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Streetsblog NYC 44 Comments

Alta Bicycle Share Has New Owners, New CEO, New Expansion Plans

With new ownership and a new CEO, Citi Bike expansion is back on track. DOT has even started taking suggestions for bike-share expansion again. Image: DOT

With new ownership from executives at real estate giant Related and a new CEO in former MTA head Jay Walder, Citi Bike expansion is back on track. DOT has already started taking suggestions for new bike-share stations. Image: DOT

It’s official: Alta Bicycle Share, the company that runs Citi Bike, has a new owner, an infusion of cash, and a fresh face at the top — longtime transit executive Jay Walder. At a press conference this afternoon, the new team promised to correct Citi Bike’s blunders and double the system’s size by the end of 2017.

The same ownership group will also be running Alta bike-share systems in Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, and Boston, among other cities. While today’s news signals potential changes in those cities as well, the most immediate changes — along with Alta Bicycle Share’s headquarters — are coming to New York.

Citi Bike’s reboot has been months in the making. Top executives from Equinox Fitness, itself a division of real estate giant The Related Companies, burst onto the bike-share scene in April with an unsuccessful last-minute bid for Bixi, the bankrupt Canadian supplier of Alta’s bike-share components. Related execs resurfaced in July, when word came that they were on the verge of buying out Alta. After months of negotiations, the deal is now official, with a company backed by Related executives and other investors, called Bikeshare Holdings LLC, acquiring all of Alta Bicycle Share.

Alta is getting a major cash infusion — $30 million from Bikeshare Holdings LLC, which is led by Equinox CEO Harvey Spevak, Related CEO Jeff Blau, and investor Jonathan Schulhof. Citi has extended its initial $41 million, five-year sponsorship of NYC bike-share by promising an additional $70.5 million through 2024, contingent on system expansion. Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, which has already helped finance Citi Bike, is increasing its credit line to Alta by $15 million. The deal includes $5 million from the Partnership Fund for New York City, an investment fund backed by the city’s big business coalition, to expand Citi Bike to more neighborhoods.
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Streetsblog NYC 55 Comments

American Driver’s Ed Is a Joke

Want a driver’s license? It’s easy. Fill out some paperwork and pop on over to the DMV to take a 20-question test for your learner’s permit. Then, get in some practice with a licensed driver. (But if you’re over 18, you can just ignore that part!) Then sit through a five-hour course before taking a quick road test, like these people. Total cost: about $50 and a few hours. Once your license expires, you can renew it with a few clicks online.

No wonder the United States has such a high traffic fatality rate.

Compare this to Germany, where people are less than half as likely to be killed in traffic. In a new video, CNET’s Brian Cooley explains German requirements for learning to operate a high-speed, multi-ton piece of heavy machinery.

The process starts with 14 to 20 hours of technical training, sometimes more, Cooley says, including a test with 30 multiple-choice questions that determines whether you know how to react to any conceivable situation in traffic. That’s followed by at least twelve 90-minute training sessions behind the wheel, including four on the Auotbahn and three at night. If your instructor isn’t satisfied, you could be sent back for additional training sessions.

Then there’s another written exam that plumbs the depths of German traffic law. Three wrong answers is an automatic failure. Fail it three times, and you have to go back to the technical training sessions. And if you learn on an automatic transmission instead of standard, your license prohibits you from driving anything but an automatic. The entire process takes three to six months and can cost about $2,500.

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Streetsblog’s Beginnings: Founder Aaron Naparstek to Speak in SF Tuesday

Streetsblog founding editor Aaron Naparstek will be in SF to serve as the keynote speaker at the SF Bicycle Coalition’s Golden Wheel Awards on Tuesday evening. We thought it’d be a good opportunity to look back on how Streetsblog San Francisco came to be, and get Naparstek’s take on what’s changed in the city since we launched at the start of 2009.

Streetsblog founder Aaron Naparstek talking about “bikelash” at the National Bike Summit last year. Image: Streetfilms

Naparstek founded Streetsblog in New York City in 2006 as a project of OpenPlans, our non-profit parent organization founded by Mark Gorton. Naparstek was the editor-in-chief until 2010, during which time he launched Streetsblog San Francisco, Los Angeles, Capitol Hill (now USA), and the Streetsblog Network. He recently completed a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and has been working as a Visiting Scholar at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

Naparstek was approached by a group of SF’s sustainable transportation advocates, led by SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum, in the summer of 2008 at the World Car-Free Cities Conference in Portland.

“They said, we think bringing Streetsblog here can really help energize the movement,” he said. “To me it said, there’s a community here that wants it, so let’s try to make it happen.”

With a four-year injunction on bicycle infrastructure in effect at the time, Naparstek said he’d been following SF’s issues for a while. “It seemed like there was all this pent-up demand,” he said. “I thought, San Francisco would be great for this.”

Naparstek and the SFBC worked together to organize Streetsblog SF, raising funds and interviewing candidates for editor. At one point in that process, Naparstek said Shahum recommended interviewing Bryan Goebel, who had volunteered for the SFBC and had nearly 20 years of experience in journalism, primarily in radio. Goebel was chosen to become the editor of Streetsblog SF, and was partnered with Matthew Roth, who moved from New York City after working in livable streets advocacy there. Ultimately, Goebel took me on as an intern and trained me on the job, and I was chosen to fill the position after he left.

Naparstek noted that he was impressed by Shahum’s commitment to helping launch a separate project in an environment where non-profits compete for scarce funds. “A lot of non-profit executive directors would be hesitant to bring us into their orbit because we’re another mouth to feed, looking for progressive transportation advocacy dollars, when it’s not that easy to raise money,” he said. “I was impressed that the Bike Coalition had a broad enough view of the movement as a whole that they recognized that we could help make the pie bigger.”

Streetsblog was formed around the idea of a media outlet that could cover issues around sustainable transportation and livable streets from an advocacy standpoint, highlighting stories not covered by traditional media. The aim is to promote the growing movement and shed light on the responsibility of government leaders and agencies to shape streets in ways that promote safer and more efficient ways of getting around.

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Time Is Running Out to Become a Streetsblog Superhero — Give Today

This is it! The final days and the final giveaway of our spring pledge drive. So far, 221 superheroes have donated to Streetsblog and Streetfilms. To reach our goal, we need 179 more readers to step up and give by Sunday at midnight.

If you’ve been been holding out until the end of the pledge drive to make your mark (or just casually procrastinating), now’s the time to fill out our secure donation form and contribute to media that makes streets safer and more sustainable.

More to the point, if you value the impact of Streetsblog in your city, if you want to see more coverage making the case for 21st century transportation policies that work for people, not cars, if you value the way Streetfilms help great ideas for city streets go viral — your gift makes it all happen.

In keeping with the superhero theme of this pledge drive, our final giveaway will reward one lucky donor with an impervious cape and another with an eye-grabbing yet utilitarian belt. Give before midnight on June 1 and you’ll be entered to win a Cleverhood rain cape in Ocean State Blue, imparting the power of dry all-weather biking, or a reflective CINCH belt from Vespertine, which makes you extra-visible and is available in your choice of three colors:

Cleverhood_Vespertine

Big thanks everyone who’s contributed so far. One more big push and we’ll reach our goal.

Streetsblog NYC No Comments

Streetsblog and Streetfilms Are Searching for a Development Director

After three stellar years with Streetsblog and Streetfilms, our development director Christa Orth is embarking on a new chapter with the fundraising consultancy Wingo. Christa masterminded the creation of a fundraising system essentially from scratch, and it’s safe to say Streetsblog and Streetfilms would not be in the position we are today without her. If you’ve ever attended one of our benefits or happy hours here in New York, you probably heard her ebullient laughter. We’re going to miss her and we wish her all the best.

We are now accepting applications for the development director position, which is based in our headquarters in New York. Here’s what we’re looking for in our next hire…

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Founded in 2006, Streetsblog and Streetfilms produce powerful media that makes the case for designing cities around people, not cars. With outlets in four major cities plus coverage of national policy, Streetsblog is the marquee news source in the movement for streets that work better for walking, biking, and transit. Streetfilms is the go-to online video site for educational and fun short films about how smart transportation policy results in better places to live, work, and play. Streetsblog and Streetfilms are projects of OpenPlans, a 501c3 non-profit organization.

Streetsblog and Streetfilms have a robust fundraising program supported by small donors, large donors, foundations, advertising, and corporate sponsorships. We seek an experienced development leader to work with our staff, board, and volunteers to grow our fundraising, so we can increase the impact of our media outlets.

Responsibilities

Working closely with the Streetsblog Editor-in-chief, the Development Director will be responsible for strategic planning, implementation, and oversight of all efforts to raise approximately $800,000 annually and grow additional support over time. Activities include:

  • Work with the Streetsblog and Streetfilms Advisory Board to grow our base of small and large donors
  • Identify prospective foundations, write grant proposals and reports, cultivate relationships with existing philanthropic supporters
  • Grow individual funding base through online fundraising campaigns, direct mail, and events
  • Solicit corporate sponsorships and manage corporate funding relationships
  • Oversee all events including our annual fall benefit, The Streets Ball (250+ attendees)
  • Write organizational materials including funding reports, appeals, and acknowledgments
  • Manage the Salesforce donor database, generate reports for finance reconciliation and budgeting
  • Supervise volunteers and other members of the development team

Qualifications

Qualified candidates have a bachelor’s degree and at least five years development experience, with demonstrated growth in responsibilities over time and a track record of raising funds from a number of sources. Must have experience working with major donors and managing an annual funding program. A passion for and understanding of livable streets issues is a plus.

Please send your resume and cover letter to developmentdirector@openplans.org. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, with the position to start by June 15th or earlier.

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Streetsblog Capitol Hill Is Now Streetsblog USA

I’m pleased to announce that our national news site has a new name: Streetsblog USA. Say it with pride.

Why the change? Simply put, “Streetsblog USA” is a better reflection of the nationwide coverage that Tanya Snyder and Angie Schmitt are producing.

The new name was a long time coming. Streetsblog Capitol Hill launched five years ago, aiming to connect our readers to the important yet byzantine process of reauthorizing the federal transportation bill. At first there seemed to be a window of opportunity to pass a landmark piece of legislation. That changed when the Tea Party Congress came to power, and expectations for major policy reforms at the federal level deflated. There were still important fights to track on Capitol Hill, but they were all about playing defense. Transit and active transportation programs had to be protected from a hostile Congress.

Meanwhile, cities aren’t waiting around to build safer, more multi-modal streets. Mayors are tossing aside the cars-first approach to transportation policy, local governments are shedding 1960s-era regulations that prioritize space for automobiles above space for people, and grassroots advocates are winning battles to bring down highways. With or without support from Congress, great ideas for city streets are popping up everywhere, and we want to help them spread. We also want to show all the ways that national, state, and regional policies foil this progress, and we’ve had no shortage of stories about state DOTs using federal cash to go on highway binges or regions sacrificing their future to build more sprawl.

So we’ve been doing all that for a few years now, and “Streetsblog USA” has been brewing for a while. The new name is really an acknowledgment that our publishing title needs to catch up with our published content. Streetsblog USA will continue to provide the mix of Beltway coverage and livable streets updates from around the country that our readers have come to rely on. We’ll keep on looking for better ways to bring you Streetsblog content, like the new Talking Headways podcast, but the basic purpose, style, and scope of that content isn’t going to change.

A few notes about the details. The location of the site is now usa.streetsblog.org. You may have to refresh your browser cache to see the new header graphic. We’re wrapping up the new navigation graphics today — pardon the temporary inconsistencies. As we complete the transition, all pages using the previous domain will redirect seamlessly to the new one. The @StreetsblogDC Twitter account will morph into @StreetsblogUSA later today. For everyone who subscribes to the RSS feed, the new URL you want is feed://usa.streetsblog.org/feed. If you subscribe to the daily email feed, you don’t need to change a thing.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned. There are more changes coming to Streetsblog that we’re really excited to share with you later on in 2014.

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We’re Hiring: Streetsblog Is Searching for a Managing Editor

Streetsblog is looking for a talented journalist to shape and oversee coverage throughout our growing family of news sites.

The Managing Editor will work with the Editor-in-Chief and our roster of editors and reporters to hone Streetsblog’s coverage of transportation and planning issues, grow our audience, and bring our brand of advocacy journalism to more cities.

We welcome applications from journalists with extensive experience in new media and a keen sense of transportation policy and politics, who share our vision of Streetsblog as a respected, influential source of information and commentary.

Job description

Streetsblog currently publishes four city-based sites, a national policy and livable streets news site, and highlights from bloggers around the country who belong to the Streetsblog Network. Reporting to the Editor-in-Chief, the Managing Editor will work directly with our team of reporters and editors to assign and select stories, edit drafts for content and style, write headlines, present graphics, and share content on social media.

Streetsblog content runs the gamut from video- or photo-based posts with scant text to 2,000-word enterprise pieces with detailed reporting. On any given day, stories might deal with bikeway design, infrastructure financing, traffic-related case law, parking policy, or a range of other topics that affect the quality of city streets. Most posts must be situated within a specific political context and/or advocacy campaign. The Managing Editor will shape and fine-tune every type of post, from headline to kicker, to achieve the desired impact.

In addition to possessing excellent writing and editing skills, applicants should be enthusiastic about the notion that journalism can be conducted with integrity and fidelity to the truth while espousing a clear point of view. The ideal candidate will have the background knowledge and analytical skills to accurately process information and make sense of it for a mass audience in a timely manner. A passion for livable streets is essential.

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Streetsblog Hiring a Reporter to Cover Statewide News Out of Sacramento

Streetsblog is happy to announce the opening of a new, full-time Sacramento-based reporting position to cover livable streets news from around California and the state capitol beginning in early 2014.

streetsblog-logo-sxsw

The writer would cover the state legislature, executive branch, Caltrans, high-speed rail, and other issues outside of the greater Los Angeles and Bay Areas, working closely with the editors of Streetsblog LA and San Francisco, as well as the team at OpenPlans, Streetsblog’s parent organization.

Major funding for the position comes from the California Endowment and a generous anonymous donor. And, of course, none of this would be possible without the support of our readers.

Streetsblog LA is also hiring a local reporter in that area. You can find the text of the applications for the Sacramento position and LA position on Google Drive. They will be posted tomorrow on the Streetsblog jobs board.

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Bid While You Can: Streetsblog’s Online Auction Ends Tomorrow at 9 PM

There are less than 36 hours left in Streetsblog’s first online auction, with more than a dozen items up for grabs. Whether or not you win an auction item in the end, your bids will help Streetsblog and Streetfilms produce media that makes the case for safer streets, effective transit, and livable neighborhoods. So why wait to snipe at the last minute?

Prizes include a new Breezer bikeRickshaw bagsphotographs by Peter Lika hand-painted Belle helmetCleverhood rain cape, livable streets-themed signs by Smart Sign (they really make a statement in your apartment) — and a lot more.

Auction item winners can specify which Streetsblog outlet you’d like to direct your donation to, or make an open-ended contribution to our areas of greatest need. The auction is over at 9:00 p.m. Pacific on Halloween. Happy bidding!

Streetsblog NYC 7 Comments

LeBron and Friends Reclaim Miami’s Streets in New Ad


Looks like the new LeBron James Nike ad that debuted during “Sunday Night Football” was at least in part the star’s idea.

The spot portrays the two-time NBA champion performing his off-season workout regimen, accompanied by hundreds of kids and adults on bikes as he rides through Miami. Bystanders watch or join in as the swarm of non-motorized humanity takes over the streets and disrupts highway traffic.

“They allow me to have a lot of input on the spots that come out and they’re basically geared to who I am and what I do on a day-to-day basis,” James told the AP. “It was great to put that together.”

James’s charity foundation has a program that links cycling and physical fitness to education in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, and we’ve written before that he and teammates Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers are regulars at Miami Critical Mass.

The Heat played the Nets in Brooklyn twice in the preseason, and will be at Barclays and Madison Square Garden a few times this year as they go for the three-peat. We wouldn’t be surprised if LeBron already has a Citi Bike fob.