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COLLISIONS IN STREET AND HIGHWAY TRANSPORTATION
W. J. Sidis
81. Esthetic Considerations. The esthetic considerations which seem to be essential to the question of entrance to or departure from theatre, store, home, or hotel, have largely been sacrificed at the vehicular entrances of railroad stations, in the interests of practical convenience and economy. It may be, that this sacrifice has had an effect as one of the causes of the remarkable reduction in passenger traffic upon the railroads.
82. The Problem Stated. The design of vehicular entrances to large buildings, to satisfy all requirements as to safety, convenience, economy of time, and the esthetic sense, is still for the future. The fundamental public interest is that the large volume of vehicular traffic shall not cross the sidewalk at the pedestrian level. The entrance problem is inseparable from the parking as well as the loading and unloading problems for these large buildings. The building owner's problem is that of the large requirement for space for vehicles. The combination-use building and the author's proposal for ramps from street level, together with the one-way street idea, are suggested as fundamental aids to the architect and municipal engineer.
83. Railroad Stations. The railroad station entrance problem belongs, perhaps, more correctly under the head of traffic coordination, but it may not be out of place to suggest that railroads will compete more successfully with private automobiles for passenger traffic, by visualizing a revolutionary design of station building. The new design should provide for storage of private motor cars, the rapid interchange of passengers from street cars, buses, taxicabs, and private motor cars, and reductions of time and inconvenience for the passengers from origin to final destination. The questions of connections and station waiting appear to be of vital importance. While the automobile frequently requires more time for a trip than the train, the prospective passengers often feel that they prefer to use time sitting in a moving motor car rather than in a railroad station. The coordination of travel facilities, embracing city transportation systems and intercity lines, is discussed under “Railroads” (241).
84. Commercial Vehicles. Along with the question of passenger transportation, the methods by which a city's freight is transported and handled from the point of delivery such as railroad freight house, wharf, or factory, or as we may say, from origin (in the city) to destination, are attracting more and more attention. Our problem is primarily that of safety, but certain features of the more general economic problem will necessarily have to be reviewed.
85. Economic Lasses Due to Lack of Coordination. Present-day freight transportation in cities, as well as commodity and parcel delivery, is done mainly by motor truck. As carried out, this method suffers from economic losses which closely parallel those found in the case of passenger transportation, in that the vehicles are privately owned, and the inability to secure coordination among the separate controlling interests results in a considerable amount of dead mileage and loss of time for vehicles in waiting. The problem of loading large trucks at freight houses or wharfs where there is a congested condition due to the quantity of freight and number of waiting vehicles, represents a substantial interference with the transaction of a city's business.
86. Off-Street Loading and Unloading. Freight unloading at points of delivery such as stores, is frequently done with inconvenience and delay, not only to the owners of the vehicles and the owners of the stores, but to the public using the streets. It seems to be axiomatic that where any industrial or commercial establishment does a larger business in materials, products, etc., than a retail store of medium size, it should make every effort to have other and more satisfactory methods of freight handling than the curbstone method. The underground parking and traffic ways described under the subject “Under city sidewalks” (57), are especially adapted to this problem, both for large and small concerns.
87. General Solution of Economic Problems. Delivery of commodities and parcels is often done by uneconomical methods. In the delivery of milk and similar commodities, several vehicles, carrying the same kind of commodity pass a given point, for one that makes a delivery. The problem of unified parcel delivery and commodity distribution in a city, is one that has often attracted the attention of students of economics, but nothing like a workable plan has ever been tried or perhaps even suggested. The Parcel Post delivery appears to contain the elements of such a service, but in practice it is used far more for intercity, than for intracity distribution, and is subject to several major limitations, chief of which is the fact that the Parcel Post deliveryman merely distributes but does not collect. A little study of the whole problem of parcel and commodity handling will reveal that the real essence of the difficulty is largely the human elements entering into the questions of selective buying and personal responsibility for safe and prompt delivery, not merely of an article of a type nor a quantity of a commodity, but of the particular article or particular quantity of material purchased. The solution of this problem is remote, but a solution of the questions of standardized commodities or brands of specified quality, would probably be the first step in this line.
88. Relation to Safety. Freight transportation difficulties are related to traffic safety in so far as they result in an unnecessary increase in the number of commercial vehicles, and of their mileage on the streets, and what might be termed the psychological qualifications of the drivers of commercial vehicles. As indicated under “Speed, congestion, and collisions” (16), increased congestion in some districts of a city often results in increased speed in uncongested districts. Commercial vehicles appear to be involved in traffic accidents with a relatively greater frequency than other classes of vehicles. Collisions and other accidents endanger the drivers of trucks. Trucks frequently collide with other vehicles, particularly with smaller vehicles, or pedestrians. Whether the larger size of the average commercial vehicle is responsible for a larger accident rate, is not easy to decide. The most important factor appears to be the relatively lessened degree of care exercised by the truck driver, who is responsible for an inanimate load as compared with the driver of a passenger vehicle. While truck owners are not unmindful of the loss of time and money resulting from traffic accidents, continued promotion of their commercial enterprises compels them to furnish the support necessary to insure maintenance of their transportation units, and this undoubtedly results in a rather impersonal and somewhat inhumanitarian point of view for all concerned.
89. Proposal for Larger Side Clearances. A certain principle having a bearing on the likelihood of a traffic accident, has been recognized somewhat, but perhaps not so fully as might seem to be justified. This principle relates to the question of clearance between a moving object, the vehicle in question let us say, and any other object which the vehicle must pass, whether the latter object be fixed or moving. The practice of many drivers is to regard a question of a few inches of clearance as sufficient, and rather than equalize the clearance on both sides and proceed at a safe speed, the driver regards it as good practice to shorten the clearance on one side as much as possible. This refers particularly, of course, to two vehicles passing on a two-way street or road. The same method is often used in passing to the rear of vehicles which have crossed the path of the driver's vehicle. There is here an obvious departure from the safety inherent in allowing all of the clearance that is available. Drivers of commercial vehicles often have the protection afforded by a larger, heavier, stronger, and higher vehicle, therefore an apparently lessened personal risk in case of collision with the average passenger vehicle. Driving with small side clearances is a common practice with commercial vehicle drivers and must necessarily be regarded as the cause of numerous accidents. Driving at a speed which is too high for a given location often accompanies this small clearance driving, much to the alarm of those persons unfortunate enough to be near at hand. The procedure for inculcating the converse principle of driving with the largest clearances available, is difficult to suggest. The physical conditions upon present-day streets are such as to often encourage or even require driving with small side clearances, and a proper approach to the adoption of safe driving practices would appear to be by attacking the problem of physical arrangements. In subsequent paragraphs the author discusses the advantages of one-way streets and a proposed design for a safety intersection. These two ideas appear to constitute the fundamental elements needed in solving the clearance problem, as well as other problems of safety upon the streets.
90. The Clear Course Rule. Some will see in the rule of clearances above, the same suggestion found in the “clear course rule” frequently proposed. Theclear course rule states, in effect, that the rate of speed of a vehicle at any instant should be such that the driver will be able to bring his vehicle to a stop within the assured clear course ahead. The assured clear course is defined as the space in front of the vehicle which is actually clear of objects and likely to remain clear, considering all things of whatever nature which are within the field of view of the driver, or those which may be hidden but, from the driver’s past experience, likely to be found in or move into his course.
The clear course rule emphasizes the question of clearance along the projected path of the vehicle, and is of a highly speculative nature as to the possible or probable motions of persons and objects observed at either side of the projected path. The emphasis is also upon the reaction time of the driver, his powers of vision, his knowledge of hidden menaces, and the shortness of the braking distance of his vehicle. He may pass an object at whatever small clearance he chooses, and is required only to reduce speed when such clearances are small, and objects are likely to move into his path. While it seems neither profitable nor practicable to analyze these two proposals definitely enough to say how much they differ, it does appear that many accidents are caused by the maintenance of extremely short side clearances by drivers, and that safety will be promoted by driving with larger clearances.
The clear course rule undoubtedly proposes a safe standpoint for the driver to assume, and encourages him to study the braking performance of his vehicle in his service stops as well as in an emergency. This applies particularly to the question of rear-end collisions. Driving rules are discussed more in detail under “Driving rules” (304).
91. Speeds Which Are “Too Slow.” Much exasperation and, according to the claims of many, some accidents are due to that class of drivers who prefer or are obliged to drive at speeds considerably below the prevailing and, let us say, reasonably safe speed for a given location. The remedy is channelization. As shown later under “Channelization (135), this is best secured by the use of one-way streets. To set aside a slow speed lane upon one of our present-day streets, is often difficult or impossible. Lane channelization upon two-way streets is usually prevented by lack of sufficient street width. Segregation has been attempted in instances by requiring certain horse-drawn or commercial vehicles to refrain from using specified streets, but this often results in inconvenience to the drivers of prohibited vehicles. The conversion of any ordinary two-way street into a one-way street will usually provide at least two lanes for moving vehicles, one to be kept clear of the slow speed vehicles. The provision for slower speed vehicles is essential for certain classes of commercial vehicles, but those drivers who prefer to drive at reduced speed would be required to remain in the slow speed lane.
92. Downtown Loading and Unloading Facilities. The provision of satisfactory loading and unloading conditions at downtown points for commercial vehicles, is of fundamental importance. The author’s proposal for a solution was discussed under “Under city sidewalks” (57). To give the merchant or manufacturer whose business site abuts upon a busy city street, the means of handling his materials and merchandise without interference with sidewalk and curb traffic, and to permit his private vehicles to be loaded, unloaded, and stored under cover within his premises, would be to add immeasurably to the value of his enterprise.
93. Signal and Other Lamps. The signal lamp and artificial illumination problem which applies to all important vehicles using the streets and highways, has certain aspects which may profitably be referred to here. Lamps attached to commercial vehicles are subject to rougher service than those upon private passenger automobiles, and inasmuch as many commercial vehicles do not regularly use the streets at night, the problem of maintenance of lamps, reflecting devices, etc., is often neglected, and collision liability greatly increased. The solution of this problem is the maintenance of high standards of inspection by rigid municipal requirement, enforced by municipal inspector.
Under “Signals on vehicles” (198) the author proposes a system of rear (and also front) end signal lamps for all road vehicles, which is expected to make turning and other movements to right or left, much safer than at present. The usefulness of these signals will be particularly great when applied to the larger bodied vehicles; but it is precisely this class of vehicles that will furnish the greatest problem of maintenance of the signal devices, on account of their exposure to breakage resulting from shocks of one kind or another; hence the need for raising the standard of maintenance upon the vehicles ordinarily subject to rough usage.
94. Education of Drivers. A plan which would place the Traffic Director of a city in close cooperation with all drivers of commercial vehicles (and taxicabs) under his jurisdiction, would be one of the greatest aids in securing safe driving in a community. It is suggested that bulletins issued periodically by the Traffic Director's office to each driver of the above mentioned classes, would be an important step in this direction. The exercise of adequate control over hired drivers would, in addition, have a profound effect as an example to the larger class of owner-drivers of automobiles. A system of informative control as outlined should be followed up by a rigid system of permit revocation by the Traffic Director’s office. Repeated and properly authenticated complaints by traffic officers should form a satisfactory basis for permit revocation.
Under “Relation to Safety” (88), the author attempted to arrive at an explanation of the cause of the larger accident rate of the average commercial vehicle. That discussion was, of course, a matter of opinion, and the reader may desire to view the facts in a different light. Although the rate is high, it has shown a steady though slight tendency to decline for several years past, whereas the passenger vehicle rate is rising steadily; and the reader may incline to the view that the author is attempting to place responsibility upon the commercial vehicle driver in a manner not warranted by the circumstances. The decline in the rate is gratifying, but the explanation for the decline is not readily apparent. The responsibility of hired drivers to their employers, and systematic instruction in safety matters should be given great credit in accounting for the decline in the rate; but on the other hand, pedestrians and drivers of passenger vehicles have a wholesome fear of the larger vehicles, and this tendency to give them “wide berth” may be a factor of no inconsiderable importance.
95. Taxicabs. 96. Transient Nature of the Transportation Problem. A study of the demands of the public for rapid transit by the several types of power propelled vehicles, and particularly the development of the taxicab system in various cities, illustrates the transient nature of the transportation problem. Traffic safety questions and transportation problems arise, but before they are fully solved they are replaced by another set of questions and problems. Street car and bus service furnishes another example of changing conditions. No large amount of space may be devoted to the history of transportation, but service by taxicabs, street cars, and buses is discussed under “Taxicabs” (95), “Street cars and buses” (117), “Relation of various types of passenger transportation vehicles to safety” (124), “Street car transportation” (317), “Bus transportation" (325) and “Taxicab transportation” (326).
97. Relation to Safety Problem. 98. Taxicab Compared to Private Automobile. From the standpoint of street safety, taxicabs and private automobiles may be regarded as being vehicles of the same character. Precisely the same behavior with respect to the rights of drivers to stop or operate their vehicles upon any part of the highway, would be expected of each class. Whether taxicabs should be treated as common carriers with their added responsibilities, is a public utility regulation question, and this question seems to be related only indirectly to the safety question. A brief discussion of the economic phases of the taxicab problem may be found under the subject “Taxicab transportation” (326).
Presumably, the taxicab passenger is relatively safer than a passenger in a private automobile, and pedestrians are safer from injury by taxicab than by private automobile. The questions which concern the traffic safety engineer in regard to taxicabs are concerned with the satisfactory direction of all traffic upon well designed streets, each class of vehicle according to its needs. For taxicabs, a study should be made as to what essential elements of performance are required of the taxicab, and what facilities the cab requires in the use of the streets, in order that it may efficiently serve the public without creating unsatisfactory or dangerous conditions.
99. Three Traffic Situations Created by Taxi-cabs. There are three situations or conditions upon the streets, associated with taxicabs, to which special attention should be given. These relate: (1) to “cruising”; (2) to the tendency of a cab driver to disregard all other traffic when stopping for a patron, thus often obstructing other traffic units and sometimes endangering other vehicles as well as his own vehicle and occupants; and (3) to the excessive amount of reverse turning done by taxicabs.
The reason for the necessity for cruising and a proposal for a solution of the problem, are discussed in following paragraphs, but one feature of this practice which applies particularly to the question of congestion is the slow speed of the cruising taxicab. A taxicab carrying a patron usually runs at a speed higher than that of the average vehicle in a given location, thereby lessening the safety of the public and causing inconvenience; but without a patron the cruising cab creates an obstructive difficulty because it runs at a speed considerably below that of other vehicles on the same street. The approach to this slow speed problem is discussed under “Complications resulting from taxicab pickups” (73), “Speeds which are too slow” (91) and “Proposals for solution” (104).
The second case, relating to picking up a patron from any point along the curb or in the highway, often includes the third, relating to a taxicab suddenly crossing the street. The solution is found in an adequate handling of the parking problem, and is discussed under “Parking” (42). The problem of the reverse turn is satisfactorily solved by the adoption of one-way streets.
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