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Protected Bike Lane Bill Approved By Legislature, Awaiting Governor

With Governor Brown’s approval, protected bike lanes like these ones on San Francisco’s Market Street could become easier for cities to build. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

A bill that would make it easier for California cities to build protected bike lanes was passed by both houses of the state legislature this week and only awaits Governor Jerry Brown’s signature.

The bill, A.B. 1193, was authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition.

The bill serves several purposes. First and foremost, it requires Caltrans to establish engineering standards for protected bike lanes or “cycletracks,” a new category of bike lanes for cities to use.

At the same time, it removes a provision in the law that requires that any bike lane built in California adhere to Caltrans specifications, even if it is built on a local street that is not under Caltrans’ jurisdiction. This frees up local jurisdictions to choose other guidelines, such as the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ (NACTO) Urban Bikeway Design Guide, if the Caltrans standards do not adequately address local conditions.

Caltrans endorsed the NACTO Urban Street Design Guide earlier this year but has not adopted it, meaning that cities that want to build separated bike lanes must still go through a process to get an exemption.

Last-minute negotiations on the bill addressed concerns about liability by adding several conditions that have to be met before non-Caltrans criteria can be used. A “qualified engineer” must review and sign off on a protected bike lane project, the public must be duly notified, and alternative criteria must “adhere to guidelines established by a national association of public agency transportation official,” which means the NACTO guidelines would could be used whether Caltrans has officially adopted them or not.

And unfortunately for lay people, Caltrans balked at removing its convention of naming bike lane types by “class” and numeral, saying it is just too embedded in its documents. So the new protected bike lanes category would be officially named “Class IV Bikeways,” adding to Class I Bikeways (bike paths or shared use paths), Class II bikeways (bike lanes), and Class III bikeways (bike routes). Memorize that.

“We’re very excited to have gotten to this point after months of harder-than-expected negotiations and stalwart support from Phil Ting,” said Dave Snyder of the California Bicycle Coalition. ”He really wants to see protected bikeways get more popular.”

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Five Things I Learned at This Week’s L.A. Transportation Committee

Here are the top five things I learned listening in to this week’s Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee meeting. The public meeting took place Wednesday, August 27, at Los Angeles City Hall. If you’re nimble and/or having trouble sleeping, catch the full audio here.

1. Seleta Reynolds Hearts Car Share

In discussion of the city’s anemic car share program, new Transportation Department (LADOT) General Manager Seleta Reynolds described herself as a “long-time fan of car share and a frequent user of it.” Reynolds bemoaned the lack of a viable car share option in her new Silver Lake neighborhood.

Hertz car share didn't work out so well for Los Angeles. Image via Flickr user tom-margie

Hertz car share didn’t work out so well for Los Angeles. Image via Flickr user tom-margie

The GM announced an “immediate expansion” of the city’s provisions to enable basic car sharing planned for this September, with a more robust expansion, likely including point-to-point options, coming at some unspecified later date. Reynolds stated that she favors a system that would include multiple providers. This should prevent issues like those associated with the failures like the city’s selected vendor Hertz becoming unresponsive.

To be continued. I too dig car share, and am happy Reynolds is on it.

2. Protected Bike Lanes This Year – Or Probably Not

In public testimony (audio at 01:05 here) about Los Angeles some day maybe perhaps one day you know possibly getting around to implementing those newfangled protected bike lanes that are all the rage in other cities, LADOT Bikeways’ Michelle Mowery stated:

MyFig is certainly one of these [protected bike lanes]. We’re also looking at Los Angeles Street right now. We believe we will have that on the ground within this next fiscal year.

When SBLA tweeted the good news, LADOT Bike Program took to the Twittersphere to let folks know that no protected bike lanes are coming this year, but that My Figueroa construction will happen soon. SBLA will dig more into this story. Did Mowery mean “a Los Angeles street” or “Los Angeles Street?” Could it be part of longer-term plans for Union Station? In any case, I am looking forward to protected bike lanes arriving on these shores. Ones not inside tunnels, that is.

3. Streetsblog Hearts Great New Traffic Metrics

Spoiler alert: wonky acronyms ahead. I knew that changes in California’s traffic modeling was big news, with the state ditching its car-centric car-only car-always Level of Service (LOS) measures for evaluating California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) environmental impacts, and instead using Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

It was great to hear it from LADOT Assistant General Manager Jay Kim.

Read more…

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Four Hit-and-Run Bills Pass CA Legislature, Wait for Governor’s Signature

Hit-and-runs have been a problem in California for a long time. In this 1973 publicity still, Adam 12′s fictional television LAPD officers investigate a hit-and-run. Four bills to curb these crimes await Governor Brown’s approval. Photo: Wikipedia

Four bills targeting hit-and-run crimes in California await Governor Jerry Brown’s signature, including two from Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), who has made hit-and-runs a focus this year. The bills have passed both houses of the California legislature and are awaiting the governor’s signature.

One, a late addition to the legislative calendar (A.B. 47), would allow law enforcement authorities to broadcast information about vehicles suspected of being involved in a hit-and-run collision using the existing “Amber” alert system, which notifies the public about child abductions via changeable message signs on freeways across the state.

The system is strictly limited to avoid its overuse, and the Senate made amendments to the bill to further tightened restrictions. The new “Yellow” alerts would only be allowed when a hit-and-run has caused a serious injury or death. There has to be at least a partial description of the vehicle and its license plate available, and there must be a chance that making the information public will help catch the suspect and protect the public from further harm.

Another Gatto bill, A.B. 1532, would require an automatic six-month license suspension for anyone convicted of a hit-and-run collision in which a person was hit. Currently, consequences for leaving the scene of a crash are light if the victim has less than serious injuries, but someone who drives away can claim not to know how badly the victim was hurt. With this law, anyone who drives away and gets caught will face more serious consequences just for the act of leaving.

Meanwhile, the bill from Assemblymember Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), A.B. 2673, which would remove the possibility of a civil compromise in the case of a hit-and-run conviction, has also passed both houses of the legislature and is awaiting the governor’s signature.

Current law allows someone convicted of a hit-and-run to avoid criminal prosecution if they come to an agreement with the victim of the collision, and this bill removes that possibility.

Yet another bill, A.B. 2337 from Assemblymember Eric Linder (R-Corona), would extend the period of time that a driver’s license is suspended for a hit-and-run conviction from one to two years. This would apply to anyone caught and convicted of a hit-and-run that caused the death or serious injury of another person.

If stiffer penalties can make people think twice about leaving the scene of a crash, then these bills may well help reduce the incidence of hit-and-runs. As long as people believe they can escape the consequences, however, the heavier penalties may not act as a deterrent. But combined with a new system that will broadcast a car’s description and license plate for all to see, it will be more difficult to escape.

As Assemblymember Gatto said, “Together, these bills will empower the public to help us catch hit-and-run drivers before they can cover up the evidence of their crimes and ensure the perpetrators of these cowardly acts think twice before leaving fellow citizens dying on the side of the road.”

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The Small Indiana City That’s Embracing Livable Streets: Kokomo

Kokomo, Indiana, has put a lot of money and energy into developing streetscape features like bumpouts, Aaron Renn reports. Photo: Urbanophile

Kokomo, Indiana, has put resources and energy into developing streetscape features to calm traffic and provide more space for walking and biking, Aaron Renn reports. Photo: Urbanophile

With a population of about 60,000 and a formerly industrial economy, Kokomo, Indiana, is not the type of city that recent economic trends have favored.

But Aaron Renn at the Urbanophile says the city has embraced some tenets of urbanism as an economic and quality-of-life strategy, thanks in large part to the leadership of Mayor Greg Goodnight. When Renn visited recently, he was impressed with the new downtown bike trail and pedestrian infrastructure. And thanks to careful budgeting and prioritization, the city is making these improvements without taking on any debt. Renn says:

They’ve deconverted every one way street downtown back to two way, removed every stop light and parking meter in the core of downtown, are building a mixed-use downtown parking garage with a new YMCA across the street, have a pretty extensive program of pedestrian friendly street treatments like bumpouts, as well as landscaping and beautification, a new baseball stadium under construction, a few apartment developments in the works, and even a more urban feel to its public housing.

I think they’ve done a number of good things, and I especially appreciate the attention to detail that went into them. You clearly get the feel of them walking downtown streets. I would say the commercial and residential development lags the infrastructure, however. That’s to be expected. They do have an Irish Pub, a coffee shop, a few restaurants, and other assorted downtown type of businesses. This will be an area to watch as some of these investments mature.

When you look at the downward trajectory of most small Indiana industrial cities, the status quo is not a viable option. Kokomo deserves a lot credit for trying something different. And regardless of any development payoffs, things like trails and safer and more welcoming streets are already paying a quality of life dividend to the people who live there right now. It’s an improvement anyone can experience today just by walking around.

It’s hard to tell from Renn’s post if the city’s parking policies are aligned with the improvements to street designs, but it looks like an admirable effort. You can get a better sense of what’s happening (and of Mayor Goodnight’s urbanist library) by checking out the many pictures on the Urbanophile.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Bike League shares a post from a woman whose life was transformed by her introduction to bicycling and the dramatic weight loss she achieved. And Pedestrian Observations says hoping people will just move out of productive cities with high housing costs isn’t a reasonable affordability strategy.

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India’s Health Minister Wants Protected Bike Lanes Nationwide

There’s encouraging news out of India, where cities expect to add hundreds of millions of residents in the next few decades but are already choking on traffic congestion and auto exhaust.

The Indian government appears to be embracing bicycling. Photo: Wikipedia

A senior Indian government official wants the nation to embrace bicycling. Photo: Wikipedia

Dr. Harsh Vardhan was appointed to lead India’s health ministry by newly elected prime minister Narendra Modi this May, and he wants to promote bicycling as a way to improve public health and air quality while adding more transportation options, especially for low-income people.

According to the Indian news outlet First Post, Vardhan would like to see a nationwide effort to install protected bike lanes:

Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said that he will approach the Surface Transport and Urban Development Ministries for the development of cycle tracks alongside roads to make cycling a “huge movement” in the country.

“I will personally write to Surface Transport and Urban Development Ministries to do whatever they can in this initiative and also ask them to develop cycle tracks,” Vardhan said as he released a study report titled “Peddling towards a Greener India: A Report on Promoting Cycling in the Country”, prepared by the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi on Wednesday.

The report also recommended that India offer residents micro-loans to purchase bikes, as well as tax incentives to promote bicycling.

The health problems that auto emissions cause are now grave enough to threaten India’s economy, as the number of private vehicles has tripled to 130 million since 2003.

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Today’s Headlines

Get National Headlines at Streetsblog USA

SBLA will be publishing lightly today due to lack of dedicated readership on Fridays before three-day weekends. See you on the sidewalks!

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Pittsburgh Business Leaders See Bikeways as Cure for Road-Space Shortage

intersection treatment penn ave

Along Pittsburgh’s new downtown bike lane, all intersections are signalized, but cyclists won’t receive dedicated signal phases and most crossings are unmarked. People will need to be on the lookout for turning conflicts whether they’re on bikes or in cars. All renderings: City of Pittsburgh

pfb logo 100x22

Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Downtown Pittsburgh has a perfectly good reason to be running out of room for more cars: Its streets have been there since 1784.

“In Pittsburgh, we have too many cars chasing too few parking spaces,” Merrill Stabile, the city’s largest parking operator, said last week. “I am in favor of building a few more parking garages. But we’ll never be able to build enough to meet the demand, in my opinion, if we continue to grow like we’ve been growing.”

That’s why Stabile is among the Pittsburgh business leaders backing a plan announced Tuesday to reduce downtown’s dependence on car traffic by adding a protected bike lane to Penn Avenue.

Jeremy Waldrup, CEO of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, said the protected lane, which will return Penn Avenue to one-way motor vehicle flow by removing an eastbound traffic lane, will make it comfortable for most people, not just the bold few, to bike downtown.

“One of the most important things is that we have as a city developed this incredible trail system, many of them leading to downtown,” Waldrup said. “But once you’ve made it to the borders of downtown, you’re literally on your own to get into the city.”

Penn Avenue’s new one-mile bike lane, installed as a pilot project over the next few weeks, is part of a wave of protected lane projects in American central business districts.

Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Ribbon-Cutting for New West SFV L.A. River Bike Path

Today's ribbon-cutting for the newest segment of Los Angeles river bike path, located in

Today’s ribbon-cutting for the newest segment of Los Angeles river bike path, extending from Winnetka to Canoga Park in the West San Fernando Valley. From left to right: Gary Lee Moore – City Engineer, Barbara Romero – Board of Public Works, Kevin James – Board of Public Works, Bob Blumenfield – City Councilmember, Seleta Reynolds – LADOT, Omar Brownson – L.A. River Revitalization Corporation, and Ed Ebrahimian – Bureau of Street Lighting. (Apologies for cutting off Anthony Jusay – Metro, whose hand is visible on the left.) Photo: Joe Linton, Streetsblog L.A.

This morning, Streetsblog enjoyed the ribbon-cutting for the newest stretch of Los Angeles River Bike Path, located in the West San Fernando Valley. In 2011, Streetsblog covered the project’s groundbreaking.

Councilmember Blumenfield hosted this morning’s ribbon-cutting, celebrated by a crowd of about 50, mostly city staff and river and bike advocates. Seleta Reynolds mentioned that this was her first ribbon cutting as Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s new General Manager.

The new bike path goes along the south side of the river from Hartland Street (just west of Mason Avenue) to Winnetka Avenue. It connects to the existing city bike path downstream (east), extending to the Vanalden Avenue footbridge for a total of 2 miles of continuous bike path. The path was part of six interconnected public works projects that included bridge retrofits and extending bike path crossings under refurbished bridges. At the upstream end of the bikeway, west of Hartland Street, is an also newly-opened section of county L.A. River greenway, which is somewhat bikeable but lacks a paved surface and below-grade crossings.  Read more…

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Milton Olin’s Killer Escapes Charges. A Broken System Cries for Change.

Last night, Brenda Gazaar broke the story in the Daily News that the District Attorney will not be pressing charges against Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Wood, who struck and killed Milt Olin from behind with his car while Olin was riding his bicycle in the bike lane. Olin, a former Napster executive and lawyer, was riding legally and safely in the bicycle lane on the 22400 block of Mulholland Highway in Calabassas.

Olin is pictured in his cycling gear with sons Chris, left, and Geoff

Olin is pictured in his cycling gear with sons Chris, left, and Geoff

Reaction from safety advocates, critics of the scandal-plagued Sheriff’s Department and bicyclists was swift on social media. The department’s internal investigation showed that Wood was typing non-emergency messages on his on-board computer when his car veered into the bicycle lane at high enough speed to strike Olin and send him flying over his handlebars.

I share their outrage, and the investigation into Wood’s killing of Olin has been under fire from the moment the Sheriff’s Department declined to pass the investigation off to the California Highway Patrol, but the burden of proof to convict a peace officer who kills someone with a vehicle is so high that even a well-ordered investigation may have yielded the same results.

The system is broken.

Maybe a review of the D.A. will overturn the initial ruling and a criminal trial will occur. Even if that’s the case, there’s going to be a high standard for Wood to face justice.

The system is broken.

Gazaar explains: Read more…

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Boosting Transit Ridership With New Stations, Not New Track

Boston's new Orange Line station in Somerville is a great example of how older cities can boost transit ridership inexpensively with new stations in strategic locations. Image: MBTA

Assembly Station in Somerville, outside Boston, is a great example of how older transit systems can draw more riders with new stations in strategic locations. Image: MBTA

Yonah Freemark at the Transport Politic calls them infill stations: new transit stops built in gaps along existing rail lines. Current examples include Assembly Station just outside Boston in Somerville, DC’s NoMa Station, and the West Dublin/Pleasanton BART station.

Infill stations are a pretty brilliant method to get the most out of older rail systems without spending very much, Freemark says. He’d like to see more cities adopt the strategy:

The advantages of infill stations result from the fact that people are simply more likely to use transit when they’re closer to it — and from the fact that the older transit systems in many cities have widely spaced stations that are underserving potentially significant markets. Erick Guerra and Robert Cervero, affiliated with the University of California-Berkeley, have demonstrated that people living or working within a quarter mile of a transit station produce about twice as many transit rides as people living or working more than half a mile away. In other words, with fewer stations on a line, the number of people willing to use public transportation as a whole is likely reduced.

Assembly Station, which has been in the works for several years, promises significant benefits — 5,000 future daily riders taking advantage of a 10-minute ride to the region’s central business district, at a construction cost of about $30 million. The station fits in the 1.3-mile gap between two existing stations and is the first new stop built along Boston’s T rapid transit network in 26 years. When combined with the $1.7 billion Green Line light rail extension planned for opening later this decade, 85 percent of Somerville’s residents will live within walking distance of rapid transit, up from just 15 percent today.

Read more…