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Report: “Multi-Modal Level of Service” Metrics Not Quite Up to the Challenge

UCLA researchers found that new Multi-Modal Level of Service metrics are not so great for measuring what's helpful for people walking and bicycling. Photo via Flickr user pranavbhatt

UCLA researchers found that Multi-Modal Level of Service methodologies are not so great for evaluating what’s good for people walking and bicycling. Photo via Flickr user pranavbhatt

Livability proponents celebrate that car-centric Level of Service (LOS) is finally on its way out, at least in California.Wouldn’t it be great if there was a similar bike- or walk-centric metric that could be used instead? UCLA Lewis Center and Institute for Transportation Studies researchers have studied some of the published metrics for evaluating how well streets serve pedestrians and cyclists. The researchers’ conclusion: in all of the bike and ped metrics they reviewed, there is no silver bullet. Moreover, adapting LOS doesn’t look like a fruitful approach.

Level of Service is a standard, simplistic engineering measure that uses car throughput to assign streets a letter grade from A to F. For nearly 60 years, LOS has been the predominant way that planners and engineers quantify streets. LOS guides policy and investment, justifying making streets wider and more car-centric. Because LOS only considers cars, LOS justifies widening roadways, adding turn lanes, and other so-called improvements that degrade conditions for people using bikes, their feet, or transit. To remedy this, transportation professionals have created new metrics designed to grade other modes. These include Pedestrian Level of Service (PLOS) and Bicycle Level of Service (BLOS), both of which are components of Multi-Modal Level of Service (MMLOS.)

There are some inherent problems with adapting a car-centric measure like LOS to bicycling and walking. Where people driving tend to see other cars as obstacles, pedestrians often prefer to walk where other people are out walking. Cyclists experience a safety in numbers effect, where LOS tends to just find congestion in numbers.

Though there are now many metrics from various parts of the world, UCLA researchers Madeline Brozen and Herbie Huff focused primarily on the following three metrics:

  • Multi-Modal Level of Service, included in the 2010 Highway Capacity Manual (HCM), the official federal evaluation tool developed by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences
  • Bicycle and Pedestrian Environmental Quality Index (BEQI and PEQI), developed by the San Francisco Department of Public Health
  • Urban Street Design Guidelines performance measures, developed by the city of Charlotte, North Carolina

Huff and Brozen used these tools to score sections of streets in the city of Santa Monica. They subsequently evaluated the sensitivity of the tools by comparing scores for existing condition to scores for potential improvements, including bike lanes, road diets, medians, etc.

In comparing existing sites to multiple potential improvements, the models showed “little variation,” with none of the improvements appearing ideal or raising the score to an “A.” Therefore, the models were ineffective for deciding between potential designs.  Read more…

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SCAG Staff Release ATP Bike/Ped Project Funding Recommendations

Rendering of one of the ascend-able arches and the soccer field Councilmember Huizar is pushing for below. Source: 6th St. Viaduct Replacement.

Recommendations have been released for the latest round of Active Transportation Program funding. Included in the recommendations are pedestrian and bicycle components of the Sixth Street Bridge replacement project, rendered here. Source: 6th St. Viaduct Replacement.

The first year of the state’s new Active Transportation Funding (ATP) program is drawing to a close. ATP is the main source of funding for walking and bicycling projects and programs in L.A. County.

In the past, L.A. County bike and ped projects were primarily funded by Metro’s Call for Projects. Changes at the federal level reduced this funding, and gave control over it mostly to the state, but also partially to regional Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). For the 6-county Los Angeles metropolitan region, the MPO is the Southern California Association of Governments, known as “SCAG.”

Projects vying for the statewide competitive ATP grants were announced and approved in August. Those that did not succeed at the state level would have one last chance at the regional level.

This week SCAG staff released its recommendations. The final set of projects is expected to be approved by the agency’s Transportation Committee when it meets this Thursday. View the agenda [PDF].

There are no big surprises in the recommendations. SCAG appears to have adhered the state ranking, so the next few projects in line are recommended to receive funding. See the full SCAG list [PDF], some highlighted L.A. County projects appear after the jump.  Read more…

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Happy New Year, See You Tomorrow

It’s Rosh Hashanah. Streetsblog L.A. will publishing lightly today and tomorrow.

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What the Latest Census Data Says About L.A. City Bicycle Commuting

Recent census data shows that commuting by bicycle has increased in L.A. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Recent census data shows that commuting by bicycle has increased in the city of Los Angeles. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Last week, Streetsblog L.A. ran a national Streetsblog Network story DC and New Orleans Closing the Bike Commute Gap with Portland which summarized this BikePortland story. Those stories examined recently released Census data to shows trends in bicycle commuting.

Since 2008, about 6 percent of Portland commuters traveled primarily by bike. The Census shows that bike commuting in Portland and Minneapolis (two places with reputations as being among the most bike-friendly larger cities in the U.S.) has mostly leveled off, while Washington D.C. and New Orleans are seeing increased percentages.

What about Los Angeles? What does the latest Census data tell us about travel patterns here?

Luckily, friend of the blog and L.A. City Bicycle Advisory Committee chair, Jeff Jacobberger downloaded and crunched the numbers. As Jacobberger clarifies below, these are Census data for work commute trips only. They can be useful for tracking changes over time, but they tend to mush complexities, to under-count low-income communities, and to underestimate overall actual percentages for walking and bicycling (by not including trips to school, the store, the gym, etc.). For example, if I bike a mile, then lock up and take a train for two miles, then disembark and walk a quarter mile to get to work, that would show up only as one train trip.  

With those caveats in mind, the city of Los Angeles commuting mode share data is as follows:

  • Driving Alone: 67.1 percent
  • Carpooling: 9.9 percent
  • Riding Transit: 10.8 percent
  • Walking: 3.6 percent
  • Bicycling: 1.2 percent
  • Other: 1.9 percent (includes taxi, motorcycle, other)
  • Work at Home: 5.4 percent

From an email communication, Jacobberger goes into greater detail about bicycling:

The US Census Bureau has just released data from the 2013 American Community Survey regarding bicycle commuting in [the city of] Los Angeles for 2013: 1.8% of men usually bike to work, but only 0.6% of women, for an overall 1.2% bike commute rate. The wide disparity in male vs. female bike commuting is a clear sign that L.A.’s streets are not perceived to be safe places to ride.

That is a 33% increase since 2010; and a 100% increase since 2000.

Looking at that 1.8 percent number, Jacobberger mentioned some interesting comparisons to me when we talked at the Mid City West Park(ing) Day park. Read more…

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Wilmington’s New Bike Lane Network, and What It Does and Doesn’t Do

Bike lanes on Broad Street in Wilmington

Bike lane on Broad Avenue at Avalon Boulevard, in the southern end of Wilmington. Visible in the distance (middle left horizon) is the Vincent Thomas suspension bridge over one of the main channels of L.A.’s harbor. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Where is California’s most concentrated bike lane network? Long Beach? Davis? San Francisco? Santa Barbara? San Luis Obispo?

How about Wilmington?

Some readers may be wondering: just where is Wilmington?

Wilmington is a neighborhood in the city of Los Angeles.  It is directly inland from the Port of Los Angeles. San Pedro is west of the port, Long Beach is east, and Wilmington is to the north, just inland. Long Beach and San Pedro have waterfronts. Wilmington has more of an industrial truck-front, with no connection to the water.

According to the L.A. Times convenient neighborhood mapping tool, Wilmington takes up 9.1 square miles and, in 2008, had a population of 55,000. Within Wilmington’s borders there are port-related industrial areas more-or-less surrounding a central residential district which includes a few commercial corridors. 87 percent of Wilmington residents are Latino; over 60 percent are renters.

Wilmington has some of the worst air quality in Southern California. Ashley Hernandez, Wilmington Youth Organizer for Communities for a Better Environment (CBE,) tells how heavily polluted air becomes harder to breathe on hot summer days; families stay indoors and keep their windows closed. Jesse Marquez of the Coalition for a Safe Environment calls it the “Diesel Death Zone.”

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the largest port complex in the U.S., move goods using diesel-powered ships, trains, and trucks. If the ports themselves were not enough, Wilmington is surrounded by four freeways. Then there is a great deal of oil industry in and around the area, including eight refineries and numerous active oil well sites.

And Wilmington also has a dense network of bike lanes. Read more…

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Event Promotes Awareness of CA 3-Foot Passing Bill In Effect Next Week

From this morning's #IGive3Ft press event. The 3-foot long pink bar demonstrates the three feet passing distance, though, legally, drivers shouldn't pass to the left of a bicycle. All photos by Joe Linton

A display from this morning’s #IGive3Ft press event. The 3-foot long pink bar indicates the new three-foot legal minimum passing distance space between cars and bicycles. Legally, though, cars should generally never pass to the right of a moving bicycle as this display seems to indicate. All photos by Joe Linton

This morning, California legislators, law enforcement representatives, cycling advocates, and the Automobile Association of America (AAA) gathered to promote awareness of the state’s new 3-foot passing law. Long in the works, the Three Feet for Safety Act, A.B. 1371, goes into effect next Tuesday, September 16.

As the campaign has shifted from passing the law to enforcing it, the promotional hashtag that used to be from a cyclist’s perspective, #GiveMe3, has now appropriately given way to one from a driver’s perspective, #IGive3Ft.

Here is the summary of the new law, from its legislative preamble:

The bill would prohibit, with specified exceptions, the driver of the motor vehicle that is overtaking or passing a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway from passing at a distance of less than 3 feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator. The bill would make a violation of these provisions an infraction punishable by a $35 fine. The bill would also require the imposition of a $220 fine on a driver if a collision occurs between a motor vehicle and a bicyclist causing bodily harm to the bicyclist, and the driver is found to be in violation of the above provisions.

The well-attended press event took place in front of Serious Cycling bike shop in Northridge. Most speakers, including the law’s authors, Assemblymembers Steven Bradford and Matt Dababneh, emphasized that the new rule will make streets safer for everyone. 

Assemblymember Bradford explains California's new 3-foot passing law.

Assemblymember Bradford explains California’s new 3-foot passing law at this morning’s press event in Northridge.

Read more…

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Video: Vigil Calls on D.A. Jackie Lacey for Justice for Slain Cyclist Milt Olin

Watch Nathan Lucero’s excellent short video documenting last week’s ride and vigil for justice for Milt Olin. Streetsblog readers are familiar with the sad story of how, on December 8th, 2014, Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputy Andrew Wood, while typing on his on-board computer, ran over and killed cyclist Milton Olin.

In late August, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey decided not prosecute Wood. For the time being, L.A.’s streets are a little more dangerous for everyone.

The story is not over yet. See the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition website for details on how you can contact D.A. Lacey and urge her to prosecute Deputy Wood.

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Bottle Thrower in Cuffs: This Time I Was the Cyclist Who Got Attacked

Bottle thrower in cuffs in back of LAPD car. Photo by Roger Rudick

Bottle thrower in cuffs in back of LA County Sheriff car. Photo by Roger Rudick

Wednesday night I attended the vigil for Milton Olin, a cyclist who was run down and killed by a distracted Sheriff’s Deputy. The next morning, I decided to do something I haven’t done in a long time: go for a purely recreational ride.

As I get older, and my number of close-calls gets larger, the more I worry that my luck’s about to run out and my death will be the next headline. But the vigil made me more determined than ever that cyclists should not cower. We must be allowed to ride in safety and peace.

I live in downtown, so I decided to take the safest ride I know of: the bike path along the L.A. River. But getting there is still undeniably precarious. I threaded the needle as best I could, navigated around a city vehicle parked in the bike lane on Main Street, cut back over to Alameda near Union Station, and continued towards Chinatown on my journey to the start of the path in Egret Park.

But as I passed the intersection of Spring and Bruno, just past the Homeboy Cafe, a tan SUV blew through the stop sign. I shouted “Oiy!” as loudly as I could and he stopped before hitting me, yelling out the window, “I saw you!”

I answered, “The stop sign is back there!” as I rode past him.

So no f-bombs, no cursing, nothing rude, just a criticism for blowing the stop sign.

He gunned his engine, overtook me, and threw a bottle at me.

The bottle hit me in the buttocks and bounced off. It must have been mostly empty, and plastic, so no damage done. But that’s an assault—anybody throwing a bottle at a cyclist is aware of the potential consequences.

I took off after the guy and easily got back in visual range of his license plate. In retrospect, I’m not sure what I was going to do with the number. But then I noticed something to my left.

An L.A. Sheriff’s car, parked on the other side of the street, with two deputies standing nearby.

“Officer! I need help! Help!” I shouted as loudly as I could.  Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Milton Olin Ride and Vigil Demands D.A. Justice

Milton Olin Ride passes Echo Park. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Yesterday’s Justice for Milt Olin Ride #rideformilt passes Echo Park. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Yesterday, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Yield to Life, and Ghost Bikes hosted a ride and vigil for Milton Olin. Olin was bicycling in a Calabasas bike lane when County Sheriff Deputy Andrew Wood drove into the bike lane and ended Olin’s life. The sheriff was distracted, typing a non-emergency message on his on-board computer. Last week, eight months after the crash, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey declined to prosecute the killer, stating that Wood’s distracted driving constituted “reasonable behavior.”

Yesterday’s ride started at the crash site in Calabasas, and rode 30 miles to the D.A.’s headquarters in downtown L.A. Roughly 75 riders were on the ride as it entered downtown, and the number swelled to roughly 125 for the vigil at Grand Park.

LACBC submitted this letter (read it – it is excellent and thorough in outlining appropriate measures to prosecute Wood for his deadly behavior) and are encouraging others concerned to write to D.A. Lacey to demand she prosecute Olin’s killer. The D.A. can be reached at webmail@da.lacounty.gov.

For links to media coverage of yesterday’s ride and vigil, check these articles from SBLA headlines: CBS, ABCLA Times, LA Register, and Daily News. See also earlier SBLA coverage of this outrageous killing and the inexcusable lack of prosecution. More photos after the jump.  Read more…

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At End of 2014, LA County Bike Coalition Head Jen Klausner To Step Down

L.A. County

L.A. County Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Jennifer Klausner announced today that she is leaving the LACBC as of year end. This 2011 photo shows Klausner (center at podium) celebrating the passage of the city of Los Angeles’ 2010 Bicycle Plan. Klausner is flanked by (left to right) LADOT AGM Amir Sedadi, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Controller Wendy Greuel, and City Councilmember Tom Labonge. Photo via LACBC

Via an email to L.A. County Bicycle Coalition membership this morning, Executive Director Jen Klausner announced that she is leaving her position as of the end of 2014. The organization is at the start of a search process to find her replacement.

Below is an excerpt of her resignation announcement:

Now, with great pride in the good work of LACBC, its extraordinary staff and Board, growing network of local chapters throughout the County, and you, our membership, without whom we could do none of this, I announce that I will be stepping down from my role as Executive Director at the end of 2014. I will continue to support the organization from a different perspective, as I will be looking to get some dirt under my wheels, while attending to other responsibilities and projects.

Our Board President and a dedicated committee have already started to search for a talented new Executive Director to lead LACBC on to new challenges. We will post a job description on our website soon. If you have questions about the search process, or possible candidates to recommend, please email our Search Committee at EDSearch@la-bike.org.

Read more…