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Don’t Believe the Headlines: Bike Boom Has Been Fantastic for Bike Safety

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The Governors Highway Safety Association released a report Monday that, the organization claimed, showed that the ongoing surge in American biking has increased bike fatalities.

Transportation reporters around the country swung into action.

“Fatal bicycle crashes on the rise, new study shows,” said the Des Moines Register headline.

“Cycling is increasing and that may be reflected by an increase in fatal crashes,” wrote NJ.com.

“Bike riding, particularly among urban commuters, is up, and the trend has led to a 16 percent increase in cyclist fatalities nationwide,” reported the Washington Post.

Bike fatalities are a serious problem that needs to be tackled. The United States has dramatically higher rates of injury and death on bikes than other rich countries, and it would be appropriate for GHSA, an umbrella organization of state departments of transportation, to issue an urgent call to action to make biking safer. So it’s especially troubling that the main thrust of this report is complete baloney.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • High Speed Rail Not an Issue in Governor’s Race (LAT)
  • LAPD Seek Couple in Hit and Run (LAT)
  • LASD Seek Help Finding Hit and Run Killer in Palmdale (Daily News)
  • City Spends $9.5 Million on Temporary Parking Signs (Curbed)
  • Vancouver Cyclists Find Biking in L.A. to Be Ridiculous for All But the Hardcore (Price Tags)
  • Transportation Planners Give TOD Tour of DTLA to Students (Metrans, USC)
  • The Source Turns 5 (The Source)
  • Mapping L.A.’s Ghost, Zombie and Undead Danger Zones (Curbed)
  • Gas Prices Tumbling in San Fernando Valley (Daily News)

For more headlines, visit Streetsblog USA.

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How Can We Invest in Infrastructure Without Raising Taxes?

(Odysseus Bostick is a Los Angeles teacher and former candidate for the Los Angeles City Council. He writes The Bostick Report for CityWatch.)

Our roads are swiss cheese, our sidewalks are like a broken fault line, our bridges are sagging, and our cars are still the most convenient way to get through the mess.

We’ve gotten to the point where our infrastructure problems are so large in scope and the cost to change this is so high that we really can’t pass enough taxes or bonds to cover all of our needs. That’s not to say that passing specific bonds isn’t necessary.

Upcoming ballot measures within the County of Los Angeles aimed at extending Measure R are not just merited, but crucial to ensuring that all the money we’ve already spent on building a basic network of light isn’t wasted. And finishing our rail lines is just Phase One.

The basic structure of a rail transportation system won’t be the cure-all because logistics prevent even a vast network of rail lines from actually getting people to the places they need to go. Clearly, we need micro-networks to cover areas that rail doesn’t reach.

Some of these solutions are small in scope – like bike share programs, walkable/bikeable design, and the like. Others are larger in scope than that, like a streetcar.

The problem is that bonds and tax increases only go so far and funding the build out of our rail network will consume most of those big scope revenue increases. So we are posed with the question of how to fund the smaller scale, “end of the line” public transportation ecosystems so that a user has access to the nooks and crannies not conveniently located at the base of the train station platform?  Read more…

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Why a Street Designed for Transit Is Also Great for People

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In Minneapolis, Washington Avenue prioritizes transit, biking, and walking. Photo: Michael Hicks/Flickr

When cities devote street space exclusively to buses or trains, they usually encounter some stiff resistance to change. Dan Reed at Greater Greater Washington has been giving the topic some thought, because many of the DC region’s upcoming transit projects will require reallocating some lanes from cars to transit.

Reed cites Minneapolis’s Green Line, which runs through the University of Minnesota (“The U”), as an example of how this type of redesign can work out beautifully. Initially some local players were nervous to see space for cars on Washington Avenue turn into space for transit, biking, and walking. But the results have been more than reassuring:

The U’s cooperation with the Metropolitan Council meant that the Green Line could transform Washington Avenue from a traffic sewer to a gathering place. Today, the street feels like a natural extension of the campus. Trains run down the middle of the street, and there are shared bus and bike lanes on either side. The sidewalks are wider, and the crosswalks have special paving materials to make them more visible.

There’s also more green space than there was before. Since the Green Line stations are in the center of the street, there’s a space between the tracks. It would have been easy to just make it a grassy median, or find a way to squeeze in a car lane. Instead, it’s a plaza with tables, chairs, and lush landscaping.

A significant amount of development is happening around the Green Line as a result. Over 2,500 apartments have been built around the U’s three Green Line stations, with another 2,000 in the pipeline. New shops and restaurants have opened along the tracks to cater to the influx of students.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • CA National Leader in Bicycle Deaths on the Road (LAT)
  • Police Pull Over Young, Black, Male Cyclist for Riding on Sidewalk. Brutally Beat Him. (LAT)
  • L.A. Metro Area Ranks #3 in Providing Transit Access to Jobs (The Source)
  • But Car Traffic Congestion on the Rise as Economy Improves (LAT)
  • Professors from Other Parts of the Country Wonder About L.A.’s Complete Street Policies (CityWatch)
  • Editorial: L.A. Businesses Should Lobby for Better Transit (Daily News)
  • Monkey Parking App, You Can Sell the Metered Space Your Car Is In (LAT)
  • Bike Share Still Struggling to Reach People of Lesser Means in North America (City Lab)
  • Shocker: Film Industry and Residents Not Getting Along in Historic Core (Curbed)
  • Chivas Out. New Soccer Team, Stadium, Coming to L.A. (Daily Breeze)
  • Finding Art in the Chaos of Graffiti Vandalism (LongBeachize)

For more headlines, visit Streetsblog USA.

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#StreetsR4Families: Walk/Bike to School Day Is Easy

The Walking Bus that left the parking lot at St. Andrews. Not a lot of walking. Photo: Marybeth Newton

The Walking Bus that left the parking lot at St. Andrews. Not a lot of walking. Photo: Marybeth Newton

This Walktober, a record eighty-five schools in the City of Los Angeles participated in LADOT’s “Walk to School Day” Program. The total number dwarfed those of past years, as more and more schools are actively encouraging students to walk to school.

Richland Elementary School, where my son is currently enrolled in Transitional Kindergarten, was one of those new schools (although we weren’t organized by October 8, the official “Walk to School Day”). We held our first “Walk/Bike to School Day” last Friday and were overwhelmed by the response.

Here’s the best part: thanks to LADOT’s involvement, it was really easy to program the day. I traded two emails with the principal, Mr. G., filled out a form at Walk to School Day L.A., recruited five other parents to help on the day of, and we were ready to go. LADOT brought banners, treats (donated CLIF Kids Bars), and take-home materials. They also contacted the LAPD to let them know what was going on.

When I first approached the principal, he was excited, but we did laugh that “there’s literally one kid that bikes to school” at Richland. We weren’t including my kid, who is dropped off on a bike, but who doesn’t bike himself on most days.

The school, located in the heart of the North Westdale Community, is centrally located and has a healthy portion of students who do arrive on foot. So, we knew we had a base to work with.

But Richland also has a lot of students who arrive from outside the area. So, we came up with some plans to make our Walk/Bike to School Day a little different. The local church, which just happens to be the one I attend on (most) Sundays, allowed us to use their parking lot as a “Kiss and Walk/Bike” for anyone who wanted to participate. Since the school threw in a homework pass, there was even more incentive to participate.

Mr. G came up with the real crown jewel for the event. He led a bike tour of the campus grounds during morning recess for any kids who arrived on people-powered wheels. The kindergartners rolled in a small circle around the play structure. The older kids took advantage of the entire parcel of land. For a school where one kid bikes to school, watching nearly a hundred kids use their recess to ride with the principal was truly a sight to behold. Read more…

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The Hidden Gas Tax That Doesn’t Exist

GasTaxMobileBillboardYou may have seen the ads on Facebook, or on one of the roving billboards being pulled by a gasoline-powered truck. They warned darkly of a coming “hidden tax” on fuel that was so hidden nobody in the media was talking about it. You may have wondered what it meant, even as the ads urged you to sign a petition today.

Last week, the oil-industry-backed effort to get people riled up about the “coming hidden gas tax” delivered its petition [PDF] to the California Air Resources Board’s monthly meeting in Diamond Bar.

The California Drivers Alliance gathered a whopping 115,000 signatures, and “dozens” of people showed up to deliver them. It urges the Air Resources Board to delay its “plan to increase fuel prices next year” and charges that the agency has been “unresponsive” and “has not even put this far-reaching policy on its agenda for public discussion.”

Not a word of which is true.

There is no “hidden gas tax” that will suddenly come into being in January. The Air Resources Board has no “plan to increase fuel prices,” nor could it do so. The only change coming is that transportation fuels will become subject to California’s cap-and-trade system.

That means that distributors and transporters of fuels must either 1) comply with requirements to produce no more than a certain amount of greenhouse gas emissions (the “cap” on emissions), or 2) buy enough “pollution credits” from the state to “meet” the cap. This is the “trade” part of the system.

The EPA estimates that transportation contributes a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions in the country.

To adopt the industry’s tactic of endless repetition: “There is no ‘hidden tax,’ or any other tax associated with [California climate change law A.B. 32] programs,” according to a written statement from Dave Clegern of the Air Resources Board. “There is simply a market mechanism, which industry preferred, to allow businesses to spread their emission reductions between now and 2020 . . . instead of having to make those greenhouse gas reductions all at once.”

The Air Resources Board knows that the industry prefers this method because it has said so. “The oil industry and dealers were at the table through this whole process, and have been aware this coverage was coming for at least five years,” wrote Clegern.

In official comments submitted to the Board in 2011, the industry’s trade group, the Western States Petroleum Association, wrote: “WSPA reiterates its support for the Cap and Trade program and a market-based approach to implementing AB 32.” [PDF]

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The Week in Livable Streets Events

sblog_calendarThis week gets off to a slow start, but Thursday night is one of the biggest parties of the year, the First LACBC Firefly Ball. Be safe this weekend!

  • Wednesday - Celebrating the award-winning opera one year after it encompassed Union Station and transfixed Los Angeles, this free acoustic concert performance of the opera reunites the original cast of Invisible Cities. Composer and librettist Christopher Cerrone was nominated for a 2014 Pulitzer Prize for his adaptation of Italo Calvino’s beloved novel. Get more details, here.
  • Thursday - Named for its timing with the seasonal launch of Operation Firefly, an education and bike light distribution program of LACBC, the Firefly Ball is a light-filled evening of art, music, food and drink. Celebrate with us as we honor community members doing good bike work while raising much needed funds for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. Get more details, here.
  • Friday – It’s the celebration of the first Livable Streets Holiday…Halloween. Have fun out there. On top of everything, there’s Critical Mass. Critical Mass meets at Wilshire/Western at 7 p.m.
  • Sunday - Celebrate life (and death) with Metro on a special Day of the Dead themed art tour on Sunday, Nov. 2. The free, one-night-only tour will explore artworks in the Metro system through the lens of artist Consuelo Flores.The tour will depart at 4:30 p.m. from the Metro Gold Line East LA Civic Center Station and end at 6 p.m. at Self Help Graphics’ 41st Annual Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Celebration. Get more details, here.

Is there something we missed? Is there something we need to know about for next week? Email us, tips@la.streetsblog.org

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Is the U.S. Ready for Seniors Who Want to Stop Driving?

A recent New York Times article urged baby boomers preparing for retirement to consider their future transportation needs. The average American woman is living 10 years beyond the point when she is physically able to drive, and the average man is living seven years longer, the Times reported.

Why is it so hard to create senior housing in walkable locations? Photo: Brett VA via Flickr

It’s time to plan for seniors who want walkable housing. Photo: Brett VA via Flickr

But as important and practical as it is for older Americans to seek housing in walkable, transit friendly locations, it’s not always easy. The article featured a couple in San Diego who were considering a cross-country move to find the right mix of amenities.

Dave Alden has been digging into walkable senior housing at Network blog Vibrant Bay Area. Today he offers an example of one development that fell through. The 200-unit project, planned for “an attractive parcel of land, near a viable and active downtown,” was to include a walkable boulevard, with development costs shared by the local government.

I thought the proposal was exceptional. The city appeared to agree and offered to help facilitate the project. First, they agreed to help secure the land rights for the boulevard, some of which were still privately held. Second, in exchange for a concession by the developer on a related land-use issue, they agreed to an expedited entitlement process as permitted under state law.

And then, it all came unwound. After a year of delay, and long after the developer’s concession had been banked, the city withdrew their promise of expedited entitlement.

After an unexpected staff shakeup, the city ceased assisting with land acquisition for the boulevard. Relieved of the city’s jawboning, one property owner promptly increased his asking price by a factor of fifty. The land was never acquired.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Everyone Stop Worrying About the “Lack” of Subsidized Parking at Rail Stations (Human Transit)
  • More on Union Station Master Plan Progress (DTLA News, Progressive Railroading)
  • Council Developing Short-Term Plan for Orange Line Improvements (SFV Biz)
  • Community Celebrates End of 405 Construction Impacts, Local Ramps Still Closed (LAT)
  • Ebola Scare at Union Station Last Friday (The Source)
  • A Look at Induced Demand and L.A.’s Freeway Projects (Lets Go L.A.)
  • An Interview with the Artist Who Redesigns Street Parking Signs (L.A. Weekly)
  • Pedestrian Injured in Hit and Run in Pico-Union This Morning (Daily News)
  • Angry Crank Resents Young People Having Voice in Santa Monica (SMDP)

For more headlines, visit Streetsblog USA.