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“Walk [Your City]” Signs Take the Guesswork Out of Hoofing It in SF

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You may have gotten a kick out of some of the signs posted along Market Street in recent weeks telling people how long it takes to walk to destinations like Yerba Buena Gardens, Civic Center, and even the Pacific Ocean.

The signs are the doing of Walk [Your City], a national effort to facilitate what has been called “guerrilla wayfinding” — providing residents the means to “plan, design and install quick, light, and affordable street signs for people.” The campaign started in Raleigh, North Carolina, but the organizers received a grant in February to bring it to other cities, including San Jose.

The signs were featured as part of the three-day Market Street Prototyping Festival, a project of the city’s Better Market Street redesign. The dozens of sidewalk exhibits, which line Market until tomorrow, are intended to “do a lot more with these beautiful sidewalks that we have… they can be much more dynamic social spaces,” said Neil Hrushowy, program director for the SF Planning Department’s City Design Group, in a KPIX segment. Hrushowy said some of the exhibits could be made permanent with Market’s reconstruction.

SF did pilot pedestrian wayfinding signs along the Embarcadero during the America’s Cup races in 2012, but they weren’t nearly as attractive or cheeky. While most of the Walk [Your City] signs are functional and point to actual destinations, some are more whimsical. “It is a 5 minute walk to High-Speed Rail (soon),” one sign said. Another sign points the way to the “Twinkie defense” — presumably, City Hall.

Streetsblog USA
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5 Things the USDA Learned From Its First National Survey of Food Access

How much does transportation limit people's access to food? A new UDSA study takes a look at the issue. Photo: Wikipedia

How much does the transportation system limit people’s access to food? Photo: Wikipedia

The links between transportation, development patterns, and people’s access to healthy food are under increasing scrutiny from policy makers trying to address America’s obesity epidemic.

Here’s some new data that sheds light on Americans’ access to fresh food. The USDA recently completed the first “National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey,” which delves into where people buy their food and how they get there.

Here are the major findings:

Most people drive their own car to the grocery, but lower-income households are more likely to rely on transit or a ride

Across all income groups, 88 percent of Americans drive the family car to pick up the groceries.

However, people who use government food assistance like WIC or SNAP — as well as people who don’t participate but qualify based on income guidelines — were more like to rely on transit, walking, biking, or a ride from a friend or family member:

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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Streetsblog California Officially Launches

California is seeing a transformation in transportation, and now Streetsblog is expanding to cover stories throughout the state, not just those in Greater L.A., the Bay Area and the corridors of power in Sacramento. Led by the excellent writing of Melanie Curry, Streetsblog California will continue to cover statewide policy and expand to cover major issues in cities large and small throughout the state.

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In addition to Melanie and myself, we’ll be hiring a part-time writer to cover the Central Valley later this month. (For details on that job, click here.) We’re working on finding funding sources for Sacramento and San Diego and are looking to add “syndication partners” similar to the partners Streetsblogs in Ohio, Texas, Saint Louis and the Southeast already have.

But that can wait for tomorrow. Today we launch. Anyone interested in learning more should read our press release, after the jump.

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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CA Senator Drops Mandatory Bike Helmet Bill, Asks for Study Instead

Now Damien doesn't have to burn this picture. Photo: Gary Kavanagh

Now Damien doesn’t have to burn this picture. Photo: Gary Kavanagh

The mandatory bicycle helmet bill, Senator Carol Liu’s Senate Bill 192, has been dropped—or rather amended. Instead of requiring bicyclists to wear helmets, it calls on the Office of Traffic Safety to conduct a study of bicycle helmet use.

Liu’s office released a statement, first reported by former Streetsblog San Francisco editor Bryan Goebel, explaining the decision.

The bill was amended to create a comprehensive study of bicycle helmet use in California and evaluate the potential safety benefits of a mandatory helmet law. Carol believes in consensus-driven policy, and there were too many conflicting opinions about helmet use. A study will provide the data needed to guide us to the next step.

This is good news, on many fronts. There is no more threat of a mandatory helmet bill, which would have had all kinds of unintended consequences for bicycling in California. The silly requirement for bicyclists to wear high-visibility gear after dusk is also gone. And a study of bicycle helmet use may actually get people to stop harping on the subject of helmetless bicyclists.

“CalBike asked her to pull the bill,” said Dave Snyder, of the California Bicycle Coalition.
“I think [Senator Liu] expected more support from the bicycle community, but instead she got near unanimous opposition.”

Another possible benefit of a study of bicycle  helmet use: this could be the right time to revisit the unhelpful youth helmet law.

Streetsblog.net
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How Sprawl Worsens California’s Terrible Drought

California is in the throes of a drought that Governor Jerry Brown called “unprecedented in recorded history.”

Sprawling development strains California's fragile water resources. Photo: Stockton City Limits

Sprawling development strains California’s fragile water resources. Photo: Stockton City Limits

There are many factors behind the severity of the state’s drought, and one of them is land use. In a prescient post from last year, Jon Mendelson at Network blog Stockton City Limits warned that California’s water crisis was likely to get worse, adding that cities like Stockton aren’t doing themselves any favors by continuing to build the most water-intensive kind of development: sprawl. He says Stockton could be a poster child for the kind of development that strains natural resources in California:

Recent reports from Smart Growth America (“Paving Our Way to Water Shortages: How Sprawl Aggravates the Effects of Drought”) and Western Resource Advocates (“A Comparative Study of Urban Water Use Across the Southwest”) argue that the type of growth that’s been a hallmark of the Central Valley the past few decades leads to cities that consume far more water than is sustainable.

The studies found that urban growth patterns with a relatively low density of units per acre — especially those featuring primarily single-family houses — use more water than higher-density, mixed-use plans. They also indicate that the more pavement used for a development, such as for parking lots at a sprawling strip mall, the less rain recharges groundwater stores. These impervious surfaces carry stormwater to drains and ultimately into waterways where it can’t be used for consumption, instead of allowing water to soak back into the ground to be extracted by wells.

The findings, while directly related to other regions, are applicable to Stockton. Climate models for the coming century generally predict dwindling snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the primary source of drinking and agricultural water for Stockton and California as a whole. That means the current worst-in-a-century drought could become common. Cities such as Stockton, which is predicted by the general plan to grow significantly from its current size of 300,000 during the next 20 years, will have to do with less.

Don’t be mistaken — the sprawling development patterns of Stockton and cities up and down the state aren’t wholly to blame for this year’s drought. The lion’s share of California’s drought should be attributed to record low rainfall in 2014 and an antiquated water rights system.

(It’s also true that agriculture consumes more water than urban users, so some might argue San Joaquin County would become more water efficient the more local farmland is turned to houses. It’s a noxious viewpoint considering our immediate region relies economically on ag production and doesn’t have to import its farm water like the Central Valley’s west side, but it’s an argument nonetheless.)

But the point remains that with a growing population and a water supply that will at best stay the same, planners and developers would be Coke-bottle-glasses shortsighted to not take every chance to make cities more efficient when it comes to water.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Plan Charlotte shares public health expert Richard Jackson’s research linking the obesity epidemic to the unwalkable environments we’ve constructed. And Seattle Transit Blog says one secret to affordable housing is to build more transit.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Muni Metro Double Berthing Gets Green Light From CPUC to Launch as Early as May (SF Examiner)
  • Disability Advocates Protest Muni Proposal to Re-Route 33-Stanyan From SF General Hospital (Tecolote)
  • SPUR: Muni’s New, More Legible Map Helps Create a More Seamless Transit System
  • Walk to Work Day: City Officials, Advocates Gather Again to Mark Progress on Safer Streets (SF Appeal)
  • Market Street Prototyping Festival Lines Sidewalks to Create “More Dynamic Social Spaces” (ABC)
  • “Walk [Your City]” Signs Posted Around San Jose, SF Showing Walking Times to Destinations (SFBay)
  • Tenderloin Residents, Workers Petition to Remove a Second Block of Parking to Deter Crime (Hoodline)
  • McCoppin Hub Still Closed for Vandalism Repairs, Says DPW, But Neighbors Don’t Buy it (MLocal)
  • Man Who Ran Over Fireman Charged With Torture, Mayhem, and Assault With a Deadly Weapon (NBC)
  • San Mateo County Police Target Distracted Drivers in Daly City, South SF (People Behaving Badly)
  • San Jose’s Parking Meters Glitch When Trucks Roll By, Drivers Get Tickets (NBC)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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City Hall Crosswalk Signal Activated on Walk to Work Day

As public officials and safe streets advocates marked Walk to Work Day, the city activated a pedestrian signal at the mid-block crosswalk in front of City Hall, where 68-year-old Priscila Moreto was killed last October. The wide, zebra-striped crosswalk, which previously had button-activated flashing lights, now has green and red phases, so drivers have a clearer signal to come to a full stop for people crossing on foot.

Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara said the signal “is a first step, but more needs to be done along such a monumental street to demonstrate the Mayor is serious about creating a Vision Zero transportation system — a safe system that forgives.”

The new signal is not the type of change that creates a safer, more forgiving system by compelling drivers to slow down and pay attention. Instead, it creates stricter rules for everybody — including pedestrians, who can’t request a walk phase any more. It also introduces the risk that some drivers will accelerate during the yellow phase to “beat the light.”

“Walk SF really wanted to see the City’s front door transformed from a traffic sewer to a people-focused, civic space,” said Ferrara. “The road diet happening just north of City Hall offered an opportunity to reclaim excess roadway for those purposes.” She was referring to the redesign of Polk north of McAllister Street, approved by the SFMTA Board of Directors last month.

The signal was actually planned well before Moreto was killed. One change that her death did prompt is a ban on tour bus operators narrating while driving, approved unanimously by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. Moreto was run over by a tour trolley operator who was telling his passengers about City Hall.

The ban, initiated by Supervisor Norman Yee, applies to tour buses that don’t operate outside the city. Yee told the SF Chronicle that it’s “just one more piece in the puzzle” needed to eliminate pedestrian deaths.

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Better Bike Parking Options Can Alleviate Crowding On-Board Caltrain

Caltrain bike cars frequently fill up on rush hour trains, bumping passengers wishing to board with bikes to the next train.

Facing a continuing surge of nearly 5,000 additional weekday passengers each year, Caltrain is looking into better bike parking to alleviate overcrowding on the trains while improving access to its stations. The agency was awarded a $150,000 state grant in early April to write a bicycle parking management plan that aims to prioritize the next phase of bike improvements at stations.

Current bike parking facilities include standard bike racks at 29 stations, bike lockers that can only be rented out by a single person at 26 stations, shared bike lockers at 10 stations, and indoor bike parking areas at three stations, including attended bike parking at San Francisco’s Fourth and King Station. The addition of more bike parking has lagged behind demand, with the number of passengers with bikes more than doubling from 2010 to 2015. Caltrain now logs over 6,000 bike boardings on an average weekday, accounting for between 11 and 13 percent of the agency’s total weekday ridership, which has grown by 60 percent in the same five-year period.

In a survey Caltrain conducted last year [PDF], 49 percent of passengers who bring a bike on-board said they would consider using “secure bike parking in a self-serve locker,” 39 percent would consider “convenient bike sharing kiosks,” and 47 percent would consider “a shuttle or other means of transit.”

Last December, Caltrain’s Bike Plan Implementation Strategy [PDF] reported “mixed progress” on bike parking improvements since 2008, citing inadequate funds and the ad-hoc nature of the many small city-led projects that are completed only as grant money and staff time become available. The new plan recommends investing $2 million in 500 new electronic bike lockers at Caltrain’s nine busiest stations, and $1 million on various access improvements, including new ramps and stairs at a few stations.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Talking Headways Podcast: The Future of Street Lights

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Clifton Lemon and Steve Lawton of LightPlace Advisors join me this week to talk about how lighting is going to change in cities with the advent of the LED. We learn about what fire and light means to humans and why the street light might become one of the most valuable assets a city has.

Clifton and Steve describe a public health angle as well — how the color temperature affects us and why we should be mindful of how many times cities choose to create lighting that is better for driving and cars than walking and people.

We also get into why brighter might not always mean safer when you’re walking at night, as well as how in-ground lighting can improve traffic management in cities.

So please join us for this “enlightening” episode of the Talking Headways Podcast.  And remember, you can subscribe on iTunes and Stitcher.

Streetsblog NYC
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Welcome Back, Streetsblog Chicago!

Congratulations to John Greenfield, Steven Vance, and the readers and supporters who enabled Streetsblog Chicago to pull off a rousing comeback and resume regular publication yesterday.

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Congrats, John.

At the beginning of the year, budget constraints compelled OpenPlans to sever our relationship with the Chicago team after two years of publication. Right off the bat, John told me he would revive Streetsblog Chicago under the umbrella of a new non-profit organization. Volunteering his time, he proceeded to set up a 501(c)3 from scratch and raise the funds necessary to reboot the site. It was a big personal risk for John, and he embraced it. (He even kept posting headline stacks every weekday morning!)

With an outpouring of reader donations, a surge of local sponsorships, and key support from the Chicago Community Trust, which provided a $25,000 challenge grant, the Chicago team has met its initial fundraising targets. Streetsblog Chicago will now be getting back into the swing of chronicling the city’s progress toward more walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly streets.

John will continue to serve as both editor- and fundraiser-in-chief for the Chicagoland Streets Project, his newly-formed non-profit. We’re looking forward to more excellent coverage from him, Steven, and the roster of contributors they work with.

In other news from the Streetsblog publishing world, Damien Newton and Melanie Curry launched a new flavor yesterdayStreetsblog California will combine Melanie’s coverage of statewide news out of Sacramento with local stories from the Central Valley, the Inland Empire, and other regions outside the beats of Streetsblog LA and Streetsblog SF. Streetsblog California is funded by The California Endowment and produced by the California Streets Initiative, the non-profit run by Damien that also produces Streetsblog LA.

We’ll have Streetsblog California up in our top menu shortly. No other state is connecting the dots between transportation, land use, and climate change like California right now. We’re seeing momentous changes like Level of Service reform that should be a model for the rest of the country. If you want to keep up with the latest on these advances (as well as helmet law stupidity), Melanie’s coverage is a must-read and you should check it out.