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Damien Talks Episode 3: Oakland’s Uber Advocate Chris Kidd

Welcome to the third episode of Damien Talks, our podcast about the people and politics behind the Livable Streets Movement throughout California. Our first month broadcasting coincides with Bike Month, so we’ve been working up the coast, talking to bike advocates throughout the state. 

Chris rides off into the sunset from LADOT in 2011. Image: ## Bike Blog##

Chris rides off into the sunset from LADOT in 2011. Image: LADOT Bike Blog

This week, Damien Talks with Chris Kidd, a board member with CalBike and Walk Oakland Bike Oakland. When he’s not being one of the state’s leading advocates, he has a day job with Planning super group Alta Planning and Design. Longtime readers of Streetsblog Los Angeles may also remember Chris as the first editor of the LADOT Bike Blog.

This week’s Damien Talks is taking part in a special week devoted to looking at how a new Department of Transportation could change things in Oakland.

We’re always looking for sponsors, show ideas, and feedback. You can contact me at, at twitter @damientypes, online at Streetsblog California or on Facebook at StreetsblogCA.

Thanks for listening. You can download the episode at the Damien Talks homepage on Linksyn.

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California Moves up the “Bicycle Friendly States” Ranking to #8

Screen shot 2015-05-11 at 4.07.22 PM

The League of American Cyclist’s state ranking of bicycle friendliness, top 25 states.

The League of American Bicyclists today released its state rankings for “bicycle friendly states” and this year California is ranked 8th in the US, behind Washington, Minnesota, Utah, and Oregon.

The state earned 53.1 points out of 100 possible points in the League’s point system, which is actually a bit less than what we earned last year (53.7). Still, that’s barely over half of the possible number of points, which offers a clue about how much work remains. Washington, the top-ranked state, earned only 66.2 points—so clearly there’s plenty of room for improvement throughout the country.

The scores among the top ten or so states are pretty close. States are awarded points in five areas:

  • Legislation & Enforcement
  • Policies & Programs
  • Infrastructure & Funding
  • Education & Encouragement
  • Evaluation & Planning

California’s weakest areas, unsurprisingly, are infrastructure & funding and evaluation & planning. For example, we got dinged for not having a statewide bicycle plan. However, according to information hidden deep in the Caltrans website [PDF], the department anticipates beginning work on such a plan in June.

The league also recommends that California adopt a vulnerable user law, which legislators tried and failed to pass last year–and to improve data collection on bicycle injuries, trips, and fatalities.

The League’s state rankings are available here.

California’s report card can be found here [PDF]. Notably, it’s remarkably similar to last year’s report card [PDF], in which California ranked #9, despite getting credit for attempting a vulnerable users law.

Last year’s report also recommended that California

Adopt a mode share goal for biking to encourage the integration of bicycle transportation needs into all transportation and land use policy and project decisions.

Check! That is, Caltrans has stated the goal of tripling bicycling. Now to integrate bicycle transportation needs into all those policy and project decisions.

Also, Angie Schmidt at Streetsblog USA has the national perspective on the state rankings.

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California Legislative Update: Parking Requirements, Cap-and-Trade Funds

bikeatCapitollabel2This week we’re tracking some of the bills that got left out of last week’s too-long legislative update. These bills relate to transportation funding, climate change, and urban planning.


Eliminating Parking Minimums: A.B. 744 from Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) would require a city or county to eliminate minimum parking requirements under certain circumstances, upon request by the developer. Special circumstances include housing near a major transit stop or that serves seniors or people with special needs, since fewer residents of those types of housing are likely to be drivers.

It’s a first, tiny step towards eliminating minimum parking requirements, which is one of Professor Donald Shoup‘s basic prescriptions for fixing parking and congestion issues (See The Trouble With Minimum Parking Requirements [PDF], a paper he wrote way back in 1999). This bill would only apply if the developer requests an exemption, so it would be a market-driven solution, as it’s fair to assume that developers will want to build parking if the market demands it.

For some reason, the California chapter of the American Planning Association, although officially in support of the bill, has suggested that developers should first produce a parking study, which is a real head scratcher. Why not just support the elimination of minimum parking requirements everywhere and be done with it? Developers will still build however many parking spots they think would be needed to sell units, but if they aren’t required to build a minimum number they can save costs for everybody, including future tenants. If there’s a fault with this bill, it’s that it’s too timid.

More bills after the jump.

Read more…

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Damien Talks Episode 1: Bike SD’s Sam Ollinger

Welcome to the first episode of Damien Talks, a podcast series for Streetsblog Los Angeles, Streetsblog California, LongBeachize and Santa Monica Next. In each episode, I’ll be talking to someone from the transportation scene from somewhere in California.

Sam Ollinger.

Sam Ollinger.

I’ll try to provide minimal commentary so that the interviews speak for themselves.

We’re always looking for sponsors, show ideas, and feedback. You can contact me at, at twitter @damientypes, online at Streetsblog California or on Facebook at StreetsblogCA.

For our first episode, I talk over the phone with San Diego’s Sam Ollinger, the executive director of Bike SD. Bike SD started as a news blog about five years ago and became an official advocacy group just a couple of years ago. Last year, they were honored for excellence in advocacy by the League of American Bicyclists. You can catch up on Bike SD at and follow Sam at Twitter @ollingers.

Thanks for listening. You can download the episode at the Damien Talks homepage on Linksyn. We’ll have iTunes subscriptions set up by our next broadcast.

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California Legislative Update: Bike Bills, Transportation Funding, Climate Change

bikeatCapitollabel2This was a super busy week in Sacramento. Any bill that requires approval from the Appropriations Committee had to pass out of all its policy committees by today. Naturally, that meant very long hearings, as there was lots of legislation to be debated up to the last minute.

Below is a quick update on the current status of bills relevant to sustainable streets issues. Note that bills have to be heard in both the Senate and the Assembly, and in these next few weeks they will go through the process of passing from their house of origin to the “other side of the aisle.” For many of the bills that are still alive—that is, that have passed their policy committees and not died somewhere in the process—the next step is the Appropriations Committee of the house of origin. If they pass out of Appropriations, they will be voted on by the entire Senate or Assembly before passing to the other house to be assigned to new committee hearings there.


Hit-and-Runs: Assembymember Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) is trying again this year with A.B. 8, which would create a yellow alert system to make it easier for authorities to get help from the public to catch hit-and-run perpetrators. An identical bill last year passed both houses, only to be vetoed by Governor Brown, but Gatto isn’t giving up. A.B. 8 unanimously passed the Public Safety Committee this week. Damien Newton interviewed Gatto about this legislation last week.


Educational Diversion for Bike Infractions: A.B. 902 from Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) has moved quickly, and has already passed unanimously on the floor of the Assembly. Right now it’s waiting to be assigned to policy committees in the Senate. This bill would allow local jurisdictions to create diversion programs so that people who get tickets for bicycle infractions could attend a bike safety class and have their fines lowered.

No Tolls for Bikes or Pedestrians on Bridges: Assemblymembers Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) wrote A.B. 40 to prevent the Golden Gate Bridge Authority from imposing tolls on bike riders and pedestrians, and have since amended the bill to include all state-controlled bridges. The authors point out that tolls would discourage these energy-efficient and clean modes of transport, and a balanced toll that truly reflected the relative costs of bike and pedestrian facilities would be too small to be worth collecting. The bill passed the Assembly Transportation Committee 13-2. The California Bicycle Coalition is collecting signatures in support of A.B. 40 here. For more information on this bill, read our previous coverage from last month.

Helmet? No Helmet? Senator Carol Liu (D- La Cañada Flintridge) was dissuaded from pursuing a mandatory helmet law with S.B. 192, but she has kept the bill in play. It now requires a “comprehensive study of bicycle helmet use.” The bill doesn’t specify what would be in that “comprehensive” study, other than how many bike riders in California don’t wear helmets and how many “fatalities or serious injuries … could have been avoided if helmets had been worn.” It also doesn’t say how the study would be funded. A study isn’t a bad idea, but if it doesn’t include substantive questions like whether bike helmet laws—not just helmets—reduce total injuries, or whether bicycle helmet laws are enforced fairly, there doesn’t seem to be much point to it. Despite its weaknesses, the bill passed the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee this week.

Slow Vehicles Must Pull Over: In response to last year’s Three Feet for Safety Act, Assemblymember Frank Bigelow wants to clarify the rules about when slow vehicles must pull over. Right now, his bill, A.B. 208, changes the word “roadway” to “highway” but otherwise lets stand the current law which says slow-moving vehicles–including bicycles–must pull over in a clearly designated pullout if there are five more more cars lined up behind them. We’ve heard opposing views of what the difference between “roadway” and “highway” is, and what that means for bicyclists, so we’ll keep an eye on this bill. It passed the Transportation Committee and is on the consent calendar in the Assembly–which means unless it is pulled off that list, it will be passed onward without discussion.

Lots more after the jump.

Read more…

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Assembly Committee Moves Bill to Delay Level Of Service Phase-Out


Phasing out LOS in favor of VMT is pitting bona fide infill builders against astroturf infill builders. Image of Kings River Village infill development from Council of Infill Builders

Buried in a five-hour long meeting of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee yesterday, a short discussion ended in a vote to move legislation that will delay the state’s shift away from car-centric planning.

A.B. 779. The bill aims to slow the removal of Level of Service (LOS) from California environmental regulations by delaying implementation of guidelines currently being developed by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR).

In 2013, California passed S.B. 743 which required the OPR to develop a replacement for LOS that more closely reflects state climate change goals. OPR is planning to replace Level of Service with Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT). Currently, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) bases environmental impacts of traffic on LOS, which results in favoring car capacity over actual environmental benefits. A switch to measuring VMT changes the goal from “moving cars” to “reducing car trips.”

“Just to be clear,” said Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, the bill’s author, “this isn’t about getting rid of VMT. VMT is a fine measure. This bill would press ‘pause’ on the process.”

The bill’s sponsors claim that having to analyze VMT would be burdensome and duplicative, since in some cases they would still be required to produce an LOS analysis to meet local planning requirements.

However, that claim looks pretty specious, for several reasons.

For one, OPR’s guidelines will excuse most true infill projects from any transportation analysis under CEQA, so there would be no need for “duplicative analyses.” This is because projects within a half mile of a major transit stop, as defined in the bill, would be exempt. It’s useful to remember than an earlier draft of A.B. 779 would have removed the word “major” in this definition, thus would have exempted pretty much any kind of development near any bus stop anywhere in the state, no matter how sparse the transit service there.

Another point to keep in mind is that VMT analyses are much simpler than current LOS traffic studies. According to Ethan Elkind, a faculty member at the UCLA and UC Berkeley law schools who has written about the bill, OPR’s proposed guidelines provide local governments more judicial deference for their VMT analysis than they currently have for LOS, which reduces the risk of being sued under CEQA.

“Infill projects come out way ahead with these proposed guidelines. It’s the sprawl projects that will suffer, because they induce so much VMT,” adds Elkind.

OPR is scheduled to submit a second draft of its guidelines in the summer, which will be followed by a 45-day public comment period. There could be more drafts, and more public comment periods, if changes are substantial.

Read more…

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R’s and D’s Agree State Needs More Transpo. Dollars. Disagree on Source.

On one hand, Senator Huff seems to care mostly about creating faster traffic flow through some of the state's most congested highways. On the other hand, at least he has a way to pay for it. Image: ##

On one hand, Senator Huff seems to care mostly about creating faster traffic flow through some of the state’s most congested highways. On the other hand, at least he has a way to pay for it. Image:

In his 2015 State of the State, Governor Jerry Brown challenged the state legislature to come up with a funding formula that is both fair and that creates a sustainable funding stream for the state’s transportation trust fund. While the federal government continues to struggle to fund the national seemingly-always-beleagured Transportation Trust Fund, California now has three competing funding measures on the table, including one that is backed by the state’s Senate Republican Caucus.

With the gas tax, the main state source for transportation funding, in steady decline. Brown estimates a shocking $59 billion backlog in road repair projects. Add in the cost of road retrofits to support sustainable transportation, the drop in subsidies for transit operations and the ongoing funding need to construct high speed rail and you’ve got a massive shortfall. But we’re not done digging yet.

To make matters worse, the state also has a debt because many of the states largest projects over the years has been spent on bonds that create another headwind for any funding plan. Despite the new funds being generated by the state’s cap-and-trade program, the debt and deficit are daunting.

So there’s a need.

And, at least for now, there are three proposals on the table to address the need. Senator Bob Huff’s office released a grid [PDF] outlining the proposals which is available on Scribd.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins wants to charge drivers about $52 a year, with the money going to road repairs. Atkins has yet to introduce legislation to implement the fee.

Senator Jim Beall has a track record of backing transportation funding legislation at the local level to fund highway construction and maintenance. Beall’s proposed legislation would fund road maintenance through increased gas taxes and higher vehicle registration fees.

Senator Huff and the Republican Caucus are backing a Constitutional amendment to require funds designated for transportation be used for that purpose. Read more…

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Interview: Mike Gatto Talks Hit and Runs and Why Jerry Brown Will Get Behind a “Yellow Alert” System

Assemblymember Mike Gatto speaking on the importance of reducing hit-and-run crimes.

Mike Gatto speaking on the importance of reducing hit-and-run crimes at a 2014 press conference at Los Angeles City Hall. Behind Gatto are, left to right, LACBC’s Eric Bruins, two LAPD representatives, L.A. Councilmember Mitch Englander, and Finish the Ride’s Damian Kevitt. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Last week, I conducted a phone interview with Assemblyman Mike Gatto, best known to Streetsblog readers for his tireless work fighting for tougher laws to prevent hit and run drivers. While Gatto’s efforts have proven popular with safety advocates, his center piece legislation to create a statewide hit and run alert system was vetoed last session by Governor Jerry Brown after sailing through the Assembly and Senate.

Last year, this hit and run legislation came together at the eleventh hour. This year, AB8 was one of the first pieces of legislation introduced, giving Gatto and safety advocates more time to press their case. As you’ll see, Gatto is confident that Brown will see the light and California will join Colorado as the only states with an alert system to broadcast crash details similar to what happens when a child is abducted.

Before our interview ended, I promised Gatto that I would prominently display contact information for his offices (here) and help people contact their legislator (here) and Governor (here) so they can let their leaders know how they feel about this legislation.

As always, the interview after the jump is lightly edited for clarity and brevity. If you want to listen to a “clean” version, or prefer listening to reading, the audio is below.

Read more…

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Caltrans Goals: Triple Biking, Double Walking and Transit by 2020


Caltrans’ new Strategic Management Plan sets a goal to triple bike trips and double walking trips in the next five years. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Caltrans released its new Strategic Management Plan [PDF], and it includes priorities and performance targets that show the department is serious about reforming itself.

The new plan includes active transportation and Vision Zero, within its priority number one, “Safety and Health.” It also cites a goal of tripling bicycle mode share and doubling walking and transit mode share by 2020–that means not just the number of trips, but the percentage of total trips in California.

This is a major turnaround for the state DOT, which in the past has focused on motorist safety.

The mode share target is called out under the goal of “Sustainability, Livability, and Economy.” That broad goal also includes lowering vehicle miles traveled (15 percent by 2020) and reducing the percentage of greenhouse gases from transportation (to match current and proposed state mandates).

The Strategic Management Plan is an in-house document, meant to guide decisions made by planners and engineers in the course of planning and completing projects statewide. It stems from the new Caltrans mission, to provide “a safe, sustainable, integrated, and efficient transportation system to enhance California’s economy and livability.” The new mission statement was a response to harsh criticism of the department’s old way of doing things.

“This is a pretty major shift for the department,” said Steven Cliff, newly appointed Assistant Director of Sustainability, and leader of one of the teams working on the plan. “We’ve been working hard to develop new metrics which speak to what we’ve been doing the last couple of years, with our new mission, vision, and goals.”

“It’s meant to be our plan for how we manage our work going forward.”

Read more…

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Caltrans: Don’t Forget, California’s Highways Were First Built for Bicycles

“Did you know the movement to create a state highway system came not from automobile drivers or manufacturers, but bicyclists?”

As part of Caltrans’ 125th Anniversary, the agency is creating a video series about the history of the state’s agency. The first video highlights Caltrans’ current shift away from auto-centric planning to multimodal planning by acknowledging that the push for safe bicycling in California actually predates the state’s transportation agency.

In the video Caltrans director Malcolm Dougherty defends the agency’s history as “trying to move people and moving goods” before getting into how exciting the new plan for multimodal planning is.

“We need to be looking at transportation a little bit differently than we did in the past. It needs to be a multimodal, integrated transportation system so that people can move around the state as efficiently as possible,” says Dougherty, ending his interview. Read more…