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Four Nice Touches in U.S. DOT’s New “Mayors’ Challenge” for Bike Safety

Denver Transportation Director Crissy Fanganello, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard in 2014.

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

There’s a difference between bike-safety warnings that focus on blaming victims and warnings that recommend actual systemic improvements. The launch of a Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx is the good kind of warning.

Yes, it’d be nice if it weren’t being pegged on the dubious claim that biking has gotten more dangerous in the last few years. Also if U.S. DOT were offering any money for cities that take its advice.

That said, there’s a lot to love in this initiative launched Friday. Let’s count a few of the ways.

The feds want cities to measure successful bike trips, not just bad ones.

Austin, Texas.

In many cities, the only times bikes show up in the official statistics is when something goes wrong.

When a person collides with a car or a curb while biking, they enter the public record. When they roll happily back to work after meeting a friend for tacos, they’re invisible to the spreadsheets that drive traffic engineering decisions.

This is the sort of logic that sometimes leads people to the conclusion that on-street bicycle facilities decrease road safety. What they’re actually doing is increasing bike usage, which in turn is the most important way to increase bike safety. When our primary metric of biking success is the number of people biking rather than the number of people dying, we’re making our cities better across the board, not merely safer.

Foxx’s lead recommendation that cities “count the number of people walking and biking” shouldn’t be revolutionary. But if every city did, it would be.

Read more…

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Anthony Foxx Challenges Mayors to Protect Pedestrians and Cyclists

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx wants mayors to step up bike and pedestrian safety efforts. Photo: Building America's Future

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx speaking at the U.S. Conference of Mayors yesterday. Photo: Building America’s Future

With pedestrian and cyclist deaths accounting for a rising share of U.S. traffic fatalities and Congress not exactly raring to take action, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is issuing a direct challenge to America’s mayors to improve street safety. Yesterday Foxx unveiled the “Mayor’s Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets” at the U.S. Conference of Mayors Transportation Committee meeting in Washington.

Overall traffic deaths are on a downward trend in the U.S., but the reduction in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities is not keeping pace with improvements for car occupants. Pedestrians and bicyclists now account for 17 percent of all traffic fatalities in the U.S., and most of these deaths are in urban areas, Foxx noted.

Back in September, Foxx told the Pro-Walk/Pro-Bike/Pro-Place conference in Pittsburgh that U.S. DOT is “putting together the most comprehensive, forward-leaning initiative U.S. DOT has ever put forward on bike/ped issues.” The Mayor’s Challenge fleshes out that initiative to some extent.

Foxx wants mayors to implement seven key recommendations from U.S. DOT. In March, mayors and local leaders will convene at DOT headquarters to discuss how to put the recommendations into practice. Participating cities will implement the strategies in the following year, with assistance from U.S. DOT.

Read more…

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Alabama DOT Wants to Gouge a Highway Through This Historic Town Center

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North Eufaula Avenue, the heart of Eufaula, Alabama’s historic town center, is under threat by the Alabama DOT. Photo: Robin McDonald

The town of Eufaula, Alabama, population 13,000, is known for its historic buildings. Stately mansions, giant live oak heavy with Spanish moss — it’s exactly the type of place that comes to mind when you picture Southern small-town charm.

Every year the city hosts a home tour called the Eufaula pilgrimage, which culminates with the grand mansions on North Eufaula Avenue. That event and other cultural tourism brings millions of dollars to the local economy every year.

Which is why many residents were horrified when the Alabama Department of Transportation came to town in November and announced it would be widening North Eufaula Avenue, through the heart of the historic district. Widening the road from two lanes to four would cut into the roots of the stately oaks and make this historic small-town street feel like a high-speed freeway.

Doug Purcell, a long-time resident and board member of the Eufaula Heritage Association, has been leading the local campaign against the project. The state of Alabama has tried to widen the road three times in the 42 years he’s lived there, and he’s fought back every time.

“North Eufaula Avenue defines the special character of Eufaula,” he said. “It’s Eufaula’s front porch and one of its showcases.”

Purcell and other activists gathered 6,000 signatures opposing the widening.

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Why a Broke State DOT Could Be Great for Missouri

These expensive flyovers in sprawling Missouri might not have been worth the expense to taxpayers. Maybe a broke MoDOT will help bring projects back down to earth. Image: NextSTL

Maybe a broke MoDOT will bring costs back down to earth by not building projects like these expensive flyovers. Image: NextSTL

In August, Missouri voters roundly defeated a sales tax increase supported by road building interests that would have dramatically boosted funding for the state DOT. During the run-up to the election, state leaders laid it on thick in their appeal for more road money, arguing that the fallout would be disastrous for public safety if voters didn’t approve the 0.75 percent sales tax hike.

But voters didn’t bite on the business-as-usual proposal. And now, reports Richard Bose in a brilliant post at NextSTL, the state has unveiled its Plan B: a tighter budget that is packaged in language designed to scare residents into approving another funding source for the DOT.

MoDOT's approach to highway funding is no longer sustainable. The organization hopes its scaled-back plans encourage voters to pony up more money. Image; MoDOT

MoDOT’s approach to highway funding is no longer sustainable. The agency hopes its scaled-back plans scare voters into ponying up more money. Image: MoDOT

Missouri officials call it the “325 Plan,” because the state will only have $325 million to spend annually on transportation by 2017. Among the warnings: ”Supplementary roads will become a patchwork of repairs. Heavy loads on Missouri bridges will be limited, and some bridges could be closed indefinitely.” In light of the budget crunch, the state has said it will make “improvements” on only 8,000 of its 34,000 miles of roads. But the rest will still receive basic maintenance.

Bose says putting Missouri DOT on an austerity budget might be just what the doctor ordered. After all, over the last decade, the state binged on road spending, much of it backed by borrowing. And yet the state still has almost 500 bridges in poor or serious condition, and its economy is still performing worse than the nation as a whole. Perhaps giving the DOT more money to throw at highway construction isn’t going to fix anything.

Back when money was flowing freely, many of the state-supported highway expansions were little more than jobs programs, Bose says. Now it’s not clear that the state’s economy can support infrastructure at the scale that was built. Missouri DOT isn’t about to admit that’s a possibility, though:

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • LAPD Planning Hit-and-Run Alert System (KPCC)
  • Pasadena Star-News Previews Metro Bike Share System, To Pasadena 2017
  • WiFi Coming To Some Red Line Subway Stations By May 2015 (Daily News)
  • LB Transit Goes TAP (LongBeachIze)
  • Profile of L.A. Mayor Garcetti and His Data Driven Approach (Chicago Tribune)
  • Ciclavalley Looks Over the First SFV CicLAvia Route Planned March 2015
  • Metro Purple Line Extension Outreach Meeting, with Construction Vid (The Source)
  • Santa Monica Tech Boom Hampered By No Growthers (Santa Monica Next)
  • CA Grants $12M For Alternative Fuel Vehicles (KCET)
  • Photos Of SUV Roll Crash on Sunset (Eastsider)
  • Gentrification Fears Could Derail S.F. Mission Street Improvements (SBSF)

Get National Headlines at Streetblog USA

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Eyes on the Street: Venice Boulevard Resurfaced, Bike Lanes Soon?

Thanks to friend of the blog and L.A. City Bicycle Advisory Committee Chair Jeff Jacobberger for spotting this and bringing it to the attention of the city of L.A. Transportation Department (LADOT) and SBLA.

Pedestrian walking across the recently-resurfaced Venice Boulevard. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Pedestrian walking across the recently-resurfaced not-yet-striped Venice Boulevard. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Venice Boulevard was recently resurfaced between Western Avenue and Arlington Avenue. This portion of Venice Boulevard did not have bike lanes before the repaving, but it probably should get them very soon.

These blocks are designated for bike lanes on the city’s approved Bicycle Plan. The city already spent a lot of time and money to design and study extending Venice Boulevard bike lanes as part of its “Year One” bike lane projects list. The Venice Boulevard bike lanes would be extended 3.9 miles from their current terminus at Crenshaw Boulevard all the way to Main Street in downtown Los Angeles. When complete, this will create a 13 mile long bikeway. The existing 9.1-mile Venice Boulevard bike lanes are already the city’s longest.

Cyclist riding Venice Blvd yesterday

Cyclist riding Venice Blvd yesterday

The project would most likely be a road diet (or removing parking.) The road diet could convert four car lanes to three, and add continuous turn pockets and bike lanes. These road diet projects are, of course, safer for everybody – drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists.

Yellow plastic temporary center line markers on Venice Boulevard yesterday

Yellow plastic temporary center line markers on Venice Boulevard yesterday

As of late yesterday, the new smooth surface is very bikeable. People in cars, on bikes, and on foot were all using the resurfaced street. The street has “gone black” (vernacular for resurfaced and not yet striped) and the only hint of any kind of lane markings were the temporary plastic markers delineating the center line.

Note: As this article was about to be published, SBLA received word indirectly that LADOT will extend the Venice Boulevard bike lanes very soon, but apparently not yet east of Arlington (where the above photos were taken.) We’ll update via comments below or a subsequent article as the picture becomes clearer.

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Suburban Atlanta: Where Parking Is Required But Sidewalks Are Not

Photo: ATLUrbanist

The sidewalk disappears at this bus stop on Buford Highway. Photo: ATLUrbanist

Buford Highway north of Atlanta is the deadliest road for pedestrians in the region. Though lined with residences of people with low incomes, the high-speed, high-traffic road has no continuous sidewalk. Lacking dedicated infrastructure, pedestrians have worn paths in the grass all around it. (See more photos below.)

Darin at ATLUrbanist says these paths are a stark illustration of inequality built into the region’s transportation system.

Those cars are in spaces that are mandated as part of minimum parking requirements — requirements that don’t seem to have a relative in regard to pedestrian infrastructure at bus stops.

This is a good metaphor for the second-class state of pedestrians in car-centric places throughout Metro Atlanta. Cars receive a luxurious abundance of infrastructure for both moving and parking, while pedestrians and transit users fight for a safe place on the edges.

You can see “desire paths” like this – where people have worn down the grass in a median from repeatedly walking through it — along many roads in the metro. I remember seeing them along Canton Highway in Cobb County, where I grew up.

Take a look at these desire paths worn into the sidewalk-free Buford Highway turf:

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Go Hear LADOT GM Seleta Reynolds Speak Tonight in Tarzana (CM Blumenfeld)
  • MCM Promotores Organizing For Boyle Heights Bike Lanes
    Includes Excellent MCM Video (YouTube)
  • State of the City Speeches Reviewed (Santa Monica Next)
  • Culver City Transit-Oriented Mixed-Use Development Rising Across From Expo (Building L.A.)
  • Neighbors Skeptical About South L.A. Oil Site’s Downgrade (KPCC)
  • How Civil Rights Shaped Latino Urbanism (KCET)
  • Parking Adjudication Team in the Spotlight (LADOT YouTube)
  • Curbed Overviews Mariachi Plaza Redevelopment Situation
  • LA City Council Says LAX Upgrades Are A Big Deal (Daily News)
  • SF MTA Approves Free Transit For Elderly and Disabled (SF Examiner)
  • NextCity Cruises Around the App-Based Future of Parking
  • Bus Shelters and Other Amenities Affect Perceived Wait Times (Transportationist)

Get National Headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Philly Urbanists Launch Political Action Committee to Shake Up City Council

In a move that may mark, in the words of Philadelphia Magazine, ”New Philadelphia’s political awakening,” a group of Philly urbanists launched a political action committee earlier this month to support candidates who will reform local land use, transportation, and taxation policies.

One of the planks of The 5th Square’s platform: getting the city to follow through on its protected bike lane plans. Image via 5th Square

The new organization is called The 5th Square, a reference to the public space at City Hall, and it was founded by Geoff Kees Thompson, who writes at This Old City. The platform, which is still in development, urges the adoption of a Vision Zero policy to eliminate traffic fatalities, the construction of 40 miles of protected bike lanes in four years, and tripling the city’s parks budget.

The 5th Square will use its candidate surveys, political donations, and volunteers to influence City Council races. ”What [the city] needs now more than ever are better leaders who think progressively about our city, not retrograde candidates stuck to our decline-filled past,” Thompson wrote in the manifesto announcing the PAC’s launch.

So far the group has raised about $3,500 toward its first-month goal of $5,000, a figure Philly Magazine called “pretty much the pizza budget of the mayoral campaign.” But as StreetsPAC has demonstrated in New York City, money is just one of many factors that determine a PAC’s influence.

In 2013, StreetsPAC spent only about $40,000 in its first election cycle, a pittance compared to the real estate interests that dominate the NYC political scene. What it lacked in money it more than made up for in media savvy and grassroots enthusiasm, with 13 of its 18 endorsees going on to win. StreetsPAC organizers credited their success to a hardworking volunteer network and the ability to broadcast endorsements to a large, committed constituency.

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Designs From Dutch Burbs Should Unite Vehicular Cyclists and Bike Lane Fans

Photos from Dutch suburban areas and countryside by Marven Norman.

This is the second in a two-post series about Dutch suburbs.

It’s understandable why vehicular cycling techniques thrive in suburban America. In the absence of good bike infrastructure, taking the middle of the travel lane really is the safest way to ride — uncomfortable though that is for many of us.

But if American suburbs are ever going to be made truly better for biking, today’s suburban bicycle drivers will need to find common ground with me and my fellow fans of Dutch infrastructure.

Here’s what that might look like.

1) Infrastructure opponents should take the time to offer meaningful suggestions beyond “no”

Sharrows in Indianapolis. Photo: Michael Andersen/PeopleForBikes

I’ve seen it myself numerous times: The bicycle drivers only demand “Bicycles May Use Full Lane” signs and sharrows while shunning anything else exclusively for bikes. Meanwhile, the planners and engineers are hearing from the rest of society that they want “more bike lanes.” But without any valuable input about design features, they resort to their manuals… and the result is bad infrastructure.

It’s long past time for the more experienced riders to adopt an approach of pragmatism.

Read more…