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Congratulations, Melanie! Protected Bike Lanes Story a Finalist for Major Award.

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We just got word from California State University’s Center for California Studies that Melanie Curry is one of three finalists in the “blog category” in their 20th Annual Journalism Awards.

Curry is earning recognition for “Protected Bike Lanes Grow in CA as Cities Face Down Old Concerns.” Published in July during the midst of hearings on now-passed legislation that makes it easier for municipalities to create protected bike lanes, it explained the history of this street treatment in California. The legislation passed both houses of the legislature, and will hopefully be signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in the near future.

We’ll find out where Melanie places on October 2, but feel free to congratulate her in the comments section right now. In addition to everyone else in the state, this piece beat out works by writers at three Streetsblogs, Santa Monica Next, and LongBeachIze.

Of course, award-winning journalism isn’t free. You can also congratulate Melanie by making a donation to Streetsblog at http://la.streetsblog.org/donate.

Streetsblog NYC 16 Comments

EPA Rejects New York’s Clean Water Money Grab for Highway Bridge

This morning, the Environmental Protection Agency rejected the $510.9 million federal loan New York state had requested from a clean water program to pay for the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project. Only $29 million worth of TZB work is eligible for clean water money, the EPA’s regional office ruled, averting a dangerous precedent that could have let governors across the country raid environmental funds to pay for highways.

Building a new highway bridge with clean water funds? Forget about it, says the EPA. Photo: D. Robert Wolcheck/Flickr

Using clean water funds to replace this highway bridge? Forget about it, says the EPA. Photo: D. Robert Wolcheck/Flickr

“New York’s request presents a unique circumstance that is unprecedented… no other state has made a request of this type or magnitude,” wrote Joan Leary Matthews, regional director of EPA’s clean water division [PDF]. “There is no evidence… that the [Clean Water State Revolving Fund] was intended to fund mitigation for major construction projects within an estuary. Construction activities arising from transportation projects do not advance water quality, and CWSRF funding should not be used for these purposes.”

The Thruway Authority had planned on using the $510.9 million loan on twelve projects. Today, EPA rejected seven of those projects, totaling $481.8 million, because they are directly tied to building the new bridge. The projects deemed ineligible are: removal of the existing bridge, dredging for construction vessels, armoring the river bottom, installation of an underwater noise attenuation system, construction of a bike-pedestrian path on the new bridge, restoration of oyster beds, and the installation of a falcon nest box.

The state will be able to receive funding for five projects, totaling $29.1 million: the restoration of Gay’s Point and Piermont Marsh, the installation of stormwater management measures, and the creation of a conservation benefit plan, including an Atlantic sturgeon outreach program.

Environmental advocates and good government groups staunchly opposed the loan, saying that allowing clean water funds to be used for highway construction would set a dangerous precedent. “It’s great that the agency in charge of calling balls and strikes has called the state out,” said Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York. “But we shouldn’t have gotten here in the first place.”

Read more…

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Job Opening: Paid Internship for South L.A. Student-Journalist

Veronica Hernandez, our summer 2012 intern, Antonio Villaraigosa, Damien Newton. Photo: Barb Solish

Streetsblog L.A. Looking for Student Leader from South L.A.

As part of our grant from the California Endowment, Streetsblog Los Angeles is looking for a student-journalist, age 17-21, who was born or lives in South Los Angeles for a four-month paid internship that would begin in early- to mid-October.

The winning candidate will work with Joe Linton, Damien Newton, and Sahra Sulaiman and, by the end of the session, will have published stories profiling civic leaders, covering community events, and attending City Council meetings, as well as a special research project of their choosing.

Applicants must have reliable and regular Internet access (we are an online publication, after all), two writing samples, and a reference from a English or writing teacher or advisor to a student publication. Some college coursework or published writing experience is preferred.

This is a paid position. The winning candidate should expect to work 5-15 hours per week and the stipend will depend on the hours the student can put towards the project. Applications are due by the end of September. Send your application, writing samples and cover letter to damien@streetsblog.org

In addition, he's got great taste in clothes. That's Joe on the right. Photo: Siel

Our first intern, Carter Rubin (left), now works for Mayor Garcetti and is a Santa Monica Housing Commissioner. Here, he mans the sign-in table for our “re-launch” party in August, 2010, with Joe Linton. Photo: Siel

Streetsblog NYC 15 Comments

New Report Out of NYC: Protected Bike Lanes Improve Safety for Everyone

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Injuries are down across the board on protected bike lane segments with at least three years of post-implementation crash data. The total number of injuries for cyclists dropped slightly even as the volume of cyclists on these streets increased, leading to big drops in what DOT calls “cyclist risk.” Chart: NYC DOT

In sync with Bicycling Magazine naming New York America’s best biking city, the NYC Department of Transportation released a report this week full of stats on the safety impact of protected bike lanes. It’s the most robust data the city has released about this type of street design, and the results prove that protected bike lanes make streets safer not just for cyclists, but pedestrians and drivers as well.

Segments of protected bike lanes in green had six years of before-and-after data for the study. Image: DOT

Segments of protected bike lanes in green had at least three years of post-implementation data and were part of this analysis. Image: DOT

For this analysis [PDF], DOT looked at protected bike lanes in Manhattan with at least three years of post-implementation crash data: segments of Broadway and First, Second, Eighth, Ninth, and Columbus Avenues. These streets saw big growth in cycling and major improvements in cyclist safety. The safety benefits extended to all road users, with total traffic injuries dropping 20 percent and pedestrian injuries down 22 percent.

The biggest improvement on these streets is in the diminished likelihood that a cyclist will suffer an injury — a metric DOT calls “cyclist risk.” Because injuries tended to fall or hold steady while cycling increased, most of the streets saw cyclist risk drop by more than a third. On Broadway from 59th Street to 47th Street, for example, bike volumes jumped 108 percent while crashes with injuries fell 18 percent.

The best results were on Ninth Avenue between 23rd and 16th Streets, where cyclists were 65 percent less likely to be hurt after the protected bike lane was installed. Only one of eight segments, Broadway between 23rd and 18th Streets, saw an increase in cyclist risk.

Read more…

Streetsblog Chicago 50 Comments

Oil-Laden Freight Trains Delaying Amtrak, Commuter Trains Across U.S.

Oil train running on BNSF tracks through Pilsen in Chicago

Tank cars roll through Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood on BNSF tracks.

Oil production is booming across North America, as new technologies make it possible to extract liquid crude oil from sources like the Bakken shale oil field in North Dakota and Montana, or Alberta’s tar sands. The ever-increasing volume of crude oil mined in remote Great Plains locations often finds its way to refineries via ”rolling pipelines” – freight trains that tow a million barrels of oil around the United States every day. Production of Bakken crude has tripled over the past three years, and 79 percent of it is shipped out by rail.

The number of rail cars carrying crude oil across the United States has been steadily increasing.

The number of rail cars carrying crude oil across the United States has been steadily increasing. Data from EIA, AAR, news reports.

The resulting sharp increase in rail traffic doesn’t just threaten communities along the line that are unprepared for their explosive cargo — a threat that the US Department of Transportation recently issued new rules to address. Growing freight volumes are also delaying millions of passengers aboard Amtrak or commuter trains, most of which share tracks with ever more freight trains. Nationwide, the number of delayed Amtrak trains has increased by almost 75 percent. As Tanya Snyder reported yesterday, that results from a court ruling that left Amtrak powerless against freight train interference. Around Chicago, hub of the continent’s railroad network, delays have multiplied on the region’s busiest commuter rail line – a Metra line operated by BNSF, which is also North Dakota’s biggest freight hauler.

The American Association of Railroads reported an 8.5 percent increase year-to-date in the number of American freight trains carrying oil across the country, and a 9.1 percent increase reported from Canadian trains. Since 2011, the number of cars of crude oil shipped nationwide has doubled.

Oil is having a particularly heavy impact on rail operations along certain companies’ lines, and none more so than BNSF. Its transcontinental trunk line spans North Dakota, and its branches serve 21 of North Dakota’s 25 oil-producing counties. As a result, BNSF hauled more than 500,000 barrels of crude oil in 2013, “up from practically none” just four years ago, NPR reported.

The boom has strained what used to be isolated stretches of railroad. Amtrak’s daily Empire Builder train spans the country’s northern tier, from Chicago to Seattle and Portland via North Dakota and Montana, using BNSF’s Great Northern route almost all of the way. “The Builder” now has the dubious double distinction of being both the most popular of Amtrak’s transcontinental routes and its most delayed route nationwide, arriving on time about once a week. Delays have become so routine that Amtrak recently padded its schedule by three hours. BNSF’s quarterly report [PDF] shows growing volumes across all business lines, but notes that increased industrial shipments in the second quarter of 2014 are “primarily due to increased shipments of petroleum products [and] frac sand.”

Derrick James, Amtrak director of government affairs for the Midwest, told Streetsblog that national on-time performance has seen “a dramatic decline,” dropping “from 80 percent in February 2013 to 55 percent through April 2014.” James said that as reliability has dropped, ridership on both long-distance and short-distance lines has also dropped by 4.9 percent.

Amtrak “conductors produce delay reports,” James points out, “and these delay reports pinpoint a dramatic increase in rail traffic — especially trains connected with hydraulic fracturing, sand trains and oil trains.” On the Empire Builder in particular, Amtrak conductors cite “train interference” as the principal cause of delays.

Read more…

Streetsblog NYC 71 Comments

Don’t Hate the Parking App Profiteers, Hate the Free Parking Game

Haystack, the latest app allowing drivers to sell access to a parking space, blazed across the Internet this month after Boston Mayor Martin Walsh threatened to ban it. Valleywag called it a “scourge.” The Awl compared it to profiteering off access to clean water. The haters have it wrong though: The apps aren’t screwing over the public — local governments are.

Following on the heels of MonkeyParkingHaystack is a recent Baltimore-based entry that borrows heavily from car service Uber for its look and feel. If you’re new to the grey market of sell-your-parking-spot apps, take a look at the promotional video. The premise is simple: A driver about to leave a parking spot can use the software to sell the space to another app-using driver cruising for parking. Haystack also has a “make me move” feature where users offer to move their vehicles for the right price, even if they hadn’t planned on going anywhere.

The video itself is a bit much. Over cheery music, a smiling young woman about to drive around Baltimore says things like, “Together, we did our part to make our neighborhood a little greener.”

Go ahead and vomit at the smugness of the marketing campaign. But putting a price on curbside parking isn’t a bad thing. It’s just that these apps are a poor substitute for real public policy that manages the curbside parking supply for the public good.

Read more…

Streetsblog Chicago 40 Comments

Study: To Keep Bicyclists Outside the Door Zone, You Need a Buffer

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A buffered bike lane does a better job of encouraging bicyclists to ride outside the door zone than a wide bike lane. Photo: John Greenfield

A new study has found that bike lanes with a buffer next to the parking lane are better than conventional bike lanes at encouraging bicyclists to ride outside the door zone.

The study, recently published by the Transportation Research Board, concludes that wider but un-buffered bike lanes aren’t necessarily better than narrower lanes in encouraging bicyclists to ride outside the door zone. If there’s enough space to make a wider bike lane, the authors conclude, that extra space should be used to install a “narrower bicycle lane with a parking-side buffer,” which “provides distinct advantages over a wider bike lane with no buffer.”

Researchers reached their conclusions after observing thousands of cyclists using various bike lane configurations in Chicago and Cambridge, Massachusetts. On one Chicago street, for example, few bicyclists rode outside the door zone when the bike lane had no buffer, then after a two-foot buffer was striped, 40 percent rode outside the door zone.

Bicyclists are more likely to ride outside the door zone in a buffered bike lane than any other bike lane width studied.

Bicyclists are much more likely to ride outside the door zone in a buffered bike lane than in any other bike lane width studied.

That’s because the door zone is four feet wide, and riding in the center of a six-foot-wide bike lane still doesn’t give a cyclist enough clearance.

The on-street tests demonstrated that a six-foot-wide bike lane offers no advantage over one that’s five feet wide, or even four feet wide. Regardless of the width, bicyclists still ride in the center of the lane — within the radius of a typical car door swinging open. Dooring crashes are common in urban areas like Chicago: In 2012, the last year for which data is available, 18 percent of reported bike crashes were doorings.

The researchers were studying different types of bike lanes, and how people use them, in order to refine recommendations in the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ ”Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities.” The guide recommends five-foot-wide bike lanes and says four-foot-wide bike lanes can be used in other situations — but it was based on trial and error, not scientific research.

While protected bike lanes weren’t studied in this research, the authors’ observations show how proximity to moving traffic contributes to doorings. For instance, the study concluded that, “as traffic volume increases, bicyclists move away from vehicles in the travel lane and position themselves closer to parked vehicles or the curb.” Researchers observed the same response as truck traffic increased. This leads bicyclists to ride in the door zone — but with protected lanes, cyclists don’t have to ride next to motor vehicle traffic, and this isn’t a problem.

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A Warm Welcome To SBLA Summer 2014 Intern Aviv Kleinman

Streetsblog Los Angeles' 2014 intern Aviv Kleinman

Streetsblog Los Angeles’ 2014 intern Aviv Kleinman

There is a new face at Streetsblog Los Angeles this summer. Our latest intern Aviv Kleinman grew up in Los Angeles and currently attends SUNY Binghamton.

Here’s Aviv’s introduction in his own words:

Since I was very young, I’ve had a strong affinity for transportation.

With my wooden train set and any other toys and props I could find, I would spend nearly every Saturday morning on our living room floor constructing my own intermodal transportation systems, teeming with both freight and passenger rail systems, cargo-bearing trucks, passenger buses, cars, boats, and mobile construction machinery. I would sit for hours fascinated and transfixed by these many systems.

Many years later, that fascination has only grown.

I’m currently a Senior at Binghamton University, studying Urban Planning and Environmental Studies. It is my goal to become a Transportation Planner who can make improvements in transportation infrastructure to both reduce our damaging footprints on this Earth and to get us to where we need to go, faster, more comfortably, and more efficiently.

Transportation speaks to me. Wherever I travel in the world, whichever city I learn about, I always try to understand how people move around, and how people get to where they need to be. I find that the methods people around the world use to travel to and fro say a lot about their culture, and truly shape how they act in the world.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA No Comments

Time Is Running Out to Become a Streetsblog Superhero — Give Today

This is it! The final days and the final giveaway of our spring pledge drive. So far, 221 superheroes have donated to Streetsblog and Streetfilms. To reach our goal, we need 179 more readers to step up and give by Sunday at midnight.

If you’ve been been holding out until the end of the pledge drive to make your mark (or just casually procrastinating), now’s the time to fill out our secure donation form and contribute to media that makes streets safer and more sustainable.

More to the point, if you value the impact of Streetsblog in your city, if you want to see more coverage making the case for 21st century transportation policies that work for people, not cars, if you value the way Streetfilms help great ideas for city streets go viral — your gift makes it all happen.

In keeping with the superhero theme of this pledge drive, our final giveaway will reward one lucky donor with an impervious cape and another with an eye-grabbing yet utilitarian belt. Give before midnight on June 1 and you’ll be entered to win a Cleverhood rain cape in Ocean State Blue, imparting the power of dry all-weather biking, or a reflective CINCH belt from Vespertine, which makes you extra-visible and is available in your choice of three colors:

Cleverhood_Vespertine

Big thanks everyone who’s contributed so far. One more big push and we’ll reach our goal.

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Pledge Drive Special Today! Support Streetsblog Los Angeles!

I want to make a personal appeal to Angelenos to support Streetsblog Los Angeles.

It’s pledge drive time. If you haven’t stepped up already, please make a donation today. Contribute today and you’ll be entered in our special sweepstakes – see details below.

I’ve been doing bicycle advocacy in Los Angeles for more than 15 years. In the mid-1990s it seemed like I personally knew most cyclists I encountered on L.A. streets, because there weren’t too many of us. Today, there are many more cyclists: young and old, native and immigrant, fast and slow. Greater Los Angeles is seeing an unprecedented increase in bike facilities.

Bicycling, walking and transit are taken more seriously. These modes are up locally and statewide. There are frequent national stories about how, overall, driving mileage is declining.

But there’s still a long way to go.

The overwhelming majority of transportation dollars still go to automobile facilities. Many governmental agency planners and engineers, broadcast media, many elected officials, and others, still see L.A. as a place where cars are the only way to get around. Halfway-ambitious street projects and plans still get bogged down. Crashes, many of them hit and run, are still killing and maiming dire numbers of Angelenos.

Streetsblog Los Angeles is the go-to source for news on these issues.

It’s not just L.A. – there’s an entire network. When you give to Streetsblog you’re helping to set the agenda for streets and transportation policy at the national level and in cities across the country. Federal officials pay close attention to Streetsblog’s reporting. Capitol Hill staffers use our analysis to brief members of Congress. Metro boardmembers, city councilmembers, and advocates bring back to their cities best practices they first read about on Streetsblog. Small-scale struggles for better cities catch fire when they get national attention on this site.

I am happy that past reader support of Streetsblog Los Angeles enables me to work here and track and report on issues that you and I care about. Your support has helped us to expand coverage, into Long Beach, Santa Monica, and now statewide. If you appreciate the work that I and my colleagues do, please donate today. Keep Streetsblog strong, healthy, and independent.

Donate by midnight tonight and you could win $200 worth of Velocio bike apparel!

Like many media outlets, Streetsblog is grappling with how to survive and thrive financially. We believe our readers value the impact of our reporting and will contribute to keep it going. If you agree, don’t assume other people will take care of it. Please make a secure, tax-deductible donation today

This week, bike apparel maker Velocio has generously put up a $200 gift certificate for their goods, to be awarded to one lucky donor who gives before midnight tonight –  Tuesday May 27th.

Thank you Velocio, and thank you to everyone who’s pitched in to the pledge drive. Keep it going this week and help us finish strong.