Meet Our New Teammates : Melanie Curry and Joe Linton

Melanie Curry

As anyone that follows us on Facebook already knows, Streetsblog Los Angeles has two “new hires” starting on February 1 that will dramatically change the way our publication works and what we will be able to cover. I am pleased to announce that Melanie Curry and Joe Linton will be joining Sahra and myself as full-time writers for the Streetsblog team.

Melanie Curry will be covering statewide issues that impact transportation, open space, livability and public health. Her focus will be watching laws as move through the legislature, policies as they advance through the executive branch, regional plans as they are adopted by regional planning organizations, projects as they advance through Caltrans, the California High Speed Rail Project and anything else that pops up.

Her work will appear on Streetsblog Los Angeles, Streetsblog San Francisco, sometimes on the other Streetsblogs, and on other Southern California Streets Initiative publications including Santa Monica Next and LongBeachize.

Melanie worked for many years as an editor, most recently for Access, the University of California-published transportation research magazine. She has a Masters degree in City and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley and has worked in transportation consulting and at the San Francisco County Transportation Authority.

Her preferred mode of transportation is a bicycle, although buses and trains can be useful too. Her daughter’s first commutes were in a child seat on the back of a bike.Melanie has lived in Culver City, Mexico City, Cordoba (Spain), Singapore, Oakland, and Berkeley, where she now makes her home with husband and nearly grownup daughter. Her goal is to change the perception that bicycles are dangerous, and wants everyone to have the chance to experience the joy and freedom of that perfect transportation machine.

In addition, he's got great taste in clothes. That's Joe on the right. Photo: Siel
In addition, he’s got great taste in clothes. That’s Joe on the right at the SBLA re-launch party in 2010. Photo: Siel

Joe Linton is going to be taking over a lot of the work that I do on a regular basis for Streetsblog. In addition to writing about all of the Livable Streets issues as they break around the county, he’ll handle the day to day operations of Streetsblog Los Angeles.

Joe Linton is a longtime urban environmental activist. His main areas of interest have been restoring the Los Angeles River and fostering bicycling for everyday transportation. He’s worked for many Los Angeles livability non-profits, including Friends of the L.A. River, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, C.I.C.L.E., Livable Places, and CicLAvia. He also served as deputy to Los Angeles City Councilmember Ed Reyes.

Among his accomplishments are:

– Co-founder of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (1998)
– Organizer for the 2009 L.A. Bicycle Summit and L.A.’s first Street Summit in 2010
– Organizer for the first CicLAvia (2010)

He writes and blogs quite a bit. He’s the author (and illustrator) of Down by the Los Angeles River, a guide book published by Wilderness Press in 2005. His writing can also be found at L.A. StreetsblogL.A. Creek FreakBikasLos Angeles Eco-Village, and his personal blog The Periodic Fable. His artwork is on view atHandmade Ransom Notes and Artwork by Joe Linton.

Joe grew up bicycling around Tustin in Orange County. He plunged in to the big city by attending Occidental College. After college he lived in Santa Ana and Long Beach. In March 1992, while living in Long Beach, Linton chose to become car-free. For the past 22 years, Linton has lived car-free, getting around via bicycle, foot, bus and train. In 1996, Linton moved to L.A. Eco-Village in Koreatown.

In 2012, Linton fell in love and temporarily left L.A. for NYC-adjacent Jersey City. In 2013, he married Carrie Lincourt, and they gave birth to a daughter, Maeve. While back east he worked for the Bronx River Alliance and volunteered advocating for bike facilities in Jersey City.

Yes, among Joe’s many accomplishments is his role in the success of Streetsblog Los Angeles. An original Board Member and the first Board Chair of the Southern California Streets Initiative, Joe has been integrally involved in everything we’ve done.

But choosing Joe to join the team as a staff member was about the future not the past. In addition to being able to cover the issues we cover on a day to day basis, Joe is an expert on the L.A. River. Mayor Garcetti is planning major things to “Revitalize” the river and this will be a big issue and we have literally the most qualified person in the world to write about it.

I know you all will join me in welcoming Joe and Melanie to the team. In truth, I honestly couldn’t be more excited to start Streetsblog’s next chapter.

  • And Joe featured prominently here:

  • I think Joe may appear in more Streetfilms than anyone but you and maybe JSK.

  • EastBayer

    Congrats to Melanie and a nice pick-up by Streetsblog :) Looking forward to the coverage

  • The future is happening before my eyes. HOORAY!

  • Upright Biker

    Does this mean we get _even more_ Streetsblog content?

    Died. Gone to heaven.

    Welcome Melanie and Joe.

  • There will be more content and a wider focus, but the tradeoff is there won’t be as much writing by me as I move into a more editor/publisher role and pinch hitter role. But yeah…more content. Also, every now and then we’d rush stories up so we didn’t have to go a day without new content. That will probably never happen again.

  • Great to hear! Although I do repeat my comment from before: When nothing is going on under the capital dome, it would be nice to throw in some local Sacramento/Modesto/Stockton news/stories.

  • “Her goal is to change the perception that bicycles are dangerous, and wants everyone to have the chance to experience the joy and freedom of that perfect transportation machine.”

    The UC study found that riding a bike in SF is a lot more dangerous than thought. Like to hear her thoughts on that study.

  • Orb Danseron

    Bicycling is not dangerous but bicycling in an environment built for cars is. Few fatal and serious collisions occur along the Bay Trail despite the fact hundreds of people of all skill levels use it daily. However, many severe and fatal collisions – by comparison – occur on city streets where a smaller group of people, though more skilled, ride.

  • Clearly you haven’t even read even the abstract of the study I linked for you. I transcribed the whole study here. The folks at UC found that 54.5% of all cycling accidents treated at SF General between 2000 and 2009 were not accounted for in police reports. That means that 1,377 such accidents were not reported in the city’s annual Collision Report.

    The other major finding: “cyclist-only” accidents—those that don’t involve another vehicle—were both under-counted more than “cyclist-versus-vehicle” accidents and just as serious.

    The implication of this study: other accidents, like pedestrian accidents, may also have been under-counted. Surely Streetsblog is also concerned about that possibility, right?

  • Orb Danseron

    eh, zZzZZzZzZ…..

    Many things are “dangerous.” Cars drivers inflict more harm onto people than any other mode. That tells me cars are dangerous.

  • Not sure the Centers for Disease Control agrees with that:

    “While only 1% of all trips taken in the U.S. are by bicycle,1 bicyclists face a higher risk of crash-related injury and deaths than occupants of motor vehicles do.2 In 2010 in the U.S., almost 800 bicyclists were killed and there were an estimated 515,000 emergency department visits due to bicycle-related injuries.3 Data from 2005 show fatal and non-fatal crash-related injuries to bicyclists resulted in lifetime medical costs and productivity losses of $5 billion.”

  • Orb Danseron

    This does not refute fact that cars inflict more harm onto people than bicycles. So a bicyclist might be dangerous… to themselves, whereas a car driver is dangerous to people inside and outside the car.

  • Orb Danseron

    Bicycling is safe. If you think otherwise feel free to stay off a bike :-)

  • Yes, I never ride because I think it’s unsafe. What I object to is City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition encouraging others—including children—to ride bikes in SF without any attempt at informing them of the real dangers involved. Those real dangers are highlighted by the UC study, which is why Streetsblog hasn’t written about it.

  • Orb Danseron

    I agree Streetsblog should cover the study, no reason to omit it. Do you know if cars more, less, or equally dangerous than bicycles?

  • Orb Danseron

    blerg, I meant to say: Do you know if cars more or less dangerous than bicycles? Or are they equally as dangerous?

  • Streetsblog doesn’t want to write about the study because of the fear that it will show that cycling is more dangerous than its advocates like to think (That’s also why discussing helmets makes cycling advocates uncomfortable).
    But the most important implication of the study is that the city has for at least ten years been under-counting all injury accidents on the streets of San Francisco.

  • 94103er

    Welcome to Streetsblog. You are probably now aware that our erstwhile gadfly Rob Anderson will only answer questions that further his single-minded quest to prove his downright ridiculous theory that cycling in San Francisco is dangerous because, well, it’s special here. Therefore, you will not get the answer you’re looking for for a statistically valid counterpoint.

    Trolls aren’t very good at statistics, it turns out.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    Also, according to the CDC, there were 4,280 pedestrians killed in traffic crashes in 2010 and another 70,000 were injured.

    The rate of injuries for pedestrians and bicyclists should be reduced through improvements to traffic engineering and driving laws.

    The Netherlands had about a 20% higher traffic collision rate than the U.S. in 1972. They have reduced this to the point where they have a collision rate that is 60% less than in the U.S.

    You are now five times more likely to be killed per 100,000 km cycled in the U.S. compared to the Netherlands and six times more likely to be killed as a pedestrian per 10,000 km walked in the U.S. compared to the Netherlands.

    Walking and bicycling are not extremely dangerous activities. Its collisions with motor vehicles that causes the most severe injuries for pedestrians and cyclists. There are known methods to reduce these injuries and the U.S. is in the process of doing this for both pedestrians and cyclists.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    What you fail to mention is that severe injuries to occupants of cars have been falling due to the requirements that car manufacturers include safety glass, seat belts, crush zones and air bags. The human body has not evolved with built in protections against being hit by a solid object moving at 30+ miles an hour. That is why cities are installing more effective protections for pedestrians and bicyclists against motor vehicles, such as bike lanes–which have been shown to reduce bicycling collisions with motor vehicles by 30% and better designed crosswalks.

  • Unlike you and other commenters on Streetsblog, I’m actually taking a look at some statistics that came out of the UC study:

    “Of all bicycle-related injuries at SFGH, 41.5% were CO[cyclist-only] injuries and 58.5% were AVB[auto-versus-bicyclist] injuries. Those with CO injuries were more than four times as likely to be required of hospital admission compared with those with AVB injuries….From 2000 to 2009, 54.5% of bicycle injuries treated at SFGH were not associated with a police report, revealing that bicycle crashes and injuries are under-recognized in San Francisco.”

  • sahra

    I can tell you that the reason I wouldn’t report on this study is that there isn’t much in the way of data with regard to what prompted the CO crashes, i.e. who the cyclists were, where and how they were riding, what kinds of bikes they were riding, the road or trail (if trail riding) conditions that might have triggered the fall, whether the bicycles involved were poorly maintained or faulty in some way, whether the riders were in an altered state or goofing off or doing stunts, whether the crashes were misreported or there was no reporting of the link between the crash and a motor vehicle (we have the problem in LA with hit-and-runs, where lower-income victims may not report the incident to police and only go to the hospital later when they realize they are really having health problems)…

    Misreporting is also something the study makes reference to as being a problem in assessing the impact of their data. They also rightly call for further investigation into the details of crashes so that a more accurate picture of what key factors drive such incidents.

    Accurate reporting is a problem, period. We recently had a few incidents here that highlight that. A woman had a serious solo fall downtown where she broke her hip. She maintains she was hit by a car, but nobody can verify that, so it is not listed as an AVB. In another incident, a female cyclist was hit when a car right hooked in front of her. It was witnessed by two policemen, who called an ambulance. But the traffic officer felt that it wasn’t possible for them to determine what caused the crash or who was at fault because the officers hadn’t take enough hours of traffic safety classes. It was ridiculous, frankly. But points to the challenge of getting accurate data surrounding crashes. Until some of that can be sorted out and data is both more reliable and AVB incidents are more reliably reported, these numbers serve as important notes of caution, but don’t offer much in the way of a blueprint for solutions.

    I am sure that will convince no one who is inclined to believe that the all-powerful bike lobby is behind suppressing discussion of the study. But to those folks who are determined to believe there is some conspiracy in the works, I can only say that, if you’re really that concerned, then perhaps biking is not for you.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    Rob, your link provides access to another study from the University of Iowa, titled “Burden of hospitalization for bicycling injuries by motor vehicle involvement: United States, 2001 to 2009.”

    It concludes that to have the greatest impact on reducing the severity from bicycle crashes, there should be educational interventions, policy, and infrastructure changes that include all age groups and prioritize reducing bicycle-motor vehicle collisions.

    Another bicycling injury study was conducted by the University of British Columbia. This involved 690 bicyclists that were treated at hospital emergency rooms in Vancouver or Toronto:

    These were found to be the safest route infrastructures for bicycling:

    cycle tracks (also known as “separated” or “protected” bike lanes) alongside major streets
    residential street bike routes with traffic diversion
    bike lanes on major streets where there were no parked cars
    off-street bike paths
    intersections with motor vehicle speeds below 30 km/h
    residential street intersections

    Automobiles had a much higher rate of injury to occupants in decades past. A big factor in the reduction of injuries was the requirement that cars sold in the U.S. include cage construction, seat belts, safety glass, crumple zones and airbags.

    Separating people from danger is a fundamental principle of industrial safety. The necessity of separating cyclists from fast and heavy motor vehicles is obvious due to their vulnerability and the large speed and mass differences with motor vehicles.

    The U.S. is not going to ban the use of bicycles due to injuries just like they didn’t ban the use of automobiles because of excessive injuries to occupants and pedestrians. Creating safer places to ride bicycles by installing bicycle lanes, cycle tracks, traffic calmed streets and off-street paths are a great place to start.

  • Yes, interesting links and points, Dennis. But surely the most important point of this study—which is specific to San Francisco—is that cycling accidents have been significantly under-counted over the last ten years.

    Most of the MTA’s annual Collision Reportis devoted to analyzing streets and intersections in SF where the most accidents are happening. Clearly it can’t do that analysis if it doesn’t know where accidents are actually happening.

    No one is talking about banning anything. But ignoring this study doesn’t make anyone safer in San Francisco. This is not really a bike versus car issue. We all should be concerned about basing traffic policy and street design on the facts, since other types of accidents are probably also being under-counted using the present flawed methodology.

  • No one is talking about a “conspiracy” by the bike lobby. But the fact is that, except for my blog, there has been no discussion at all here in San Francisco.

    As a critic of the Bicycle Plan and City Hall’s push of cycling, I of course am first in line to discuss the study, since it confirms my long-held belief that riding a bike is more dangerous than City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition have been claiming.

    That’s no doubt why Streetsblog doesn’t want to write about it.

    Yes, of course there needs to be a closer examination of these accidents to see what can be done to prevent such accidents in the future.

    But the city’s cycling community—and City Hall and the local media—are refusing to come to grips with the study precisely because its results show that riding a bike in SF is more dangerous than they thought, which makes that policy problematic, especially because the city is also encouraging children to ride bikes to school.

    It’s important to understand, however, that the implications of the UC study are wider than the bike issue. If the city is radically under-counting cycling accidents, is it also under-counting pedestrian and auto accidents?

    It’s a matter of either making a reality-based traffic policy or basing it on wishful thinking.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    All modes of transportation are under-counted for accidents. The most accurate way to make comparison between modes and different cities is the fatality rate.

    For instance, Portland has the highest bicycling commuting modal share of the largest cities in the U.S. at 6%. Yet, there were no bicycling fatalities in Portland for 2012 and 2013. People innately seem to have a sense for the level of danger for an activity. This low fatality rate for bicycling in Portland is probably contributing to its much higher cycling rate compared to other large U.S. cities.

    The bicycle sharing system in New York City is another example. There were quite a few predictions that the fatalities and serious injuries would sharply rise for bicycling when the 6,000 bicycles were available for use. In 6,000,000 trips, not one person has been killed riding a Citi Bike and there have only been a few minor injuries reported.

    As I mentioned in another post, the Netherlands reduced the bicycling fatalities to a level where it is a fifth that of the U.S. per 100 million km traveled (one death per 60 million bike trips). How did they do that? Here’s a link to a video of bicycling in the Dutch city Zwolle (notice that no one wears a helmet and people carry their newborns and toddlers when cycling.):

    Bicycling can be made quite safe through stronger traffic laws, education, and barrier protected bicycling facilities. The low fatality rate for cycling in the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Germany prove that.

  • Jake Wegmann

    Congrats to Streetsblog on a great hire and Melanie on her new gig! Those of us who studied with her at Berkeley can attest that not only is she a highly skilled and experienced editor and writer, she knows her transportation/land use policy backwards and forwards. Can’t wait to read her Sacramento coverage.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    Per the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, In 2013, there were “a near-record number of fatalities of people biking and walking. In 2013, 21 pedestrians and four bicyclists were hit and killed by drivers. This is the highest number since 2007. Just since New Year’s Eve, three people — including a 6-year-old child and an 86-year-old man — were killed while walking.”

    A method to try and reduce these fatalities should not be to restrict walking and bicycling, or to not try and separate different modes of travel by mass and speed. There needs to be more aggressive steps taken to separate pedestrians and bicyclists from the danger of being struck by a motor vehicle.

  • Yes, Dennis, I’m familiar with these facts, since I live in San Francisco and write about these issues on my blog. No one is proposing restricting walking or cycling.Your comment belongs in a different discussion.

    What I’m talking about is a particular study that shows that cycling accidents have been radically under-counted in this city due to the city’s use of a grossly defective method of counting accidents—and the probability that other types of accidents have also been systematically under-counted.

    Streetsblog, the local media, the Bicycle Coalition, and City Hall have tried to ignore the study because its conclusions undermine the party line policy on traffic and street design. If we don’t really know how many and exactly where and why accidents take place, we won’t be able to formulate a sensible policy to prevent accidents.

    The New York Times did a story on the study back in October, but there’s been a North Korea-like blackout here in Progressive Land.

  • This is really a fascinating discussion, but Melanie is specifically being brought on to help us cover issues outside of SF or LA. The odds of her covering this report are pretty low…there’s already people who cover San Francisco and the Bay Area and they do a pretty great job.


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