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Metro To Vote On Bike-Share Contract With Vendor Bicycle Transit Systems

Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter rides Indego bike-share. Image via Streetfilms

Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter riding Indego bike-share. Image via Streetfilms

At its June 25 monthly meeting, the Metro Board will be voting on the contract for the initial phase of what is now optimistically called “Metro Countywide Bikeshare.”

SBLA previewed the regional bike-share system in this earlier post. The initial phase is planned to include 1000+ bicycles at 60+ docking stations in downtown Los Angeles, expected to be operational in early 2016.

According to the recently posted board agenda look-ahead [PDF], Metro has selected bike-share vendor Bicycle Transit Systems. The $11.8 million contract is “contingent upon the execution of an MOU between the City of Los Angeles and Metro” and “future phases will be brought back …for Board approval contingent upon successful completion and operation of the Phase 1 Pilot.”

Bicycle Transit Systems is a somewhat new presence in the bike-share industry, though captained by experienced leadership. The company is based in Philadelphia and headed by former Alta Bike Share CEO Alison Cohen, who led NYC CitiBike during its rocky start-up. To date, the company’s big bike-share implementation success has been Philadelphia’s Indego, which launched in April 2015 with 600 bikes at 60 stations.

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Metro and Zipcar Place Car-Share Cars At Metro Parking Lots

Mayor Garcetti announces Zipcar vehicles are now available at ten Metro station parking lots. Left to right: Garcetti, Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, Phil Washington, and Dan Grossman. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Mayor Garcetti announces Zipcar vehicles are now available at ten Metro station parking lots. Left to right: Garcetti, Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, Phil Washington, and Dan Grossman. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Last Friday, Metro and Zipcar announced a new partnership that places car-share vehicles at ten Metro station parking lots. The new program was announced via a press conference at the North Hollywood Red Line Station. Speakers included Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti, Metro Boardmember Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, Metro’s new CEO Phil Washington, and Zipcar Regional Vice President Dan Grossman. The cars are available and ready now.

Mayor Garcetti touted $36 billion in transportation investment, but it may be these sorts of high-tech, low-cost, quick mobility wins that will the extend the reach and convenience of Metro’s rail and bus systems into Los Angeles neighborhoods. Examples include Metro bike-share, debuting downtown by early 2016, and LADOT’s fare-payment app.

Both Garcetti and Washington emphasized that this new car-share program is part of implementation of Metro’s First Last Mile Strategic Plan, though early action on car-share was prompted by this July 2014 Metro board motion [PDF] by Garcetti, with boardmembers Pam O’Connor and Mike Bonin. Expanding car-share also dovetails with Garcetti’s sustainability pLAn which aims to increase car-share/bike-share/ride-share from its current 0.9 percent of L.A. City trips to 5 percent by 2035. Washington emphasized the need for innovative “mobility on demand” that would seamlessly connect travel by airplane, train, bus, car, bike, and foot.  Read more…

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Planning and Programming Committee Recommends Metro Board Take Next Steps on Rail-to-River ATC

The Slauson corridor that runs through South L.A. takes another step forward toward becoming an Active Transportation Corridor. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

The Slauson corridor that runs through South L.A. takes another step forward toward becoming an Active Transportation Corridor. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

On October 23, 2014, the Metro Board of Directors voted to adopt the Rail to River Intermediate Active Transportation Corridor (ATC) Feasibility Study and directed staff to identify funding for full implementation of the project. The Board also authorized $2,850,000 be put towards facilitating the environmental, design, alternative route analysis, and outreach work required for the project to move forward and requested the staff report back in May of 2015.

At this past Wednesday’s Planning and Programming Committee meeting, the committee filed the requested report detailing recommendations that the Board take the next steps of applying for grants from the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Discretionary Grant (TIGER) program and the state Active Transportation Program (ATP). To facilitate the application process, staff also requested the Board authorize an allocation of $10.8 million in hard match funds in time to make the grant programs’ June 1 and June 5 deadlines.

The report suggests the Rail-to-River project has the potential to be very competitive.

Sited along an 8.3 mile section of the Harbor Subdivision Transit Corridor right-of-way (ROW), it will eventually connect the Crenshaw/LAX rail line to multiple bus lines (including the Silver Line), the Blue Line, the river, Huntington Park, Maywood, and/or Vernon via a bike and pedestrian path anchored along Slauson Ave.

First proposed by Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor and Metro Board Member Gloria Molina in 2012, it has the potential to effect a significant transformation in a deeply blighted and long-neglected section of South L.A.

Screenshot of proposed bikeway corridor. Phase 1 (at left) represents section that Metro could move on immediately. Phase 2 would proceed more slowly, as Metro would need to negotiate with BNSF to purchase the ROW.

The visuals included in last year’s feasibility study divide the project into two phases (to be implemented concurrently). The central segment runs along Metro’s ROW on Slauson, eventually connecting with the Crenshaw line, to the west, and possibly the river, on the east.

But it isn’t going to come all that cheaply. Read more…

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First Metro Countywide Sustainability Annual Report, With Plenty Of Graphs

Metro Sustainability

Cover of 2015 Metro Countywide Sustainability Annual Report [PDF]

At yesterday’s Metro Board of Directors Ad Hoc Sustainability Committee meeting, Metro staff shared the agency’s first Metro Countywide Sustainability Annual Report [PDF]. The report establishes a baseline to “track sustainability progress going forward for Metro’s own actions and broader measures of sustainability throughout the county. The Countywide Performance Metrics measure sustainability outcomes countywide such as how people travel throughout the county, the environmental impacts of this travel and how transportation and land use shift over time.”

The report includes brief case studies on sustainability projects from vanpools, to greenways, to bike hubs. It includes a spreadsheet with Metro’s status on its identified sustainability work plan.

The bulk of the report is a series of graphs showing Countywide Performance Metrics, including Vehicle Miles Traveled, Total Person Trips for Carpool and Active Transportation, Daily Total CO2 Emissions for L.A. County, Metro Transit Ridership Total Annual Boardings, and more. Each of these metrics are shown on graphs, most of which SBLA has included below in the order in which they appear in the report.

VMT

Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) for L.A. County. Image via Metro [PDF]

trips

Total trips trips made walking, bicycling, and carpooling. Image via Metro [PDF]

job

Number of jobs within a half-mile radius of transit stations. Image via Metro [PDF]

Read more…

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Law-Breaking Drivers Disrespecting New Wilshire Boulevard Bus-Only Lanes

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Illegally parked car blocks the Wilshire BRT peak-hour bus lane last Friday. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

On April 8, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and other Metro, federal, county, and city leaders cut the ceremonial ribbon opening the second phase of the $31.5 million Wilshire BRT (Bus Rapid Transit). Metro forecasted that the Wilshire Boulevard peak-hour bus-only lanes will significantly improve commute times for the more than 25,000 people who board Wilshire Boulevard buses at peak hours every weekday.

But those improvements will only materialize when the bus-only lanes only have buses in them.

Unfortunately, many peak-hour drivers are breaking the law by driving in the exclusive bus lanes.

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This Mercedes with license plate 6JJH202 is blocking the Metro 720 bus from getting to the Crenshaw Blvd stop. That car and the one behind it followed me through the intersection, ignoring the right-turn-only designation for cars in their lane.

Last Friday from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., I observed hundreds of drivers breaking traffic laws, most of them driving straight ahead through right-turn-only designated intersections, but also two cars illegally parked in the designated “anti-gridlock” tow-away no-parking lane. I observed dozens of these cars clearly impeding the progress of the very frequent Wilshire buses. The majority of drivers did respect and stay out of the bus-only lane.

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Signage on Wilshire designates right turn only during peak commute hours.

At the start of each bus-only lane block, the pavement is marked “BUS LANE.” At nearly every intersection from Beverly Hills to MacArthur Park, there are signs that state “RIGHT LANE[:] BUSES [and] RIGHT TURNS ONLY 7AM-9AM 4PM-7PM MON-FRI.”

I stopped at a handful of intersections, and every time observed multiple cars breaking laws by proceeding straight ahead through right-turn-only intersections. Both rapid and local Wilshire buses were arrive very frequently at the peak commute hour, though, between buses, there was still often a one or two-minute space that law-breaking drivers file into.  Read more…

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Expo: Phase II Bike Path Will Open with Light Rail in 2016

051315 - EXPO BIKE PATH PAVING - MILITARY-WESTWOOD

The Expo Bike Path near Military Avenue in Westwood. All images via the Expo Construction Authority.

Last week, in a short article celebrating that LADOT was beginning its portion of the bikeway that will run parallel to the Expo Line in West L.A., I stated that the separated bike path portion of the route was not under construction.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Via the Expo Construction Authority comes word that not only is the bike path under construction, it should open with the light rail line in early 2016.

The bike path is well under construction, and the plan is to open the bike path along with the light rail line.  Currently there is grading, lighting, irrigation, and drainage work throughout, and approximately one mile has already been paved.  The largest stretch of paving is between Centinela and the 26th Street/Bergamot station, and the sections from Olympic to 20th Street and from Westwood to Military have also been paved.

There are still some issues to be worked out, most notably the routing of the bike path in the area surrounding Westwood Station where there are also plans for a greenway and water park. However, the good news is that both Metro’s separated bike path and the bike lanes being painted by LADOT to provide easy access from downtown Culver City to downtown Santa Monica are currently under construction/paint and the full route should be ready for a ribbon cutting with the train.

My apologies to both the Construction Authority and our readers for getting it wrong. There are two more pictures of Expo Bike Path as it is today, after the jump. Read more…

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How a More Inclusive Bike Week Can Help Move Us toward “Bike Life”

Stalin, Hugo, and an apprentice at the Watts Cyclery keep Watts moving for as little money as possible. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Stalin, Hugo, an apprentice, and the Watts Cyclery kitty keep Watts moving for as little money as possible. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“I can honestly say my faith in humanity has been restored today,” Joey said Wednesday as we popped his back tire back on his bike and I packed up my patch kit. “If I ever see you in the street again, I promise I’ll pay you back somehow.”

His declaration was quite sincere. He was worried that his boss was going to be upset at how late he was. He was still 20+ minutes away from the tire shop on Western where he worked, on foot, and he didn’t have fare for the bus or train on him. He was kind of bummed because the bike was new, too. A car making a hard right without warning had tossed both him and his previous bike into the air. He managed to walk away from the incident OK. The bike, not so much. He couldn’t afford to see this one damaged.

“I don’t even know what I hit,” he had said when I first spotted him walking his bike along Exposition Blvd. “I had been watching for glass…”

Glass wasn’t the issue this time. When we flipped the bike over and took a look at the wheel, we found a twisted industrial staple that I ended up having to yank out with my teeth after the embedded section broke off inside the tire.

“Here,” I tossed him my patch kit. “Grab one of the smaller patches and the glue while I find the hole in the tube.”

“Cool,” he nodded. “I was just going to fix it at work [with a patch for car tires].”

The imperfect fix he had planned did not surprise me. Like the majority of the folks whose tires I’ve stopped to patch in South L.A. (something that happens, on average, every other week), he was riding out of necessity, and something as basic as a popped tire could impinge on both his budget for the month (it’s a $6 to $8 fix at local shops) and his ability to get from A to B in a timely way.

Joey was fortunate in that, aside from the cheap and slightly-loose-on-the-rim tires, his bike was rather solid. Too many of the lower-income commuters I’ve spoken with are not riding on such reliable steeds.

Such as the youth whose crank kept coming loose at inopportune times and causing him to fall over in the street, occasionally in front of cars. Or the youth on the road bike with broken brakes who was wearing holes into the bottom of his shoes after he resigned himself to braking Fred Flintstone-style. Or the numerous men and youth whose rims have been damaged by collisions with cars but who couldn’t afford new wheels. Or the school kid whose rim snakebit his tube beyond repair and who cried on the phone when his mom said that was the end of his days of biking to school. Or the young man whose valve detached from the tube when we tried to fix his flat and who got a loaner tube from a friend on the condition he try to scrape together the $3 to buy one from a nearby sidewalk bike vendor as soon as possible. Or Watts resident Marcus, who had been able to convince a dollar store owner to sell him a patch kit for the $.88 he had in his pocket but who then had no way to pump up the tire. He called me at 11 p.m. a week later, from near Ted Watkins park, stranded with another flat. Was I in the area? He was afraid he wouldn’t be able to traverse the last 15 blocks home safely that night.

The struggle very low-income commuters face in maintaining bikes that were never in great shape to begin with is so bad that the owner of the Watts Cyclery even found himself having to create layaway and monthly payment plans for people who desperately needed a bike or a fix, but couldn’t pay for it upfront.

Despite the many odds they face, low and very low-income commuters consistently comprise a significant proportion of the total commuter cycling pool. And many more would likely bike, provided they could either easily/cheaply access solid bikes or get their existing bikes up and running again.

Which is why it is so unfortunate that Metro’s approach to bike week isn’t more reflective of their experience. Read more…

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Happy Bike Week! .1 Miles of Bike Lanes Appear Adjacent to Palms Expo Station

A bike lane. A train station. It should always be this easy. Photo: Jon Weiss

A bike lane. A train station. It should always be this easy. Photo: Jon Weiss

While construction of the Expo Bike Path still years away, the LADOT is doing its best to complete its portion of the bikeway that will connect westsiders to the Expo Line.

This week SBLA Steering Committee member Jon Weiss noticed that the bike lanes adjacent to the future Palms Station of the Expo Line were painted. Currently, LADOT has painted a minuscule 2 block (one-tenth of a mile) of the bike lane between Clarington and Palms on National Boulevard, but there is more to come. When completed to Motor, the lanes will be just under a half-mile long.

The Expo Construction Authority is tasked with building a separated bicycle path adjacent to much of Expo Phase II, but portions of the route will have bike lanes instead of bike path because of the existing geography and Expo’s right of way. A firm timeline has not been set on when the bike path will be built, but it certainly won’t be completed in time for the opening of the rail portion of Expo Phase II. Read more…

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Move L.A. Interviews Incoming Metro CEO Phil Washington

Metro’s new CEO Phil Washington just started work this past Monday May 11. Below is a recent Phil Washington interview conducted by Gloria Ohland, who serves as Policy and Communications Director for Move L.A.

Metro CEO Phil Washington. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro CEO Phil Washington. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At Move L.A.’s 7th Annual Transportation Conversation L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti talked at some length about L.A.’s transformation into an example of what a new American city looks like — that we are building the “first truly modern city in the world” — and that the build-out of L.A.’s transit system has been a powerful lever for making people think differently about L.A. New Metro CEO Phillip Washington, who assumed his post Monday, says the same thing about Denver, the metro region he hails from, which like Los Angeles passed a sales tax measure that is paying for the build-out of their transit system.

The 8-county Denver metro region passed the FasTracks sales tax initiative with 58 percent of the vote in 2004, and there are now six rail lines under construction. L.A. County voters passed Measure R in 2008 with 67.22 percent of the vote (a two-thirds super-majority vote is required for local funding measures in California) and we have five lines, including two subways, under construction.

Washington credits Denver’s FasTracks initiative as catalyzing “all the growth that is occurring in Denver,” which is often cited as one of the top draws for millennials, one of the hottest real estate markets in the U.S., and a place that, in the words of a recent Denver Post story: “Is a far cry from the Denver of the 1980s, when the city was choking on a brown cloud of pollution and struggling with a decaying downtown and a sputtering economy.”

Mayor Garcetti lobbied Phil Washington to come to Metro because there’s probably no one else who could be so well-suited in terms of his job experience: Denver is the only other metropolitan region that has been able to largely self-finance the construction of so much transportation infrastructure: 100+ miles of light rail, bus rapid transit, and 57 stations in Denver, compared to 100+ miles of light rail, subway, and bus rapid transit and almost 100 stations in Los Angeles. Washington is someone who understands the importance of using local money to leverage federal funding, and the importance of pressing Congress for new federal financing tools — low-interest loan and bond programs — that provide more opportunities for leveraging.

Washington grew up using transit in the Altgeld Gardens housing project on the South Side of Chicago. He joined the Army at 18 and stayed there for 24 years to become a Command Sergeant Major, the highest non-commissioned officer rank. He left the Army for the Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) in 2000 and became the agency’s general manager 10 years later. That’s when he earned national attention for essentially saving the agency from near-disaster when the cost of construction materials for the transit build-out skyrocketed due to global demand in the mid-2000s and then the 2008 financial crisis caused FasTracks sales tax revenues to drop off sharply.

He helped make the decision not to put another tax increase on the 2010 or 2012 ballot in Denver, instead using alternative funding and financing sources and launching the first “P3” in this country in modern times to help get the agency back on track. The P3 is a public private partnership to build/operate/finance/operate/maintain four rail lines as well as a big maintenance facility. Under his leadership RTD is also credited with the celebrated re-development of Denver’s Union Station, built in 1881 and reopened last year as a multi-modal transit center that accommodates local and regional rail and bus, shuttles, taxis — a total of 16 different modes of transit. There are restaurants, retail, bars and a hotel in the station, which is located in the thriving LoDo (Lower Downtown) neighborhood at one end of the celebrated 16th Street Transit Mall. Union Station is surrounded by 3,500 new residential units and 1.5 million square feet of office.

Washington is also credited with creating the Community Workforce Initiative Now (WIN) program to train and employ thousands of people who live in communities affected by major infrastructure projects — for which he was honored as a “Champion of Change” by the White House. The WIN program is similar to L.A. Metro’s Construction Careers Program and Project Labor Agreements, which ensure that 40 percent of those hired to build L.A.’s transportation projects are people who live in low-income communities and that another 10 percent of all those hired are considered as “disadvantaged” because they have been chronically unemployed, for example, or are veterans of the Iraq war.

Washington seems well-liked all-around: by RTD staff, labor, the engineering and construction companies, developers, the smart growth crowd and the general public. I talked with him prior to his departure from Denver’s RTD.

As you know we are in the midst of discussions about whether to put another sales tax measure on the ballot next year, and a recent Metro poll suggests very strong public support. What’s your opinion?

One of my first orders of business is to sit down with each board member to understand their objectives and priorities and to develop a tactical plan based on what I hear. If the board supports the idea of a new sales tax measure, I know how to do it.

We did it in Denver in 2004 and our success was largely due to our ability to bring people together. One of the truly great things that happened is that the Metro Mayors Caucus — a nonpartisan group of 40 mayors who voluntarily come together to address complex regional issues like air pollution — unanimously supported the measure. The transit build-out has been a Metro Mayors Caucus priority since the very beginning, and they also worked with the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority on issuing bonds to finance affordable multi-family housing at stations along the rail lines.

What are some of the key lessons learned about winning the ballot measure in Denver?

I believe the specificity of the plan was key — not just with the mayors but also the general public. A very detailed plan is a must. We tried going to the ballot in 1997 and failed partly because we weren’t specific about how the money would be spent, and it took us 7 years to get back to the ballot.  Read more…

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This Morning’s Bike Week L.A. Press Conference Made One Cynic Smile

New Metro CEO Phil Washington addresses this morning's Bike Week L.A. press conference. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

New Metro CEO Phil Washington addresses this morning’s Bike Week L.A. press conference. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

I get pretty cynical, critical, and dismissive about bike week. OK, some folks, probably rightly, know I get too cynical and bitter about a lot of things, and bike week is one of those.

This morning, I finished up SBLA’s bike week calendar post, which is pretty critical of the promotion for tonight’s event, “Is Bicycling In Your Future?” The event’s title assumes that nobody bikes in Los Angeles now or in the past. The promotional blurb, for example– “Can bike infrastructure make the streets safe enough for you to ride on?”– is addressed to people who are assumed to never bike. To me it says: if you’re waiting for L.A. bike infrastructure to be complete before you bike, you will never bike.

Even Metro’s bike week promotional slogan (see graphic) assumes bicyclists are not traffic, and portrays cycling as a cloud of exhaust, albeit a blue cloud. Other Metro bike week messaging states “Give your car a break” and this is for an agency whose bus and train riders are more than three-quarters car-free. Why assume that the reader has a car? I guess it is better than AAA’s inadvertent bike blood-splatter messaging.

I guess I should have some empathy. Bike week gets a few agency staff outside their comfort zone. There are a bunch of people who spend all day writing serious stuff about how freeway widening projects will “decrease surface street traffic.” Yes, Metro and Caltrans are still saying this, as of March 2015. Once a year, these professionals are told to toss cyclists a crumb. They are stuck behind their windshield, terrified of bicycling. Is it any surprise that the results come off as wooden and tone deaf? They are not used to taking bicycling seriously. Their leadership has not made taking bicycling seriously an ongoing priority for their job. What should I expect?

So, there was a press conference at Grand Park this morning where Metro, the L.A. City Transportation Department (LADOT), Caltrans, Metrolink, Good Samaritan Hospital, CicLAvia, L.A. County Bicycle Coalition, and C.I.C.L.E. all got together to announce and promote bike week.

And it was actually good.

Numerous speakers got things right, and sounded very appropriate, positive, and hopeful notes:

  • Hosting the press conference, Metro boardmember Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker barely touched on bike week, instead outlining ongoing Metro efforts to support everyday bicycling, repeatedly saying that it is not about “bike week” but “bike life.” Dupont-Walker outlined recent and upcoming Metro initiatives: three-bike bus racks, a new secure bike parking hub prototype under construction in El Monte, the selection of a Metro regional bike-share vendor expected next month, and a newly funded $224,000 initiative for a series of bicycle safety education classes.
  • Metro boardmember and L.A. City Councilmember Paul Krekorian spoke enthusiastically about the success of CicLAvia in the San Fernando Valley, and the way the event highlighted synergies between cycling and transit. As a Metrolink boardmember, Krekorian announced that all this week, Metrolink is offering free rides for cyclists. Just show your bike as your ticket.
  • Metro boardmember and L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis spoke about participating in the recent East Los Angeles CicLAvia, how bicycling and walking are the way people from all over the world get around all the time, and how it is time for L.A. County to “put funding behind [active transportation].”
  • L.A. City Councilmember Jose Huizar opined that the impact of CicLAvia has been greater than any policy or legislation approved in recent years. He stressed that, through CicLAvia and everyday bike transportation, Los Angeles is seeing that bicycling is great for health, the environment, and business.
  • New Metro CEO Phil Washington spent his first couple of hours on the job at the bike week kick-off. He stated that he checked in at his office, put his briefcase down, found the bathroom, and took the train to get to Grand Park for this morning’s event. Washington stressed that walking and bicycling are key components for creating a balanced transportation system that serves everyone from 8 to 80 years old.
  • LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds touted the agency’s 30 new miles of bike lane this fiscal year, its first parking-protected bike lanes, and new bike corrals. She stressed that “it’s not really about the bike” but that bicycling is one important component of a safe, strong, prosperous, resilient city.
  • Nonprofit representatives Good Samaritan Hospital’s Andy Leeka, CicLAvia’s Aaron Paley, LACBC’s Tamika Butler, and C.I.C.L.E.’s Vanessa Gray extended and deepened the bicycle appreciation and enthusiasm. LACBC released a new fact sheet compiling survey data from their Operation Firefly bike-light giveaways.
  • The only consistent wrong note was sounded by Caltrans’ District 7 Director Carrie Bowen. Bowen sounds very knowledgeable when interacting with the Metro board regarding Measure R freeway-widening projects, but at this morning’s event, she read monotonously from a prepared statement, even asserting that Caltrans has always included bicycling in its projects. Just. Not. True. Caltrans has come a long way toward realigning the agency’s past car-centric approach to better support a healthy 21st century mix of transportation modes, but, frankly, this change is still just beginning to take hold, sometimes grudgingly. Bowen closed by exhorting cyclists, “If you are driving, slow down for the cone zone.” Really.

Read more…