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Posts from the "Los Angeles" Category

Streetsblog LA 8 Comments

“Browndoggle”? Efforts to Use HSR as Cudgel Against CA Dems Fizzle

The Browndoggle.”

This image was supposed to signify that California High Speed Rail was going off the tracks. Instead, it's a symbol of how efforts to use High Speed Rail as a cudgel have led to ruin. Image:John and Ken Show

Opponents of Governor Jerry Brown and the California Democratic Party have been slamming the California High Speed Rail Authority for years. The political strategy seemed to be working. Four years after voters approved a tax increase to fund a segment of what was promised to be a high speed train connecting Sacramento to San Diego, the project had morphed and grown more expensive. Voters were angry. Or so the polls said.

Earlier this year, the legislature approved a plan to build 130 miles of high speed rail in the central valley despite near-unanimous Republican opposition. One of the questions this election was whether Republicans could capitalize on the opposition to make gains at the ballot box.

Backed by funding from the oil and coal industries, and the non-stop nattering on the popular John and Ken Show, Republicans thought High Speed Rail was a winning issue.

They were wrong.

Read more…

Streetsblog LA 4 Comments

The National Women’s Bicycling Summit: This Is Not a Bike

The issues surrounding women and bicycles remain some of the most discussed around the country. Last week, a packed house attended the Women's Bicycling Summit in Long Beach. Photo: Brian Addison

Leah Missbach Day, co-founder of World Bicycle Relief and keynote speaker at last week’s National Women’s Bicycling Summit, in Long Beach, California, was very succinct with her main point about a bike:

“This is not a bike.”

The bike is a tool, she intoned; a tool that helps generate economic stability, community cohesiveness, and gender equality, particularly in poor and marginalized parts of the world.

Leah Missbach Day takes the podium, after being introduced by Carolyn Szczepanski

“The bicycle movement is just getting started,” stated Carolyn Szczepanski, communications director of the League of American Bicyclists, in her introductory remarks. She said many in marginalized communities, particularly ethnic minorities, are feeling left out of the bicycle movement. “Instead of feeling left out, [Anthony Taylor, co-founder of the National Brotherhood of Cycling] tells them something really empowering: ‘You’re not too late — you’re just in time.’ I would submit to you we are just in time. In 2009, women accounted for just 24 percent of bike trips in the United States and, obviously, it is time for that to change. Without engaging, empowering, and elevating 50 percent of the population — women — we simply cannot succeed as a movement.”

Day is part of that movement. She emphasized that her work is geared at more than just environmental policies — it’s about gender, economics, and equality. Day has a ethical and economic model that follows that of the World Bank: If impoverished countries promote the social and economic status of women, poverty rates will decrease and economic prosperity will increase.

Following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history, Day and her husband felt that sending money was not enough. Wanting to do something more tangible, they distributed thousands of bikes to those who had lost their homes and families, providing them with transportation and the ability to carry household cargo. It was here that the World Bicycle Relief (WBR) organization was born. Read more…


How Handicap Placard Abuse Threatens SF’s Parking Reforms

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If cities needed any more reason to curb handicap placard abuse, here it is. The authors of a new study out of Los Angeles point out that rampant placard abuse threatens to undermine performance parking programs like SFPark by skewing the data and the price of parking, the Atlantic Cities explains:

If a city has a pricing program for parking, like Los Angeles or San Francisco, the costs are even greater. Such programs raise the price of parking until a certain level of vacancy (often 15 percent) is present at any given moment. But disabled placards usually allow drivers to park for free for an unlimited amount of time. Many do just that: a 2009 meter survey in Los Angeles found that the 5 percent of cars with disabled placards used 17 percent of all available time. When placard abuse meets priced parking, the results are flawed space counts and artificially high rates for everyone.

The authors of the study, Michael Manville of Cornell and Jonathan Williams of Fehr & Peers Transportation Consultants in Seattle, call for abolishing free parking perks for handicap placard holders because they work against the interests of the most seriously disabled and poorest members of society, who are not travelling by car. Additionally, they write, “the externalities of this clumsy subsidy threaten to undermine a transportation reform that could deliver large benefits to all citizens.”

As we reported recently, the SF Municipal Transportation Agency is in the early stages of developing a campaign to curb placard abuse, which could involve eliminating the free parking perks enshrined in state law.

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Sunnyvale Latest City to Consider Anti-Harassment Law for Bike Riders

A groundbreaking law adopted in Los Angeles almost one year ago that allows bicycle riders to take civil action against drivers who harass them continues to generate local and national interest, with Sunnyvale becoming the latest city to consider enacting protections.

“So many (drivers) seem to think it’s like basketball rules: no hit, no foul. If they don’t hit you, they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong,” said Kevin Jackson, a longtime member of the Sunnyvale Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission (BPAC). “In their minds, it’s not something they feel they have to ever explain to a cop or anything.”

But under a proposed ordinance expected to be adopted by the Sunnyvale City Council on July 17, drivers who threaten or distract bike riders could be taken to court and would have to explain themselves to a judge. Fashioned after the Los Angeles law, it would make drivers liable for damages starting at $1,000.

“Sunnyvale wants to encourage people to ride bicycles rather than drive motor vehicles in order to lessen traffic congestion and improve air quality,” the ordinance states. “Riding a bicycle on City streets poses hazards to bicyclists, and these hazards are amplified by the actions of persons who deliberately harass and endanger bicyclists because of their status as bicyclists.”

Jackson said city staffers, including the police department, were initially opposed to studying the idea based on some misunderstandings. But they eventually agreed to look into it, produced a report that won praise from advocates, and recommended that an anti-harassment law be adopted. The ordinance’s initial reading passed the Sunnyvale City Council June 19 by a vote of 6-1, with Councilmember Jim Davis, an ex-police officer, opposed.

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Streetsblog LA 8 Comments

Lance Armstrong, L.A.’s Mayor Push Brown on S.B. 910

Lance Armstrong and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at "Hope Rides Again" Cancer Awareness Event in March, 2009. Photo:So Ca.

Bicycling superstar Lance Armstrong and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have joined forces again.  Their target: Governor Jerry Brown.  Their message: sign S.B. 910, the state’s three foot passing law that would protect cyclists from drivers who pass too close and too fast.

“Gov. Brown can help make our roads safer for everyone by making Senate Bill 910 the law in California,” said Armstrong, seven-time winner of the Tour de France, and the most famous bicyclist in the world.

“I’m thrilled that we have Lance Armstrong’s support on this issue,” added Villaraigosa. “His success is a big reason so many more Californians are interested in bicycling. It’s so important to have experts like him advocating for making California a more bike-friendly place.”

The Senate and Assembly both passed S.B. 910, authored by Long Beach Senator Alan Lowenthal, which would require motorists passing bicyclists to give at least a three foot cushion if the car’s speed is 15 miles per hour. Many Republicans opposed the measure, in large part due to the opposition of speeding traffic advocates, AAA and the California Highway Patrol. Last week, Streetsblog San Francisco reported that those same two groups are lobbying the Governor to veto this traffic safety measure.

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Streetsblog LA 6 Comments

Interview With Donald Shoup: Los Angeles Making Strides With ExpressPark

Last week Streetsblog LA talked with UCLA Professor and parking guru Donald Shoup about ExpressPark, the new parking pricing system coming to downtown Los Angeles.

Damien Newton: Los Angeles is changing the way it does parking in its downtown. They’re calling it the ExpressPark system. Let’s start with the basics — what is the program and what are your thoughts?

Donald Shoup: For the first time they’re stating how they’re going to set parking prices. Instead of basing it on council decisions or emotions or people’s feelings, they stated a principal. Parking at a meter will be at the lowest price they can charge and still have one or two open spaces on every block.

If they get that price right, then those spaces will be well used because almost all the spaces will be full. Yet there will be spaces readily available because one or two spaces will be open.

Can it get any better than that as a goal for the parking system?

The key is, can you set the right price without looking at the results even though the results are what’s going to count when setting the price.

DN: This marks a shift in policy for the city that seemed to base parking decisions based on what brings in the most revenue.

DS: It hadn’t been about that even, until quite recently.

You may remember a few years ago they doubled the price of parking everywhere in the city with a minimum price of a dollar an hour. Since most meters were at a quarter an hour, that meant quadrupling the price at most meters. That was the first time meter prices had been changed in eighteen years.

There’s been a lot of neglect of parking meters. Inertia seemed to be the main factor in determining parking prices.

They’re changing that by saying, “Here’s the rule. If half the spaces on a block are empty, we’re going to lower prices. If all the spaces are full we’re going to raise prices.” Since the price change two years ago, I’ve seen entire blocks where there isn’t one car parked. The price is too high.

I think a lot of prices would go down if they extend express park to the whole city. They’re starting in downtown, but I suspect that some prices will go down.

DN: One of the tenets of “The High Cost of Free Parking” is that money collected from meters should be returned to the communities where it was collected. L.A.’s plan returns all metered funds to the general fund. Is that a mistake by the city? Does it give you any misgivings about the plan altogether?

DS: That’s what they’re planning in L.A., they’re not planning on funneling any of the money back to the neighborhood?

That’s a mistake. When you funnel back to the neighborhood you get local buy-in and you get wonderful results.

Pasadena returns all of the metered money back into the neighborhood for decades and they turned the local neighborhood that used to be a commercial skid row into one of the most popular shopping destinations in Southern California. The meters brought in an extra million dollars a year in public services in just that little shopping district. They replaced all the sidewalks, streetlights and street furniture. They cleaned up the allays. They put electric wires underground. This was all paid for by meters.

But that’s a political issue. I think that getting the price right is also very important.

Read more…

Streetsblog LA 62 Comments

CicLAvia: 100,000 Cyclists, Zero Incidents, Millions of Stories

The MidDay Ridazz take over 7th Street

The MidDay Ridazz take over 7th Street. 97 Pictures of the day at the Streetsblog Flickr pool.

The numbers for yesterday’s CicLAvia are impressive. KABC News says that there were 50,000 people riding the streets of Los Angeles along a 7.5 mile stretch of streets that were open to public use, but closed to automobiles. The Los Angeles Times puts that number closer to 100,00 people.

Anecdotally, the Coke truck ran out of free servings after 50,000 drinks. CicLAvia organizers estimated that 60,000 to 100,000 people took part with the number “closer to 100,000.”

That’s a lot of people for a 7.5 mile stretch of the city. But here’s the thing. Their numbers are wrong. All of them.

Yesterday was about a lot more than just counting the bikes that rolled past. CicLAvia touched hundreds of thousands of people, even if measured by the laughter heard on their streets instead of cars honking their horns. How do you count the kids playing ball in the street that scurried out of the way when the bikes rolled past?

Zero. That’s the number of “major incidents” reported along the route. That number includes interactions between the different mode users: bicyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders, rollerbladers, that guy on the surfboard thing with wheels. That number includes the interactions between the attendees of the events and the LAPD. As for Los Angeles’ finest, it was hard to find a sour face amongst the hundreds of police on the streets. Even though they were working, they were as caught up in the wonder of the day as everyone else.

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StreetFilms 6 Comments

L.A.’s Freedom Ride: BKoB

On the fourth Sunday of every month, cyclists take over the streets of Los Angeles as part of the "Black Kids on Bikes" (BKoB) ride.  BKoB is part of a series of rides called the "Freedom Rides" aimed at getting more black Angelenos to enjoy the unique experience of a group cycle ride.  BKoB aims at providing a safe, fun venue for kids to ride the streets, but despite it's name - the ride is open to riders of all races and skill levels.

The ride is the brainchild of organizer James Spooner who wears many hats.  Some know him as a Bikerowave volunteer, others as a tattoo artist, and still others know him as the ground making film maker responsible for 2003's cult film "Afro-Punk."

Ivy writes:

Spooner, a recent transplant from the rainbow streets of New York City, walks and talks New York, but now calls Cali home.  James was cool enough to sit down with me despite of me, to tell me about how the ride came to be and what he personally gets out of the ride and cycling in general.

Streetsblog LA 6 Comments

Sadik-Khan Packs the House in LA, Then Brings It Down

Thanks to Clarence Eckerson for this Streetfilms Shortie.

The L.A. StreetSummit kicked off last night with a rousing keynote address and slide show by the groundbreaking New York City DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn. Three levels of an Occidental College auditorium were packed with students, bike advocates from around the county, and others interested in Livable Streets to hear Sadik-Kahn talk about the changes that have come to New York City's streets under her and Mayor Michael Bloomberg's leadership in the past three years.

Sadik-Khan's lecture was continually interrupted by cheers and even gasps of astonishment for the "before" and "after" pictures of the now car-free pedestrian plaza in Times Square and Herald Square.

One thing that you could palpably feel from the NYCDOT boss was the sense of pride in how her department has changed the way people think about transportation and even about city government: The speech was peppered with New York City promos, my favorite of which came when she pointed out that "New Yorkers have one-third of the carbon footprint of the average American. If you're really serious about saving the planet, you should move to New York City," she said.


Muni Rider Profile: Pamela Moye Revisits the 28-19th Avenue

IMG_1182.jpgPamela Moye rides the 28-19th Avenue. Photo: Michael Rhodes

Riding the 28-19th Avenue northbound towards the Richmond on a recent weekday afternoon, Pamela Moye has almost nothing but good things to say about Muni.

Aside from the occasional long wait for an M-Ocean View train, Moye, a schoolteacher, said her experience with Muni has been overwhelmingly positive.

"I love public transportation in San Francisco," said Moye. "It's super easy."

What accounts for Moye's sunny appraisal of Muni, a system that's subject to near-universal griping among San Franciscans? Moye, it turns out, benefits from the perspective of being a former San Francisco resident who now lives in Los Angeles, car-free.

"People think I'm crazy for riding the bus in LA," she said. Though she doesn't agree with that assessment, Moye said she knows far fewer people who ride transit in her new home than in San Francisco.

Moye left San Francisco in 2002 to pursue a teaching job after attending San Francisco State. She was back in town on the day we spoke to complete work on her degree seven years later, and was happy to reminisce about her days living on 5th Avenue and Geary.

"Living in San Francisco turned me into a non-car owner," she said. The cost and hassle of parking, insurance, and gas pushed her towards giving up her vehicle, and she hasn't looked back.

After growing up in Idaho, she found the bus her key to exploring San Francisco. "Riding the bus is a great way to learn a city," said Moye. When she arrived here, she said, if she had a free afternoon, "I would just get on a bus and ride."

Now, when friends and family ask for suggestions on what to do during visits to San Francisco, Moye tells them to take the 38-Geary from one end of the line to the other, from ocean to bay, one of the best ways to see a broad cross-section of the city. (Jane Jacobs wrote about taking a similar approach to learning New York City when she first arrived, randomly choosing subway lines to ride to new neighborhoods every week.)

Moye has continued this practice in Los Angeles, a city (and region) famed for its dependence on the automobile, though it has increasingly focused on expanding transit service.

Moye said she always felt secure riding buses here. "I never saw anything, I always felt completely safe," she said, noting that she often rode the bus late at night.