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Rail-to-River Route Through Huntington Park, Bell Emerges as Best Candidate; Community Meeting December 8

A map of the Rail-to-Rail-to-River bike and pedestrian path planned for the Slauson corridor in South and Southeast Los Angeles. Source: Metro

A map of the Rail-to-River bike and pedestrian path planned for the Slauson corridor in South and Southeast Los Angeles. Source: Metro

Next Thursday, December 8, Metro is hosting its second set of public forums on the Rail-to-River bike and pedestrian path planned for the Slauson corridor. One is scheduled for 3 to 5 p.m. and the other for an hour later, from 6 to 8 p.m.

For those unfamiliar with the project, the Rail-[to-Rail]-to-River active transportation corridor is a bike and pedestrian path planned for the now mostly abandoned rail right-of-way (ROW) running between the Crenshaw Line, the Blue Line, and, eventually, the L.A. River. At present, the 6.4-mile Rail-to-Rail segment straddling the two light rail lines is fully funded (in green, above) and scheduled to open in 2019. A community meeting to discuss the design of that segment will be held in the new year, somewhere in South Los Angeles.

Because the December 8 meetings are meant to inform residents about the ranking of alternative routes for Segment B – the routes east of Santa Fe through the Southeast Cities – they will be held at the Bell Community Center (6250 Pine Avenue Bell, CA 90201). And a live webcast presentation will be made at 6 p.m., for those who cannot attend in person: www.tinyurl.com/MetroR2R.

If the December forum is similar to a recent Community Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting for the project I participated in, attendees will hear about how the options for the southeast section of the ranked in terms of mobility and connectivity, access to major destinations, local community needs, cost effectiveness and ease of implementation, and impact on traffic, transit, trucks, and parking. They will also be able to consult route maps and offer feedback on the options presented.

Spoiler alert: of the four options Metro is considering, the Randolph Street option (B4) has ranked the highest. Not only would it help connect residents to more schools and other important community destinations, it would be able to provide residents with the safest way to reach those destinations. Best of all, it would add over four miles to the bike/pedestrian path and connect users to the river and the existing bike path there. Read more…

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Eyes On the Street: L.A. Bus Lane Signage Slightly Improved

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New bus lane signage on Cesar Chavez Avenue near Grand Avenue in downtown L.A. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The city of Los Angeles recently extended its Sunset/Cesar E. Chavez Avenue peak-hour bus only lanes slightly further into downtown. These lanes had ended at Figueroa Street, now they extend a couple blocks further to Grand Avenue (eastbound) and Broadway (westbound.)

What is perhaps noteworthy is that the bus lane signage has changed somewhat. On peak-hour bus lane segments installed earlier the signs (see below) read “Buses/Right Turns/Only” with a smaller “Bikes OK” notation at the very bottom. It is not much, but the new signs are a bit clearer on the status of bicycling, with “Buses/Bikes &/Right Turns/Only” prominently. Bicycling is no longer an easily missed footnote at the bottom of the sign.

Perhaps the change was due to some negative publicity from a handful of fairly viral complaints from bicyclists using the shared lanes who were unjustly harassed by law enforcement personnel.  Read more…

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LACBC 2015 Bike Count Results: Observed Bicycling Down Slightly

Bicycling was slightly down in 2015 according to LACBC bike counts. Image via LACBC

Bicycling was slightly down in 2015 according to LACBC bike counts. Image via LACBC

Yesterday, the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition released its 2015 counts of people walking and bicycling. The LACBC has an excellent summary page with highlights and charts where the report is available to download.

One unwelcome trend that LACBC found (roughly corresponding to the red on above graph) was that bike ridership declined nine percent from 2014 to 2015. These counts are a snapshot, with some variability, so data is not conclusive. The overall 2010 to 2015 trend is upward.

It is difficult to determine what causes a down-tick in a single year’s data. The bicycle coalition suggests it is, in part, attributable to LADOT’s slackening in implementation of new bicycle facilities. After adding lots of new bike lanes from fiscal year 2011-2014, LADOT backed off on bikeway mileage in FY2015. This unfortunate trend worsened in 2016.

There are other possible factors. Read more…

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Five Reasons Why People Who Bike Should Vote Yes On Measure M

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Metro’s Measure M promotional materials note that it would provide $2.4 billion for walking and bicycling during the initial 40 years. This actually undersells Measure M’s bike/ped benefits somewhat. Image via Metro.

Streetsblog L.A. endorsed Measure M, Metro’s proposed sales tax to fund transportation infrastructure and programs throughout L.A. County. Voters will decide the fate of Measure M next Tuesday. If you get around on bike, here are five reasons you will want to vote yes on Measure M.

1. A Local Funding Stream For Bicycling: Two Percent For Active Transportation

Prior to Measure M, Metro has never had a dedicated local funding source for bicycle infrastructure. Cities, including L.A., have used Measure R funding. Federal and state funding goes to local municipalities via Metro’s Call for Projects and via the California Active Transportation Program. Often those monies, especially the federal ones, have excessive administrative burdens. Bike projects that cost thousands or millions are subject to the same kinds of burdensome processes as highway projects that cost billions. For big cities, the administrative burden drives up costs and delays schedules. For smaller jurisdictions, it often means projects just do not get started.

Measure M sets aside two percent for “Metro Active Transportation Program (Bicycle, Pedestrian, Complete Streets).” Two percent may not sound like a lot, but bike facilities are orders of magnitude cheaper than highways and subways, so a little money goes a long way, especially when it is local money with a minimum administrative burden.

Measure M is expected to generate an estimated $860 million annually. Two percent of that is $17 million every year for biking and walking; bicycling would get about half, nearly $9M each year. That is $9M annually in 2017 dollars. With inflation, the first forty years of Measure M are projected to raise $120 billion, so the two percent set-aside totals $2.4 billion, with about $1.2 for bicycling.

But that’s not all! Read more…

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SBLA Editor Joe Linton Featured in Guardian UK Tour of US Car Capitals

Screen shot of today's Guardian article

Screen shot of today’s Guardian article

In September, I had the pleasure of bicycling around Los Angeles with Guardian journalist Nick Van Mead. The reporter was on a tour of three of the United States’ car capitals – Detroit, Houston, and Los Angeles – to understand how car-centric places are moving into a healthier, more multi-modal future.

Today, Van Mead’s article America’s road trip: will the US ever kick the car habit? was published at the Guardian.

Sitting at Relámpago Wheelery, Jimmy Lizama and I related to Van Mead how bicycling in L.A. has come a long way and how we still have a long way to go. Then Van Mead and I rode the 7th Street bike lanes into downtown L.A., checked out pedestrian improvements on Broadway, green bike lanes on Spring Street, and protected bike lanes on Los Angeles Street, and rode back on the L.A. River bike path.

I told Van Mead that I was concerned that some reporters drop into L.A. and report tired stories more or less saying “Whoa! Who Knew It!?! There Are Actually Bicyclists in L.A.!!!” I have seen quite a few stories like this, dating back to a 1999 National Public Radio piece. It seems like it is one of my roles to tell reporters that walking and bicycling in L.A. really is not new or news. I like the way Newsweek quoted me on this: “People have been walking in L.A. since before Columbus discovered America.” Unfortunately neither the Guardian nor Newsweek could resist quoting the tired counterpoint from that misleading Missing Persons song.

I was glad to see Van Mead relay my conviction that governmental planning and transportation professionals are “only just catching up with how groups of Angelenos have been using their streets for years.” I find that many people look at L.A. today and read it as: people are bicycling more because there is, finally, some bicycle infrastructure. I tend to read it the opposite way. People have been bicycling for a long time. Bicycling has visibly increased in L.A., especially around 2000-2010, while the city did next to nothing for bikes. Now, finally, L.A. is implementing bike infrastructure to catch up with people already bicycling.

My point underscores what L.A. County Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Tamika Butler states in the article:

If this is the number of people cycling without very good infrastructure, then you will really see that jump when we have better lanes.

L.A. City Department of Transportation General Manager Seleta Reynolds rounds out the article, speaking on the other side of the equation. Read more…

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Metro Asks South L.A. Stakeholders: How Would You Use Rail-to-River Bike/Pedestrian Path?

The Rail-to-River plan to put a bike path between the Crenshaw Line to the west and the L.A. River to the east continues to move forward. Source: Metro

The Rail-to-River plan to put a bike path between the Crenshaw Line to the west and the L.A. River to the east continues to move forward. Source: Metro

“They’ve started work on that bike path!” a South Central bike shop owner announced excitedly after noticing mounds of dirt piled up in the rail right-of-way (ROW) at Slauson and Normandie.

He couldn’t wait for it to be finished, he said. The Rail-to-River path – a bike and pedestrian path that would cut across South Central from the Crenshaw corridor all the way to the Southeast Cities of Huntington Park and Maywood using the Slauson ROW – would give him an easier way to get to work and a place he could teach his young son to learn to ride a bike.

Unfortunately, what he had seen was dirt and debris generated by the construction of the Crenshaw Line. It had been hauled to the ROW to await recycling.

“I hate to break it to you,” I said, “but they’re only in the environmental analysis and design phase right now. Construction is still a ways off.”

One of the young fixie riders who regularly hangs out at the shop shook his head and said he wouldn’t be surprised if it was never built. It took the city forever to do nice things for the community, he lamented.

But the Rail-to-River project is actually chugging along, albeit slowly. The community meeting I was told would be held this fall to discuss the design of Segment A (running the 6.4 miles between Crenshaw and Santa Fe) has been pushed back to the new year. The team working on the project wanted to have preliminary engineering and a draft design to present to the community, I was told, so that they had something of substance to engage people on.

In the meanwhile, Metro is looking to hear from the community on what they would like to get out of the project, and they’ve sent out a brief survey to be shared with area stakeholders. Because technology does not always make our lives easier, however, the October 21st email with said survey ended up in my spam folder and I did not find it until this morning. Which is very unfortunate, as the deadline to answer it is Wednesday (tomorrow). So, I apologize for being late in sharing it with our South L.A. readers.

Still, the survey is brief and can be found here (English) and here (Spanish) I have copied and pasted most of it below, in the event that the links are hard to follow or you wish to send your feedback to Metro via regular email (instead of the PDF doc): R2R@metro.net. Read more…

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LADOT Releases Annual Report, New Bikeway Mileage Declining

Cover of LADOT Annual Report Fiscal Year 2015-2016 [PDF]

Cover of LADOT Annual Report Fiscal Year 2015-2016 [PDF]

Last week, the L.A. City Department of Transportation (LADOT) released its Annual Report for the 2015-2016 Fiscal Year [PDF]. There are plenty of worthwhile accomplishments detailed in the annual report, but some disappointing news in that LADOT bikeway implementation has slowed.

Among the good news are some features that Streetsblog readers may be familiar with: the Hollywood/Highland scramble crossing, Cesar Chavez Avenue bulb-outspedestrian head-start signals, expansion of Express Park to Westwood, protected bike lanes on Los Angeles Street, and groundwork laid for downtown L.A.’s Metro Bike Share, which launched at the start of the 2016-2017 fiscal year. Only a decade ago, it was difficult to imagine these kinds of projects ever being installed here. Despite advocate pressure for protected lanes and bike-share, these were just not a possibility for LADOT circa 2006.

There are also some excellent accomplishments that flew under SBLA’s radar during the past year:

  • LADOT has implemented 13 new school safety zones where speed limits are reduced to 15 mph.
  • LADOT has fought disabled parking placard abuse by conducting 74 stings, issuing 1,278 citations, confiscating 819 placards, and working to change state law.
  • LADOT has laid the groundwork for reinstituting the city’s speed hump program and for implementing electric vehicle car-share. Both coming soon.

Vision Zero chart of L.A. traffic violence trends. Image via LADOT Annual Report [PDF]

Vision Zero chart of L.A. traffic violence trends. Image via LADOT Annual Report [PDF]

Interwoven with all this is LADOT’s work to take Vision Zero from approved policy to on-the-ground improved safety for all road users. The annual report touts LADOT’s analysis of collision data to inform future safety improvements. Some of this data mapping was presented at recent community meetings, where LADOT previewed maps for its forthcoming Vision Zero action plan, which was due to be released last August.

On the bike facility front, though, implementation has been sparse, even as new research shows that adding bike facilities improves ridership and safety.

It is telling that in her introductory preface LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds credits her department’s accomplishment having “designed 12.43 protected bike lane miles.” (emphasis added) Last year’s report touted bikeway miles implemented. When asked for a comment on the decreasing bikeway mileage, Reynolds emphasized that LADOT is continuing to improve the streets for people biking and walking, though “we have a long way to go, and our interest remains raising the bar to build the safest, most organized infrastructure we can.”

Some bike advocates evaluate LADOT’s performance less generously. Michael MacDonald of Bike the Vote asserts that diminished bikeway implementation points to a lack of leadership:

Despite more and more Angelenos using bikes to get around, we still see little leadership and vision from our politicians to make streets safer. While other major cities such as New York, Chicago, Denver, and Washington D.C. are delivering on promises to build miles and miles of bikeways each year, Los Angeles is clearly falling behind.

Many Los Angeles politicians keep saying they support safer streets, but when it comes time for the paint to hit the road, we’re not seeing the courage to make it happen. Striping bike lanes to improve safety isn’t rocket science, but it does require leadership that we aren’t seeing from Mayor Garcetti and many members of City Council.

L.A. County Bicycle Coalition’s Executive Director Tamika Butler was also critical of L.A.’s elected officials. Butler stated that the LACBC is pushing “to uplift the voices of our communities to push elected officials to be accountable to the many Angelenos who deserve improved access, connectivity, and infrastructure. Investing in people who walk and bike is an investment in a better Los Angeles. Right now, some of those elected to protect us are fighting needed investments and putting our most vulnerable road users at risk.”

In FY2015-16, LADOT implemented 8.8 miles of bike lanes, 1 mile of protected bike lane, 6.5 miles of bike path, and 0.8 miles of sharrowed bike routes. LADOT continues to count mileage using their new “lane miles” metric, which essentially double-counts most facilities, compared to pre-FY2014-15 statistics. Below is the entire list of new bikeways implemented last year, per LADOT:  Read more…

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Family Bike Touring Along the California Coast

My daughter, wife and I bike touring in Big Sur

My daughter Maeve, wife Carrie and I bike touring in Big Sur. Photos by Joe Linton

My wife Carrie, our three-year-old daughter Maeve, and I bike-toured the central California coast last week. We took an Amtrak train from Los Angeles to Salinas, then an Amtrak through-bus to Monterey. From Monterey we biked down the coast through Big Sur and to San Luis Obispo, where we caught the train back to Los Angeles.

It is my hope that by telling a bit about our trip, I can encourage others to do the same. The California coast is a relatively easy place to bike-tour, and, of course, very scenic.

Bike touring is a great way to see California. I had already bike toured on my own, including riding solo from San Francisco to Los Angeles. When I toured on my own, I used to do 50-60 miles per day. With my family, we aimed for roughly 20 miles per day. We ended up doing 144 miles in seven days, for an average of just over 20 miles per day. For serious hardcore bike-touring cyclists, this is not a lot. But it was my first time touring with my family, including a thirty-pound kid on the back of my bike, and it was my wife’s first time touring.

We camped two nights out of seven, opting to pay for hotels more often than not. This was in part due to creature comforts, and in part due to forest fires having closed two campgrounds.

I tend to be pretty come-as-you-are. A touring bike is ideal for this kind of trip, but I tend to think that I can bike tour with more-or-less any bike that I ride around the city on. I rode the 12-speed somewhat upright road bike that I ride everywhere. My wife rode an 8-speed upright city bike. Clearly touring cyclists need back racks with panniers. Front racks are good, too, though I have never toured with them. I just load up the panniers behind me, and use bungee cords to pack a tent, sleeping bag, and air mattress in the back.

I think it is important to show our kids our love of bicycling. My mom loved museums and foreign films, so she dragged me and my siblings to a lot of these before I was actually ready for them. Though I complained at the time, I am now grateful that it instilled in me a love for these cultural places. I hope that my daughter experiences bike touring and comes to enjoy it later in life.

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Carrie bicycling Big Sur, where it is fairly hilly.

Read more…

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Metro Explores Alternative Rail-to-River Routes Through Southeast Cities

The Rail-to-River plan to put a bike path between the Crenshaw Line to the west and the L.A. River to the east just took another step forward. Source: Metro

The Rail-to-River plan to put a bike path between the Crenshaw Line to the west and the Blue Line to the east, along with the four options that could eventually connect the path with (or very close to) the L.A. River. Source: Metro

In thinking about the potential routes the eastern segment (B) of the Rail-to-River (R2R) active transportation corridor might take, stressed Mark Lopez of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, it was important that the needs of workers, youth, and community members of the Southeast Cities be put front and center. Connectivity to job centers and schools should therefore be the first priority.

Through that lens, Lopez said, the bike path project could offer momentum for the creation of other potential “job trails” EYCEJ had already been thinking about, including connections to Vernon, and Commerce, a path along Slauson that would facilitate connections across the L.A. River and the 710 Freeway to the Bell Cheli Industrial area, and routes enhancing greater access to the river and green spaces like Riverfront Park.

A snapshot of Randolph street from above (center, running left to right). The ROW runs down the middle of the street, and could be made into a protected bikeway and pedestrian path. Source: Google maps.

A rail right-of-way runs down the middle of Randolph Street and could be made into a protected bikeway and pedestrian path. Source: Google maps. Click to enlarge.

I had reached out to Lopez for feedback after attending Metro’s mid-afternoon session on the R2R project held last Wednesday in Huntington Park. The R2R project – a dedicated bike and pedestrian path that will stretch between the Crenshaw and Blue Lines, and to (or through) the Southeast cities to the east – is much-needed in the park-poor and truck-dominated corridors of the communities of South Central and Southeast Los Angeles.

Class i bike facilities. Source: Feasibility Study

Class I bike facilities separate and protect cyclists from cars. Source: Feasibility Study

But many of the participants, I realized as we gathered around the tables to decide how to serve Southeast residents’ needs best, were not from the area and/or not very familiar with where people worked or how they got there. All of which made speaking to Metro’s purpose for the meeting – discussing and ranking the four alternatives for Segment B of the active transportation corridor – somewhat difficult.

Metro’s own 2014 feasibility study had determined that the Randolph Street option should be prioritized. It would not necessarily be the easiest choice – the rail right-of-way (ROW) is owned by Union Pacific, meaning that the cost of acquisition could be quite high and the negotiations involved in acquiring the ROW could take some time. But factors in its favor included the length the route would cover (4.34 miles), user experience, connectivity, safety, transit connections, ease of implementation (see p. 76), and the fact that it would allow cyclists to continue on a dedicated Class I bike path (a separated and protected path, at right). And because the ROW is as wide as 60′ in some sections, it would allow for the inclusion of many or more of the amenities present on the western and central segments of the path.

Users would not have to move back and forth between busy streets and dedicated Class I facilities or lose the bike and pedestrian paths altogether, as they would with the Utility Corridor or Slauson routes. It would also offer users a safe, protected, and lengthy east-west connection through a densely populated and semi-industrial section of Los Angeles usually dominated by heavy traffic and large trucks.

Although, like Randolph Street, the Malabar route would be able to provide users with a dedicated and protected path, it narrows considerably (which would push pedestrians aside) as it makes its way north toward Washington Blvd. It would also move users through less secure industrial areas with fewer connections to transit, residential neighborhoods, commercial corridors, or educational centers. Also, as in the case of Randolph Street, the use of the Malabar Yards ROW would require negotiations with BNSF to get it to abandon its rights to the ROW east of Santa Fe Ave.

The Malabar route would move users north toward (but not reaching) the river through Vernon. Source: Feasibility Study

The Malabar route would move users north toward (but not reaching) the river through Vernon. Source: Feasibility Study

All that said, it was still not 100 per cent clear to me which route would better connect residents with their jobs. Read more…

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The Future of Bike-Share: An Interview with NABSA’s Matt Martin

Matt Martin

Matt Martin

Matt Martin is the Project Manager for the North American Bikeshare Association and the Director of Rosewood Bikes, a nonprofit program bringing bike resources to a poorly served area of Portland, Oregon. Prior to NABSA, Matt led the Community Bike Project Omaha, an Omaha nonprofit focused on transportation equity issues, where he helped bring bike-share to Omaha and served as Omaha B-cycle’s bike-share Managing Director. 

The interview took place over email earlier this month.

Streetsblog L.A.: Tell us a little about your background. How did you come to the North American Bike Share Association?

I got into focusing on transportation policy expanding opportunities for bicycling in 2008, after a career of working in international security issues, as the perspective of my interests turned from global to local. While directing the Community Bike Project Omaha, I teamed together with a local health advocacy organization to create Omaha B-cycle and bring bike-sharing to Omaha. As a result of that, I met more of the national bike-share community. When NABSA reached out to me in 2015, I was happy to come aboard.

What is the North American Bikeshare Association? What do you do?

The North American Bikeshare Association (NABSA) exists to further bike-share and to support its members in North America and beyond. We host an annual conference that brings together bike-share system operators, local officials, vendors, and people seeking to learn about bike-sharing to share best practices, learn about new innovations, and gain insights on international trends.

We provide a range of services for our members – including expert webinars; a repository of guides, RFPs, contracts, and other documents; an internal discussion group; and daily support for the immediate questions and issues that can arise when planning or operating a bike-share system.

What is exciting about bike-shake? Explain some examples of the benefits that bike-share cities are seeing.

Whatever your usual way of getting around, bike-share can offer a convenient, green, inexpensive, and healthy option. Bike-share provides an alternative to single-occupancy vehicles and the problems they create for both the user and the city—cost, parking, and congestion. We’ve also seen them act as an alternative to public transit—when trains are offline for maintenance, those users can and do switch to bike-share.

Bike-share is often a “last mile” solution, used as part of a mix with other transportation modes. Users drive or ride transit in from the suburbs and use bike-share to complete their journey from the parking garage or bus stop. Even bicyclists can benefit, as bike-sharing eliminates the concerns over private bike maintenance and theft, when leaving a personal bike locked up outside.

Beyond these direct benefits, cities have enjoyed other urban planning benefits as well. As cities redesign their urban landscapes to encourage bike-share and active transportation, we have seen a virtual explosion of new pedestrian plazas, greenways, and urban renewal that has not only made our cities more efficient, but more beautiful as well.  Read more…