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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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Bike Lanes, Partially Green and Partially Buffered, Appear on Westwood North of Le Conte

juan le conte 3

Photo: Juan Matute

Westwood and Le Conte is sort of a magical intersection for me.

In 2008, the city’s first Sharrows appeared just north of Le Conte on Westwood Blvd. In 2010, Westwood and Le Conte teamed up again as the home of “30 seconds of Awesome,” in its scramble crosswalk. Those were both big stories for early Streetsblog L.A.

So I was really excited when Streetsblog L.A. Steering Committee member Juan Matute posted pictures showing that those Sharrows, which were actually the first ones in Los Angeles, were replaced by bike lanes into and out of the UCLA campus. The lanes are occasionally buffered and occasionally green. Sometimes there are Sharrows.

But…wait a second? I thought that a bike lane on Westwood was a controversial topic for the local Councilmember?

The design and upkeep of LeConte and Westwood near and through the campus are the responsibility of UCLA. (More pictures of the lane can be found after the jump.)

But while UCLA is doing all that it can to assure safe commutes for all road users coming to and from campus, the dedication to safe streets ends when the city takes control of the streets again. The Daily Bruin reports that City Councilmember Paul Koretz is doubling down on his opposition to safe streets. Having previously killed even a study of bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard connecting to the Expo Line, Koretz has now removed the possibility of bike lanes in Westwood Village.

So, hats off to UCLA for doing the right thing for its commuters. It’s just too bad that that commitment ends where the City of Los Angeles takes over.

The City will take input on the Mobility Plan 2035, including the Westwood Blvd. bike lane, at a meeting of the City Planning Commission tomorrow, Thursday, May 28th, at 8:30 AM at the Van Nuys City Hall (14410 Sylvan Street, Van Nuys 91401).

Read more…

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Healthy Kids Zone: Schools at the Center of Healthy Communities

Bike Month is here and rides and panels are in abundance. Though the anchor of the month is Bike to Work Day, let’s make some room for the youth and talk a bit about why so many kids don’t ride their bikes to school anymore.

A myriad of environmental factors can affect a student’s experience in the classroom even before the school day begins. For example, many Los Angeles neighborhoods are unsafe for walking and biking and saturated with unhealthy food choices contributing to elevated rates of preventable diet and exercise related diseases like obesity and diabetes. A lack of amenities, such as parks and open space, and a disconnect from the health care system further reinforce these problems.

To address these issues, Community Health Councils (CHC) has been developing a Healthy Kids Zone (HKZ) pilot project to position schools as centers of healthy communities. The HKZ project is a pioneer effort in Los Angeles and nationwide with an unprecedented scope that bolsters grassroots efforts to improve school community health and safety with citywide policy.

Healthy Kids Zone graphic

Healthy Kids Zone graphic

K-12 schools have always been considered centers of learning and socialization in our neighborhoods. Our children experience many “firsts” at school, like friendships, fist fights, and fractions. Schools host sports events and musical and theatrical performances, polling places and community meetings. They are natural neighborhood hubs, where the community’s youth come together. An HKZ builds on the natural role of schools in communities by applying higher standards of development and enforcement guidelines to designated areas in the communities surrounding high-need schools.

HKZs are designed to improve well-being for young people and the surrounding community as a whole through the improvement of five key health improvement categories:

  • nutrition,
  • physical activity,
  • environmental health,
  • safety, and
  • health services.

CHC has identified these categories as having direct impact on the health of students and school communities before and after school hours. The project has been developed in conjunction with a multi-sectoral advisory committee team representing organizations with expertise in the health improvement categories. This past spring the HKZ concept and pilot implementation project were included in the City’s first ever general plan health element, Plan for a Healthy LA, providing high-level citywide policy support for the project.  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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Coalition Calls For 10 Percent of Future L.A. Sales Tax To Go To Walk-Bike

Other California county transportation sales tax measures set aside funding for walking and bicycling - why not Los Angeles? Image via white paper [PDF]

Other California county transportation sales tax measures set aside funding for walking and bicycling – why not Los Angeles? Image via white paper [PDF]

There is a new twist in the path to a 2016 Los Angeles County transportation sales tax measure, tentatively being called “Measure R2.”

Investing in Place, a new policy-based organization that has examined transportation sales taxes throughout the state, just held its own conference with a coalition of more than thirty community based partner organizations. The purpose of the gathering was to push a policy that  “at least ten percent of the next Los Angeles County transportation sales tax measure be dedicated for walking, bicycling, and safe routes to school investments.”

In addition, the coalition is asking that twenty percent of the “local return” be set aside for active transportation. The sales tax “local return” goes to individual cities on a per capita basis to pay for transportation expenditures. Though a number of cities, notably the City of Los Angeles, have used some local return monies for walk and bike projects and programs, most cities throughout L.A. County have not.

Readers may be familiar with the proposed Measure R2, but if not, see these recent SBLA articles about what it tentatively looks like and what decisions are being made now. Though a very small amount of 2008’s successful transportation sales tax Measure R funding has gone to bike and pedestrian projects, there was no dedicated active transportation funding in either Measure R in 2008 nor the defeated transportation sales tax Measure J in 2012.

The coalition (a listing of groups is shown after the jump) was shepherded under the auspices of the Los Angeles County Active Transportation Collaborative, the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, and Investing in Place.

They researched other transportation ballot measures in California, finding many examples of successful set-asides for active transportation, prominently last year’s Measure BB in Alameda County, with twelve percent of overall funding dedicated to walking and bicycling. Read the coalition research in this January 2015 white paper: Best Practices for Funding Active Transportation with County Transportation Sales Taxes [PDF].

More about the coalition and its demands here.

While we won’t know the final ballot language for a 2016 measure until next year, Metro was promising tht it would have a draft proposal this summer. However, Investing in Place is also reporting that the Measure R2 schedule is being delayed about two months: the final expenditure plan was due in July, now it looks like September.  Read more…

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Bike To Work Day Is Tomorrow – Fun OCTA Videos

Tomorrow, Thursday, is Bike to Work Day, part of Bike Week L.A.

L.A. Cyclists ride free tomorrow on all Metro buses and trains. Other municipal buses, LADOT Commuter Express, Big Blue Bus, Foothill Transit, etc., are also offering free rides to cyclists. Bring your bike for free rides on Metrolink trains all week. There are dozens of local Bike to Work Day pit stops from West Hollywood to Santa Monica to South L.A. to Glendora to Highland Park and a half gazillion places in between. Your SBLA editor is looking forward to biking to UCLA’s Complete Streets Conference at the California Endowment, which is hosting its own Bike to Work Day pit stop. After work, there is a bikey art show reception downtown, and plenty of handlebar happy hours.

If you’re looking for a little motivation, enjoy these Orange County Transportation Authority bike to work videos. They making biking to work appear just about as fun, healthy, easy, and sexy as it actually is. Read more…

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Bike Week: Blessing Bikes, Talking Bikes, Bike Videos

There are lots of #BikeWeekLA events going on this week — way too many for our meager cadre of Streetsblog Los Angeles writers to attend. We did make it to a few events so far: the kick-off press conference, a panel, and a blessing.

Good Samaritan’s 2015 Blessing of the Bicycles

Good Samaritan Hospital's 12th Annual Blessing of the Bikes. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Good Samaritan Hospital’s 12th Annual Blessing of the Bikes. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

This morning Good Samaritan Hospital hosted its 12th annual Blessing of the Bikes. Even though the format changes very little from year to year, I still very much enjoy attending. Each year, there is a free delicious breakfast, bike schwag, recognition of fallen cyclists and cycling leaders, a gathering of religious officials praying for cyclist safety, and a ceremonial ride circling the hospital. Each year, I am moved by the religious leaders’ adaptation of ancient religious teachings to apply them to contemporary cycling. In the past, a priest recited the biblical passage about “a wheel within a wheel.”

This year I really enjoyed hearing Jihad Turk, Imam at the Islamic Center of Southern California and President of Bayan Claremont Islamic (Seminary) Graduate School, recite a traditional prayer the prophet Muhammad taught his followers in the 7th century, about 1,400 years ago:

سبحان الذي سخر لنا هذا وما كنا له مقرنين، وإنا إلي ربنا لمنقلبون‏.‏

Which he translated Read more…

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A Tale of Two Future Bridges: New Bike/Ped Crossing on L.A. River, Fewer Sidewalks on Glendale-Hyperion

A person crossing would have to come down from the bridge on the right to the red car bridge on the left to cross the bridge. Would anyone do this and add 12 minutes to their trip in the real world?

Under the two plans announced today, a person crossing would have to come down from the bridge on the right to the red car bridge on the left to cross. Would anyone do this and add 12 minutes to their trip in the real world?

It was sort of a surreal moment. Even as Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell stood at the podium discussing the benefits of a planned new bicycle and pedestrian crossing over the L.A. River, the Bureau of Public Works released its recommendation (PDF) that the new Glendale-Hyperion Bridge would actually have fewer feet devoted to safe sidewalks than the current bridge.

LaBonge and O’Farrell at this morning’s press event. Both pics by Damien Newton

What was supposed to be a light press conference announcing the opening of a permanent bridge project using existing support structures from an old Red Car bridge across the L.A. River turned somewhat sour for many of the community and traffic safety advocates in attendance when the Bureau announced their plans for the bridge on their website. News traveled quickly among the crowd, and the reporters present suddenly found themselves with dozens of sources for a meatier story than a made-for-bike-week announcement of new infrastructure.

In the fall of 2013, news broke that when the Glendale-Hyperion complex of bridges that connect Atwater Village and Silver Lake would be retrofitted to make them earthquake-proof, local advocates immediately noticed problems with the new design on the street portion of the bridge. Despite appearing on the city’s bicycle plan, the road redesign called for widening the existing car lanes, installing “crash barriers” in the middle of the bridge, removing a sidewalk, and adding no bike lanes.

After an explosion of public comment and a community forum which turned into a Livable Streets rally, O’Farrell, announced a citizen’s advisory committee would be formed. The Mayor’s office submitted a request for an extension to the grant. The old timeline would have precluded any major changes to the proposed road design.

Earlier today, the Bureau of Engineering released its analysis of four different designs for the new bridge, concluding that to make space for a pair of bike lanes on the new bridge, the best option was to take out one of the two sidewalks.

At the podium this morning, O’Farrell painted as rosy a picture as possible, discussing the importance of river crossings for all mode users and some of the improvements the new Hyperion Bridge will have over the existing one, including marked crosswalks and bicycle lanes. He even struck a populist tone, declaring his support for “protected bicycle lanes” on Hyperion and across the city.

But that wasn’t enough for many of the safety advocates in the audience. A press release from L.A. Walks noted that any bicyclist or pedestrian on Glendale Boulevard wanting to cross the river on the “Red Car Bridge” would need to travel twelve minutes out of their way–and are thus far more likely to use the limited sidewalk or just walk on the shoulder even without a sidewalk.

“The City of Los Angeles promotes the fact that we have moved past our auto-centric history and want to be ‘A Safe City,’ as it states in the Mayor’s Great Streets for Los Angeles Strategic Plan,” says Deborah Murphy. “We cannot achieve this goal if we can’t provide the most basic of provisions for pedestrians–a simple sidewalk on both sides of the bridge.” 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…

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Cyclists Wanted for Pedal L.A. Installation for L.A. State Historic Park

David xxx demonstrates xxxxx photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

David Gauch demonstrates Pedal L.A. – all photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

I recently got a preview of Pedal L.A. – a fascinating new bicycle-themed interactive art installation for the Los Angeles State Historic Park. What I saw was the work-in-progress prototype. The installation’s creator, David Gauch, is looking to Southern California’s diverse cycling community to get involved in using his project to tell our stories.

If you are interested in volunteering your L.A. cycling experiences, go to the Pedal L.A. website and fill out the participation form. All kinds of cyclists from all walks of life are needed to capture the experience of riding a bicycle in all corners of the city and with as much diversity as possible. Gauch will be interviewing all volunteer participants, and will provide equipment to document a route that you bicycle from time to time.

Visitor orientation center building under construction at L.A. State Historic Park

Welcome center building under construction at L.A. State Historic Park

Los Angeles State Historic Park (LASHP), formerly known as the Cornfields Yard, is the under-construction state park that connects downtown L.A.’s Chinatown with the L.A. River. The site-specific art installation is tailored to fit at LASHP’s under-construction Welcome Center, which orients visitors to the park and the Los Angeles histories that the park interprets.

xxxx David Gauch

Pedal L.A. creator digital media artist David Gauch

Gauch is an undergraduate studying Interpretive Digital Media at UCLA’s Film School. His focus in Interactive Art. As he describes the project: “I am excited to create a participatory platform from which people from all over the city and country will visit the Los Angeles Historic State Park and will have the opportunity to engage with this interactive project whose content is created by Angelenos that bicycle. It is my hope that this project raises continued awareness and discussion about alternative transportation options in our city, continuing the momentum that has been building thanks to so many in our community.”

Gauch continues, “As a Filmmaker this project has pushed me beyond the traditional tools used in traditional media forms. It’s exciting to be working in the future of media. Media in the traditional form has been a passive experience (we sit in a theater, we sit on our couch, we read a book). Pedal L.A. is using current motion sensing technology to create an interactive experience. Meaning visitors to the park will participate in creating a communal experience by physically moving their bodies around the interior of the Welcome Center.”

Interactive media installations are a bit difficult to describe. Or even to photograph.

The video below gives some sense of what to expect. Read more…