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L.A.’s CicLAvia Announces Expanded Route for October

The 10/9/11 CicLAvia route. For a poster size version of the route, click on the picture.

By the early afternoon of April 10, it was clear that CicLAvia had outgrown its original seven-and-a-half mile route. In the urban core of Downtown Los Angeles, bikes were packed so thick on the road that entire groups wouldn’t make it through traffic signals and other road users were intimidated from using the street. Something had to change for the amazing car-free party to continue to attract new riders.

CicLAvia staff got to work and announced earlier today that the October 9th 2011 CicLAvia will have an expanded ten and a half mile route with more open streets in the Downtown snaking North and South for a much larger car-free party.

“We’re excited about the three new miles, and we’re looking forward to expanding more,” writes Joe Linton, one of the organizers of CicLAvia. “Bogota started in the 1970s with only 7 miles and now they do 80 miles – every Sunday!”

The CicLAvia Blog shares the details of the expanded routes:

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A Growing Living Streets Community Emerges in Redding, California

Enjoying car-free streets at Redding's first-ever ciclovía-style event, Shasta Living Streets. Photo: Jeff Worthington

Redding, California, with a population of 90,000, is probably best known for its sunshine, breathtaking landscapes and conservative politics. Located 200 miles north of Sacramento in Shasta County, the lush region surrounded by the Trinity and Cascade mountains offers an abundance of recreation, including a growing number of paved multi-use trails that draw large crowds of bicyclists and pedestrians.

The seven-year-old Sundial Bridge, a 700-foot long steel marvel on the Sacramento River designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, has become Redding’s living room.

“It is where everyone hangs out in town, especially when the weather is nice. In a normal community, whatever normal is, you would see that sort of energy in a downtown square, or park, or even a downtown third place, but it happens to be out at the Sundial Bridge,” said Paul Shigley, the senior editor of the California Planning and Development Report (CP&DR), who lives six miles west of Redding near Whiskeytown Lake.

Downtown Redding does not draw a similar convergence of people enjoying public space because like many California cities it was designed for the automobile, and is not a particularly welcoming place for pedestrians and bicyclists.  The city ranks 40th among 103 cities in California “for the number of pedestrian collisions by population,” according to a recent report [pdf]. Just last week, a 16-year-old boy was struck and killed by a driver while walking across a bridge that lacked a sidewalk.

“The town is set up to conduct motorists fast and to allow them to drive up to 50, 60 miles an hour right through the middle of town,” said Scott Mobley, a reporter for the Record Searchlight, the city’s daily newspaper.

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More Cities to Join San Mateo County’s “Streets Alive” This Year

San Mateo County’s first Streets Alive event may have had bad luck with the weather last April, but many Peninsula cities are eager to get another shot at celebrating car-free streets with an even bigger event in 2011.

“Even though it was rained out, it was pretty popular with residents,” said Eric Pawlowsky, an aide to San Mateo County Supervisor Carole Groom, who declared May 1 Streets Alive Day last week. “There was really some momentum there from the public.”

Thirteen cities are set to participate by allowing people to enjoy healthy activities on open streets, up from eight last year, including Belmont, Brisbane, Burlingame, Daly City, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Millbrae, North Fair Oaks, Pacifica, Redwood City, San Bruno, San Mateo, and South San Francisco.

The Peninsula region will join a global movement of cities from San Francisco to Bogotá, Colombia, where it all started, to close streets to cars and open them up to people for a Sunday afternoon. From Grand Avenue in South San Francisco to Visitacion Avenue in Brisbane to Redwood City’s Courthouse Square, residents will be able to walk, bike, sit, talk, and play in temporary sanctuaries of open public space.

Cities will have community bike rides, fitness activities, and farmers markets as part of their events, said Pawlowsky. Redwood City is said to have the largest event planned, including activities like Bollywood fitness and educational exhibits, while East Palo Alto will tie in their street opening with a Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Even with limited funds available for the budding program, some cities that can’t afford motor vehicle closures are finding creative ways to get people active, said Pawlowsky. Residents can enjoy trail walks in Pacifica, the Serramonte Fair in Daly City, and other outdoor community events in Millbrae and North Fair Oaks.

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Peru’s Traffic Menagerie

Different vehicles shape a different streetscape in Peru.

Our daily urban lives shape our imaginations in so many ways. Few things box us in like our everyday transit options, and the patterns of traffic that shape our sense of public space. These patterns themselves are historical of course. A quick look back at the famous Market Street film shot a few days before the 1906 earthquake shows how chaotic and unpredictable the flow of traffic was when San Francisco’s main artery hadn’t yet been paved and standardized. Similarly, leaving the U.S. and visiting other countries provides a fantastic opportunity to experience other assumptions and possibilities for urban space, and surprisingly perhaps, a different range of vehicles.

In Peru for a couple of weeks I first had to adjust to a major cultural difference–unlike California, pedestrians don’t have any legal rights, let alone cultural preference. When you start to cross the street at a corner in a Peruvian city, you better be ready to run. Because the cars are not going to wait for you, in fact they tend to speed up when they see someone trying to use the road space ahead of them. I noticed the same thing on highways too, a consistent refusal to yield to entering traffic, a universal assumption of individual ownership of the right of way. Here’s a video below the break we shot standing on a traffic island in Peru’s second largest city while waiting for the traffic to clear so we could cross the street.

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Ecology of Biking in Quito, Ecuador

Sunday, February 27, 2011, the 28-kilometer Cicleopaseo in Quito, Ecuador, heading southward.

The Quito Ciclopaseo happens EVERY Sunday, takes up over 20 miles of roadway each time, and is usually attended by over 50,000 cyclists during its 9-2 hours.

I just spent a few days in Quito, Ecuador, a remarkably beautiful city of a couple million sprawling 40 kilometers north-to-south through a series of valleys and plateaus in the Andes, surrounded by snow-capped volcanoes and rugged green mountains. I interviewed Heleana Zambonino from Quito for Streetsblog a while back, and wanted to see for myself the dynamic bicycling scene she described.

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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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San Jose Celebrates First ViaVelo, Opens Downtown Streets to People

family_on_bikes.jpgA family enjoying the warm day and car-free streets. Photos: Matthew Roth.

San Jose kicked off its first ViaVelo Saturday with the opening of seven blocks of San Fernando Street downtown to bicycle riders, skaters, and pedestrians who enjoyed five hours of car-free space. Several hundred people showed up, many of them families and the burgeoning young fixed-gear crowd, riding bikes and socializing on a brilliant spring day.

San Jose joins San Francisco and San Mateo county (whose Streets Alive was mostly rained out last month) in hosting the increasingly popular events, which are modeled on the enormous ciclovia in Bogota, Colombia. San Francisco has held three of the nine Sunday Streets of 2010 and Oakland will premiere its first Oaklavia on June 27th.

Organizers of ViaVelo were upbeat about the turnout and the day's events, suggesting that if there is enough positive public feedback, the city would like to make the events a tradition next year.

"It's nice not having to worry about cars, to see families with their kids out, to see families happy and having fun, rather than worrying about how to cross the street or if it's safe to ride a bike," said John Brazil, Bike Coordinator for the San Jose Department of Transportation. "I know that all the organizers and many of the sponsors would like to see this continue, so hopefully the community will tell their elected officials they like it and it's a priority."

As one of the primary community partners involved in organizing ViaVelo, the San Jose Bike Party led various feeder rides to and from the event. Several rides from downtown went to points of interest along San Jose's extensive trail system.

"I love the fact that San Jose is becoming a bike city and putting so much focus on it," said Ian Emmons, a Bike Party organizer attending ViaVelo with his son. "I think we've got a ways to go before we catch up with Portland and 7 miles of closed streets, but we're working on it."


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Livable Streets Expert Enrique Peñalosa Comes to San Francisco

San Francisco's livable streets advocates have a chance to participate in a public forum tomorrow with Enrique Peñalosa, who, as mayor of traffic-clogged Bogotá, Colombia, implemented a s⁞weeping set of improvements to transit and the pedestrian realm.

bogota_plaza.jpgA public plaza in Bogotá, Columbia.

These initiatives include the Ciclovia, a model for San Francisco's own Sunday Streets program, and an expansive Bus Rapid Transit system, which is viewed as a gold standard and a template for other cities considering BRT. His vision for the world's largest cities includes more public spaces, extensive networks of bike paths, greater pedestrian facilities and improved transit.

The forum, entitled "Sunday Streets to Great Streets", is part of the public launch of the San Francisco Great Streets Project (GSP), a campaign led by the SFBC and SPUR. The GSP is intended to catalyze the return of San Francisco's streets to the center of civic life by working with government, business and neighborhood leaders to test, analyze and institutionalize placemaking.

Peñalosa's visit represents the GSP making good on one of its three principles: to bring experts from around the country and around the world to demonstrate best practice examples and offer instructive advice to San Franciscans. The visit follows closely on the opening of the 17th Street pedestrian plaza, which fulfilled the GSP's second principal: to help organize communities around trial projects on the ground that test livable streets ideas.

Despite recent positive developments such as the 17th Street plaza and the successful launch of Sunday Streets, many of San Francisco's streets still have much room for improvement, and tomorrow's forum will be a chance to discuss this with someone who made major strides in a city that started with public spaces in far worse condition than San Francisco's. Check out some of Streetsfilms' classic films on Peñalosa, and be sure to come tomorrow if you can!

Sunday Streets to Great Streets: Enrique Peñalosa. Tuesday, July 7, 2009 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Main Public Library (100 Larkin Street).


Celebrating San Francisco With a Sunday Streets Bicycle Ride

biker_baby.jpgBiker baby looking cool. Photo: Matthew Roth
The second of six Sunday Streets was a great success as thousands of people got out on a glorious sunny day to pedal, blade, run, skate, and stroll along the waterfront from AT&T park down to India Basin and the Bayview Opera House.  By coincidence, my father was in town and I got to take him on his first bicycle ride in a city.  Not a bad way to show him the type of streets we might hope to enjoy every Sunday all year long.

We started the morning by riding down from Bernal Heights along 26th Street and Cesar Chavez, the latter of which compelled us to jostle with speeding traffic east of the 101.  No bike lanes there until the last two blocks between 280 and 3rd Street, so we did our best to make ourselves visible by taking a lane.  Once we arrived at 3rd Street, we rode south in the traffic lanes, which were open to cars.  It was a minute or two past 10 am, so I assumed the SFPD just hadn't closed the road, though I would soon find out only the east side of 3rd Street was closed. 

3rd_street_closed.jpgThe view north on 3rd Street from the Bayview Opera House



Great Streets Project Hires Director, Hits the Streets Running

Market_rail.jpgFlickr photo: JaimeAndreu
Yesterday marked an important day for livable streets in San Francisco. In coordination with the Castro Street CBD, Supervisor Bevan Dufty, and the Mayor's Office of Greening, the nascent Great Streets Project (GSP) co-hosted a roundtable discussion about how to start and manage successful public spaces, with particular emphasis on the proposed street closure and public plaza at 17th Street and Market Street. 

Only weeks after hiring Kit Hodge to direct the GSP, this event marked the first step toward building a constituency that clamors for turning over more street space to people and improving the quality of the public realm.  According to Hodge, agency heads sat down with community organizers and all discussed ways to improve streets, to effectively manage new public spaces, and to locate areas throughout San Francisco that are ripe for transformation.

Hodge explained the GSP as "a catalytic and short-term effort to enhance the livable streets projects in San Francisco and institutionalize them in city government."  She said she will create an online database of best practice examples and tools intended for professional planners, engineers and agency personnel so they can easily reference the work of their counterparts in other cities.

Currently, the GSP is a collaboration between the SFBC, Project for Public Spaces (PPS), and the Livable Streets Initiative (produced by Streetsblog SF's parent company, The Open Planning Project), and Hodge expects many more groups to sign on in short order. 

"I have tremendous respect for the many groups that have been working on this for many years, but we want to broaden the conversation by talking to other organizations that don't focus on transportation issues," said Hodge.