To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Monday, January 13, 2014

U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in 2013 expected to be 2% higher than in 2012


Principal contributors: Yanna Antypas and Tyson Brown, January 13, 2014

 graph of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, as explained in the article text


Once all data are in, energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2013 are expected to be roughly 2% above the 2012 level, largely because of a small increase in coal consumption in the electric power sector. Coal has regained some market share from natural gas since a low in April 2012; however the impact on overall emissions trends remains fairly small.

Emissions in 2013 are slightly more than 10% below 2005 levels, a significant contribution towards the goal of a 17% reduction in emissions from the 2005 level by 2020 that was adopted by the current Administration. This level of reduction is expected to continue through 2015, according to EIA's most recent Short-Term Energy Outlook.

graph of energy-related carbon dioxide emission, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, January 2014

CO2 emissions from energy activities declined four out of six years since their 2007 peak, and were historically low (12% below the 2005 level) in 2012. From 2005 to 2013, the key energy-economic drivers of a changing U.S. energy landscape included:
  • Weak economic growth in recent years, dampening growth in energy demand compared to pre-recession expectations
  • Continuously improving energy efficiency across the economy, including buildings and transportation
  • High energy prices over the past four years, with the exception of natural gas, since about 2010
  • An abundant and inexpensive supply of natural gas, resulting from the widespread use of new production technologies for shale gas
  • Power sector decarbonization since 2010, as natural gas and renewables displaced coal

Red Line video captures verbal exchange before stabbing


By Richard Winton and Ari Bloomekatz, January 13, 2014

See website for the video.

An MTA Red Line security camera captured a brief verbal exchange between a victim and his assailant seconds before a stabbing on the train Monday morning, officials said.

“There was a verbal exchange,” Sheriff's Transit Det. Keith Schumaker said. “Then the suspect produces a weapon and lunged toward the victim with a stabbing motion."

“It was something more than a conversation. It wasn’t anything that  amounts to provocation. This was nothing like self-defense. There was a sudden attack after a few words," Schumaker said.

The video captured a limited view of the attacker, Schumaker said. The victim is in his 30s and was stabbed about 9:18 a.m. by another rider described as 18 to 24 years old. The victim was taken to a hospital in grave condition after the train stopped at the Vermont/Santa Monica Station.
Investigators are reviewing a second video and talking to witnesses.

Earlier Monday, a woman told The Times in a telephone interview that she witnessed the entire incident unfold Monday morning, calling it "quite traumatic."

The woman, who asked not to be identified out of fear of retaliation, said she boarded the train about 9:16 a.m. at the Vermont/Sunset station and was standing by the door when she saw the suspect, who appeared to be in his 20s, singing loudly in the car.

He “walks down the aisle to the middle section and was standing there singing really loud rap music,” the woman said. “I particularly noticed because I was watching, thinking, that’s aggressive and loud.”

Then a man started walking toward the center where the man was singing.

“There was no provocation whatsoever and this kid just stabs the man in the neck,” the woman said.

After that, the train stopped and the assailant ran out the door, she said. The victim was bleeding profusely, she said.

Marc Littman, an MTA spokesman, said that "the incidence of serious crimes aboard the Metro rail system is very low, about 0.30 per 100,000 boardings."

Staff report on fare evasion on the Orange Line


By Steve Hymon, January 13, 2014

The above report was prepared by Metro staff and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) in response to a motion by Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky asking for more information about who is and isn’t paying fares along the Orange Line.

As the report explains, two nearly day-long fare check operations were conducted by the LASD, which patrols Metro buses and trains. As a result, the LASD estimated that during the operations there was a 22 percent fare evasion rate and a nine percent “misuse” rate — i.e. people not tapping their TAP cards even though they had valid passes loaded on them and the cards were activated.

Those, of course, are not numbers that please Metro or LASD officials. Fares only cover 26 percent of the cost of running Metro, which is a low number compared to other large transit agencies. Fare evasion is also not fair to other riders, the majority of which do pay for riding the Metro system.

As a result of this, the LASD has increased fare checks along the Orange Line, as the report states. Consider this a heads up! Everyone needs to tap their TAP cards at the validators on Orange Line platforms — even if you’re transferring from another Metro bus or train and have a valid daily, weekly or monthly pass loaded on your card and activated.

Here's The Mindblowing LA Rail Map Of The Future From Her


By Adrian Glick Kudler, January 13, 2014




Spike Jonze's new movie Her takes place in a utopian Los Angeles of the not-too-distant future, made from a mix of the real city and Shanghai's business district, but cleaner, more walkable, and very transit-accessible. There's an in-joke just for Angelenos when Joaquin Phoenix steps out of a subway station and onto the beach in Santa Monica (later he seems to take a train into the mountains). Gizmodo got its hands on the movie's rail map, designed (along with all the other graphic elements) by local Geoff McFetridge. The geography's a bit fudged, but the system is pretty much unrecognizable either way: It has five lines and extends all the way to the Angeles National Forest, runs through the central city (including rail-hating Beverly Hills!), stops at LAX (multiple times), and includes a line through the Sepulveda Pass along the route of the 405. Super hot stuff. The system is run by the made-up Los Angeles Metro Light Rail authority, which has the motto "From the Summit to the Sea."



Glendale's building boom troubles Caltrans

Cumulative impact on freeways isn't being taken into account, official says.


By Brittany Levine, January 9, 2014

 Glendale Development

 A construction project between Brand Blvd. and Orange Street in downtown Glendale where several properties are under development, many of them for apartments, on Wednesday, November 27, 2013.

Officials with the California Department of Transportation are worried that the massive development boom in Glendale may have significant impacts to nearby freeways that aren’t being addressed in environmental reviews for new projects.

The reviews tend to focus on traffic generated by an individual building, but don’t fully take into account the cumulative impact of other projects, said Elmer Alvarez, a project coordinator at Caltrans, which is responsible for highway planning, construction and maintenance.

For example, an environmental review of a 142-unit, mixed-use complex called the Link approved last month by the City Council stated that the 11,600-square-foot project wouldn’t have a significant traffic impact on the nearby Golden State (5) Freeway or Glendale (2) Freeway, but that analysis didn’t take into account the 21 other projects either recently built, under construction or in the planning stages in Glendale, Alvarez said.

“That one project, by itself, the traffic impact seems to be minimal, but when you add up what’s planned, then it might be significant, then it might be different,” he said. “Here, it’s already bad. Anything you add is significant.”

Many nearby projects in the pipeline, including the $25-million Link planned for the corner of Central Avenue and San Fernando Road, don’t meet the 150-trip minimum required by state law for freeway impact analysis, according to a letter that Caltrans Branch Chief Dianna Watson sent to the city regarding the Link.

But if the projects were considered together, they may hit the threshold, Alvarez said.

There are roughly 3,800 units either constructed or in the pipeline for south Glendale, a development boom that followed a massive revamp of the city’s zoning in 2006 with the goal to move development from the city’s hillsides to downtown.

The plan was to transform a downtown blanketed with commercial properties into an area where people could live and work.

The rezoning, known as the Downtown Specific Plan, along with city impact fees that were purposefully set low to encourage development, worked, but now Caltrans officials are concerned about the potential transportation effects from future developments.

Although a handful of perennial City Hall critics have complained about traffic during the approval hearings for numerous projects, traffic concerns haven’t dominated City Council discussion.

Council debate has tended to focus on project design, with just one council member, Ara Najarian, calling to put the brakes on new development because of traffic and other quality-of-life concerns.

Alvarez forecasted that the new developments in Glendale, as well as others in the region, could strain traffic on the freeways and it could take decades for state agencies to get enough money to fix the problems.

A better scenario, he said, would have Caltrans and city officials working together to pinpoint which areas will have the most severe problems and start planning ways to pay for projects to mitigate traffic congestion — anything from ramp widening to streetlight synchronization — in advance.

Some ways to pay for the transportation projects could include government grants or new fees paid by developers, Alvarez said. Glendale already charges developers park and library impact fees and officials are considering hiking the cost of those per-unit charges — from $7,000 to $15,645 — due to the high number of developments underway.

If developers don’t pitch in, then it’s taxpayers who will be footing the bill for necessary improvements prompted by rapid development, Alvarez said.

Hassan Haghani, Glendale’s community development director, said the city takes the state agency’s comments seriously, but the project-level environmental review traditionally only considers a single project’s impact.

Haghani added that in 2006, when the city paved the way for the development boom, a traffic impact study through 2030 was conducted.

That report labels portions of local streets and freeways at levels A through F, with F signifying jammed conditions.

According to the report, which doesn’t provide solutions for the increased traffic, freeway segments in the downtown area were set to operate at level D or worse in both directions during morning peak hours, 7 to 9 a.m., by 2030.

Most of the segments were forecast to operate at level F in the afternoon peak hours, 4 to 6 p.m.

The rezoning tied to the specific plan was estimated to generate a maximum of roughly 27,000 daily trips — more than 2,000 of those taking place during each of the peak-hour periods, according to the report.

Haghani said the city plans to release another cumulative study of traffic conditions in south Glendale when it completes the South Glendale Community Plan. However, he said, a draft of that development guide may take two years to complete.

The Week in Livable Streets Events


By Damien Newton, January 13, 2014

It’s kind of a short week, with some fun bicycle events, MLK day and a major speech by Gabe Klein at the end of the week.
  • Tuesday – While there’s definitely been a lot of progress in NELA over the last several years, there’s a long way to go. Finally getting bicycle lanes on North Figueroa (and improved Continental Crosswalks) would help. The LACBC’s Ride Figueroa team is meeting tomorrow night to help make that happen. You can get more details, here.
  • Wednesday, Thursday – Watch sausage being made at the Metro Board of Directors committee meetings. Nothing stuck out on the agendas, but we’ll look closer at them later today in case we missed something. If you want to see them yourselves, you can by clicking here.
  • Friday – The Caltrans District 7 Bicycle Advisory Committee is meeting at the Caltrans building at 9:30 am. I don’t have an agenda yet, but will post it here as soon as I do.
  • Friday – Gabe Klein, the leader of Chicago and D.C. DOT during their progressive rebounds, will be speaking at 1 pm at an Urban Land Institute/City of Los Angeles event. We’ll have more on Klein this afternoon, but needless to say this is a must attend event if your work schedule allows.
  • Saturday – Through a sponsorship by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), C.I.C.L.E. (Cyclists Inciting Change thru LIVE Exchange), will lead a community bicycle ride, “Tweed, Moxie and Mustaches” around the historic Arroyo Seco, traversing the watershed, bike path and local streets. This insanely popular ride is one of the highlights of CICLE’s year. Get all the details, here.
  • Monday – Is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Streetsblog will not be publishing. If people want to have a fun ride to the parade, Treats N’ Beats is leading a ride from Griffith Park.

How London Plans to Eliminate the Search for a Parking Spot


By Leo Mirani, September 13, 2014

 How London Plans to Eliminate the Search for a Parking Spot
 Installing a parking sensor on London's Savile Row.

The idea is simple. According to the council, motorists spend an average of 15 minutes searching for a space in Westminster—which with Parliament, the main shopping district, and dozens of tourist sites, has a legitimate claim to be the heart of London. If drivers know where the empty spaces are, they won’t have to cruise the streets looking for one. 

Other cities, most famously San Francisco, have experimented with "smart parking" and companies from France to America are developing the technology. But San Francisco turned off its sensors on December 30, 2013, and is now evaluating the results of its pilot program. Westminster is going full steam ahead, bashing in 50 sensors a day with a team of three men. Boroughs in Manchester and Birmingham are also trying out the system. 

Each sensor in the ground detects when a car is parked on the street above it. The council releases the data to the public through a smartphone app. Results from a pilot program in 2012 were encouraging: The proportion of occupied parking spots that weren’t paid for dropped from 12 percent to under 10 percent, a sign that more people were paying for parking, says Kieran Fitsall, the parking services development manager for the council. (Some proportion of spots will always be unpaid for, because some vehicles are loading or unloading, dropping people off, or have exemptions.) 

The first generation of sensors protruded on the surface; the next will be flatter. (City of Westminster)
Westminster has 10,000 parking bays that visitors can use (plus more for residents only). The first phase of the program will see 3,000 sensors, each with a battery life of five to seven years, installed in visitor bays in the most congested areas of Westminster, which include Mayfair, Soho and the theater district, at cost of £650,000 ($1.07 million). Based on the results, the council will probably expand the program to the other 7,000 bays that visitors can use. 

The list of benefits is long: Apart from reducing traffic, fuel consumption, and emissions from cars, it boosts the local economy as people spend more time in shops, restaurants and offices rather than on the street. Though the app could be used to catch drivers who’ve overstayed their paid parking time, Fitsall says Westminster has no intention of doing so. Nor does it plan to use the data to change parking prices in higher-demand areas, as San Francisco did.

Fitsall says the data will ultimately be fed into London’s transport information network, so when commuters look up how to get into town, they’ll be able to see driving and parking times just as they can now get train journey times and walking distances to stations. That could make London a model for other cities.

Leaders who take public transportation


By Dinna Louise C. Dayao, January 12, 2014

MANILA, Philippines - Calling on Filipino officials! If Jakarta governor Joko Widodo can ban city officials from using their cars on the first Friday of every month, why can’t you? If 91% of the delegates to the Swiss Parliament can take the tram to work, why can’t you use public transit, instead of your cars, to get around?

Your counterparts in other cities and countries can teach you a thing or two about regularly taking public transportation. The following officials ride the bus or the train as a matter of course; they suffer no abuse. Some of them craft policies that move public transit riders with safety and civility. All of them save taxpayer money and earn the grudging respect of the citizens they serve.

Rahm Emanuel
Mayor, Chicago City

Mayor Emanuel takes the train to his city hall office about twice a week. He likes the convenience and the “political benefit.” He told Businessweek, “A lot of people come up and talk to you, and it’s a great way to have people feel like they can access their mayor.”
Emanuel believes Chicago’s efficient mass transit system is the second reason why companies move their headquarters to the city. (A skilled workforce is the top reason.) The companies that have moved their head offices to the Windy City include the following: Gogo, the world leader in in-flight connectivity; Hannover Fairs, one of the world’s largest event organizers; and Wells Fargo, one of America’s largest corporations.

In 2011, Emanuel mandated all city employees to use buses and trains as their main mode of transportation once they’ve punched in. The increased use of public transportation, combined with no fuel reimbursements and controls to eliminate abuse, was expected to save US$500,000 (roughly Php22.2 million) in 2011.

Fran├žois Hollande
President, France

In May 2012, President Hollande announced that he would take the train to official journeys within France, and to European summits in Brussels, to save money. He then took a scheduled high-speed train from Paris to Brussels to attend a summit.

Hollande’s trip cost 5,972 euros (about Php362,000). This estimate from the Elysee Palace covers security arrangements and the use of seven cars to bring him and his entourage home to Paris in the wee hours.

In contrast, his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy never traveled by rail while in office, reports The Independent. Sarkozy used to fly to Brussels on two presidential executive jets. His trip cost an estimated 60,000 euros (about Php3.6 million); that figure is ten times more than Hollande’s trip.

Chadchart Sittipunt
Transport minister, Thailand

Transport minister Sittipunt knows firsthand how painfully slow the buses in Bangkok can be. Last June, he took a bus to the airport. And though he allotted two hours for the trip, he almost missed his flight. Sittipunt had to leave the bus and call for his chauffeur-driven car to pick him up just so he could make his flight.

In August, he conducted a Facebook poll to find out which was the worst bus to take in Bangkok. After finding out that it was Number 8 bus, he then rode the notorious bus. Sittipunt saw for himself how “poor service was mainly due to the ineffective management of the overall system. Low pay for bus conductors and drivers forced them to compete with other buses on the roads resulting in unpleasant service,” reported Coconuts Bangkok.

Sittipunt has urged his ministry’s senior officials to ride a public bus at least once a week to find ways to improve the service. He himself has taken a motorcycle taxi, a boat, and a train.

David Cameron
Prime Minister, United Kingdom

In 2010, UK Prime Minister David Cameron told government ministers to forget the limo and take the Tube. The rule was part of a ministerial code that aimed to rebuild trust in politics and politicians following the ministers’ expenses scandal and excessive public spending.

Back then, ministerial cars cost 10 million pounds (about Php726 million) a year, with up to 80 cars available at any time, reported the London Evening Standard. Under the code, the use of ministerial cars will continue, but it will be severely restricted.
Where practicable, ministers are encouraged to use public transport. Members of Parliament do mind the gap, as this video shows.

Cameron walks the talk. The man leading the country through what the Financial Times describes as “one of the largest austerity drives in any major economy” frequently takes the Tube. While fellow commuters do double takes and ask for photographs or autographs, there is no abuse.

Marpadi Veerappa Moily
Oil minister, India

Oil minister Moily is another public servant who leads by example. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked Moily to save $25 billion in oil imports in the current fiscal year to help the country narrow its current account deficit. As part of a nationwide campaign to save fuel and cut the oil import bill, Moily took the metro to work on October 9.

He told the Economic Times that he and all officials and staff in his ministry saved some 600 liters of fuel worth Rs40,000 (about Php28,500) on that day. While two joint secretaries rode bicycles to office, the rest of the 200-odd staff in the ministry used public transport.

Moily has declared every Wednesday “bus day” or “public transport” day for his ministry and 14 public sector oil companies. He has asked all central government ministries and state chief ministers to leave their cars at home and use public transit every week.

“I intend to continue with this campaign as long as I am here (as a minister),” Moily told Zee News India.

Join campaign

You are invited sign the Change.org petition asking President Aquino to require all public officials to take public transportation at least once a month.

There’s No ‘Community’ in the Metro Community Leadership Council


By Randall Fleming, January 10, 2014

INSIDE INGLEWOOD-The Crenshaw/LAX Community Leadership Council (CLC) held its first 2014 Quarterly Meeting on Tuesday night  at the St. John Chrysostom Church in Inglewood, CA.

On hand were representatives from Walsh-Shea, the general contractor for Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX Line that is being built through South LA and Inglewood. Inglewood is slated to have three of the eight stations on the line.
Neither the Mayor of Inglewood, James T. Butts, nor any of the City’s four council members or reps from any of the five offices was present.

However, CLC members who appeared to feign concern were taken to task by Inglewood residents for their apparent incompetence and self-serving attempts to gain new business for themselves by berating Walsh-Shea reps.

The meeting was off to a very slow start. Scheduled to start at 6 p.m. it did not start until nearly 6:30. No excuse was offered and despite the full house (about 200 people), CLC co-chair Arna Fulcher instead opened with an announcement that as they had to be out as soon as possible after 8 p.m., public comments would most likely have to be curtailed if not cut altogether.

The crowd groaned.

After a lengthy round of introductions that prompted members of the audience to demand they “Speak up!”—a comment that would be heard several times through the next two hours—a slide show and other basic information used up a fair amount of time. The room’s acoustics made it difficult for people to hear regardless of the volume, and some felt that that was the reason the venue was chosen.

When it came time for CLC members to ask questions of the Walsh-Shea reps, some questions were asked.

It was a departure from previous meetings, when CLC members appeared to antagonize audience members who dared to demand answers from Metro.
However, not many answers were forthcoming. When contractors’ reps paraded a few unknown people from previously unheard organizations, CLC members did little more than firmly ask twice when the reps waffled about numbers of minority workers hired and safety aspects of construction.

At one point, a CLC member who did not state her name said, “We have been convened for two and a half years and what we are being told tonight should have been told to us two and a half years ago.”

That comment prompted another groan.

Another CLC member’s comments were couched in concerns for the community but were clearly meant for his own interests. Willie Brown, who had until late 2013 been a recipient of Metro funds via advertising in the paper he owns, Inglewood Today, complained that there had been no community outreach to newspapers. He made it clear that what he wanted was paid advertising from Walsh-Shea in his paper.

“I’m not sure you know the people in this community. You have all that Internet and e-mail stuff, but what they read is newspapers. You need to use newspapers to make sure they are informed.”

Brown did not discuss his paper’s absolute lack of calendar announcements or story coverage of the CLC’s meetings or of any Metro meetings at all.

When the CLC did take the Walsh-Shea reps to task for their errors, it was in a puerile and embarrassing fashion.

At one point, one of the CLC members, an elderly lady who did not announce her name, interrupted a slide-show presentation to heckle Walsh-Shea Project Manager Erich Engler for a typo on the screen. “You’ve got 2104 up there,” she chuckled. She said it twice more but was not called out of order for her unnecessary outbursts.

“Yes, that’s a typo,” said Engler before moving on with his presentation.

As the meeting’s scheduled 8 p.m. end approached, Fulcher interrupted the proceedings to announce that there would be a short time for public comments, that such comments would be limited to one minute each and that they would end the meeting at 8:20. She did not acknowledge the 30 minutes wasted at the beginning of the evening.

Many people were upset with the CLC’s lack of action. “We’re holding you responsible,” said a young woman who pointed at the CLC members. “You said you have been convened for more than two years and are only now getting answers that should have been known back then, before this project started. I think that means that you are responsible for what happens now.”

The unstoppable rise of bikes

In five years, bicycling will be so common that it's boring, says author Elly Blue


By Lindsay Abrams, January 12, 2014

 The unstoppable rise of bikes

It’s hard to deny that bicycles are having a moment. Last year saw New York City, Chicago, Salt Lake City and Columbus all get bike-share systems of their very own — joining Boston, London, Paris, Dublin, Moscow, Hangzhou, Montreal and many, many other cities throughout the world. Increasingly, people are talking about bikes as a replacement for cars (and even trucks), debating the best ways to design bike lanes and bike-friendly intersections, dreaming up futuristic bike paths and, above all else, taking to the streets on two wheels.

But bicycling’s recent rise to the spotlight isn’t just a passing fad, argues writer and bike activist Elly Blue. Instead, she says, growing numbers of people are beginning to recognize the tangible benefits — to themselves and to their cities — of trading in cars for self-powered transportation. And the research is backing up their experiences. Blue’s new book, “Bikenomics,” draws on a growing body of academic work, along with her own involvement with the country’s bicycle movement, to make the economic case for bicycles. As for the people who insist, in the face of such evidence, that bike commuters are a scourge on humanity? Blue maintains they’re just bitter from spending so much time stuck in traffic.

Blue spoke with Salon about the bike movement’s recent rise to prominence and the way in which old stereotypes no longer pass muster. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Your book takes on a lot of misconceptions held by people who don’t bike. You talk about things like safety, the convenience of having a car, and biking in inclement weather. And you make the case that a lot of those excuses aren’t so legitimate when you look at them more closely. What do you think is driving those misconceptions?

Part of what’s driving those misconceptions is that they’re reported as fact, in newspapers, by conservative think thanks and by public leaders. A lot of it, though, comes from the fact that over the past 70 years, and especially over the past 30 or 40 years, we’ve been investing – personally and as a society – so heavily in this system where you have to drive a car, that it makes sense to people that you have to drive a car. And so arguments that shore that knowledge up make sense, and arguments that don’t support that kind of common-sense knowledge are seen as being not as valid.

What I’m trying to do is provide a window into a new normal. I’m asking people to look around and see how they’re being asked to live their daily lives, what they’re being asked to do financially and with their time — which is sinking a lot of money and time into cars — and to see that as not necessarily a natural, or even economically sustainable thing.

Sure, and you give plenty of examples in the book of places where the common-sense knowledge doesn’t make sense in reality. Are there any examples of that that particularly stick out to you?

The whole myth that people who ride bicycles are freeloaders is just an unbelievably pernicious mess. This idea that we’re not just scofflaws, but that we’re somehow getting something for free. People have this perception that they pay a lot of money into the road system, which is true: If you drive a car you pay a lot of money into the road system for that. But the myth is that that’s enough. And it turns out that the fees paid by drivers are only about 50 percent of the cost needed to keep the nation’s roads even in the bad state of maintenance that they are now. And the rest comes from everybody. Whether you drive a car for two hours every day or one hour every week, or never at all, of if you can’t afford a car, a considerable amount of whatever sales tax or income tax or whatever tax you pay goes into the road system. You can make the argument, as I do in the book, that if you don’t drive a car, you’re overpaying into the road system. So the truth is the opposite of the misconception.

As to where that comes from, honestly, I think that driving a car is so stressful. There are studies that back this up, that driving a car is one of the most stressful things you do every day. It actually causes mental health problems if you have a bad commute. It’s this state of mind, almost, that’s fueling the anger against bicyclists. So it’s not even about rational arguments, it’s about how people feel. Someone who’s angry about bicycling and isn’t convinced, I assume that the book won’t necessarily do anything for them, because they’re acting based on their feeling and their experience, not on numbers and statistics.

I’ve got to say, though, having been a bicycle commuter myself, that can be stressful too. 

That is true, and I think there’s something to be said for that as a reason why sometimes people behave the way they do on bicycles.

Yeah, that would explain a lot. And it seems like the argument you’re making is really that a better bicycling culture needs to come from investment in city infrastructure, bike-share programs and that sort of thing, more than just convincing more people to start riding bikes. 

Those two things go together. You’ve probably seen in New York City just a huge increase in the amount of bicycles in the street every day just because of bike-share and the new infrastructure. But that stuff happens because there’s a popular movement – because people are convinced and eager and demanding more. So I definitely am making the argument that if you build it, they will come, but a prerequisite to them building it is us demanding it.

Dorothy Rabinowitz became infamous for opposing New York’s bike-share program. Do you think its rollout, so far, has proven her wrong?

Oh, absolutely. I mean, everything I’ve seen about Citi Bikes, in terms of its actual impact, has been overwhelmingly positive. People riding Citi Bikes are safer than people riding their own bikes, it seems like from the studies. The increase in bicycling has been tremendous, and the increase in people driving safely around bicyclists, while a little harder to measure, sounds like it’s been effective, too. I recently read a report that 30 percent of the bicycle traffic in New York City is now on Citi Bikes, which is amazing.

You also write about the perception of bicycling being elitist. Can you talk about some of the ways in which you found bikes can help people who are living in poverty, and help empower minority communities?

It’s funny, so many of these stereotypes about bicycling going so unquestioned that people are able to hold them simultaneously, even when they’re completely contradictory. So you have the dual perception that bicycles are a rich man’s toys – everyone knows that stereotype of doctors riding in the countryside two or three abreast, blocking traffic – and then you have the other stereotype that everyone who rides a bike is a broke ne’er-do-well, maybe with illegal status, or with a DUI, and maybe there are racial connotations that go with that – the idea that these are people who have never grown up. That’s the bicyclist that you see in movies – it’s either the environmentalist or the fool that rides the bike, or maybe those two are seen as the same thing.

And, honestly, both those things are true, but neither of them is true. There are plenty of people who buy the most expensive bike they can, and they drive out to the country to ride it around, and then they come back and that’s their entire commitment to bicycling. A lot of those people are actually starting to turn into bike advocates. On the other end of the spectrum, there are a lot of people who ride a bicycle because it beats spending three hours on the bus instead of what could be a half-hour bike ride, or they have no other options. For a lot of those folks, if they had the option not to ride a bike – if they had better transport, or the ability to ride in a car – they would. But not necessarily. For a lot of folks, bicycling is just this fun, empowering thing.

I think the thing that often makes or breaks whether bicycling is seen as desirable is access to a bike community. Having friends and coworkers and colleagues that bike, and knowing that there’s a bike stable waiting for you when you get to your job site or your office, or being able to take your bike inside, out of the elements, in your apartment complex. All of these things that legitimize bicycling, I think, are what will help break down those stereotypes. Because for a community organizer living in a poor neighborhood, a bicycle is just as strong a tool as it is for a lawyer who’s using bicycling as the new golf. The difference is in who has the infrastructure, who has the legitimacy. And everybody needs it.

You live in Portland now, where in a lot of ways you’re seeing the cutting edge of bike culture, and many of those possibilities are opening up. What do you think can help promote more of a bike culture in other places, where there’s less of a mindset oriented toward it?

I do a lot of traveling – I do this thing called the Dinner and Bikes Tour where we drive around the country with a chef, talking about bikes and feeding people amazing vegan food. So what we see — it’s not like there’s a linear progression that looks the same everywhere, but you’ll start everywhere with the die-hard riders, who are going to commute no matter what — they’re going to take the lane on a busy road, they’re wearing tons of reflective clothing – as this sort of personal challenge. And then at some point, a node starts to form. Often it’s a riding group – people riding recreationally – but just as often it’s people who are tying bicycling into their other interests.

For example, we went to Mobile, Alabama, and people showed us photos of the chicken coop touring ride and the beer brewery rides they went on. It was a lot of adults riding their hybrid or cruiser bikes around Mobile and just having fun, maybe having a beer in-between, and just getting to know each other. I feel like that’s the most potent form of activism – that’s the kind of thing that really sparks the movement, because then those people aren’t just talking about serious things. They’re socializing and they’re networking with each other, but they’re also becoming experts about bicycling in their city. They’re learning what specific intersections are needed, they’re educating each other about how to make change happen, they’re introducing each other to the city leaders and they’re building a movement from the ground up.

That’s what I see, over and over again, in cities across the U.S. A small group starts building a movement, and then suddenly becomes a political force. The group Red, Bike and Green that I wrote about in the book started in Oakland, and now it’s in four different cities. Each chapter has become a force that’s firing up the base, but also, when they go to a planning meeting or a project open house, they can’t be ignored, because there are a ton of them, and they know what they’re talking about. They’re talking about their daily lives, their rides and where they live.

As a casual observer, bike culture appears to be changing and growing extremely rapidly. With everything you’ve seen across the country, and maybe read about in the rest of the world, would you say that we’re in the middle of a revolution?

Absolutely, without question. When I started touring in 2010, it was just happening in a few cities, and I questioned whether it was just a trend. But every year it’s grown palpably, and by now it’s national news. Major cities are starting to embrace bicycling, major political leaders are starting to see the bicycle not just as a tool, but as something that people are really passionate about and organized around. There’s a kind of energy coming from the bicycle movement, and politicians are of course really attracted to that. But also, it’s the tangible, positive benefits that bicycling bring to the community, the civic money-saving benefits, and the business benefits, the job benefits and so on. The case for bicycling is definitely becoming a lot more clear, as more people are doing it and as we have more case studies.

And it seems like something that will just keep growing?

I see it as becoming kind of a boring thing in the next five years, actually. And that would be a good thing. You don’t think about going grocery shopping as an exciting adventure, normally, but when you go by bike now, in most cities, it is. The idea is that in five years, it probably won’t be that way. It’ll just be what you need to do after work.

Travel leery: Which countries drive, fly, cycle, and take the train most?


By Lindsay Wilson, January 12, 2014


Which Country Travels the most?

Americans Love Their Cars

Americans travel 40% further than Canadians on the road each year, 60% more than Australians and double the distance of Brits.  The figures are total road passenger kilometres per capita from 2010.
United StatesCanadaAustraliaItalyFranceGermanyUnited KingdomJapanChinaRussian Federation

The Japanese Rule The Rails

The Japanese travel further by rail each year than anyone, at over 3,000 passenger kilometres per capita.  The early adoption of high speed rail networks between numerous large cities is key to that.
Rail Passenger Kilometres Per CapitaJapanSwitzerlandFranceRussiaGermanyIndiaUnited KingdomChinaSpainUnited States050010001500200025003000

The Irish Have Grown Wings

Decent public data on distance flown per capita is thin on the ground.  The best I could do here was 'passengers carried per capita' by airlines from that country.  Ireland is off the charts due to Ryanair.
Passenger Carried Per CapitaIrelandQatarIcelandNew ZealandAustraliaUnited StatesCanadaUnited KingdomGermanyJapanFranceBrazilChinaIndia181614121086420

he Dutch Are Queens Of The Bicycle

The Dutch cycle an average of 2.5 km per day.  Three times that of a German, ten fold a Brit and twenty times more than Americans.
NetherlandsDenmarkGermanyUnited KingdomUSA
Data: road, rail and air: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/, cycling: Making Cycling Irresistible (Pucher, John and Buehler, Ralph (2008)
NetherlandsDenmarkGermanyUnited Kingdom