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North Tampa letters: Carcentric city presents myriad dangers

Bikers fight for safe passage April 18 story

Carcentric city's myriad dangers


I enjoyed Eric Smithers' article on his bicycle commute. Eric is lucky to find a rare swatch of bikeable Tampa. I look at our county's Bike Suitability Map and get depressed. There are no safe roads to take me anywhere from Northdale, including my job at the University of South Florida.

This is typical of Tampa.

The Tampa area is carcentric, and biker- and walker-hostile. Look at how we regularly lead the nation in deaths of bicyclists and pedestrians, while police regularly let drivers off with no charges. Students are run over in school crosswalks and local leaders are silent. My university tolerates bicycles but has done little to design for them despite sharing the woes of auto congestion and pollution endemic in our country. The city and county have created a few wonderful bike paths but not enough for commuting.

I bike with my children in our neighborhood, and luckily it is large enough for a good ride. My kids smile and neighbors smile.

An ice cream store rewards the kids, but the most obvious route to it requires a sidewalk with holes and barriers, including one at the public elementary school!

When we cross busy intersections, most drivers stop to allow the kids to cross in the crosswalk. I stay on the side of traffic and don't even think about approaching Dale Mabry Highway. After research, I found a nicer but circuitous approach through the new YMCA family area.

The only challenge is the shop's strip mall. Should we go through the chaotic parking lot that some cars love to zip through, or break the law and ride the long sidewalk?

"Dad, it says 'no bikes.' "

I tell them, "be sure to give the pedestrians room, and walk your bike through busy areas."

I would like to tell my children they will inherit the Earth. But the truth is, they will have no rights to travel their community until they buy a car.

Tom Sanocki, Northdale

A visionary way

to solve auto woes

Over four score and 19 years ago, a great American delivered a newly powered carriage from a moving assembly line. It was a carriage without horses, powered by an engine that could be turned on and off. Any American with good wages could own an automobile and enjoy the amazing freedom of mobility. As the years went by, V8 engines, automatic transmissions, air conditioning, 100,000-mile tuneups, and much more were developed.

Roads received traffic signals, route numbers, smooth paving and paint stripes. Limited access highways were built. Americans grew to love their automobiles.

During 100 years of automotive advancement, Americans have enjoyed the invention and growth of other technologies. These include cellular telephones, airplanes, radios, televisions, computers, microelectronic chips, global positioning devices and satellites, the Internet and spacecraft.

The technologies used in these products can now be converged with the automobile and roads to initiate a great new future for ground transportation.

I have a vision that the future of our automobile travel will involve a quantum leap forward in travel efficiency and safety.

I have a vision that one day all cars will have programmed drive computers that help deliver their occupants to their destinations with unparalleled safety and speed. Drive computers will take their drivers' instructions with push button ease. Drive computers always know the location of their car and nearby cars. Drive computers guide their cars flawlessly to both frequent and first-time destinations.

I have a vision that these drive computers will allow my car to join up with many other cars into an autotrain, and that these autotrains, with dozens of cars running bumpers touching bumpers, will travel great distances at high speeds with coordinated traffic signals. The autotrains will allow cars to join or cars to separate from the autotrain without the autotrain stopping or slowing down.

I have a vision that toward the beginning of my road trip, I accelerate my car in the manual lane up to the side of a moving autotrain moving at 70 mph.

I push a button and under the drive computer's control, my car merges and joins the autotrain as the last car. Once I have joined the autotrain, the drive computers do all the driving. I relax and read a newspaper. As we travel along, other cars join the autotrain behind me and cars from within the autotrain separate and leave the autotrain. And on that day after traveling a great distance within that autotrain, the drive computer alerts me to the approach of my exit. Soon after, the moving autotrain under the drive computer's control separates slightly and my car moves into the adjacent manual lane. The moving autotrain then closes column without me and continues on while I take manual control of my car and complete the last blocks of my trip.

I have a vision that the compression of cars into autotrains will eliminate wasteful traffic jams. The end of wasteful stopping along with the drafting effect of cars running bumpers touching bumpers will double our fuel efficiency. Error-free control of autotrains by drive computers will dramatically reduce our 40,000-plus traffic fatalities per year. Our mobility will be faster, our fuel use more efficient, our roads safer and more environmentally friendly.

So how do we get started with these autotrains? By embracing this vision of the future!

Let the people know of this vision. Let our elected representatives know. Let the political candidates know. Let corporate executives know of this vision.

America, let your engineers design and demonstrate! Let your engineers prove and perfect! Let the federal government and industry partner on the research and development of autotrains and new national standards for drive-computer roads. Let state and local governments plan for the phased introduction of this technology.

When this happens, when autotrains are in every state and every city, we will be more mobile than ever.

Keith Lee Eshelman, Lutz

North Tampa letters: Carcentric city presents myriad dangers 05/22/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 12:01pm]
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