The City of New Rochelle has become the first municipality in the lower Hudson Valley to offer bike sharing.  Mayor Bramson said 50 bikes have been rolled out for a soft opening.  According to an article entitled “County embraces new bike sharing program” by Richard Liebson and Nicholas Tantillo on the front page of The Journal News on March 23, 2018.  By the end of April, 100 bikes will be available at 11 locations in New Rochelle.

The article points out that White Plains adopted a bike sharing law in March.  White Plains expects to hire an operator for a one year pilot program.  Yonkers Mayor, Mike Spano announced that Yonkers had an agreement with Spin & Lime Bike to start a bike sharing program. Mount Vernon

Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas stated they had explored talks with companies and are open to bringing bike sharing to Mount Vernon.

A new AAA study finds that Americans are starting to lose the fear of self-driving cars.  In a new survey, 63% of U.S. drivers say they are fearful of taking a ride in a self-driving vehicle.  A year ago, that figure was 78% which equals to 20 million more people are now more comfortable with self-driving cars.

In an article in the USA-Today, The Journal News by Chris Woodyard on January 28, 2018, “The decline is definitely noteworthy” said Grey Brannon, Director of Automobile Engineering for AAA-Orlando. The article points out the study comes as automakers and tech giants are rushing to develop self-driving cars which could go on sale within 5 years.  Brannon said motorists are more willing to trust self-driving cars when they see the benefits of new high tech safety gear systems which are precursors to fully autonomous vehicles. “there are many more vehicles on the road with advanced driver systems like automatic emergency braking or adoptive cruise control, people who have experience  with these technologies are 75% more like to trust them” said Brannon.  AAA’s findings are based on a telephone survey of 1,004 American adults in December.

AAA found that millennials – those in the most tech savvy generation, have the greatest faith in cars that drive themselves.  About half were hesitant about self-driving cars. Only 13% of drivers said they would feel safer sharing the road with self-driving cars. Some 46% said they would feel less safe. Brannon said he has no doubts about the benefit of self-driving cars.  The technologies hold the promise of reducing injuries and fatalities. Brannon said “one thing we know about self-driving cars is they are not going to become distracted or intoxicated.”

Congress passed a bill that mandated comprehensive under ride protection for tractor-trailers and single unit trucks.  Jayne Mansfield died when she drove underneath a tractor-trailer.  This past July, two cars skidded under a jackknifed milk tanker truck in northern New York killing four people. U.S. Senator, Charles Schumer called on Federal Regulators to order big trucks to be equipped with side guards that would prevent cars from sliding beneath them in a crash.  Senator Schumer stated “the devastation of crashes like these as a result of a gap in truck safety standard could be reduced”.

In an article entitled “deadly crashes spur calls for tractor-trailer side guards” by Mary Esch in The Journal News points out that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 301 of the 1542 car occupants killed in collision with a tractor-trailer in 2015 died when their vehicle struck the side of a tractor-trailers.  Another 292 died when their vehicle struck the rear.  The Institute’s researchers estimated that half of the fatal crashes between large trucks and passenger vehicles involve the under ride, which makes air bags and other crash protection ineffective because the top of the car is sheared off.  Side guards are not required by Federal Regulations but at least 3 cities – Boston, New York & Seattle mandate side guards on city owned trucks to eliminate deaths and injuries, particularly pedestrians and bicyclists.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states side guards could prevent hundreds of deaths per year in the U.S.  The Institute crashed a car into a trailer equipped with a side guard called AngelWing, a steel rail covered with fiberglass.  The car’s front end crumpled but the test dummy was protected by airbags and seatbelts. Without the side guards, the passenger compartment was sheared off causing devastating head injuries to the dummy.  A couple who lost a 26 year old daughter in a side under ride crash in Indiana in 2004 have been working together to lobby Congress and The Department of Transportation for a side guard requirement as well as stronger rear guards.  The parents said Congress talked about under ride protection since 1969.

The housing market report from the third quarter of 2017 found 38,475 homes sold in New York.  That is the second best number for the third quarter just behind 2017’s third quarter of 39,963.  The number of homes listed for sale at the end of the quarter was 71,930, a drop of 7.7% compared to the same time in 2016.  “Home sales remained strong across the empire state through the third quarter constrained only by the ongoing decline in the number of home available for sale” according to Duncan Mackenzie, the states Association of Realtors Chief Executive Officer.

In an article in The Journal News on October 23, 2017 entitled “Home Sales just miss N.Y. Record” by Natasha Vaughn.  The total number of closed sales for the first nine months of 2017 was 98,176, a 1.7% increase over 2016.  The cost of homes in New York has also gone up.  The median sales price during the third quarter of 2017 was 261,000, a 5% increase over the median price over 3rd quarter of 2016.

“It’s a sellers housing market” is the title of an article in The Journal News on December 13, 2017 by Akiko Matsuda where he explains that the United States housing market has been branded a seller’s paradise with limited home inventories pushing up the prices.  Thight housing supplies create faster price increases and plentiful inventories keep a lid on value.  The lower Hudson Valley homes with access to New York City priced under $1 million drew the most buyers to Westchester County has been having record sales volume and record low inventory because of the buyers who have been priced out of New York City.  Westchester’s northeast town of Bedford, Byram Hills, Pleasantville and Sound Shore, Blind Brook, Harrison, Mamaroneck and Rye markets where housing have been historically higher than other areas are showing some weakness. “We service significant outflow of buyers from New York City to Westchester and Putnam searching for affordability.  Holly Millstorm, a real estate agent with Julia B. Sotheby’s in the Pelham area states “medium to low price range has been very hot” with those buyers who want to down size as well as first time home buyers haven flocked to relatively small homes priced below $1 million.

As a result of the snow storm/blizzard on January 4, 2018, and the freezing temperatures and wind child below zero for seven days, we are reporting our snow and ice checklist of March 16, 2017.

If you are a victim and sustained physical injuries as a result of a fall on snow & ice, the following should be done:

  1. Do not move before making sure you haven’t sustained a fracture or a serious injury;

Since July 31, 2015, we have been blogging about cyclists and bike lanes.  The July 31, 2015 blog gives you the rules of the road for “Cyclists & Cars”.  On September 28, 2015, we specifically blogged on bicycle lanes and various municipalities. On July 29, 2016, we blogged about bicycle safety.  On November 11, 2016, we blogged about bike lanes being delayed in New Rochelle.  Our last bog on bicycle lanes was on June 30, 2017 dealing with bike laws in the Town of Mamaroneck.

Today, we are going to blog on bike lanes on Route 9 and the cooperation of five villages in creating bike lanes along Route 9. Pedaling alongside cars and trucks along Broadway is unthinkable.    The car and truck lanes are full and without a bike lane, it is almost impossible to bike on Route 9.

According to an article on the front page of The Journal News on October 25, 2017 by Richard Liebson, a steering committee of five villages, consortium are working for the connection of a bike lane along Route 9.  The Route 9 active transportation conceptual design plan is bringing together residents, merchants and government officials from Hasting-on-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Irvington, Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow.  They are looking into ways to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety along Route 9.  One of the members of the steering committee is Daniel Convissor who said “there’s a lot of potential here but right now, it’s a system that was built for cars not people.  If we create a system that makes biking convenient and safe for cyclists, people will do it”.  Earlier this year the steering committee used a $150,000 grant from the State Bridge Community Benefits Program to hire traffic consultant, Nelson Nygaard who is developing a plan using research data from a series of committee meetings.  The result of their work will be available in the Spring, 2018. Their final report will be presented to the Villages along Route 9 which will decide how to proceed.

Volkswagen took a $2.95 billion charge in the third quarter of 2017.  The cost to retrofit or buy back U.S. diesel vehicles that was part of the emissions cheating scandal.  This added cost pushes Volkswagen’s total cost for the scandal past $30 billion.

One of the reason for the cost of the scandal is “proving to be far more technically complex and time consuming than originally thought, according to an article in The Journal News on September 30, 2017 by Kevin McCoy.  This added cost could erase more than half of Volkswagen’s $5.3 billion earnings for the third quarter.  Volkswagen share closed .07% lower.

The scandal involved cheating technology installed in Volkswagen’s diesel powered vehicles to circumvent U.S. clean-air emissions standards.  In June, 2016, Volkswagen agreed to a $14.7 billion settlement for claims over its U.S. cars with 2 liter diesel engines three months ago.  The United States Environmental Protection Agency approved planned fixes to Volkswagen’s 2 liter diesel cars from 2009 through 2014, including the Jetta, Jetta SportWagen, Golf, Beetle, Beetle convertible and Audi A# models.

New York Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee has been studying “textalyzer” technology since July, 2016.  The technology has the potential to determine if a driver had been using their phone in the moments leading up to a car accident.

According to an article in The Journal News on September 21, 2017 by Natasha Vaughn “this year New Yorkers set an all-time record for seatbelt use. But many of those same motorists who are saving lives by buckling up are still texting behind the wheel putting countless lives at risk” said Terri Egan , Executive Deputy Commissioner of New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.  Texting while driving has become increasingly perilous on the roadways.  New York has bolstered laws to crack down on the habit between 2011 and 2015.  678 people died from distracted driving car accidents in New York.  During the same time, 2,784 people were injured as a result of cellphone related car crashes.  In 2015, New York issued 217,021 tickets for cellphone violations.  39% of these tickets were for texting while driving.

In 2015, New York increased the penalty for texting while driving from 3 points to 5 points and made it up to $200 fine for the first offense.  Young drivers under 21 with a junior license can get their license suspended for a first offense.  The ongoing study of textalyzer technology has been looking into variations of the product.

The shortage of houses on the market has brought about some long expected price increases in most areas of the Mid-Hudson.  In Westchester County, the second quarter of 2017 single family homes had a median sale price of $670,000.  An increase of $20,000 or 3.1% over last year’s level.  According to an article by Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, the mean sales price of $900,000 was 7% more than last year indicating that the high end sector is reinserting itself into the sale prices.  Westchester condominiums and cooperative saw an increase of 5.3% & 3.9% respectively.  Orange County which has had high sales volumes but flat prices saw a second quarter single family median prices of $235,000, an increase of 5.6% from 2016.  Rockland County’s median price at $441,387, a 2.6% increase and Putnam County median price at $345,000 was a 9.9% increase over last year.  Buyers are operating in a market that has seen tremendous reduction in the supply of housing over the past four years.  At the end of 2014, there were 12,153 listings posted with Hudson Gateway Multiple Listing Service.  By the close of the second quarter of 2017 had plunged by 344 units to 8,713 or 28.3% fewer listings.

The article in The Somers Records on July 27, 2017 by the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors states Westchester posted 2,642 sales for an increase of 1% over 2016.  Orange County posted an impressive 1098 sales, an increase of 13.8%.  Almost all in the single family housing sector.  Rockland County had a 3.8% increase in single family sales.  Rockland’s condominiums sector had an increase of 33.6% in sales.  Putnam County reported a decrease in single family sales of 5.4%.

In an article in USA Today – The Journal News on August 11, 2017 entitled “number of homes for sale sinks to a 20 year low explains one reason for the shortage of single family homes on the market.  The article by Roger Yu and Paul Davidson states that the baby boomers grow increasingly reluctant to trade up or down from their existing homes.  More than half of its survey respondents or 59% said they do not plan to sell their houses in the next year. This crunch has driven home price index up nationally by 5.6% in May from a year earlier.  The housing shortage forced many first time buyers to consider smaller homes and condos.

Some self-driving vehicles need sophisticated sensors producing data being analyzed by powerful computers.  An article in The Journal News on June 25, 2017 by Marco Della Cava writes “it seems the success of this transportation revolution hinges on decidedly low tech material: Paint”.   The most critical upgrade of infrastructure amounts to making sure the lines on 4 million miles of roads are solid, bright and preferably white so they can be picked up by computer vision gear.

A USA Today network survey of nearly a dozen states hoping to lead the way in self-driving cars and trucks reveals varying degree of readiness as officials balance anticipating a high shift in mobility with a reluctance to spend infrastructure funds.  Some states such as California, Michigan, Arizona and Ohio are eagerly welcoming self-driving vehicle tests and beginning to make upgrades to roads to accommodate self-driving vehicles.

Two factors make it difficult for states to dive headlong into concrete infrastructure, improvements whether that is painting lane stripes or embedding sensors in road and traffic signs. The first according to the article is a lack of national vision for self-driving vehicles.  President Trump promised to spend upwards of 1 trillion on infrastructure needs.  But so far there is no road map for securing such funds.  The second factor causing some states to put the brakes on is the sense that tech companies such as Uber & Google.  Waxmo and automakers such as Ford, General Motors and others are developing self-driving cars that will have sensors and mapping systems that will not rely on roadway upgrades.