Archive for the ‘Automobiles’ Category

Liar’s Paradox

Friday, June 5th, 2009

I question the wisdom of distracting other drivers with logic puzzles like this one:

Liar's Paradox

Eye of the Beholder

Monday, February 9th, 2009

I just noticed this plaque last week, after having walked past it dozens, if not hundreds, of times:

Eye of the Beholder

I took another photo from the same spot, looking in a different direction:


The plaque was placed where Interstate 580 crosses over Grand Avenue, creating a dark, imposing overpass that separates Lake Merritt and Lakeside Park from the 1926 Grand Lake Theater. It might be quaint that people were so jazzed about urban highways in the 60’s, were it not for the fact that these freeways drew and quartered the cores of many American cities, cleaving neighborhoods in two and allowing drivers to bypass Oakland on their way to and from San Francisco without ever having to see a city street, never mind interact with any of its citizens or businesses.

“No Crime Here at All”

Monday, January 26th, 2009

An awful story this evening, related to my post about speeding cars and pedestrians on Park Boulevard the other day:

A pedestrian was struck and killed in a crosswalk at the intersection of Sunset Blvd. and Santiago St. in San Francisco tonight.

The woman was walking westbound across Sunset when a man driving a Toyota Corolla south on Sunset struck her at about 6:15 p.m. The woman was taken to San Francisco General Hospital where she died. Her name was withheld, pending notification of her family.

The driver had no stoplight or stop sign and stopped after hitting the pedestrian, and police said the incident was just a tragic accident.

“It doesn’t look like he was speeding or under the influence or anything like that,” said Sgt. Renee Pagano. “There’s no crime here at all.”

“Just a tragic accident” Nice to know that a car can plow into a pedestrian in a crosswalk, and as long as the driver isn’t speeding or drunk, they are not breaking any laws according to the SFPD. (I actually knew that already, because these incidents happen all the time, always with the same result — you can even kill two young children on a sidewalk and as long as you didn’t intend to do it, you won’t be held responsible.)

My recommendation to people on foot or bicycle: Always assume that drivers won’t see you, and act accordingly.

“Avis: We Try Harder” (…to push gas guzzlers on you)

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

Avis ad

This ad (slightly condensed horizontally to fit here more easily) was a banner across an article at the Oakland Tribune website today. Memo to Avis: Hummers are not “cool cars,” not even the H3 shown in the ad, described without irony at the Hummer website as “the midsize SUV” and “proof positive that good [sic] things can come in small [sic] packages.”

Park Boulevard: the anatomy of a city street

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

The San Francisco Chronicle had a “Chronicle Watch” feature the other day about one of those solar-powered displays that cities put up to let drivers know how fast they are going (the Chron’s “Journalism of Action” in action!). The display in question, which briefly wasn’t working because its solar battery was dead, happens to be a few blocks from me on Park Boulevard (where the marchers were protesting recently).

I’ve actually spent a lot of time thinking about Park Blvd, because I face its problems every time I cross over it, walk down it, or bike up it. In some ways, Park is a nice street: it curves gently up shallow valleys and ridgelines, from humble flatland beginnings at Kragen Auto Parts and Church’s Fried Chicken to a posher terminus in hillside Montclair. There are several parks alongside the street, and numerous shops, restaurants and cafes. You wouldn’t call it bustling in the way that some other Oakland neighborhoods such as Chinatown or Fruitvale are bustling, but compared to the strip malls of Fremont or Fairfield, it’s an urbanist’s dream.

And yet lower Park, from E. 18th Street to Interstate 580, is clearly not living up to its potential; cars drive at dangerous speeds past the occasional pedestrian who stands helplessly at a crosswalk, businesses routinely disappear for lack of customers, and some neighborhood residents avoid the sidewalks and parks because they don’t feel safe.

Earlier this week, I was eating lunch outside a bagel shop on Park Street in Alameda, and I was surprised to realize that Park Street has just as many lanes as Park Boulevard. The streets could hardly feel more different: Park Boulevard often feels like a speedway running through a semi-deserted neighborhood, whereas on Park Street, the sidewalks are thick with pedestrians popping in and out of thriving businesses, drivers obey the speed limits, and people can cross the street without putting their life at risk.

I’m not a city planner or a traffic engineer, but a few explanations for Park Boulevard’s deficiencies come to mind. (more…)

SUVs on Parade

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Also known as afterschool pickup at an elite private school in an elite neighborhood of the liberal and holier-than-thou city of San Francisco:

Afterschool pickup

While I was ranting about trucks, I thought I might as well go ahead and post this photo too. This is a line for a high school in one of the country’s most compact cities with a very comprehensive public transit system; so why exactly do these teenagers need to be shuttled home in SUV’s every day? The line was literally half a block long, and as soon as it moved forward, another big gas guzzler would fill the gap left at the back of the line (except for one lonely prius which I could barely see squeezed between two trucks).

I know, I know, this is probably no different than any elite high school in the country. You expect more from San Franciscans, though — if they won’t make their teenage kids walk or take the bus, then who will?

Illiterate? Or just selfish and lazy?

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Just an hour or so after there was a rally to save a portion of bike lane on Market street in San Francisco (the lane is being removed in order to make it easier for car drivers to make an illegal right turn. Really!), I happened to come across this scene as I was riding down Market a few blocks away:

Trucks in bike lane on Market Street

Thanks, guys! I was hoping I would have an excuse to merge into the car traffic on one of the busiest thoroughfares in San Francisco!

I’m generally a pretty easygoing guy, but this is one thing that gets to me, probably more than it should. (I’m not the only one: see You do have to admire the way the drivers of these trucks both managed to park directly adjacent to “Tow Zone: No Stopping Any Time” signs. They both had their hazard blinkers on, so they must have thought that made it all okay. Since there probably wasn’t a chance in the world that they would get tickets for this, I suppose they were right in a way.