Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bear in a Box,: Day 1

Since Street Heat didn't make the cut to be a Streetsblog.net blog, I thought I would take a couple of days to chronicle my efforts to make my cat bike friendly. For my birthday, my in-laws got me a beautiful "Buddy Carrier" to be attached to the front of a bike for purposes of transporting a small pet. After careful consultation with my sister-in-law and the Internet, today began bear's bike riding training.

After building the carrier, wrestling Bear into his harness, and attaching the harness to the carrier, I let him chill out for a little bit to get used to it. It's a little smaller than I thought, but he fits just fine. Because he adjusted so well, I decided we should go for a walk.

Here's what I found out:

1) His natural curiosity outweighed his dislike for the harness and being in a box
2) He's scared of cars while they're driving.

Tomorrow we'll try walking closer to Beverly and maybe even on Beverly to see if he can adjust to the car noises. Maybe by early next week we'll be able to take him for walks attached to the bicycle...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

O for Week 1

I get that change is in the air and I'm supposed to be excited and all, but with the news that Obama isn't looking at changing Bush's executive orders in relation to spying/Keeping Us Safe from Terrorists, but is looking to bailout the car industry; well I'm feeling a little bit like everything old is new again.

Streetsblog has some stories on Obama as urbanist that inspire some hope, but right now I'm not feeling that "Yes We Can" Spirit.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How I'm Voting for Transportation on November 4th




President: Barack Obama

He's not just a bike rider, he also understands the needs of urban areas and is a believer in transit. There's no comparison between Obama and "Drill, Baby, Drill."

Congress: Henry Waxman

Thanks for helping lift the ban on the "Subway to the Sea" tunneling, but that's not enough to get a picture.

Measure R: Yes

OK, here's the deal. I don't like Measure R. There's a ton of problems with the Measure, and that the "pro" Measure R people have decided to promote it as a congestion relieving road tax completely galls me. And, it completely sucks that the Metro Board fumbled on putting money aside for bicycle and pedestrian projects.

Add to that the best argument in favor of this proposal that the Pro folks can put forward is that there will be no new transit projects for 30 years if it fails; well that's the worst kind of fear politics. Either give us what you want or you're fucked. Thanks for the awesome discourse, Your Honor.

We really need this legislation. Our transit system isn't what it could/should be. I know that if this fails they'll come forward with a new funding plan of some sort but here's the thing....the next plan is going to suck more than this one. Over the course of two months, the deal makers on the Metro Board managed to slash the Local Return funds, the only chance of seeing any small part of this sales tax get spent on bicycle and pedestrian projects, so they could build a tunnel to double capacity on the 710. Awesome.

Imagine what they would do if they had years instead of months to vote for the proposal.

My advice? There's a lot of good things funded by Measure R. It's not perfect, heck it's not even great. But it is better than what we got, and if you want to wait for a great proposal it isn't going to happen.

Prop 1A: Yes

A no-brainer. Yes on high speed rail.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Streets Quiz

Last night I biked to a Measure R rally, then continued my ride to Santa Monica to get drinks with the family. I saw a lot of weird things on the road, but only three of the following...anyone want to take a guess which of the following were not witnessed on the road?

1) A Caltrans truck waiting for a green light completely in the crosswalk in the left lane at the corner of Wilshire and Santa Monica forcing literally dozens of pedestrians out of the crosswalk.

2) Two buses at the Measure R rally nearly colliding while trying to honk their approval at the sign waivers.

3) Two Metro Rapid buses running the same route between 10 feet and 100 yards away literally passing each other so that one didn't fill up more than the other. At rush hour.

4) A member of Santa Monica's finest merrily texting away at a red light. Missing the signal turning green, he has to hustle but gets caught at the next red light anyway. Never stops holding his phone at eye level.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Some Guest Posts Over at Streetsblog

I've gotten some great guest posts over the past couple of weeks, and I wanted to highlight them for folks who read this blog but (for whatever reason) not Streetsblog.

Ingrid Peterson: LA's Sunday Streets: A Simple Switch

Dana Gabbard: More Reasons to Vote for Measure R

Erin Steva: CALPIRG Wants Your Help to Pass High Speed Rail

They're all great. Enjoy.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Pasadena Likes Bikes! LAPD? Not So Much.


First the good news. The City of Pasadena likes bikes. In fact, they like them so much that they actually closed the inner loop around the Rose Bowl to traffic last Thursday so that cyclists and pedestrians could use the road in peace. I was there, and it sort of rocked. One of the people taking advantage of this cool pilot program is seen above. And to the City of Pasadena, I have two words: More, please.

Meanwhile the City of Los Angeles continued it's war on common sense as it continues to enforce an obscure law requiring that bicycles are registered. In response, a group of Midnight Ridazz went down to the Central District to sign their bikes up. Sadly, they didn't trust Josef's cake which had a rough trip.

So, here's the problems with the law:

  1. Most cyclists don't know it exists.
  2. LAPD is enforcing a $50 fine, even though state law caps the fins at $10.
  3. Only two police stations hand out licenses, and one of them only two days a week.
  4. Not every station is enforcing the law, leading to charges that the LAPD is targetting poorer riders and Midnight Ridazz.
In short, this seems like one of those nuisance laws that police come up with because they can't do what they really want to. Let's hope someone from up above takes care of this one.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I'm listening the Metro Board meeting on my phone

And I can't help but fantasize that they can hear me on the other end. Like the voice of God is eating cereal and coughing into a microphone. Weird, I know.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Obama=McCain=Schwarzenegger

Just a quick thought on what's going on with this ridiculous debate about debates that's going on in Washington, D.C.

http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5haebZAhk0htf8DGXVp1pXbAMS0wg

"And you know, obviously if it turns out that we need to be in Washington, we've both got big planes. We've painted our slogans on the sides of them. They can get us from Washington DC to Mississippi fairly quickly."

--Dude, if you're both going from D.C. to MS then back to D.C. Maybe, just maybe, you could jet pool.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ports, trucks, and pollution


Until recently I hadn't spent a lot of time on port-related issues at Streetsblog, but I'm glad I've spent some time there the last couple of weeks. What goes on at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have a big impact on our air quality.

Recently, my old friends the American Trucking Association sued to keep the Ports of LA and Long Beach from enacting their clean ports policies. The good news? The ATA lost.

In other news, legislation requiring a "clean air" fee to be placed on containers going through the ports is sitting on the desk of Governor Schwarzenegger. We'll have to wait until the budget mess is cleared before we see if he is willing to sign it. In the meantime, get some odd news that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is lobbying Schwarzenegger to veto the legislation.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Week in Streetsblog: Cyclist Attacked, Metro Retreats

Last week featured a couple big stories, on everything from why the city is raising speed limits to CNN taking a look at Mandeville Canyon...and that was just last Monday!

But the big story of the week was the sad story of a cyclist being attacked by a gangbanger while riding the Ballona Creek Trail. The rider received confused sympathy from the police, and outrage from the blogosphere. The story was picked up by bike blogs, Met Blogs, and LAist.

However, the biggest story of the week was the Streetsblog exclusive report that HOT Lanes in LA are going to be so watered down that they want remove any cars from the HOV Lanes and probably won't do very much for congestion. Bummer.

Friday, August 15, 2008

If you can't bring the politicians to bikes...


...bring the bikes to the politicians.

One of the big debates in Streetsblog this week was bike sharing. Last Friday I wrote about some of the problems that excessive security can have on bike access to the DNC. Over the weekend, I thought it over and decided that I put the wrong emphasis in the story. I should have focused on the outstanding bike sharing program that Bikes Belong put together. 1,000 free rental bikes. Nice.

Of course, national conventions aren't the only place that politicians hang out...thus, viola! It's bike sharing in DC.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The week in Streetsblog


So, we're going back to Friday's for the "Week in Review" posts for Streetsblog. Trying to do them in the middle of the week just wasn't working.

The story that attracted the most hits was on the Santa Monica Critical Mass ride last Friday. Yes, I really did bring my Pastor with me. He's pictured above. My spiritual leader. Really.

So the SMPD handed out about a dozen tickets for minor or imaginary infractions and basically acted like complete fools while endangering cyclists. I nearly got biked by one and I'll tell ya, I didn't break any laws the entire ride. Most liberal city in the County? Hardly.

But the big news this week was the struggle over Metro's sales tax proposal. Last Thursday the Bus Rider's Union posted an editorial at the Times' website explaining their position opposed. A debate ensued that was so strong that I actually posted a piece by a supporter of the proposal for balance's sake.

This week, we expected the proposal to be passed by the Board of Supervisors and the State Senate. In short, it wasn't. And in the case of the Supes, it was really weird. One supervisor twice spoke about why the proposal should be on the ballot as it was to save taxpayers money than voted against it. Later. He sent out a press release saying he would vote for it when he brings it back up again next week. The whole thing is just weird.

The Senate hasn't moved it out of committee because two Senators decided to hold it up to try and get more money for a good (Green Line Extension to LAX) and incredibly stupid (tunnel to add capacity to freeway by Pasadena).

Next week should be interesting, as the sales tax proposal might get voted down before the election even happens.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Last Week in Streetsblog

So, last week was the Big Metro Board meeting on their sales tax proposal. Dissapointingly, they did squat for bike/ped. As a result, a lot of bike/ped advocates are resorting to a "see you in November" mind frame irritating the transit advocates.

Also last week was the interview with Tom LaBonge, Los Angeles City Councilman, about bikes and his trip to Europe. Turned out to be a more controversial story than I thought. But with no incoming links it had over 200 unique full page hits which is pretty good.

This week looks to be a slow week, but tomorrow should be a fun day. Look for a story of one of Streetsblogs' victories on the street.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Past Two Weeks in Streetsblog


Sorry I missed doing this post last week, it's been a hectic couple of weeks. On the strength of reader curiosity about the Mandeville Canyon incident, and a story picked up by Planetizen about how roads don't pay for themselves; LA Streetsblog just finished it's two strongest weeks ever,

For any readers not from this area, the transportation press has been dominated by discussion of the Mandeville Canyon Road Rage Crash. Basically, on 7/4 a couple of cyclists were cut off by a driver in an act of road rage (you see the cyclists were going slower than the driver wanted) and you can see the non-graphic result above. For more graphic shots, go to our second most read story ever. Given what the story did for Streetsblog's traffic, I can only imagine what it did for LAist who broke and was the lead on the story as it developed.

The story doesn't end there. The local Councilman, StreetHeat favorite Bill Rosendahl, calls a town hall meeting between cyclists and Mandeville residents to respond to the accident. However, two days before the meeting, Rosendahl cancels the meeting and instead forms a "task force" to discuss the issue. The task force meets at the same time/place as the meeting was supposed to be causing some cyclists to scream bloody murder that all that really happened was that they were disinvited to a meeting. Kent Strumpell, Rosendahl's rep to the city's Bike Advisory Committee, was there and he sent a report to Streetsblog which can be read here.

This wasn't the only bike-ped news though. Ironically, the City Council Transportation Committee held an all afternoon meeting on bike issues. There was good news: the city is adopting a Sharrows program and the City Council expressed interest in pursuing a better Bike Master Plan. And there was bad news; the Council is moving ahead with its plan to close one of the entrances to the Ballona Creek Bike Trail.

Remember the Pico/Olympic Plan I covered here (pre-Streetsblog) so obsessively this fall? Well, despite its unpopularity and a judgement against it, it's going forward. The City Council is meeting a judge's request that it receive a full environmental review before the city can take the plan any further.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Write Metro to Support Bike/Ped Projects

So far, the response to my plea that folks send an email to metroletter@live.com has been underwhelming. Two days into the campaign and we're not yet at 50 signatures. If you're reading this post and you want to ask Metro to put some money aside from their sales tax windfall (if the voter's approve it) go to this post to get the detains or just email metroletter@live.com .

Editor's note: Sorry I forgot The Week in Streetsblog last week. It will be back on Friday.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Why split the story?


I'm sure at least someone is wondering why I broke yesterday's Transportation Committee meeting into two different stories on Streetsblog, one on the Ballona Creek Issue and one on the rest of the meeting.

Well, here's the deal. Yesterday was a great day for bike advocacy in the city. A group of City Councilpeople were near unanimous (again, it's hard to tell how Parks felt because he wasn't engaged until the very end when he spoke forcefully for better amenities around USC) that the city needs to do better for bikes. Sharrows, a better BMP, better bus access...all of these are good issues that the Council addressed, and a lot of people worked very hard to make yesterday happen. They deserve a moment in the sun and Councilmember Bill Rosendahl deserves a measure of praise despite his support of closing that Ballona Creek gate.

Nevertheless, the committee's decision to embrace the LAPD's request to close the gate deserves coverage on it's own. Sounding like a helmut-wearing velo-advocate Richard Alarcon rose to defend free access to a public space and for that he deserves kudos.

So kudos to the Council for embracing bikes yesterday, but all that being said we have a lot of work to do. I think the two stories each make that point in their own way.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Week in Streetsblog: Metro vs Cyclists

The monster story for this abbreviated week was when Streetsblog broke the story of how Metro is going to spend that $40 billion windfall if their proposed half cent sales tax increase makes it to the fall ballot. The revelation that absolutely none of those dollars would be earmarked for bicycle and pedestrian projects caused a stir in the comments section as cyclists wondered why the hell they should vote for this measure.

Of course, Metro seems bound and determined to tick off this user group at the moment. Word leaked out of Metro HQ that the agency is considering enforcing it's rush hour ban against bikes on trains. While this rule has been on the books for years, much like bans against wearing a hat sideways in some podunk midwestern town, it hasn't been enforced. Metro couldn't pick a worse time to pick a fight with what could be a crucial user group...especially after blowing them off at the last board meeting.

Also, I rode Venice Critical Mass last Friday. It was cool. We played Soccer.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Week in Streetsblog


The highlight of this week's blogging was yesterday's marathon, Metro Board meeting. Steve at Bottleneck Blog did a great write up, but in my completely biased opinion, so did I. Five hours and the Board decides to talk about it all later before making a decision. Glad I left my yellow shirt at home.

But that wasn't the only big story. Free bus rides to Dodger Stadium and a Street Film (thanks Planetizen!) posted at the end of last week got the week off to a bang with bug readership days at the start of the week. I allowed the Times to scoop me by not posting the Dodger Stadium story last Friday when I had the story in hand and I sort of blew it. At least I broke the news that the rides are going to be free...

There was some news we did break. We were the first to unveil CALTRANS' new proposed bike signs and the first to post the results of Metro's press release showing 73% support for its sales tax proposal.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Pardon the Interruption


But I have to thank someone for some tea.

As a "thank you" for writing on Emerald City, Green LA Girl sent me some tea. Those of you that know me know that I love brewing hot tea and using my clear plastic solar-powered brewer (pictured) to make iced tea in the back yard.

GLG didn't send green tea, but a white coconut creme tea (it looks darker in the picture than it does in real life, I didn't "burn" it) that is honestly unlike anything I've ever drank before. It took me a glass or two to get used to it. It smelled like a pina colada but tasted like, well a white tea with a hint of coconut and creme.

I've had it both hot and iced, and have to say it worked as both. If I've piqued your interest, you can read more about the Art of Tea, from whence it came, here.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Week in Streetsblog

No, That's Neither Red Nor Big Red

The week started out pretty slow, but it picked up as the week went on, Ben Fried (out of the NY office) wrote two popular stories on Obama's plans to reform transit and bike funding.

Ben was left Home Alone while a lot of the NY staff went to Portland for the nation's Carfree Conference. While up there they shot a Street Film about depaving a parking lot and putting in a park. Planetizen picked up the film off LA Streetsblog site leading to a burst of hits at the end of the week.

Lastly, outgoing Metro Board Chair Pam O'Connor held what may be the last of her online chats. In it, she talked about the need to change the way we decide whether a road is a success. Currently in LA County, we count cars. O'Connor is suggesting we start counting the number of people that use the road, whether it be in a car, on a bus, on a bike, on foot, etc.... LAist liked the quote so much, they did a whole article on the Streetsblog article.

But the biggest news of all, Streetsblog helped saved a crosswalk that LADOT was planning on removing while repaving the road!

Check in at Streetsblog Monday, we're going to be announcing some big news involving an old favorite of a story...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bikes and Bear



Well, we're pretty much a month removed from Take Your Bike to Work Week and I have yet to introduce you to the two newest members of our family, the Schwinn Beach Cruisers we bought at our yard sale: Red and Big Red.

Of course, Big Red has the bike decoration that is more important than any ride card.



And for those of you who I haven't seen in awhile, check out my writing partner who's been with us since January 29th Bear, the Streets Cat. As you can see, Bear enjoys collaborating on a lot of writing projects by sleeping on the printer.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Week in Streetsblog


Ok, so I don't have any posts with mega hits this week, but that's because I lost my stat tracker for about 36 hours in the middle of the week. Even with that, we had two new posts enter the top 15.

The first actually happened last weekend. LABAC's comments to the city's new Bike Master Plan got picked up by a couple of blogs, including LA Curbed and has moved up to 7th on the all time hits list.

A post from Monday about another bike having another incident with another cyclist also cracked the top 15, pulling in at, well, 15th.

Last, a post from Wednesday (pictured above) didn't make the list just yet, but probably would have if not for the 36 missing hours. The post, on the downtown model made by James Rojas etal, will probably slip into the list later this weekend...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Google Recognizes LA Streetsblog As a News Source

It may be old hat for my colleagues in New York, but today google finally began posting LA Streetsblog stories in their news section instead of just their blog section.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A Rider's thoughts on the River Ride


It's 27 hours after I finished my 50 mile jaunt next to the Los Angeles River and I still feel like crap. My legs feel like they're about to fall off and no matter how much water I drink I feel like every sip is the first one I've ever taken.

All that being said, I'm psyched I actually finished the ride. My fears at around the 35 mile marker that nobody would ever find my body seem a little dramatic now. I'm sure Marybeth would have come looking for me...what would she do with all her freetime without grammar checking Streetsblog for me?

That being said, I noticed a definite difference between this ride and other's I've been on, and I think the difference was in the kind of riders attracted to the River Ride versus the Ridazz attracted to a Critical Mass. First off, people stopped for all the lights, even if there were no cars. If a light turned green and red fast enough that the whole group didn't get through, people stopped and waited for the next light.

Now that may sound like a good thing, and it is, but the overall mood was a lot different. There was no hooting and hollering around bridges. If I saw a cyclist pulled over and asked if they were ok, they seemed surprised that anyone gave a damm. When I pulled over in an attempt to rehydrate, about thirty cyclists passed me by and only one asked if I was ok.

Worst of all, the army of spandex warriors (I don't think I've seen that much spandex since my Dad took me to a WWF event when I was 10. Randy "Macho Man" Savage FTW!) seemed more concerned with their times and getting through the race as quickly as possible rather than just enjoying the ride and the camaraderie they should have felt with their fellow cyclists.

Now there were plenty of weekend bike riders that were good people and considerate bikers. There was one lady who I rode within 300 meters for about the last 20 miles who was a very nice rider and I enjoyed chatting with her immensely, but every time I heard someone make a bad comment about the city or another rider it was always a white person wearing a lot of spandex.

Worst of all, was the attitude shown by a very, very small group that refused to slow down around the pit stops (would that ruin their time or something?) I saw one person just barrel through a pit stop ringing his bell and shouting at everyone. Another person almost slammed into me after swerving around another person crossing the trail while I crossed the bike path back to my bike at the 25 mile marker. Silly me for assuming he would slow down for the pedestrian right in front of him instead of swerving around him and trying to hit me instead of just slowing down. I bet he acts the same way behind the wheel of his SUV/Sports car.

Give me the Ridazz anyday.

In closing, the River Ride was great. It was well planned, well executed and was a day of triumph for me personally. Assuming I'm not permanently crippled, I look forward to doing it again next year. However, it also showed me what a long way we have to go as a bike community before we'll see the kinds of change in the world for which we're all working. If we can't even be polite to each other at a fundraiser for LA's premier advocacy group, what hope do we have of ever unifying behind a single message?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Streetsblog Wrap Up

Partially because I noticed that writing for Street Heat posts actually increases Streetsblog readership (apparently there are still some website that are set to pick up Street Heat content but not Streetsblog content), I've decided to at least do weekly write-ups of the good and bad from the week in Streetsblog.

Thanks to the GeoMint site they set up for me in NY, I can track readership and see what people are reading even if they're not commenting. Three posts that I wrote this week cracked my "top 15 posts of all time," and none of them were the interview with Erik which I expect will shoot up next week once the Planetizen article posts (for some reason it seems to take a week for that to happen for me.).

This week's "biggest winner" was the article on the horrible photo of the bike crash in Mexico. Never doubt your ability to do some real damage while driving drunk. Once LAist linked to the story it was picked up by bike blogs across the Internet is currently my second most read post of all time. That's kind of neat.

Cracking the list at 11th was the piece attacking the Governor for cutting transit funding even as auto VMT is falling and transit ridership is up. Way to go Gov.! I guess the number of cars looks the same from that high up in the air.

The article had a lot of incoming links from websites such as Metro Rider, Free Public Transit for All, Transit Insider, City Transit, RT Rider, and TrolleyCar.org

Rounding out my top 15, with almost no incoming links, was the article on last week's Critical Mass in Los Angeles. I guess a lot of people that come to Streetsblog to scan the headlines thought that it was worth reading, that or the cut and paste link I left at the Ridazz site led to more hits.

I should note that all of these stories, and pretty much everything I write is linked to at the news repository The Metro Library which should be a part of everyone's daily reading that cares about transit in LA.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Check out Damien's Interviews with Erik Knutzen

Wow. So I do a post on SteetHeat and according to Mint and my comments section, there's a small flurry of activity. Maybe I should post here more often again. I didn't know you all still cared.

To make sure people see it, I did an interview with Erik Knutsen last week about the new book he wrote with his wife, Kelly Coyne, The Urban Homestead. The interview was mostly about bicycling, politics and of course how to do urban farming and take advantage of solar power. You can check out the two parts of the interview at Streetsblog and Emerald City.

If you're interested in buying his book do it at his blog, Homegrown Evolution.

Monday, June 2, 2008

My family's commutes

Wow, it's been forever since I wrote anything here. I'm backlogged on some ideas for this blog, but I wanted to take a quick piece of cyberspace to congratulate my family members for ditching their cars when it comes to commuting.

My brother, an Internet executive gave me the news at dinner last Thursday night. As we speak his Facebook page proudly declares that he's returning to being a bike commuter...take that terrorists!

Two of my cousins, Ben Brisson and Edison Parzanese are living together in Boston this summer but are leaving the car back with their mother. Ben is a jet pilot and will be taking transit to the airport. Edison, a star lacrosse player at Holy Cross, is interning with a financial firm.

So take that car culture, my family is doing it's best to walk the walk.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

First LA StreetFilm



Via Streetsblog, I'm happy to report that we've finnished the first LA StreetsFilm. Look for more in the future, but for now enjoy this quick story on BRT in LA.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Plentiful Bike Parking at 3rd Street Farmer's Market



As long as I've been biking to the Farmer's Market a couple of times a week I've complained that there's only one crappy bike rack. Ok, so it turns out there are three different bike parking areas and about 8 different racks. My bad....but in my defense there were at least three times I complained to Farmer's Market/Grove staff about bike parking and nobody ever told me there were multiple racks...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Dodgers...Yay! Public Process...Boo!(Updated)

I went to the City Council hearing earlier today hoping to change some minds about the resolution to extend free parking for hybrids that happened to get a sticker from the state. I was armed with arguments ranging from the high cost of free parking, after all, the city could raise another $116,000 by moving this proposal and remove roughly 75,000 miles of VMT from city streets and basic economics, if the state isn't giving out hybrid stickers any more this program isn't going to encourage anyone to buy a hybrid.

Since the parking-hybrid resolution was first on the agenda after some ceremonial stuff, I made sure to be there promptly, even if it meant skipping breakfast. You may note, Streetsblog had three stories put up today...my writing didn't suffer from my advocacy.

I filled out my speaker's card just before the scheduled start time at 10:00 and stood in the back, all of the seating was reserved for people being honored and city employees.

After an hour and a half, including a moving 45 minute ceremony honoring the outgoing city clerk (no complaints from me for that) and a 45 minute commercial for the LA Dodgers the council approved 12 of the 13 items on the agenda by consent. No debate. No public comment. I realize that "public hearings for these items had been held," but I wasn't aware that mugging for pictures with Dodgers executives was more important than hearing from the public before passing 12 binding resolutions. Heck, I missed the big overhead clock that Metro uses to cut speakers off.

The worst part of the story, Councilman Rosendahl, the only councilmember to speak against this proposal in committee after four speakers rose to question it, was busy getting his picture taken when the vote was actually tallied. I tried, but couldn't get a picture of it because security told me I couldn't stand in the center aisle and take a picture.

But hey, at least Tom LaBonge got a baseball autographed by Don Newsom to replace the one he lost as a kid.

UPDATE: Thanks to Councilmember Rosendahl for forcing the council to revisit the issue last week. Hopefully we'll be able to get enough comments in to kill this program once and for all.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My testimony on Metro's Long Range Plan

I didn't have time to make it perfect, but this is the draft of what I testified last night at the West Hollywood Metro Long Range Plan meeting:

Good evening, my name is Damien Newton and I am a resident of Los Angeles.

Tonight I’m here not to testify in favor of a favorite project, but to present Metro with what I imagine when I think of the future of transportation.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the "ribbon cutting" for the shared street project at Bimini Place. The community has taken control of their local streets and put in permeable sidewalks, macadamia nut trees, traffic calming devices, street art and decorated benches along widened sidewalks. What does this have to do with Metro’s Long Range Transportation Plan? The Shared Street Project was funded in large part by a grant from Metro.

Bimini Street is my vision for Los Angeles. A place where all users of the transportation system have access to the street, not just cars and trucks.

To realize this vision, Metro needs to allocate more funds for bicycle and pedestrian projects. Currently, the long range plan calls for spending less than 1% of funds on bike/ped projects while roads and highways receive 25% of the budget for expansion projects. For comparison purposes, the great state of New Jersey spends about 1% of its transportation budget for highway expansion reserving the rest for transit, fix-it projects and retrofitting streets to make them more accessible to the community.

First and foremost, an increase in funds could be used to finally make LA County roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Every time a transportation agency makes a new long term plan, they call for a decrease in cyclist/pedestrian deaths. If you go to LA Streetsblog and run a search for "SCAG" you can see how we’ve been doing in reducing pedestrian crashes and deaths. In short, since 2000, the number of deaths and crashes has basically remained static in LA County.

There’s a lot of ways to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety. The most obvious way is to slow down traffic, but that would require the political will and guts to tell the residents of the Car Culture Capital that their lifestyle is not sustainable. Look, with oil prices hitting the roof and the amount of space to build more highways coming to an end someone’s going to have to break the news to the populace eventually. The more money we waste on highway projects the harder it’s going to be to break the death grip car culture has had on our way of life.

LA County also needs to complete our bike network. On my way home from Bimini, I stumbled upon a bike path at second street that was two blocks long. A couple of blocks later I stumbled on the bike path at Beverly which I road west for two blocks until the shoulder and sidewalk completely vanished next to the Wilshire Country Club. This is just one example of a dysfunctional bike network, and if we want LA County to have a world-class transportation network, we’re going to need to fix the bike network.

Metro’s policies on bike/ped projects seems a little skewed. When Metro puts out a call for projects, it always includes this line, "Construction of a bikeway and/or pedestrian path is prohibited unless the bikeway or pedestrian path is designed so that the sponsor can demonstrate that it will not have to be relocated or removed to allow for construction or operation of a future transportation project." Metro needs to change this language and realize that a street that moves hundreds of pedestrians is actually more efficient than one that moves hundreds of car passengers (or transit passengers for that matter).

In conclusion, if Metro shares my vision of a future with less cars and more people on the street then it needs to allocate the money now to fix our streets. I guarantee you we can find ways to spend it and make our communities more livable and less polluted.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hats off to the BRU

I know just typing the letters "BRU" will drive up blog hits, but I wanted to take a second to give my personal opinion on something cool that happened yesterday at the City Council Transportation Committee Hearing.

The BRU brought a handful of high school students with them to testify on behalf of the bus-only lane on Wilshire. Each student had hand-written notes or testimony and spoke about the benefit a succesful bus-only project would have for the west side and as a model for the rest of Los Angeles.

I think it's great to get high schoolers involved in the public process, and I wasn't the only one. Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, who had a long meeting, beamed at the students the entire time and couldn't help give the occasional "thumbs up." I wish I had my camera out a little faster.

Anyway, hats off to the BRU for helping to get some future activists involved in the public process and for letting them get their feet wet on a less-than-controversial issue.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A weekend behind the camera

What are Joe and Nick Talking About?

Well, our weekend of shooting Street Films is over, and we've got enough footage to keep LA Streetsblog rolling in footage for weeks. Thanks to Nick Whitaker and Street Films as well as all those who took the time to chat with us. We have enough footage, b-roll and interviews to keep us flush with Street Films for a couple of months...if feedback and reaction is good enough, we'll have Nick back out soon to shoot more films.

Check back at LA.STREETSBLOG.org soon for more information and for the first LA.streetsfilms.


Monday, March 3, 2008

Congratulations Fred "Metro Rider" Camino!

You are the winner of the pick the tagline contest for Streetsblog! Your award? One The Open Planning Project T-shirt. I'll have it for you later in the week and we'll figure out how to get it to you.

Anyone who is reading this post and wondering, "where the heck is the transportation policy?" should head on over to LA.STREETSBLOG.ORG

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

LA Streetsblog

Most of the action will be happening here now: la.streetsblog.org

As We Creep Closer to the Launch of LA Streetsblog

I've written a post over at Streetsblog analyzing the just announced transportation plan by Barack Obama entitled "Strengthening America's Transportation Infrastructure" (download it).

Feel free to head on over and join the conversation.

Today's Headlines

New NBC Studio Provides Barrier to Bike Path (Times)

Report: Congestion Pricing For LAX When Hell Freezes Over (Curbed LA)

Sherman Oaks Residents Ticked About 405 Widening (Fox LA)

Downtowners Want Metro Connector Underground (Blog Downtown)

Meetings This Week for Gold Line Extension (San Bernadino Sun)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cities Try Other Crosswalk Safety Plans

A Pedestrian Decoy in a Portland Intersection


USA Today reports on what other cities are doing to try and improve pedestrian safety, particularly in crosswalks. Below is the list of some of the innovative plans that are being tried throughout the country. Can you guess which one wasn't mentioned as part of the article?
  • In Portland, Ore., where 49% of pedestrian injuries occur in crosswalks, police conduct monthly crackdowns similar to drunken-driving stings. Police identify an intersection where pedestrians have complained about motorists. They post signs warning drivers of "crosswalk enforcement ahead" and have pedestrian decoys try to cross the street. "If the drivers don't stop, a line of police on motorcycles will pull them over," says April Bertelsen, the city's pedestrian coordinator. Portland also has an "I Brake for People" campaign to educate drivers.
  • St. Petersburg, Fla., partly attributes major reductions in pedestrian accidents to rapid-flashing signals that have raised the rate at which drivers yield to people in crosswalks to above 80% from about 8% at 18 marked intersections. The devices, which flash in an irregular pattern to alert drivers to pedestrians, will be field-tested next in Cambridge, Mass., Las Cruces, N.M., and Mundelein, Ill.
  • Los Angeles, CA., The LAPD is targeting pedestrians who break laws and cross against a flashing signal. Even when they can make it across the street before the light turns to "hard orange," tickets are given to pedestrians who violate the law.
  • Washington, where two women crossing Pennsylvania Avenue on a green light were killed last year by a city bus in a crosswalk, plans to add innovative signals developed by the city of Tucson at about 30 locations, says George Branyan, the city's pedestrian program coordinator.
  • Phoenix is replacing 1,000 traditional traffic lights with countdown-timer signals that tell people how many seconds they have to cross. The signals could cut pedestrian accidents by up to 25%, traffic engineering supervisor Michael Cynecki says. "The countdown is so self-explanatory even a third-grader can understand it," he says.
  • Denver, Knoxville, Tenn., and several other cities, have implemented a method in which all traffic at an intersection is stopped for about 30 seconds and pedestrians can cross in any direction.

So, which one of these is not like the others?

Re-defining a 180

In yesterday's Times, Steve Hymon discusses the changing attitude at LADOT about how best to move people throughout the city. The headline, "L.A. officials do a 180 in traffic planning" suggests that we were about to read some radical stuff. Maybe he was going to discuss Gordon Price's argument that LA needs to be more like Vancouver and plan on how to design the roads to best move people, not cars . Maybe he was going to discuss charging people to use our highways through a toll or HOT Lane system and redirect that money towards transit. Instead, this is what we was meant by a "180 in traffic planning":

By the 1950s, the politicians and planners of Southern California had made their bet: Freeways would solve the awful traffic gripping city streets.

Now, Los Angeles officials are taking a different tack. With the Santa Monica Freeway congested, they're looking at increasing the capacity of Olympic and Pico boulevards to ease traffic on the Westside.

Life has a way of coming full circle, eh?

Oh. So the "180" is adding capacity arterial streets instead of adding capacity to the highways.
How radical.

Later in the article, Gail Goldberg, head of City Planning proposes something that would be truly radical for Los Angeles, but then dismisses the idea out of hand.

"One way you can move toward less congestion is if you provide people better accessibility and walkability and more pleasant streets," said Gail Goldberg, the city's chief planner, who is not wild about the Olympic-Pico plan. "But as a city we're not ready for that conversation yet."

I'm sorry, but who says that this city isn't ready for that conversation?

Cyberspace is filled with blogs dedicated to bike, bus and train advocacy. And organizations, from the BRU to the Transit Coalition to SO.CA.TA. to the LACBC to C.I.C.L.E. all exist because people are tired of car-culture warriors making all of the major transportation decisions for Los Angeles.

In just the past couple of weeks, public meetings for the city's Bike Master Plan were overflowing with cyclists demanding better facilities.

Pedestrian advocates, tired of waiting for the city/county to do something about our unsafe and unpleasant roads for pedestrians are taking matters into their own hands. It seems that every month there is a new walkabout planned for somewhere in LA County. A walkabout is an event where the community patrols its own streets to discover how to change them into pleasant pedestrian environments. In February, one was held by the neighborhood council in Woodland Hills. This Saturday, there is another one in downtown Pasadena.

And for transit users, their reactions to plans to reduce service are also telling. Hundreds of people took time off from their evenings and weekends to beg the city not to cut service.

In short, the people of Los Angeles are ready for a real 180 in transportation planning. We're ready for streets that are safe to walk and bike on. We're ready for a world class transit system. Angelenos are ready, but is there a public official willing to lead us there?

Today's Headlines

New Downtown Delayed (Times)

Feuer Introduces Transportation Funding Bills (California Chronicle)

Downtown L.A. Rail Battle a Street Fight (Mass Transit Magazine)

LACBC Announces This Year's River Ride (LACBC Blog)

Obama Announces Transportation Plan (barackobama.com)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Coming Soon: Buses to Chavez Ravine?

Some baseball teams have full transit plans...the Dodgers don't even have buses

Councilmembers Ed Reyes and Eric Garcetti have been earning high marks from cyclists recently, and soon they might be earning high marks from baseball fans as well.
The councilmembers are backing a motion that will be heard at tomorrow's Transportation Committee Hearing which would bring back public buses as an alternative to get to Dodger Stadium. The resolution calls on the MTA and Dodgers to work on re-routing existing bus routes by the start of the 2008 season (better hurry...). The new routes should also include a stop at Elysian Park, the newly opened Los Angeles State Historic Park.
The resolution also notes that the Dodgers have benefitted in the past from a coordinated effort to manage traffic in past baseball seasons.
The road to having transit serve Dodgers fans is going to be more difficult than just passing a resolution. Previous attempts to serve the Stadium failed do to lack of passengers and were canceled. Also, it should be noted that the Council isn't proposing altering DASH routes, something that is within their power, but asking Metro to altar some of their existing routes.
Image from AMNY

LA Streetsblog: Help Pick the Tagline

The tech work being done to move Street Heat to Streetsblog is almost complete and LA Streetsblog ought to be here soon. Before the final touches are made and the move is complete, I need a little help from all of you, especially you Angelenos.

I need help coming up with a tag line. The New York Times has "All the News That's Fit to Print," and Streetsblog has "Covering the New York City Streets Renaissance" so what should the tagline be for LA Streetsblog? Post suggestions in the comments section, and we'll announce a winner with LA Streetsblog launches soon.

(Editor's note: I don't know what kind of bug is going around right now, but I know that I have it. This may end up being my only post for the day, but fear not, we should be back at full strength tomorrow.)



Today's Headlines

Crenshaw Alternative Slammed (Times, LAist)

Ed Reyes, Bike Advocate (Brayj Against the Machine)

Greenhouse Gas Used as Car Fuel (Carectomy via NYT)

Fact Sheet for Sepulveda Boulevard Reversible Lane Project (Bel Air Online)

Ventura Also Considering Toll Roads (Ventura County Star)

Speak Out on Regional Connector Meetings (LA Downtown News, Times)

Amgen Coverage (Star News)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Metro Busy with Expanion Plans


Just because I've been writing about bikes and development, doesn't mean that Metro hasn't been busy with a myriad of different rail and light rail expansion projects. In addition to the Subway to the Sea and the Expo Line, both of which have been talked about extensively on this and other blogs, Expo is also looking to add light rail along the Crenshaw Corridor and to connect the Gold, Blue and Expo lines in LA's downtown.

This week, Metro began holding hearings to update the public on the agency’s Crenshaw-Prairie Transit Corridor Study. The Santa Monica Daily Breeze reports that Metro has picked a preferred alternative for the project. The new light rail would connect the Expo Line to the Green Line, and pass within a mile of Los Angeles International Airport. The line will run along existing track through an industrial area of Inglewood and not through the heart of the downtown. Unlike Phase II of Expo or the Subway to the Sea, there are already some funds set aside for the project.

Next week, Metro will be holding similar meetings for the Regional Connector plan as it had for the Crenshaw-Prarie Plan. According to the press release, Metro has identified some potential alignments and station locations for a more detailed technical analysis. People interested in seeing and commenting on these alignments will have their chance at two public hearings:

Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008: 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Japanese American National Museum, 369 E. 1st Street, Los Angeles

Thursday, Feb. 28, 2008: Noon – 1:30 p.m.
Los Angeles Central Library, 630 W. 5th Street, Los Angeles

Image from Light Rail Now

Making Pasadena a Pedestrian Haven

The Downtown Pasadena Walkabout, originally scheduled for the end of January, is back on next weekend (Saturday, March 1.) For residents/regular visitors to Pasadena, the walkabout represents a chance to take control of the streets and help make them a better and safer place for people to, well, walk about town. For those less familiar with Pasadena, it provides a chance to see what kind of changes are possible when a community demands streets that are safe for all users, not just cars.

Those wishing to take part in the walkabout should call the Pasadena Playhouse District at 626-744-0340. The walkabout starts at 8:30 A.M. and ends at 2 P.M. Breakfast and lunch are included.

For many Angelenos, Pasadena probably seems like a strange place to do a "walkabout," a community walk designed to document where pedestrian improvements are needed. After all, given the urban jungle that is Los Angeles, Pasadena is a virtual Garden of Eden for pedestrians.

I doubt the Pasadena PD have even thought of harassing pedestrians who cross the street to slowly.

Yet, there are few places that are truly paradise. A presentation by Deborah Murphy, known pedestrian advocate and urban planner, to team leaders before the walkabout's original date showed that Downtown Pasadena has its problems just like everywhere else. Cracked sidewalks, poor signage to transit locations, uneven enforcement of traffic laws are less present here than elsewhere in Southern California, but are still a problem.

And that's exactly what the walkabout seeks to document, where are the problems and what should be done about them. If you're interested in taking part in a street renaissance in Pasadena, give the Playhouse District a call...

Image from Localphotours

Today's Headlines

Preferred Route Selected for Crenshaw Light Rail (Daily Breeze)

Times' Art Critic Gets Liveable Streets (Times)

Here Come the Smart Cars (Daily News)

Apparently Some People Don't Like the Pico/Olympic Plan (City Watch)

City's Plan for Sidewalks: Charge Homesellers for Fixes (Times)

LACBC Offers Bike Valet at AMGEN Event (KHTS)

Coming Next Week: Regional Connector Meetings (Blogdowntown, Metro)

Biofuels Hot in U.S., Not in Europe (Grist)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

So I Went to a Bike Master Plan Meeting...

To Voice Your Opinions Go Here
...and a Pico/Olympic meeting broke out .

Frustrated with the limited public process, cyclists showed up by the dozens last night to discuss what should be in the next Bike Master Plan (BMP) for the city and vent about current conditions and the attitudes of city staff toward cyclists.

Many cyclists in the room fretted that the BMP was just going to be another document that gathers dust, and the city's outreach was more about being able to check a box on a to-do list than to gather public input. That there were only four meetings scheduled before the plan is drafted (with two more on mountain biking, and four after the plan is drafted) was a major catching point with the audience, nearly all of whom "voted" to ask for more meetings at the end of the session.

The deplorable current state of affairs for cyclists was highlighted that last night's meeting (and according to Stephen Box, none of the four meetings), held on a city-owned building, had bike parking. Some makeshift indoor parking was available behind a booth set up by the LACBC, but the building itself was rack and locker free. Oh, and there was no sound system, despite nearly 80 (I hand-counted 73 at one point) people in attendance.

One thing the city is definitely doing right is bringing in a consultant who has experience creating BMP's that work. Mia Burke, from Alta Planning and Design, worked on BMP's for Portland and other bike-friendly cities and seemed to know her stuff about what engineering options should be on the table. Burke's can-do attitude was needed for a meeting like this as she had to deflect or answer questions all night from a hostile audience.

The meeting started off with a lot of questions and complaints on the first sets of data presented by the consultants. Of chief concern is how the city currently accounts for "bike routes." There are more than 7,350 miles of highway miles in Los Angeles, compared to about 300 miles of bike ways. However, those 300 miles include recreational trails, partial routes (for example, where a bike path or lane exists for one block) and "death traps" such as Sepulveda Boulevard where the words "bike route" don't actually mean anything. Later in the meeting, Burke herself referred to the 150 miles of bike routes as "so-called bike routes."

One of the problems, Burke explained, is that bike planning in the city is so old. Much of the routing was done in the 1980's and the last full update was done in 1996 (the 2002 BMP relied heavily on the one from the 1990's).

So what can be done? The presentation listed several options for improving conditions on the street, from connecting and increasing the city's "broken skeleton" of bike lanes, to creating bike boulevards (streets designed to make it easy for bikes and harder for cars) to better ways of marking and designating "bike routes."

But each of these engineering methods had detractors as well. Numerous speakers spoke against bike lanes as places made more dangerous by opening car doors. Because bike boulevards are usually side streets, many cyclists will avoid them in the evening when they're poorly lit. As for bike routes, few in the room believe that they are anything more than signs and have no real meaning. Despite these complaints, everyone agreed that something needs to be done, and more speakers than not expressed enthusiasm for seeing some of these engineering options tried throughout the city.

For example, 4th Street (currently a bike route from La Brea Ave. to just north of the downtown) seems a logical candidate to be redesignated and redesigned as a bike boulevard. All that would be needed was some traffic calming, new signage, some paint, and changing the stop signs to always favor east-west traffic along the route. The speed humps and other traffic calming would keep cars (except for local trips) off the road and the signage would make it easy for bikes to have a continuous ride.

One engineering option that everyone liked was the "road diet" made popular in the Northwest and Europe. A road diet consists of taking a lane designated for car traffic and using the asphalt to create bike lanes. While popular in the room, Burke was joined by representatives from LADOT and the Planning Department as skeptics that there is the political will to try these types of projects city wide. DOT bike coordinator Michelle Mowery did note that the city has done some road diets in the past.

There was also discussion from the audience about non-engineering issues such as how to encourage more people to take up biking, how to get better enforcement of bike laws, and how to make those laws more equitable for cyclists. All of these issues will be addressed in some form in the final plan, although Burke stressed it was outside of their power to force better police education or to change the law.

There's two bike hearings left. If you can't make one, feel free to post your comments at the plan's official website.

Canadians Keen on Carbon Tax


Those crazy Cannucks and their silly environmental taxes...

British Columbia joins Quebec as the second Canadian province to implement a carbon tax designed to reduce emissions by 3 million tons within five years. Grist has the full story:

The tax is expected to bring in as much as $1.8 billion over the next three years by increasing the price of almost all fossil fuels in the province, though it's designed to be revenue neutral and won't raise funds for clean energy like Quebec's carbon tax. Instead, to enhance its appeal to consumers, B.C.'s carbon tax is being paired with a $100 rebate as well as a range of tax cuts. Officials hope to change consumers' habits for the better.

Meanwhile, we continue to debate the value of congestion pricing in any form...

For more information on the B.C.'s plan, check out articles in The Globe and Mail, The Vancouver Sun, The Globe and Mail.
Image from ViewImages.com

Today's Headlines

EcoVillage Needs Your Help (Bike Commuters)

California's budget deficit grows to $16 billion (Press-Enterprise)

Nothing is Completely Safe...(Metro Rider)

Fare Gate Reasoning Deconstructed (Metro Rider)

Hearings Coming for Crenshaw-Prarie Transit Corridor (LAist, Wave)

Missing: Urban Policy In Presidential Campaign (NYT via Streetsblog)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It's Official: Council Takes on Santa Clarita Project

The Santa Clarita Signal reports today that the LA City Council is taking a stand on the Newhall Ranch project in the San Fernando Valley. The Signal Notes:

The unanimous vote by 14 Los Angeles council members came on a motion by District 7 Councilman Richard Alarcon; it pits Los Angeles against the planned Newhall Land and Farming Co. development in the Santa Clarita Valley northwest of Stevenson Ranch, and against the first phase of that plan - the development of Landmark Village.

For their part, the developer's claim that this plan has been in the works for a long time, and opposition now is too late to the game.

"The Newhall Ranch Specific Plan was approved nearly five years ago by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, culminating more than a decade of community outreach, public hearings, governmental reviews and court reviews."

As noted last week in Street Heat, the largest concern is over the traffic the project will create 100,000 residents who won't be able to find jobs in the Valley.

County officials are expected to vote on the plan next Thursday.

Cyclists Unhappy with LADOT's Public Process

Image from Portland DOT's "Bike Master Plan Monthly Rides" Website

A growing chorus is building in the cycling/activist community that the LADOT's public outreach for its Bike Master Plan is insufficient, and perhaps the harbringer of a bad plan. Stephen Box, of the Bike Writer's Collective, Illuminate LA, and Soapbox LA wrote an article today for LAist comparing LADOT's shoddy outreach with those in Portland and Long Beach:

Using Portland and Long Beach as a guideline, LA cyclists expect a comprehensive BMP public input process that reaches each of the neighborhoods in the 465 square miles of Los Angeles and that really reaches out to the 3.8 million people who share the 6500 miles of LA public roadway.

But instead, LADOT Bikeways and Planning gave the public three weeks notice, notification so insufficient that the Bicycle Coalition and the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee were both unable to get the BMP on their agendas prior to the workshops. The City’s own partners were caught off-guard in this process. This is hardly a demonstration of a commitment to an open and transparent and inclusive endeavor.

In a post last week at West Side Bike Side, Alex Thompson noted the meetings' locations also don't make a lot of sense.

Where are these meetings located? One is located at the absolute end of the universe, a few miles from the water in San Pedro. San Pedro deserves it's chance for input, but it's not exactly the center of the LA biking scene, and certainly not in the top four of regions that need to offer input. Further, there's not one meeting in the Los Feliz/Silverlake/Hollywood/Bicycle District area. If you live near the original Midnight Ridazz meeting point, the center of LA's urban bike scene, you'll have a long ride to attend one of these meetings.

Militant Angeleno also noted the odd meeting locations in his review of this weekend's confab. When listing the future outreach locations, the Militant noted:

The Eastside: Sorry, guess that means that they just don't care about you.

As we noted here last week, for a BMP to have real impact, it needs to have the enthusiastic support of the city and of riders (in all five cities we reviewed, the Mayor was a leader in getting the plan off of its feet) So far, the outreach process seems to be a turnoff to the bike activists in the community. If the city is simlarly unenthused, we probably won't be too happy with the final work product of the consultants when we see the draft plan this November.

Today's Headlines

LAist Slams Bike Master Plan Workshops (LAist)

USC Needs Better Transit Service (Daily Trojan)

History of LA Transit Planning (Times)

Metro Sues Parsons for Gold Line (Pasadena Star News)

Sacramento a Stronghold of Bike Culture (Sac Bee via Bike Commute Tips)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Councilman Moves to Stop Sale of Hollywood Hills Lot

A battle is brewing between Councilman Tom LaBonge and the real estate company who owns land to the west of the famed "HOLLYWOOD" sign.

Last week, Teles Properties of Chicago issued a press release announcing the sale. The agency, claiming an easement was obtained by former property owner Howard Hughes and that the city reneged on a deal to buy the land for preservation, has begun shopping the 138 acre site for residential development.

LaBonge held a press conference later in the day disputing these claims. “I’m going to use all of my options to fight this and I’m going to ask the public’s help and support, ” LaBonge said. The most likely option to stop the sale would be for the city to declare that the development on the land is impossible, a prosepct deemed unlikely by Teles Properties.

If the Councilman is going to be succesful in fighting the development planned for the area, he better move fast because the properties are on the market, and according to the Washington Post, "the phone is ringing."

Image (and caption) from the office of Councilman LaBonge

Today's Headlines

Pico/Olympic: The War Continues (Bottleneck Blog)

A Beverly Hills Look at Pico/Olympic (Blog Beverly Hills)

43 Injuries, One Death on LA Public Transit So Far in 2008 (LAist)

Patriarch of City Planning Passes (Times)

SANBAG Considering Carpools for Part of I-10 (San Bernadino Sun)

London Mayoral Hopefuls Tout Their Green Credentials (BBC via Planetizen)

Monday, February 18, 2008

This Weekend's Headlines

Review of Bike Master Plan Meeting (Militant Angeleno)

Former Citycouncil President Poo-poo's Maglev (Daily News)

Mayor Sued Over Pico-Olympic Plan (City Watch)

Percent of Trips Made in Single Passenger Vehicles Decreases (LA Times)

Hollywood 'bike rider' killer still at large (ABC7)

Video Tour of New Redondo Beach Bike Path (SM Breeze)

Farewell to Flexcar (LA Downtown News)

How Federal Policy Favors Highways Over Transit (Politico via Planetizen)

China Spending Huge Sums on Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (Economist)

Friday, February 15, 2008

"Done Deal" Pico Plan Moves Forward Depite "Some Opposition"

Who Cares What This Guy Thinks?

In their rush to cover the news (broken last night in an excellent piece in the Times) that the Mayor is ignoring the wishes of the City Council and local councilmen, the mainstream media is downplaying the opposition to the Mayor's plan to remove parking, synchronize lights and promote traffic flow on Pico and Olympic Boulevards.

Fox, the LA Business Journal and NBC are all running with the AP story on the mayor's move which marginalizes the near unanimous opposition of the community groups, business groups, business owners and residents along the corridor as "some opposition." The AP story takes the Mayor's word on the benefits of the project, and ignores the controversy created by a Mayor bulldozing opposition and the public process. There is no mention of the thousands of people that have shown up to hearings and public meetings, that testified and signed petititions in the time between the plan's surprise announcement and yesterday's decree that "the council did not have jurisdiction over such issues as parking regulations or whether streets were one-way."
The Times gets it right, repeatedly going back to the breadth and passion of the opponents to this plan. The story here isn't just that the Mayor has a new plan to fight traffic, the story here is also that neighborhood councils and councilmen don't have any power to influence what happens on their streets (according to the Mayor's office.)

While the community will doubtless fight on, lawsuits are already in the works, the other big loser is Counciman Bill Rosendahl, an outspoken critic of the project who saw the concerns of Councilman Herb Wesson addressed (the plan no longer extends all the way from Santa Monica to La Brea, it now stops at Fairfax) and his own ignored.
And what were Rosendahl's radical ideas that were so revolutionary that they couldn't even be considered? Rosendahl asked that the Department of Planning work with LADOT and the community to address the community's concerns before the plan was implemented.
Yesterday's power play by the Mayor marks the end of the pretense that the city and the community is working together to make the best plan possible for everyone.
You can check back with Street Heat for full all of the latest coverage as the controversy enters its next stages.
For previous coverage of the Pico/Olympic plan, click here.
Image from PR Web.

Bike Plan Stop 5: New York City

That's NYC DOT Commish Janette Sadik-Khan, a Regular Bike Commuter, in the Black

New York City offers perhaps the most prophetic glimpse into what the future may hold for bike/pedestrian projects and planning in the coming years. At the top levels of the government, there is a dedication to improving the lot for cyclists. DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, an avid cyclist, has surrounded herself with a dream team of alternative transportation advocates and has pushed forward with a lot of exciting projects even though she's been in office for less than a year. In just the last six months, new bike lanes have opened and major bike routes have been planned, for instance:

New Bike Shelters Are Popping Up All Over the City

The City Announced Its First Bike Share Plan

Prince Street Bike Lane Has Arrived

Manhattan Bridge Bike & Ped Improvements Nearing Completion

While none of these stories is earth shaking by itself, the trend is clear; the city is slowly re-engineering itself to become a more bike compatible place.

However, giant urban bureaucracys being what they are, the execution remains uneven as bureaucrats and the police continue to do things the old way and slow the pace of the reforms.

Image (and about half of the links) via Streetsblog

(Full Disclosure: Sadik-Khan sat on the board of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign while I was the Campaign's New Jersey Coordinator. During much of that time, Jon Orcutt was the Campaign's executive director)