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Today’s Headlines

  • Support Growing for Hit-and-Run Alert Legislation (LAT, KPCC)
  • Metro Board Discussing Study To Decide Future of Orange Line (DN)
  • A Preview of Planned Walk and Bike Connections for Union Station (The SourceCurbed)
  • Nona Varnado Talks L.A. Bike Train Success (Guardian)
  • Bicycling’s Role in Liberating Women, Ending Patriarchy (Neon Tommy)
  • Dueling Santa Monica Airport Ballot Measures (Santa Monica Next)
  • S.F. Market Street Getting Bright-Red-Painted Bus-Only Lanes (SBSF)
  • Will S.F. Embarcadero Get Protected Bike Lanes? (SBSF)
  • A Look at Plans for Chicago Central Loop BRT (SBChicago)
  • What L.A./S.D. Wouldn’t Look Like Without Cars (Russell Houghten Vimeo via LAist)

Get National Headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Building Cloverleafs Won’t Inspire Americans to Pay More for Transportation

This post by Ben Ross was originally posted at Dissent.

The federal transportation fund is running out of money, threatening the country with potholes, stopped construction, and economic downturn. Congress, which has kept the program solvent with short-term patches for years, now finds itself unable to do more than buy a few months’ time.

Mainstream opinion pins the blame for this state of affairs on partisanship and anti-tax extremism. But the crisis has a deeper cause. In transportation, as in so many areas of American politics, the terms of debate are controlled by an elite that has lost touch with the rest of the country.

Voters on both the Tea Party right and the urban left have lost the desire to pay higher taxes for new roads. Yet powerful highway bureaucracies and their political allies insist that added revenues must go toward ever more cloverleafs and interstates. They keep searching for money to build what voters don’t want to pay for, a quest doomed to end in futility.

The roots of the congressional deadlock are best seen far from Washington.

When Texas Governor Rick Perry took office in 2000, he found himself caught between campaign contributors’ yearning to build expressways and conservative hostility to tax increases. He sought a way out with an aggressive program of toll-road building.

But when the highways opened, drivers rebelled against the stiff fees. Revenue fell far below forecasts, and grassroots activists launched an anti-toll campaign. At last month’s state Republican convention, the insurgents triumphed. The state party platform now calls for no new tolls (as well as no new taxes).

Read more…

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Filed Under: (Mostly) Rad! Skate Park to Open Thursday in Hard-to-Skate-to Hazard Park.

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A lone security guard ensures no skateboarders get in an early run at the new skate park before the official opening on Thursday. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Skateboarders are generally not the first people you think of when you think about livable streets.

Maybe I’m wrong about that, but I rarely hear discussion of them, their needs, or their aspirations come up in planning or other forums.

I find their omission kind of odd, given that skaters are perhaps the most active and creative users of public space — they take great joy in finding new and exhilarating ways to interact with every-day infrastructure.

The skateboard is also a cheap and popular form of transportation for urban youth, helping them move safely and swiftly through areas they might otherwise be reluctant to walk through.

And it can give youth in troubled neighborhoods a buffer from the pressure to join a gang. Knowing skaters keep to themselves, gang members tend to leave groups of skaters alone, even if they are from outside the neighborhood (as long as they look like skaters, that is). So, even when skate parks are located in areas of intense gang activity, it is not unusual to see a wildly diverse mix of kids from around the city gathered there, on a completely different plane from the chaos around them.

But, instead of celebrating the power of the humble skateboard, cities tend to move in the opposite direction. Public spaces are skate-proofed and skateboarders are seen as transgressive and regularly pushed out of public areas. In Boyle Heights, where skateboarding is prevalent, youth tell me that the Sheriffs often harass and demean them (sometimes with racial epithets, many complained) when they try to hang out in places like Mariachi Plaza.

Which might explain why I found a young skater staring forlornly at the newly-renovated but still fenced-in skate park in Hazard Park yesterday.

He had seen a picture of it on Instagram, he said, and it looked so beautiful that he had to come by and test it out.

He explained that the previous skate park there had been so cracked up and poorly maintained that nobody ever went there to skate. Instead, he and his friends would head over to Lincoln Heights. It was usually overcrowded, he said, but there were few other places they could go.

“What about the one in Hollenbeck Park?” I asked.

It was for more expert skaters, he explained. And it was small, so there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to play around and learn. The new one at Hazard Park looked like it was still on the tougher side of intermediate, but it would give him and his friends some place to go in their own neighborhood and a chance to learn new tricks.

He sighed again.

“The picture I saw didn’t show any fences around it. And the security guard just did this [he makes a waggling motion] with his finger when I asked when it was opening.”

I reassured him it was opening this week.

My only concern, I said, was that skaters would have a hard time getting there. Read more…

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Talking Headways Podcast: Square Footage

Welcome to Episode 29 of the Talking Headways podcast. In it, we evaluate the potential of Boston’s attempt to “gentrification-proof” the Fairmount Line, building affordable housing to keep transit from displacing people with low incomes. Too often, the allure of transit raises rents, bringing in a new demographic of people who can pay them — and who, ironically, usually have cars.

podcast icon logoOne innovative way to build affordable housing — and keep your not-quite-grown kids under your watch at the same time — is to build accessory dwelling units, or backyard cottages. They’re a great way to increase density without bringing a lot of cars into the neighborhood, but see if you agree with our conclusion that they have limited utility.

On the other side of the spectrum is the McMansion, object of desire and scorn in equal measure. You might be surprised to hear Jeff’s defense of the 3,000-square-foot house. And as a bonus, you’ll get his distance runner’s analysis of the difference between runability and walkability, in which he circles back yet again to the idyllic nature of his McMansiony suburban upbringing.

Tell us about your childhood and your square footage in the comments. Check us out on iTunes and Stitcher, or sign up for our RSS feed.

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LA Times Editorial: Councilmembers Should Not Be Tinkering with Bike Plan

Bicyclists on North Figueroa Street. Photo via Fig4All Flickr

Bicyclists on North Figueroa Street. Photo via Fig4All Flickr

I was excited to read yesterday’s pro-bike Los Angeles Times editorial entitled Some bumps in the road on the way to a bike-friendly L.A. The piece calls out Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo for stopping the approved North Figueroa bike lanes. The Times supports the “worthwhile objective” of  implementing bicycle infrastructure to make “the city safe and hospitable for cyclists… [to] reduce carbon emissions and overall congestion.”

Most critically, the Times highlights the regional importance of completing the city-wide bicycle network:

Unless some demonstrable miscalculation was made in the bike plan, or unless there’s a real safety issue, individual City Council members should not be tinkering with the plan, which was designed carefully with the whole city in mind. (italics added)

When the city approved its bike plan, it affirmed the importance of bicycling as a valid and worthwhile component of the city’s transportation systems. If individual councilmembers opted out of crosswalks, curb-cuts, bus stops, or, heaven forbid, freeway on-ramps, in individual districts, would the mayor and LADOT be so compliant? What if councilmembers start opting out of sewers or flood protection infrastructure? Should councilmembers be nixing regionally interconnected projects? I am glad that the Times doesn’t think so.

Unfortunately, even in this welcome editorial, I think that there are a few ways in which the Times misses the mark.  Read more…

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Why People Who Love Nature Should Live Apart From It

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If you care about the natural environment, where should you live?

Surrounding yourself with the trappings of nature, writes Shane Phillips at Better Institutions today, is a far cry from respecting and protecting the wilderness: 

Much like the flower, for many of us, to love nature is to destroy it. We move from the city to the suburb or the rural town to be closer to nature, and to make it habitable (for us) we clear-cut it for new development, pave it over and turn woods and grasslands into manicured lawns, pollute it with our vehicles, etc. In our efforts to possess a small slice of “nature,” we change the meaning of the word, leaving us with something beautiful, perhaps, but far from natural. This strain of thinking is very popular in places like the Bay Area, where there’s a belief that we have to sharply limit development in cities in order to preserve some semblance of nature — ”how can a place so gray possibly be green?”

But environmentalism is about much more than surrounding ourselves with greenery; in fact, its true meaning is exactly the opposite. Real environmentalism means surrounding ourselves with steel, concrete, and other human beings, leaving nature to itself instead of attempting to own it and shape it to our own selfish needs. What makes cities so important is that they allow us to express our love and appreciation for nature in a healthy way: from a distance, as a societal and environmental resource that can be preserved far into the future.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Seattle Transit Blog says the city’s efforts to secure a streetcar are gaining momentum. The Transportationist prices out the economic costs of slower-than-expected travel times on the Twin Cities’ new Green Line. And This Big City looks at the impact of AirBnB on cities.

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Today’s Headlines

Ovarian Psycos Present: Clitoral Mass 2014 from shireen alihaji on Vimeo.

  • Preview Video for Ovarian Psycos Clitoral Mass Ride (Vimeo – above)
  • How Six Freeways Shattered Boyle Heights (City Lab)
  • Editorial: Don’t Let Individual Councilmembers Tinker With Bike Plan (LAT)
  • Push for Yellow Alert System to Catch Hit-and-Run Perpetrators (DN)
  • ExpressLanes To Fund 84-Station 840-Bicycle DTLA Bike Share System (Curbed)
  • Koreatown Has Its Upsides and Downsides (HuffPo)
  • Nature Lovers Should Live in Cities (Better Institutions)
  • Steve Lopez on One Place Not to Park Near LACMA (LAT)
  • Courts Rule That Reckless Driving Applies to CA Cyclists (Biking in L.A.)
  • Visiting Boyle Heights Evergreen Cemetery (Horizon & Skyline)
  • How Parking Requirements Killed A Santa Monica Trader Joe’s (Santa Monica Next)
  • Atlanta Looks To Convert Transit Parking Lots Into Housing (City Lab)

Get National Headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Is Reynolds the Antidote to L.A.’s Defeatist Attitude on Transportation?

Seleta Reynolds (left) goes for a walk in DTLA with out-of-towner Janette Sadik-Khan. Photo:##http://www.gjel.com/blog/los-angeles-hires-seleta-reynolds-what-it-means-for-walking-and-biking-in-socal.html##GJEL Accident Attorneys##

Incoming LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds (right) goes for a walk in downtown L.A. with out-of-towner Janette Sadik-Khan. Photo: @JSadikKhan Twitter

Should Mayor Eric Garcetti have hired someone with more Los Angeles experience to run Los Angeles’ Department of Transportation? With San Francisco’s Seleta Reynolds chosen as the incoming department head, there’s been a small buzz that only someone with direct experience with our region can handle making L.A. a better place to live. It has to be someone with local experience, they say.

As someone who is not from the area originally, and was only an Angeleno for six months when I became the first editor of Streetsblog Los Angeles, allow me to say that idea is complete hogwash.

For some reason, people that live and drive in Los Angeles have sat through so many traffic jams that they have come to believe that idling in endless traffic is a natural phenomenon.  They also believe a harmful corollary: that things that have worked in other areas to make people’s commutes better will not work in Los Angeles. Because “this is Los Angeles.”

It’s the reverse of exceptionalism.

Because over the last six and a half years, we’ve heard that Los Angeles, and Angelenos are so enamored with our vehicles that we will never be able to walk, much less ride a bike or ride transit, even though wild dogs can learn to ride transit. Following the passage of Measure R, many are starting to accept that transit is a viable option in Los Angeles, although the anti-transit theory it still pops up in some cities on the Westside.

Nowadays, we hear some mix of theories from “smart growth won’t work in Southern California,” to “road diets won’t work in Southern California” to “people won’t bicycle in Southern California.” These sort of self-defeating prophecies sap the energy out of transportation reformers, jade community activists, and generally have a corrosive impact on those seeking to make our streets safe for everyone.

By reaching outside of LADOT and Metro staff to find a new department head, Eric Garcetti is signaling the end of the pessimism and reverse exceptionalism that have marked our transportation discussions over the past years, decades, and even generations.

It is a new day, and Seleta Reynolds is a new leader. Read more…

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Getting Rural Kids Walking and Biking: A Case Study From Northeast Iowa

This post is part of a series featuring stories and research that will be presented at the Pro-Walk/Pro-Bike/Pro-Place conference September 8-11 in Pittsburgh.

Nationally, more than 14,000 schools have taken part in Safe Routes to School programs. Though dedicated federal funding was stripped out in the current transportation law, SRTS funds have helped improve sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, and other infrastructure near schools, as well as education and enforcement. However, most SRTS projects are in urban and suburban settings. Rural areas have their own distinct challenges when it comes to walking and biking.

Six counties in Northeast Iowa benefit from an unprecedented push for Safe Routes to School. Image: ##http://uerpc.org/uploads/PDF_File_64511658.pdf##UERPC##

Six counties in Northeast Iowa participated in the push for Safe Routes to School. Photo: UERPC

One rural region is trying to overcome those challenges. Ashley Christensen, the regional SRTS liaison for a six-county area in northeastern Iowa known as Upper Explorerland, says that when the state DOT and the non-profit Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative started the region’s Safe Routes program in 2008, there was no information out there with guidance about how to build a SRTS program in a rural setting.

“We know no other region in Iowa had worked on one when we started and are pretty confident that statement holds true for the rest of the U.S., too,” Christensen told Streetsblog.

With distances between home and school far longer than in urban areas and safe walking infrastructure far less common, Upper Explorerland’s SRTS program had its work cut out for it. “Rural areas typically do not have the sidewalks, crosswalks, etc. that urban settings do, so SRTS work in a rural setting has the unique challenge — or opportunity, as I like to think of it — of utilizing what is available and advocating for more pedestrian accommodations,” Christensen said.

The Northeast Iowa schools do similar activities to other Safe Routes locations: walking school buses and bicycle trains chaperoned by parents; bike rodeos to teach bicycle safety and road skills. But they also use techniques that might not be needed in denser areas, like remote drop-offs. A remote drop-off functions like a park-and-ride, where parents meet in a parking lot and walk their kids the rest of the way to school. All told, the programs reach 10,000 students from 20 school districts and six private schools in a rural area the size of Connecticut.

While some of the schools in the Upper Explorerland SRTS jurisdiction are located in walkable communities, others are “located along major highways in the middle of a cornfield, miles away from the nearest community,” Christensen reports.

Read more…

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Satirical “Bicycle Lobby” Twitter Account Fakes Out Media Giants

The parody Twitter account "Bicycle Lobby" jokingly claimed to have placed white flags on top of the Brooklyn bridge this week. Reporters from the AP and New York Daily News didn't get it.

Reporters from the AP and New York Daily News took a tweet from the @BicycleLobby account a little too seriously.

The @BicycleLobby Twitter account is a parody inspired by last year’s unhinged rant about bike-share from Wall Street Journal columnist Dorothy Rabinowitz. Its running joke for the past 13 months has been that “the all-powerful bike lobby” envisioned by Rabinowitz is real — and yes, it controls the universe.

Sample tweet from July 20: “Today is the 45th anniversary of the day we faked the Moon landing.”

So when someone noticed this morning that the American flags atop the Brooklyn Bridge had been replaced with white flags, naturally @BicycleLobby took credit:

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 1.50.49 PM

The funny thing is, some big news organizations took the bait. First the New York Daily News and then the Associated Press reported that bicyclists had claimed credit for the prank. Not long after, those early reports were scrubbed from the Daily News site and the paper was calling it a mystery. But News 1130 in Vancouver, BC, was still carrying the AP story at 2 p.m.

Read more…