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Posts from the "The OC" Category

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Sheriffs Blame Cyclist Victim in OC Road Rage Bottle-Throwing Incident

Screen capture showing Gatorade bottle thrown at cyclist. Source: Youtube

Screen capture showing Gatorade bottle thrown at cyclist. Source: Youtube

On May 31, 2014, Bryan Larsen was bicycling on a crowded stretch of Pacific Coast Highway in south Orange County. He began to notice a pattern of harassment by the occupants of a large white 4×4 Ram Truck, with Texas Virginia license plate “TX 65-500.” When passing cyclists, the truck would spew thick black coal-rolling exhaust.

Larsen got out his phone and began to record video. He then captured this road rage incident.  The truck swerved out of the car lane toward Larsen, who was riding in the bike lane. The truck slowed and its passenger threw a bottle full of Gatorade at the cyclist. When Larsen held his phone up and shouted that he had captured the incident on video, the truck blasted more exhaust and drove away.

In a television interview, Larsen describes the incident:

I was in a lot of fear. They came into the bike lane. The tires were as big as I was and I thought they were going to run me over.

Larsen posted the video online and reported the incident, submitting the evidence to the Orange County Sheriffs Department.

OCSD responded that they were investigating, but stated that there really was nothing law enforcement could do, since even though it was caught on video, no sheriff had actually been present to eye-witness to the incident.

Meanwhile, the video went viral. The incident was reported in local media. Larsen approached Arizona-based advocacy organization Look! Save A Life which produced an annotated version of the video, slowing down and clarifying what occurred. Just over a month passed with no response from OCSD.

On July 7, Look! Save A Life published this Open Letter to the Orange County Sheriffs Department. The letter was also shared widely.

The next day, the OC Sheriffs finally responded.

But not quite in the way cyclists expected.

OCSD stated that they will not be charging the truck’s driver. They may charge the passenger with assault and battery for throwing the bottle.

And the kicker: OCSD plans to charge cyclist Bryan Larsen for shouting obscenities. On the video, Larsen can be heard stating “do that f—ing on video right now!”

Read more…

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Riding for DREAMS: OC to LA DREAM Act Ride

Photo by Victor Entre Puertas

Having only trained for three hours in one week’s time, Adrian Gonzalez knew he wasn’t ready for the 50-mile Los Angeles to Orange County DREAM ride. Gonzalez, a deaf studies undergrad at California State University, Northridge and undocumented, wasn’t a consistent bicyclist. Yet while wanting to participate in a DREAM event, he found a deeper meaning in the ride.

“Been going on for a little more than 10 years,” Gonzalez said. “There’s all this frustration, being sleep deprived . . . a lot of energy expended. But once we get there- it will be like the (DREAM) ride- once we get there it’s going to be amazing.”

Going on its second year, the 2012 DREAM Ride on March 4 is a full day bike ride from Orange County to Los Angeles. While the ride this year aims to continue building bridges with activists and non-activists, it will also celebrate the passage of the California DREAM Act.

“Student immigrant movement, immigrant rights movement, bicycle culture, all three have overlapping shadow areas,” said Erick Huerta, Eastside blogger and DREAM Ride organizer.

The ride will start at El Centro Cultural de Mexico in Santa Ana, and end at Solidarity Ink in Lincoln Heights where there will be a end of ride party. Though the ride takes a full day to complete, its leisure pace makes it manageable for even the most novice cyclist, Huerta said.

Bicycle mechanics from Bici Libre, a bicycle cooperative in Westlake/Pico Union, will be riding with equipment to fix people’s bikes, and group leaders will make sure no cyclists are left behind. Registration costs $20, up $5 from the year before.

DREAM activists have used bicycle cultural for the past few years for big events like Tour de DREAMS, the group bike ride from Northern to Southern California, to DIY rides through CicLAvia. Yet the Orange County/Los Angeles group bicycle ride was an idea born and nurtured in Boyle Heights.

The co-founders Huerta, Laura Torres, and Jose Beltran were already consistent riders blending DREAM activism with riding. Torres rode the Tour de DREAMS in 2010, and Beltran and Huerta often donned capes, lucha libre masks, and banner waving bikes for small rides through the city or for CicLAvia.

Being undocumented gave them a different perspective on bicycle riding. For example, instead of walking him to elementary school, Huerta’s mother would take him to school on top of the handle bars of her bicycle.

“I’m under the umbrella of accidental environmentalist,” Huerta said. Read more…

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Missed in 2011: O.C. Road Agency Brings Toll Project Back from the Dead

8_18_08_toll.jpg

This rendering was prepared by opponents of the 16 mile plan to extend the 241 to the beach in Orange County. Proponents of highway expansion argue that the road will have a lot more traffic than pictured.

There was a saying my mentor Janine Bauer used to tell me when I was back fighting wasteful highway projects in New Jersey.  ”The public process for highway expansion isn’t over until the road is built.”  What she meant was that the monied interests in building expensive highway projects won’t stop no matter how often they are rebuked by oversight agencies or judges and will always find a new way to push forward.

No where is this better illustrated than in the case if the proposed Foothill South (SR 241) project in Orange County.  The 16-mile project was rejected by the California Coastal Commission, a state agency that reviews projects that could impact environmentally sensitive areas around the coast and the Federal Commerce Department back in 2008.  We should note that both California and the federal government were under Republican administrations at the time.

But that didn’t stop the TCA from trying again.  Back in October, the agency proposed a new plan to build the road extension without running afoul of those pesky environmental laws that so hamper visionaries who look at a forest and see a great place for a new road.  Instead of building the entire road all at once, they’re going to build it, and get it environmentally cleared in phases.

First up is a four mile extension of the SR 241 that would terminate “somewhere in the vicinity of Ortega Highway, though further studies and engineering would have to determine what street north of the highway the segment would feed onto.” Read more…

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Bicycle Safety Program Comes to Huntington Beach

Photo of the Huntington Beach Bike Path, it's usually not this empty. Photo:Destination Southern California

(Last month, Huntington Beach announced a new program to offer scofflaw cyclists a chance to go to bicycle safety school in lieu of paying what can be a hefty fine for illegal cycling.  The program received some pretty harsh feedback on social media, but when I looked into it, I thought it was a pretty good program so I asked Huntington Beach Council Member Joe Shaw to write a piece for our best practices series explaining the program.  Incidently, this is Shaw’s third piece for Streetsblog having written for StreetHeat, our predecessor site, in 2007 and again for Streetsblog in May of 2008.  You can follow him on twitter at @joeshawforhb)

Tens of thousands of our residents recently rode bikes to our annual Fourth of July parade and fireworks. On the Fourth of July, Downtown Huntington Beach resembles Amsterdam times ten, with bicycles chained to every available surface.

Huntington Beach conitiues to be one of the most bicycle friendly cities in Orange County, recently recognized as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists, only the second Orange County city to be so designated.

From 2008-2010, Huntington Beach had 450 bicycle/vehicle collisions, with around 300 citations issued to bicyclists.

Legally, bicycles are fined just like other vehicles but the citation is not attached to the driving record.  Citations are pricey with a “failure to stop at a stop sign” citation at $233!

As part of that effort to be a bike-friendly community, our police department is now offering an Adult Bicycle Safety program, modeled after our juvenile program in place since 1972.

Now if you’re issued a citation as a bicyclist — attending the Bicycle Safety Program will result in a dismissed citation.

How the program will work: Read more…
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Freeway Expansion Coverage Focusing on Construction Delays, Still Missing the Magic Question

Three years of construction.  Massive Delays. Circuitous detours. A $277 million price tag.

For a full list of the delays caused by this project, visit ##http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/12/major-surgery-coming-for-key-la-orange-county-freeway-interchange.html##LA_Now##

For a full list of the delays caused by this project, visit LA_Now

Unfortunately, arguments about sprawl and damage to the environment haven’t proven to be winners when convincing the larger public that massive highway widening projects are hurting, not helping congestion.  However, a shift in how these widening projects are covered, with a sharp focus on the impact the construction will have on traffic congestion in the short-term, provides the argument that opponents of highway widenings need.

“This project will make congestion worse over time.”

Just look at recent coverage in the Los Angeles Times of the $227 million project in Orange County known as the West County Connector. That project purports to “create a seamless link between carpool lanes and ease rush-hour bottlenecks on the 405, 22 and 605 freeways.”  But the cost of the project is a lot higher for the hapless commuters that presently use this stretch of interstate.  The Bottleneck Blog outlines the seven road closures, spread out over three years, that will be inflicted on drivers.  The headline for the story?  “Big disruptions ahead for key L.A.-Orange County freeway interchange.”

Once the disruptive construction phase is finished, how long with the benefits hold out? The theory of induced demand, that is demonstrated daily on L.A. County freeways, is that newly constructed traffic lanes will be filled by new traffic in a couple of years.  There are so many people that don’t drive because of congestion, that relieving that congestion induces more driving and leads to new lanes being filled more quickly than we can build them.  When construction will create delay for years, as it will for this project, one really has to question whether the project would be worth it if it were free. Read more…

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Life Without Measure R: Massive Transit Cuts in Orange County

Earlier today the Orange County Transit Authority's Board of Directors voted, by a 14-1 margin, to cut 150,000 hours of transit service by early next year.  Believe it or not, the plan was actually an improvement from an earlier draft of the cuts had 300,000 hours of service.  The Register describes the cuts:

Eliminated routes include service from Seal Beach to Westminster and Brea to Santa Ana on weekdays. Service from Huntington Beach to Costa Mesa will be eliminated on weekends.

Midday service from Fullerton to Huntington Beach will be eliminated on weekdays. The plan eliminates about 8 percent of the county's bus service by early next year. Eight routes will be restructured and the frequency of service would be reduced on 11 routes on the weekdays.

While transit advocates, such as the outstanding writers at Transit Rider O.C., have focused their advocacy efforts at the Board of Directors; the fiscal mess at the state level and the Governor's illegal desire to raid transit funds to alleviate said mess made today's vote a decision on where to make cuts not if to make cuts.  That's not to say the OCTA, a group that has never met a road-widening project that it didn't love is blameless; it's just that decisions made to basically liquidate the voter-approved state operating assistance fund have left transit agencies in the lurch statewide.  Locally, Measure R may forestall local cuts, but that's not to say that they won't be coming sooner, rather than later.

As is normally the case, the biggest victims of the cuts are students, people of lesser means, the transit dependent and late night workers.  With today's cuts totaling 8% of OCTA's total service hours.  To their credit, advocates and just regular riders packed the Board Room today to speak their piece about the cuts.  While their pleas didn't change the outcome, hopefully these same people will remember today when it comes time to vote on their state leadership next year.

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OCTA: What’s the Best Way to Widen the I-405?

8_14_09_405.jpgPhoto of the I-405 as it pases the John Wayne Airport: Treotography/Flickr
A brief article in today's Orange County Register reports that the OCTA, the agency that recently employed Metro CEO Art Leahy as its top boss, is seeking public input on the best way to relieve congestion on the I-405.  While this seems like an inexpensive way to get a snapshot of public opinion; I can't help but notice that the only options the OCTA is proposing involve massive road widening projects.

The four alternatives are basically a one-lane widening in each direction, a two lane widening in each direction, a two-lane widening that would be one HOT Lane and one general purpose lane, and just widening parts of the 405 in Orange County as funding allows.  No mention of trains, buses, bus-only lanes, or anything of the sort appear anywhere inside the Register's article or on the OCTA's project page.

To make matters even worse, the OCTA has already stated its preference for the two traditional widening alternatives. It should be noted that the I-405 in Orange County is already five travel lanes in each direction, so it is more than feasible that the final design for this project could be creating a mammoth 14-lane highway designed to connect Orange and San Diego counties. 

I can't think of a better sprawl acceleration project than that.  For a quick reminder of what a fourteen lane highway looks like, visit this article on the proposed I-710 widening in Long Beach.  Is that really what we want our roads to look like?

In case you're wondering, there is no place on the survey to ask how the project conforms with state mandates limiting sprawl or to improve air quality.  For a complete list of public outreach opportunities on this project, please visit the I-405 Improvement page at OCTA.net.

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OC Using Stimulus Funds to Widen the 91

8_3_09_approaching_91_and_241.jpgLast stop before the 91/241 interchange.  Photo: kllm14369/Flickr

"That ain’t Change, it’s more of the same!" was an applause line used frequently during last fall’s presidential campaign by Senator Joe Biden to critique many of the proposed policies of Senator McCain and Governor Palin.  Watching how stimulus funds are spent in California, transportation reformers and Livable Streets advocates could use the same battle cry when critiquing how federal transportation dollars are being spent under President Obama’s watch.

The most recent example is the I-91 widening in Orange County.  The OC Register explains the project before it mindlessly recites Caltrans talking points about the benefits of highway expansion:

The 91 eastbound will be widened by one lane from the 241 toll road to
the 71 in Riverside County, reducing congestion and improving travel
time by 15 minutes, California Department of Transportation officials
say.

A poll we discussed last week by the Public Policy Institute of
California,
illustrates that most Orange County residents prefer their transportation agencies to focus on improving transit over widening highways.  In the Orange and San Diego County region, spending on transit projects out-polled spending on highway projects by a 75% to 22% margin.  This is an especially relevant point since the Orange County Transit Agency is picking up the "rest of the bill," i.e. the millions of dollars for the project that aren’t coming from Washington, D.C.

Read more…

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OC Uses Stimulus Funds for 91 Widening, Press Rejoices

6_1_09_octa.gifImage: OC Register

Trumpeting the dubious claim that the answer to regional car congestion is funding highway expansion, Orange County politicians and press are celebrating the federal government’s decision to allocate $68 million in stimulus funds for the expansion of the I-91 between Riverside County and the 241 Toll Road.  As we’ve seen in the past, the governments claims that road widenings are good public policy go completely unchallenged in the press even as the state tries to devise no ways to battle sprawl development.

This short story from Inland Today follows the typical template for a piece on road widening, a couple of facts about the issue are surrounded by claims that the widening will make everyone’s life better.  In this case, the facts are some information about how stimulus funding is allocated sandwiched between two paragraphs about how great the 91 widening is for everyone.

The great irony is, that even as the OC Register declares in its headline, "Feds approve $68 million to help drivers unclog the 91;" the Sacramento Bee reports that drivers really are helping to unclog California freeways.  Of course, we’re doing it by driving less, not by…ok, I’m not really sure how "drivers" are helping unclog the 91 in the Register’s world.

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Behind the Orange Curtain: Massive Service Cuts at OCTA

Around the country, many of our largest transit agencies are dealing with massive deficits by cutting back service and laying off employees.  New York City Streetsblog has pretty much been devoted to round-the-clock coverage of NYCMTA's proposed cuts, the politics behind them and the effort to stop them.

Closer to home, our neighbors in Orange County are facing a 25% cut in OCTA bus trips and laying off over 400 drivers.  The plan doesn't have specific roots designated for cuts, just a mandate from the board to make these cuts and for the staff to get creative.  These cuts would be in addition to the 133,000 hours in cuts that have already been ordered in the last nine months, some of which haven't gone into effect.

So far the only organized opposition to the cuts comes from a local Teamsters branch representing the bus drivers.  Naturally, this has led to OCTA staff noting that if the drivers were willing to give up their 4% mandated raise in July, the total cut would drop by 10%.

Meanwhile, the progressive online outpost in Orange County, the OC Progressive, came up with it's own plan to reduce the service cuts by streamlining other parts of the OCTA budget:

Read more...