent with its curb cuts for wheelchairs and bicyclists. Some intersections have them, some do not. In Pioneer Square there are some very high curbs with no cuts. At this intersection, the new ramps serve multiple purposes. They help people on wheels cross the street and the slow traffic on the street making it a safer area for all users. Well done SDOT!
Yesterday I attended the Grand Opening of the new South Park Bridge. South Park is a neighborhood in Seattle on the other side of the Duwamish River from Georgetown. I lived there for almost 14 years and know how important this link is to the community. I was happy to see the bridge finally open.
Bicycle, pedestrian and transit advocates often criticize road projects for their focus on individual car travel. The South Park Bridge will benefit trucks, buses, emergency services, as well as single occupancy motor vehicles, and has some significant improvements over the bridge it replaced. The sidewalks are much safer and there are marked bike lanes on both sides of the bridge.
But here is the thing that makes no sense to me. To the right of the bike lane, the area that is supposed to be safe for bicyclists to ride, there is a giant impact absorber.
This is a city street with, at this time, a 30 mph speed limit. Someone decided that, just in case drivers veer out of their lane and drive through the bike lane, they should be protected from a high-impact, high speed collision by this impact absorbing device. People inside steel cages with seat belts and air bags.
You on the bike… good luck. And wear your helmet… is this the message our infrastructure should send?