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EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images
EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

A Big Stretch of Manhattan Is Going Car-Free for Earth Day

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images
EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

On Saturday, April 22, New Yorkers will be forced out of their cars. While the city is already one of America’s most pedestrian-friendly metropolises, Manhattan is giving more urban space over to people to walk and cycle in honor of Earth Day, as Gothamist reports.

A full 30 blocks of Broadway, one of the city’s major thoroughfares, will be closed to cars, trucks, and buses that Saturday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. That’s a major upgrade from last year’s Earth Day celebration when only four blocks of the street went car-free. The city’s other boroughs will also close some roads to cars for the day, though none of the other areas affected are as large as the Manhattan closure.

It’s a move in line with New York City’s plans to improve traffic safety and make the city more friendly towards bikes and pedestrians. This isn't the only time of the year pedestrians get to wander through city streets; New York also closes around seven miles of roads to vehicle traffic for three Sundays each August for an event called Summer Streets. But New York City is behind the curve when it comes to car-free days.

Several European cities, like Brussels, already participate in an annual car-free day, and many are moving to make pedestrian takeovers of roads more regular (though many don’t count city buses as cars for these purposes). Madrid’s Gran Vía will be closed to private cars in the next few years, according to plans from the city’s mayor, along with 24 of the city’s other major downtown streets. Oslo plans to eliminate private cars from its city center by 2019.

In September, Paris closed off more than 400 miles of its roads to car traffic, excluding public buses, taxis, and emergency vehicles. As part of Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s efforts to reduce pollution from cars, several areas of the city center will soon be permanently closed to cars, while other roads are closed semi-regularly, like the Champs-Élysées, which is pedestrian-only on the first Sunday of every month.

[h/t Gothamist]

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iPhone’s ‘Do Not Disturb’ Feature Is Actually Reducing Distracted Driving (a Little)
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iStock

While it’s oh-so-tempting to quickly check a text or look at Google Maps while driving, heeding the siren call of the smartphone is one of the most dangerous things you can do behind the wheel. Distracted driving led to almost 3500 deaths in the U.S. in 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and even more non-fatal accidents. In the summer of 2017, Apple took steps to combat the rampant problem by including a “Do Not Disturb While Driving” setting as part of its iOS 11 upgrade. And the data shows that it’s working, as Business Insider and 9to5Mac report.

The Do Not Disturb While Driving feature allows your iPhone to sense when you’re in a moving car, and mutes all incoming calls, texts, and other notifications to keep you from being distracted by your phone. A recent survey from the insurance comparison website EverQuote found that the setting works as intended; people who kept the setting enabled did, in fact, use their phones less.

The study analyzed driver behavior recorded by EverDrive, EverQuote’s app designed to help users track and improve their safety while driving. The report found that 70 percent of EverDrive users kept the Do Not Disturb setting on rather than disabling it. Those drivers who kept the setting enabled used their phone 8 percent less.

The survey examined the behavior of 500,000 EverDrive users between September 19, 2017—just after Apple debuted the feature to the public—and October 25, 2017. The sample size is arguably small, and the study could have benefited from a much longer period of analysis. Even if people are looking at their phones just a little less in the car, though, that’s a win. Looking away from the road for just a split second to glance at an incoming notification can have pretty dire consequences if you’re cruising along at 65 mph.

When safety is baked into the design of technology, people are more likely to follow the rules. Plenty of people might not care enough to enable the Do Not Disturb feature themselves, but if it’s automatically enabled, plenty of people won’t go through the work to opt out.

[h/t 9to5Mac]

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David B. Gleason, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
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Why You Sometimes See Black Tubes Stretched Across the Road
David B. Gleason, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
David B. Gleason, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

If you spend enough time driving down the right route, you may notice them: the skinny black tubes that seem to appear on stretches of road at random. But the scaled-down speed bumps are easy to miss. Unlike other features on the highway, these additions are meant to be used by the government, not drivers.

According to Jalopnik, those mysterious rubber cords are officially known as pneumatic road tubes. The technology they use is simple. Every time a vehicle’s tires hit the tube, it sends a burst of air that triggers a switch, which then produces an electrical signal that’s recorded by a counter device. Some tubes are installed temporarily, usually for about a day, and others are permanent. Rechargeable batteries powered by something like lead acid or gel keep the rig running.

Though the setup is simple, the information it records can tell federal agencies a lot about traffic patterns. One pneumatic tube can track the number of cars driving over a road in any given span of time. By measuring the time that passes between air bursts, officials can determine which time of day has the most traffic congestion. Two pneumatic tubes installed slightly apart from each other paint an even broader picture. Using this method, government agencies can gauge the class, speed, and direction of each vehicle that passes through.

Based on the data, municipalities can check which road signs and speed limits are or aren't working, and decide how much money to allot to their transportation budgets accordingly.

For a closer look at how these tubes are installed, check out the video below.

[h/t Jalopnik]

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