Damien Talks Special Edition: Meet Colby Tibbet

Welcome to a special episode of Damien Talks. Today, Damien Talks with Colby Tibbet, the new Fresno writer for Streetsblog California. You may have seen a freelance piece Colby wrote for us earlier about Fresno’s blight ordinance. We look forward to seeing what Colby has in store for us going forward.

Colby headshotWe talk about Colby’s career to date, some of the favorite stories he’s written and the bicycle and transit scenes in Fresno. My favorite part of this interview is Colby’s description of the underground bike network in some of the more suburban parts of the city. And by underground, we literally mean subterranean.

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.

Thanks for listening. You can download the episode at the Damien Talks homepage on Linksyn.

(Did you get to the part where I promised to link to his excellent piece on Vice? Here it is.)

  • Gezellig

    This is *really* cool stuff, Damien and Colby! This is exactly the kind of great reporting coming out of Streetsblog California I can’t wait to see more of.

    Man, this also really hit home on a number of fronts. I live in SF but every month or two take Amtrak out to Fresno:

    http://subwaynut.com/california/amtrak/fresno/fresno50.jpg

    It’s about 3.5 hours from Richmond (transfer with BART). While this will be much faster with CAHSR, this is competitive or even better than driving through Bay Area rush-hour traffic…which itself can be hours to even leave. The train is always pretty full, so it was no surprise to read recently that they plan on adding an extra one daily (up to 7 from current 6 daily).

    Over the past year I’ve really seen the infill development in the Mural District (in between Downtown and the bohemian artsy Tower District) blossom. Sometimes you’ll be walking or biking along then amidst the parking craters you increasingly spot surprises like this, with design you might expect more in Denmark or the Netherlands than the outsider’s stereotype of Fresno:

    http://photonet.hotpads.com/search/listingPhoto/Postlets/RT10359062/0000_527207185_medium.jpg

    Fresno is in many ways a greatly underrated city in terms of its cultural diversity and different neighborhood scenes. It’s started to garner some national attention for being a place where a rainbow coalition of millennials can more easily afford to live and pursue arts or their own DIY business plans:

    http://jezebel.com/fresno-is-the-place-to-be-for-the-young-and-fabulous-1494621189

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2015/04/creating-californias-new-bohemiain-an-unexpected-locale/389691/

    Yet despite the buzz, the chasm of inequality between the many different Fresnos is prevalent and often obvious. Nowhere was the inequality of public space more evident to me than the last time I was there a couple weeks ago. Biking from north Fresno’s verdant Woodward Park along the scenic San Joaquin river was (pun partially intended) a breeze, whereas bike infrastructure in the central and downtown areas of the city where I typically visit is piecemeal and an afterthought at best.

    There’s a lot of potential for Fresno, though–since Fresno has wide rights-of-way with lots of off-street parking there’s less worry about needing to have the parking-removal wars like we encounter in SF. As Colby alludes to, Fresno’s arterials have plenty of potential for retrofits like these:

    http://la.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2014/05/Temple-City-12-14May18.jpg

    http://la.streetsblog.org/2014/05/22/sweet-new-protected-bikeway-on-beautiful-rosemead-blvd-in-temple-city/

    The city also has a built-in comprehensive network of canals and unused rail rights-of-way which could form relatively cheap walking/biking greenway corridors in underserved parts of the city:

    http://fresnoalliance.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/POTENTIAL-BIKE-MAP-2.jpg

    Map from Fresno Alliance http://fresnoalliance.com/wordpress/?p=8867

    I’ve taken the bus once in Fresno–it came on time and took me from the Tower to the northern part of the city in no time, was cheap and straightforward—though only with Google Maps on my smartphone. I would never have been aware of my options otherwise, as bus stops are not marked very clearly and route signage is unclear and minimal from the stops. Also, relying on a smartphone for transit is an option those without the means cannot enjoy. There’s a lot of room for equitable route and wayfinding transit improvements.

    Anyway, looking forward to more great reporting from the Central Valley! There is some really cool stuff going on there which often goes underreported, like this crucial protected bike lane over a busy freeway overpass in Modesto:

    http://www.mercedsunstar.com/incoming/8h9wck/picture3056323/ALTERNATES/FREE_960/3qAGJ.So.11.jpeg

    If this happened on one of our overpasses in SF (say, at Ocean Ave and 280) we’d be celebrating it for weeks on SF Streetsblog. But if a crucial protected bikeway gets built in the middle of the Central Valley and no one reports on it….did it really happen? 😀

    Keep up the good work!

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