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, February 17, 2014

A tough L.A. wake-up call for a cycling newcomer

A Midwestern transplant enjoyed commuting to work by bike in L.A., until an encounter with a Chevy S-10 pickup.

 By Ben Poston, February 17, 2014
 Bicyclists have an L.A. street to themselves during a CicLAvia event -- a far different scenario from what the city's bicycle commuters face.

A year ago, I wrote about arriving in L.A. from the Midwest and biking to work despite initial concerns about decrepit streets, aggressive drivers and a general unease that the City of Angels just wasn't all that bike friendly. 
After a month in the city, I decided to give the bike a go and found it satisfying. I celebrated the quiet joys of commuting on a bike — the sights, the smells, the ability to explore the sprawling city on my own terms. The five-mile trip from Los Feliz to downtown was invigorating and a conversation starter at the office.

The dream lasted about four months.

In late April, I was biking home in the early evening, wearing a yellow reflective cycling vest. The rechargeable lights on my bike, however, were dead. A black Chevy S-10 pickup made a quick right turn in front of me near Sunset Junction, and my world slowed down and went fuzzy.

I glanced off the side of the truck and fell hard on my left side. When I opened my eyes, I was on my back near the curb with my limbs splayed out like a turtle. A small crowd gathered to check on my well-being. My left wrist had sustained a nasty cut, and I got some road rash on my shoulder and a nice scuff on my chin.

I exchanged information with the driver and figured I was OK. I wasn't.

I tried to go to work the next day, but felt nauseous and stayed home. I made it to the office on Day 2 but, still slightly dazed, left early and headed for the hospital. The doctor did some tests and said I had suffered a minor concussion.

Really, I was lucky. I could have slid under the truck, broken an arm or a leg. I could have been knocked unconscious — or worse.

After the accident, my parents called me from Ohio and pleaded with me to stop biking. But I refused to let the accident slow me down.

A few months later, my single-speed commuter bike was stolen out of my carport. I wondered if the universe was trying to tell me something.

As time went by, I biked to work less and less with my other bike. By the end of last year, I had stopped altogether.

I follow the biking group Wolfpack Hustle on Twitter and saw a quote that rings true for every cyclist, especially those brave Angelenos: "Every day I ride I know may be my last."

Don't get me wrong. I still climb the hills of Griffith Park several times a week and ride in other spots for recreation on the weekends. I'm just staying away from the workweek rush hour.

I can't count the number of people who have told me that they used to commute by bike until they were either (A) struck by a car or (B) got in some terrible accident by encountering a giant pothole or running into an open car door.

Now that I'm among the two-thirds of commuters in the city who drive solo to work, I experience Los Angeles differently from before. I can crank up "Morning Becomes Eclectic" on KCRW, roll the windows down and let the warm breeze dry my hair. I can sip a coffee and arrive at work clean — without having to change out of sweaty bike clothes.

And while I'm in favor of more bike lanes in the city, I must confess I'm annoyed when I see traffic lanes turned over to cyclists. North Virgil Avenue in East Hollywood recently lost half its vehicle lanes, and now my evening commute is five to 10 minutes slower.

In just over a year, I've become the opportunistic, lane-hopping L.A. driver I once joked about. Making it through on a yellow light is expected. Speeding 50 mph on surface streets has become the norm. I despise sitting in traffic, so I take shortcuts that I think are mine alone — I call them the "Bat Cave" routes.

That said, I hope the city's cyclists can gain a critical mass and take the roads back from the horde of cars. I may even reconsider my commuting decision.

I know this change of heart will upset cycling advocates and merely reaffirm what many motorists here already know to be true.

After the first column ran last year, I received emails from Midwesterners looking to move to the L.A. area and wondering if they could safely commute by bike. Here's how I responded to one — after the accident:

"I would have told you a month ago that [biking] was pretty safe, but the reality is that danger is always lurking — car doors, distracted drivers, drunk drivers, pedestrians, scooters … it's just really congested and the bike culture hasn't totally caught on yet. I wish I had better news, but I hope this provides some perspective."

University campuses lead way in reducing driving


February 14, 2014

As Millennials lead a national shift away from driving, universities like Oregon State University and the city of Corvallis are giving students new options for getting around and becoming innovators in transportation policy, according to a new report released today. The report, titled, “A New Course: How Innovative University Programs Are Reducing Driving on Campus and Creating New Models for Transportation Policy,” was released by OSPIRG Foundation.

“Here in Oregon and across America, colleges and universities are showing that efforts to meet increased demand for transportation options deliver powerful benefits for their community and surrounding areas," said OSPIRG Foundation's Evan Preston. “These efforts are saving money for universities, and improving the quality of life on campus.”

Americans aged 16 to 34 years of age reduced their annual driving miles by 23 percent per person between 2001 and 2009, according to research based on the most recent data from the Federal Highway Administration that is included in the study.

As Baby Boomers grow older, Millennials have become America’s largest generation. Since government investments in transportation infrastructure often last decades, the question of whether current investment will match the needs of future travelers depends largely on how well Millennials’ preferences will be met.

“University and college campuses are at the forefront of encouraging news ways to get around that don’t depend on personal cars. Public officials who want to stay ahead of the curve should be taking notes,” said Preston.

The report describes how universities are improving their communities by providing a wider range of transportation choices. This includes buses, biking, various types of vehicle-sharing that makes it easier not to have a personal car, and convenient apps that make it easier to navigate the options. The report also documents how campuses seek to avoid the steep costs of building additional parking facilities.

“Universities have a lot in common with cities,” added Preston. “They must get the most value out of limited land, they are acutely aware of problems associated with being overrun by cars; and they need to focus on the tastes and aspirations of young people. It’s no wonder that universities are leaders in finding successful ways to make it easier for people to drive less.”

Find the full report here: “New Course: How Innovative University Programs Are Reducing Driving on Campus and Creating New Models for Transportation Policy.”

The End of Sprawl: Best #Cityreads of the Week


By Amanda Erickson, February 15, 2014

 The End of Sprawl: Best #Cityreads of the Week

A round-up of the best stories on cities and urbanism we've come across in the last seven days. Tweet us your favorites with #CityReads.

"As it turns out, suburban sprawl actually peaked 20 years ago," Payton Chung, Greater Greater Washington
The rate of suburban sprawl peaked in the mid-1990s and has declined by two-thirds since then, even through the giant housing boom. Could this quiet change in land use have caused many of the changes that we're seeing today, from recentralizing job growth to the decline in driving?
"For some couples, parking tickets signal a serious relationship," Martine Powers, Boston Globe
After two years of dating his girlfriend, Brad Verter of Brookline expected some pressure to take the next step and move into her Cambridge apartment.
But he never expected the prodding would come from the Cambridge Traffic, Parking, & Transportation Department — the agency that slapped him with six parking tickets in two weeks for overusing his girlfriend’s visitor parking permit so he could stay overnight.

"One of the things they told me was . . . 'Why don’t you just move in with her and get your own resident parking pass?'" recalled Verter, a professor at Emerson College. "And I was like, 'That’s a lovely suggestion — you know, my mother agrees with you.'"
"De Blasio’s Vow to End Traffic Deaths Meets Reality of New York Streets," J. David Goodman and Matt Flegenheimer, New York Times
The announcement was bold, if somewhat quixotic: Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose campaign was focused on reforming the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk tactics, would commit his administration to reducing traffic deaths “literally” to zero.
In his administration’s first 40 days, that pledge translated into a series of ticket blitzes against drivers — and, in unusually large numbers, jaywalkers.

Jaywalking tickets are up nearly eightfold this year, despite the mayor’s insistence that his plan for safer streets did not include singling out pedestrians. Through Feb. 9, there were 215 jaywalking summonses issued, compared with 27 over the same period last year; tickets issued to drivers were down slightly.
"In Taking Back Urban Areas, Latinos Are Causing A 'Gente-fication' Across The U.S.," Soni Sangha, Fox News Latino
A growing number of upwardly mobile Latinos would rather take the good and bad of Lincoln Heights than idyllic suburbs, in a trend that some refer to as “gente-fication” (as in "gente," Spanish for "people") This movement of Latinos returning to long standing urban neighborhoods is most noteworthy in Los Angeles, but as the Latino population grows more educated and wealthier it is repeating itself in a variety of cities across the country, such as Houston, Phoenix and Washington Heights, in New York City.

It’s not just affordable housing that is pulling Latinos back to neighborhoods that others have written off. Some say they chose their homes as a civic obligation to give back to their communities. But the trend echoes a growing desire among Latinos, in particular, to live in walkable communities that can support many generations under one roof. And those preferences are inspiring developers to embrace new designs in heavily Latino neighborhoods to keep degree-holding professionals from fleeing to the suburbs.
"The Wunderkind New Jersey Town President Who Wants to Seek Out Other Wunderkinds," Nancy Scola, Next City
Running towns, Torpey reasons, should naturally appeal to problem-solving geeks more intrigued by how systems work than by ideology. “They won’t be political, because they’re not political people,” he says. “[They’re] smart people who care about helping the community, the world.” His new ambition is, he says, “to try to get a couple percent more” such candidates on ballots around the country.