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#DamienTalks Episode 19: CicLAvia’s Romel Pascual and the Rise of Open Streets

Today, Damien talks with Romel Pascual, the new executive director of CicLAvia, the non-profit that programs arguably the most popular Open Streets program in America.

Pascual comes to the new position with a strong background in Los Angeles’ Open Streets Movement. He served as Deputy Mayor to Antonio Villaraigosa when the first CicLAvia was planned five years ago and has served on its Board of Directors.

For people that believe in the power of Ciclovía-style events to bring change, this is the interview for you.Pascual discusses how CicLAvia helped change the complexion of the streets in Downtown Los Angeles and other communities  from both the perspective of an advocate and the perspective of a former high-ranking city official.

Pascual also answers the growing urban legend that “we got CicLAvia because Mayor Villaraigosa got bike religion after he was forced off his bike.”

We’re always looking for sponsors, show ideas, and feedback. You can contact me at, at twitter @damientypes, online at Streetsblog California or on Facebook at StreetsblogCA.

Thanks for listening. You can download the episode at the Damien Talks homepage on Libsyn.

Streetsblog USA
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What If Traffic Engineers Were Held to Safety Standards Like Carmakers?

Twenty-one bicyclists and pedestrians were struck by cars on just an 8-block stretch of Tampa's Hillsborough Avenue over a four-year period, including two 15-year-old high-school girls who were killed in two separate incidents. But NHTSA won't be issuing any fines and there won't be a class action suit against the road designer. Image: Google Maps

Tampa’s Hillsborough Avenue has an appalling safety record, including the recent deaths of two 15-year-old high school girls who were killed in  separate incidents. But NHTSA won’t be issuing any fines and there won’t be a class action suit against the street designer. Image: Google Maps

It’s been a rough few days for auto makers.

News broke last week that Volkswagen will be fined because the carmaker manipulated the data from its diesel vehicles to make emissions look lower, deceiving U.S. environmental regulators.

And on Thursday, General Motors reached a $900 million settlement with the Justice Department for covering up a defect in its ignition switches that claimed the lives of at least 120 victims over 17 years. Almost 1,500 victims have been pursuing a civil suit against the company.

Most of the chatter about the GM deal has been in the vein of this USA Today editorial calling the punishment too lenient. It looks like all GM’s employees will escape criminal charges, even though the company knew about the problem before the faulty cars even went into production in 2002. The newspaper noted that the company’s stock was up 11 cents on the news of the settlement’s details.

Auto defects are a serious issue. According to “63 million passenger vehicles were recalled in 2014,” the biggest year for recalls ever. Most of the defects are not as serious as what GM is under fire for. The ignition switch problem affected 7 million vehicles over 17 years, Edmunds reports.

What’s interesting, from a safety perspective that encompasses streets as well as vehicles, is that the auto companies are held to account for dangerous conditions to a much greater degree than the engineers who design our streets.

After all, about 33,000 people are killed on American streets annually — a much higher rate than most of our peer countries — and street design is a major factor. But the designers of streets are rarely, if ever, sued when someone is killed because of dangerous, high-speed conditions.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Gold Line Authority Turns “Substantially Complete” Line Over To Metro (The Source, KPCC)
  • Preview the October 8 Opening Night Of the New Urbanism Film Festival
  • Flying Pigeon Debunks Mobility Plan Foes Argument: No Groceries By Bike
  • Star Architect Frank Gehry Criticized For L.A. River Involvement (NYT)
    …Gehry To Critics: “Grow Up” (Curbed)
  • LAT Opinion Writer Delayed By Iron Man Bike Race, Says Bikes Should Pay
  • SF Network TV Fearmongers Against Proposed Bike Yield Law (SBSF)

Events TODAY: Metro Board! NoHo Redevelopment! Vision Zero!

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Get State Headlines At Streetsblog CA


Open Thread: Metro Considering Bus Stop Thinning In Network Plan

Metro is looking to thin many of its bus stops as part of its proposed bus service reorganization.  Photo: Fred Camino/Metro Rider

Metro is looking to thin nearby bus stops as part of its proposed bus service reorganization. Photo: Fred Camino/Metro Rider

As part of its big bus service re-organization, now called the Strategic Bus Network Plan (SBNP), Metro is proposing “stop thinning,” which basically means eliminating numerous bus stops that are too close to each other. According to a recent Metro staff report [PDF] the SBNP is “expected to be presented to the Board for approval in October or November 2015.” When I analyzed Metro’s proposal in July, it was still very much in draft form, with contradictory and unclear components.

My go-to transit expert Jarrett Walker calls stop spacing “the endless, thankless, and essential struggle.” Walker reports that the U.S. generally has stops closer together than in Europe and Australia. He favors thinning stops to rationalize stop spacing primarily because “if you can get people to gather at fewer stops, you get a faster service.” Additional benefits Walker cites are improved health from walking, and “[f]ewer stops also means more people at each stop, which improves personal security and also justifies better infrastructure.”

With Metro’s bus operations budget flat, and population growth and car traffic increasing, if the agency does nothing, then bus service will deteriorate over time. Thinning stops appropriately can help to keep buses moving.

On the other hand, there are trade-offs. Some legitimate, some less so.

It is critical to maintain access for people with disabilities. In a review of Metro’s proposal published at KCET, D.J. Waldie raised this point, remarking that “stop thinning — at least a 1/4 mile spacing between stops — will require the elderly, the disabled, and riders with small children to walk further on sidewalks that require more than a billion dollars in repairs.”

Most resistance is somewhat less legitimate. Again from Walker: “Politically, though, stop removal is hard. People whose ride will be faster usually don’t make a lot of positive comments when such things are proposed, but you do hear from people who are going to lose their stop, and their neighbors and friends.  So these proposals often get beaten down.”

Read more…

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State Engineers Warm to Protected Bike Lanes for Next AASHTO Bike Guide

Linden Avenue, Seattle. AASHTO’s current manuals recommend against separating bike and car traffic with curbs or parked cars under any circumstances.

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

The professional transportation engineers’ association that writes the book on U.S. street design is meeting this week in Seattle — and talking quite a bit about protected bike lanes.

As we reported in January, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials is considering bringing protected bike lanes into the next edition of its widely used Guide for the Development of Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities.

For that to happen, AASHTO’s design committees will need to vote to include such designs. Based on interviews over the last few weeks, members have some disagreements over the issue but tend to agree that it’s important.

Tony Laird

Tony Laird of Wyoming DOT.

I asked Tony Laird, state highway development engineer at the Wyoming Department of Transportation and vice chair of AASHTO’s technical design committee on non-motorized transportation, what he saw as the major issues in the lead-up to AASHTO’s next bike guide.

“The hottest issue right now is what we’re calling protected bike lanes, what we called cycle tracks for a while,” Laird replied. “There’s a lot of demand for some guidance and consistency for what those look like… I think by the time we put together that new bike guide it’s going to have new guidance on protected bike lanes.”

Eric Ophardt of the New York State DOT, who also serves on the non-motorized committee, also cited new bike lane designs as the top issue he sees.

“The big thing is the bike paths and sidepaths that are being built all over this country,” he said.

Though physically separated bike lanes are only one of several issues on the committees’ plates, it’s one that people remain likely to disagree about.

Lynn Jonell Soporowski of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and another member of the non-motorized committee, is dubious about protected bike lanes, saying that Kentucky cities don’t have much room for such facilities.

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Is Houston Serious About Becoming a Multi-Modal City?

There’s been a fair amount of fanfare recently about the news that Houston is likely to surpass Chicago sometime soon as America’s third largest city. You can debate whether the comparison is very useful, due to variations in land area. But there’s no denying that Texas is growing fast. The Lone Star State is attracting two-and-a-half times more new households from other states than the next biggest gainer: Florida.

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

Will Houston adapt its transportation infrastructure to accommodate its growing population? Despite smart long-term goals, regional planners are still dumping the vast majority of funding at their disposal into highways, Caitlin McNeely at Houston Tomorrow reports:

The Houston – Galveston Area Council Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) has approved recommendations to spend 90% of regionally discretionary transportation improvement funds on roadway projects mostly for cars.

$783,265,000 is being allocated by the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Transportation Policy Council (TPC) and the TAC as part of the 2015 Call for Transportation Improvement Projects (TIP). Current recommendations propose the region spends roughly $700,000,000 of that on highway and roadway projects. $86 million, or about 11%, of funds will be spent on pedestrian, bike, livable centers and transit projects. These allocations could be decided by the TPC on Friday, Sep 25.

The vision of H-GAC’s 2040 Regional Transportation Plan is that “In the year 2040, our region will have a multimodal transportation system through coordinated investments that supports a desirable quality of life, enhanced economic vitality and increased safety, access and mobility.”

It is unclear how funding cars and highways at 90% over pedestrian, bike and transit infrastructure achieves this goal and whether this proposed decision would make the region’s TIP and RTP out of sync.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Massachusetts’ Bikeway Design Guide Will Be Nation’s Most Advanced Yet

Images from MassDOT Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guide.

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Bikeway design in this country keeps rocketing forward. The design guide that Massachusetts is planning to unveil in November shows it.

The new guide, ordered up by MassDOT and prepared by Toole Design Group, will offer the most detailed engineering-level guidance yet published in the United States for how to build safe, comfortable protected bike lanes and intersections.

“It’ll be a good resource for all 50 states,” said Bill Schultheiss, a Toole staffer who worked on the project. “I think it’ll put some pressure on other states to step up.”

There are lots of details to get excited about in the new design guide, which is scheduled for release at MassDOT’s Moving Together conference on November 4. But maybe the most important is a set of detailed recommendations for protected intersections, the fast-spreading design, based on Dutch streets, that can improve intersection safety for protected and unprotected bike lanes alike.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Update On Wilshire Subway Construction Activity (Larchmont Buzz)
  • #CedilloSafe? Yolanda Lugo Killed In Car vs. Ped Hit-and-Run Crime On N. Figueroa (KTLA)
    …Help Crowdfund Lugo’s Medical and Funeral Expenses (YouCaring)
  • Studies Show Student Bus Pass Reduces Cost Of Attending College (Move L.A.)
    …Student Pass Also Improves Ridership, Reduces Parking Demand (Move L.A.)
  • LADOT Bike Blog Rides To the Emmys With Mad Men Producer Tom Smuts
  • Metro Bicycle Roundtable Takes Place Tonight (The Source)
  • Councilmember Ryu Looks To Use Long Lasting Concrete To Fix Concrete Streets (L.A. Magazine)

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Get State Headlines At Streetsblog CA


Umbrellas Tallied during Boyle Heights Pedestrian Count Suggest Street Trees Important to Mobility

New trees will take years to offer a fraction of the shade and other benefits that the ficus trees slated for removal do.  Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

New trees will take years to offer a fraction of the shade and other benefits that the ficus trees slated for removal did. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

While counting pedestrians and cyclists in the transit-dependent and heavily-pedestrian community of Boyle Heights for the Bike and Pedestrian Count this past Saturday, I got to thinking about street trees.

As part of the Eastside Access Project, the section of 1st Street between the Aliso/Pico and the Soto Gold Line Stations in Boyle Heights saw a bevy of new trees put in (above, at left) last year. The 90-plus old ficus trees that previously lined the street had given it much-needed shade, but destroyed its sidewalks in a number of spots. The new trees are unfortunately still several years off from providing any relief from the sun, but they are better than nothing.

Well, that’s actually not true in a lot of cases (below). But it will be. Eventually.

The arrival of bike racks mimicking elements of the natural world served to point out the lack of nature along the street. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The shadow cast by a new tree on 1st is too scrawny to shade much more than the parking meter. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

There are still many more to be planted, as I understand it, given that the city is required to plant two trees for every one tree removed.

Which is fantastic, because Boyle Heights is in desperate need of trees.

Trees would not only offer much-needed shade but also help to clean the air polluted by the many freeways that surround the community.

Boyle Heights needs more trees, both to provide shade and help clean the air. (Google maps)

Boyle Heights needs more trees, both to provide shade and help clean the air. Except for Cesar Chavez and some of the side streets, most streets are devoid of greenery. (Google maps)

Really, judging by the map above, you could pick any corridor (minus Cesar Chavez) and knock yourself out planting street trees. Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Advocates Prevail Over Road Diet Ban in North Carolina

Advocates for safer streets in North Carolina have beaten back an attempt to outlaw street designs that put people first.

House Bill 44 would have made this very successful road diet on Raleigh's Hillsborough Street illegal. Thankfully, lawmakers came to their senses. Photo: NC DOT

House Bill 44 would have made this very successful road diet on Raleigh’s Hillsborough Street illegal. Thankfully, lawmakers came to their senses. Photo: NC DOT

A provision inserted by state senators Trudy Wade and Andrew Brock would have forbidden road diets in North Carolina cities under certain circumstances. The amendment threatened to outlaw what are some of the most successful examples of traffic-calming and pedestrian-oriented street design in the Tar Heel state.

In response, advocates like Lisa Riegel of Bike Walk NC built a broad coalition to help educate state lawmakers about why the bill was not only unnecessary but harmful. Riegel worked with the American Heart Association, the YMCA, and local bike advocacy groups for three months to get the anti-road diet provision stripped out.

“We had health advocates, we had cycling advocates, we had cities saying how this would negatively impact projects they have for economic development,” she said.

Read more…