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News Bites from BikeLA Webinar: Gap, Parking, Cycle Tracks, Metrolink

Last night, the city of Los Angeles Departments of Transportation (LADOT) and City Planning (DCP) hosted a webinar to introduce L.A. cyclists to what are called the “second year study corridors” for the L.A. City Bicycle Plan. The webinar included a presentation and a question and answer session. The unscripted Q&A yielded a handful of newsworthy tidbits. SBLA will report these newsbites first, then, next week, review bike plan implementation, including the “first year” and “second year” batches.

The York Blvd Bike Lane Gap: Earlier this month, LADOT extended the York Boulevard bike lanes to the edge of South Pasadena. Though the extended York lanes connect with bike lanes on Avenue 66 and San Pascual Avenue, Flying Pigeon lamented the 528 foot gap between L.A.’s York lanes and immediately adjacent bike lanes on South Pasadena’s Pasadena Avenue. LADOT’s Tim Fremaux explained that L.A. had approached the city of South Pasadena and met with their Public Works Commission, which includes John Fisher, formerly of LADOT. According to Fremaux, Fisher “pushed for an aggressive road diet” which would have created a continuous bike lane, but this proposal ultimately voted down by South Pasadena, leaving the gap at the city border.

Bike Parking: LADOT’s Michelle Mowery explained that, due to issues with a contractor bidding process, LADOT isn’t installing their inverted-U bike racks right now. They expect to resume installations this summer. Mowery stated that there was a wait list of about 30 bike corrals awaiting installation. One of the next corrals to be installed will be in front of Laemmle’s movie theater on Lankershim Blvd in North Hollywood.

LADOT's San Fernando Road bike path has been designed to accommodate double-tracking the adjacent Metrolink rails. Photo: Rails-to-Trails

LADOT’s San Fernando Road bike path has been designed to accommodate future double-tracking of the adjacent Metrolink railway. Photo: Rails-to-Trails (Note: The  path extends across multiple city jurisdictions and this image might be just inside the City of San Fernando.)

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Plaza 2.0: When People St. Plaza Projects are More Than Just Plaza Projects

The future site of Leimert's proposed plaza. 43rd Pl., runs in front of the KAOS Network artspace (on the corner), the Vision Theater (under renovation) and, to the left of the ficus tree, Mark Bradford's film/art/community space (under construction). Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

The future site of Leimert’s proposed plaza, 43rd Place, runs in front of the KAOS Network art space (on the corner), the Vision Theater (under renovation) and, to the left of the ficus tree, Mark Bradford’s film/art/community space (under construction). Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

The request that I sign the petition for Leimert Park Village’s People St. plaza application that landed in my inbox the other day made me smile.

Of all the places in the city I can think of, 43rd Place is probably the most appropriate place for a plaza project and the most likely to be able to replicate some of what makes a space a plaza.

For one, the wide and quiet street, running alongside a sizable park space that already plays the role of public square and anchor of the monthly artwalk, will serve as the welcome mat for several important community arts spaces and galleries (see more about that here, here, and here).

As such, it has the potential to serve as a special-occasion spillover space for those venues, doubling as a temporary performance space, outdoor gallery space, or fitness space (capoeira, zumba, yoga, etc.), or play host other creative endeavors.

Mask festival procession in honor of the ancestors in Leimert Park. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Mask festival procession in honor of the ancestors in Leimert Park. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Second, the variety of programming an arts-heavy community offers can draw multiple generations of families. Events including the art walk already have a family-reunion sort of feel to them, as it is. More space to test out interactive street furniture, jump rope, or just play can enhance those events and keep the plaza active in between formal happenings.

Third, located within spitting distance of Crenshaw Blvd. — a newly designated “Great Street” — and the coming Metro stop, it will likely serve as an important rest and/or contemplative spot for those exploring the neighborhood.

For these reasons and more, community members have voiced a strong desire to see the creation of a permanent installation that celebrates the area’s cultural and architectural/art deco heritage while also reflecting their hopes for its future as a creative district.

The Sankofa Passage along Degnan St. is adorned with the names of important African-American artists. Their names are surrounded by symbols used to brand slaves. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

The Sankofa Passage along Degnan St. is adorned with the names of important African-American artists. Their names are surrounded by symbols used to brand slaves (and a Sankofa in each corner). Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

It is an approach that puts them slightly at odds with the People St. framework, which offers year-long renewable permits for communities looking to install plazas, parklets, or bike corrals in their neighborhoods, and has a limited menu of standardized design options intended to make the permitting and implementation processes easier. While the program supports the eventual conversion of the installations into permanent fixtures, the initial project itself must be designed as if temporary (i.e. no permanent furniture or public art).

Cognizant of the limits of the program, but still thinking longer-term, the stakeholders appear ready to find the resources to fill in the gaps between what the city can offer and what they need to adequately showcase their community.

They’ve done this sort of thing before.

In late 2007, a five-year effort came to fruition in the form of the Sankofa Passage along Degnan Blvd. (running perpendicular to 43rd Pl.).

The block-length walk is embedded with the names of important African-American artists, stamped with folk art animals, and graced by terracotta African-style planters. The Sankofa birds — Akan (Ghana) symbols signifying the importance of carrying wisdom from your past with you as you move forward — and the slave brands emblazoned around the names of the artists effectively remind you of where you are and who walked before you. Read more…

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California Legislation Watch: Weekly Update

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For social media coverage focused on statewide issues, follow Melanie Curry @currymel on Twitter or like our Facebook page

Here is Streetsblog’s weekly highlight of legislation and events related to sustainable transportation at the California capitol.

  • This week, the legislature was out for Spring Recess, giving legislative staff time to prepare for the onslaught of bill hearings coming up in the next few weeks.
  • On Monday, Senate President Darrell Steinberg changed his mind about a carbon tax and instead proposed a new plan for spending revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade system.
  • California Senate Transportation and Housing Committee staff published its summary of the committee’s March hearing on CA high-speed rail. Its main conclusion: while numerous legal and fiscal challenges for the project remain, the most pressing issue is the lack of a plan to fill the funding shortfall of $15 to $21 billion.
  • Next week, the State Senate has postponed all hearings that were scheduled for Wednesday, April 23, so that senators and staff can spend the day discussing ethics. This comes in the wake of the recent arrest of Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) on charges of gun trafficking, the arraignment of Senator Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) for bribery and corruption, and the suspension of Senator Rod Wright (D-Inglewood) for pretending to live in a house he didn’t live in.
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Oakland Proposes Parking-Protected Bike Lanes on Telegraph Avenue

Bikes and buses jockey for position along Telegraph Avenue in Temescal. Planners say protected bike lanes are “likely” options on most of Telegraph in Oakland — except for this stretch. Photo: David Jaeger / Jonah Chiarenza, www.community-design.com

The City of Oakland has released preliminary design options [PDF] for a redesign of Telegraph Avenue, which include parking-protected bike lanes, improvements to speed up AC Transit lines, and pedestrian safety upgrades. Planners will hold open house meetings to collect input on the design options starting next week.

“We’re very excited they’ve released a lot of different options,” said Dave Campbell, advocacy director for Bike East Bay. “It’s a very robust set of choices and allows people to make an informed decision on the best ones.”

This is the first time Telegraph is being revisited for a redesign since was taken out of the East Bay Bus Rapid Transit route that begins construction this fall. The proposal to extend BRT on Telegraph to Berkeley was dropped after merchants fought to preserve car parking.

The Telegraph Avenue Complete Streets Implementation Plan looks at the stretch from 57th Street, at Oakland’s northern border with Berkeley, to 20th Street, a few blocks short of Telegraph’s end at Broadway in downtown Oakland, where the Latham Square pilot plaza was prematurely removed. Under some of the proposals, much of Telegraph could get parking-protected bike lanes (a.k.a. “cycle tracks”) by re-purposing traffic lanes and preserving parking lanes.

Oakland’s project website notes that “despite the lack of bike facilities, Telegraph Avenue is one of the most heavily traveled routes for cyclists, with over 1,200 daily cyclists.”

Bike East Bay is “super delighted to see proposed cycle tracks for a good segment of the street, and think there are some good options as well through the section with the freeway underpass,” said Campbell.

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Suppressing the Housing Supply in Cities Isn’t Progressive

The housing affordability crisis in cities like San Francisco is a big progressive cause. But not everyone agrees about what’s causing the problem, and that makes it harder to address.

High housing prices in San Francisco are partly a result of constraints on new construction. Photo: Wikipedia

With so may constraints on housing construction, rents in cities like San Francisco have been skyrocketing. Photo: Wikipedia

Alex Block at Network blog City Block has a good roundup of recent articles exploring the pheonomenon. The authors — Kim-Mai Cutler at Tech Crunch, Ryan Avent at the Economist, and the blog Let’s Go L.A. — agree that the root of the problem is insufficient supply. Essentially, land use and zoning constraints that limit development of new housing are driving up prices for everyone:

Cutler’s article lists a whole host of other potential actions, but concludes that any path forward must work towards adding more housing units to the region’s overall supply. Unfortunately, even this broad conclusion isn’t shared by everyone. In section #5 of Cutler’s article, she notes “parts of the progressive community do not believe in supply and demand.”

Ryan Avent notes that this denial of the market dynamics, no matter the motive, is not only misguided but also counter-productive: “However altruistic they perceive their mission to be, the result is similar to what you’d get if fat cat industrialists lobbied the government to drive their competition out of business.”

Without agreement on the nature of the problem, it’s hard to even talk about potential policy solutions. And there are a whole host of potential policy solutions once we get over that hump. Unfortunately, discussion about supply constraints in cities (via exclusionary zoning, high construction costs, neighborhood opposition to development, etc) means the conversation naturally focuses on the constraint. Advocating for loosening the constraints can easily be mistaken for (or misconstrued as) mere supply-side economics, a kind of trickle-down urbanism.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Voice of San Diego relays news about compromises to a local bus rapid transit project. And Flat Iron Bike introduces a new paper that looks at how to make “managed lanes” on highways more equitable by incorporating transit.

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Eyes on the Street: SF Polk Contra-Flow Bike Lane Nearly Ready to Ride

Here’s a little change of pace from the bad news this week. The Polk Street contra-flow protected bike lane, connecting Market Street northbound to Grove Street and City Hall, appears almost ready to go. A Department of Public Works spokesperson said the agency is shooting for a tentative opening date of May 2 or 5 and plans to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Officials at the SFMTA and DPW seem proud of the project — and rightly so. Photos of the bikeway and median planted with native succulents were tweeted by DPW Director Mohammed Nuru and Tim Papandreou, the SFMTA’s director of strategic planning and policy. DPW surprisingly jumpstarted construction on the bike lane in late January after years of delay, promising completion by Bike to Work Day on May 8.

The project also comes with a couple of bonuses. DPW is installing bulb-outs at the wide intersection of Grove and Polk, and completed one at the northwest corner last week. The pedestrian island and “bike chute” on the north side of Market at Polk were also reconfigured for more practical maneuvering for southbound bike riders. See photos after the break.

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Today’s Headlines

  • KPCC profiles Carlos Morales Eastside Bike Club – Sweet Video
  • How To Create A Truly Healthy Next Los Angeles (KCET)
  • Local Municipalities Seeking State ATP Bike-Ped Funding (LACBC)
  • Schools Are Centers For Communities (SRTS Natl Partnership)
  • New L.A. Trash Program Better for Air, Workers, Reuse (LAT, PBS)
  • Gasoline Surges 13 Cents Per Gallon This Week (LAT)
  • Takes 15 Agonizing Minutes To Park At Trader Joes (LAWeekly)
  • *Mayor Expects 710 Freeway Tunnel Extreme & Impractical (Pasadena Now) *updated
  • Santa Monica Airport Ballot Politics (Santa Monica Next)
  • Handsome SF Contraflow Bike Lane To Open Bike Week (SBSF)
  • Sweet Podcast Interview with Portland Bicycle Activist Elly Blue (Boing Boing)

Get National Headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Talking Headways Podcast: Escobar’s Escalator

Did you go to the World Urban Forum in Medellín, Colombia, last week? Neither did your hosts Jeff Wood and I, but we sure found a lot to say about it anyway on this week’s Talking Headways podcast. Medellín’s remarkable urban transformation — undertaken in the midst of war — has gotten a lot of well-deserved attention lately for making the city’s transportation infrastructure more equitable.

But first, we talked to our very own Angie Schmitt about the Parking Madness tournament. Did she know Rochester was a winner from the moment she laid eyes on that stunning parking crater? You’ll have to listen to find out.

And finally we turn to Dallas, where local activists are pressuring officials to tear down a 1.4-mile stretch of I-345 to make room for 245 acres of new development downtown. If it happens, it would be a tremendous win for smart urban development over Eisenhower-era car-centrism.

The other big news this week is that Talking Headways podcast is now available on Stitcher! So if you’re not an iTunes person, you’ve got a way to subscribe. But if you are an iTunes person, by all means! Or you can follow the RSS feed. And as always, the comments section is wide open for all the witty remarks we should have made but didn’t think to.

Oh, and despite the fact that we said, “See you next week” at the end out of habit, Jeff will be traveling so we actually won’t be taping a podcast next week. So take that opportunity to catch up on any episodes you’ve missed, and we’ll see you in two weeks.

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Eyes On The Street: Broadway’s Got New Bulb-Outs

Work is underway for Downtown L.A.'s Broadway "Dress Rehearsal." The street has fresh new striping for bulb-outs, also new zebra crosswalks. photo Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Work is underway for Downtown L.A.’s Broadway “Dress Rehearsal.” The street has fresh new striping for bulb-outs, also new zebra crosswalks. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Crews are out this week doing striping and new crosswalks for a project called Broadway’s Dress Rehearsal. Broadway is, arguably, Los Angeles’ most heavily pedestrian street. The current project reallocates former car-lane space to make way for pedestrians. It’s no secret that the transformation here is inspired by NYC’s relatively-inexpensive street plazas, including Times Square.

Streetsblog L.A. reviewed the overall project earlier, and subsequently reported on implementation timelines. There’s plenty more project details at Bringing Back Broadway.

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More Walking and Biking, Better Health: New Evidence From American Cities

States with higher rates of walking and biking to work tend to have lower rates of diabetes. Click to enlarge. All graphics: Alliance for Biking and Walking

New data from the Alliance for Biking and Walking’s 2014 Benchmarking report bears out the notion that people tend to be healthier in cities where walking and biking are more prevalent.

The Alliance compiled active commuting rates in the 50 largest American cities as measured by the U.S. Census. Then it compared that data with health information from the CDC. On health outcomes like diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure, a pretty clear correlation emerges.

Not all of it can be explained by active commuting, of course. But notice how, in the top chart, as statewide active transportation rates increase, diabetes rates decline.

About 9 percent of Americans have diabetes, but the incidence varies greatly between different places. Diabetes tracks closely enough with walk and bike commute rates that the Alliance and other researchers have concluded there’s a strong correlation.

Rates of elevated blood pressure display a similar pattern:

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