Skip to content

Posts from the Uncategorized Category

No Comments

Rest in Peace, Howard Krepack

I first met Howard Krepack in the late fall of 2010. After a brief hiatus, Streetsblog Los Angeles had just “re-launched,” backed by a new non-profit and with a budget so small that I was working full-time on a part-time contract that we couldn’t even afford.

Howard Krepack, sporting a Velo Club LaGrange polo.

Howard Krepack, sporting a Velo Club LaGrange polo.

I was seeking an advertiser. Flying Pigeon was our sole advertiser, and we were trying to fill out the sidebar and generate more revenue. Krepack was excited to be an advertiser, but wanted to do more. He wanted to introduce us to more people. He wanted a column to help readers know their legal rights and be prepared in case of a crash. He wanted to work with us, the LACBC, and other advocates to make streets safer.

I only saw Howard a few more times before he was struck by ALS — at the River Ride, at one of our fundraisers, at the signing of the 2010 Bike Plan. He was happy to see the progress the city and its bike advocates were making. He was more than a funder, he was a partner and cheerleader.

Howard Krepack passed away quietly on Saturday evening. His support and friendship will be missed both by me, personally, and Streetsblog Los Angeles as a publication. His service is to be held today, at 2 p.m.

21 Comments

Vision Zero 101: Bike Lanes Are Not Parking Spaces

Parking enforcement often parks in the bike lane. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

LADOT’s parking enforcement officers often park in the bike lane, forcing cyclists into a busy traffic lane or onto the sidewalk. When asked about this practice on August 15, the parking enforcement officer whose car is pictured above declined to answer. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Tap tap tap.

The parking enforcement officer looked up from his phone.

When he rolled down his window, I smiled and asked politely about his having parked in the bike lane on Los Angeles Street.

There was a long pause.

“And?” he raised his eyebrows.

Having only expected some, not total, disdain, I stuttered my way through my concerns about safety.

The lanes along Los Angeles St. between 1st and Aliso Streets are regularly blocked, usually by official vehicles that sit there all day, I gestured to the line of cars parked ahead of him, including an LAPD cruiser. The presence of the cars in the bike lane, I explained, meant that cyclists were forced to move into what could be a very fast-moving traffic lane on an often busy street.

He offered no response. Just judgmental eyebrows of silence.

I switched tacks and stuttered my way through a suggestion that, perhaps as parking enforcement, he might be able to help mitigate these problems by enforcing the codes. Vulnerable folks needed his help, I pleaded.

More silence. More eyebrows.

Finally, he muttered, “I have police business,” rolled up his window, and went back to his phone. A minute later, he exited the car and leisurely strolled toward the detention center.

Well, I thought. This was one of the less productive exchanges I’ve had in a while.

A parking enforcement vehicle occupies the southbound bike lane on Los Angeles St. in July. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

A parking enforcement vehicle sits alone in the southbound bike lane on Los Angeles St. in July. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

* * * Read more…

2 Comments

Today’s Headlines

Get National Headlines At Streetsblog USA
Get State Headlines At Streetsblog CA

No Comments

Exide: Can’t Put Together Proper Closure Plan but Absolves Itself of Blame for Massive Public Health Disaster

The Expanded Assessment Area to the south of the Exide plant (located just across the river, at Bandini and Indiana. Source: DTSC

The Expanded Assessment Area to the south of Exide’s now-shuttered lead-acid battery recycling plant (located across the river and just outside the frame, at Bandini and Indiana) where officials have found discernible patterns of lead contamination as well as the presence of a lead alloy that both point to Exide as the source of the contamination. Source: DTSC

“I want you to take a good look at me,” the fragile-looking young man with a curved spine, hunched shoulders, and gangly arms addressed members of the Exide Community Advisory Committee (CAC), representatives of the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) and Department of Public Health (DPH), and concerned residents and environmental justice advocates from the communities surrounding Exide Technologies’ now-shuttered lead-acid battery recycling facility.

“I look 13 years old, but I am 25.”

Anthony Gutierrez had grown up in Maywood, three-quarters of a mile from the Vernon facility. Like many present at the meeting, he believed his health had suffered for it. Cancer, rotting teeth, lead-related health issues, and other ailments had rendered him so sick that the Make-A-Wish Foundation — a charity that grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses — had even sent him on a trip to Hawaii.

Although he, his mother, and his sister had recently moved to a one-bedroom apartment slightly farther away from Exide (but still on the northern edge of the Southern Sampling Area, seen above), new projections that lead emissions may have reached as many as 10,000 properties within a 1.3 to 1.7-mile radius around the facility meant that he still might not be safe.

DTSC ordered that further soil sampling be conducted outside the initial and expanded assessment areas. Samples were thus taken along the transect "Y" lines to determine how far lead dust had traveled. Source: DTSC

DTSC ordered that further soil sampling be conducted outside the initial (blue boxes) and expanded (green boxes and blown-up areas in images at top and below) assessment areas. An additional 351 samples were thus taken from 146 properties both within the 7500′ radius and along the Y-shaped transect lines to determine how far lead dust had traveled from Exide’s facilities (red block, at center). Source: DTSC

Noting he was recovering from a recent brain surgery, he said, “The sad part is [even though Exide has been shut down] I’m still being exposed to lead and arsenic and God knows what else,” and reiterated the need for the clean-up of lead-contaminated properties to pick up the pace.

It was a sentiment shared by the overwhelming majority of the attendees at last Thursday’s CAC meeting. They had been alarmed, but not necessarily surprised, by DTSC’s recent announcement that preliminary results of soil testing in expanded areas north and south of the plant suggested that Exide’s emissions deposited lead dust across a much wider swath of East and Southeast Los Angeles than previously estimated.

What concerned the stakeholders was whether DTSC would be able to secure the (potentially) hundreds of millions of dollars necessary to test and clean the affected homes falling within the newly-identified 1.3 to 1.7-mile radius around the facility (variable due to the prevailing winds, see illustration after the jump). Read more…

Streetsblog USA
View Comments

Confounded by Spike in U.S. Traffic Deaths and Injuries? Look Around

Why are so many people killed in traffic? Hmm, what could it be... Photo: Transportation for America/Flickr

Why are so many people killed in traffic? Hmm, what could it be… Photo: Transportation for America/Flickr

Traffic fatalities in the U.S. increased by 14 percent through June of this year compared to the first six months of 2014, and serious injuries jumped by 30 percent, according to the National Safety Council [PDF]. At the current rate, the group says, nationwide road deaths would top 40,000 for the first time since 2007.

The NSC announced Monday that, by its estimates, nearly 19,000 people died in traffic through June, and more than 2.2 million were seriously injured.

Fatalities rose in 34 states. Several states saw increases of 20 percent or more — fatalities were up 59 percent in Oregon, and between 26 and 29 percent in Georgia, Florida, and Minnesota. Not every state had six months of data, so in all likelihood the numbers are higher than what the NSC was able to report.

Deborah Hersman, president of NSC, told the AP the increases can’t be accounted for by vehicle miles traveled.

The nation’s driving steadily increased for 15 consecutive months through May, the Transportation Department said in July. Americans drove 1.26 trillion miles in the first five months of 2015, passing the previous record, 1.23 trillion, set in May 2007.

However, the cumulative increase in vehicle mileage this year through May is 3.4 percent, far less than the 14 percent increase in deaths, Hersman noted. Also, the estimated annual mileage death rate so far this year is 1.3 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, up from the preliminary 2014 rate of 1.2 deaths.

The AP cited higher speed limits and driver distraction as potential factors, and said the NSC reported earlier this year that 25 percent of all crashes in the U.S. involve cellphone use.

“For many years people have said, ‘If distraction is such a big issue, why don’t we see an increase in fatal crash numbers?’” said Hersman. “Well, we’re seeing increasing fatal crashes numbers, but I think it’s complicated to tease out what that is due to.”

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
View Comments

Finally Transit Is Included in CA Transportation Funding Discussions

Assemblymember David Chiu proposes a packet of bills to fund transit, flanked by representatives from local transit agencies and advocates. Assemblymember Kevin Mullin is behind him. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Assemblymember David Chiu proposes a packet of bills to fund transit, flanked by representatives from local transit agencies and advocates. Assemblymember Kevin Mullin is behind him. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

On Friday, in separate press events in Los Angeles and San Francisco, several members of the California legislature presented new bills for consideration in the ongoing legislative special session on transportation funding.

Various estimates put California’s backlog of deferred road maintenance in the $100-plus-billion range. The special sessions, which involve the creation of new committees and a parallel legislative process alongside the regular legislative session, are supposed to get legislators working together on ways to solve transportation issues. Already a long list of bills has been introduced—look for more coverage of the process on Streetsblog as the week progresses.

So far the focus has been on how to get money to “fix the potholes,” with Democrats proposing an increase in the gas tax and Republicans calling for putting cap-and-trade revenue towards road maintenance (a ludicrous and likely illegal idea).

Now legislators are finally making the connection between public transit—which has its own daunting funding backlog—and the rest of the transportation system. “Anyone who hits a pothole or sits in traffic knows that our transportation system is in crisis, but so does anyone who has to rely on a late, crowded bus to work, school, or do errands, or who would take the bus if one was there,” said Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) as he introduced the package of bills.

“California needs more transit funding to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and to prevent gridlock from strangling our economic recovery,” he said.

Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo) pointed out that fixing congestion has to include better transit options. In the San Francisco Bay Area, the major transit systems including BART, Muni, and AC Transit “are at or near capacity already. Increasing capacity of public transit systems must be part of the solution,” he said.

The proposed bills would triple the diesel fuel tax, with the money to be distributed to all transit agencies in the state, and raise the portion of cap-and-trade money currently allocated to transit. See below for more details.

This was far from the first set of proposals for the special session. Read more…

29 Comments

Filed Under: O Valley Bike Lane, Thou Art but a Vehicular Temptress

New bike infrastructure appears on Vineland in the Valley. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

New bike infrastructure appears on Vineland in the Valley. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

When the driver pulled in behind me in the new buffered bike lane along Vineland, I thought, OK, it’s a little weird, but he’s probably going to turn right or park.

A block and a half later I turned around again.

Nope, he’s still there and now he is waving at me like this is perfectly normal.

A block later, he finally turned right.

I would have chalked this up to the guy being lost or perhaps disoriented by the new stripes, except that this turned out to be a frequent occurrence on both of my visits to Vineland.

Drivers, impatient to get into the right lane, regularly drove several blocks to a quarter-mile in the bike lane all along the avenue. Where they were jumping the line of traffic to get to Riverside Dr. (below), they tended to do so at a very fast clip.

Even Prius drivers can't wait to get into the right lane. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Even Prius drivers can’t wait to get into the right lane. This driver entered the bike lane at about where the first tree shadow hits the road (bottom right). Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Turning right onto Riverside Dr. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

No car lane, no problem! Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The eagerness of drivers to make use of the bike lanes may be somewhat puzzling to those that have followed the Valley striping saga. Read more…

2 Comments

Challenge Grant Winners in Boyle Heights and South L.A. Race Against the Clock to Raise Project Funds, Build Networks

Shouldn't all intersections be magically musical? A re-imagined Florence and Crenshaw by the Street Beats team. Rendering: Studio MMD

Shouldn’t all intersections be magically musical? A re-imagined Florence and Crenshaw by the Street Beats team. Rendering: Studio MMD

Twenty-three days is not a lot of time to get community buy-in on a complete streets pop-up event/project and raise $10,000 in support of it. Especially in lower-income communities like Boyle Heights and parts of South L.A., where the stakeholders who would ideally be buying into the projects tend to be less familiar with concepts like “tactical urbanism,” are generally of lesser means, and/or are often unreachable via a social media campaign (or wholly unable to make online payments to it).

But the three sets of groups that won Great Streets Challenge Grants in those neighborhoods are determined to forge ahead.

Ride On! bike co-op founder Adé Neff acknowledged the timeline and lack of funds to do more comprehensive outreach was tough, but said he was excited to use the grant program as an opportunity to build connections along Crenshaw and between community advocates in South L.A.

Usually grants for community projects go to people outside the community, he said, because people are out of the loop with regard to funding opportunities or lack the capacity and structure to go after them. That disconnection often means that projects that do take place in the community generally fail to engage residents in more than a rubber-stamp sort of way. Meaning, any benefits that accrue to the community tend to be superficial and temporary, at best.

For someone like himself, freshly out of Antioch’s Urban Sustainability M.A. program and looking to be a driver of change in South L.A., that is a frustrating landscape to be part of.

“We have the talent pool” to do the kinds of innovative grassroots advocacy in South L.A. that could strengthen the community from within, he said. What remained was “to create the capacity to do it.”

To that end, he has joined up with architect Michael MacDonald of Studio MMD, TRUST South L.A., and Community Health Councils to put together a project that they hope will build some of those bridges between advocates while breaking down some of the barriers between folks in the Hyde Park area. All while making the busy intersection at Florence and Crenshaw safe and fun for a day.

Google map screen shot of Florence and Crenshaw.

Google map screen shot of Florence and Crenshaw.

Their project, Street Beats, intends to set up the tools to let passersby make music on each of the four corners of the intersection. Read more…

9 Comments

The Butterfly Effect: Privileging Form (and Speedy Implementation) over Function Yields Semi-Obsolete Street Furniture in Boyle Heights

A butterfly bike rack perches on 1st St. in Boyle Heights. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

A butterfly bike rack perches on 1st St. in Boyle Heights. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

When the butterflies, flowers, and decorative benches first started popping up along 1st Street in Boyle Heights last year, reviews were mixed.

Okay…

That’s not really true — the reviews I heard were largely not that great.

Particularly from business owners that had been given some advance notice — but no choice and no recourse — about what would be appearing outside their front doors.

A large yellow butterfly stakes out space in front of Espacio 1839. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

A very large yellow butterfly stakes out space in front of Espacio 1839. Staff there said they had originally been told they would be getting a flower bike rack. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

After the large ficus trees that had destroyed the street’s sidewalks had been ripped out, the sidewalks repaired, and new trees planted, the colorful bike racks that appeared soon after were a bit incongruous with the new landscape.

The reference to the natural world served to point out just how devoid of greenery the street now was.

The arrival of bike racks mimicking elements of the natural world served to point out the lack of nature along the street. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The arrival of bike racks mimicking elements of the natural world served to point out the lack of nature along the street. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

And while complaints did tend to highlight how garish the yellow butterflies were, the kicker, for many, was that the new racks and furniture were poorly placed and not particularly functional.

Some people didn’t know what they were or preferred relying on parking signs.

The parking sign pole is preferred by some to the butterfly rack outside Espacio 1839. Source: Espacio 1839 instagram

The parking sign pole is preferred by some to the butterfly rack outside Espacio 1839. Source: Espacio 1839 Instagram

Others (myself included) found the racks hard to use — the awkward shape of the butterfly and the shortness of the flower coupled with the roundness of its center make them both complicated to lock up against, depending on the type of bike you have, how you lock your bike (I take off my back wheel), or whether another bike is already locked to it.

The flowers, especially this one at a little sitting area at Bailey (behind Mariachi Plaza) are kind of adorable in a setting like this. But not that easy to lock up your bike to. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The flowers, especially this one at a little sitting area at Bailey (behind Mariachi Plaza), are kind of adorable in a setting like this. But they’re not that easy to lock up your bike to. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

But the thing that made the least sense was the placement of the furniture. Read more…

5 Comments

At-Grade Crossings along Metro Blue Line Will See $30 Mil in Pedestrian Safety Improvements

The Blue Line slices its way through South L.A. toward Long Beach. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Tracks for the Metro Blue Line (at left) slice their way through South L.A. toward Long Beach. For much of that trajectory, the Blue Line shares a ROW with Union Pacific Railroad. The fact that pedestrians must cross four sets of tracks at many intersections makes the crossings more dangerous. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“In the interest of time,” Greg Kildare, Executive Director of Metro’s Enterprise Risk, Safety, and Asset Management team, began his address to the Board on July 23, “I will just say that staff believes that the [Metro Blue Line] pedestrian gating project is an extremely important safety improvement to our oldest rail line and consistent with [Metro CEO] Mr. Washington’s vision of reinvestment in our aging infrastructure, the state of good repair, and a safety-first orientation. That concludes my presentation.”

Agreeing that the upgrades were “long overdue,” the Board approved the installation of $30,175,000 worth of Pedestrian Active Grade Crossing Improvements at the 27 intersections the Blue Line shares a right-of-way (ROW) with Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) without hesitation or discussion.

The improvements are indeed long overdue.

Between 2002 and 2012, 13 of the 18 non-suicide* fatalities along the Blue Line happened between Vernon Ave. and Imperial Hwy. in South Los Angeles. [*Suicide is a significant issue along the Blue Line — at least 30 of the nearly 80 pedestrian fatalities along the line over the last two decades were confirmed suicides.]

The wide openness of the at-grade crossings through that stretch, inadequate pedestrian infrastructure, and lack of barriers at a number of the intersections — particularly on the UPRR side — create dangerous conditions for pedestrians. None of which is helped by the fact that the tracks run adjacent to several major parks and through the middle of a housing development, meaning that families and kids might make the long trek across the tracks several times a day.

Youth leaving the park cross the sets of tracks at 55th and Long Beach Ave. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Youth leaving the park cross the sets of tracks at 48th and Long Beach Ave. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Because the freight trains that use the UPRR tracks run infrequently and move so slowly — often inching forward, backing up, stopping, and inching forward again — a train can appear to be more of a nuisance than a hazard.

Multiple trains on the tracks can throw off a pedestrian’s calculations of which side a train is coming from, how fast it is moving, or how quickly the pedestrian feels they can get across the tracks. Or, as in the case of middle-schooler Gilberto Reynaga, killed in 1999 when he clambered over a freight train stopped at the intersection only to be hit by a passing Blue Line train at 55th and Long Beach Ave., there is a potential for people to be confused by the train the signals apply to and believe they are safe when they are not.

A family with small children moves across the tracks at 55th and Long Beach Ave. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

A family with small children first zigs to the right to access the curb cut, get around the signals, and cross the tracks at 55th and Long Beach Ave. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Even when people obey the signals, their journey from narrow pedestrian island to narrow pedestrian island can be lengthened by having to zig-zag their way across the tracks (above and below). Read more…