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Posts from the Car Culture Category


Eyes On the Street: Cars Parking On Sidewalks

Car on sidewalk on 4th Street near Normandie. Photos by Joe Linton

Car on sidewalk on 4th Street near Normandie Avenue. Photos by Joe Linton

The latest reports show that L.A. County has 18.6 million parking spaces, a whopping 14 percent of developed land. But apparently drivers want even more. It may be just anecdotal in my neighborhood – which is Koreatown near East Hollywood – but it seems like I am seeing more and more cars parking on sidewalks and curbs.

When I am walking, sometimes these are blocking the sidewalk, which is especially irritating when pushing a stroller. I don’t remember ever seeing this five to twenty years ago, but just this year it feels like it’s increasing. I don’t see it every day, but I did notice it a half dozen times before I began taking pictures last month with this article in mind. Parking is not easy here and it is somewhat more scarce on street-cleaning days, but it seems like drivers used to make do with the spaces allotted to them.

Car on the curb on First Street near Vermont Avenue.

Car on the curb on First Street near Vermont Avenue.

Are other Angelenos seeing this? What neighborhoods? Can we come up with some kind of shaming process? Maybe just a hashtag?

What should we do to keep it from proliferating? Read more…

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Charles Crumpley Should Stop Talking About Transportation

When I got an email pointing me to “Stop the War on Drivers,” a new piece by Charles Crumpley, I was giddy. Crumpley’s fact-free transportation writing is easy fodder. I knew I had my story for the day.

Crumpley is right that America doesn't spend enough on infrastructure, but he also presents no ideas on how to increase that investment. Image: ## Spiegel##

Crumpley is right that America doesn’t spend enough on infrastructure, but he also presents no ideas on how to increase that investment.

The last time Charles Crumpley, the main editor of the Los Angeles Business Journal, wrote about transportation and politics, it was a shambling mess of a story about CEQA reform built around the idea that jobs were lost because of delays constructing Phase II of the Expo Line. Oddly, there was no delay in the construction of Phase II of the Expo Line. Crumpley’s piece was built around a complete falsehood, a reality that has yet to even be acknowledged by Crumpley or Fox and Hounds, the publication that published this falsehood three years ago.

Today, Crumpley’s piece in the Business Journal about the “war on drivers” is actually a big step forward compared to his Expo/CEQA piece from 2012. It’s full of his opinions based on his personal experiences instead of made-up facts or studies based on an alternate reality.

But that doesn’t mean he is right. So let’s bring some research to Crumpley’s story and see how he does.

Crumpley claims that the goal of the government is to make driving so expensive and uncomfortable that people give up driving. While I can’t speak for the motives of everyone in government, I’ve been to a lot of meetings about traffic safety, traffic calming, bicycle and pedestrian planning and freeway construction over the past fifteen years. I’ve never once heard this mentioned as a goal.

If it is a goal, the government is doing a terrible job. Gas taxes in America are literally among the lowest in the world, and have been for generations. To support infrastructure spending, governments are taking money from sales and property taxes, taxes that are paid for everyone regardless of how much or how little they drive.

If you don’t believe me, maybe ask the folks at Jalopnik, a website that is devoted to cars and car-culture. They recently compiled a list of the ten most expensive places to own cars. On this list, America is nowhere to be found.

California doesn't have much money to spend on transportation. What it does have it spends on cars. Image: ## Legislative Analysts Office##

California doesn’t have much money to spend on transportation. What it does have it spends on cars.

While Crumpley may be upset that the state and federal governments are not spending enough on highway and road maintenance, the issue is not the pittance spent on occasionally providing the bare minimum needed to appear to support transportation options. The issue is that America spends almost no money on transportation infrastructure. The “good” news is that what little government does spend, it spends on promoting automobiles. That’s even true in California.

Crumpley falls further down the rabbit-hole when he laments that the state has raided transportation funds to pay for other state needs. While I agree with him on this point — it is bad that the state has borrowed and bonded against funds that were supposed to be dedicated towards transportation until there was nothing left — he discards the idea of raising new revenue for transportation. Crumpley places himself in the “something for nothing” camp, unironically asking that the state spend money to fix roads and bridges that it does not actually have. Read more…


LADOT Announces “Year Three” Bike Lane Projects To Study and Ignore

LADOT is saving money by not even publishing a timeline for the bikeway projects that they will study and ignore in 2015. The above actual 2014 bikeways-to-ignore timeline is presented for informational purposes only.

LADOT is saving money by not even publishing a timeline for the bikeway projects that they will study and ignore in 2015. The above actual 2014 bikeways-to-ignore timeline is presented for informational purposes only.

Los Angeles City Transportation Department (LADOT) engineer Leffel O’Serviss announced that his department has selected 40 new miles of approved bike lane streets that will be part of the department’s “Year Three” bikeway projects. O’Serviss announced that, following on LADOT’s Year One and Year Two projects, these forty miles will be studied vigorously and will not be implemented.

“Having forty miles of approved bike lanes not implemented each year gives motorists, er, people who motor, and businesses, er, men who business, some certainty that these specific streets will not change at all this year. While not resulting in new bikeways, the list will take up a lot of bicycle resources – including funding and, importantly, staff time – but will not be disruptive to the status quo in any way. This project is really about jobs, jobs, jobs – the department’s consultants love it.” said O’Serviss in a closed-to-the-press briefing.

Bicycle facility opponents should be reassured that LADOT will continue to utilize outdated car-centric metrics, including Level of Service, Distance Under-Motorist Burden (DuB), and Ever Increasing Research Even If Safe (EIR/EIS). “These studies will use up bike facility budgets, while arming hostile City Councilmembers with exactly the arguments they need to be effective in delaying implementation,” O’Serviss beamed. Bike facilities not proven outright infeasible will be subject to unapproved and even-more-difficult-to-implement facility escalation, including being awaiting further technical mumbo-jumbo, unnecessary road-widening, shared bus-bike-lanes, or just about whatever it takes to truly delay “the bike stuff.”

“Lest you bikers, er, people on bikers, think that the LADOT is stuck in outdated practices, there are some changes in the Year Three bike lane projects.” O’Serviss went on to explain that for 2014’s Year Two bikeway project list, LADOT held a series of closed meetings, with the bicycling public neither notified, invited, nor welcomed – before failing to implement any of the Year Two list. “In 2015, we’re skipping the unpopular closed-door meetings. In fact, we’re not even going to meet at all. Nor will we release the names of the streets. Be assured, though, that there is a list.”

According to LADOT’s other speaker, Lane DeLay, Acting Assistant Explanager of LADOT’s Project Befuddlement Division, in the interest of maintaining the department’s confidentiality, the list has been hand-written, sealed in an envelope, and hidden below the trash bin where LADOT throws away all of its ATSAC data.

DeLay confirmed that LADOT will continue to undermine any pretense of actual planning, by continuing find and install a few bike lanes in unapproved “out of the way” locations.

Lane DeLay concluded, “By the end of 2015, the bike plan will have squashed by a new Mobility Plan, so the calendar can reset again once more from the beginning. For 2016, we’re already evaluating the feasibility of going back and re-studying those Year One projects, so we can again ignore them, but more rigorously, not just as bike projects, but in a full complete streets framework.”

“We’ve said for years that the the process is sometimes more important than the project,” explains April Feuel, a spokesperson, well, person who speaks, for Tom LaBonge. “We’re excited that the LADOT is embracing this philosophy by canceling the projects altogether, without really saying that they’re doing that. We’ve seen the secret list, and it’s all truck routes anyway, perfect places to not do anything this year.”

Bike advocates, uhm, people advocating who bike, were also equally excited by the news. Josef Bray-Ali and Carlos Morales have already planned a “study-in” in front of Gil Cedillo’s apartment where cyclists will spread out EIR’s and discuss the pros and cons of road diets. Eric Trojans announced that the Los Angeles County Bicycle People Who Ride Bikes Coalition will be giving away bike lights on streets rumored to be on LADOT’s secret list.

The only Councilmember, er…people who council (or something like that), who wasn’t on board was Councillor Paul Koretz who vowed to cancel all studies of bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard. As an unanticipated consequence of being removed from the do-nothing list, the Westwood bike lanes will be painted immediately. City crews, carrying large buckets of green and white paint, were spotted there actively towing cars at 5:40 a.m. this morning.


L.A. Weekly Claims the Mantle of Defender of Dangerous Drivers

There was a decent amount of outrage aimed at Hillel Aron at L.A. Weekly for his web-exclusive op/ed boasting about his driving prowess and defending his habit of texting-while-driving. I’ve considered myself something of a Hillel fan since his “Bikeroots” piece in 2011, so I was both surprised and a little dismayed while reading a piece that seemed so wildly tone-deaf.

A sample:

And so when we get a call, we’re forced to go digging through our glove compartments like desperate raccoons, looking for our filthy ear buds, an act infinitely more dangerous than simply holding something up to our ear.

Well I say: nuts to that.

I started a draft criticizing the piece, then scrapped it. I thought I should email him first. We had talked several times before. I’ve been quoted in some of his articles. So, I started an email last night I was going to send to him this morning.

Then, I saw the piece in Media Bistro, a web site that does little more than critique other media, and I realized the problem is bigger than Aron (whom I never emailed). Media Bistro corresponded with Sarah Fenske, the Weekly’s Editor in Chief. Fenske’s defense of the editorial decision to run the piece was even more bizarre than just reading Aron’s piece. From Fenske’s email response published at Media Bistro:

“When Hillel pitched this idea at our news blog meeting, it’s fair to say several jaws dropped. (Personally, as a chronic speeder, I consider any driver meandering along, texting, while I’m trying to get somewhere fast to be a mortal enemy.) But it was very clear to all of us as we chewed it over that he was only admitting to something that a vast majority of LA drivers do with impunity.”

“I suspect that at least half the commenters shaking their fist in his direction will send a text, or check their phones, or Tweet something, on their way home tonight. Everyone’s outraged about it; at least on the roads I’m driving, everyone’s still doing it.”

“And behind all the provocative rhetoric, he does make one good point: Distracted driving has long been illegal. As it should be. Texters are not necessarily any worse than the drivers putting on makeup, or eating breakfast. Yet texting is what we get wound up about (as, yes, this story proves!)”

Yes, this article proves that people get upset when someone brags about how they engage in dangerous behavior which proves your point that…wait, what?

And what’s up with the defense of speeding? Speeding has a long deadly track record; it’s arguably more dangerous than distracted driving or texting. Anyone in Fenske’s way considered a “mortal enemy”? Yes, it’s an email using hyperbole for effect, and I had to double-check the definition to be sure Fenske wrote what I thought she wrote, but Fenske appears to be stating that slower-moving drivers (in the way of her speeding) are actually trying to kill her.

I will give Fenske credit for one thing. I had never thought of texting-while-driving and searching-through-your-glovebox-for-a-filthy-earpiece-while-driving as akin to traffic calming. Kudos for thinking outside the box.

A couple of years ago, I had a story idea to write about why LAist, L.A. Weekly and the Daily News (to name a few) publish the locations of DUI checkpoints. Each organization explained to me that they believed that publishing these locations actually made the roads safer, and a public relations person at the Sheriff’s backed them up. While this seems counter-intuitive to me, I never got around to writing the story.

But now that the Weekly is on the record in favor of texting while driving and driving at unsafe speeds, it’s getting harder and harder to believe that public safety on the roadway is something they take seriously at all.

Hillel Aaron’s piece states: “Let’s face it, we all text in the car some of the time.” Sarah Fenske further states “everyone’s still doing it.”

For the record, I can name a whole group of people who don’t text and drive or drive at unsafe speeds.

They’re known as “people who don’t drive.” Because you are driving around with a suit of armor known as a car, and they are not, you are responsible to pay close attention to them at all times. These people are your grandparents, your weird friend who bikes everywhere, and, most importantly to me, THEY ARE MY CHILDREN. So if I sound mad or outraged, it’s not somehow proving your point. It’s because you’re acting like an asshole.


The Teachable Moment Everyone Is Ignoring

By all accounts, Paul Walker was a great person.

This cropped image of Walker and Rodas comes from the worst coverage of the crash I could find. The conservative news website ## Media## actually had the gal to end their bizarre piece by sighing that at least Rodas and Walker died doing what they loved, "driving fast and furious."

This cropped image of Walker and Rodas comes from the worst coverage of the crash I could find. The conservative news website Pajama Media actually had the gal to end their bizarre piece by sighing that at least Rodas and Walker died doing what they loved, “driving fast and furious.”

He was a movie star who cared about people. He raised millions for charity. He loved his daughter. He did all the things that one hopes celebrities do in their lives, by using his money and fame to make the world a better place.

Except for the part where he made a terrible decision with his friend on Saturday that led to both of their untimely deaths.

On Saturday night, after leaving a toy drive organized by his charity for victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, Walker got into the passenger seat of his friend Roger Rodas’ 2005 Porsche Carrera GT. The next thing we know, the Porsche collided with a tree a couple of hundred feet from Rodas’ specialty car shop on Hercules Street in Santa Clarita and burst into flames. Both men died in the crash. Based on camera footage and tire patterns on the street, authorities estimate that the pair were going well over the posted 45 mile per hour speed limit…perhaps as high as 90 miles per hour.

The tragedy is being mourned across the world. Social media and news websites are filled with tributes. The memorial at the scene of the crash looks larger than some of L.A.’s parks. Walker is survived by a teenage daughter who is, of course, completely heartbroken. The Sheriff’s Department is looking into the crash.

This isn’t a surprise. By all accounts, Paul Walker was a great person.

But by ignoring that Walker and/or Rodas made a stupid and selfish decision on Saturday, the media and their fans are deliberately letting a teachable moment slip way. Both men were accomplished and skilled drivers. But by going at excessive speeds on a road not meant for high speed travel, they made a mistake that cost them their lives.

After living a life that was full of giving, Walker’s death can give us something else…a lesson that is too often lost in the drumbeat of a car culture media:

Cars are not toys. When they are treated as such in a public place people die. Read more…


Asm. Gatto: Don’t Turn Hyperion Bridge Into Highway

As reported on Tuesday, Assemblyman Mike Gatto is now the first elected official to publicly oppose the currently proposed redesign of the Hyperion Viaduct over the Los Angeles River. Critics of the redesign argue that the proposed widening the lanes and adding crash buffers will only encourage more unsafe driving both on the bridge and through the connecting communities.

Asm. Gatto

Gatto agrees. In a letter written to the Department of Environmental Planning, which is overseeing the environmental review of the $50 million project, Gatto writes:

I am concerned that the current project proposal would create something freeway-like, in an area where such a structure is not needed, wanted, or safe. A freeway-like bridge would also encourage unsafe automobile speeds and would fail to create a multi-modal transit route, which locals want and deserve.

Written comments are due by October 11, but a public hearing has been promised (but not scheduled.) For more on how to comment, and a draft letter, visit the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition’s action alert.

A full copy of Gatto’s letter can be found after the jump. Read more…


The Looming Disaster of the Hyperion-Glendale Bridges Re-Design

The Glendale Hyperion Bridge, circa 1928. Image via WikiMedia

Earlier this week, Streetsblog published an article about how the Hyperion-Glendale Complex of Bridges Rehabilitation Project was giving short shrift to bicyclists and pedestrians and everyone that lived in the area. At the time, based on information provided to us by the Bureau of Engineering, I assumed that the issue could be resolved by arguing for a complete streets approach to the right people.

L.A. Eastsider has a full rundown on all of the proposed changes in the redesign. After reading the article, and hearing from people that attended Wednesday’s meeting, I’m a lot more concerned about the bridge project than I was on Tuesday.

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition explains what makes the new design for one of L.A.’s most iconic structures so scary:

Caltrans and BOE are designing Hyperion Ave. to freeway standards with a design speed of 55 miles per hour. Based on that design speed, they are pursuing a median crash barrier, banked turns, and supersized car lanes. Those decisions leave no room for bike lanes and just a narrow sidewalk on only one side of the street.  Simply designing the street to normal city street standards would leave enough room for everyone.

Why in the world would anyone design a bridge that connects two smaller communities in Los Angeles to be a freeway in today’s world is beyond me. Fortunately, Streetsblog contributor Don “Roadblock” Ward was at this week’s community meeting on the bridge and he left the answer in the Streetsblog comments section: Read more…

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Southern California’s roadway terror is back in the news

Bieber with his custom Fisker Karma in May 2102. Photo: Show Auto Review

Evidently, the Terror of Calabasas is at it again.

The LA Times reports that pop singer Justin Beiber was ticketed in Calabasas early this morning for running a stop sign and driving his Ferrari without a valid license. The Beib was reportedly cooperative, and Sheriff’s deputies allowed a passenger to drive the car away with Beiber inside, even though the car could have been towed.

This is just the latest in a long line of automotive mischief involving Beiber.

And that doesn’t even include charges of instigating brawls, throwing up onstage and peeing in public. Or parking his car illegally in Beverly Hills. Read more…


L.A.’s Real Growth Is in Car-Free and Car-Lite Families

I’ve never made it a secret that I’m one of the few Streetsblog editors that owns a car. But in the new Los Angeles, the one that prioritizes transit projects over highway expansion, that my family of four only has one car that we barely use is becoming the new normal.

Yesterday, reported on a review of census data by Bike Portland which showed that most of the residential growth in Portland is by households that are either car-free or car-lite. Later in the day, USC graduate student Shane Philips did the same review for Los Angeles at his website, Better Institutions.

The result? Los Angeles’ residential growth is even more car-free and car-lite than Portland’s. Let’s take a quick look at Philips’ chart and graph:

Philips: *This is a conservative estimate. The numbers exclude households with adults who aren't working and don't own cars (presumably including the elderly and retired), as well as households with one working adult and one car, even though many of these households are likely to be couples with one working parent and one stay-at-home parent. Unfortunately, the survey data didn't differentiate between these households and those with only one adult. Because of this, the actual share of growth attributable to low-car households is almost certainly greater than 90%.


Wow! According to census data, L.A.’s growth is far outstripping its fabled car-dependency. Because the data is using census information that ends in 2011, before the city striped over one hundred miles of bike lanes, completed construction of the Expo Line, opened the Orange Line Extension, turned CicLAvia from a curiosity to a must-do event on the calendar, and painted bus-only lanes on Wilshire Boulevard. Read more…


New Report Outlines How CA Can Kick Its Addiction to Oil, Foreign and Domestic

If you want to reduce oil dependency, go after the big dark green area first.

The government is encouraging you to drive a car, and if California is truly serious about reducing its oil dependency that needs to change. This is the unequivocal conclusion of Unraveling Ties to Petroleum  a new report commissioned by Next 10 California and written by UCLA researchers  Juan Matute, Director of the UCLA Local Climate Initiative, and  Stephanie Pincetl, Adjunct Professor and Director of the California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA.

“State and local policies that promote autos over other modes make it hard to drive less, even when someone is determined to do so,” writes Matute.

In addition to compiling mountains of statistics about car use, energy use, and gasoline dependence, the authors looked at fifteen policies that change incentives for driving or land use, and evaluated their total effects on statewide petroleum use.  Most of the time, the incentives were not transparent.  Together, the policy choices made at the state and local level impact statewide petroleum use by as much as 50 percent.

It used to be that CA got almost none of its oil from other countries. That has changed.

The biggest change governments can make? Change the non-residential parking policy by changing or removing parking minimums, encouraging different land use through zoning and creating a more attractive urban form. The researchers estimate these changes could reduce gasoline demand in the transportation industry by nearly 25% under the best circumstances. Other potential areas for reform include encouraging insurance companies to offer per-mile rates (an estimated 8% drop), an affordable rideshare and taxi program (up to an 18.35% drop) and even allowing jitney and dollar van services to operate (a whopping .1% drop.)

Sadly, the buffet of options for reducing oil usage also points back to one of the reports’ other main points. The government is encouraging car usage, and has a variety of ways to soak the car-free and car-lite. These include: Read more…