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Indianapolis Brings Street Life Downtown With a Flurry of Quick Changes

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For 10 weeks, Indianapolis is showing residents how the Monument Circle redesign — which narrows the roadway from 40 feet to 22 feet — will look, and how that additional public space can be used. All photos from Big Car Collaborative.

Indianapolis is building public support for a major street redesign the same way DIYers and tactical urbanists do: by testing out temporary changes.

Monument Circle, where the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument stands tall at 285 feet, is a downtown traffic circle and city park with a lot of potential, but with three lanes of traffic whirling around it, the space feels cut off from the public. That’s going to change, as the city works to make the circle and its adjoining streets more inviting to people on foot.

Scraping together the $60 million needed for permanent improvements won’t happen overnight, however, and the city doesn’t want to wait years before people get to experience a better Monument Circle.

So the city — in partnership with the Downtown Indy business association and a local organization somewhat ironically named Big Car Collaborative — is using events and temporary materials to show how big cars will no longer dominate the city’s iconic plaza.

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Today’s Headlines

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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…

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“Places I Don’t Want to Sit” — A Gallery of Sad Public Spaces

Gracen Johnson at Strong Towns says this gazebo in an office park parking lot is a great example of a terrible public space.

Gracen Johnson at Strong Towns is gathering a collection of terrible public spaces, like this gazebo in a parking lot.

Gracen Johnson at Strong Towns has tapped into something universal with her post “Places I Don’t Want to Sit.” The above photo sums it up nicely: lousy, leftover spaces with public amenities grafted on as an afterthought. Since the whole surrounding parking lot is so hostile to people, why would anyone want to sit there?

There’s an epidemic of sad spaces like this in America, she says. How are we getting it so wrong and what would it take to get it right?

We live in cities starved for good public space. There are so few spots in North America where you can sit comfortably (ie. safe, shaded, with a good perch/chair) and enjoy the city around you with zero expectation of spending money. It’s a fact made more tragic when you realize how simple and cheap it can be to create wonderfully sittable space. Instead, many of our highest-potential urban environments are built to explicitly un-sittable standards using defensive architecture.

Other times, we do try to create linger-worthy public space and fail spectacularly. We often demand developers throw some cash toward green space or public amenities in order to get approval for construction. You see it all the time in subdivisions with exquisite landscaping, roundabouts, and benches that are only appreciated from behind a car window.

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Today’s Headlines

  • L.A. Vision Zero: Stakes Are Too High (NBC4)
  • Apps Fostering A Comeback For Carpooling (KPCC)
  • Sexual Harassment An Ongoing Issue For Metro Riders (LAT)
  • San Gabriel Cities Remove 710 Extension From Measure R2 List (KPCC)
  • A Bit More About WeHo’s Planned 150-Bike CycleHop Bike-Share (Curbed)
  • Economic Growth Can Be Decoupled From More Driving (Better Institutions)
  • Pasadena Proposes Minor Reductions In Transit-Area Parking Requirements (Shoupistas Fb)
  • LADOT Retooling DASH System (Downtown News)
  • A Better Rosa Parks Blue/Green Line Station On the Way (Transform)
  • L.A. City Council To Vote Today On Ride-Hailing For LAX (LAT)
  • Fed Dept Of Labor Blocks $700M In Metro Grants – Over Pension Reform (SJ Mercury News)

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Garcetti Signs Vision Zero Directive to End L.A. Traffic Deaths by 2025

Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Tamika Butler speaks on Los Angeles' new Vision Zero policy at today's signing ceremony in Boyle Heights. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Tamika Butler speaks on Los Angeles’ new Vision Zero policy at today’s signing ceremony in Boyle Heights. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Today, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed a directive [PDF] that commits city departments to Vision Zero. Specifically, the City of Los Angeles is committed to reducing traffic fatalities to zero by the year 2025.

A little over a year ago, it was difficult to find Los Angeles agency staff, elected officials, or even individuals who were conversant on Vision Zero. In case readers are unfamiliar with Vision Zero, here is a description from the newly-formed Los Angeles Vision Zero Alliance:

Vision Zero is a worldwide movement, started in Sweden, to eliminate all traffic deaths. While traditional traffic safety campaigns have focused on changing human behavior to reduce accident risks, Vision Zero takes a fundamentally different approach by instead putting the responsibility on government to manage the streets using evidence-based strategies to prevent fatalities and serious injuries. Vision Zero is data-driven, outcome-focused, and collaborative across agencies and departments.

Today’s directive follows on the heels of, and broadens, other recent L.A. City Vision Zero declarations. Last September, the Department of Transportation (LADOT) adopted Vision Zero as part of its departmental strategic plan. In April, Garcetti released an ambitious Sustainability “pLAn” that included Vision Zero. Earlier this month, the L.A. City Council approved Mobility Plan 2035; that approval made Vision Zero the adopted citywide policy for Los Angeles.

Prior to today, Vision Zero was largely confined to LADOT and City Planning (DCP). With this new directive, Garcetti broadens the city agencies responsible for implementing Vision Zero. In addition to LADOT and DCP, Garcetti explicitly names the Police, Fire, Public Works, and Water & Power departments to participate in an internal city of L.A. Vision Zero Steering Committee. In addition, the city will host a broader Vision Zero Task Force, to include city representatives, plus L.A. Unified School District, L.A. County Department of Public Health, Metro, non-profit advocates, and others.  Read more…

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Feds to Traffic Engineers: Use Our Money to Build Protected Bike Lanes

The feds say there’s no excuse not to use federal funding on designs like protected bike lanes.

The Federal Highway Administration wants to clear the air: Yes, state and local transportation agencies should use federal money to construct high-quality biking and walking infrastructure.

State and local DOTs deploy an array of excuses to avoid building designs like protected bike lanes. “It’s not in the manual” is a favorite. So is “the feds won’t fund that.”

Whether these excuses are cynical or sincere, FHWA wants you to know that they’re bogus.

Last week, the agency released a “clarifying” document that shoots down, on the record, some of the common refrains people hear from their DOT when they ask for safer street designs. This is a good document to print out and take to the next public meeting where you expect a transportation engineer might try the old “my-hands-are-tied” routine.

Here are the seven things FHWA wants to be absolutely clear about:

1. Federal funds CAN be used to build protected bike lanes.

In case any doubt remains, FHWA printed its own design guide for protected bike lanes. It’s okay to use federal money to build them.

2. Federal funds CAN be used for road diets.

FHWA created a whole website to help states and municipalities implement road diets that reduce lanes for motor vehicle traffic to improve safety. FHWA wants local agencies that federal money can be used on them.

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This Week In Livable Streets

sblog_calendarVision Zero, South L.A. Power Fest, Ride-On bike tune-ups, Active Transportation, Santa Monica bicycling, SCAG plans, and much more all this week.

  • Monday 8/24 – Today, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti launches the city’s Vision Zero initiative at 12:30 pm at the intersection of Cesar Chavez and St. Louis in Boyle Heights. Details at L.A. Walks.
  • Monday 8/25 – This afternoon, Metro hosts another Active Transportation Strategic Plan meeting from 4 to 6 p.m. at 16401 Paramount Blvd in Paramount. Details at Metro.
  • Tuesday 8/25 – The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) is gathering community input at an environmental justice workshop as part of its Regional Transportation Plan Sustainable Communities Strategy process. The workshop takes place from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at SCAG’s Main Office at 818 West 7th Street, in downtown L.A. and is simulcast at multiple locations. Details at SCAG. sorry incorrect date
  • Wednesday 8/26 –  Metro hosts the last of its planned Active Transportation Strategic Plan meetings from 4 to 6 p.m. at 150 N. 3rd Street in Burbank. Details at Metro.
  • Wednesday 8/26 – Santa Monica Spoke hosts a Handlebar Happy Hour at El Cholo from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Details at Santa Monica Next.
  • Friday 8/28 – The Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority is celebrating light rail construction nearing completion. The Authority is hosting dedication ceremonies at each of the new stations due to open in early 2016. This Saturday, celebrate the new Irwindale Station at 5 p.m. at 16027 Avenida Padilla in Irwindale. Details here.
  • Saturday 8/29 – Black Kids on Bikes/Ride-On! Bike Co-Op host a free bike tune-up session from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Leimert Park Plaza. Details at Facebook event.
  • Saturday 8/29 – Bikesanas del Valle hosts a ride in support of street vendors. Departs at 11 a.m. from El Hormiguero at 12545 Terra Bella St in Pacoima. Details at Facebook event.
  • Saturday 8/29 – Community Coalition’s South L.A. Power Fest takes place from 1 – 8 p.m. at Martin Luther King Jr. Park at 3916 Western Avenue in South L.A. The event is a free political music festival that attracts thousands of families from South Los Angeles in a day of celebration, empowerment, and education. Free but RSVP here and additional details at Facebook event.
  • It’s not too early to sign up to volunteer for the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition’s annual September bike and walk count.

Did we miss anything? Is there something we should list on future calendars? Email joe@streetsblog.org.

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When DOT Refuses to Acknowledge That Its Streets Have a Design Problem

The intersection of North College and Ninth Street is the third-most dangerous in Charlotte. The city DOT will only consider tiny, cosmetic changes. Image: Google Maps via Naked City

Today on the Streetsblog Network, Mary Newsom at the Naked City has a classic story about a dangerous street in desperate need of a design overhaul, and a DOT that’s only willing to try out tiny, cosmetic changes.

Charlotte is out with its annual list of high-crash intersections, and not for the first time, the most dangerous locations are predominantly on wide, one-way streets like North College Street. When Newsom suggested to Charlotte DOT a few years back that the design of these streets is causing problems, an engineer told her that changing the configuration of College Street is not on the table:

Engineer Debbie Self, in charge of CDOT’s traffic and pedestrian safety programs, pointed out in 2013 that of the 150 intersections in uptown Charlotte, the majority involve at least one one-way street and most are not on the high-accident list. About North College Street in particular, in 2013, Self wrote:

“College Street in the areas of 7th, 8th & 9th Streets has been on the HAL [high accident list] for many years. It’s been hard to pin point a single underlying cause. Angle crashes account for about half of the crashes at College and 7th, 8th and 9th. CDOT will likely consider reflective back plates at the signals as a mitigation given our successful reduction in crashes at 5th/Caldwell.” [CDOT had attributed the 2013 decline in accidents at Fifth and Caldwell to the installation of the back plates.]

Newsom writes that tinkering on the margins is increasingly inadequate given the growing foot traffic around North College Street:

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Today’s Headlines

  • New General Plan Aims To Make Pasadena More Walkable (Pasadena Star News)
  • Garcetti To Sign Vision Zero Directive 12:30 p.m. Today in Boyle Heights (L.A. Walks)
  • WeHo Plans 150-Bike CycleHop Bike-Share System, Open Spring 2016 (WeHoVille)
  • Changing Demographics Make California Cities Progressive (LAT)
  • Colorado DOT’s Zany Tone-Deaf Blame-the-Pedestrian Videos (SB Denver)
  • New Arcadia Gold Line Station Dedicated, Service Starts 2016 (L.A. Magazine)
  • Eastside Riders Bike Club And Others Helping Shape Today’s Watts (KCET)
  • Injuries When Metro Bus Driver Blacked Out, Hit Tree In Westwood 2 a.m. Saturday (LAT)
  • Carnage: Two Killed When Truck Hit Car On 405 In Van Nuys (KPCC)
  • Bicycling Shot Up 350% in Santa Monica From 2000 To 2012 (Curbed)

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