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Posts from the "Bicycling" Category

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An Interview with C.I.C.L.E.’s New Managing Director Vanessa Gray

C.I.C.L.E.'s new Managing Director Vanessa Gray. Photo: Vanessa Gray

C.I.C.L.E.’s new Managing Director Vanessa Gray. Photo: Vanessa Gray

Vanessa Gray is the new head of Cyclists Inciting Change thru Live Exchange, best known as “C.I.C.L.E.” Dan Dabek, the last to steer the C.I.C.L.E. team, recently departed for the East Coast, where his partner is pursuing higher education. Streetsblog L.A. wishes Dabek a teary-eyed farewell, and welcomes Gray to her new gig.

Streetsblog: First off, just in case someone is reading this who isn’t already familiar with C.I.C.L.E., tell us briefly what it is.

Vanessa Gray: Cyclists Inciting Change thru Live Exchange (C.I.C.L.E.) is a nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles, working to promote the bicycle as a viable, healthy, and sustainable transportation choice.

We believe that our cities can be places that support an overall high quality of life–where people can enjoy clean air, calm and friendly streets, and closely-connected and diverse communities.

We envision our streets as vibrant, welcoming spaces that safely accommodate all road users and prioritize the safe passage of people–on bike, on foot, by wheelchair, by bus, and/or by train.

Tell us about yourself. What’s your background? Where are you from?

I was brought up in the military through the Air Force. We would move every 2 to 4 years. I’ve lived in places such as Libya, Tripoli, Okinawa, Japan and traveled through Guam and Wake Island. I usually tell people I’m from the near the last base where my father retired, Vandenberg Air Force Base in Northern Santa Barbara County. However, I can say I actually grew up on bases in Africa and Asia.

Prior to joining C.I.C.L.E. as its Managing Director, I worked as a Senior Communications Specialist with SEIU, as a Communications Deputy for an L.A. City Councilwoman, and a Manager at Beverly Hills Pavilions. Last October, I coordinated Safe Routes to Schools’ Walk to School Day at Micheltorena Elementary School.

How did you get interested in bicycling?

At college in Virginia, I had a used Fiat to get around, but it would break down every other week. I spent all my meager work study money trying to keep that crummy car running. Finally, it broke down again and I told my mechanic Tony (yes, that was his name) don’t fix it again. I instead took my work study check to the nearest bike shop and bought a hybrid bike. It was my main transportation through college and beyond. During the summers, I would ride to 3 different lifeguarding jobs. I was in the best shape of my life.

Read more…

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Showdown Over Bike/Walk Funds Missing from Metro Short Range Plan

Metro's Every Day is a Bike Day campaign appartently doesn't apply to the agency's funding planning days.

Does Metro’s EVERY DAY IS A BIKE DAY campaign apply to days when Metro is planning their future funding priorities? Find out this Wednesday as the agency considers its Short Range Transportation Plan. Image: Metro

Metro’s Short Term Transportation Plan is on the agenda for this Wednesday’s Metro board Planning and Programming Committee. The SRTP is the agency’s $88 billion plan for the next 10 years.

Though concerns have been raised about technology, articulated buses, and extending the Gold Line east of Azusa, the main point of contention appears to be over funding for active transportation: walking and bicycling. Overall, the 10-year plan includes $500 million worth of active transportation funding, just 0.6 percent of the overall $88 billion budget.

The Safe Routes To School National Partnership (SRTS) and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) have been at the forefront of a broad coalition urging greater Metro investment in  active transportation. They are mobilizing organizations and individuals to attend the Metro committee meeting on Wednesday, July 16 at 2:30 p.m.

From the  SRTS website:

In Metro’s view, walking and biking are the purview of cities, not a regional transportation priority. As a result, Metro has a fragmented approach to walking and biking that does not ensure that all of the parts add up to a region that is in fact multimodal, safe and serves the needs of all travelers and all trips. [...] As Metro prepares for a possible new transportation sales tax in 2016, now is a critical time to reevaluate the region’s policy vision and investment strategy to support a transportation system that works for all.

More than 60 organizations signed on to this L.A. County Active Transportation Collaborative comment letter. Other non-profits urging greater funding for walking and bicycling include NRDC-Climate Plan-Coalition for Clean Air, Move L.A., and the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter Transportation Committee.

It’s not only non-profit community organizations echoing the call to support walking and bicycling. Also submitting comments to Metro were the L.A. County Department of Public Health, the L.A. Unified School District, and Jon Kirk Mukri’s city of Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT.)  Here is an excerpt from LADOT’s refreshingly livability-minded comment letterRead more…

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City Planners Listen to Stakeholders Regarding Potential for Bike Lanes Along Boyle and Soto

Multi-modal Boyle Heights: A family rides bikes, boys skateboard, and car commuters make their way home. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Multi-modal Boyle Heights: A family rides bikes, boys skateboard, and car commuters make their way home. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

As I pedaled my way up the hill towards Mariachi Plaza, I had to dodge a skateboarder coming straight at me at a rather significant clip.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen a skateboarder in the middle of the road there.

The eastbound stretch of 1st between Boyle Ave. and Pecan St. is quite wide, and the skaters usually turn onto Pecan or hop back onto the sidewalk and out of traffic at the Pecan/1st intersection. The thrill of an unfettered downhill is brief, in other words, but apparently worth the risk of skating against traffic.

That’s who needs special lanes, I thought as I crossed Boyle and picked up the 1st St. bike lane. There are more skaters than bikers, and they need to be able to get around easily, too. 

I was thinking about the possibilities for community-specific road reconfigurations because I was on my way to a roundtable meeting to discuss the possible implementation of bike lanes on Soto St. and Boyle Ave., two of the 19 streets on the 2010 Bike Plan’s Second Year slate of projects. The roundtable, run largely by David Somers of City Planning and LADOT Bikeways Engineer Tim Fremaux, was the city’s first stab at connecting with a few Boyle Heights stakeholders and gathering specific feedback regarding mobility and other issues along those streets.

Screen shot of the 2010 Bike Plan's lanes planned for Soto (from Huntington to 8th) and Boyle (from 5th to 8th).

Screen shot of the 2010 Bike Plan’s lanes planned for Soto (from Huntington to 8th) and Boyle (from 5th to 8th). Click to enlarge.

I was looking forward to hearing other stakeholders’ thoughts on the lanes. Although I didn’t expect any of the participants to offer push-back, I knew they would be aware of the concerns that others in the community might raise when the city looked for support for the project from the wider public.

First among those concerns is the view that bike lanes can act as a gateway drug for gentrification.

When the city comes a-calling in a long-marginalized community and only offers the one thing that is at the bottom of that community’s lengthy list of needs, it’s not unusual for some to be suspicious of the city’s intentions.

The popular “bikes mean business” mantra doesn’t help allay fears, either, as it doesn’t necessarily hold up in lower-income communities. There, bicycles can signify of a lack of resources, and long-standing businesses catering to hyper-local needs are not the ones well-heeled cyclists are likely to favor (see the discussion of the gentri-flyer debacle for more on this).

Another key concern is that Boyle Heights is a largely (bus) transit- and pedestrian-heavy community and that it needs upgrades to its pedestrian and bus infrastructure much more than it needs bike lanes that facilitate connections to rail.

This is not to say there aren’t a lot of cyclists in the area — there are. There is a sizable number of commuters, as well as a growing contingent of youth that regularly ride for both transport and recreation.

But they aren’t as visible a presence as the pedestrians. And it is often economics and community mobility patterns (i.e. moms needing to run errands with a few kids in tow) that keep many reliant on walking, skateboarding, and/or transit, not the lack of bike infrastructure–meaning that the community may be unsure that it would reap any benefits from the presence of the lanes. Read more…

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Pocrass: When Does a Government Entity Become Liable for a Dangerous Street?

Jim Pocrass is a leading bike attorney representing people from throughout Southern California who suffer serious personal injuries – or the families who lost a loved one to a wrongful death – because of the carelessness or negligence of another. Jim is a cyclist and active in the bicycle community, supporting numerous bike-related causes. He also is on the board of directors of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. For a free consultation, or to contact Jim, visit www.pocrass.com or call 310.550.9050. 

James Pocrass. Photography by Dennis Trantham

James Pocrass. Photography by Dennis Trantham

A couple of weeks ago, Jim volunteered to answer Streetsblog reader questions about legal matters. His answers proved so detailed that we decided to break them up into a five part series (one per question) rather than one giant story. Part 1 is available here.

Q:  Council members have recently been shutting down proposed road diets that would make well-known dangerous streets safer (sometimes they do so under the guise of “safety”). Would an individual hit or injured while biking (or walking) on one of these notorious streets – after a council member vetoes a proposed bike/pedestrian safety enhancement – have any legal standing to take (successfully) the city or council office to court?

A: For those who come upon this post and who may not know what a road diet is, let me define it before I answer the question.

Simply put, a road diet is the popular term for when a road is reconfigured to add a bike lane, a pedestrian crossing island, and/or parking. Research has shown that a road diet increases safety by reducing collisions for bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists.

Benefits of a road diet include reduced vehicle speeds, improved mobility and access, reduced collisions and injuries, and improved livability and quality of life (U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration).

Some motorists complain because since a road diet also decreases the speed that they can drive, they believe it increases congestion and the time it takes them to get from point A to point B. There is some research to indicate that this is not true, but perception is often “everything.”  In some cities, this has led to what the New York Times labeled “The Bike Wars.”

Now, back to your question. It isn’t as easy to sue a government entity (city, county, state or federal government body or representative), as one would think. Read more…

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

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

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

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

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

In a television interview, Larsen describes the incident:

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

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

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

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

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

The next day, the OC Sheriffs finally responded.

But not quite in the way cyclists expected.

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

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

Read more…

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Metro Round-Up: LAX, Open Streets, New Reps on Technical Committee

Concept rendering for new LAX rail station. Green Line and Crenshaw Line light rail  run at grade, below future "automated people mover." Image via Metro staff report

Concept rendering for new LAX rail station at 96th Street and Aviation Bo. Green Line and Crenshaw Line light rail run at grade (visible in the middle right), below future “automated people mover” (visible in the upper right). Image via Metro staff report [PDF]

At yesterday’s Metro Board Meeting, directors approved a handful of initiatives that have great implications for the future livability of the Los Angeles Region. Here is the re-cap:

Technical Committee Adds Pedestrian and Bike Representatives

The Metro Board approved adding two new active transportation representatives to the agency’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). In addition to new TAC members representing bicycle and pedestrian transportation experts, the motion [pdf] approved yesterday also added a non-voting public health representative.

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) and Safe Routes to School National Partnership have pushed for long-overdue Metro TAC expansion. The TAC includes a representative from the Automobile Association of America, but no one advocating for active transportation. Earlier this year, Streetsblog previewed TAC expansion. Since that earlier article, the somewhat half-hearted proposal was strengthened by a March 2014 motion from Metro boardmember Mike Bonin.

Here’s what the LACBC’s Eric Bruins had to say about yesterday’s Metro board action:

It’s about time for Metro to embrace multi-modalism throughout the culture of the agency, including their advisory committees. This committee is involved in the nuts-and-bolts of decision-making at Metro, so it’s important to have people at the table constantly viewing agency actions through a lens of how they impact walking, biking, and public health throughout the county.

Open Streets Events Expanding Throughout L.A. County

SBLA covered the expansion of CicLAvia-type open streets events when Metro staff recommendations were circulated about a month ago. As LongBeachize previewed, representatives from the city of Long Beach attended the Metro Board meeting, expressing their concerns over Metro’s selection criteria. Metro awarded funding to only one event to each applicant city before funding any additional events hosted by the same city. Proportionally, this puts the cities of Los Angeles (population 4,000,000) and Long Beach (population 500,000) on equal footing with Lawndale (population 34,000) and Culver City (population 40,000). (Population figures here.)

Though Metro board member John Fasana expressed that Metro should “re-tool” in future open streets funding cycles, the board approved the staff recommendations unchanged. Lots more ciclovías coming to lots of neighborhoods over the next couple years!

Rail Connection with LAX Approved

Despite boardmember Mike Bonin expressing some concerns (including very low ridership projections, a focus of this L.A. Weekly article) at last week’s Metro Programming Committee meeting, yesterday’s LAX approval went very smoothly. The Metro board approved a preferred alternative for connecting rail to LAX. It’s a new rail station, located at 96th Street and Aviation Boulevard, where LAX-bound riders can board an Automated-People-Mover (APM). Depending on operations decisions, still to be determined, the new station will serve the existing Metro Green Line, Metro Crenshaw Line (under construction) and possibly even Expo Line trains via Crenshaw. (Editor’s note: this would be way in the future – there are no current plans to connect Expo and Crenshaw tracks.) Both Mayor Garcetti and Bonin stated that they expect the 96th Street Station to be more than just a transfer point, but indeed a full-featured world-class gateway to Los Angeles.

With the LAX connection conceptually decided, there’s still lots of environmental studies, design and operation decisions, finalization of features that will be designed/built by LAX itself, and about a decade of construction before the riders can experience it.  Read more…

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Five Key Tips For Metro Regarding Safe Bus-Bike Interactions

Early last week, Michael MacDonald posted his helmet-camera video showing a Metro bus driver veering rightward into his path, then braking. The incident occurred on Adams Boulevard near Hauser. When MacDonald confronted the driver, he responds dismissively and closes the bus window.

The video bounced around the bike corner of cyberspace. It was picked up by Biking in L.A. who called it “a perfect test case for the city’s cyclist anti-harassment ordinance.” The footage ran on Univision and CBS.

There are other similar videos online. Below is one that took place on Santa Monica Boulevard, from YouTube user Wes + Bikes.

Though it doesn’t get recorded on video often, I can personally confirm that this sort of merge conflict happens to lots of L.A. cyclists very frequently, especially those of us intrepid enough to “take the lane” on L.A.’s busier arterial bus-route streets. Yesterday, I bicycled from Koreatown to Downtown L.A. and had two transit vehicles merge into my path, one a Metro Bus and the other an LADOT DASH Shuttle. Public agency bus merges are frequent, as they get over to the curb to pick up passengers, but I’ve also been cut off by plenty of private vehicles, especially near freeway on-ramps, and  driveways. Read more…

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Otis College Students Design for the Possible Future of Transportation

A couple weeks ago, I was asked to sit in on a panel reviewing and critiquing undergraduate design students’ visions for the future of Los Angeles transportation. The location was Otis College of Art and Design, located near LAX. Lecturer and Architect Matt Gagnon had given his product design students a simple, but far reaching, assignment: design for the future of mobility in L.A.

The students, working in teams, took things in varied and interesting directions. I didn’t find them all to be things I would run out and push for tomorrow… but they are nonetheless thought-provoking fresh looks at issues that Streetsblog tracks.

Here’s round two of the critique: readers, what do you think? Comment below.

Re-Designing the Bicycle: Evolu
team: Taeho Ko, Jenny Lee and  Joshua Melara

These young designers feel that the old-fashioned bicycle could use a second look. They’ve come up with a new frame geometry that they think would be both exciting (think sports car) and useful for transportation.

Evolu bikes would include special features - xxx demonstrates a slot in the frame where riders can carry their laptops. photo: Joe Linton / Streetsblog L.A.

The Evolu design team with their prototype frame. The proposed design would include built-in special features: Jenny Lee demonstrates a slot in the frame where riders can carry their laptops. Photo: Joe Linton / Streetsblog L.A.

The team built a life-size cardboard prototype. Various security and fit features were proposed to be built into the frame, including a fingerprint-recognition based lock to deter theft. The most interesting and practical feature was slot in the frame crossbar where riders can stash laptop computers.  Read more…

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Sweet New Protected Bikeway On Beautiful Rosemead Blvd in Temple City

Cyclist southbound on Temple City's Rosemead Boulevard Project. all photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Cyclist southbound on Temple City’s Rosemead Boulevard Project. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The San Gabriel Valley’s Temple City opened its excellent new Rosemead Boulevard Project on May 10, 2014. I didn’t make it out to the grand opening festivities, but I recently got a chance to bicycle there and experience the new Rosemead Blvd first hand. It’s great. All Southern California cyclists should make pilgrimages — and spend money while you’re there.


View Temple City Rosemead Blvd Project in a larger map

The project, shown in green on the above map, is on both sides of Rosemead Boulevard for its entire length through Temple City. It extends two miles from Calita Street to the railroad undercrossing near Lower Azusa Road. The area is mostly commercial strips, with some housing, apartments, and single family homes interspersed. Overall, it’s suburban, though somewhat older suburban. Most of the commercial buildings are set back far from the street; there are plenty of surface parking lots.

Rosemead Boulevard’s protected bike lanes are quite different than L.A. County’s first protected bike lanes on Third and Broadway in Downtown Long Beach; both are first class facilities, though. The Long Beach project includes bike signalization at nearly all signalized intersections; as far as I could tell, Temple City didn’t make any changes to traffic signals. Traffic signals can markedly increase costs for protected bikeways. Temple City doesn’t appear to have skimped on costs, though. The project includes extensive landscaping, and lots of curb-work, including landscaped center-median islands.

Temple City’s treatments vary a great deal. Section treatments–see images below–ranged from landscaped-island-protected bikeway to parking-protected bikeway to buffered bike lane to basic bike lane (with and without parking) to short stretches of sharrows.

The most common configuration

The best parts of the Rosemead Boulevard Project, roughly half of the mileage, had this configuration: no parking, wide bike lane – roughly 6-feet, suitable for two cyclists side-by-side – and tree-lined landscaped median protecting the bike lane from adjacent traffic lane.

Read more…

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Three Things I Like About Bike Week, and Two Things I Don’t

Cyclists descent into Los Angeles Union Station at the end of this morning's Bike Week Guided Ride. More ride photos on SBLA Facebook page. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Cyclists descent into Los Angeles Union Station at the end of this morning’s Bike Week Guided Ride. More ride photos on SBLA Facebook page. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

It’s Bike Week Los Angeles! May 12th-18th, 2014. Already there has been a lot going on: a press conference, a new report, the annual Blessing of the Bicycles, and a guided ride this morning. Tomorrow will be Los Angeles County’s Bike to Work Day, which includes pit stops and free rides on Metro and various other transit systems. Friday night will be Metro Bike Night at Union Station, which looks to be a lot of fun.

There’s a lot I like about Bike Week, but also a few things that bug me.

Things I like about bike week:

Temple City's new Rosemead Blvd protected bikeway. Photo: CICLE/Serena Grace

Temple City’s new Rosemead Blvd protected bikeway. Photo: CICLE/Serena Grace

1. New Facilities!

In a lot of civilized places, bike week celebrates the grand opening of new bicycling facilities. San Francisco opened a handsome new Polk Street contra-flow bike lane. San Diego got its first road diet buffered bike lanes. The San Gabriel Valley’s Temple City held a large scale street fair to inaugurate its new protected bike lane on Rosemead Boulevard.

Though the city of Los Angeles didn’t celebrate specific new bicycle infrastructure this week, they did recently open new repair stations. On this morning’s guided Bike Week ride through parts of Downtown and Boyle Heights, I couldn’t help but notice that there really are a lot of new on-street bikeways in recent years. As recently as 2010, there just weren’t any bikeways downtown or on the east side. Now there are quite a few.

2. Events!

In L.A., it is easy to find group rides nearly any night of the week, but it is still good to get together and ride with friends. I am particularly fond of Good Samaritan Hospital’s Blessing of the Bicycles. I remember getting chills when it started a decade ago and a priest read the bible passage about “a wheel within a wheel.” More bikey events are always welcome.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti biked to work yesterday morning. Photo via Mayor Garcetti Facebook page

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti biked to work monday morning. Photo via Mayor Garcetti Facebook page

3. Elected Officials Riding Bicycles!

Though he’s certainly ridden CicLAvia, how often do we see Mayor Garcetti bicycling on everyday streets? When was the last time you saw Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin loading a bicycle on the front of a Metro bus? Though these are, perhaps, largely photo opportunities, a picture can indeed be worth a thousand words. It’s great to have these images in circulation. It’s one thing for an elected official to speak in favor of bicycle facilities, but seeing them walk, er, bike the talk is also huge.

Things I don’t like about bike week:  Read more…