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Biking and Walking Get About as Much Research Funding as Chicken Trucks

When traffic engineers don’t want to install protected bike lanes, they’ll often say that more research is needed to prove their safety (because any results from outside America don’t count, of course). But then when opportunities arise to study the safety of protected bike lanes, the engineering establishment doesn’t take advantage. And so the cycle repeats itself.

A study examining "husbandry" vehicles, or trucks that carry livestock, received almost as much research funding this year as walking and biking. Photo: Wikipedia

A study examining “husbandry” vehicles — trucks that carry livestock — received almost as much research funding this year as walking and biking. Photo: Wikipedia

Case in point: The National Cooperative Highway Research Program recently approved $30 million for transportation research, but hardly any of that will go toward studying the biking and walking infrastructure that many American cities are seeking to implement.

Just $750,000 of the $30 million will go to study bike and pedestrian infrastructure. That’s a measly 2.5 percent. For comparison, nearly as much money — $600,000 — was awarded to a single research project about vehicles that carry livestock.

This research funding matters. When an influential trade group like the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials refuses to officially endorse protected bike lanes, the excuse you’ll often hear is that there isn’t enough data to prove the designs are safe. But the same cadre of engineers also decline to fund safety research into those designs.

The National Cooperative Highway Research Program is overseen by the Transportation Research Board, AASHTO, and the Federal Highway Administration. These same groups appoint most of the members of the powerful National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which has been slow to adopt new templates that can improve the safety of cycling.

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Today’s Headlines

Eyes on the sidewalk: new sidewalks in progress at MacArthur Park. For more info on L.A. City's sidewalk repair at public facilities see earlier post. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Eyes on the sidewalk: newly repaired sidewalks in progress at MacArthur Park this week. For more info on L.A. City’s sidewalk repair at city facilities see this earlier SBLA post. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

  • Santa Ana and Garden Grove Eyeing OC Streetcar (LAT)
  • Full Bike To Work Day Pit Stops Map (The Source)
    West Hollywood Bike To Work Day Stops (WeHoVille)
  • L.A.’s Public Libraries Celebrate Bike Week (LAT)
  • Gil Cedillo’s Latest: Paving Green Space At Lincoln Park (Flying Pigeon)
  • L.A. Dingbats Are A Model For Affordable Housing (Let’s Go L.A.)
  • Stabbing On Metro Bus In Gardena (LAT)
  • SFPD Tickets Not Focused On Safety, Ped/Bike Tickets Increase (SBSF)

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

 

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Bike Week: Blessing Bikes, Talking Bikes, Bike Videos

There are lots of #BikeWeekLA events going on this week — way too many for our meager cadre of Streetsblog Los Angeles writers to attend. We did make it to a few events so far: the kick-off press conference, a panel, and a blessing.

Good Samaritan’s 2015 Blessing of the Bicycles

Good Samaritan Hospital's 12th Annual Blessing of the Bikes. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Good Samaritan Hospital’s 12th Annual Blessing of the Bikes. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

This morning Good Samaritan Hospital hosted its 12th annual Blessing of the Bikes. Even though the format changes very little from year to year, I still very much enjoy attending. Each year, there is a free delicious breakfast, bike schwag, recognition of fallen cyclists and cycling leaders, a gathering of religious officials praying for cyclist safety, and a ceremonial ride circling the hospital. Each year, I am moved by the religious leaders’ adaptation of ancient religious teachings to apply them to contemporary cycling. In the past, a priest recited the biblical passage about “a wheel within a wheel.”

This year I really enjoyed hearing Jihad Turk, Imam at the Islamic Center of Southern California and President of Bayan Claremont Islamic (Seminary) Graduate School, recite a traditional prayer the prophet Muhammad taught his followers in the 7th century, about 1,400 years ago:

سبحان الذي سخر لنا هذا وما كنا له مقرنين، وإنا إلي ربنا لمنقلبون‏.‏

Which he translated Read more…

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Too Many Cities Make Their Most Valuable Land Worthless

Downtown Memphis, as seen from a Bass Pro Shop. Photo: Charles Marohn

Downtown Memphis. Photo: Brad Tabke via Twitter

This image of downtown Memphis caught the eye of Charles Marohn at Strong Towns. A parking wasteland topped by a tangle of highway spaghetti, it was taken, perfectly enough, from the Bass Pro Shop that now occupies the top of the Memphis Pyramid.

So many cities have done the same as Memphis: take some of their most valuable land and make it worthless. Marohn writes:

On the left you have the city with all its people, businesses, hopes and dreams. On the right, you have the great natural resource of the Mississippi River and all its potential to enhance the prosperity of the community. In between, you have the wealth of the community — yesterday’s wealth, today’s wealth and tomorrow’s wealth — dedicated to moving cars and storing cars, culminating in the hundreds of millions of dollars of subsidy for the pyramid-shaped retail outlet from which the photo is taken.

What you see in this photo is the most valuable land in the city. There is no clearer explanation for why our cities are going broke than to see how this valuable resource has been squandered. There is no return here. No wealth. Just massive, ongoing expense passed from generation to generation.

This also explains why a great city like Memphis would feel compelled to gamble with hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money instead of making small, incremental, low-risk investments in their core neighborhoods. They feel a desperate need to make up for the fact that their most valuable land produces nothing but expenses. That’s an impossibly high burden they’ve placed on themselves.

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Via Streetsblog California
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California Moves up the “Bicycle Friendly States” Ranking to #8

Screen shot 2015-05-11 at 4.07.22 PM

The League of American Cyclist’s state ranking of bicycle friendliness, top 25 states.

The League of American Bicyclists today released its state rankings for “bicycle friendly states” and this year California is ranked 8th in the US, behind Washington, Minnesota, Utah, and Oregon.

The state earned 53.1 points out of 100 possible points in the League’s point system, which is actually a bit less than what we earned last year (53.7). Still, that’s barely over half of the possible number of points, which offers a clue about how much work remains. Washington, the top-ranked state, earned only 66.2 points—so clearly there’s plenty of room for improvement throughout the country.

The scores among the top ten or so states are pretty close. States are awarded points in five areas:

  • Legislation & Enforcement
  • Policies & Programs
  • Infrastructure & Funding
  • Education & Encouragement
  • Evaluation & Planning

California’s weakest areas, unsurprisingly, are infrastructure & funding and evaluation & planning. For example, we got dinged for not having a statewide bicycle plan. However, according to information hidden deep in the Caltrans website [PDF], the department anticipates beginning work on such a plan in June.

The league also recommends that California adopt a vulnerable user law, which legislators tried and failed to pass last year–and to improve data collection on bicycle injuries, trips, and fatalities.

The League’s state rankings are available here.

California’s report card can be found here [PDF]. Notably, it’s remarkably similar to last year’s report card [PDF], in which California ranked #9, despite getting credit for attempting a vulnerable users law.

Last year’s report also recommended that California

Adopt a mode share goal for biking to encourage the integration of bicycle transportation needs into all transportation and land use policy and project decisions.

Check! That is, Caltrans has stated the goal of tripling bicycling. Now to integrate bicycle transportation needs into all those policy and project decisions.

Also, Angie Schmidt at Streetsblog USA has the national perspective on the state rankings.

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A Tale of Two Future Bridges: New Bike/Ped Crossing on L.A. River, Fewer Sidewalks on Glendale-Hyperion

A person crossing would have to come down from the bridge on the right to the red car bridge on the left to cross the bridge. Would anyone do this and add 12 minutes to their trip in the real world?

Under the two plans announced today, a person crossing would have to come down from the bridge on the right to the red car bridge on the left to cross. Would anyone do this and add 12 minutes to their trip in the real world?

It was sort of a surreal moment. Even as Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell stood at the podium discussing the benefits of a planned new bicycle and pedestrian crossing over the L.A. River, the Bureau of Public Works released its recommendation (PDF) that the new Glendale-Hyperion Bridge would actually have fewer feet devoted to safe sidewalks than the current bridge.

LaBonge and O’Farrell at this morning’s press event. Both pics by Damien Newton

What was supposed to be a light press conference announcing the opening of a permanent bridge project using existing support structures from an old Red Car bridge across the L.A. River turned somewhat sour for many of the community and traffic safety advocates in attendance when the Bureau announced their plans for the bridge on their website. News traveled quickly among the crowd, and the reporters present suddenly found themselves with dozens of sources for a meatier story than a made-for-bike-week announcement of new infrastructure.

In the fall of 2013, news broke that when the Glendale-Hyperion complex of bridges that connect Atwater Village and Silver Lake would be retrofitted to make them earthquake-proof, local advocates immediately noticed problems with the new design on the street portion of the bridge. Despite appearing on the city’s bicycle plan, the road redesign called for widening the existing car lanes, installing “crash barriers” in the middle of the bridge, removing a sidewalk, and adding no bike lanes.

After an explosion of public comment and a community forum which turned into a Livable Streets rally, O’Farrell, announced a citizen’s advisory committee would be formed. The Mayor’s office submitted a request for an extension to the grant. The old timeline would have precluded any major changes to the proposed road design.

Earlier today, the Bureau of Engineering released its analysis of four different designs for the new bridge, concluding that to make space for a pair of bike lanes on the new bridge, the best option was to take out one of the two sidewalks.

At the podium this morning, O’Farrell painted as rosy a picture as possible, discussing the importance of river crossings for all mode users and some of the improvements the new Hyperion Bridge will have over the existing one, including marked crosswalks and bicycle lanes. He even struck a populist tone, declaring his support for “protected bicycle lanes” on Hyperion and across the city.

But that wasn’t enough for many of the safety advocates in the audience. A press release from L.A. Walks noted that any bicyclist or pedestrian on Glendale Boulevard wanting to cross the river on the “Red Car Bridge” would need to travel twelve minutes out of their way–and are thus far more likely to use the limited sidewalk or just walk on the shoulder even without a sidewalk.

“The City of Los Angeles promotes the fact that we have moved past our auto-centric history and want to be ‘A Safe City,’ as it states in the Mayor’s Great Streets for Los Angeles Strategic Plan,” says Deborah Murphy. “We cannot achieve this goal if we can’t provide the most basic of provisions for pedestrians–a simple sidewalk on both sides of the bridge.” Read more…

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Testing Around Exide Plant Continues, Community Voices Frustration over Lack of Clarity in Results

Map of the Expanded Assessment Areas. Testing for lead contamination was originally conducted in the green squares. The current round of testing was conducted in the wider assessment area. Source: DTSC

Map of the Expanded Assessment Areas. Testing for lead contamination was originally conducted in the green squares, based on modeling done by the AQMD regarding the distance and direction toxic particles might travel. The current round of testing was conducted in the wider assessment area. Source: DTSC

“I still don’t have a clear picture of what the results [of the lead testing in the Expanded Assessment Areas] are,” said a representative of Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard.

We were now nearly two hours into a community workshop explicitly intended to brief residents on the extent to which lead emissions from Exide Technologies’ secondary smelting operations may have contaminated properties found within the Expanded Assessment Areas (see explanation, at left). And a number of stakeholders had met one-on-one with representatives of the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and L.A. County Department of Public Health (DPH) in the two hours prior to the meeting to get the specific results of testing done on their property.

Having tracked Exide’s many air quality standards violations over the years and watched family members and friends suffer from the kinds of issues that run rampant in environmental justice (EJ) communities — asthma, cancer, developmental delays, etc. — residents were frustrated. Even as they celebrated the pending closure and dismantling of the battery recycler that they had battled for so long, they were still looking for definitive answers about what Exide had done to their community while it operated for 15 years under a temporary permit and with minimal oversight.

But the science doesn’t always comply with people’s wishes.

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Today’s Headlines

  • L.A. Times To Incoming Metro CEO Phil Washington: “Ride the Bus”
    (Washington Clearly Already Rides Transit. Do LAT Opinion Writers?)
  • CityLab Looks Into L.A. Walkability Struggles
  • Shocker: Turns Out L.A. Times Got High Speed Rail Fares Wrong (Twitter, CAHSR Blog)
  • KPCC, Daily News, KTLA Profile Bike Week L.A.
  • Rail Lines That Helped Shape Orange County (LAT)
  • Metro Spending Many Thousands Of Dollars On Bike Initiatives (The Source)
  • Google Acknowledges Its Self-Driving Cars Have Had “Accidents” (LAT)
  • How Parking Requirements Crush Affordable Housing (CityLab)
  • San Jose To Adopt Vision Zero, With Unspecified Timeline (SBSF)
  • Dept of Labor Ruling Blocks Funds To CA Transit Agencies (SJ Mercury News)
  • Swedish Study: Cycling 1/6 As Costly To Society, To Individuals (YouTube)

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

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This Morning’s Bike Week L.A. Press Conference Made One Cynic Smile

New Metro CEO Phil Washington addresses this morning's Bike Week L.A. press conference. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

New Metro CEO Phil Washington addresses this morning’s Bike Week L.A. press conference. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

I get pretty cynical, critical, and dismissive about bike week. OK, some folks, probably rightly, know I get too cynical and bitter about a lot of things, and bike week is one of those.

This morning, I finished up SBLA’s bike week calendar post, which is pretty critical of the promotion for tonight’s event, “Is Bicycling In Your Future?” The event’s title assumes that nobody bikes in Los Angeles now or in the past. The promotional blurb, for example– “Can bike infrastructure make the streets safe enough for you to ride on?”– is addressed to people who are assumed to never bike. To me it says: if you’re waiting for L.A. bike infrastructure to be complete before you bike, you will never bike.

Even Metro’s bike week promotional slogan (see graphic) assumes bicyclists are not traffic, and portrays cycling as a cloud of exhaust, albeit a blue cloud. Other Metro bike week messaging states “Give your car a break” and this is for an agency whose bus and train riders are more than three-quarters car-free. Why assume that the reader has a car? I guess it is better than AAA’s inadvertent bike blood-splatter messaging.

I guess I should have some empathy. Bike week gets a few agency staff outside their comfort zone. There are a bunch of people who spend all day writing serious stuff about how freeway widening projects will “decrease surface street traffic.” Yes, Metro and Caltrans are still saying this, as of March 2015. Once a year, these professionals are told to toss cyclists a crumb. They are stuck behind their windshield, terrified of bicycling. Is it any surprise that the results come off as wooden and tone deaf? They are not used to taking bicycling seriously. Their leadership has not made taking bicycling seriously an ongoing priority for their job. What should I expect?

So, there was a press conference at Grand Park this morning where Metro, the L.A. City Transportation Department (LADOT), Caltrans, Metrolink, Good Samaritan Hospital, CicLAvia, L.A. County Bicycle Coalition, and C.I.C.L.E. all got together to announce and promote bike week.

And it was actually good.

Numerous speakers got things right, and sounded very appropriate, positive, and hopeful notes:

  • Hosting the press conference, Metro boardmember Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker barely touched on bike week, instead outlining ongoing Metro efforts to support everyday bicycling, repeatedly saying that it is not about “bike week” but “bike life.” Dupont-Walker outlined recent and upcoming Metro initiatives: three-bike bus racks, a new secure bike parking hub prototype under construction in El Monte, the selection of a Metro regional bike-share vendor expected next month, and a newly funded $224,000 initiative for a series of bicycle safety education classes.
  • Metro boardmember and L.A. City Councilmember Paul Krekorian spoke enthusiastically about the success of CicLAvia in the San Fernando Valley, and the way the event highlighted synergies between cycling and transit. As a Metrolink boardmember, Krekorian announced that all this week, Metrolink is offering free rides for cyclists. Just show your bike as your ticket.
  • Metro boardmember and L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis spoke about participating in the recent East Los Angeles CicLAvia, how bicycling and walking are the way people from all over the world get around all the time, and how it is time for L.A. County to “put funding behind [active transportation].”
  • L.A. City Councilmember Jose Huizar opined that the impact of CicLAvia has been greater than any policy or legislation approved in recent years. He stressed that, through CicLAvia and everyday bike transportation, Los Angeles is seeing that bicycling is great for health, the environment, and business.
  • New Metro CEO Phil Washington spent his first couple of hours on the job at the bike week kick-off. He stated that he checked in at his office, put his briefcase down, found the bathroom, and took the train to get to Grand Park for this morning’s event. Washington stressed that walking and bicycling are key components for creating a balanced transportation system that serves everyone from 8 to 80 years old.
  • LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds touted the agency’s 30 new miles of bike lane this fiscal year, its first parking-protected bike lanes, and new bike corrals. She stressed that “it’s not really about the bike” but that bicycling is one important component of a safe, strong, prosperous, resilient city.
  • Nonprofit representatives Good Samaritan Hospital’s Andy Leeka, CicLAvia’s Aaron Paley, LACBC’s Tamika Butler, and C.I.C.L.E.’s Vanessa Gray extended and deepened the bicycle appreciation and enthusiasm. LACBC released a new fact sheet compiling survey data from their Operation Firefly bike-light giveaways.
  • The only consistent wrong note was sounded by Caltrans’ District 7 Director Carrie Bowen. Bowen sounds very knowledgeable when interacting with the Metro board regarding Measure R freeway-widening projects, but at this morning’s event, she read monotonously from a prepared statement, even asserting that Caltrans has always included bicycling in its projects. Just. Not. True. Caltrans has come a long way toward realigning the agency’s past car-centric approach to better support a healthy 21st century mix of transportation modes, but, frankly, this change is still just beginning to take hold, sometimes grudgingly. Bowen closed by exhorting cyclists, “If you are driving, slow down for the cone zone.” Really.

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Eyes on the Street: Hit and Run PSA Appears on Pasadena Billboard

FtR Gatto

Image via Finish the Ride

If you’re traveling through Pasadena, you may note a new “Public Service Announcement” billboard from Finish the Ride and Assemblyman Mike Gatto urging people to stop and give aide if they are involved in a traffic crash.

It’s no secret that both Finish the Ride (FtR) and Gatto are champions of reforming hit and run laws and enforcement, but this marks their most visible effort (outside of FtR’s self-named bicycle ride and road run) to raise awareness through a media campaign.

I talked with Damian Kevitt, the victim turned avenger who serves as the leader and inspiration for FtR about the billboards. While this one will be moving to a “nearby location” in the next couple of weeks, they are looking for sponsors to run a statewide P.S.A. campaign. They are already working with the LAPD that would run throughout Greater Los Angeles.

Here’s a prize for Streetsblog readers, the first person to send us a picture of the billboard that they take on their own and tell us what street corner the billboard is at wins a Streetsblog t-shirt. Leave your submission in the comments section.