Skip to content

Via Streetsblog California
View Comments

Modesto: A Model Bike-Friendly City?

Sylvan_Bikes

Bike lanes featuring the first use of green paint in Modesto were installed in 2012 along Sylvan Avenue. Photo: Michael Sacuskie/TED

The California central valley town of Modesto is not usually high on anyone’s list of cities embracing cutting-edge pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. But that may change soon.

Modesto is one of the oldest cities in California, but like other central valley towns, it grew to accommodate car travel, with wide, fast streets, plenty of parking, and little attention given to other modes. In fact, the city may be best known as the setting for American Graffiti, George Lucas’ nostalgic look at teenagers in a world of cheap gas and oversized cars.

In recent years, however, the city has been quietly applying Complete Streets principles on its roads. It has added buffered bike lanes when it repaved, built roundabouts at major intersections, added bike parking corrals in thoughtful ways, and created temporary plazas with the idea that once people experience them they will want to make them permanent.

And last month the City Council approved a project that includes a road diet on College Avenue and a curb-protected, two-way bike lane along nearby 9th Street. The project will connect two campuses of Modesto Junior College to relatively new bike lanes on Briggsmore Avenue, considerably adding to the city’s bike network. This project alone will put Modesto at the forefront of bike-friendly infrastructure in California, ahead of other cities where advocates struggle to convince planners, and planners struggle to convince the public that safer street designs will work for everyone.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
View Comments

Compelling Evidence That Wider Lanes Make City Streets More Dangerous

The rate of side impact crashes is lowest on urban streets with lanes about 10.5 feet wide — much narrower than the standard 12 feet. Graph: Dewan Karim

The “forgiving highway” approach to traffic engineering holds that wider is safer when it comes to street design. After decades of adherence to these standards, American cities are now criss-crossed by streets with 12-foot wide lanes. As Walkable City author Jeff Speck argued in CityLab last year, this is actually terrible for public safety and the pedestrian environment.

A new study reinforces the argument that cities need to reconsider lane widths and redesign streets accordingly. In a paper to be presented at the Canadian Institute of Traffic Engineers annual conference, author Dewan Masud Karim presents hard evidence that wider lanes increase risk on city streets.

Karim conducted a wide-ranging review of existing research as well as an examination of crash databases in two cities, taking into consideration 190 randomly selected intersections in Tokyo and 70 in Toronto.

Looking at the crash databases, Karim found that collision rates escalate as lane widths exceed about 10.5 feet.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

A Plea for States Like Ohio to Wake Up to the “New Reality”

Ohio’s cities have been declining, and traffic congestion isn’t the problem. The highway system, if anything, is overbuilt.

Jason Segedy director of Akron's regional council of governments says Ohio is headed down the wrong road, transportation-wise. Photo: Akronist

Jason Segedy, director of Akron’s regional council of governments, says Ohio’s transportation policies make its economic problems worse. Photo: Akronist

But state authorities continue to prioritize highway building over every other form of transportation spending. Jason Segedy, the head of Akron’s regional council of governments, is sounding the alarm about it.

At his blog, Notes from the Underground, Segedy recently published “An Open Letter to Ohio’s Public Officials.” He says the state should shift focus entirely and immediately:

I no longer believe the dogma that is proffered by much of the mainstream economic development, planning, and engineering professions. The practitioners in these professions increasingly function as priests, rather than scientists. And I reject their statement of faith.

That statement of faith being: “More highway capacity is the path to economic prosperity.”

If that were the case, Ohio (the 7th largest state with the 4th largest interstate system) should be tearing it up economically. Instead, we are one of the slowest growing states in the union (44th); our economic growth lags far behind the nation as a whole (which is why our population growth is virtually non-existent); and our state contains (with the exception of Columbus) the weakest performing central cities of any one state in the union.

Our cities are bucking just about every major national trend when it comes to urban revitalization and job creation, and I simply don’t believe that more transportation infrastructure or less “congestion” (such as it is) is the cure for what ails them.

Our biggest economic problem in Ohio today is not the inability to get goods and services to market. Our biggest economic problem is economic inequality — a lack of economic opportunities for the poor and the working class — most of whom are clustered in our central cities, our inner ring suburbs, and our towns.

Read more…

5 Comments

Today’s Headlines

  • Software Error Forces Muni Metro to Suspend Double Berthing (SF Examiner, SF Bay, KTVU)
  • Mayor Lee Supports State Law to Allow Cameras That Catch Speeding Drivers (SF Chronicle)
  • Three Muni Passengers Robbed and Injured in Separate Incidents (SF Examiner)
  • Chemical Tests Find Hydrogen Bubble Manufacturing Defects in Failed BART Rail (SF Examiner)
  • Bay Area Bike Share in Three Peninsula Cities Extended For One Year (Green Caltrain)
  • South San Francisco City Staff Recommend Against Residential Parking Permit Program (SM Daily)
  • Driver Killed in Solo Crash on Highway 680 Identified as 58-Year-Old Dennis Rohrbach (SJ Mercury)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

12 Comments

How Freeway Removal and Zero Parking Can Fend Off SF’s Triple Threat

2015-100-Van-Ness-View-(17)

Upzoning in the eastern portion of the Market and Octavia Plan area without allowing any parking has great promise to bring more affordable housing to the center of San Francisco. Photo: Jason Henderson

There is an urgent triumvirate of crises looming over San Franciscans. With median rents now exceeding $4,200, hyper-gentrification is tearing lives apart. Except for those surviving on rent control, the city is no longer welcoming to teachers, artists, and the entire middle class. Things are looking difficult in the East Bay, as speculators and realtors spread their tentacles of greed around every BART station.

Meanwhile, on the city’s streets there’s an onslaught of untenable motor traffic, visionless drivers imposing violence and rage on the streets, Ubers blocking bike lanes, private buses grabbing Muni stops. It’s not just hard to get around. It’s deadly.

And in the back of every decent thinking person’s mind there’s the specter of climate change. What kind of Mad Max world comes with a 4° increase in global mean temperatures? How can we stabilize at 2°? Will the Bay Area be viable as Sierra snowpack dries up and the seas rise? What can we do here? Now?

Many people feel despondent at what is unfolding. In San Francisco, a proposed moratorium on new market rate development in the Mission has gained traction and will be vetted at the Board of Supervisors. In Oakland, a city hall meeting was bum rushed and shut down by activists.

Sustainable transportation activists push a Vision Zero agenda to tame traffic but the mayor defends parking over human lives. And affordability and the traffic mess are tangled up in a planning quagmire, with the impotent Plan Bay Area the only coherent climate strategy in town.

There’s a lot to grapple with here, and not much time to make a difference. But lately a few planning ideas — zero parking, freeway removal, and upzoning for affordability — have come to my mind as ways we can quickly, practically, and deliberately address this converging madness — right here, right now.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

Federal Court: Wisconsin Uses Bogus Traffic Data to Justify Highways

State departments of transportation all over the country use specious traffic projections to justify hugely expensive road widening projects. That’s how you end up with the graph on the right — showing how DOTs continued to forecast traffic growth year after year, even as driving stagnated.

This chart shows aggregate travel projections for the nation's state and regional transportation agencies. Graph: SSTI

Aggregate traffic projections from the nation’s state and regional transportation agencies have become increasingly divorced from reality. Graph: SSTI

Wisconsin DOT is perhaps the most notorious manipulator of traffic forecasts. Fortunately, Wisconsin also has a strong network of organizations holding the DOT’s feet to the fire and dragging it to court if need be.

Today, 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin Executive Director Steve Hiniker shares news of a major legal victory. A federal court sided with the organization in a suit against WisDOT that challenged the traffic data used to justify the $146 million widening of Highway 23:

According to the ruling, the Wisconsin DOT failed to justify the amount of traffic it projected as likely to use the road in the future. The Court ruled that the project is ineligible for federal funding until documented accurate traffic forecasts can be made that justify expanding the highway. The state can now either go back to the drawing board and do verifiable forecasting or scrap the expansion plans. The ruling does not stop the state from building the project using only state funds.

“We encourage the DOT to immediately make safety improvements along Highway 23 that could always have been done without expanding the highway to 4 lanes,” added Hiniker.

Read more…

10 Comments

Today’s Headlines

  • Muni’s Standards for Disabled Passenger Access Exceed ADA Requirements (SF Examiner)
  • Three-Day Construction Closure for Doyle Drive Traffic Expansion Project Delayed (SJ Mercury)
  • 2015 Bike-Friendly Businesses: Epsilon, Hipmunk, WaterSmart, Asian Art Museum (SFBC)
  • Party Bus Driver Strikes Pedestrian in SOMA, Causing Head Injuries (SF Examiner)
  • Drunk Driver Arrested After Head-On Crash That Hospitalized Brisbane Senior (SM Daily)
  • Driver Killed in Highway 680 Crash in Fremont Saturday Morning (SJ Mercury)
  • Fatal Crash Early Saturday Morning on Highway 101 in Marin County (ABC)
  • VTA Board Approval of Highway 85 Expansion Delayed by Cities’ Lawsuit (SJ Mercury)
  • Video: Change Lanes or Slow Down When Passing Tow Trucks (YouTube)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

5 Comments

East Palo Alto Bay Trail Will Be Built. Will Current Residents Benefit From It?

Ravenswood Bay Trail Map

The missing 0.6-mile segment of San Francisco Bay Trail through East Palo Alto requires crossing SFPUC property and protected wetlands. Image: Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District

The pieces are in place to build a key link in the San Francisco Bay Trail, providing a continuous bike route through East Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Given the trail’s proximity to Facebook and the lack of housing close to the company’s campus, East Palo is also looking to strengthen its affordable housing policies to ensure that current residents can afford to stay in the city and benefit from the new path.

Local officials from five different agencies met on Monday to iron out the details of an agreement that fully funds the San Francisco Bay Trail through East Palo Alto, filling in the 100-mile network of off-street trails connecting Redwood City and Union City with downtown San Jose, Mountain View, and central Santa Clara.

“This is one of the most difficult gaps in the Bay Trail to complete,” said San Mateo County Parks Director Marlene Finley, whose department will manage funds for the project. “It’s wonderful that all the project partners are able to come together and get this done.”

The missing section lies within both East Palo Alto and Menlo Park, and is subject to a number of regulatory agencies where the trail will cross protected wetlands in the Ravenswood Open Space Preserve. The multi-jurisdictional nature of the project and complex political environment has delayed it for decades while every other section of the San Francisco Bay Trail in the mid-Peninsula region has been built or improved. The network of continuous off-street trails now stretches nearly from the Union City BART Station to downtown San Jose, except for this remaining gap.

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
View Comments

Talking With Matt Nichols, Oakland’s New Transportation Policy Director

Matt Nichols is Oakland’s newly hired policy director for infrastructure and transportation. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf created the position to shepherd her proposed reorganization of transportation planning, design, engineering, and construction into one department, and to oversee the creation of a cohesive transportation policy. Nichols has been in his new job for about two months, and he’s excited about this chance to formulate policies to guide infrastructure.

MattNichols1

Matt Nichols, Oakland’s new policy director for transportation and infrastructure. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

“It’s a new way to ask the question for Oakland,” he said. “Up until now, transportation has been a maintenance issue. Arguments for changes on the city’s streets have come from the grassroots/advocacy level, and gone upwards. To have the mayor directing transportation policy is a great thing.”

“You can transform cities just through policy,” said Nichols. “It takes a bigger vision of the city–this isn’t just about carrying out projects.”

Last week Mayor Schaaf submitted a budget proposal that, among other things, would create a new Department of Transportation. The proposal lists principles for the new department: safe streets for all, great neighborhoods, transportation options, economic development, and sustainable infrastructure. Supporting these principles will mean creating bike-friendly, pedestrian-friendly, transit-friendly streets — where now many Oakland streets are wide roads that parallel freeways and present unsafe conditions for people who are not in cars. Supporting these principles will require a major shift away from business as usual.

“One thing we have learned,” said Nichols, “is that you just can’t build enough car infrastructure. That’s because, one, there’s not enough money, and two, it doesn’t work anyway.”

His first two goals are to create a more effective system for delivering transportation projects, and to find new resources. The two goals are interconnected, as the creation of a “project delivery pipeline” will help the city obtain more funding.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

Atlanta Can’t Fix Its Traffic Problem Without Getting a Handle on Sprawl

Complaining about traffic is practically a sport in Atlanta. Which makes sense, since traffic in the region is absolutely miserable.

What’s interesting, says Darin Givens at ATL Urbanist, is how infrequently the people complaining about traffic mention the primary cause of that traffic — the region’s notorious sprawl. He says:

You can’t expect good alternatives to car travel to happen unless the built environment is accommodating to safe pedestrian and bicycle mobility. Atlantans often seem to have trouble understanding that relationship between city form and traffic flow, complaining that “MARTA doesn’t go anywhere” and not realizing that it only feels that way because the city sprawls everywhere.

Another way of stating this point comes from Fred Kent: “If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places.”

A recent article in the AJC explores the way that the automobile congestion on Atlanta roads is affecting decisions companies make about who they hire and where they locate: “Traffic becomes a factor for Atlanta businesses.” The piece includes this statement about public transit and how it is perceived as not being robust enough for convenient use. “Atlanta motorists and employers alike have long complained that the area’s traffic problems are exacerbated by a largely anemic public transportation system.”

Read more…