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Santa Monica’s Savvy Multimodalism Shows Moxie

Santa Monica certainly has a wave of transportation wonders taking flight. Like many cities they seem to be trying out a heaping of everything: bike share, a mix of bike lane treatments, a new rail line, neighborhood greenways, a pedestrian action plan (incorporating Vision Zero), a new people-friendly promenade/protected cycletrack where the Expo line terminates and of course they always have the hard-to-miss Big Blue Bus!

Just in the last six months they have launched both Breeze bike share and opened the Expo rail line to downtown Los Angeles which cuts travel times from an hour and a half by bus to 50 minutes. (Personal note: after spending the day shooting this story I endured a 2 hour and 15 minute bus ride back to L.A.’s Union Station. So at rush hour it can be even more tortuous than that!) The Breeze bike share was my first experience with the smart bike program and it was easy to use and comfortable.

So come see just some of the many options the city has employed to make getting around as easy as possible whatever mode you choose. Thanks much to the wonderful Cynthia Rose from Santa Monica Spoke who made my first visit there a joy by giving me the grand tour.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Today and tomorrow you can watch the lowering of a section of the old Oakland Bay Bridge live from your desk (YouTube)
  • New Expo line is a rare sign of progress in U.S. (LA Times)
  • Golden Gate Fields donates land to complete a section of the San Francisco Bay Trail (East Bay Times)
  • A new dense, walkable housing development in San Diego has too much parking (Voice of San Diego)
  • Counties blame legislature for “inaction” on transportation funding (but are they willing to pay more taxes?): San Luis Obispo (Atascadero Times)  Yuba (Appeal Democrat)
  • Engineers should not be designing streets (Strong Towns)
  • Data mash: correlations between parking and retail density, employment, housing (Street Smart)
  • Australia is trying to quash bicycling: increasing cycling fines and citations, while motorist violations of safe passing distance not so much (Sydney Morning Herald)

More California headlines at Streetsblog LA and Streetsblog SF

Streetsblog SF
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A Time to Remember: San Francisco’s Ride of Silence

DylanMitchellThree years ago today, 21-year-old Dylan Mitchell was riding his bike east on 16th Street when a garbage truck traveling in the same direction turned on South Van Ness and collided with him. He died at the scene–a scene where flowers were left during Thursday night’s “Ride of Silence.”

Mitchell was one of almost fifty cyclists killed while riding the streets of San Francisco who were remembered that evening. That’s just the tip of the iceberg when one tries to sum up the pain caused by San Francisco’s deadly combination of unsafe streets and twisted priorities, where street parking is given weight over human life and limb.

Riders started to assemble in the Sports Basement on Bryant around 5:30 Thursday night. Despite the nature of the meeting, spirits were generally high. People were there to enjoy the company of other survivors, it seemed, as much as remember the dead. Devon Warner, the event organizer, stressed that everyone “gets used to close calls” riding a bike in San Francisco. Every rider knows it’s just a matter of luck who gets killed and who survives.

Read more…

Streetsblog LA
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#StreetsR4Families: Livable Streets Presentations for Very Young Students

SBLA Founder Damien Newton talks livability with his son's kindergarden class. Photos: Damien Newton/Streetsblog L.A.

SBLA Founder Damien Newton talks livability with his son’s kindergarden class. Photos: Damien Newton/Streetsblog L.A.

Last week, I used the dual media events of Bike Week and the opening of the Expo Line extension to speak at my kids’ schools about Livable Streets issues. Joe and I thought it could make an interesting follow-up to our 2014 guide to planning a Walk/Bike to School Day for a school that does not already have that event on the calendar.

After the four classes I taught, I gathered feedback from the teachers and parents to see what worked and what didn’t. Here are a few keys to making successful presentations to younger children about Livable Streets:

1. Let the kids talk – For both the pre-schoolers and the kinders, I made it a point to get the kids talking. For the kinders, I would have them tell me stories about the different kinds of trips they make after the student would pull a toy from a bag. If a kid pulled a train, they would be asked to tell me a story about riding the train. If they never rode a train, they would pass the train to a friend who did. Even kindergarteners don’t want to hear you lecture about your kickin’ new bicycle.

2. Talk about safety, but don’t dwell on it – Kids are used to being lectured about being safe, so while it’s probably important to talk about safety; it also isn’t our job to scare them. In the pre-school class, I had one of the more able young ladies put on a bike helmet for the class. Other kids helped me put on bike lights (provided by Metro, see below) on my daughter’s bike. Once that was done, we went into how much fun it is to ride a bicycle and we made a promise that my daughter would ride her bike from our house last Friday. Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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The Tragic History of Highways Demolishing Cities — It’s Not Over Yet


This video from Vox provides an excellent overview of how the Interstate Highway System wiped out whole city neighborhoods in the post-war era.

It’s hard to believe that federal and local officials ever thought it was a good idea to uproot urban residents to clear paths for highways, but what’s even crazier is that we’re still doing the same thing today.

Streetsblog USA
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Why Fixing the Rust Belt Could Help Save the Climate

Cross-posted from the Frontier Group.

The form of the built environment – the shape of our cities and towns – is directly related to our consumption of energy and our impact on the climate (PDF). People who live in areas where walking, biking and transit are viable means of transportation – and where car trips, when they happen, are shorter – produce less carbon pollution in their daily lives than residents of more sprawling areas.

Over the last decade, America’s trajectory toward ever-greater suburban expansion has slowed. Cities such as New York, Boston, Denver and Seattle are experiencing an urban boom; in other places, suburban development has angled toward “live/work/play” arrangements in which a car may still be necessary, but is likely to be used a little less.

There is a problem, though. Demand for walkable living in a high-quality urban environment is outstripping supply in a growing number of places. Housing prices in the urban neighborhoods of “hot” cities are skyrocketing, leaving many who might otherwise prefer to live a lower-carbon lifestyle on the outside looking in.

The ongoing battle between housing NIMBYs (not in my backyard) and YIMBYs (yes in my backyard) in places like the San Francisco Bay Area can be relied upon to light up the interwebs on a daily basis. But the world is not the Bay Area. And all of us would do well not to lose sight of what’s happening in a different set of cities, cities where what we now call “walkable urbanism” once existed on a grand scale: the cities of the Rust Belt.

It is hard for those of us who grew up in recent decades to imagine it, but Rust Belt cities once loomed large in the nation’s urban life. In the 1950 Census, Detroit was the nation’s fifth-largest city, followed immediately by Baltimore, Cleveland and St. Louis. Pittsburgh was 12th, Milwaukee 13th, Buffalo 15th. Today, Detroit is still the most populous of those cities, but it is only the 18th largest in the country. Its population has dropped by more than 1 million.

Read more…

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#DamienTalks 39 – Big Bad Bike to Work Day in the East Bay with David Campbell

This week, #DamienTalks with Dave Campbell of Bike East Bay. According to Melanie Curry, Bike East Bay runs the “biggest, baddest Bike to Work Day in the world.”

#DamienTalksEarlier this month, she wrote, “What’s indisputable is that Bike East Bay, then known as the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, kicked off its first Bike to Work Day in 1994 and, in the 22 years since then, the event has grown ever more popular amid a rapid increase in bike commuting. In Oakland alone, bike commuting has tripled in the last twelve years, according to the U.S. Census.”

While Campbell was more than happy to talk about the history of Bike Month in the East Bay, he didn’t use the words “biggest” or “baddest” in his interview. To hear more about  one of the best Bike Month programs I’ve ever heard of and its impact on bicycling in Oakland, Berkeley and beyond, check out this week’s podcast below.

We’re always looking for sponsors, show ideas, and feedback. You can contact me at damien@streetsblog.org, at twitter @damientypes, online at Streetsblog California or on Facebook at StreetsblogCA.

Streetsblog LA
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Expo Phase Two to Santa Monica Opens

Inaugural Expo train pulls into Downtown Santa Monica station Friday, May 20. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Steers/City of Santa Monica

Inaugural Expo train pulls into Downtown Santa Monica station Friday, May 20. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Steers/City of Santa Monica

The day Los Angeles transit enthusiasts have been waiting for finally arrived this morning when the 6.6 mile extension of the Expo line opened, bringing passenger rail back to the westside of L.A. County for the first time since 1953.

Opening festivities continue tomorrow with celebrations at five of the seven new stations and a celebration at the Culver City station. Tonight and all day tomorrow, riding Expo is free. Also, the Big Blue Bus and Breeze Bike Share will be free to ride tomorrow.

Looking east toward the Downtown Santa Monica Expo line station. Photo by Jason Islas/SBLA

Looking east toward the Downtown Santa Monica Expo line station: the Santa Monica Esplanade includes an extra wide sidewalk, plus two-way protected bike lanes. Photo by Jason Islas/SBLA

This morning at around 9:45 a.m., a ceremonial passenger service train pulled into the Downtown Santa Monica station at 4th Street and Colorado Avenue, carrying local dignitaries, elected officials, Metro and municipal staff, enthusiasts, and supporters of Expo.

Passenger service officially started at noon, but before that happened, Metro held a ceremony in the parking lot just south of the Downtown Santa Monica Expo station, emceed by 2nd District L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Also among the dignitaries were County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and State Assemblymember Richard Bloom, who served on the Santa Monica City Council from 1999 to 2012.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti was on hand, as was Santa Monica Mayor Tony Vazquez, who posed with a surfboard and offered a hearty welcome to the Expo line in Spanish. Garcetti declared that L.A. was making the transformation from being the nation’s car capital to being the nation’s transit capital. Metro CEO Phil Washington was on hand to offer some words, too, as was L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin, who thanked the many people in the audience whose grassroots activism helped make Expo happen, especially Friends4Expo.

Santa Monica’s longest-serving City Councilmember Pam O’Connor, who represented the city and the South Bay on the Metro Board of Directors in 2001 when the Expo right of way was chosen. In fact, she was the board member who, with tremendous grassroots support, made the motion to set the right-of-way that is today the Expo light rail line.

Were you at today’s opening ceremonies? Are you planning to attend tomorrow’s ceremonies? What is your experience riding Southern Calfornia’s newest light rail line? Please post your pictures and comments below.

Streetsblog SF
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S.F. Police Chief Resigns: What Does it Mean for Livable Streets?

A photo from August 2013. SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, right, gives a thumbs up at a stop light on Seventh Street on yesterday's bike-share celebration ride to City Hall. Photo: Aaron Bialick

A photo from August 2013. SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, right, gives a thumbs up during happier times (in this case on a bike-share celebration ride to City Hall). Photo: Aaron Bialick

As Streetsblog readers have surely heard, police Chief Greg Suhr was forced to resign Thursday after the shooting of an apparently unarmed woman by SFPD. The police shootings of Mario Woods in December and Luis Gongora in April both seemed to show a department where officers are failing to deescalate situations and are too quick to resort to deadly force. As the Chronicle explained:

Mayor Lee had stood by the chief he appointed in 2011 through two controversial police shootings within the past six months and revelations that a number of officers had exchanged racist and homophobic text messages. But at a late-afternoon news conference at City Hall, the mayor said that after Thursday’s shooting, he had “arrived at a different conclusion to the question of how best to move forward.”

It’s a tricky thing, taking a safe-streets perspective on the resignation. Obviously, the shootings, the texts, and other incidents have contributed to a heightened distrust between the SFPD and communities of color. But it would be remiss not to point out the overlap between vulnerable road users, the disadvantaged, and the way they are treated by city agencies, including the police. It’s no coincidence that the Tenderloin, in addition to all its other problems, is the district with the highest rate of pedestrian-versus-car injuries. And it is the last to get any bike lanes and safety measures. As Walk San Francisco’s director Nicole Ferrara put it:

The recent actions by SFPD have been deeply troubling and we support rapid reforms to ensure that black and brown communities in San Francisco are treated with respect, dignity and equity. We have been working with SFPD to ensure that they are sharing data on crashes and citations, including racial data.

Chief Suhr supported Vision Zero, San Francisco’s ambitious program to eliminate traffic deaths, publicly. Read more…

Streetsblog.net
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US Transp Secretary Envisions a “Gradual Shift” Away From Car Dependence

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx criss-crossed the country last week on a tour of the seven finalists for U.S. DOT’s $50 million “Smart City Challenge” grant.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is taking a "measured" tone about changing transportation in the U.S. Photo: Bike Portland

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. Photo: Bike Portland

When Foxx was in Portland, Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland got a chance to ask him how he plans to change the transportation “paradigm” so walking, biking, and transit become the norm. Six years after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood climbed on a table at the National Bike Summit and announced “the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized,” Maus notes, federal policy still tilts heavily in favor of car-based infrastructure.

Here’s what Foxx said:

I think we’re going to need cars. We’re going to need a mix of transportation options. I think we have a supply-side mentality right now at the federal level where we presume that 80 cents on the dollar should go to the automobile within the Highway Trust Fund. And I actually think over the longer term we’re going to need to look at a more performance-based system where we look at things like: How it congestion best reduced? How do we increase safety? How do we move significant numbers of people most efficiently and effectively and cleanly. And I think that’s going to push us into a different mix of transportation choices.

But I think it’s a slow, gradual process. Look around the world and no country has created a multimodal system overnight; but I think that’s ultimately where we’re headed. We have to have a mix of transportation choices. It includes the automobile, but it’s not exclusive to the automobile.

Foxx’s power to set transportation policy pales in comparison to Congress and the White House, but he could be doing more to speed up a shift of priorities at the federal level. U.S. could, for instance, reform the way states measure congestion, so people riding the bus count as much as solo drivers. But so far Foxx’s agency has been reluctant to do that.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Transport Providence considers how insight from conservatives could improve transit projects. The Transportationist explains how the “modernist” vision for transportation undervalued places and diverged from thousands of years of human experience. And City Block considers the advantages and drawbacks of Denver’s new airport train.