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Posts from the "Word on the Street" Category

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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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Eyes Above the Street: Media Take Over 1st Street

Reader Erik Griswold noticed something outside of what was originally intended. While the media’s full-court press coverage of the tragic shooting of police officers and the ongoing manhunt have certainly captivated the media, the press frenzy in front of LAPD headquarters also tells a different story.

Sometimes a buffered bike lane isn’t enough. If ever an L.A. street needed a truly separated bike lane, with parking between the bike lane and the street, it’s 1st Street between Main Street and Spring Street in Downtown Los Angeles. Instead of bumping the buffer, LAPD and LADOT should separate the car traffic from the bike traffic through a physical separation. In incidents such as this one, it would also provide a little extra security for LAPD headquarters.

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Streetsblog Is Going Dark for a Couple Days

Friends,

As I type this my wife has entered her twenty-first hour of something called "pre-labor." Assuming this is the real deal; it's time for me to sign-off for a little bit and be with her so that we can welcome the newest Livable Streets Activist into the world in style.  Given the quality of my writing today, it's probably for the best.  Earlier today I got the "Silver Streak" mixed up with the "Silver Line."  Somewhere, a So.CA.TA.  member is laughing at me.

My plan for today had been to do a major write-up of everything that happened on Park(ing) Day, and write a voter guide for tomorrow's Second District Election. 

I know the people "in charge" of Park(ing) Day are collecting links to the news stories that have come in from blogs and traditional outlets, so visit the Park(ing) Day L.A. website and I'm sure they'll have news.   Nationally, Streetfilms has films up for with both San Francisco's and New York's Park(ing) Day highlights.  That's nice and all, but did any of those Streetsbloggers bike fifty miles to get their story?  (I figure I can get away with trash talking my bosses in my "paternity leave" post.  Better enjoy it while I can.)

As for the Second District Special Election, you can find links to seven of the ten candidate's responses to our questionnaire by clicking here or by searching stories tagged "CD2 Special Election"

While updates might not be coming as frequently as usual over the next couple of weeks; we are planning to have some guest writers on board and I'll be checking in from time to time before I return full-time.  Give us a couple of days to get organized (the baby is coming a couple of weeks early) and L.A. Streetsblog will be back and publishing before you know it.  On the off-chance that this isn't the last leg of the pregnancy, I'll be back tomorrow.

On a quick personal note, thanks to everyone that has wished my family well in the last couple of weeks and months.  Anyone that thinks of Los Angeles as the stereotypes portrayed on television and the movies has never met the dedicated, wonderful, loving people that I've been blessed to know in the last two years.

Sincerely,

Damien

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Metro Board to Adopt LRTP Later Today? (Updated)

Rumors have been swirling that the Metro Board is actually going to do a final vote on the 2009 Long Range Transportation plan, less than 24 hours after it was first released to the public, to head off opposition that was planning to make a stand at the June 25 Metro Board meeting.  I repeat, these are only rumors at this point, but it bears watching. It does say on the agenda that the Board could adopt the LRTP this afternoon, but for a Board already under fire for the contempt it showed the public two weeks ago, it's more than disheartening see them rushing the process again,

For those of you that don't religiously scour the Streetsblog comment section, a copy of the changes to the LRTP are available here.

Just a reminder I'll be live tweeting today's events.  You can follow my tweets at twitter.com/lastreetsblog.  The meeting is scheduledto start at 1 P.M.

(Update, 1:22 P.M.: On behalf of the Mayor, who isn't here yet, Richard Katz just announced that the vote on the LRTP will be put off until the July Board Meeting.  Apparently there's no vote necesary for that sort of thing, but it's still good news.)

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City Attorney, 5th District City Council Yet to Be Resolved

While almost all of the races in yesterday's city-wide elections were foregone conclusions before the ballots were counted, there are still a couple of important races yet to be decided.  Ironically, the races that are yet to be decided are the races between Fifth District City Councilman Jack Weiss and Carmen Trutanich for City Attorney and the race to replace Weiss in the Fifth District which has been narrowed down to Former state Assemblyman and West Hollywood City Councilman Paul Koretz and Century City area homeowner activist David Vahedi.

These races will be decided on May 19, roughly two months and two weeks from today.  In that time, Streetsblog will put together surveys for each of the four remaining candidates for the two offices and report back their answers in un-edited responses as we receive them.  However, this being a blog, a medium for two way communication, I'm asking for your help.  What questions do you want to see the candidates answer concerning transportation, development and Livable Streets before the May 19th runoff?

It might not seem obvious at first what value a survey of City Attorney candidates by transportation reform advocates could have.  However, "enforcement" is the third of the three "e's" of transportation planning joining "engineering" and "education;" so people may want to get the future city attorney on record right now concerning their visions for lawful and safe streets in Los Angeles.

In the case of Vahedi and Koretz, we already know a good deal about their transportation plans.  The Los Angeles Times ran a series on all the Fifth District Cadidates' views on both the Expo Line and development in more general terms.  Of course, the blog "BikingInLA" invited all candidates to write a statement on cycling issues in Los Angeles.  Vahedi responded.  Koretz has not.  In addition to what's already out there, what do you want to know from the candidates?

I'll post the surveys before I send them out on March 18.  Streetsblog will do the same for the candidates to replace Wendy Greuel in the Second District once the details of the election and the candidates are known.

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Latino Urban Forum Leader Calls for Taco Truck Permits

Last month, the LA County Board of Supervisors issued an edict that all taco trucks would now have to move every hour taking a firm stand against the free market and for increased vehicle miles traveled.  Hilariously, the first taco truck that was ticketed was actually owned by the same people that owned the adjacent restaurant and used the truck as a takeout window. 

Recently James Rojas, whose model of downtown appeared earlier this week in Streetsblog, wrote a piece for the Planning Report proposes a solution to the taco truck problem which would allow local government to collect some money and legitimate taco trucks to stay in business. Rojas' piece is reprinted in its entirety here with the permission of the author.

Latino Urban Forum's James Rojas Supports Permitting L.A.'s Street Vendors

A recent move by the L.A. County Supervisors has sparked a debate about the benefits that mobile food vendors bring the community.

The county of Los Angeles recently passed a law prohibiting street vendors (i.e., taco trucks) from lingering too long in one location, engendering controversy between the public and the brick and mortar businesses who claim to be threatened by these street vendors. In the following TPR exclusive, James Rojas, of the Latino Urban Forum, makes the case that the county's new restrictions on street vendors may be overlooking the solutions to problems of walkability and pedestrian-friendly streets that these "mobile" businesses offer the region.

Many major cities in the United States have developed street vending policies, often managing a variety of urban needs in the process. For example, the city of Portland believes that vendors provide valuable street amenities for pedestrians, but requires street vendors to meet design standards in order to maintain the city's pedestrian-friendly aesthetic. New York City allows street vendors to sell fresh fruits and vegetables in city neighborhoods that have high obesity rates among its residents, providing a creative, portable solution to a problem often caused by a failure of planning and neighborhood development.

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Bike Advisory Committee’s Recommendations on Bike Master Plan

Earlier this week I posted an article on the reforms coming to the city's official Bike Advisory Committee which implied that the BAC was out of touch and didn't do very much.  Not surprisingly, some members of the committee took exception to that characterization.

At the most recent BAC meeting, the committee passed a set of recommendations to the city's Bike Master Plan which is in the process of being updated.  Via friend of the blog Kent Strumpell:

CITY OF LOS ANGELES BICYCLE ADVISORY COMMITTEE

DRAFT POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE BICYCLE PLAN UPDATE

1.  IDENTIFY WHY MANY POLICIES AND RECOMMENDATIONS IN PREVIOUS BICYCLE MASTER PLAN HAVE NOT BEEN IMPLEMENTED.

Develop strategies and performance indicators to make implementation more effective.

2. ROUTINE ACCOMMODATION/COMPLETE STREETS POLICY

The bicycle master plan should include policy language, with authority over all necessary departments, that will result in the inclusion of bicycle accommodations in all roadway projects to the greatest extent possible.  This will require integrating bikeway planning at the earliest concept, funding and design stages of projects.  This policy should be fully integrated into the day-to-day procedures of project planning, design review and standards, in much the same way that sidewalks are included in road projects, in order to prevent situations where bicycle facilities are omitted as an unfortunate oversight.  Inclusion of bicycle accommodations should be institutionalized and codified into project implementation procedures, plan check steps, etc. and not left to the discretion of individual employees who may or may not have the required expertise.

3. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF REPAVING AND RESTRIPING OPPORTUNITIES; PAVEMENT MAINTENANCE.

a.  Each time arterial and collector streets are resurfaced they should be re-striped to add width to the curb lane without compromising safety; consider designating these streets with wide curb lanes as future Class III routes. In addition, designated Class II lanes should be added where there is enough width.

b.  When any road repairs are done by the City or other agencies such as utilities, the road shall be restored to at least its original quality, with particular attention to surface smoothness and re-striping suitable for bicycling.

c.  Pavement cuts for utilities often create depressions and raised edges that are a hazard for cyclists.  These can develop over time as a poorly compacted patched areas settles.  Any pavement work, including that done by city departments. contractors or utilities, should abide by strict pavement surface standards.  These standards should stipulate that the disturbed area is adequately compacted so it will remain even and free of depressions for years.  A plan for maintaining non-city pavement work to the above standard, designating who is responsible, should accompany B permits.

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Last Day to Register Online for LACBC’s River Ride

Today is the last day to register online for Los Angeles’ most popular bike event, the 8th Annual Los Angeles River Ride.  You can register at the event, but due to the popularity of the River Ride and limited space it’s probably best to register online today if you’re interested but not already signed up.

There are rides for cyclists of all skill and endurance levels ranging from a kids ride to a century run.  The River Ride is this Sunday, June 8, and all races begin and end in Griffith Park.  The ride and registration times are as follows:

50-Mile: Register at 7:30 am, Ride at 8:00 am
70 Mile: Register at 7:00 am, Ride at 7:45 am
100-Mile: Register at 6:30 am, Ride at 7:00 am
10-Mile: Register at 10:00 am, Ride at 11:00 am
Kids Ride and Fun Fair: Registration and festivities at 10:00 am

For more information about the ride or the LACBC check out the River Ride F.A.Q.

Image: Melanie Smith via LACBC

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The Bottleneck Blog is Back

Yesterday morning the Times’ Bottleneck Blog made its re-debut with Times’ transportation writer and “Road Sage” Steve Hymon at the wheel.  Now I’ve been somewhat critical of some of Hyomn’s writing in the past, so I wanted to give it some time before I reviewed his online efforts.

First off, Hymon deserves a lot of credit for the effort he’s putting into the blog.  He’s been the lead content provider for the blog for a little under 30 hours and there are already 13 different stories posted. 

I feared that the blog might become a lobbying tool for greater road investment, but a breakdown of those first 14 stories shows that even for the Road Sage LA transportation isn’t just about cars anymore.  Instead of just highway stories, there were stories about why the city doesn’t do a good job promoting transit, the struggle over the Expo Line and even stories about traffic calming.  Of course the Times’ hasn’t turned over an entirely new leaf on transportation, it looks like there’s going to be a daily update on gas prices as part of the writing.

Hymon ends his first post with a call for help, stories ideas and entries for pothole of the week.  Let’s see if we can help him out by giving him lots of story ideas about buses, trains, bike and sneakers.

One simple request: I need your help. Shoot me an e-mail with your thoughts, ideas, questions, rants, photos. I want this blog to be informative. I am also determined to make it fun, whether the topic is driving, taking mass transit, cycling or — gasp — walking.

I’m presently looking for nominees for “Pothole of the Week," which I’d like to make a regular feature. If you want to nominate your favorite crater, send me a photo (in the JPEG format) and brief, poetic description with the exact location. The e-mail is steve.hymon@latimes.com.

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LA Streetsblog Chat with Author and Cyclist Erik Knutzen

coversmall.jpg Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne write the blog Homegrown Evolution, chronicling their adventures as urban gardeners and farmers. Kelly and Erik recently released their first book The Urban Homestead from Process Media.  Last Friday, Erik, who is also a board member of the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition, sat down with me in their garden to talk about their new book and sustainable transportation.  The part of the interview about transportation appears here.  The part about urban gardening is at Emerald City.  If you’re interested in getting your own copy of Urban Homestead make sure to order it at Homegrown Evolution.

DN: There’s a chapter in the book on transportation.

EK: Indeed.  There is a chapter in the book on transportation.  I’m biased...I’m very biased.  Here’s a little ax grinding.

Transportation for me is riding a bike...maybe about riding a bus...but really about riding a bike.  Because, well, just because it’s riding a bike.

DN: Uh-huh

EK: It’s a challenge.  I love a challenge and that’s what it’s all about.  I just like being in traffic riding a bike, and it just happens to have these nice side effects. 

It's like permaculture, you get a good feed back loop.  You get somewhere and you get exercise.  It's not just physical exercise, it's mental exercise because it's a challenge to do it.   We're not talking about a relaxed brain state, we're not having a margarita at the pool, we're talking about a highly focused brain state--the kind of focus you get gliding through heavy traffic. Brain wave studies of Tibetan monks have shown that when they are meditating they are in a focused state--not a relaxed state--I imagine somewhat like what it's like to ride a bike in Los Angeles. Riding a bike for me is a kind of meditation--really the only way I can stop the constant restlessness and chatter in my mind and focus intently--riding balances mind, body and soul.

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