Hopefully, I’ll have fewer jitters the next time I’m in front of a camera.
Posts from the "SF Streetsblog" Category
Finding a highway map for a road trip is easy, but comprehensive transit maps for car-free travel in California have always been a little harder to come by.
Not to worry: Alfred Twu and his team of cartographers have created a map of transit throughout the state. The new map features “both intracity and regional rail lines as well as connecting buses, proving once and for all that it’s possible to get to almost anywhere in the state on public transit,” says Twu.
The map ties together networks for Amtrak, BART, Muni, VTA, Caltrain, Altamont Commuter Express, Sacramento Regional Transit, San Diego North County Transit District (NCTD), San Diego Trolley, LA Metro, and Metrolink, as well as key bus and ferry connections.
Of course, travelers can use apps like Google Maps to plan a transit trip automatically, but this map provides a nifty overview of the possibilities for transit trips that are available.
For those looking to reach camping and hiking destinations in Northern California without a car, another great resource is Post-Car Adventuring, a handbook which includes specific guidance on how to reach Big Sur, Mt. Diablo, Lake Tahoe, Tassajara, Yosemite, and Napa using only transit, bikes, and your own two feet.
Last week, Berkeley became the second American city to implement an anti-harassment law to protect bicycle riders and allow victims to sue offenders in civil court.
The ordinance, which provides greater legal recourse for bicyclists who are harassed by drivers, will be followed by an educational campaign later this year, and proponents hope it will garner greater respect towards people cycling on the city’s streets.
“This ordinance is about educating motorists about how to be responsible users of the roadway,” said Dave Campbell, program director for the East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC). ”We have roadways that have not been designed for safe bicycle usage by planners and engineers. That in and of itself encourages bicyclists to disobey the rules of the road, because the rules were never written for them, and when motorists start treating cyclists as second-class citizens, that even further encourages [that behavior]. This is about changing that.”
Los Angeles was the first city in the country to adopt a bicyclist anti-harassment law last July, after which L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti proclaimed: “If L.A. can do it, every city in the country can do it.” Read more…
On Monday, the State Assembly Transportation Committee passed a watered down version of AB 819, the bill aimed at freeing California planners to install next-generation bikeway designs that other American cities are using to improve street safety and make cycling a more accessible mode of transportation.
Assembly members undermined the bill’s original intent by removing language allowing planners to use guidelines that have been established outside Caltrans, like the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide, which includes designs for protected bikeways. Instead, the amended bill would only require Caltrans to create an experimentation process through which engineers can establish bikeway standards. That process is likely to be a lengthy one.
Advocates say the amended bill could be an improvement over the status quo, but it’s a far cry from giving local transportation agencies the freedom to implement bikeway designs that cities such as Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C. have rolled out with impressive results.
“The committee’s amendment is a step toward our goal of permitting the kind of bike infrastructure that we need,” said California Bicycle Coalition Communications Director Jim Brown. “How big a step this will be depends on the kind of experimentation process Caltrans comes up with. But it’s not the blanket authorization we’re seeking for local agencies to design the safest possible bikeways.”
Local transportation officials can still implement protected bikeways, but the process is much more complex than it needs to be. Without a set of approved standards to work from, agencies are subject to greater liability, and each project must contend with the red tape of Caltrans approval — a time-consuming and expensive process.
Brown said the AB 819 amendment was passed without deliberation but still requires approval by other committees as well as the State Senate. It was introduced by the California Association of Bicycling Organizations, a group which distrusts the NACTO guide and has traditionally resisted protected bikeways despite their proven benefits in safety and increased ridership in California cities, other American cities, and abroad.
“Whether through legislation or other means,” said Brown, “we’re continuing to work with Caltrans to figure out how innovative bikeway designs already used in other parts of the U.S. and Europe can be implemented in California.”
Physically protected bikeways have been implemented with great success in cities like New York, Chicago, and Washington, DC. But in California, where such facilities are still considered “experimental” by Caltrans, outdated state standards make it difficult for transportation planners to implement them.
That could change under a state bill called AB 819, which would give California cities more flexibility to implement bikeway designs that are fast becoming the best practices in leading American cities.
“The goal of AB 819 is to free up communities to implement the kind of innovative facilities we’re seeing in use in other parts of the country and in Europe,” said Jim Brown, communications director for the California Bicycle Coalition.
Under current state law, facilities such as protected bike lanes, bike boxes, and bicycle traffic signals — which are not established within Caltrans guidelines — must go through an expensive and time-consuming approval process. Although some have been built in cities like San Francisco and Long Beach, they haven’t come easily.
“Cities can get permission to experiment through Caltrans, but it’s a really long decision process,” said Brown. Using “experimental” designs also leaves planners subject to greater legal liability. “It means that cities are less willing to install facilities that might actually increase bicycle ridership.”
AB 819 would allow planners to use guidelines that have already been developed outside the state, like the Urban Bikeway Design Guide, released last spring by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and approved by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, to help them plan and fund those projects.
But the bill’s reach could be limited by an amendment proposed by the California Association of Bicycle Organizations (CABO), a smaller coalition which argues that using outside guidelines for bikeways could be problematic. Their alternative proposal, which will be considered at a State Assembly Transportation Committee hearing on Monday, would only allow new types of bike facilities to be established under an experimentation process within Caltrans.
You can add this to our list of the world’s best music videos featuring bicycles. Rapper Breezee One’s “Bike Chase” is a homage to bicycles and “bike boyfriends.” It’s the first single release for Detroit’s “Diva-Licious-MC,” and perhaps the best bike video of the year?
H/T Clarence Eckerson.
Redding, California, with a population of 90,000, is probably best known for its sunshine, breathtaking landscapes and conservative politics. Located 200 miles north of Sacramento in Shasta County, the lush region surrounded by the Trinity and Cascade mountains offers an abundance of recreation, including a growing number of paved multi-use trails that draw large crowds of bicyclists and pedestrians.
The seven-year-old Sundial Bridge, a 700-foot long steel marvel on the Sacramento River designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, has become Redding’s living room.
“It is where everyone hangs out in town, especially when the weather is nice. In a normal community, whatever normal is, you would see that sort of energy in a downtown square, or park, or even a downtown third place, but it happens to be out at the Sundial Bridge,” said Paul Shigley, the senior editor of the California Planning and Development Report (CP&DR), who lives six miles west of Redding near Whiskeytown Lake.
Downtown Redding does not draw a similar convergence of people enjoying public space because like many California cities it was designed for the automobile, and is not a particularly welcoming place for pedestrians and bicyclists. The city ranks 40th among 103 cities in California “for the number of pedestrian collisions by population,” according to a recent report [pdf]. Just last week, a 16-year-old boy was struck and killed by a driver while walking across a bridge that lacked a sidewalk.
“The town is set up to conduct motorists fast and to allow them to drive up to 50, 60 miles an hour right through the middle of town,” said Scott Mobley, a reporter for the Record Searchlight, the city’s daily newspaper.
Editor’s note: This concludes our 5-part series of excerpts from Peter Calthorpe’s book, “Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change.” Thanks to Island Press, a few lucky Streetsblog readers will be selected to receive a free copy of the book. To enter the contest, fill out this form. We’ll choose the winners tomorrow.
The most important community-scale system dependent on urbanism is transit. It has long been known that density and transit ridership are linked, but it goes much deeper than that. The key to viable transit systems is not just density but walkability and mixed use—true urban places. If people cannot walk the quarter mile to or from a station, chances are they will not use the transit. Conversely, if they can easily run errands and coordinate trips on the way to or from a station, they are more likely to use transit. European data show that the percentage of walk or bike trips always exceeds that of transit trips—often by more than two to one.27 In fact, walking by itself constitutes 30 percent of all trips in Great Britain (versus 9 percent transit), and in Sweden walk/bike trips are 34 percent of the total (versus 11 percent transit). 28 Transit supports and extends the pedestrian environment; transit is pedestrian dependent, not the other way around. The primary alternative to the car and all of its environmental costs is the pedestrian environment and the walkable urbanism that supports transit.
A good transit system has many layers, from local buses to bus rapid transit and streetcars, from light rail to subways and commuter trains. They all feed into and reinforce one another, and they all depend on walkable urbanism at the origin and destination. The quality of the interface from walking to transit, and from one form of transit to the other, is central to displacing car trips and is the greenest technology that urbanism provides.
The relationship among transit, urbanism, travel behavior, and carbon emissions is complex but can be summarized with one key quantifiable metric, vehicle miles traveled (VMT)—effectively, the amount we drive. VMT is determined by the number and distance of trips we take, and our “mode split”—the percentage of trips taken by various transportation modes such as walk, bike, car, carpool, or transit. Each household, depending on its location, income, and size, has an average VMT per year, which when combined with various auto technologies will generate its travel carbon footprint.
Editor’s note: This week, we continue our 5-part series of excerpts from Peter Calthorpe’s book, “Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change.” This is installment number four. Thanks to Island Press, a few lucky Streetsblog readers will be selected to receive a free copy of the book. To enter the contest, fill out this form.
I was part of the passive solar architectural movement in the 1970s. Its core idea was to provide energy for buildings in the most direct, elegant way. We had disdain for complicated “active solar” systems, with their complex engineering, maintenance, and costs. The passive way was first to reduce the demands by building tight, well insulated structures, flooded with natural light, and then to let the sun’s radiation or the cool night air work with the buildings’ form to provide thermal comfort. The same approach needs to be taken in relation to the climate change challenge: we need to find the simple, elegant solutions that are based on conservation before we introduce complex technology, even if it is green.
We need to focus, ironically, on ends, not means. For example, in passive solar buildings, focusing on the end goal (thermal comfort) rather than the means (heating air) changed the design approach dramatically. It turns out that human comfort has more to do with surrounding surface temperatures than with air temperature in a building, so massive walls that absorb and store the sun’s gentle heat also provide a more comfortable environment without all the hot air. Or, if lighting is the goal, electricity and bulbs are just one potential means; a building that welcomes daylight is the simple, elegant solution—even better than a complex system of wind farms generating green electrons for efficient fixtures. Likewise, the goal of transportation is access, not movement or mobility per se; movement is a means, not the end. So, bringing destinations closer together is a simpler, more elegant solution than assembling a new fleet of electric cars and the acres of solar collectors needed to power them. Call it “passive urbanism.”
Once demands are reduced by passive urbanism, the next step is to add technology. Green urbanism is what you get when you combine the best of traditional urbanism with renewable energy sources, advanced conservation techniques, new green technologies, and integrated services and utilities. All the inherent benefits of urbanism can be amplified by a new generation of ecological design, smart grids, climate-responsive buildings, low-carbon or electric cars, and next generation transit systems.
Editor’s note: This week, we continue our 5-part series of excerpts from Peter Calthorpe’s book, “Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change.” This is installment number three. Thanks to Island Press, a few lucky Streetsblog readers will be selected to receive a free copy of the book. To enter the contest, fill out this form.
For many people, urban is a bad word that implies crime, congestion, poverty, and crowding. For them, it represents an environment that moves people away from a healthy connection with nature and the land. Its stereotype is the American ghetto, a crime-ridden concrete jungle that simultaneously destroys land, community, and human potential. The reaction to this stereotype has been a middle-class retreat into the closeted world of single-family lots and gated subdivisions in the suburbs. As a result, much of the last half century’s planning has been directed toward depopulating cities, whether through the satellite towns of Europe or the suburbs of America.
But, for many others, the word urban represents economic opportunity, culture, vitality, innovation, and community. This positive reading is now manifest in the revitalized centers of many of our historic cities. In these core areas, the public domain—with its parks, walkable streets, commercial centers, arts, and institutions—is once again becoming rich and vibrant, valued and desirable. There is new life in many city centers and their public places, from cafés and plazas to urban parks and museums—ultimately drawing people back to the city.
In fact, since 2000, many of our major cities have increased their share of new home construction while their region’s suburbs have declined. For example, in 2008, Portland issued 38 percent of all the building permits within its region, compared to an average of 9 percent in the early 1990s; Denver accounted for 32 percent, up from 5 percent; and Sacramento accounted for 27 percent, up from 9 percent. There is an even stronger trend toward urban redevelopment in the largest metropolitan regions. New York City accounted for 63 percent of the building permits issued within its region. By comparison, the city averaged about 15 percent of regional building permits during the early 1990s. Similarly, Chicago now accounts for 45 percent of the building permits within its region, up from just 7 percent in the early 1990s.13 This represents a dramatic turnaround as cities regain their roles as centers of innovation, social mobility, artistic creativity, and economic opportunity.