Bicyclists advocate Complete Streets, not Traffic Sewers

An O.C. bicyclist gives directions to new users of the Metrolink Ticket Kiosk

An O.C. bicyclist gives directions to new users of the Metrolink Ticket Kiosk

Only nine out of 90 people surveyed at the University of California Irvine Active Transportation Forum Oct. 17 raised hands to indicate they believe bicycling is safe in Orange County.

Host, Barry Ross, chairman, Alliance for a Healthy Orange County, told the audience of many suits, fewer blue jeans—and about three bike helmets, “That’s why we are here.???

Some 200 politicians, government professionals, and pushy political activists eventually attended during the all-day forum. They want the California Car Culture to make room for walking and bicycling. Conversations were punctuated by such terms as “Complete Streets,??? “multimodal,??? intermodal,??? “last mile,??? “political will,??? and “wellness corridors.???

IT’S THE LAW

Complete Streets is not just a concept. Assembly Bill 1356, the Complete Streets Act, is a 2008 law.

In English, beginning January 2011, AB 1356 requires any local California government to write transportation plans that make sure all people can get to where they are going as easily as drivers of trucks and cars, whether they walk, bicycle, or use public transportation.

AB 1356 targets “pedestrians, bicyclists, children, persons with disabilities, seniors, movers of commercial goods, and users of public transportation.???

Governor Jerry Brown signed a second law Sept. 25, 2013. Senate Bill 99, the Active Transportation Act. consolidates funding of the Bicycle Transportation Account (BTA), the Recreation Trails Program (RTP), The Environmental Mitigation Program (EEM) and Safe Routes. It creates a single Active Transportation Program to promote bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, reads the analysis by California Parks and Recreation Society.

Among the citizens AB 1356 and SB 99 want to help are kids who cannot walk to school safely. Rye Baerg, Safe Routes to School, said 15 percent of urban congestion is parents dropping kids at schools. Pollution and congestion measurably drop when schools are out.

SIDEWALKS AND PAINT, OH, MY!

Baerg said Complete Streets projects begin with widening sidewalks, removing poles in the middle of the sidewalks and creating better street markings. He cited the city of Lancaster as a Complete Streets project. In the downtown and nearby neighborhoods, there are no stoplights, no stop signs. The design of streets psychologically encourages drivers to slow down.

On the other hand, Rock Miller, Stantec, said, Costa Mesa is a place where Complete Streets occurred by accident,. Stantec is an urban planning company with over 200 locations across the United States. Costa Mesa has the highest rate of bicycle commuters in all Orange County—2.8 percent. Costa Mesa never had a bicycle campaign. Its historic infrastructure encourages growth of bike use.

Currently, Miller said Irvine, like most Orange County communities, requires Miller to drive a car just to go from his Irvine office on one side of a boulevard to the Starbucks on the other side.

When 60 percent of people in a community believe bicycling is safe, Miller said, the community will develop a bicycle culture. Sharrow lanes, marked by the bike-and-chevron logos, encourage bicyclists to ride in the center of traffic lanes. It is shown sharrows change driver behavior almost immediately for the better without a public education campaign.

More bicycles do not equal more accidents; Just the opposite. However, he said, in public meetings, 30 percent of the public consistently oppose complete street designs by citing the worst-case accidents that have occurred in the current, poorly-designed environment.

Bikes compete with cars’ efficiency for up to 3 miles of travel. However, Miller said, data is only available for commuting. No one has measured recreational bicycling.

He said complete-street design even makes for better storm water management.

SETTING A POLITICAL AGENDA

A Fullerton street construction zone includes signs warning drivers to share the road.

A Fullerton street construction zone includes signs warning drivers to share the road.

But it all takes political will within a community.

KidWorks in Santa Ana is starting with the children, Ava Steaffens said. KidsWorks organizes CycLavia-like events in Santa Ana in which, for an evening, streets are closed and children and adults can ride freely. It is creating an understanding of what a bicycle-based lifestyle could be. KidsWorks also has workshops on bike repair and safety.

Latino Health Access  is addressing obesity in Santa Ana by creating walking and biking exercise programs. Gloria Giraldo said not only does California have freeways without people, but it has city streets without people. Her group is using a model from Guadalajara, Mexico, which was influenced by the City of Bogota, Colombia. The Veggie Biker observed how Bogota closes major streets on Sundays. Then residents fill the streets with bicycles in what is probably the original CycLavia.

Latino Health Access hopes to turn neighborhoods into wellness corridors using the Complete Streets program.

Giraldo said 25 percent of Active Transportation funds must go to disadvantaged neighborhoods. Economic development maps are used to identify these areas. Giraldo said there is much work to be done in SoCal. “Biking to work is seen in The O.C as what poor people do.??? She sees the political agenda being set with one citizen at a time, one street at a time.

HEALTH PLUS WEALTH

Complete Streets improves the health of everyone, said Baerg. Curb extensions reduced pedestrian injuries by 44 percent in New York City. Walkers and bikers have fewer sick days. Businesses make even more money because walkers and bikers spend more money in local stories.

CHANGE CULTURE OR LOSE COMPANIES

Complete Streets “is a complete culture change. Engineers are used to old ways,??? Baerg said. They are dedicated to traffic flow, not transportation of people. For example, they resist pedestrian buttons that stop traffic immediately when pushed.

And city governments and their electorate are equally resistant. They make emotional decisions and then look for the facts to support the decisions, said Charles Gandy, Livable Communities. The Austin native, who has moved to Long Beach to work on the Long Beach Active Transportation Project, said there are three kinds of cities: Bell Weather, Band Wagon and Backwater.

Cities wanting to develop economically are competing internationally with Bell Weather cities such as Austin, Denver and, yes, Groningen, The Netherlands. Band Wagon cities that just imitate some ideas are in danger of becoming Backwater cities.

He noted young workers are not interested in driving. Cities must focus on serving them. “Long Beach is not boutique city,??? Gandy said, but it is considered a Bell Weather city because it serves young workers.

Companies are leaving Orange County, Gandy said, because young, skilled workers don’t want o work in  car-centric O.C.

There are other benefits to being a Bell Weather. Just by separating bicycles from cars, Long Beach cut car crashes 50 percent.

Pauline chow, Safe Routes to School, said safer streets are not just nice. Twenty-five percent of traffic deaths and 10 percent of traffic injuries are to bicyclists and pedestrians, people who make only 16 percent of the trips.

SUCCESS WORRIES OCTA

The Orange County Transportation Authority  is worrying over success, said Charlie Larwood. By embracing Active Transportation, there is an increase in bicyclists using buses and trains. There is a shortage of bike racks on busses. Twenty-five percent of people riding the busses bicycle the last mile to their destinations. Larwood said OCTA is trying to add secure bicycle racks at bus stops.

Passengers just off the Metrolink train finds busses waiting for them, including those with bike racks, which are becoming in short supply as more bike and bus.

Passengers just off the Metrolink train finds busses waiting for them, including those with bike racks, which are becoming in short supply as more bike and bus.

Even more critical is the statement by a panelist that in a decade, 20 percent of Orange County residents will be over 65 years of age. OCTA speakers said they are very concerned how these less-active citizens, who may no longer drive, get from their homes to the busses and Metrolink.

OCTA is also backing a proposal to add bike lanes in front of all schools and reducing the car lanes to one in each direction. OCTA wants to make children walking and riding bikes to school more attractive than parents driving.

Pamela Galera, Anaheim city planner, said the city’s goal is to reduce driving inside the city by 120,000 miles per day. And reducing school drop-offs will help make the goal reachable.

REDESIGNING TRAFFIC SEWERS

“We are not going to build any more freeways in this area,??? Hasan Ikhrata, Southern California Association of Governments, said. “That’s over.???

But the car is not going away, either, another panelist said.

Frank Peters, bicycle advocate and publisher of CDM Cyclist, denounced “traffic sewers??? such as the Pacific Coast Highway. Designed by 1950s traffic engineers just to move cars, it now must be redesigned as a complete street.

Creating political will for Complete Streets and Active Transportation is a hard challenge, said Los Angeles Bike Coalition executive director, Jennifer Klausner. Every time a project crosses a political boundary, cities fight over the details.

But equally challenging, Klausner said, is “bicycle tribalism. They don’t talk to each other. They want different things.???

Ross said he dreams of a Second Annual Active Transportation Forum in 2014. It appears Orange County politicians and advocates will probably need it to sort out a healthy future.

 

Austin’s Scare for the Cure offers PG-13 frights

Scare for the Cure

Scare for the Cure

Press Release provided by Stephen Mercer, Austin Scare for a Cure

Austin always offers something seasonal for the visiting veggie biker to experience. For Halloween, it is the Scare for a Cure interactive haunted house.

The Veggie Biker has followed this from a distance for several years, listening to tales of saving old buildings for their ghost town and creating scary scenarios. He even accompanied two of the Scare for the Cure volunteers to research Neil Patrick Harris’ haunted mansion in Hollywood last year. They think Scare for a Cure can do it better.

Here’s the official word:

SCARE for a CURE presents Fairy Tale Nightmare???, “Murder at Ghost Town??? and “The Boneyard???

What’s new this year?  This year not only will SCARE for a CURE have our hour long haunted adventure “Fairy Tale Nightmare???, but we’ve added two new events!  “Murder at Ghost Town???, a murder mystery and the “The Boneyard??? fit only for the bravest of souls. 

 ftn-sm

What happens when there are not more happy endings?  It’s all gone horribly, horribly wrong in Fairyland.  You may be the last hope.  Or you may become twisted like all the rest.  Forget what you think you know about Fairy Tales.  Ours are far more grimm than you can imagine! 

murder-sm The year is 1883, and the small town of J. Lorraine, Texas is burning.  Or at least many of the folks who live there are.  Someone committed an unspeakable act of cruelty and murder.  The culprit was never caught and the dead cannot rest until someone solves the crime.  Help the residents of GHOST TOWN find final peace – SOLVE the mystery of the Murder at Ghost Tow

boneyard-smStep in the mouth of madness with The Boneyard, an all-new high SCARE attraction that will have you running for your lives.  Try to find your way out of a twisted pit of the most terrifying monstrosities imaginable! Navigate the cursed junkyard with your worst nightmares nipping at your heels. 

Run entirely by volunteers, SCARE for a CURE has become one of the most popular attractions in Austin, Texas during the Halloween season. But don’t be fooled by the name, while SCARE is definitely passionate about the creation of its unique haunt experiences, the emphasis is really on the word CARE. Each year well over three hundred volunteers come together with a passion to share their talent and make a difference in their community. Last year SCARE donated $20,000 to the Breast Cancer Resource Centers of Texas, and a percentage of our 2013 proceeds from the interactive haunted adventure will again benefit the BCRC.
Contact:Norma Crippen, Co-Founder/Marketing Director, SCARE for CURE, 512-669-2581www.scareforacure.org

Bicycle Travel: Does your bike belong in a Bicycle Zoo?

bikebat560

Photos copyright 2013 Robert R. Mercer

The Veggie Biker felt a bit like an Alice in a Wonderland when creatures from Austin’s Bicycle Zoo was spotted at the Austin Mini Maker Faire May 5. While the Veggie Biker used a Lytro Light Gathering System Camera to photograph Austin, he felt the exotic bicycles deserve even more exotic images.

Rather than use the original Lytro images, in which the viewer can zoom, focus and shift perspective, the Veggie Biker pulled out a Photography 101 assignment he created in Prague–3-D Stereoscopic Images. The assignment came about when he discovered folding stereo post cards with built-in viewers. Instead of making two images and mounting them together, the perspective shift of the Lytro allows you to make a stereoscopic image with just one exposure. You can shoot moving objects!

Of course, you don’t have an old-fashioned viewer; and you probably don’t want to order an inexpensive folding viever, so, just cross your eyes. You can cross your eyes, can’t you? Really, cross your eyes and put your nose about 5 inches away from screen. Ah, yes, that’s it.

owlbike

merrygoround

dinosaurbike

butterflybike

butterflyriders

BicycleTravel: Discovering Weird Austin

Austin may not have made the final cut behind Denver and Portland in REI’s Cycling Town Showdown, but the town remains a top destination for bicyclists looking for a long weekend escape.

The south shore of Lady Bird Lake, a portion of the Colorado River that is damed next to downtown, is lined with bicycle rental places. The Veggie Biker’s group chose Austin’s Bicycle Sport Shop to rent bikes. They have several models of pedal and electric bicycles. But they were out of electric bikes that first weekend in May because it was the Pecan Street Festival and all the electric bikes were rented. But it did seem everyone had a bike on Old Pecan Street, today famously known as 6th Street, the self-proclaimed center of live music in America.

Before you choose a weekend, you may wish to see which festival Austin is celebrating that week. The Veggie Biker’s never been there but what there were a lot of people gathered somewhere toasting something.

You can reserve a bike online at most bike shops. Bicycle Sport Shop charged $40 for the day; $52 for 24 hours. The paperwork was efficiently dispatched. Bikes were fitted to the riders. More importantly, the shop keeps the bikes in excellent repair. Everything is tight. The gears shift smoothly.

But that is not all the shop offers, the Veggie Biker learned.

The competition for the most bike-friendly city must have been close. Austin has a maze of bicycle trails along the river. There are bridges at regular intervals for those wanting to cross to the other shore of Lake Austin.

The lakes offers kayaks, paddle boards and even water bicycles. Just exploring around the lake gives one ideas for the next visit to the determinedly weirdest city in America.

Along with Austin drivers displaying a developing-respect for share-the-road, the city continues expanding its web of bike trails and lanes, plus its bike-friendly mass transit. The relatively new Capitol Metro currently has one route. It meant the Veggie Biker and company could ditch their car out in the “Silicon Valley” section of North Austin and ride to within two blocks of the Pecan Street Fest. At the end of the line on 4th Street, a quick change to the number 30 bus took us to the bike shop. A single-day pass covered train and bus.

The only real flaw in Austin’s mass transit development is the lack of a train from the airport to downtown. It is planned when the city gets money, rail workers tell you.

If the mass transit system does not always serve, the bike shop sure does. Coming back to the bicycles after choosing an Indian lunch from among the smorgasbord of ethnic food wagons, one of the tires on the three bikes was flat–like totally. A phone call to the bike shop and Steve Pierce was on the line saying, “Wait a minute. I’ll be right there.”

Yes, Austin has bicycle road service. In about 20 minutes, Steve was peeling off the tire and putting in a new tube. Minutes later, the bikes were rolling toward South Congress Avenue, directly south across the river from the Texas Capitol.

Exploring Old Austin, now “being gentrified by affluent couples with counter-culture leanings,” according to one citizen, made one realize, in Austin, you almost always ride in the shade of really large old trees.

The veggie biker and company returned the bikes to Bicycle Sport Shop. Mike Wachler offered the Veggie Biker the chance to ride a new Stromer pedal-assist elctric bike. That test ride is in an earlier post.

A walk back across Lady Bird Lake led to good bar-b-que and a train ride home.

The Austin Mini Makers Faire on Sunday, May 5 gave one a full sampler of people who help “Keep Austin Weird.” This exhibition is a collection of sustainable technologists, producers of solar collectors and rammed earth bricks; plus cutting edge technogeeks with 3-D printers and robots–and massive geegaw machinery that should work, but is not designed to make anything more than light and noise.

And everyone appeared to love bikes; and adapting bikes; and making bicycle clothing. The Lil’ Red BMX Solar tracker will keep your solar panel focused on the Sun because the inventor found the BMX bike frame served as a perfect, pre-fab pivot frame. A science teacher is building a steam-powered bicycle–well, at least it will look steam powered–with his students. And one of the “Fine Southern Gentlemen” carries his silk screen printer on a tricycle.

The highlight is the Bicycle Zoo of pedal-powered beasties that roam with glowing eyes and flapping wings. But that’s a separate post. Look for it!

Except for th drive back to the airport. Austin gives a visitor little reason to have a car–and several reasons not to. However, there are many sustainable ways to get around Austin, if not voted the most bike-friendly city, certainly it would be voted the weirdest biking town.