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Naomi Doerner on How Street Safety Advocates Can Support Racial Justice

When a police officer in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, shot and killed Philando Castile earlier this month, the encounter began with a traffic stop. The stop fit a pattern: Castile had been pulled over many times before — 46 times in 13 years — but few of those citations were for dangerous driving. More prevalent were stops for minor issues like vehicle defects or misplaced license plates — the type of justifications that police are more likely to use when stopping black and Latino drivers throughout the country.

Naomi Doerner is a consultant who helps biking and walking organizations development social equity and racial justice plans. Photo: Bike Easy

Naomi Doerner helps biking and walking organizations development social equity and racial justice plans. Photo: Bike Easy

Street safety advocates often call on police to reform traffic enforcement practices in order to reduce dangerous driving that jeopardizes people walking and biking. Given the pervasiveness of racially discriminatory police work and the prevalence of police brutality in many communities, how should biking and walking advocates shape their strategies and messages?

Naomi Doerner, the former executive director of New Orleans’ advocacy organization Bike Easy, is a consultant who specializes in helping biking and walking advocates develop racial justice and social equity plans. She says advocates should be grappling with structural racism and considering how their own choices can entrench or dismantle it.

Here is a lightly edited transcript of our interview.

What’s a mistake some biking or walking organizations are making with regards to diversity?

I think that one of the things I see is hiring of people of color and then making them sort of the voice for diversity and equity, which are not the same thing.

It is great to hire the folks, to have the folks who do potentially have better understanding. Even if you had a staff that was diverse, if there’s not a co-created understanding of equity within your organization and how you’re contributing to it, it won’t succeed.

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Streetsblog USA
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Elon Musk’s “Master Plan” Won’t Work for Cities

Elon Musk. Photo: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr

Elon Musk knows technology, but he doesn’t understand cities so well. Photo: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr

Earlier this week tech entrepreneur Elon Musk released his updated “master plan” for Tesla, including some thoughts on how autonomous mini-buses will supplant today’s transit and “take people all the way to their destination.” Like every Musk pronouncement, this one got a lot of buzz — but it also drew some healthy skepticism.

One reason to doubt Musk’s plan is that it clearly would not work in cities, writes Jarrett Walker at Human Transit:

Musk assumes that transit is an engineering problem, about vehicle design and technology. In fact, providing cost-effective and liberating transportation in cities requires solving a geometry problem, and he’s not even seeing it. In this he’s repeating a common delusion, one I hear all the time in urbanist and technology circles.

Musk’s vision is fine for low-density outer suburbia and rural areas. But when we get to dense cities, where big transit vehicles (including buses) are carrying significant ridership, Musk’s vision is a disaster. That’s because it takes lots of people out of big transit vehicles and puts them into small ones, which increases the total number of vehicles on the road at any time…

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Streetsblog USA
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Of Course the GOP Transportation Platform Is a Catastrophe

In the past few years, Congressional Republicans tried and failed to turn the federal transportation program into a highways-only affair. Still, the GOP isn’t giving up on eliminating federal funds for transit, walking, and biking.

Donald Trump may have made his name building on the most transit-rich real estate in the nation, but he hasn’t changed the party’s stance on transportation at all. The transportation plank in the newly updated GOP platform [PDF] is as extreme and hostile to cities as ever.

Here are some of the lowlights:

1. Eliminating federal funding for transit, walking, and biking

The Republican Party platform calls for cutting all federal funding for transit, walking, and biking.

The loss of federal funding would cause chaos for transit agencies and transit riders, disrupting and diminishing capacity to operate, maintain, and expand transit systems. The reason this proposal goes nowhere in Congress is that even a sizable share of Republicans realize it would be disastrous to kneecap transit in the nation’s urban centers, where so much economic activity is concentrated.

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Streetsblog USA
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Portland’s Long-Awaited Bike-Share System Gets Off to an Impressive Start

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and his wife, Nancy, lead a celebratory bike ride over the car-free Tilikum Bride at the launch of Portland's Biketown bike share yesterday. Photo: Jonathan Maus

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and his wife, Nancy, lead a celebratory bike ride over the car-free Tilikum Crossing at the launch of Portland’s Biketown bike-share system. Photo: Jonathan Maus

Tuesday was a very exciting day in Portland, as the city celebrated the launch of its long-awaited bike-share system, Biketown. The network makes 1,000 bikes available in an eight-square mile area of the city.

Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland shot these photos of the opening festivities and crunched some numbers from the first 24 hours of service. While it’s too early to fully assess the system, with about 2.3 daily trips per bike immediately after launch, Portland is off to a good start, he writes:

According to numbers released by Biketown’s operator Motivate Inc. today (at our request), there have been 2,366 trips taken on the system since it was launched yesterday at 11:30 am…

It’s still very early and the numbers will get more useful once we’ve got a full month of data — but we can’t resist doing a bit of comparison.

So far Portland’s bikes get more rides per day than the ones in Minneapolis’ Nice Ride system got after five years in service. Nice ride, which has much lower station density than Portland, got 1.6 trips per bike per day on average in 2014 (source: NACTO). On the other end of the scale, Chicago’s Divvy bike share system and Citi Bike in New York City got 3.8 and 5.2 trips per bike in that year, respectively.

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Streetsblog USA
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Report: As Cities Add Bike Lanes, More People Bike and Biking Gets Safer

safety_in_number_charts

Cities adding bike infrastructure are seeing a “safety in numbers” — more people on bikes plus lower risk of severe or fatal injury. Graphs: NACTO

The more people bike on the streets, the safer the streets are for everyone who bikes. This phenomenon, originally identified by researcher Peter Jacobsen, is known as “safety in numbers.” And that’s exactly what American cities are seeing as they add bike infrastructure — more cyclists and safer cycling — according to a new report from the National Association of City Transportation Officials [PDF].

The report is part of NACTO’s research series on implementing equitable bike-share systems. NACTO makes the case that large-scale bike-share systems can improve access to jobs in low-income communities by extending the reach of bus and rail lines, and — citing the safety-in-numbers evidence — that good bike lanes have to be part of the solution. Otherwise dangerous street conditions will continue to discourage people from biking.

NACTO tracked changes in bike commuting, bike lane miles, and cyclist fatalities and severe injuries in seven U.S. cities that have added protected bike lanes and bike-share systems over the past decade or so. In all seven cities, cycling has grown along with the bike network, while the risk of severe injury or death while cycling has declined.

In five of the cities — Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, and Portland — the absolute number of cycling deaths and severe injuries fell between 2007 and 2014, even as cycling rose substantially. In the two other cities — San Francisco and Washington, D.C. — deaths and serious injuries increased somewhat, but not as much as the increase in bicycle commuting.

New York City, for example, has added about 54 miles of bike lanes per year since 2007. Chicago has added about 27 miles per year since 2011. Over that time the risk of severe injury or death while cycling has decreased by about half, NACTO reports.

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Streetsblog USA
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Vox Pulls Back the Curtain on “Scam” to Save Lives With Red Light Cameras


You can usually count on Vox for accurate, research-based explainers of public policy issues. That’s why the new Vox video on red light cameras is so monumentally disappointing.

Researchers have established that red light cameras make streets safer by reducing potentially fatal T-bone collisions, though they do lead to more rear-end crashes, which tend not to be very serious. But motorists upset about receiving fines for dangerous driving mobilize tenaciously against automated enforcement. The use of red light cameras in Colorado, for instance, is consistently under siege in the state legislature. They are currently outlawed in more than a dozen states.

Campaigns against automated enforcement could hardly ask for better propaganda than this Vox video. Here’s a look at what’s so wrong with it.

1. Red light cameras save lives — but who cares?

Once you get past the click-bait title, “Why Red Light Cameras Are a Scam,” the piece starts out well. There are more than 30,000 traffic deaths every year in the USA, we’re told, and “23 percent are intersection related.” Vox also notes that the cameras reduce T-bone collisions and that they “really can and do save lives” — but for some reason this is immediately overshadowed in the video by the increase in less deadly rear-end fender-benders.

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Via Streetsblog California
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ClimatePlan Studies SCAG’s Progress on Climate Change

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 3.43.23 PM

Climate Plan’s report looks at the results of SCAG’s Sustainable Communities Strategy

Can California meet its climate change goals? A.B. 32, which set in motion the state’s current climate change policies including cap and trade, is set to expire in 2020. The legislature and the governor are taking up the question of what’s next. Do we continue down the same path? Adjust our policies? Scrap them entirely and start over?

Now would be a good time to ask questions about whether we are on the right track. ClimatePlan, a coalition of environmental, equity, and transportation advocacy groups, just spent two years asking questions about one such policy in one part of the state.

Its report, Towards a Sustainable Future: Is Southern California on Track?, looks closely at the Southern California Association of Governments‘ Sustainable Communities Strategy. The SCS is part of SCAG’s Regional Transportation Plan (RTP/SCS), as required by S.B. 375. These strategies are supposed to outline how each region will meet its state-mandated greenhouse gas reduction targets, including how changing land use patterns will reduce vehicle travel.

The Air Resources Board is charged with checking every region’s SCS and judging whether the plans will help the region meet targets. But its oversight seems to end there. That’s a big problem, because while the regions come up with the SCS, local cities and counties actually plan and approve land uses and the transportation that connects them. It’s possible for the SCS to be ignored at the local level where planning decisions are made, especially if no one is tracking or monitoring progress at that level.

SCAG adopted its first SCS in 2012, covering a massive and diverse six-county region including Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Imperial Counties. The plan’s goals included reducing passenger vehicles greenhouse gas emissions by nine percent per capita by 2020, and 16 percent per capita by 2035. SCAG has since updated the plan, in April of this year, to include a 21 percent reduction in GHGs by 2040. Attainment will be achieved by increasing carpooling, biking and walking, and transit use, reducing vehicle miles traveled, and increasing transit ridership.

So they say. But have the strategies in the first SCS even been put into practice? If so, are they working? ClimatePlan and its nonprofit partners studied SCAG’s 2012 SCS and asked two questions: is the region meeting its goals? And is that enough?

“The Sustainable Communities Strategies are twenty-year plans,” said Chanell Fletcher, Associate Director of ClimatePlan, “and they’re not going to change everything overnight. But climate change is happening right now. We need to know whether what we’re doing is working, and how to avoid exacerbating the problem. We need to be able to show whether these plans are being implemented, and whether we are making the needed changes—not just in our planning but in our decision making.”

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Streetsblog USA
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AASHTO’s Draft Bikeway Guide Includes Protected Bike Lanes and More

Bike guide contractor Jennifer Toole speaks last month at the annual meeting of the AASHTO Subcommittee on Design.

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities connect high-comfort biking networks.

As the most influential U.S. transportation engineering organization rewrites its bike guide, there seems to be general agreement that protected bike lanes should be included for the first time.

A review panel appointed by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials will meet July 25 to start reviewing drafts of the new guide, including eight new chapters highlighted here in blue:

If the panel likes what they see and the relevant committees sign off, AASHTO members could vote on possible approval next year.

When AASHTO’s design subcommittee held its annual meeting in Baltimore last month, members who focus on bicycling facilities said they often need the sort of engineering-level detail and guidance about physically separated bike lanes that AASHTO guides are known for providing.

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Streetsblog USA
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Focusing Only on Commutes Overlooks Women’s Transportation Needs

In the UK, men devote about 23 percent of miles traveled to commuting. For women, it's only about 15 percent. Graph: Kasdekker

In the UK, commuting accounts for about 23 percent of the distance men travel. For women, it’s only about 15 percent. Graph: Katja Leyendecker

Commuting accounts for only about 15 percent of trips in the United States. But when planners make transportation infrastructure decisions, they often base them on commuting patterns, not other types of trips.

One side effect of this convention is that it undervalues trips by women, writes U.K. blogger Katja Leyendecker, and contributes to a built environment that is poorly suited to women’s needs. She digs into some of the U.K. data:

The commute makes about 20% of all the mileage (combined 19%, men 23%, women 15%), whilst shopping trips accumulate considerably less mileage (combined 12%, men 9%, women 14%).  The highest category for women actually is “visiting friends at private home” (18%), joint second followed “commute” and “holiday / day trip” (each 15%) and shopping hence coming fourth (14%). Men’s mileage, on the other hand, is somewhat dominated by the commute (23%), then jointly followed by “business” and “visiting friends at private home” (each 13%), with “holiday / day trip” (12%) in fourth place…

We historically have looked at the commute for its coincidence with the rush hour, to deal with peak travel demand. In the UK at least, a real and honest look at space as a limited precious resource (and how to carve it up fairly and effectively) has not taken place. The commute focus has not brought about a better transport system with alternatives to the private car largely still excluded. I suggest that taking the commute approach brings the problem that over 80% of all trips have been neglected in transport assessments. These trips require attention for other reasons than the peak demand. Reasons are for example safety needs when travelling with kids and transporting  shopping. In cycle cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam these trips are still carried out by women, [but] they are cycled. Removing those trips from the transport agenda marginalises the importance of women’s everyday activities and careful and sensible provision for these activities.

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Streetsblog USA
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A 50-Year-Old Cartoon Satirizing Car Culture Still Rings True Today


If aliens came to Earth, who would they assume is in control — people or cars? Cars, of course. That’s the premise of this 50-year-old animation dug up by Alex Ihnen at NextSTL.

It’s worth noting, says Ihnen, that the piece was made by Canadians:

It tells the story of aliens viewing earth and concluding that the automobile is the dominant species on the planet. It’s a biting commentary, and the culture that produced it is the same that prevented highways from decimating Vancouver, and other Canadian cities to the extent of their American counterparts. It’s hard to imagine an American equivalent, though even locally around the same time we were well [aware] of the negative impacts of the automobile [Mass Transit as a Regional Priority – St. Louis 1965].

Ihnen also posts this summary from the National Film Board of Canada:

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