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St. Louis to Pedestrians: Drop Dead

A busy crosswalk has been closed in St. Louis. Photo: NextSTL

A busy crosswalk has been erased in St. Louis, and the city is doing everything it can to prevent people from walking across the street here. Photo: NextSTL

Here’s a great example of the wrong way to handle a tricky pedestrian crossing in your town.

At the request of a local hospital, the city of St. Louis recently removed a frequently-used crosswalk for at least the next two years, apparently in conjunction with nearby construction. The city didn’t just scrub away the markings — to completely ensure that pedestrians get the message, it installed a barrier and even posted a police officer at the location.

Alex Ihnen at NextSTL says the whole thing is a symptom of a myopic mindset that sees people on foot as a problem:

We’re petitioning for the crosswalk to be returned immediately, a pedestrian study to be conducted, and added pedestrian infrastructure to be added to this intersection. Input from those using the intersection should be considered and their voices included in future planning, as well as interim solutions. For some reason, “temporarily” inconveniencing pedestrians for two years while ensuring a clear path for cars appears to be the perfectly acceptable default.

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Today’s Headlines

  • The North Figueroa No-Road-Diet-Until-Safe Saga (LAT)
  • Downtown News Interview Soon-To-Be LADOT General Manager Reynolds
  • Metro Motion Would Create Agency’s Active Transportation Funding Plan (SRTS)
  • Metro Motion Would Study Orange Line Conversion to Rail (The Source)
  • Ped Tunnel and Bridge Construction Underway at SFV Red Line Stations (Curbed)
  • Family of Cyclist Milton Olin Killed by Sheriff Sues County (Biking in L.A., LAT)
  • Editorial: Fix the Highway Trust Fund By Raising Gas Tax (LAT)
  • Carnage: Deadly Car Crash in Canoga Park, 1 Dead, 3 Injured (DN)
  • Mayor Pam O’Connor’s Transportation Record (Santa Monica Next)

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Editorial: L.A. Parking Reform Can Start With Handicap Placard Reform

If parking pricing strategies are going to work for Los Angeles, the city will need to tackle disabled placard reform, too. Photo: Tony Webster/Wikimedia

If parking pricing strategies are going to work for Los Angeles, the city will need to tackle disabled placard reform, too. Photo: Tony Webster/Wikimedia

Lately, there is a lot of attention directed toward reforming parking in Los Angeles. Various solutions are in stages of implementation and discussion.

The city of Los Angeles has pioneered a relatively sophisticated curb-parking pricing program called ExpressPark. ExpressPark uses technology and, mostly, variable pricing to respond to curb parking demand.

One of the louder voices in the recent parking debate is the Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative. Their parking reform platform includes various tweaks to L.A.’s parking systems, from sign legibility to street sweeping. LAPFI states that the city first needs to address the issue of “basic fairness” meaning “parking fines are just too high.” This has translated to a push for reducing parking violation charges from their current average of $67 to only $23.

But what if there were a group of law-breakers who were immune to parking meter costs and never received violations? None of these projects would impact those scofflaws.

There, of course, are: drivers who abuse disabled placards.

Disabled placards are relatively easy to obtain and allow unlimited free parking at meters. Here is how parking expert Don Shoup describes L.A.’s handicapped placard scofflaws, from a 2011 interview with SBLA:

The main problem we already have in L.A. is the widespread abuse of handicapped placards.  A disabled placard in California is like a “free parking” pass for the entire state.  One of our students just finished his Masters thesis on placard abuse in downtown.  He surveyed one block on Flower Street where there are 14 metered parking spaces.  Most of the spaces were filled most of the time with cars that had disabled placards.  For five hours of the day, all fourteen spaces were occupied by cars with disabled placards.

Although the meter rate was $4 an hour, the meters earned only 32¢ an hour in collections because most of the time the meters were occupied by cars that paid nothing.

The L.A. Weekly reported on a 2013 DMV placard-enforcement operation that resulted in charges against 241 Southern California drivers. Enforcement, and sting operations in general, appears to have little in the way of lasting effects.

According to Shoup, City Lab, and Better Institutions, the way to truly end widespread placard abuse is to stop giving unlimited free parking to all placard holders. Other cities and states are already pioneering this solution.

As of July 1st, 2014, the city of Portland, Oregon, ended free parking for disabled drivers. The new law allows exceptions for severely disabled drivers, including actual wheelchair users, to continue to park for free. Drivers with basic disabled placards are still allowed to park for triple the posted time limit, but they must pay.

This Portland Tribune article tells the night-and-day difference:

Parking code enforcement officer Becky Rhodes observed first hand the change the new policy was having on the supply of spaces. On Wednesday, July 2, Rhodes said, she walked the east side of Southwest Fourth Avenue between Main and Salmon streets and saw something she’s never seen before — open curbside parking. And the few cars that were parked on the street did not display disabled placards.

“Normally that block, there might have been one space with no permit,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes and her fellow enforcement officers gave out 24 warnings on Tuesday, July 1, the first day of the new policy, and 100 on Wednesday, July 2.

Mid-morning Thursday, July 3, Rhodes was walking north on Fourth Avenue when she turned the corner to head east and stopped in her tracks as she looked down Taylor.

“Wow, there are all these open spaces,” Rhodes remarked. Indeed, a block that was always full of parked cars at that time of day was nearly deserted. The south side of Taylor Street had six open spaces and only two parked cars. Cars with disabled placards had almost completely disappeared from blocks they traditionally filled.  Read more…

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Dems Grudgingly Approve House Transpo Extension’s Disastrous Timeline

Yesterday, during the one-hour debate period over the House proposal to extend transportation funding through May 31, lawmaker after lawmaker stood up to condemn the bill. America needs a long-term transportation bill, they said. A short-term stopgap only creates more uncertainty.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer was one of just 10 Democrats to reject the House extension.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer was one of just 10 Democrats to reject the House extension.

And then they voted for it.

More Democrats than Republicans voted for it, in fact, despite standing up and declaring that “a short term solution is not enough” or that it’s “just another kick-the-can-down-the-road approach” or that it’s just “a little shuffling around of money so we can pretend… we’re not creating more debt.” But in the end, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act passed easily, with only 10 Democrats and 45 Republicans voting against it.

Peter Welch of Vermont was one of those no-voting Democrats. During the floor debate, he called the bill an “abdication of our responsibility.”

“Some folks are saying we need time to put together a long term bill,” he said. “We’ve had time. What we need is a decision.”

Earl Blumenauer is in favor of an extension, but only through the lame duck period after the election. He voted no as well, criticizing Republicans for failing to have a “deliberate, thoughtful process.”

“We have not had a single hearing on transportation finance in the Ways and Means Committee all year,” he said. “We didn’t have one the year before that. We haven’t had a hearing in the 43 months that the Republicans have been in charge.”

So here’s where things stand: The Senate Finance Committee has passed a largely similar bill, with the same amount of money coming out of slightly different funding sources.

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What’s the Best Way to Make Biking Mainstream in a Car-Centric City?

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Researchers forecast that a combination of protected bike lanes on arterial streets and “self-explaining” traffic calming on residential streets (the orange line) could vault bike mode share in Auckland from 2 percent to 35 percent — far more than the city’s current bike plan (the red line).

How can you turn a car-dependent city into a place where most people feel safe cycling for transportation?

Researchers in Auckland, New Zealand, created a predictive model to assess how different policies affect cycling rates over several years. In a paper published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives [PDF], they concluded that a combination of protected bike lanes on all wide arterial roads plus traffic calming measures on neighborhood side streets would have a far greater impact on bike mode share than Auckland’s current bike plan.

Only 19 percent of Auckland residents say they currently consider cycling to be “always or mostly safe.” The city’s bike commute mode share stands at 2 percent. While the region has set out to achieve a 35 percent combined biking and walking mode share by 2040 (the walk commute rate is currently 5.5 percent), its actual policies are not that ambitious. The Auckland bike plan calls mainly for un-protected lanes and off-street paths.

Using prior studies, travel surveys, interviews, and historical data, the researchers created a model designed to factor in the complex interactions between bicycling rates and traffic speeds, motor vehicle volumes, street design, the number of cyclists on the road, the number of actual injuries, and subjective perceptions of safety.

Then they plugged four different policy scenarios into their model: the current Auckland bike plan; redesigning residential streets for slow speeds; adding protected bike lanes on all arterial streets; and combining residential traffic calming with bike lanes on arterials. Only the combination scenario had the power to achieve Auckland’s bicycling goals, according to the model.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Don Shoup on Giving Local Residents Advantages at Parking Meters (SFGate)
  • Culver City Backs Down, Continues Free Bus Rides for Blind, Disabled (Front Page)
  • Two New CicLAvia Routes Announced, Including East L.A. and South L.A. Mileage (Biking in L.A.)
  • Excellent Editorial: Increasing Congestion Is Good For West Hollywood (WeHoVille)
  • New L.A. River Greenway Open in West SFV (KCET)
  • Family To Sue L.A. County For Sheriff Killing Cyclist Milton Olin (Daily News)
  • Meandering Editorial in Support of Federal Highway Bill Funding (CityWatch)
  • Santa Monica To Crack Down on Cyclists This Month (LA Register)
  • Election Season Also Underway in Santa Monica (Santa Monica Next)
  • Long Beach Swears In New Mayor Robert Garcia (KPCC)
  • More Traffic Enforcement Needed As More Cyclists Ride (WaPo)
  • A Look At Bicyclist Crash Data Reporting (SB Chicago)
  • Jarrett Walker on Predicting Traffic: More Denial Than Projection (Human Transit)
  • Metro’s Blue Line Turns 24 – Watch Vintage Cartoon-Owl Safety Vids (CityLab)

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An Interview with C.I.C.L.E.’s New Managing Director Vanessa Gray

C.I.C.L.E.'s new Managing Director Vanessa Gray. Photo: Vanessa Gray

C.I.C.L.E.’s new Managing Director Vanessa Gray. Photo: Vanessa Gray

Vanessa Gray is the new head of Cyclists Inciting Change thru Live Exchange, best known as “C.I.C.L.E.” Dan Dabek, the last to steer the C.I.C.L.E. team, recently departed for the East Coast, where his partner is pursuing higher education. Streetsblog L.A. wishes Dabek a teary-eyed farewell, and welcomes Gray to her new gig.

Streetsblog: First off, just in case someone is reading this who isn’t already familiar with C.I.C.L.E., tell us briefly what it is.

Vanessa Gray: Cyclists Inciting Change thru Live Exchange (C.I.C.L.E.) is a nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles, working to promote the bicycle as a viable, healthy, and sustainable transportation choice.

We believe that our cities can be places that support an overall high quality of life–where people can enjoy clean air, calm and friendly streets, and closely-connected and diverse communities.

We envision our streets as vibrant, welcoming spaces that safely accommodate all road users and prioritize the safe passage of people–on bike, on foot, by wheelchair, by bus, and/or by train.

Tell us about yourself. What’s your background? Where are you from?

I was brought up in the military through the Air Force. We would move every 2 to 4 years. I’ve lived in places such as Libya, Tripoli, Okinawa, Japan and traveled through Guam and Wake Island. I usually tell people I’m from the near the last base where my father retired, Vandenberg Air Force Base in Northern Santa Barbara County. However, I can say I actually grew up on bases in Africa and Asia.

Prior to joining C.I.C.L.E. as its Managing Director, I worked as a Senior Communications Specialist with SEIU, as a Communications Deputy for an L.A. City Councilwoman, and a Manager at Beverly Hills Pavilions. Last October, I coordinated Safe Routes to Schools’ Walk to School Day at Micheltorena Elementary School.

How did you get interested in bicycling?

At college in Virginia, I had a used Fiat to get around, but it would break down every other week. I spent all my meager work study money trying to keep that crummy car running. Finally, it broke down again and I told my mechanic Tony (yes, that was his name) don’t fix it again. I instead took my work study check to the nearest bike shop and bought a hybrid bike. It was my main transportation through college and beyond. During the summers, I would ride to 3 different lifeguarding jobs. I was in the best shape of my life.

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Fixing One of Florida’s Deadly Roads With a Protected Bikeway

A new vision for Florida's deadly Rickenbacker Causeway. Image: Bernard Zyscovich via Architect's Newspaper

A new vision for Florida’s deadly Rickenbacker Causeway. Image: Bernard Zyscovich via Architect’s Newspaper

Our friends at Transit Miami have been writing for years about the horrible conditions on the Rickenbacker Causeway, a key transportation link for the city. In 2010, they wrote that, without any intervention, the car-centric design would continue to cause loss of life and limb: “As long as we have a roadway designed to induce speed, the speeding will continue and bicyclists and pedestrians will continue to get hurt.”

Current conditions: Rickenbacker Causeway. Image: Architect's Newspaper

Current conditions on the Rickenbacker Causeway. Image: Architect’s Newspaper

They were right. The following February, Aaron Cohen, a young father, was struck and killed while he was riding his bike by a hit-and-run driver with a suspended license and a bag full of cocaine.

That incident helped inspire a new vision for the road: transforming it into a multi-modal street by adding a protected bike lane. Erik Douds at the Architect’s Newspaper reports:

Architect and avid cyclist Bernard Zyscovich has proposed such an infrastructure upgrade in Miami-Dade, Florida that would convert a killer expressway into a cycle super highway.

Rickenbacker Causeway — linking Miami to Key Biscayne — currently holds three car lanes in each direction, but Zyscovich’s plan would convert the divided highway to two lanes for automobile traffic and a landscape-buffered lane for cyclists and pedestrians. Hardwood trees and bushes that would be planted along the cycle track would increase safety by separating the various modes of transportation.

Read more…

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Talking Headways Podcast: Good Riddance, “Level of Service”

All the buzz right now is about Arlington, Virginia — the DC suburb has seen its population rise and its car traffic drop since the 1980s. How did they do it? It could be a lesson for Palo Alto, California, which is considering various growth proposals, including one that would invite greater density as long as it comes with no additional driving, carbon emissions, or water use.

Denser, more transit-oriented development would be a big win for Palo Alto, but ironically, California’s environmental law has long penalized projects like that for diminishing “level of service” for vehicle traffic. A new basketball stadium came to the rescue, however, and the state is poised to dump level of service as a metric to evaluate transportation and development projects. That change could potentially slow down highways like “level of service” used to slow down smart growth and transit projects. It’s a whole new world.

Check it all out on Talking Headways. Talk at us in the comments, subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher, or sign up for our RSS feed.

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Gentri-flyer or Gentri-folleto? Streetsblog Translates Story on Gentrification in Boyle Heights

Behold, the most tone-deaf gentri-flyer in the history of man. (Photo source unknown)

Behold, the most tone-deaf gentri-flyer in the history of man. (Photo source unknown)

“What? More gentri-flyer drama?” you ask upon seeing the infamous flyer pop up again.

No, not at the moment.

Instead, in the hopes of continuing to facilitate the wider dialogue around gentrification that the flyer prompted, we translated the original May 28th story, “Gentri-flyer Sets Off Social Media Storm in Boyle Heights,” into Spanish. It made sense to do so, considering that many of those most likely to be affected by rising housing costs in Boyle Heights are Spanish-speaking. The discussion of their needs and what makes them vulnerable will be important in shaping the community’s search for policy solutions aimed at strengthening the economic base of the area and preventing displacement.

To read the Spanish version of the article or share it with Spanish-speaking folks you know, please click here. For the (English) follow-on to the original story, describing some of the history of turnover in Boyle Heights and where the community hopes to take the dialogue next, please click here.