Sunday, June 06, 2021

The vaccines are a game changer.

Vaccines have been a game changer as society seems to be opening up fast. As things open up, being unvaccinated is now more risky.

Too bad there are still lots of people who aren't able to be vaccinated for medical reasons. In cases where folks have compromised immune systems, the vaccines are less effective.

The rest of society isn't waiting for these people. I still do wear a mask in stores as some stores require them while others don't. I would guess Bellingham Food Coop might be one of the last mask holdouts.

I still see more masks than not in stores I go to. One is usually only in a store for a few minutes; so it isn't real hard to wear a mask.

Much of the last year, I've either been in my apartment or outside so I haven't had to wear a mask all day. When I was working, I was in the building alone.

Now I am starting to go back to indoor restaurants. Masks are not worn while eating, but still in transition while away from one's table.

In the last few days, it seems like more masks are coming off in restaurants; even for the staff.

People with compromised immune systems are likely at risk, but that's a subsegment of the population. Too bad, but it may be inevitable. Life moves on. Could be like being thrown under the bus.

Speaking of the bus, I often bring up the accepted risk of car accidents. Around 35,000 people die, each year, in car accidents yet our transportation system still relies on cars. The bus is a lot safer.

The Strong Towns feed, that I follow, has posted quite a bit about designing streets for lower speeds. That would save many lives. We design our streets for too much speed and then rely on law enforcement to cool the speed. Then people complain about the police. In an ideal society, street design would slow traffic down naturally.

I've also read that the death toll goes down in larger cities. This is because traffic has to be slower when there is more congestion. On the wide open road, death tolls go up per trip.

Apparently, during the pandemic, there was less traffic, but what traffic there was went faster and the death rate, per trip, went up. One good thing about congested, slow moving traffic is safety.

I got to thinking that since I-5 is so often slowed to just a crawl in the Seattle area, it might as well be surface streets. Surface streets are friendlier to adjoining neighborhoods; like in Vancouver, BC where the freeways don't carve through the center of the city.

Another headline, I saw, in Strong Towns, says that the future of the electric car is not the Tesla, but the golf cart. I'll want to read that article. I notice a lot of electric bikes on the roads and trails. Kind of like the golf cart, I guess.

Bellingham City Council recently had a meeting to discuss speed limits on the trails. 15 mph works fine for me.

Some of the electrics go quite a bit faster. It's easier to regulate speed than to try and decipher whether an electric vehicle qualifies as a bike. What about electric wheelchairs?

I haven't heard the outcome of that meeting, yet, but just saw some headlines in the Herald.

I guess, if people grumble about slower roads, I can always say, "we have the airplane." There is even a new supersonic plane being developed that can get across USA in 3 hours.

The military is working on a way to deliver cargo anywhere in the world by dropping it from a space rocket. Delivery time in 1 hour.

My ideas beyond just masks to weighing safety, I guess.

Yes, it is good to see things open up remembering that with cars, society has accepted death as a part of life anyway. It's always like the preverbal tight rope walk. How much risk is acceptable versus living life?


David B. said...

“I would guess Bellingham Food Coop might be one of the last mask holdouts.”

A week and a day after you posted that (as of June 14th), masks are now optional at the Co-Op for the fully vaccinated (which, since they are not requiring proof of vaccination, effectively means they are optional, period).

David B. said...

“We design our streets for too much speed and then rely on law enforcement to cool the speed.”

I both own a vehicle and ride a bike a lot.

Some months ago I opined in the local Bellingham Reddit group that speeding was only to be expected on the southernmost parts of Samish Way, because that was a part of the old Pacific Highway that has been modified little since it was built, and even in the 1930’s engineers knew how to build a road for speed (and speed was appropriate at the time because that area was still rural). A number of people just about bit my head off and interpreted that as saying speeding was OK (as if saying something is OK and saying it is only to be expected given the circumstances are one and the same).

Just from personal experience is really hard to drive that stretch of road and not speed, because all the cues from the road itself are telling one to go fast. Driving the limit just feels ridiculously slow, and one must struggle against intuition to stick to the limit. This is not a practical way to have speed limits be respected.

Studies have shown that the only way to make drivers consistently slow down is to modify road design so that they do not feel comfortable driving fast. Putting up curbs where the white lines now are would probably do the trick. It would lead to a perception of narrowness that would make drivers slow down. (I know I naturally tend to go slow on narrow curbed streets.) As a bonus, that would effectively turn the shoulders into sidewalks, further enhancing pedestrian safety.