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Investing in Place – Streetsblog Interviews Jessica Meaney

Jessica Meaney, image via Investing in Place

Jessica Meaney, photo via Investing in Place

Jessica Meaney probably needs no introduction for many Streetsblog L.A. readers. She was awarded a 2013 Streetsie for her advocacy work. She’s a former boardmember of SBLA’s parent non-profit, an occasional SBLA author, and a steadfast voice for people who walk and bike in Southern California. She backs up her statements with a near-encyclopedic knowledge of convincing statistics that quantify exactly how many people walk, and just how little our municipalities invest in their facilities. Until recently she worked for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, where she was one of the leaders behind the L.A. County Active Transportation Collaborative. She recently started an exciting new endeavor, called Investing in Place, which she explains below. 

Tell SBLA readers about your new endeavor Investing In Place – what is it?

It’s a new new non-profit effort to support a constituency for equitable planning and support and relationships with agencies and efforts that invest in the built environment in Los Angeles County.

As Investing in Place maps out its 2015 work plan, the focus will largely be on transportation finance and policy work at the County level [through] Metro. Over the past several years working with Metro, again and again decisions have come back to, “Is it in the long range transportation plan?” Updating the LRTP (last one done in 2009) is an amazing opportunity to help shape the update of the region’s transportation priorities and processes for funding programs and projects. With close to 70% of Los Angeles County’s transportation funds being generated through our local county sales taxes working with Metro is critical for many outcomes people are hungry to see in our built environment.

And I also hope to support a Transportation Finance Strategic Plan at the city of Los Angeles. [The city] represents 40% of of the County, and without a comprehensive and easy-to-access transportation finance plan for L.A. City, it’s been hard to understand priorities and opportunities. It’s crazy to me that…we can say the sidewalks in the city of Los Angeles have, at minimum, a $1 billion price tag to address [issues] but no intentional policies, plans, staffing, or finance goals in place to do this. If the city of Los Angeles was able to articulate transportation funding needs and goals, this would enhance the regional decision making processes – especially regarding sales taxes.

And one great opportunity I welcome help [in] getting the word out on is Investing in Place is partnering with LA n Sync (a project of the Annenberg Foundation) and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) to provide grant writing assistance to jurisdictions applying for the Active Transportation Program cycle 2 this spring. If people are interested in being considered for this opportunity, they need to apply by March 18th. We’ve posted the details and online application for this here.

How can interested folks get involved in Investing In Place?

Reach out to me at jessica@investinginplace.org or sign up for our email list, read our blog, or find us on social media (Twitter and Facebook). It’s looking like the April Metro Board meetings will be important opportunities to review the agency’s draft idea for what would be in the potential 2016 Ballot measure. As of now, there is no expenditure plan for this tax from Metro.

Investing in Place has an open partner meeting this week on March 5th (filled to capacity!), and then we’re working on more meetings in May, June, and September to help provide information on how to engage in these opportunities.

One of the key ways Investing in Place is working to get at a regional reach is by our Advisor team. The advisory team is [comprised of] over 10 members from leaders from organizations all over Los Angeles County, and some doing State and National work. They provide Investing in Place [with] strategic advice on organizational growth, strategy, and collaboration. It’s my version of the dream team. I’d encourage people to reach out to me or any members of our Advisor teamRead more…

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L.A. vs. S.F.: How Does Transportation Really Compare?

Recent San Francisco survey results show less than half of trips are made by private car. Image via SBSF.

Recent San Francisco survey results shows that driving has made up a minority of trips for at least three years. Image via SBSF.

Last week, the Los Angeles Times published an article titled, “San Francisco residents relying less on private automobiles.” It is summarized at today’s Metro transportation headlines. The Times highlighted recent good news, reported in early February at Streetsblog SF, that 52 percent of San Francisco trips are taken by means other than a private car: walk, bike, transit, taxi, etc. The data are from a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) survey examining all trips, not just commuting. The time frame is from 2012 through 2014.

First, let’s celebrate! This is great news. In California’s second-largest city one of California’s largest cities, sustainable healthy transportation holds a majority.

The Times briefly mentions similarities between S.F. and L.A. in terms of transit investment, but mostly frames the good news by drawing sharp distinctions between L.A. and S.F. The Times article states:

  • “In stark contrast to car-dependent Los Angeles, studies show that most trips in the burgeoning tech metropolis [S.F.] are now made by modes of transportation other than the private automobile.”
  • “At 47 square miles, San Francisco is relatively small and densely populated. There are more than 17,000 residents per square mile — twice that of Los Angeles [City].”
  • “Los Angeles has an entrenched car culture and the city alone is spread out over nearly 10 times the area of San Francisco. Its population density of 8,100 people per square mile is less than half that of the Bay Area city.”
  • “Countywide, the [L.A. County] land area is an enormous 4,752 square miles, and the density drops to about 2,100 people per square mile.”

Just how stark is this contrast between Los Angeles and San Francisco?

The way I see it, the Times isn’t really comparing apples to apples. Read more…

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Alex Baum 1922-2015 – Los Angeles City’s Stalwart Bicycling Advocate

Alex Baum at the August 2009 Los Angeles City Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting. Sketch by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Alex Baum at the August 2009 L.A. City Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting. Sketch by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Los Angeles’ bicycling community has lost one its hardest-working and longest-serving advocates, Alex Baum. Alex Baum (1922-2015) was a survivor of the Nazi holocaust, a successful businessman, and a persistent champion for bicycling in Los Angeles. For decades, Baum chaired the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, and was a tireless presence in corridors of Los Angeles City Hall, urging lawmakers to make Los Angeles a great place for bicycling.

Alexandre Baum was born on December 30, 1922, in a small town near Lorraine in the disputed border region at times claimed by both France and Germany. His parents were Moritz Baum (1892-1925) and Lucienne “Laure” Lippman (1900-1986).

Though technically born in Germany, Baum identified with his French Jewish ancestry. He grew up in Vic-Sur-Seille, France.

During World War II, Alex Baum was very active in the French resistance to German occupation. He and his younger brother Marcel Baum (1924-2014) smuggled refugees across occupied France, crossing the country from Germany to Spain three times. On their fourth attempt, they were caught by Germans and imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps.

Alex and Marcel Baum spent two and a half years in the Buchenwald, Peenemunde, and Mittlebau-Dora camps in Germany. There they assembled, and in the process covertly sabotaged, German V-2 rockets. The Baum brothers had passports under the alias last name “Baumont,” so they were imprisoned as political prisoners, with their Jewish identities never revealed to their captors.  Read more…

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To KFI’s John & Ken: Where Are Those Streets With “50%” Space For Bikes?

Are there really streets in downtown L.A. where bicyclists get fifty percent of the roadway? Los Angeles Street this morning. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Are there really streets in downtown L.A. where bicyclists get fifty percent of the roadway? Los Angeles Street this morning. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

This morning, I listened to SBLA editor Damien Newton interviewed yesterday on KFI radio’s John and Ken show . Frankly it made me tense to hear the level of antipathy that John and Ken express toward people who bike. Toward me. Toward my family and our safety.

I heard a few misconceptions stated by the hosts, who repeatedly accused Damien of lying.

The falsehood I want to focus on, the one that John and Ken repeated, over and over, was that there are existing places in Los Angeles where bikes get fifty percent of the roadway. I counted ten mentions of this assertion. The first and clearest was in the hosts’ introduction (at 01:25) when they stated:

They’ve [bicyclists] gotten fifty percent of the roadway on some streets in downtown L.A. and other places.

Readers – is there actually a street anywhere in Los Angeles where fifty percent of the roadway is set aside for bikes?

John and Ken, if you are reading this, maybe you could explain where you got this fifty percent number. What streets are you talking about?

The hosts did go on to explain this a bit, blaming road diets. Road diets generally take one lane away from cars and replace it with two bike lanes. In recent years, the city of L.A. has implemented just over fifty miles of road diets on its 6,500 miles of roads. Some road diets perhaps worsen congestion, some do not, and occasionally, in some places where lots of cars turn, they reduce congestion. I am going to assert that 50+ miles of road diets are not a major cause of the extensive congestion many drivers experience throughout Los Angeles. None of these road diets have ever been done on freeways, which seem pretty congested pretty frequently.

But do any road diets in Los Angeles actually give fifty percent of the roadway to bikes?  Read more…

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LADOT Striping Some, Not All, of Bike Lanes on Repaved Venice Blvd

New buffered bike lane preliminary striping on Venice Boulevard, just west of Arlington. All photos Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

New buffered bike lane preliminary striping on Venice Boulevard, just west of Arlington Avenue. All photos Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The preliminary striping is down on the resurfaced mid-city stretch of Venice Boulevard that SBLA highlighted last week. The site is east of the existing Venice Blvd bike lanes, in the Los Angeles City neighborhoods of Harvard Heights, Arlington Heights, and Mid-City

Google map of Venice Boulevard area referenced in this article

Google map of Venice Boulevard area referenced in this article

The good news is that the L.A. City Transportation Department (LADOT) is extending bike lanes one mile east to Arlington Avenue.

The bad news is that, despite an approved plan and years of extensive studies to extend the lanes into downtown Los Angeles, the Venice Boulevard bike lanes will end at Arlington. For now.

The city recently resurfaced two stretches of Venice Boulevard in this area. Streetsblog reported on resurfacing from Arlington Avenue to Western Avenue. L.A. also resurfaced the northern (westbound) half of Venice Blvd from Crenshaw Blvd to San Vicente Blvd. 

The Crenshaw-San Vicente stretch has had a history of bike lanes disappearing and re-appearing with the Mid-Town Crossing redevelopment.

Reading the preliminary striping, the existing bike lanes in that area are being upgraded to buffered bike lanes.  Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: DIY Maintenance On Lincoln Blvd Under Culver Bridge

Editor’s note: The Department of Do-It-Yourself works in strange and mysterious ways. Today we run a guest post by cyclist Eric Weinstein who may or may not have been part of Dept. of DIY’s westside cycling division’s Lincoln Boulevard sand removal effort last week.

Lincoln Boulevard below the

Lincoln Boulevard underneath the Culver Boulevard Bridge. Photo by Eric Weinstein

You’ll probably never notice.

Last Friday night a very small crew of people made one of Lincoln Boulevard’s many choke points safer for bikes.

There are a lot of these really bad spots around. Lincoln is not really a pleasant place to ride a bike in general, but sometimes it is the only plausible route, because of the geography. There are few roads up the bluff into Westchester. Lincoln is the north-south road connection between Venice and LAX, so you kinda have to cycle here. It’s a couple of miles west to the beach bike path. It’s equally a couple miles east to the Sepulveda Boulevard bike lanes (from Westchester to Jefferson.) A couple miles out of the way on a bike is a long way to go around.

Just north of the entrances to the Ballona Creek Bike Path, there’s a narrow place under the bridge for Culver Boulevard [Google street view]. It’s narrow, and just hidden by a bend in the road, but quite passable to the daring or practiced. Unfortunately, the sand under the bridge has washed down into the shoulder in recent rains, blocking it to cyclists. You can’t ride on sand. So, for a cyclist, it’s another place you have to take the lane for a few feet to get under the bridge, sometimes merging into fast traffic. It’s always difficult when the cars are moving so much faster than bikes. At times, it’s a bit dangerous.

So, with some shovels, and a couple orange cones, the crew moved the sand off the shoulder.

Took a while to get it all off the road and make a smooth ridable surface. This makes a much, much safer passage for bikes. And, for good measure, overhanging brush was trimmed out of the bike lane further south.

Cyclists, the passage is again clear.  Read more…

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Meet the new Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition Executive Director, Tamika Butler

Last night, the Board of Directors for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition met to approve the appointment of their new executive director. This morning, via email, they introduced the bicycling community to their new leader, Tamika Butler.

Image via LACBC.

Image via LACBC.

“I’m really proud of the process and results of the search and couldn’t be more excited about Tamika as our next Executive Director,” says LACBC Board President Steve Boyd in a press statement. “Tamika is the ideal leader to write LACBC’s next chapter.”

While Butler’s name might be new to many in the bicycling advocacy community, her resume is full of impressive advocacy experiences. Currently, she works as the first Director of Social Change Strategies for the Liberty Hill Foundation. During her career she has also served as employment lawyer at the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center and as California Director of the Young Invincibles, an advocacy organization aimed at improving the lives and opportunities for young Americans entering the workforce.

“I am thrilled to have the privilege to become the next Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and look forward to continuing the success, growth, and cutting-edge work of the organization. Biking in Los Angeles County has personally changed my life and deepens my love of the region every time I go for a ride,” writes Butler in the same press statement.

“We’re lucky to live and bike in a county full of diverse communities that motivate this talented staff and me to push towards building a healthier, more vibrant Los Angeles County. I am excited to start pedaling, dig deep, and get to work with our members and partners, within and across sectors, as we race to the front lines of the nationwide movement to create bikeable, safe, and sustainable neighborhoods.”

For more on Butler, read the press statement put out by LACBC here or read this interview with Butler when she started her work with Liberty Hill.

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San Gabriel Valley Regional Bike Plan Faces Two Hearings Tonight

The 5-city San Gabriel Valley regional bike plan is currently making its way through a complicated series of city approvals. Two important bike plan hearings are taking place tonight in the cities of El Monte and Monterey Park. Specific details on those hearings after the jump. Folks who live, work, bike, or breathe in the San Gabriel Valley are encouraged to attend in support of plan passage.

Like much of Los Angeles County, the ~30-city San Gabriel Valley sees itself as a car-oriented and traffic-congested place. It has plenty of cyclists and a few prominent well-loved bicycle facilities: Temple City’s excellent protected bike lanes on Rosemead Boulevard, and the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo river bike trails.

El Monte and South El Monte bike plans. Click for larger images. Image from SGV Bike Master Plan

El Monte and South El Monte bike plans. Click for larger images. Image from SGV Bike Master Plan

The central SGV cities of Temple City and Rosemead are ahead of the curve; they approved their Bicycle Master Plans in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Five SGV cities are in the process of approving individual portions of the new inter-connected plan: Baldwin Park, El Monte, Monterey Park, San Gabriel, and South El Monte. This regional effort was shepherded by BikeSGV working with the bicycle planning consultants Alta Planning + Design, with funding from the L.A. County Department of Public Health. 

BikeSGV Program Director Javier Hernandez acknowledges the broad spectrum of parties responsible for the latest plan:

The SGV Bike Plan is the culmination of a much greater force at play in the San Gabriel Valley, collaboration! The SGV Bike Plan is a prime example of a systematic, all-inclusive and transparent regional planning effort that has unified families, students, youth, seniors, non-profits, government agencies, businesses, school districts, and everything in between to address many of the regions public and environmental woes. A united San Gabriel Valley sets the stage for deeper, more profound regional impact with respect to improving health, reducing our carbon footprint, reducing auto/bike collisions, and sustainable development.  

Few bicyclists, pedestrians, transit-riders or drivers actually know when they have crossed municipal boundaries, so it is important that adjacent jurisdictions plan and implement livable streets together. The overall SGV bike plan features bike facilities that cross city boundaries; examples include Garvey Avenue and Ramona Boulevard. In addition to facilities, the plan includes policies and programs.

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City of Monterey Park bike plan. Click for larger images. Image from SGV Bike Master Plan

Here is the status of each of the five cities in the current SGV regional plan process:

  • The city of San Gabriel approved its bike plan in September.
  • The city of Baldwin Park approved its bike plan [PDF] earlier this month.
  • The El Monte City Council votes on the city’s bike plan tonight – details below.
  • Monterey Park’s bike plan will be heard at the city’s Planning Commission tonight – details below. Assuming it passes the commission, it will go to the Monterey Park City Council later this year.
  • The South El Monte City Council is expected to vote on its plan in December.

Read more…

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No, Sacramento is NOT Seriously Considering a Bicycle License Law

A sign near the California State Capitol directs bicyclists to ride on the sidewalk, a sight which may remain common until Sacramento’s streets are made safer for bicycling. Photo: Melanie Curry

After a woman was hit by a bicyclist riding on a Sacramento sidewalk, she threatened the city with a lawsuit, and her attorney is pushing the city to pass one of the most restrictive bicycle licensing laws in the country.

Last Thursday, an attorney for Sacramento Bee writer Hilary Abramson submitted a proposal for an ordinance that would outlaw riding on sidewalks to the City Council’s Law and Legislative Committee.

But the proposal went beyond just bikes on sidewalks. It would also have required bicycle riders to buy a city-issued license for $10, take an unspecified test, and register their bikes with the city.

Local station KCRA’s first over-excited response to the story was that the committee now had to decide “whether to take this proposed ordinance to the city council.” But the bike regulation idea got no traction at the meeting, and discussion among committee members focused on the original goal of the meeting, which was to clarify the city’s rules on sidewalk riding.

Randi Knott of the City Manager’s office, introducing the item for discussion, said that the city’s top goal in updating its bicycle ordinance is to encourage the current growth in cycling in the city.

That, several speakers pointed out, is a goal that would not be met if the city imposed a ban on sidewalk riding. Jim Brown of Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates (SABA) pointed out that unsafe conditions on Sacramento’s street network often make bicyclists feel that riding on the sidewalk is their only safe alternative.

Read more…

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Motion to Move Forward on Rail-to-River Bikeway Project up for Vote Thursday

The tracks at Crenshaw, looking east. Sahra Sulaiman/StreetsblogLA

The ROW which would form part of the Western Segment of the proposed Rail-to-River bikeway. Photo taken at Crenshaw, looking east. Sahra Sulaiman/StreetsblogLA

In a motion before the Metro Executive Management Committee last Thursday morning, County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas cited the successful “transformation of unused or abandoned rail right-of-ways into pedestrian access and bicycle routes” around the country and here in L.A. as support for his call that the Board direct Chief Executive Officer Art Leahy to move forward on the recommendations found in the 212-page feasibility study on the proposed Rail-to-River Bikeway.

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

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

The proposed bikeway corridor. Phase 1 (at left) represents the section of the corridor that Metro could move on planning for immediately. Phase 2 (at right) would proceed more slowly, as Metro would need to determine which routes were most appropriate and negotiate with BNSF to purchase a section of the ROW. (Source: Feasibility Study)

The active transportation corridor (ATC) project, first proposed by Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor and Metro Board Member Gloria Molina in 2012, has the potential to effect a significant transformation in a deeply blighted and long-neglected section of South L.A.

So, it was not surprising to see Ridley-Thomas ask that, when the full Board meets this Thursday, October 23, at 9 a.m., it approve his motion directing Leahy to identify and seek funds from Measure R, Cap and Trade, and other sources to facilitate the environmental, design, and outreach efforts recommended by the Feasibility Report.

Even though Ridley-Thomas’ strong support for the project was expected, the motion to move it forward still made me sit up a little straighter.

When I attended the two public meetings held on the corridor project, representatives from both Metro and Alta Planning + Design (consultants on the project) were firm in their suggestions that we not get our hopes up too high. There was no funding attached to the project, they said, and they were only looking at questions of feasibility. These were also the reasons, I was told, for the limited outreach and engagement of the neighbors that live along the corridor.

Not to mention that including the community might have brought other problems with it. Read more…