Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New Bike Lane Extension On Arizona Ave. And Sharrows! On 14th St.

New Bike Lane Extension On Arizona Ave.

Arizona Ave. until just recently was like many bike lanes, in Southern California there for a while and than disappears before it gets to a destination. Now the last few blocks connecting to Ocean Ave. have been included, bridging an important connection toward having a more complete grid of bike routes. Since these last few blocks have a much higher turn over than the residential area, be on the look out for doors. I always ride on the far left of the bike lane on streets adjacent parking. One new design treatment I like and would love to see a lot more of, is the diagonal street markings to discourage people from driving through when parked cars are not present. On streets like 11th where the bike lane is much wider than necessary and poorly marked, I'd love to see diagonal markings to more visually indicate the extra space is not for driving through.

Bike Signal Detection On Arizona Ave.

Arizona also has some more modern signal detection using cameras in a few places like the intersection of Lincoln Blvd., a higher priority street that may not change without a trigger. The camera is calibrated to the spot they place the bike marking, so if you see that, wait there for signal to change. More signal detection work is also on the way to start addressing what has long been a gripe of mine on this blog. This can't come soon enough.

(Photo from Santa Monica press release. I'll be around to shoot my own photos of them soon.)

Originally this post was just going to be on my observations of the new Arizona work, but I also just got word from a city press release, that sharrows have been put in on 14th St. for a few blocks south of Montana Ave. along with routine maintenance. The intention is for these to connect to future plans for a bike lane on 14th St. south of Washington. Santa Monica is a little late to the sharrow party, but better late than never, and this further cements the use of the sharrow as a tool to educate and change road behavior in the Southern California region. Hermosa Beach, Long Beach, Los Angeles and Santa Monica all have sharrows (FAQ) on the ground. I have yet to ride on these new sharrows having just heard about them, but I can't wait to check them out.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Joining Hands With The Larger Green Movement

 Hands Across The Sand

One of the reasons I promote cycling is because our future depends on breaking the American addiction to environmentally catastrophic sources of fuel. I like riding a bike, and I think cycling will be a major component of diversifying our transportation options, thus liberating us from petroleum dependence. If I ride a bike, I am part of the solution. However my riding a bike isn't going to save the world by itself. There needs to be a massive cascading shift in the American way of life. I feel fine riding a bike on the streets, but for many people, our roads as they are today are not inviting to ride a bike what so ever, and that has to change. But bikes are only part of it, we need better transit, better environments to walk in, car share programs to replace households having more automobiles than people, reforms in city zoning, affordable housing near work, among many other things.

It won't be easy to make big changes, but it's not like it hasn't been done before. Before we started designing cities around automobile use, we designed cities around walking and public transportation trolley systems. Los Angeles at one time had about 30% of it's trips being made by bike, and had the claim to fame of having the largest network of full electric rail systems in the world. That is before we tore it all down to usher in freeways and the automobile age. Some commentators like to joke that efforts to reduce driving means going back to horse and buggies, as if the electric rail age of cities never happened, and that automobiles solely hold the claim to modern transportation. There are wonderful and modern cities and towns in Europe with far fewer trips made by car, and these are not backward places. Life without 90% of trips made in a car does not have to be deprived life, and in many ways can be much more pleasant if we build for mobility based on choice of modes (walk, bike, train, bus) rather than car car car.

Oil was super cheap and very plentiful in America, making the car age possible, but that easy oil died in the 70's along with the depletion of our biggest oil fields. As we all have seen in the sad news surrounding the BP disaster in the Gulf, there are serious consequences to the increasing risks being made to extract oil from deeper places. The BP incident was not an isolated one, oil wells have been spilling in places all over the world and vital ecosystems in the Amazon and Nigeria (source of 8% of US oil imports) are on a long list of places completely ruined by oil discharges in recent decades. The Alaskan wildlife population in the area impacted by the Exxon Valdez spill has still not fully recovered decades later. As I have been telling people since the BP spill began, if we want a future where our children don't have to see news reports featuring endangered sea turtles and pelicans flopping around pitifully in gops of toxic goo, than we must ambitiously change course.

This morning my wife Meghan and I joined hands with fellow environmentalists at the Santa Monica pier, as part of the global action event Hands Across The Sand, to literally and metaphorically draw a line in the sand. To say "No" to more oil drilling on our coasts and promote the conversion to cleaner energy, and conservation of energy. Representatives from the Surfrider Foundation, Environment California, Sierra Club and Heal The Bay were on hand to give speeches along with a few elected representatives. Bill Rosendahl of the Los Angeles City Council gave the most fiery and forceful speech in his criticism of the oil industry and the need to change our ways. Having missed his talk at the Bike Side Speaks event at the Bikerowave, I didn't realize just how fired up he can get.

Hands Across The Sand

It is empowering to get out of the internet world and really make the human connection, and the faces of those fighting the same fight in our collective struggles. When the images of these events at beaches and parks around the country and the globe are presented along with thousands of signatures to Congress, I hope they think long and hard about the course of our nation, and the course of our world. I hope they think ahead  not just till the next election, but ahead to 10 years from now, or 20 years from now, 100 years from now.

I encourage everyone advocating for better cycling in the city to mingle with other efforts fighting for a better future. You might learn composting isn't that hard, and you might teach someone who is otherwise green minded who thinks they have to drive somewhere there is this one route that is totally more bike friendly, or you can catch the Big Blue Bus to Downtown LA if it's too far. Bike activists should ally with pedestrian rights groips. Someone passionate about water conservation might give you a tip on a low flow shower head and you could tell them about a local bike co-op so they can fix their bike rusting in their garage. We're all trying to make the world a better place, let's work together. There will always be a place for specializing in a topic, but we mustn't develop tunnel vision in the process.

Save the sea turtles. Ride a bike.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Bicycle Education Spending Coming To Santa Monica

Some good news for cyclists in Santa Monica. Councilman Terry O'Day informed us at the recent SM Spoke meeting that $25,000 was set aside in the new budget solely for use in bicycle education. This may come in the form of educating cyclists and raising awareness amongst drivers, but how exactly that will be spent is yet to be determined. It's less than some cities are doing for education, but it's big step up from zero, and great to see a real dollar commitment on a cycling issue, and one that is so often neglected. Also word on the street in local transportation planning corners, is that Santa Monica traffic management staff leaders secretly love the illegal department of D.I.Y. poster campaign that has been seen on electrical boxes through out the L.A. and Santa Monica. Perhaps with a real pot of money to work with, we will see some official campaigns to raise awareness, and educate the public, in the near future.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

No More Sympathy For the Impatient Motorist

Perhaps it's a product of the continually growing length of time I have gone without driving (my license is actually expired now pending renewal after I realized), but I am becoming less tolerant and understanding of the wants of impatient drivers and the double standards they apply to other road users. I was waiting to go straight on Broadway Ave. during lunch and practicing my track stand in the process. A driver pulls up and honks at me to get out of the way so she can make a right on red. First of all it is not marked as a right turn only lane, since cyclists can continue through the connecting bike lane. Second of all, rights on red are hazardous to pedestrian traffic by their very nature, and are illegal in more pedestrian oriented places, so I am not inclined to be that sympathetic to someone trying to make a right on red to begin with. If I was in a car waiting to go forward in a lane that was not marked as turn only, there is no way she would have honked, it's a clear double standard of treatment that comes from a belief that even on streets with a bike lane, cyclists do not belong on the road or at least belong on it less than drivers. She asked more nicely out of her window after honking 3 times, but sorry I'm not budging anymore, I'm not going to accept this get to the back of the bus mentality drivers exert over cyclists. By that time the light changed anyways, a delay of perhaps 15 seconds, but to the driver, 15 seconds is often so valuable it is exchanged even when it is risking the lives others.

Sometimes I go through ebbs and flows of more aggressive and cooperative stances with the world of driving. Lately reading the book Fighting Traffic, about the history of the dawn of the auto age in America, has me leaning a little more on the aggressive side. Automobile interest groups and drivers wrestled the purpose of streets from everyone else, often by bloody force (200,000 Americans were killed on roads in the 1920's, a majority were pedestrians back then). It was not uncommon in the early decades of automobiles on the streets for newspapers to depict the typical driver as Satan, and mass memorial services for slain children were common in urban places. Safety campaigns eventually brought down the proportion of pedestrian fatalities, but in the process began to highly limit what had been previously very liberal rights to those who walked in cities. Eventually "motordom", as the auto interests called them selves began influencing the entire design of cities around principles essentially tailored to sell more cars. Auto clubs tried to sell the idea of cars with sexy ads, and promises of freedom, but just as often they were launching campaigns against pedestrians, referring to them as bumbling idiots and creating the term jay walker, blasting against campaigns for car regulation with counter ads that fed on anti-government fears and even stoking racism at times. If we are going to create a culture change of the purpose and dynamics of city streets to be safer and more inviting for all users, we will sometimes have to play dirty too, and we cannot simply back down and make way for every driver who is quick to their horn.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Public Meeting With SM Spoke and Council Member Terry O'Day

Santa Monica Spoke is starting to really come together, and as I've mentioned part of my absense in blogging has been due to time helping with the group. I'm one of the steering committee members along with Bryan Beretta, Dr. Michael Cahn, Barbara Filet, Richard McKinnon, Mihai Peteu, Scott Reiter and Cynthia Rose. We have a big public meeting this week, we'll be introducing the group, what our goals and agendas are, soliciting input from the public, and there will be Q&A, with Terry O'Day from the Santa Monica city council present to talk bikes.

This Wednesday at 6:30pm in the community meeting room at 502 Colorado Blvd (5th and Colorado) – enter through the gate on Colorado. Bike parking on the patio.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Changing The Street With An E-Mail

I've been out of the blogging cycle a bit lately as happens to me from time to time, but I have been more actively involved in getting things rolling with the Santa Monica Spoke group, which now has a proper steering committee, of which I am on, and have also designed the new logo for the group.

I did want to come on the blog and follow up and mention that I got an e-mail confirmation from Lucy Dyke of Transportation Management that the slight changes in road striping on the newly repaved stretch of Broadway Ave. from Cloverfield to 26th was in fact changed based on my design suggestions made in an e-mail a few days before final paint was applied. It's not the best bike lane in the world, but it's better than it was before by more evenly distributing bike lane width between the two sides of the road, and since I caught it while it was being redone anyway, we got a little improvement at no extra cost. Santa Monica seems on the cusp of a new direction in working with cyclists to toward really being a cycling friendly city, instead of just kind of there as it is now. There is a lot of work to do, but people in city government are listening, so keep your eyes open and if you notice something speak up. You might just change the street you ride on everyday with a simple e-mail.