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Vote to Decide the Best Urban Street Transformation of 2014

streetsie_2014

If you’re searching for reasons to feel positive about the future, the street transformations pictured below are a good start. Earlier this month we asked readers to send in their nominations for the best American street redesigns of 2014. These five are the finalists selected by Streetsblog staff. They include new car-free zones, substantial sidewalk expansions, superb bike infrastructure, awesome safety upgrades, and exclusive transit lanes.

Which deserves the distinction of being named the “Best Urban Street Transformation of 2014″? We’re starting the voting today and will post a reminder when we run the rest of the Streetsblog USA Streetsie Award polls next Tuesday. Without further ado, here are the contenders:

Western Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Before

Before

After. (We're using a rendering because the project is not quite yet 100% complete.)

After. (We’re using a rendering because the project is not quite 100 percent complete.)

The Western Avenue road diet narrowed dangerously wide traffic lanes on this one-way street to make room for safer pedestrian crossings, a raised bike lane, and bus bulbs. Brian DeChambeau of the Cambridge Community Development Department, the lead agency on the project, adds these details about the redesign:

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Protected Bike Lanes All Over the U.S., Including Temple City (People4Bikes)
  • Carnage: Car Crash Kills Three Peds in Redondo Beach (Daily Breeze)
  • LACBC Announces New Executive Director Tamika Butler (SM Spoke)
  • Councilmember Gil Cedillo North Figueroa Snub Commentary All Over:
    Cedillo Attacking Constituents One Percent At A Time (Across L.A.)
    LOL Meme: Cedillo Snubs Mayor Garcetti’s Great Streets Initiative (Flying Pigeon Twitter)
    Cedillo Labels Cyclists as Bullies (Biking In L.A.)
    Cedillo Ruling By Tantrumocracy (Flying Pigeon)
    ICYMI In Spanish, Actual Corrido Tells the Sad Cedillo Tale (SBLA Lite Tumblr)
  • The Waze App Causing Cut-Through Traffic Story All Over Too (KPCC, KCRW)
  • Residential TOD Project Planned Just South East of NoHo Metro Station (Building L.A.)
  • Cartoon and Opinion: CA High Speed Rail for Our Grandchildren (LAT)
  • Downtown Railyard Complicating L.A. River Revitalization Price Tag (KCET)
  • Truck Side-Guards Could Save Bicyclists Lives (SB NYC)

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L.A. Council Approves Call for Projects List with Cedillo Snub Intact

Rendering of the proposed buffered bike lane on North Figueroa Street. Image: Flying Pigeon L.A.

Rendering of the planned buffered bike lane on North Figueroa Street. Yesterdays’ Council vote signals a further step away from a North Figueroa that would be safer for all. Image: Flying Pigeon L.A.

Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Council approved the list of projects [PDF] that the city plans to submit for Metro Call for Projects funding. Overall, the Call list includes a lot of great projects that reflect that many L.A. City elected officials and the city’s Transportation Department (LADOT) are truly pursuing greater livability and safety.

Unfortunately, the list also includes the ”North Figueroa Great Streets Corridor,” City Councilmember Gil Cedillo’s proposal to add diagonal parking to North Figueroa Street instead of bike lanes.

At yesterday’s meeting, more than half a dozen speakers urged the Council not to pursue Cedillo’s North Figueroa proposal. Speakers included a North Figueroa business owner, local residents, and livability advocates. The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition’s Alek Bartrosouf testified that, “It is important to ensure that as we build Great Streets across the City of Los Angeles that these streets are designed for the safety of all who travel them, and that the planning process is open and inclusive of all voices.”

The LACBC further clarified concerns in their comment letter [PDF] which urged Council President Herb Wesson to re-scope the North Figueroa project to align with the inclusive vision in the city’s bike and mobility plans.

Cedillo’s response to the public was telling. He characterized speakers as having “one percent dictate for 99 percent.” He portrayed complete streets supporters as bullies, proclaiming, “We will not be bullied.” Ultimately, Cedillo defended his North Figueroa project in Orwellian livability rhetoric, stating it includes a “multi-modal approach” and puts “safety first and foremost.”

The City Council, which generally defers to the councilmember who represents the district where a project is located, approved the Call for Projects list unanimously.

Yesterday’s vote gives LADOT staff the go-ahead to seek funding for Cedillo’s project. The project will compete with other applications for Metro funding. If project funding is approved by Metro in mid-2015, funding would be programmed beginning in FY 2019-2020. The project scope could be modified during design and environmental review processes.

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Using a Construction Project to Predict the Effect of a Road Diet

Portland's dangerous Barbur Boulevard got a temporary road diet during construction recently, and got safer. Photo: Bike Portland

Portland’s dangerous Barbur Boulevard got a temporary road diet during a recent paving project, and speeding dropped dramatically. Photo: Bike Portland

Barbur Boulevard in Portland is one of the city’s most deadly streets, and advocates there have pushed for a road diet that would slow traffic and provide comfortable space for biking and walking. But the state DOT has refused to change the road, in large part due to objections from the local chamber of commerce.

But in an interesting natural experiment, a recent construction project on Barbur Boulevard took a lane out of commission. Michael Andersen at Bike Portland reports that the data from the construction period in many ways confirms what street safety advocates have said all along:

Converting one northbound traffic lane on 1.9 miles of SW Barbur Boulevard to two protected bike lanes with sidewalks would apparently prevent unsafe weaving during off-peak hours without massive impacts to morning traffic.

That’s one conclusion from data released Friday that analyzed changes to people’s driving habits during construction work on Barbur this summer. A repaving project had temporarily closed one traffic lane in each direction.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Echo Park’s “Blackbirds” Residential Development Has Elegant Density (CityLab)
  • Gov Brown and Legislators Promise To Keep Fighting Climate Change (LAT)
  • L.A. Has A Plan To Harmonize Taxis and Ubers (Curbed)
  • Boyle Heights Santa Teresita School Gets New Sidewalk (EGPNews)
  • Images Of Potential Styles For Glendale’s L.A. River Ped Bridge (Curbed)
  • Editorial Cartoon: Governor Brown Wants High Speed Rail (Glendale News Press)
  • SMPD and Bike Center Promote Smart Cycling (Santa Monica Next)

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NoHo Ped Tunnel Construction Underway, To Connect Orange and Red Lines

Diagram of North Hollywood Station Underpass project. The new tunnel connect the NoHo Red Line subway station with the Orange Line BRT station across the street. Image via Metro

Diagram of North Hollywood Station Underpass project. The new tunnel will connect the NoHo Red Line subway station with the Orange Line BRT station across the street. Image via Metro Fact Sheet [PDF]

Construction is underway for a new tunnel that will make it easier for riders to transfer between Metro’s Orange and Red Lines. Per Metro’s fact sheet [PDF], the new tunnel, officially the North Hollywood Station Underpass project, is expected to be completed in Spring 2016. Riders are already detouring around the pedestrian-unfriendly construction site barriers.

The North Hollywood Station Underpass is a $22 million capital project, funded in part by a $10 million U.S. Department of Transportation Bus Facility Fund grant. According to a Board report [PDF], Metro estimates that the project will save riders approximately 44 seconds as they transfer between the Red Line subway and the Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

According to the Metro project page, once the tunnel opens, “pedestrian traffic will be deterred from crossing Lankershim.” I hope this doesn’t mean that the surface crosswalk at Chandler Boulevard North will be removed. If this is the case, so much for the 44-second savings, as bus-to-bus connecting passengers will have to walk further to get to another surface crosswalk, or go down into the station and then come back up to the surface to catch the Orange Line.

Eliminating the existing crosswalk would also be inconvenient and possibly dangerous for cyclists heading west from the Burbank-Chandler bikeway onto the Orange Line bikeway. Like too many Southern California livability projects, instead of creating the kind of redundancy that is found in local car transportation systems, it sounds like one walkway will open and another will be closed. 

(Updated 4:45pm – Metro spokesperson Dave Sotero requested that SBLA note that the crosswalk across Lankershim at Chandler North will “remain permanently to facilitate pedestrian/bicyclist crossings.”)

Diagram of the xxxxxxx

Diagram of the North Hollywood Station Underpass. In the foreground are the existing escalators, stairs, and tri-color arched shade structures at the NoHo Red Line Station. Diagonally through the middle are the Red Line tracks running below Lankershim Boulevard. In the upper right are the existing Orange Line station (not pictured) and new tunnel, escalators, stairs, and elevator. Image from Metro

The tunnel will connect to the mezzanine level of the North Hollywood Red Line Station, next to the existing elevator that connects the mezzanine with the train platform.  Read more…

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The Test of a Great Bikeway

What separates a great bikeway from one that makes you wonder why anyone even bothered?

Map: Transport Providence

Bike route fail: A bikeway proposed for Central Falls is indirect and wouldn’t take people to places they would want to go. Map: Transport Providence

James Kennedy at Transport Providence has put together a litmus test in response to a bike route planned for Central Falls, Rhode Island, which, he says, “sucks.”

Here’s the question set Kennedy put together and how he thinks the Central Falls route stacks up.

*Does it take you someplace useful?

I think there should be bike access everywhere, and there are some things that a person could go to here, so for some people this might serve a purpose. But for the vast majority, this is a useless route. The river cuts off access from the eastern part of Pawtucket, and the railroad cuts off access to the rest of Central Falls.

*Is the route easy to follow?

Looking at this on a map, it’s really clear that because of what I said above in point #1, in a sense it’s impossible to get lost on this route (it’s all technically on High Street, a prime example of a Rhode Island Street that goes a million directions getting one name, while some other streets that are completely contiguous and straight get six). There is nowhere useful to branch off to, so where could you get lost? At the same time, for a new person on this route, or even someone who’s taken a few times, the constant bends back and forth are disorienting. Imagine this from the perspective of a visitor: do you want to give this route your trust? The answer is no.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Express Park A Success: Cheaper Meters, More Occupied, Less Cruising (LAT)
  • Why Freeways Are the Right Place To Protest Ferguson (Zocalo)
  • LA and LB Receive Bloomberg Grant, Could It Mean More JSK?!?!? (KPCC)
  • Westsiders Want Fewer Cars, Instead Commit to Walk and Bike Complain (Curbed)
  • South El Monte, 5th Of 5 Cities, Approves SGV Regional Bike Plan (Bike SGV Fb)
  • KPCC Interviews Uber Drivers
  • After Improvements, Metro Blue Line Is Looking Spiffier (The Source)
  • Tales Of Crappy Bike Parking (Orange 20)
  • SF Gate Debunks Petroleum Industry’s Gas Tax Rhetoric
  • Low Oil Prices Making For Bumpy International Economy (LAT)
  • Price Tags On the Ethics Of the Engineering Profession
  • NYC CitiBike Bike Share Audit Woes Misleading (SB NYC)
  • Satire: 3 Million Car Collisions On L.A. Rainy Day (Daily Currant)

Get National Headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Congress Trims TIGER (But Doesn’t Hack It to Pieces) in 2015 Spending Bill

Transformations like this one, in Lee County, Florida, are what TIGER is all about. Images: ##http://www.leegov.com/gov/dept/sustainability/Documents/Lee%20County%20TIGER%20v%20Grant%20Narrative.pdf##Lee County##

Transformations like this one, in Lee County, Florida, are what TIGER is all about. Image: Lee County

The drama is over; the House and Senate have both passed the “cromnibus” spending bill [PDF] that funds government operations through the end of fiscal year 2015. And the Department of Transportation’s TIGER program survived.

While small, TIGER has proven to be a significant source of funding for local transit and active transportation projects, enabling cities, regions, and transit agencies to directly access federal support without going through state DOTs.

Back in May, Republicans proposed to cut the discretionary TIGER grant program by 83 percent and to limit TIGER grants to the GOP’s own myopic view of transportation priorities: roads, bridges, ports, and freight rail. They explicitly stated that the funds should not be used for “non-essential purposes, such as street-scaping, or bike and pedestrian paths.” As Streetsblog reported in May, they also wanted to cut eligibility for a bunch of projects related to transit, sidewalks, carpooling, safety, planning, and congestion pricing.

The final outcome is better than that but worse than 2014. TIGER got trimmed from $600 million in funding this year to $500 million in 2015, while the House didn’t get the ban on funding for active transportation projects that it wanted.

Read more…

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California Bicycle Coalition Announces Its 2015 Legislative Agenda

bikeeducation

CalBike thinks bicyclists would learn more from skills classes like this one offered by Bike East Bay than from paying fines for infractions. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

The California Bicycle Coalition (CalBike) released its ambitious agenda for the 2015  legislative session. Their top priority is to increase funding for cities to build complete bike networks — not just piecemeal bikeways.

Also on its agenda is the less glamorous but equally important task of clarifying some outdated regulations that prevent people from riding bikes. The list includes:

  • Defining low-speed electric bikes and allowing them on bike paths
  • Creating subsidies for electric bikes
  • Clarifying vehicle code rules including what happens at inoperative signals and when protected bike lanes cross intersections
  • Insurance reforms to help bicyclists collect damages in near collisions
  • Ticket diversion programs for cyclists

Funding for Bicycle Networks

CalBike’s goal is to create a funding source for competitive grants that could fund larger projects than the current Active Transportation Program (ATP) can support. Although the details are not yet fully fleshed out, the new grants would require the development of a complete, connected bicycle network, thus creating an incentive for cities to think more broadly about bike planning.

“We need to more rapidly and more broadly fund bike infrastructure,” said CalBike board member Christopher Kidd. “We’re hoping to change the ways that cities think about bike projects. Much of the time the available funding is so small that it only covers particular bike lanes, individual complete streets projects, and bike paths, and we end up with disjointed, piecemeal bike routes rather than networks.”

“It could be really game-changing for the way we build out our bike networks,” he added.

The existing ATP tends to focus on funding individual bike infrastructure projects rather than encouraging cities to think holistically about how bikes fit into the transportation system. CalBike hopes that with a new, larger funding source, cities and counties will be encouraged to take a much broader look at their bike networks, and address the gaps that remain after they tackle the easy parts first.

“We saw that on Telegraph Avenue [in Oakland],” said Kidd. “If there’s a difficult part of the project, it makes more sense to put it off, and to first do the things that are easy. But that is how we end up with all these gaps. And those gaps are what’s keeping more people from getting on bikes.”

Read more…