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Help Streetsblog Keep the Lights on — Donate Today

We’re extending our spring pledge drive til the end of the week to reach our target of $40,000 in reader donations. If you haven’t given already, please make a tax-free gift today and help keep Streetsblog and Streetfilms going strong this year.

Streetsblog and Streetfilms rely on individual donations, foundation support, and sponsorships and ads to produce content that makes the case for safer streets and more effective transit — and to pay our internet bills and keep the lights on. To sustain this media enterprise, we need to hit all of our fundraising targets. We’re not there yet this spring but the goal is within sight. If 100 readers make a contribution by Friday — less than 1 percent of our daily unique visitors — we’ll wrap up this pledge drive in good shape. Please contribute.

For extra motivation, we have two more prizes to give away. In addition to the grand prize of a Dahon folding bike for one lucky reader who gives $50 or more, one reader who gives before Friday at midnight will win a beautiful Belle Helmet, handpainted by Danielle Baskin, and another donor will win a Yardstash tent to keep your bike gear dry and outside (if you have the yard space).

Note: Image not to scale.

If you’ve been holding out on donating until just the right moment — now’s the time! Thanks for reading and for supporting Streetsblog and Streetfilms.

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Support Streetsblog, Your Translator of Transpo Planner Jargon

Even SF transportation planners know: they can be pretty hard to understand. Listening in on a discussion about safer streets encrypted in countless acronyms and technical terms can often leave the layperson feeling pretty lost.

See, in planner-speak, it’s not “getting run over” — it’s “a multi-modal right-of-way conflict.”

In San Francisco, this language barrier is perhaps most likely to be found in a staff meeting at the SF County Transportation Authority, which manages San Francisco’s transportation financing and long-term planning. You know, the dry stuff.

The SFCTA candidly admits this — the agency produced the tongue-in-cheek video above, in which one character explains that transportation planners are “trained to talk about our shared urban experiences in a way that is nearly unrecognizable to the general public.”

Not to worry, though — that’s one reason Streetsblog is here. Before we post many of our articles, we decode zoning terms, planning documents, presentations and interviews — and turn them into legible stories about what’s happening to our city’s streets. And it’s contributions from our readers that allow us to continue that work.

If you value the work we do to translate cryptic concepts into a cohesive narrative about re-shaping San Francisco’s streets for people — not cars — please make a donation to Streetsblog. And don’t forget: All donors who contribute $50 or more will get a chance to win a new Dahon folding bike.

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Support Pro-Human Transportation Journalism – Give to Streetsblog

We are rolling right along with our spring pledge drive. Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far — your donations will be converted into Streetsblog posts making the case for more livable streets and Streetfilms videos showing success stories and ideas from cities around the world.

But we need more readers to step up and contribute. Streetsblog and Streetfilms cannot continue to produce the level of content we currently churn out unless we hit our fundraising targets. If you value the media we make and you haven’t given to our spring pledge yet, please donate today.

All donors who contribute $50 or more will be in the running to win a new Dahon folding bike, and everyone who gives between now and Saturday at midnight will also be entered to win one of these handmade messenger bags courtesy of Forest City Portage, a one-man shop operating out of Cleveland, Ohio.

Here’s a look with the flap down, and with the flap up:

More people are reading Streetsblog now than ever before. If our regular readers all pitch in, we’ll be able to make media that supports streets for people, not cars, for a long time to come. Please make a contributiontoday.

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Pledge to Streetsblog and This Awesome Elly Blue Collection Could Be Yours

Have you given to Streetsblog’s spring pledge drive yet? If not, may we suggest that this is the week to do so. In addition to supporting livable streets journalism and putting yourself in the running to win a Dahon folding bike, you could take home a sweet collection of books and zines courtesy of eminent bike-ologist Elly Blue.

If you make a habit of reading Streetsblog and you value the work we do to make the case for transforming our streets, please make a tax-deductible donation so we can keep on doing it.

We’ll send one donor who gives by midnight Friday this Elly Blue library, including Bikenomics, Taking the Lane, and the brand new Bikes in Space: A Feminist Science Fiction Anthology (sample story: “in Elizabeth Buchanan’s classic pulp tale of postapocalyptic Appalachia, a gripping bicycle-truck chase gives a young woman a surprising new hope”).

If you value the work we’ve done to counteract all the misinformation about the redesign of Polk Street and other projects to improve walking, biking, and transit in San Francisco, show your support by making a generous donation to Streetsblog. Judging by the situation in New York, the approaching launch of Bay Area Bike-Share may mean there’ll be lots more work in store for us in the fact-checking department.

Streetsblog NYC No Comments

Give to Streetsblog By Thursday and You Could Win Goodies From Planet Bike

Thanks to everyone who’s given to Streetsblog and Streetfilms so far in our spring pledge drive — we’re nearly a quarter of the way to our fundraising goal of $40,000. I can’t emphasize enough how crucial it is for readers to chip in and help us reach our targets. Your contributions keep us going so we can deliver news and commentary about the transition to safer city streets that work for people, not cars. So keep those donations coming!

For the next two days, we have an extra set of goodies to give away to three lucky donors: a commuter pack courtesy of Planet Bike. This bicycle accessory horn-of-plenty includes all of the following:

Give by Thursday at midnight to be eligible for this drawing. And don’t forget that anyone who gives $50 or more at any point during the pledge drive will be entered to a win a new Dahon folding bike.

Thank you for supporting Streetsblog and Streetfilms. If we could give all our donors a free bike, we totally would.

Streetsblog NYC 67 Comments

Transit Commuters Are Stinking Low-Lifes, Subaru Tells Transit Commuters

Think transit commuters are unwashed, uncouth bums? Subaru does. And the carmaker doesn’t mind telling them so.

In recent Canadian editions of Metro — the free daily distributed at transit stops — Subaru ran a two-page spread spouting just about every negative transit, and transit rider, stereotype you can think of. The ad was brought to our attention by a Sabrina Lau Texier, a transportation planner in Vancouver.

“While you’re sitting on public transit, just imagine your commute in a new Subaru Impreza,” the copy reads. “No weird smells, no overhearing awful music, and nobody asking you for spare change.” Classy.

On the first page are “coupons” for an “odour free ride to work” (nothing but that carcinogenic new car smell), “less chance of being asked for money” (except by Subaru and Exxon), savings on “obligatory transit conversations with coworkers” (down with human interaction!), “free confidence” (for $19,995), and our favorite: “half off arbitrary and inexplicable transit delays.” As opposed to the gridlock-free ride we can expect if we all ditch transit to drive a Subaru to the office — alone, of course, to avoid those unpleasant conversations with co-workers.

Read more…

Streetsblog NYC 4 Comments

Driver Safety Laws: An Old Approach That’s Worth Reviving

In the aftermath of a crash, we inevitably ask: How can a dangerous driver be kept off the road? It seems that the entire automobile transportation regime is aimed at keeping the driver behind the wheel. Absent impairment or flight from the scene of the crash, police quickly conclude that “no criminality is suspected.” The name of the responsible driver may be carefully guarded by police, even when the name of the victim or selective details are not. Government compels the insurance market to continue insuring the responsible driver, even if the market would consider the driver too risky to insure. The under-resourced legal system and insurance industry neglect and obstruct crash litigation, pressuring victims to simply accept whatever insurance is available without holding the driver personally responsible.

But it wasn’t always that way.

Before the advent of compulsory auto insurance laws in the 1950s, New York and most other states had “safety responsibility” laws instead. Under these laws, drivers involved in crashes had their licenses suspended until they posted a bond or demonstrated insurance in an amount sufficient to compensate the crash victim. Based on their involvement in a crash, these drivers would also be required to maintain insurance as a condition of keeping their driving privileges.

Under New York’s safety responsibility law (codified as Section 94-b of the Vehicle and Traffic Law), the crash victim had the right to directly petition the commissioner of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles for suspension of license of any driver involved in a crash causing personal injury or $25 of property damage. Absent the requisite showing of financial responsibility, the commissioner was required to suspend the license of a driver within 45 days — even if there had not been any finding of fault. At least for those drivers without insurance and financial means, this approach resulted in prompt suspension of driving privileges for drivers involved in crashes.

Though ensuring compensation of victims was clearly the primary purpose of the safety responsibility law, it also had an undeniable deterrent effect. As one New York court explained in 1942, “the penalty which § 94–b imposes for injury due to careless driving is not for the protection of the [crash victim] merely, but to enforce a public policy that irresponsible drivers shall not, with impunity, be allowed to injure their fellows.”

Read more…

Streetsblog NYC 15 Comments

Lessons From London After 10 Years of the Congestion Charge

A Republican member of Congress told me last week that he recently was in London for the first time in a long while. “Traveling was so much better,” he said. “You can actually get around. That traffic-charging system they’ve got seems to be doing a lot of good.”

London’s system — known formally as congestion charging — started up 10 years ago this Sunday, on February 17, 2003. In the decade since then it has been meticulously monitored, analyzed and debated — perhaps more than any traffic-managing scheme since Moses parted the Red Sea. It has also spawned a raft of charging programs elsewhere, most notably in Stockholm, and, starting last month, in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second city. Of course, an all-out effort to enact a comparable system here, the proposal to toll motor vehicles entering Manhattan south of 60th Street, died in the state legislature five years ago.

Ten years on is a good time to take stock. Let’s have a look.

What It Is: Cars and trucks pay £10 (roughly $15.60) to drive into or within the charging zone between 7 am and 6 pm on weekdays. The zone is London’s commercial and financial hub and, at 8 square miles, rivals Manhattan’s 8.5-square mile Central Business District. Taxis are exempt, as are qualifying low-emission vehicles. Cars registered to zone residents, who account for 2 percent of Greater London’s 7 million people, pay one-tenth the standard charge.

How Drivers Pay: London’s system deploys 1,360 closed-circuit cameras at 348 sites within the charging zone and on its boundaries to record the license plates of vehicles entering and moving within the zone. The plates are continuously matched against a database of monthly accounts, and “spot” payments are made via Internet or at kiosks, drawing down accounts or billing license-plate holders. This cumbersome system arose not only from the absence in the U.K. of electronic toll collection systems such as E-ZPass when the system was launched a decade ago, but also from the decision to charge for car trips entirely within the zone in addition to vehicle entries. A byproduct is the relatively meager net revenue available for transport improvements.

Traffic Outcomes: In its first few years, the London charging scheme was heralded as a solid traffic-buster, with 15-20 percent boosts in auto and bus speeds and 30 percent reductions in congestion delays. Most of those gains appear to have disappeared in recent years, however. Transport for London (TfL), which combines the functions of our NYCDOT and MTA and which created and operates the charging system, attributes the fallback in speeds to other changes in the streetscape and traffic management:

Read more…

Streetsblog NYC 15 Comments

Traffic Violence: The Biggest Mass Tort

SF editor’s note: Today we’re sharing an edition of Streetsblog New York City’s new “Street Justice” column that examines how the law, the courts, and the police affect street safety. Street Justice is written by Steve Vaccaro and Adam White, two attorneys who’ve been valuable sources for Streetsblog NYC over the years, adding an expert legal perspective to stories about cyclists and pedestrians injured in traffic. While many editions of the column will deal specifically with issues related to New York, we plan to syndicate the ones that deal with issues applicable in any city.

Warning: this post starts with a lesson in legalese.

A “tort” is a wrongful act, whether intentional, reckless, or negligent, that is remediable through a civil lawsuit (apart from whether the act constitutes a crime or regulatory violation). “Mass tort” litigation results when a product harms many people, creating a public health crisis, triggering a regulatory response from government, and mass litigation by victims. Asbestos use gave rise to what most consider the biggest mass tort ever, involving more than a million claims of death and injury.

But the harm of asbestos pales in comparison to that caused by high-speed personal motor travel. Motoring has caused more than 3.5 million fatalities and tens of millions of serious injuries over the last century, and continues to kill more than 35,000 and seriously injure hundreds of thousands each year in the US alone.

By the numbers, motoring clearly is the biggest mass tort ever. But this fact goes unrecognized to the extent we interpret traffic crashes as discrete “accidents” arising from specific individuals’ “mistakes,” rather than as a pattern of carnage inherent in our car-based transport system. On this point and others, there’s a lot street justice advocates can learn from asbestos litigation. (Disclosure: I have extensive experience defending asbestos claims.)

Asbestos is a fire-repellent, fibrous mineral that was ubiquitous in consumer and industrial products, from children’s crayons to nuclear submarines, into the 1970s. A hundred years ago, it was known that asbestos exposure could cause lung disease. But manufacturers largely ignored the risks, insisting that only heavy exposures in industrial settings were harmful, and that even industrial exposures could be rendered safe with simple precautions such as hosing down dusty workplaces. In other words, asbestos was perfectly safe as long as it was “used as directed.” Because of the long latency period between asbestos exposure and manifestation of disease, the manufacturers’ claims went largely unchallenged, and for decades asbestos use was barely regulated.

Read more…

Streetsblog NYC 16 Comments

Agenda 21 Alert: Glenn Beck’s Words to Watch

Be afraid.

Sure, we know the movement for “sustainable” transportation and development is a front for Agenda 21, a.k.a. The UN Plot to End Private Property in the United States. But what to do?

As with any battle, the first step is identifying the enemy. Fortunately (and none too soon), Glenn Beck has published a “comprehensive list of key words and phrases that are often used at the local level when discussing Agenda 21 related initiatives.”

You no doubt know the biggies like “Climate Change,” “Global Warming,” and “Prosperity.”  Here are less obvious dog-whistle terms to listen for at your next “town council” or “planning commission” meeting:

Greenways, High Speed Rail, Land Use Policies, Livable communities, Livable Communities, Local, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (this one is also kind of a biggie, actually), Mixed Use Development, Multi-Use Dwellings, Open Space, Parking Policy, Regional, Resilient Cities, Responsible development, Safe Routes to Schools (!!), Smart growth, Sustainable development, Traffic calming, Transit Oriented Development (TOD), Transportation Justice, Vehicle Mileage Traveled Tax, Vibrant Neighborhoods, Vision, Walkable Communities

Other watchwords include “Choice,” “Communities,” “Consensus,” “Fair,” and ”Common good.”

Above all, remember this: If you are in a “public meeting” or “public forum” and you hear the word “Outcomes,” resist! Scream and shout and don’t let up until the UN agents abandon their plot!

Click through for brother Glenn’s complete list, and be sure to buy his new book — essential reading to thwart responsible, vibrant tyranny!

Hat tip to brother Jason Henderson. / End transmission