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Streetsblog S.F. Editor is on Sabbatical

One of many car-free streets in the Netherlands, Lange Elisabethstraat, Utrecht. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

If a reader has a story they'd like to submit, now would be a great time to do it. Reach out to our publisher, Damien Newton at damien@streetsblog.org.

I am taking a month-long sabbatical.

Bay Area policymakers talk about best practices when it comes to achieving Vision Zero. They make bold promises about bicycle mode share, reducing emissions, and all that goes with it.

But to formulate--or effectively criticize--policies, one has to actually know how these things work.  A few weeks ago, during the SFMTA's hearing on Valencia and the ongoing strife over Hopkins in Berkeley, it was made clear that many of our lawmakers and transportation officials simply don't know or don't care what constitutes global best practices for safety. Sadly, that's borne out by the ongoing carnage.

Late in 2022, San Francisco made what I thought was a huge breakthrough with the vote to make J.F.K. car-free. But despite a clear referendum in favor of safe and livable streets, city leaders decided to squander this opportunity. They hollowed out safety projects on Evans, Valencia, and elsewhere. Meanwhile, Berkeley leaders sabotaged the protected bike lane project on Hopkins. We even had people intentionally driving around and dooring cyclists in the East Bay.

Sure, there are still signs of progress here and there. But I know I share this feeling with many of Streetsblog's readers: I'm disgusted and demoralized. That's why this sabbatical--which has been in the works for many months--feels well-timed.

Throughout my many years of writing about transportation, I've made a point of studying the most successful bike and transit infrastructure around the world. I also lived in Europe for two and a half years and I've been back more times than I can remember. But it's been more than a minute.

First stop, I'll be taking a few days off on the East Coast, where I grew up, visiting old friends. Then I'll be hanging with my counterparts at the Streetsblog mother-ship in New York, as well as exploring some of my hometown's massive new street and transit projects, such as Grand Central Madison.

Next: friends in Paris offered me the use of their apartment while they're traveling, so I'll be flying to see that city's remarkable transformation. I'm looking forward to seeing the accomplishments of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and her staff with my own eyes. I'll be meeting with consultants and officials and learning about their ongoing work.

And, of course, I'll be eating my body weight in French bread to fuel all that walking and cycling.

Next stop: Leipzig, Germany, to attend the Velo-city conference, "where advocates, cities, decision- and policymakers, researchers and industry leaders meet to shape the future of cycling." I'm looking forward to hearing what other cities in Europe have accomplished. Paris gets the ink because it's a capital city, but other, smaller cities have undergone similar transformations.

Last, but not least, I'll head to the Netherlands, to learn some more, but mostly just to enjoy a few days basking in the safe, livable environment we ultimately want for the Bay Area.

During this time, other Streetsblog editors will post stories from our network. I might also publish a post or two along the way if I'm so inspired. And, if I'm just in an airport or on a train with my laptop, I might even help out with some of the more mundane tasks involved in keeping a Streetsblog going. But I won't be contributing regular posts again for about four weeks.

If a reader has a story they'd like to submit, now would be a great time to do it. Reach out to our publisher, Damien Newton at damien@streetsblog.org, who will be updating headlines and syndication at Streetsblog San Francisco while I'm gone.

Thanks to our readers for their untiring support. And let's all try to reboot and see if, together, we can get the Bay Area back on track to a future of safe and livable streets.

Best wishes,

Roger - Editor, Streetsblog San Francisco

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