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Portland Tries Out “Advisory Bike Lanes”

"Advisory bike lanes," like the one in the Netherlands, allow drivers to drive in the bike lanes only if there are no cyclists there. Photo: Bike Portland

“Advisory bike lanes,” like this one in the Netherlands, allow drivers to cross into the bike lane when it’s necessary and can be done safely. Photo: Portland Bureau of Transportation via Bike Portland

Portland is importing a new kind of bike lane design from the Netherlands. “Advisory bike lanes” allow drivers to use the bike lane space if they have to — and if it’s safe. Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland reports that advisory bike lanes are intended for streets with high bike traffic but not a high volume of car traffic, where there otherwise wouldn’t be room for bike lanes:

According to PBOT project manager Theresa Boyle, the city is prepping a project that will create “advisory bike lanes” on Caruthers between SE Water and SE 7th.

Boyle says the new bike lanes will be eight-feet wide (compared the existing five-foot wide lanes) and there will be one, 16-foot wide “through auto lane” in the middle. Along the southern curb (where the encroachment problems now occur), PBOT will mark an additional four-foot wide buffer zone.

Advisory bike lanes are not a PBOT invention. They are widely used in Europe (especially The Netherlands) and the City of Minneapolis also uses them. A presentation put together by PBOT Bike Coordinator Roger Geller (PDF here) explains that advisory bike lanes are typically used when standard bike lanes don’t fit. They’re also a good solution, he says, when there is a higher volume of auto traffic than a neighborhood street.

Maus says the city will conduct a public education campaign to inform drivers of how to use them properly.

Elsewhere on the Network today: As Honolulu makes progress on building an elevated, computer-operated rail system, Market Urbanism makes the case for a widespread transition to driverless trains. And BikeWalkLee explains Florida’s new pedestrian and bicycle education program.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Another Pedestrian Injured at Dangerous Stockton and Sacramento, Where Woman Was Killed (KTVU)
  • KQED Forum Discusses Transbay Developer Tax Dispute; More From CBSSFBay, KTVU
  • “Street Fight” Author Jason Henderson Gives His Take on Transpo Props A, B, and L (SFBG)
  • Bay Area Bike Share Bikes Can’t Be Replaced While Manufacturers Are Insolvent (Weekly, SFist)
  • Castro Street Getting Its New Palm Trees and Street Lights (Hoodline)
  • Woman Who Drove With Parking Officer on Hood Pleads Not Guilty (KTVU)
  • Chris Daly Says He Didn’t Leave Union Director Position Because of Its Prop L Endorsement (SFist)
  • NY Times Columnist: Politics of Public Projects in SF Are Like the Show “Parks and Recreation”
  • D10 Watch Says Re-Striped Stretch of Jerrold Ave in Bayview With Center Turn Lane is Dangerous
  • Golden Gate Bridge District Transit, Ferry Workers May Strike Tomorrow (Marin IJ, ABC)
  • How Not to Save Lives: Berkeley Police Sting Pedestrians Crossing Against Lights (Berkeleyside)
  • Almanac: Menlo Park Officer Giving Kid Ride Home Highlights Dangers of Walking to School

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Supes Stand Up to Transbay Developers, Approve Original Rail Funding Deal

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The Board of Supervisors yesterday unanimously approved the original agreement to fund Transbay District transportation upgrades, like the downtown rail extension to the Transbay Transit Center, through development charges. Although supervisors had announced a compromise agreement two weeks ago, some developers apparently backed out of it. City Hall officials decided to move forward with the original agreement, since those developers threatened to file a lawsuit either way.

A rendering of the Transbay Transit Center and surrounding high-rise development to come, via TransbayCenter.org

The disagreement arose after Transbay developers began to fight the establishment of a special property tax, called a Mello-Roos tax district, which they had agreed to in 2012 to help fund local infrastructure projects, like the extension of Caltrain and California high-speed rail to the Transbay Center. The developers, who still must approve the Mello-Roos agreement in a vote, hired former Mayor Willie Brown to lobby for a lower tax rate, since property values (and thus projected taxes) have skyrocketed in recent years.

“Kudos to the Supervisors for supporting the original Mello-Roos agreement, rather than delaying the vote again or agreeing to further concessions,” said Livable City Director Tom Radulovich. “Any project of this size is going to be subject to lawsuits and threats of lawsuits. Shame on these developers for seeking to reap all the benefits of the Transbay project, their beneficial re-zoning, and San Francisco’s booming land values, without any portion of this enormous windfall going towards the public good.”

Under the compromise agreement announced two weeks ago, the developers would have paid the same maximum of $1.4 billion in taxes, but spread over 37 years instead of 30. Supervisor Scott Wiener said this would have retained “every penny” of the original deal, but some said the economics would’ve worked out in the developers’ favor. The SF Chronicle penned an editorial on Sunday blasting the “unwarranted tax break to developers” and “huge giveaway”:

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Governor Brown Vetoes CA Bill to Increase Fines in School Zones

California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed Senate Bill 1151, which would have raised fines for traffic violations in school zones. The legislation, authored by Senator Anthony Canella (R-Ceres), was co-sponsored by the Safe Routes to School National Coalition, transportation advocates TransForm, and the Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program. The bill was designed to reduce traffic violations near schools, and money raised from the fine increases would have been earmarked for programs that encourage walking and biking.

CA Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have increased driver violation fines and dedicated the revenue to providing safer passage for students walking to school. Photo: Elizabeth Edwards, table5.net

Governor Brown, who is known to dislike bills that raise fines for revenue, called S.B. 1151 regressive in his veto message [PDF]:

Increasing traffic fines as the method to pay for transportation fund activities is a regressive increase that affects poor people disproportionately. Making safety improvements is obviously important, but not by increasing traffic fines.

“The governor’s framing is unfortunate,” said Jeanie Ward-Waller of the Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership. “We see it differently, because the revenue would have funded infrastructure to address the underlying problem of lack of safety near schools. We thought it was a positive way to achieve results.”

The bill originally would have doubled fines in school zones, similar to temporary fine zones instituted to protect workers in construction zones. However, that would have required local jurisdictions to post signs around schools warning of the double fines, and legislators said they didn’t want to impose the cost of new signs on school districts and cities.

Under the compromise passed by the legislature, the bill would have raised the base fines for violations by $35. That would have raised the current range of fines from $238 to $366 to between $273 and $410.

“We are really disappointed, obviously,” said Ward-Waller. “Especially after the legislature supported it unanimously.”

“Children are overwhelmingly the victims of car collisions near schools, especially in low-income communities where there are no safe sidewalks or bike lanes,” Bianca Taylor of TransForm wrote in a blog post. ”As the cost of driving gets more expensive, we need to make sure that low-income neighborhoods have equal access to safe, affordable alternatives to cars, so that all children can safely get to school.”

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Talking Headways Short: The Real News About America’s Driving Habits

Consider this a bonus track. A deleted scene at the end of your DVD. Extra footage.

Or, consider it what it is: A short podcast episode Jeff and I recorded two and a half weeks ago that never got edited because I went to Pro-Walk Pro-Bike and he went to Rail~Volution and we recorded (and actually posted) a podcast in between and basically, life got in the way.

But better late than never, right? Here is a Talking Headways short in which we discuss the Federal Highway Administration’s recent (er, not so recent anymore) announcement that Americans are driving more than any time since 2008 and so we’d better spend lots more on highways. Here are two quick visuals to help you understand just one reason we thought their reasoning was flawed:

Despite the rhetoric, FHWA’s own charts show that driving is hardly bouncing back to peak levels. Image: FHWA

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Over Time, Will More Streetcars Get Their Own Lanes?

Atlanta’s 2.7-mile streetcar system is expected to start doing test runs in November. Image: Atlanta Streetcar

CityLab ran an article yesterday describing how Seattle’s new streetcar addition breaks the mold of its peers in one key way: It runs on dedicated lanes, rather than in mixed traffic.

The new wave of streetcars are often criticized for slow average speeds. If the political will doesn’t exist to provide the systems with dedicated right of way, streetcars can get bogged down in vehicle traffic and offer little time savings compared to walking.

Darin at ATLUrbanist writes that Atlanta’s under-construction streetcar won’t run on dedicated lanes, but he thinks it won’t stay that way forever:

The Atlanta Streetcar’s 2.7 mile downtown loop will travel in mixed-traffic lanes with a low operating speed. Because of that, it’s much more of a development tool at this point for places like the long-struggling Auburn Avenue corridor, as well as a means of transporting tourists to major sites. It is, to a lesser degree, a source of effective everyday transportation (though it can certainly serve that purpose for some workers, as well as GSU students, residents and visitors).

In a way, pitting these two streetcar functions — development vs. transportation — against each other is a false argument because nothing stays the same in cities. The development-tool streetcar line of today, if successful in building walkable density around it, could end up becoming an exclusive-lane route of tomorrow, with a focus on transportation.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Supes Approve Original Transbay Tax Deal, But Developers Could Sue (KQED, SFGate, CBS, Exam)
  • SFBC Releases New Video Explaining the Bike Rules of the Road
  • SFMTA to Hold “Safer Market Street” Community Meeting on Car Restrictions Tuesday (SFBC)
  • Service Employees Union, Usually Progressive, Surprisingly Endorses Cars-First Prop L (SFBG)
  • Person Filmed Bicycling on the Bay Bridge, Which Has No Bike Infrastructure to Be Found (SF Weekly)
  • No Traffic Jams After SoMa Off-Ramp Closure (CBS); Stanley Roberts Features Drivers Blocking the Box
  • Car-Free 43-Unit Housing Development Proposed at Market and Gough Streets (Curbed)
  • KALW Looks at Paratransit, the Way Many Seniors Get Around SF
  • Bikes, Toilets, and Seating Compete for Space in Design of Caltrain’s New Electric Trains (Cyclelicious)
  • GG Bridge District Workers Plan Another Strike Later This Week (KTVUSFBGKRON)
  • Deadline Approaches for Large Bay Area Companies to Institute Commuter Benefits Program (KRON)
  • Apple’s Planned Car-Centric Cupertino Campus is Far From the “Greenest on the Planet” (Treehugger)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Leave it to KTVU to Sensationalize One Car-Share Parking Space

KTVU reporter David Stevenson is at it again, with a new report about reserving one on-street parking spot for car-share vehicles. With Stevenson’s history of muckraking about lawfully helmet-less bicyclists, and a handful of re-purposed parking spaces, this sort of scandalous scoop is right up his alley.

Somerville and Stevenson bring you the latest parking scandal. Image: KTVU

Stevenson glosses over the fact that car-share vehicles open up more parking spaces, since each can replace nine to 13 privately-owned cars. He knows that, if you find enough uninformed people on the street to quote, the real story will come out: “Drivers and businesses in the neighborhood tell us they’re bracing for the impact,” he says.

That’s right. A single parking space, at Clement Street and 24th Avenue in the Richmond, is poised to be used more efficiently. So naturally, “Some people are saying changing just one parking place can disrupt an entire street,” as KTVU anchor Frank Somerville said to introduce the story.

There will indeed be an “impact,” and it may even “disrupt” the street, in the positive, tech-culture sense of the word. More residents can either sell their cars, or forego buying one, since they’ll have more convenient access to car-share. A nationwide study from UC Berkeley confirmed this.

But it’s probably a safe bet Stevenson didn’t explain that to people on the street, since otherwise he might not have elicited the sort of soundbites that fit his narrative: “a waste of a parking spot,” one man says. “I think it’s ridiculous,” one woman says.

“Everybody kills each other for parking out here, so it’s going to have a huge impact,” says a grocery store owner.

Let’s hope it does.

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It’s Not the Bulb-Outs: Poor Management Blamed for Slower SFFD Response

The SF Fire Department’s top brass, who have recently blamed safer street designs for slowing emergency response times, are coming under fire as evidence mounts that SFFD’s own management problems may be to blame. The department lacks sufficient medical staff, equipment, and emergency vehicles, according to a report released in June, and officials apparently neglected to purchase new vehicles with public funds intended for that purpose.

SFFD Chief Johanne Hayes-White speaking at Bike to Work Day with DA George Gascon (left) and SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Today, SFFD’s rank-and-file firefighter organizations penned a letter calling on Mayor Ed Lee to replace Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White to address “the crisis in public safety,” the SF Chronicle reported. Last week, the Chronicle reported that Supervisor London Breed, a former fire commissioner, “has lost confidence in the leadership of the San Francisco Fire Department”:

The Fire Department has increasingly struggled to get ambulances to medical emergencies to transport patients to the hospital, an issue that has been detailed in several city reports this year. While fire trucks with at least one paramedic on board respond to all 911 calls within minutes to administer medical care, patients are regularly waiting for long periods for an ambulance to arrive – it happened 2,500 times in 2013, a fourfold increase since 2008 and 25 percent jump over 2012.

In August, according to data presented to the Fire Commission last month, there were more than 374 incidents where it took more than 20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive at a call – including nine cases where it took more than an hour…

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Sustainable Transportation Could Save the World (and Save $100 Trillion)

As protesters gathered in New York City to demand action on climate change, a new report shows how smart transportation policy can play a major role in reducing carbon emissions. Photo: South Bend Voice/Flickr

Dramatically expanding transit and active transportation over the next few decades could reduce carbon emissions from urban transport 40 percent more than following a car-centric trajectory. And it could also save the world economy $100 trillion.

That’s according to a new report presented recently to the United Nations by researchers at UC Davis and the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy [PDF]. The team modeled the cost and greenhouse gas impacts of two scenarios for the future of world transportation up to the year 2050.

The baseline scenario assumes a business-as-usual approach to transportation. Following this path, transit systems across the globe would grow modestly over the next few decades, while driving would grow considerably, especially in developing nations.

Urban transportation produced about 2.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide in 2010, or about a quarter of total transportation emissions. This is expected to double under a business-as-usual approach by 2050.

Following a different path — which the authors call the “high shift” scenario — by 2050, countries around the world develop high-quality transit systems and bikeable, walkable street networks on par with today’s leading cities.

In the “high shift” future of 2050, most countries will have doubled or tripled their total rapid transit capacity. The authors modeled a dramatic increase in urban rail systems and even bigger growth in bus rapid transit systems. In the model, most major cities in the world would have BRT systems as extensive as Bogota’s TransMilenio.

This scenario also assumes more compact walkable development and increases in cycling — particularly e-bikes in developing nations. ”Most cities could achieve something approaching average European cycling levels,” according to the authors, but still below global leaders like the Netherlands. The “high-shift” scenario also projects the effect of widespread road pricing or other financial incentives that favor sustainable modes. As a result, urban vehicle traffic would only reach half the level projected in the business-as-usual scenario.

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