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Ticketing of Ovarian Psyco Sparks Questions About How Group Rides Should Manage Safety

A ride marshal from Clitoral Mass is ticketed for running a red light. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

A ride marshal from Clitoral Mass is ticketed for running a red light. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

On Saturday’s Clitoral Mass ride with the Ovarian Psyco-Cycles, one of the ride marshals had a run-in with the police.

I did not witness the event, but was told by multiple sources (including one of the officers) that the Ovas had blocked traffic so that riders could continue through a red light on 7th St. in the Skid Row section of downtown. When the officers moved into the intersection to stem the flow of riders, one of the marshals went around the car. She was subsequently pulled over and cited.

Witnesses felt the officers had been a little overzealous, with the female officer nearly knocking the rider over with her door, and both preferring to hand the rider a full-fledged ticket rather than the warning she asked for.

By the time I arrived a few minutes later, the female officer was already writing the ticket out.

The exchanges between the officers and the riders were calm and courteous, with the male officer freely offering his name and badge number to those who requested it and neither officer seeming to be perturbed by the fact that they were being recorded by several people with cellphones.

That doesn’t mean the organizers and supporters of the ride weren’t frustrated, of course.

While the officers had likely felt obligated to do something about the blocking of traffic because it happened right in front of them, they could have just given the ride marshal a warning. But they made it explicit that they were choosing not to do so in this case.

I finally approached one of the officers and asked what the solution to this kind of situation was. Read more…

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Reclaiming Public Space for Marginalized Communities: Bikes Don’t Fix Everything, But They Can Help

The next generation of riders takes to the streets of South L.A. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

The next generation of riders takes to the streets of South L.A. as part of a Unity ride on Sunday. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

The recent tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri, and here at home in South L.A. have served to underscore just how hostile the public space can be to people of color, particularly those of lesser means.

For those that live that reality day in and day out in Los Angeles, that is not news.

I’ve documented their frustration with law enforcement officers that would rather harass and arrest than protect and serve in a number of dedicated stories (here, here, here, here). More often, however, concerns about officer misbehavior are interwoven in stories on a wide range of topics simply because they are that much of a constant in the lives of the communities I cover (see here, here, or here).

And while some advocates might question the relevance of such concerns to the Livable Streets movement, I would argue that equal access to streets is a cornerstone of livability. There is no earthly reason that men of color should feel that the act of walking or riding a bicycle down the street is akin to extending an embossed invitation to police to stop, question, and frisk them, hand them bogus tickets (for not having bike lights in the day time, for example), or worse.

A young man is separated from his friends and questioned by Public Safety for skateboarding near USC. (photo courtesy of the young man in question)

A young man is separated from his friends, told to put his hands behind his back and face the fence, and questioned by Public Safety for skateboarding near USC. (Photo courtesy of the young man in question. His face was blurred because he feared retaliation for speaking up.)

Unfortunately, there is no simple solution to the problem.

Among many other things, the abuses of power by the police are facilitated by the de facto segregation of communities by race and/or class, narratives that criminalize members of marginalized communities, the effective disenfranchisement of those communities, and the years of neglect of the health and well-being of those populations.

The entrenched nature of these problems have forced activists to take matters into their own hands in order to chip away at the structures and narratives that have long been used against them.

In South L.A., for example, social justice non-profit Community Coalition worked to put an end to willful defiance suspensions in schools, just finished its third Freedom School summer program, and will host the third annual South L.A. Powerfest this Sept. 6th. In Boyle Heights, the non-profit visual arts center Self-Help Graphics has cultivated Latino and Chicano consciousness and creativity through its programming for 40 years, and just completed a summer session aimed at empowering youth to express their visions for their communities through art.

Other activists have taken to the streets.

Read more…

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Wednesday Wanderings: Mobility in Malawi

A quiet moment on one of the capital's main drags. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

A quiet moment at the end of the day on one of Lilongwe’s (the capital of Malawi) main drags. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

We here at Streetsblog have been known to complain about the state of Los Angeles’ transportation infrastructure from time to time.

And while it is true that we do have a ways to go in making the streets more hospitable to those that do not travel by private automobile, I am often reminded that we’ve got it pretty good here, comparatively speaking.

In my previous life as an academic, I spent quite a bit of time traveling in remote areas of developing countries where the obstacles to mobility also constituted major obstacles to economic development, growth, and pretty much everything else you can think of — health, education, communication, relationships, proper governance, and access to resources.

Nowhere did this seem clearer to me than in Malawi, also known (deservedly so) as the “Warm Heart of Africa,” an East African nation of about 16 million people.

Outside major cities, much of Malawi lacks paved roads. In Mchinji, the only paved road served as a highway to Zambia. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

While Malawi is a recipient of significant amounts of aid, donors prefer not to fund infrastructure projects, seeing them as opening the door to corruption (if funds go through government agencies) and cultivating dependence, among other things. So, paved roads — limited even within the capital — are scarce in rural areas. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

During the three summers I spent doing research on international development aid organizations there, I did my best to travel as the locals did. Which meant that I spent a great deal of time on foot.

I made the choice, in part, because my research budget was quite small, private transport could be exorbitantly expensive, and “public” transit was not always reliable.

Petrol was in extremely short supply (and expensive) during my last visit. People waited 8 hours at gas stations for gas that often never arrived. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Petrol was in extremely short supply (and expensive) during my last visit. People hoping to feed vehicles and generators lost entire days waiting at stations for fuel that often never arrived. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

This was especially true when I was last there, in 2011, and petrol was in extremely short supply.

The shortage hit the economy hard. People lost entire days waiting at filling stations, hoping rumors about the arrival of fuel shipments would not prove baseless. And it slowed agricultural production by causing a decrease in the distribution of fertilizer (via the government subsidy program) and limiting the ability of farmers to get products to markets or mill their maize.

It also sent transportation prices through the roof — a 10-minute taxi ride across town could cost more than 2,000 Malawi Kwacha (about $5, or almost a week and a half’s pay at minimum wage, for a Malawian). And it drastically reduced the ability of people to access transit, as minibuses — the privately-owned vans that serve as public transportation — struggled to keep their vehicles topped off with fuel and on normal schedules.

Privately operated minibuses, serving as de facto public transit,  wait for the end-of-the-day rush in the capital. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Privately operated minibuses, serving as de facto public transit, wait for the end-of-the-day rush in the capital. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

A trip into the capital from an outlying district that normally took an hour and a half now took several hours.

If you were lucky. Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Lyft vs. Uber: Dirty Tricks, Accusations, Poaching (LAT)
  • Poor Air Quality in the San Gabriel Valley (LA Register)
  • Patt Morrison Interviews Mia Lehrer on What Parks L.A. Needs (LAT)
  • Bicycle-Friendly Business Program Expands Citywide (LADOT Bike Blog)
  • People Street Plaza Coming to North Hollywood (NoHoArts)
  • Caltrans Museum Explores Human Side of Demolishing Neighborhoods (CaltransDistrict7)
  • Santa Monica Renters Rights’ Tangled Endorsements (Santa Monica Next)

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CicLAvia Begins Outreach Process in Boyle Heights for Oct. 5th Event

CicLAvia volunteers conduct outreach along Cesar Chavez Ave. in Boyle Heights. Erick Huerta/Streetsblog LA

CicLAvia volunteers conduct outreach along Cesar Chavez Ave. in Boyle Heights. Erick Huerta/Streetsblog LA

¿Conoce CicLAvia?” (Are you familiar with CicLAvia?) and “¿Sabe qué es una ciclovía?” (Do you know what a ciclovía is?) were two of the questions SBLA writers Erick Huerta and Sahra Sulaiman found themselves asking Boyle Heights residents and business owners while canvassing the area with representatives of CicLAvia recently.

The goal of the first round of outreach for the October 5th event, set to run from Echo Park to East LA by way of the heart of Boyle Heights, was to give business owners and residents along the route time to prepare alternate parking or business plans around the street closures.

To that end, Volunteer Coordinator Henny Alamillo had armed volunteers Christopher Cameron and Jon Leibowitz with multi-lingual flyers that explained CicLAvia, touted the significant spike in revenue experienced by businesses that engaged event-goers, presented the map of the route, and suggested the myriad ways residents could participate in the event.

All of which would seem to be enough to get the message about CicLAvia across.

But, as Sahra and Erick ascertained (while serving as volunteers/translators), while cycling enthusiasts are largely familiar with the car-free, open streets event, it is still an unfamiliar concept to many, and to non-cyclists, non-English speakers, and lower-income community members, in particular.

The lack of familiarity with CicLAvia in Boyle Heights should not be all that surprising.

Casual observation (supported by some, albeit limited, data) would suggest that the majority of participants in such events are not lower-income and/or minority residents (although, this appears to slowly be changing over time, as well). And, as many of those same residents have limited Internet access and/or are not regular followers of livable streets issues when online, they haven’t seen much in the way of CicLAvia’s outreach campaigns.

While volunteers left notices taped over mailboxes at residents, Sahra knocked on doors to speak with those that were at home. Erick Huerta/Streetsblog LA

While volunteers left notices taped over mailboxes at residences, Sahra knocked on doors to speak with those that were at home. Erick Huerta/Streetsblog LA

But the reactions of the community were about more than just a lack of familiarity with the event.

Sahra found that those residents along St. Louis St. that had heard of CicLAvia weren’t sure that it was something they would be able to participate in. As Boyle Heights is a more family- and pedestrian-oriented community, the association of the event with bicycles made many think they might have to sit on the sidelines and watch as others rolled through their neighborhood. Others thought it might be a race.

For this reason, the one-on-one conversations with folks turned out to be key.

Being able to open the conversation with a description of the event as an effort to convert the streets into a park that families and children could stroll and play in for a day helped make it more relatable and accessible for residents.

In response, those that had small children with them often pointed at the kids and described the challenge of finding spaces where the kids could play safely. The poor condition of the area’s sidewalks, many said, made it hard for kids to use their riding toys around their homes or while the family ran errands.

The conversations were also important in helping people digest the information on the flyers. Read more…

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Appeals Court Lifts Bond Restrictions on CAHSR, Funding Picture Clears

German and Frence high speed trains in Paris. Photo by Ryan Stern

German and French high speed trains in Paris. Photo by Ryan Stern

A California Court of Appeals has removed the most significant legal impediment threatening California’s High Speed Rail project. The unanimous decision of the three-judge panel, rendered on Thursday, reversed Judge Michael Kenny’s Nov. 25, 2013 ruling, which had blocked the state from issuing bonds under Prop. 1A, the High Speed Rail Act of 2008.

California High Speed Rail breaks ground in Fresno.

California High Speed Rail breaks ground in Fresno.

Justice Vance Ray, the presiding justice on the Third District of the California Courts of Appeal, writes that Kenny overstepped by injecting the judiciary into the role of the legislature.

While Proposition 1A authorized the state to issue $9.95 billion worth of bonds, the legislature had to approve them based on an evaluation of the project and its business plan. An extensive debate took place in the California Assembly and Senate and the issuance was approved in 2012. It passed in the State Senate with no votes to spare.

So everything appeared to be moving smoothly until Kenny’s decision last year which seemed to imperil the High Speed Rail project. Yesterday’s ruling paved the ground for the project to continue planning and construction as enough funds to complete the route are sought.

The appeals court agreed with the California Attorney General’s argument that Judge Kenny’s decision last year “…jeopardizes the financing of public infrastructure throughout the state by interfering with the Legislature’s exercise of its appropriation authority, invents judicial remedies where none are provided by law, and subverts the very purpose of the validation statutes.”

“Moreover,” adds the court, “such an intrusive standard would offend the fundamental separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches of government.”

A former deputy Attorney General and expert on state legal proceedings who spoke to Streetsblog on anonymity said that the appellate decision is intentionally detailed and long. “They want to put an end to this nonsense,” he said, referring to the court’s desire to stop future legal proceedings from delaying the project.

Of course, there are plenty of High Speed Rail opponents who were unhappy with the ruling.

“Justices lowered the bar for agencies to provide evidence of need for funding,” said Aaron Fukuda, a party in the case and co-chairman of Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability, a Kings County-based group. “Essentially the Authority could have written on a post-it ‘give me money’ and that is good enough.”

Citizens for High Speed Rail Accountability claimed in their suit that changes in the project, both in cost and estimated speed of the finished rail line, invalidated the voters decision to partially fund the project in 2008.

Funding Picture Clears, But Isn’t Complete Read more…

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Got Arts?: South L.A. Weekend Happenings

cocoartfestivalWhen South L.A. does arts festivals, it does them right.

Their efforts at community-building and/or place-making are almost always rooted in the history of the area and the experience of its people. And, as part of that experience includes the lack of traditional outlets for expression, both the events and the works are often infused with an urgency and a sincerity that helps attendees feel they are participating in an important communicative process.

Tonight, for example, Community Coalition (a social justice-oriented non-profit) caps off a week of events with the South L.A. Art Festival. Last weekend, they played host to an event commemorating the life and death of Trayvon Martin (the African-American teen shot to death in a “stand your ground” case in Florida). Tuesday, their “Artivist Forum” brought together artists, community organizers, and community members to dialogue on creative solutions to the incarceration of black and brown youth, among other issues.

Tonight, they invite the community to come out for a family-oriented street fair beginning at 5 p.m. The fair will feature art, food, music, and other community resources and will take place in front of their headquarters, at 8101 S. Vermont Ave. For more information, click here.

Tomorrow, the Central Avenue Jazz Festival kicks off its 19th year in the historic section of Central Ave. around 11 a.m. (one of the future hubs of December’s CicLAvia). Local youth will be the first of the performers, with both long-standing greats and scene-stealing up-and-comers soon to follow.

The festival spotlights the corridor which was central to African-American arts and culture in the early 20th century. The Dunbar Hotel — the newly reborn anchor site of the festival, located at 42nd and Central — was the only major hotel in the city that welcomed African-Americans for decades. A hub for dignitaries, intellectuals, and writers, including W.E.B Du Bois and Langston Hughes, its jazz club became world-famous and the anchor of a vibrant scene along Central in the 1930s and ’40s, attracting greats like Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, and Ray Charles.

The festival is easily accessible via the Blue Line (at the Vernon stop) and runs both Saturday and Sunday, between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. along Central Ave. between 43rd and King Blvd. More information about it and performance schedules can be found here.

Finally, Leimert Park Village (the other CicLAvia hub) will be hosting its monthly artwalk between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Sunday, July 27th.

On the last Sunday of every month, Leimert Park plays host to an eclectic festival of art, drumming, music, spoken word, food, and family. It’s one of my favorite regular events, as it effectively and consistently uses public space to put the focus on unity and community. You can perhaps feel that best in the drum circle, where the young, the old, the homeless, and the well-heeled celebrate music and dance together. Or in the warm and hearty handshakes with which community members greet each other in the streets. It is also evident in the art, which collectively often depicts a celebration of community, heritage, and empowerment.

With new arts venues popping up and Leimert Park’s proposal for a People St. Plaza being approved to enter the design phase, the community is on the move. Come see what is new at 43rd Pl. and Leimert Blvd. For more information on the event and other happenings in the area, please click here.

 

 

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Today’s Headlines

  • Metro Board Approves Skansa Contractor Team to Build Westside Subway (LAT, The Source)
  • Editorial: Smart Growth Is the Future of the San Gabriel Valley (SGV Tribune)
  • More on Metro Sheriff Audit (LAT)
  • Carnage: Three-Car Crash in Granada Hills Kills One and Closes Freeway (LAT)
  • Cedillo Take Note: Vehicle Flips on North Figueroa (Eastsider)
  • Reckless Driving Now Applies to Cyclists, How About Cars? (SBSF)
  • What If We Had Raised the Gas Tax? (Strong Towns)

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Today’s Headlines

  • Talk Radio Hosts Ridicule North Figueroa Safety (KFI - starts at minute 11)
  • Gold Line Foothill Extension 75 Percent Complete (Curbed)
  • A Questionable Link Between Reduced Drunk Driving and Uber Usage (KPCC)
  • WeHo Looks To Program To Improve Crosswalk Safety (WeHoVille)
  • Cities Around the World Doing Big Bicycle Infrastructure (Gizmodo)
  • Speed Cameras Work – Speeding Cut Around Parks and Schools (SB Chicago)
  • Animation of Growth of NYC Bike Network 1888 To Today (SB NYC)
  • Dancing in the Streets – Car-Free Lombard Edition (SB SF)

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Hit-and-Run on Cesar Chavez Sidewalk Kills 66-Year-Old Woman

The site of a hit-and-run last week. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

The site of a hit-and-run last week. Click to enlarge. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Normally, you think of a sidewalk as a relatively safe place to be.

They have their problems, and are often in pretty lousy shape, but they usually manage to provide a sufficient buffer between pedestrians and the cars whizzing by in the adjacent roadway.

Not so in East L.A. last Wednesday, when the driver of a Red Dodge Durango came barreling down the sidewalk at Cesar Chavez Ave. and Eastman, injuring two women, one fatally.

I first heard about the incident from Jon Leibowitz, who was doing outreach for CicLAvia along the October route. He was in shock from having seen a truck slam into people in a busy business district and keep going.

Shop owners in the area confirmed it had been a horrific scene.

The manager of the bakery (the far sign, at left) said she heard a terrible noise and looked up to see a truck flying past her shop’s window, scraping the bricks and damaging the security gates as it went.

It was so violent, she said in Spanish. So violent.

We heard screaming, she continued. My first thought was for my son -- he had just walked out the door. We ran outside and that’s when we saw the women.

The two pedestrians, aged 66 and 49, had been knocked into the street.

The driver moved back into the roadway and disappeared. Read more…