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, March 24, 2014

Vision Zero or Zero Vision? L.A. Needs to Change the Way It Thinks About Safety


By Damien Newton, March 24, 2014

##http://walksf.org/2014/01/no-loss-of-life-is-acceptable-san-franciscans-call-for-vision-zero/##Walk SF## shows that with a Vision Zero philosophy, increase traffic volume can lead to fewer road fatalities.
Walk SF shows that with a Vision Zero philosophy, increase traffic volume can lead to fewer road fatalities.

Cyclist John Philips was cycling in heavy traffic in the San Fernando Valley when he was hit from behind by an impatient driver. While the driver did try to run, heavy traffic allowed witnesses to photograph both him and his vehicle. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) WAS summoned and a report was quickly taken.

As Ted Rogers writes at Biking in L.A., "Apparently tire tracks aren't significant enough evidence that one has been run over."
As Ted Rogers writes at Biking in L.A., “Apparently tire tracks aren’t significant enough evidence that one has been run over.”

Last September, a cyclist was riding on Chatsworth Boulevard. After standing up for his rights after being verbally accosted by a dangerous driver, the driver intentionally ran him over, got out of his car, and berated him as he lay in the street. The cyclist used his cell phone to take pictures and turned the pics, as well as a witness list over to the police. Tire tracks were still visible on his legs when photographed later.

In December Dan Davis (name changed) crossed the street safely on foot in Downtown Los Angeles.
In all three of these stories, the LAPD was present . In only one of these cases did they find someone to be at fault. Philips and the other anonymous cyclist were shocked to discover that the city would not pursue a case against their attackers. In both cases “insufficient evidence” was cited, despite several eyewitnesses, pictures and immediate LAPD notification. Davis received a $259 ticket because the walk signal was already a flashing orange when he began his trip across the street, even though exactly zero people were injured or placed in danger by his actions.

With the LAPD’s enforcement of traffic laws so clearly out-of-step with the city’s safety needs, it’s time for someone to lead the way towards creating a safer Los Angeles. It’s time for the city to adopt Vision Zero.

“Vision Zero” began in Sweden. In the 1970′s, Sweden decided that the amount of traffic deaths was too great, so it began to base every transportation design, construction and enforcement decision around a basic premise: “will it help reduce Sweden’s total traffic deaths to zero?”.

The term “Vision Zero” wasn’t coined until it was written into the country’s transportation laws in 1997, but the statistics are clear. With only three of every 100,000 Swedes die in crashes each year. This compares with 5.5 per 100,000 across the European Union, and 11.4 in America. Sweden’s roads are the safest in the world. America has over three times as many per capita fatalities.

“The pieces are in place to make L.A. an even better and safer city for all of us to live,” writes Jessica Meaney with the Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership and L.A. Walks.  ”But it will take focused investment and leadership to get there, not just policy goals, not just words, but funding for implementation and leadership behind those visions.  Implementation and achieving this vision is what matters, and vision zero should be for all of Los Angeles County, let’s do this for the whole region.”

In a recent article, The Economist credits infrastructure construction in Sweden for much of the improvement in safety. While road design is clearly critical, and Streetsblog will explore the importance of infrastructure and Vision Zero in a separate article, traffic enforcement is just as important.

In New York City, incoming Mayor Bill DeBlasio is already embracing Vision Zero. San Francisco, under Mayor Ed Lee, is doing the same. Both are relying on a mix of education, infrastructure, and enforcement to achieve safer streets. L.A. should do the same.

In researching this article, Streetsblog reached out to our elected leadership including Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Council Transportation Committee Chair Mike Bonin, City Council Transportation Vice-Chair Tom LaBonge, City Council Planning and Land Use Chair Jose Huizar, City Council Public Safety Committee Chair Mitch Englander, City Councilmember Bernard Parks, who used to be the Chief of LAPD, and Councilmember Joe Buscaino who is an LAPD reserve officer.

In New York, ##http://transalt.org/issues/enforcement/visionzero##Transportation Alternatives## offers a simple explanation of Vision Zero.
In New York, Transportation Alternatives offers a simple explanation of Vision Zero.

None of them seemed excited about L.A. embracing a Vision Zero strategy. In fact, only the Mayor’s Office got back to me with an official statement, although Councilmember LaBonge did ask for a meeting where we could discuss what Vision Zero would mean. I am tentatively expected to sit down with the Councilmember on April 1.

“Vision Zero is an interesting concept that we are monitoring here in Los Angeles,” writes the Mayor’s Office.

“Public safety is one of Mayor Garcetti’s top priorities, and that includes ensuring our streets are the safest in the nation. This extends to how we design our roadways to reduce and eliminate crashes and fatalities. That’s why Mayor Garcetti has directed all city departments to adopt a metrics-based system that will help prioritize resources, and monitoring and reducing these collisions and fatalities will be fundamental to our approach.”

It’s interesting that Garcetti’s office brings up metrics, because data on just how dangerous are L.A.’s streets can be hard to come by. In 2012 when L.A. Weekly looked for data on hit and run crashes, it took months of research and hundreds of dollars in copying fees. While the Weekly’s report precedes Garcetti’s rise to Mayor, it does speak to the need for more transparency in how the city collects and presents crash data.

Without accurate, publicly available data, no safety strategy can be shown to be a success or failure. A critical first step in implementing Vision Zero will be to gather, format and distribute crash data for Los Angeles so that the public can hold the city accountable or cheer its success.

In the coming weeks, the city will debate if and how it can fix and improve its transportation infrastructure. Councilmembers Joe Buscaino and Mitch Englander are focusing on the economic reasons to encourage support for a $4.5 billion sales tax proposal. However, a more powerful argument can be made that the streets must be improved to create a safer place for people to travel.

“A city bond should be used for capital investments in city infrastructure and not just for routine maintenance—and doing so is affordable,” writes Holly Harper, Architect and Living Streets Initiative Coordinator of Green L. A. Coalition on behalf of the Streets of the Future Campaign.

“Such major improvements as curb extensions that incorporate green infrastructure are the future of our streets, but there are many simple safety enhancements to implement as part of any street project. High-visibility crosswalks with upgraded signage and signals, re-striping to include transit or bicycle lanes, well-maintained sidewalks and trees may be incorporated at reasonably low-cost.”

There are many opportunities, both large and small, for Los Angeles to embrace a Vision Zero approach (no matter what it is called.) When it comes to public safety, there’s no time like the present to begin to make changes.

Riding a Bus in Kathmandu: Gender and Transport in Nepal


March 17, 2014

See website for a video.

Navigating the concrete jungle that Kathmandu is increasingly becoming is no easy feat. The city has seen a population surge of over 60% in the past decade alone, putting enormous pressure on its roads, especially the public transport system. Finding a way through the maze of buses, microbuses, tempos and taxis is a daunting task, not to mention the actual overcrowded, uncomfortable journey.

Considering that 83% of Nepali women are working and women amount to at least one third of the travelling public, it is especially important to consider how these difficulties affect them.

According to a new World Bank report, Gender and Public Transport in Nepal, the main reasons for using public transport are for work and education and the main criteria used to determine preference are speed and frequency. The preferred means of public transport is the nilo (blue) microbus, though many travelers also prefer tempos because of safety concerns in buses and microbuses.

Commuters noted the following as their primary concerns:
  • Overcrowding
  • Personal insecurity
  • Reckless & unsafe driving
  • Increased insecurity after dark
  • Problems travelling with children
"You have to wait longer for buses so we accept the discomfort of the micro bus," says this man travelling on a micro bus
Open Quotes
Do I want to put my child’s life at risk? If I travel with my child I never take buses. Close Quotes 
Young mother and office worker

Whatever the mode of transport used, the number one problem for all commuters is overcrowding. In their quest to maximize profits, drivers cram in passengers who are forced to endure “disgusting and sweaty” journeys. Overcrowding is blamed for personal insecurity which ranks second among commuters’ concerns. One in three women and one in six men feel insecure on public transport. This includes the fear of pickpockets, sexual harassment and personal injury. Young women aged 19-25 years are more than twice as likely as all other age groups of women to specifically relate their feelings of personal insecurity to fear of ‘inappropriate touching’ with 43% noting this concern. In fact, one in four young women aged 19-35 years had had direct experience of this in the previous twelve months. The main perpetrators are middle aged men and more than half of all women surveyed said they would avoid standing or sitting next to a middle aged man while travelling.

Inappropriate touching is not only a problem for women however, as one in ten men who mentioned insecurity as a concern had also experienced inappropriate touching by other men. Men are also twice as likely as women to have directly experienced pickpockets and abuse from drivers and conductors.

Both men and women complained of reckless driving which includes not stopping fully to let passengers on and off, speeding and swerving and stopping erratically rather than at designated bus stops. Both men and women indicated they felt more insecure after dark, especially as street lighting is poor or non-existent due to power outages and poor maintenance. Travelling with children on public transport is also a major problem and many parents avoid this altogether saying it is ‘frightening and unhygienic for them’. Sometimes they are refused travel, a situation also experienced by some persons with disabilities and elderly as, it is claimed, they cause delays getting on and off vehicles ‘in a hurry’.

"Do I want to put my child’s life at risk? If I travel with my child I never take buses," says a young mother and office worker. Sukriti Rana/World Bank

The report also cites examples like the Sajha bus company which was re-launched as a new cooperative venture in April 2012. Commuters appreciated the standard fares, bigger student discounts, more head room, well-behaved drivers and conductors, organized schedule of the Sajha buses.

The study was commissioned by the World Bank as part of research to feed into the development of the government of Nepal’s National Transport Management Strategy. The study was conducted from September to December, 2013 with funding from Australian Aid.

Record-breaking BYD electric bus goes over 200 miles on a single charge in Copenhagen


By Michael Graham Richard, March 24, 2014

BYD electric bus in Copenhagen

Former transportation secretary Ray LaHood will be happy about this one, since he recently joined an electric bus company and claimed that "EV is the future of transit": An electric bus made by BYD, a Chinese company that specializes in battery manufacturing, operating in Copenhagen, Denmark, drove for 202 miles (325 km) on a single charge, and even after that long drive it still had 8% left on the battery. This is significantly higher than the official range of 250 km (155 miles) and a record for a purely electric bus.
BYD writes:
This result exceeds the previous best performance of a BYD ebus during the company's Europe-wide trial programmes. Last year an ebus achieved 310 km using only 69% of total charge between the Polish cities of Warsaw and Krackow.

A second trial of an ebus in Copenhagen with the city's other operator Arriva produced a no less impressive result. The bus completed an arduous full day of city operation – 150km (or 93 miles) from 06:00 to 16:50, operating fully loaded and with the electric heating system in constant use. The bus was then taken on a 90km (or 56 miles) motorway run and again ended up with a 8% charge remaining, covering a total distance of 240 km (149miles) on a single charge.
Transit operators everywhere should pay attention to these real-world examples of electric buses performing well. Replacing diesel models with EVs is a great way to reducing operating costs since electricity is a lot cheaper than diesel fuel, and to clean up the air in cities, as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

And the beauty is, electric vehicles in general - including buses - are improving fast and getting more affordable, so while they might be getting good enough now, in a few years they will totally outclass old gas-guzzling models, especially if combined with fast-charging stations like these. And as we clean up the power grid (we have no other choice), these EVs will get even cleaner...

Above you can see the inside of a BYD electric bus. Nothing too different from a regular bus, which isn't a bad thing..

Here's a BYD electric bus in operation in Germany.

Air Pollution 'Kills 7 Million People Worldwide'


March 24, 2014

 Article image

Air pollution killed an estimated seven million people worldwide in 2012, the UN health agency has said.

New research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) found pollution, ranging from cooking fires to car fumes, was linked to one in eight deaths in 2012.

Maria Neira, the WHO's public and environmental health chief, said the figure was "shocking and worrying".

"Air pollution, and we're talking about both indoors and outdoors, is now the biggest environmental health problem, and it's affecting everyone, both developed and developing countries," she said.

The biggest pollution-related killers were heart disease, stroke, pulmonary disease and lung cancer, the WHO said.

The research found indoor air pollution was responsible for 4.3 million deaths in 2012, mostly people cooking inside using wood and coal stoves in Asia.

And the outdoor pollution death toll was put at 3.7 million, with sources ranging from coal heating fires to diesel engines. Nearly 90% of those deaths were in developing countries.

Many people are exposed to both indoor and outdoor pollution, and due to that overlap the separate death tolls cannot simply be added together, the WHO said.

The WHO said the hardest-hit regions were Southeast Asia, which includes India and Indonesia, and the Western Pacific, ranging from China and South Korea to Japan and the Philippines.

Those regions combined accounted for 5.9 million deaths.

The new estimates are more than double previous figures and based mostly on modelling, but the WHO has changed its research methods so it is difficult to make a comparison with past estimates.
Ms Neira said: "The risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and strokes.

 "Few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution.

"The evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe."

Majid Ezzati, chair in global environmental health at Imperial College London, said more research was needed to identify the deadliest components of pollution in order to fight it more effectively.

"We don't know if dust from the Sahara is as bad as diesel fuel or burning coal," he said.

The Week in Livable Streets Events


By Damien Newton, March 24, 2014

Two important meetings at City Hall, and a fun weekend coming up. In between, hearings on ExpressLanes.
  • Tuesday – The City Council Planning and Land Use Committee meets in what might be the deciding moment on the MyFigueroa! project. Thanks to a truncated timeline, any changes to the project could spell its doom, but we still don’t know the position of the local City Councilmember. With some heavy hitters urging him to stall or stop the project, and a trio of Neighborhood Councils urging him to move it, all eyes will be on Curren Price. Get the meeting details, here.
  • Wednesday – The City Council Transportation Committee meets to discuss crossing guards, safe routes to school and the need for more bicycle and pedestrian counts. The fun starts at 2. Read the agenda, here.
  • Wednesday,Thursday, Monday - Metro will hold a series of public hearings in March and April to gather public input on the Metro ExpressLanes program designed to alleviate congestion and provide new and better travel options on two of LA County’s busiest freeways. Get details for meetings at El Monte, Torrance and Union Station, here.
  • Friday – Every year, Move L.A. hosts a conference to discuss the next steps for Metro to continue to build out our rail passenger system. This year’s conference “Imagining Measure R2″ is this Friday at the Cathedral in Downtown Los Angeles. View their poster, here and get more conference information at their website.
  • Friday – Critical Mass. Wilshire/Western. Meet at 6:30, ride an hour later. The 2013 March Critical Mass will be held in honor of Damian Kevitt, who had been hit while riding his bicycle and drug 200 feet. His attacker fled on the I-5 freeway and never was heard from again. This March, Kevitt himself will be co-leading the ride and taking part in a memorial for hit and run victims. Get information on the memorial on Facebook.
  • Saturday – Time for another hearing on L.A. City’s three citywide plans: mobility, health and zoning code. This planning forum is in Boyle Heights from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. Get SBLA background at the links above; get forum details here.
  • Saturday - Come to the Project Youth Green community garden on Saturday, March 29 to experience a nostalgic, rural feeling!  Relax in the peaceful orchard or help to grow crops from 10am to noon then stay for a delicious BBQ lunch and support more gardens in LA County with a donation of $25. Get the details, including how to RSVP, here.

Can’t see Beijing’s tourist sites through the haze? Smog insurance is for you!


By Holly Richmond, March 24, 2014


“China’s smog is so bad” is basically the new, less-awful “Your mom is so fat” joke, since you can accurately fill in the punchline with everything from “the government can’t spy on people” to “people are cramming cigarette filters up their noses.” Newest in the canon? China’s smog is so bad you can buy “haze insurance” in case pollution messes up your vacation.

According to China Daily, online Chinese travel agency site Ctrip.com started offering smog insurance last week for visitors to Beijing, Shanghai, and four other cities. If the air pollution index gets above 200 for two or more consecutive days — and in Shanghai, it was recently above 200 for nearly half a month — insured tourists can get up to $8 a day (50 yuan). Not a lot, but the insurance only costs a buck or two per day, so you’re practically guaranteed a free lunch. (Just try not to think about the price your lungs are paying.)

Obviously there are some flaws here: When people learn to profit off pollution, nobody’s really incentivized to do anything about it. Skeptical Shanghai sales rep Tian Yiyi told China Daily she, for one, is not buying it:
First of all, it is very difficult to tell whether the air quality index has truly reflected the real conditions. Second, the premium does not go directly to tackle the heavily polluted air. I would like the money to be put to better use.
Preach. Humble suggestion: Maybe it’s time to stop these wacky smog-related innovations and just tackle the problem head-on?

World famous climate project forced to scrounge for funding


By Samantha Larson, March 24, 2014

It’s a tough world out there for a line chart. But, with big screen appearances in An Inconvenient Truth and PowerPoint presentations in classrooms across America, the Keeling Curve has earned its place as one of climate change’s most iconic stars.
The Keeling Curve: up and up and up and -- shit.
Wikipedia Commons
Up and up and up and — shit.
In 1958, Charles David Keeling started collecting data on how much carbon dioxide was in the atmosphere, taking measurements at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. After he died in 2005, the project — part of the Scripps CO2 Program — was taken over by his son, Ralph Keeling. They’ve recorded relentlessly upward trajectories of atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Ralph Keeling Jr., keeper of the Keeling Curve.
Ralph Keeling, keeper of the Keeling Curve.
Keeling’s very first measurement was 313 parts per million (ppm) — already up from the pre-industrial levels of about 280 ppm. Last year, we briefly crossed the 400 ppm threshold for the first time, and now measurements that high are only becoming more common. While climate groups like 350.org have chosen 350 ppm as the level for which we should strive to keep shit from really hitting the fan, scientists are already seeing that as unattainable. “I would say at this point that even stopping it from rising beyond 450 is looking almost impossible,” Keeling Jr. tells Grist. Getting back down to 350 ppm “will require not just reducing emissions but also active removal of CO2 from the air.” In other words, cover your heads, things are going to get messy.

But now the Keeling Curve, the longest-running record of atmospheric carbon dioxide may be coming to an end, thanks to budgetary distress.

Keeling Sr. struggled to maintain funding to keep his curve even back in the mid-1960s, but now financial troubles are reaching their most dire point yet, says Keeling Jr. His lab group, based at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, has been trying to branch out from traditional sources of green, like the National Science Foundation, to modern approaches, like asking for donations via Twitter and their blog. These crowdfunding efforts have raised more than $17,000 so far — just a small portion of the program’s $1 million annual budget, but still a strong sign of public support — and they’re still accepting donations.

“The level of funding for science in this country has not grown sufficiently to keep up with the demand and need,” Keeling says.

While the Keeling Curve was the first to provide a long enough time series of atmospheric CO2 to correlate its rise with the burning of fossil fuels, it’s no longer the only group to track such trends. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration now also gathers air samples from around the world to monitor greenhouse gas levels. So is the Keeling Curve still needed? Keeling argues that it is. “If you’re measuring something over time, as we are, you only get one chance to get it right,” Keeling says. “And the only way to be sure that you got it right is to do it more than one way … It’s really integral to having a good record to have some redundancy.”

Plus, Keeling says that his curve is still providing data that enables scientists to make new discoveries. In the last year, Heather Graven, a former post-doc in his group, used the data to publish a paper on how the annual swings in atmospheric CO2 are becoming more intense. “It catches us by surprise that the planet is changing that fast by that much,” Keeling says.

And the Keeling Curve has played a big role in convincing scientists and non-scientists alike that this whole climate-change thing is a pretty dire deal. Unfortunately, it’s only getting more so.

No Time To Garden At Home? At This Train Station, You Can Garden On Your Commute

A Tokyo rail company has figured out how to green the city while giving some riders a little more reason to enjoy their trip to work.


 By Adele Peters, March 20, 2014

For people who spend long hours at work, it’s getting easier to get things done while you wait for a train headed home: Virtual grocery stores are popping up on subway platforms, Shanghai residents can pick up library books while riding on the train, and services like Amazon Locker are delivering packages to local transit stations in cities like London. And in Tokyo, locals who don’t have the time or space to garden at home can rent out a plot in a series of urban farms on top of train stations.

"We're promoting the greening of the city," says Makoto Kawada, a spokesperson for East Japan Railway Company, which runs train lines throughout Japan. "We started this vegetable garden business out of a desire to contribute to the environmental maintenance and the revitalization of the area along the train line."
There are five "Soradofarms" on the company’s rail network. The first was launched along with a green roof in Tokyo's Ebisu station four years ago. Since the spaces aren't huge--the garden in Tokyo is a little over 500 square feet--and they've been popular, there tends to be a waiting list to get a plot. A basic space, without any extra services, isn't cheap: The yearly price is around $980.

The train station provides standard garden tools, seeds, and some regular weeding. Anyone who hasn't gardened before can get expert advice, and people who don't have much time to take care of their plants can get help with things like checking for bugs or harvesting vegetables.
For many, it's just a place to come to relax--when commuters aren't stopping by after work, families come for picnics or to give their kids a little extra room to run around. And as locals and commuters spend time learning about how to grow kale and tomatoes, they're also getting to know each other.
"We're building community by involving the whole area in activities in which the locals can take part in and have fun with," Kawada says.

LA Cycling: Benefits, Challenges And A Vision For The Future


By Benjamin Dunn, March 22, 2014

 The kickoff of the October 2010 CicLAvia (Gary Leonard).
 The kickoff of the October 2010 CicLAvia

In the 20th century, Los Angeles expanded its transportation systems with the belief that the car was king. The city tore out miles of streetcar track and replaced them with massive roads and highway systems to encourage driving. Now, Angelenos spend an average of 59 hours sitting in traffic every year. People are beginning to turn to alternate forms of transportation, in particular cycling. But it seems that many are unaware of both the benefits that cycling brings and the challenges that bikers face.

Most people are aware of the positive health impact that cycling provides, such as improved cardiovascular systems and lowered rates of obesity; however, there are many other benefits that are commonly overlooked.

In a smoggy city such as Los Angeles, bicyclists do not pollute the air with exhaust. Cycling through a city also connects people with a community in ways that cars travelling at higher speeds cannot. When Los Angeles hosted the June 2013 CicLAvia and closed down miles of road to vehicle transportation, the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs released a report saying businesses along the CicLAvia route experienced a 10 percent increase in sales that day. Bike parking also takes up very little room, freeing up car lots for other uses, such as shopping areas or public spaces.

Michael Kodama, Executive Director at Eco-Rapid Transit, President at Michael R. Kodama Planning Consultants and professor at the USC Price School of Public Policy, believes that one of the biggest obstacles cyclists face is a general misunderstanding of the needs of bicyclists.

"As a cyclist, you're simply not represented. How many people in the government are avid bicyclsits?" he asks.

Legislators need to understand that bikers need a set of laws that protect them from cars and facilitate cycling on the road. For example, the idea that bikers need to stop at all stop signs in a residential area is not very efficient since cyclists spend five times the energy to maintain speed with stops. In 1992, Idaho passed a law that allows cyclists to pass through stop signs at a “reasonable speed.” After 20 years, a UC Berkeley study has shown that there has been no significant increase in bicycle fatalities or injuries as a result of this law. In fact, this law also increases the number of bikes on the road since bikers do not have to spend as much energy getting to their destinations.

Even though cities like New York and San Francisco have constructed miles of bike lanes, cyclists can face difficulties navigating them since they are often blocked by obstacles such as cars or construction work. If cities wish to facilitate cycling, they need to also introduce ordinances that protect cyclists from these dangers. In fact, some of the biggest deterrents to biking are safety concerns. Most people feel uncomfortable, myself included, riding in narrow bike lanes that offer no protection from cars.

While there needs to be a move towards protecting cyclists, bicyclists themselves are also at fault for failing to understand the most basic rules of the road.

Trousdale Avenue in the University of Southern California handles thousands of students and commuters every day; however, it is one of the most dangerous streets in Los Angeles to bike on. Often, you will see bikers and pedestrians travelling against the flow of traffic, oblivious to the dangerous situation they are creating for everyone else around them. It is hard to fathom why this is such a widespread problem since the lanes are quite clearly marked with bright white and yellow paint along with directional arrows that point towards the flow of traffic. All the infrastructure for an efficient cycling system is there: people just seem too ignorant use it properly. It really takes little effort for a cyclist to get into the right lane or for a pedestrian to walk outside of the bike lane. Imagine what someone from the surrounding neighborhoods would think if he saw students from an elite university struggling to use something as simple as a bike lane.

While replacing some driving lanes with bike lanes and cycle tracks (bike lanes separated from the street with a physical barrier) seems like a recipe for severe traffic congestion, a simple look at each mode of transportation disproves this idea. Cars are actually some of the most inefficient forms of transportation in an urban environment like Los Angeles: they take up a lot of road and parking space and only hold a few people. Now imagine the number of bikes you can put on the road for the space of one car. If for every car we can put out, say, six bicycles, we can quickly reduce the number of cars on a road as well as the time we waste sitting in traffic.

Kodama believes that there “needs to be a culture shift in how we look at bicycle transportation.” While Los Angeles has implemented miles of bike lanes and cycle tracks, employers too can assist workers that bike to work, such as by introducing facilities showers for employees who ride their bike to work so they can wash themselves and put a suit on after. For high rise buildings, Kodama also proposed creating a valet bike parking system so employees would not have to leave them out on the street.

Despite the benefits that cycling provides not only for people, but for a city’s transportation system, there will still be a need for cars. We will still need to travel distances that would be arduous on a bike and get to certain destinations quickly. However, there are many instances where we could turn to biking as a healthier, more efficient and more social form of transportation. In turn, these would help ease urban traffic congestion as well as connect the community.

For the future, we can expect to see more cities adopting biking friendly policies. Los Angeles is already in the process of renovating the Figueroa Corridor by adding cycle tracks and bike lanes with the MyFigueroa project. While our cycling infrastructure may never reach the level of Copenhagen's (where more people ride their bike to work in one city than in the entire United States), people will begin turning to cycling due to its numerous benefits for individuals, the environment and the city they live in.

Transportation Priorities Jostle for CA’s Cap-and-Trade Revenue


By Melanie Curry, March 21, 2014

A series of hearings in Sacramento have been revisiting California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, Assembly Bill (A.B.) 32, which calls for a statewide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) to 1990 levels by 2020. Two recent hearings have opened discussions of Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed spending plan for the revenue received so far from the state’s cap-and-trade program, implemented as part of A.B. 32, and another recent Senate hearing discussed the program’s impacts to date.

Mary Nichols, Chair of the California Air Resources Board, explains cap and trade.

The auction of cap-and-trade credits is producing money for the state, which, under A.B. 32, must be spent on helping further reduce GHG emissions. Last month, Governor Brown released his cap-and-trade expenditure plan for 2014-2015, in which he proposed to spend $850 million in expected revenue from the auctions. Of that, $600 million would be used for transportation-related projects and programs, with the lion’s share of that ($250 million) for high speed rail.

Other transportation categories include $50 million to Caltrans to expand and modernize existing rail; $200 million towards programs that encourage the use of zero-emission vehicles, including trucks, buses, and cars; and $100 million over the next two years to the Strategic Growth Council for Sustainable Communities programs, including plans that encourage compact and infill development near transit.

The governor’s plan does not include any funds for bicycling, walking, or transit other than what would fall under the above categories, even though these transportation modes offer a huge potential savings in GHG emissions.

At a Senate Transportation Committee hearing Wednesday, a long line of public advocacy groups spoke up for reshuffling the cap and trade funds, mostly in the direction of the respective group’s preferred emissions-reduction strategy (better transit, for example, or forest fire prevention given this dry year).

But only a few speakers questioned why so much money was being given to high speed rail. The Legislative Analyst’s report questioned the GHG benefits of California’s planned high speed rail, which would not have any effect on emissions until 2022 at the earliest, and would at best provide a modest contribution to GHG reductions.

“We need to fund GHG reductions in the near term,” said Catherine Phillips of the Sierra Club. “It doesn’t warrant spending 31 percent of the money on high speed rail. Many other programs will get you reductions sooner than will high speed rail.”

A Senate hearing in February, and yesterday’s Transportation Committee hearing, had the stated purpose of discussing the expenditure plan. At both hearings, however, much of the discussion centered on the way cap-and-trade works, which shows just how complex and difficult to understand the program is.

A.B. 32, passed in 2006, called for the state to meet its emissions reduction goals using regulation, incentives, and undefined “market mechanisms” to price emissions. The market mechanism that the state chose for regulating GHG emissions is cap and trade, which sets a cap on total emissions from all sectors, allocates a certain number of “GHG credits” to each emitter, and then auctions off the rest of the credits. This allows companies to buy or sell allowances according to their need to meet their emissions cap. The cap is supposed to decrease over time, enabling California to meet the 2020 GHG reduction goals.

The cap-and-trade expenditure plan will continue to wend its way through hearings, with the next full budget committee taking up individual pieces of it on April 10. It must be passed by the budget deadline on June 15.

Meanwhile, a joint hearing last week held by the Senate’s Committee on Environmental Quality and the Select Committee on Climate Change discussed proposed adjustments to A.B. 32, which requires that its scoping plan to be updated every five years.

At that hearing, Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, testified that California is on track to meet the 2020 goals. But beyond 2020, “We must accelerate the pace of emission reductions needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” she said. “Emissions from 2020 to 2050 will have to decline several times faster than the current rate.”

That hearing also featured a lively debate over the economic effects of the cap-and-trade program between Dorothy Rothrock of the California Manufacturers and Technology Association and Professor Daniel Kammen of UC Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group. Rothrock claimed that the cap-and-trade program costs industry too much, and may drive business out of state, while Kammen countered that the program is a boon for business and job growth, and that “the clean tech sector outperformed the California economy by more than a factor of three.”

Other potential changes to A.B. 32′s scope include:
  • A cap on fuel emissions is already set to start in January 2015, and the ARB is considering new rules on emissions from fuel shipping and storage, which have not been regulated, as well as “well stimulation” (fracking).
  • Water is also under the scope of A.B. 32. “From the perspective of global climate change, the massive amounts of electricity that we are using to move water around the state makes it important to look at it in a holistic way,” said Nichols. “We have to come up with policies that will help guide investments into water conservation, and, frankly, to look at pricing as a tool to incentivize more efficient use of water.”
Comments on the A.B. 32 scoping update are due by April 28, 5 p.m. here.