Portland

20120404-224509.jpgI have been in Oregon City, Oregon, for the last few days visiting my friend Tim, as well as Patti who came over to join us from Idaho. We worked together in the Superstition Wilderness in Arizona many years ago.

Monday I spent in Portland while Tim was working. Since I don’t have my bike with me on this trip (I miss it), I was focused more on walking and transit.

I walked all over the downtown area and along the river. Not once did I see a motor vehicle encroach on a crosswalk with a pedestrian in it, which is a common occurrence in Sacramento, though I’m sure it happens. Sidewalks are wide throughout most of downtown, but not on some of the older streets where new development or redevelopment has not taken place. Street furniture is common. In parts of town such as the Pearl District and Chinatown, there are frequent kiosks with maps of the streets and interesting destinations.
Continue reading “Portland”

Co-op relocation

20120402-144029.jpgThe Sacramento Natural Foods Coop is considering relocation to 28th and R streets. As a coop member, I’m interested in how the new location addresses transportation. Though plans are preliminary and vague, here is my reaction to what is available so far on the website at http://www.sacfoodcoop.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1726:store-relocation-update.

  1. The new location is a bit closer to the 29th Street RT Gold Line light rail station. It is about the same distance from the RT bus routes 38, 67, and 68. Transit accessibility is a key locational factor, so this is good.
  2. There seems to be no special consideration for bus riders using the routes on 29th St. There could be a bus bay, large bus shelter, large but landscaped waiting pad, and a clear pathway from the bus stop to the store without having to cross through the parking lot and/or cross the driveway entrance-exit. These might be included and not shown on the generalized drawing, but I rather suspect that they weren’t even considered.
  3. The building is oriented to face the surface parking lot, not to face the street. The message of this orientation is that members who drive are more important than members who live in the community and walk or bike to the store.
  4. Bike parking seems an afterthought. The drawing appears to have 16 bike parking spaces, north of the store entrance, while there are 302 vehicle parking spaces. Common practice in cities with high livability is 20% of all parking for bikes, which would be 60 bike parking spaces. The bike parking area is also further away from the entrance than several non-handicapped spaces, which should never be the case. In the conceptual schematic drawing, the bike parking may be contained in the weird structure that sort of looks like a water tower.
  5. Several news articles in local media and in the Co-op Reporter have emphasized the additional parking but said nothing about bike parking, or other modes of transportation, and I suspect this is not an oversight. Does the staff and board regularly bike to the store, or drive? I don’t know, but the emphasis on parking is an indicator.

Given the stated mission of the co-op, “…consumer-owned natural foods grocery store that places the values of cooperation and sustainability at the forefront. Our focus is to benefit our owners, support our local growers, participate in our community and protect the environment,” every instance of a member or customer driving to the store instead of getting there by active transportation is a step away from these goals.

I hope that the co-op will revise its plans to reach out to people who walk, bike and use transit.

Utility pole in the bike lane

Note: I have moved this post here from my personal blog, since it fits better here, and it is the post that got me started on this blog.

The photos are of a bike lane with a utility pole in the middle of it. This is Fair Oaks Blvd westbound, just west of New York Ave, in the Carmichael area of Sacramento County. The first photo is from a distance, showing the clear bike lane markings. The second photo is closer, showing the pole dead (yes, DEAD) center in the bike lane.

I can think of a million irate things I’d like to say about this situation, but perhaps I’ll restrain myself and let the photos speak for themselves. I will say that, though this is the most egregious bike facility hazard I’ve seen in Sacramento County, it is far from the only.

   

Vigilante drivers

I’ve been thinking about a post on vigilante drivers even before starting this blog, but my experience yesterday means this is the topic for today.

vigilante: any person who takes the law into his or her hands, as by avenging a crime

Yesterday afternoon is was riding home from Howe Avenue Elementary School, there to provide lessons in pedestrian safety. Southbound on Howe Ave, there are no bike lanes, but there are three traffic lanes and traffic was light. As I rode in the middle of the right-most lane, 11 or 12 feet wide, not wide enough to share with a motor vehicle, vehicles changed lanes to pass, in a smooth flow of traffic, and I had gone quite some distance with no issues. One vehicle behind me decided to do otherwise. The driver started honking and yelling, and when I did not move out of the lane, accelerated hard past me, coming close enough that I felt some part of the vehicle brush my sleeve. It is hard to say whether she intended to kill me or to intimidate me, but in either case she was acting as what I call a vigilante driver. These are people who are sure that it is illegal for you to be riding your bike on the road, and since no law enforcement is present, decide to take the law into their own hands and become judge, jury and executioner, using their vehicle to carry out the punishment. Continue reading “Vigilante drivers”

Aggressive midtown drivers

I’ve only lived in midtown a while, but from the first it was clear to me that here was a walker and bicyclist paradise, at least in comparison to where I’d lived before, Carson City, and where I work, Citrus Heights. It still seems a bicyclist paradise to me, but I’m seeing the dark side for pedestrians. This may be a recent development, or perhaps I’ve just become more aware of the reality. Though I bike more than I walk, I’m certainly a pedestrian too, and there are a large number of pedestrians in midtown.

Many drivers in midtown are aggressive towards pedestrians. At times I think this is mostly commuters who live elsewhere and just work here, but at times I’m sure it includes the people who live here as well. Driver behavior I see on a daily basis:

  • Speeding: drivers exceed the posted speed limit, especially on the one-way streets
  • Failure to yield: drivers do not yield to pedestrians in marked and unmarked crosswalks; this is a violation of the law
  • Failure to stop: drivers do not stop in additional lanes when one driver has stopped; this is a violation of the law
  • Aggressiveness: drivers do not yield to pedestrians waiting to use marked and unmarked crosswalks; this is a violation of human decency

Continue reading “Aggressive midtown drivers”

TransitRenewal and Route 1

Sacramento Regional Transit (SacRT) is working on a project that they call TransitRenewal. It is an effort to rebuild the transit system that existed prior to 2010 when it was decimated by cuts. People who live in the downtown/mid-town/EastSac area mostly notice that the system stops running very early in the evening, but people who live in the more outlying area of the regional suffer from the full extent of the decimation. Signs that say “temporarily no bus service” are found along arterial streets everywhere, as many the routes simply don’t exist anymore. SacRT wants to bring back the most useful of these routes, as well as to extend the schedule by about two hours, ending soon after 11 instead of soon after 8.

The next event in the TransitRenewal process is a hearing on Monday, March 26, starting at 6:00PM, at the RT Auditorium at 1400 29th St, Sacramento. I encourage you to take a look at the website, pick one or a few routes of importance to you, and then go to the hearing and speak about these routes. SacRT hearings are often lightly attended, so your voice has a impact than you’d think. If you can’t attend the hearing, you can comment online, by phone, or at some less formal outreach opportunities.

SacRT was also involved in an effort by Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) to document Unmet Transit Needs. As part of both these processes, I investigated the current situation and possible improvement of several routes that I am concerned about. I recently posted about how to improve bicycle access on light rail, and below are my thoughts about Route 1, which runs from McClelland to Sunrise Mall in the northeast suburbs of Sacramento county. Continue reading “TransitRenewal and Route 1”

Car free

my Volkswagen Golf, under snow - I biked this day

I’ve been car free since August 2011, when I finalized my move from Carson City to Sacramento. I have been trimming down use of my car, driving less each year. This was not an insignificant accomplishment, given that in the not too distant past I regularly drove 25,000 mile per year, but the final year it was down to about 3,500. I never brought my car over from Carson City, instead loaning it to a friend who used it sometimes, and I used it sometimes when I was in Carson City and needed to transport things for work, or to the Goodwill as I was also gradually getting rid of many of my possessions. And I eventually gave it to her. I think fondly of my car, as it was cute and reliable and got me where I needed to go, but I don’t miss driving it.

I had been thinking about becoming car free for a long time, and wondering what it would be like. The questions, the raised eyebrows, of my friends and acquaintances made me think it might be a big deal, but in the end it turned out to be pretty much a non-event. All it took was a commitment to planning out my life better and not using the car as a crutch for lack of planning or forethought. It just isn’t part of my life anymore, and unless people ask me about it or I write a blog post on it, I don’t think about it.

Continue reading “Car free”

Blogs I read

I read one transportation blog religiously: StreetsBlog. The four sub-blogs, for New York, where it originated, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Capitol Hill, generate their own blog posts, but also serve as an aggregator for transportation blog over North America, and to a small degree the world. The news is of very local issues, as specific as neighborhoods and streets, city, state, regional, and national issues. Some are serious, some irreverent. Some are offered by advocacy organizations, some by professional planners, some with academic expertise, and some by interested individuals.

Among the blogs linked from StreetsBlog that I often click through to are Kaid Benfeld on NRDC’s Switchboard, The Transport Politic, Grist, and How We Drive. Kaid, as well as some other bloggers on Switchboard, cover the political, environmental, and livability aspects of transportation, and the Transport Politic covers similar ground but is written by a planner, Yonah Freemark. Grist addresses environmental issues through several bloggers, including a former editor at StreetsBlog, Ellie Blue. How We Drive is by Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), probably the best book I’ve read on the culture of driving. I’m sure you’ll find something interesting on StreetsBlog.

And while you are there, click on over to StreetFilms, a wonderful collection of short and entertaining spots on improving transportation system and livability.

Let me know what blogs interest you!

Climate Change

20120318-102104.jpgThe Sacramento News & Review this week included an insert from the City of Sacramento entitled Climate Change in Your Hands. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it. I’m not sure if it was also in the Sacramento Bee, since I don’t read the Bee regularly. The insert is remarkably strong in its support of climate change, without any of the tea party denialism that shows up in so much of the printed and broadcast media.

The graph at right shows the transportation element of greenhouse gas emissions for Sacramento, and it is the largest, at 48%. The city’s Climate Action Plan (at http://sacgp.org/cap.html) has a goal of reducing vehicles miles traveled (VMT) by 7% by 2012 and 16% by 2025. Both seem to me rather weak goals, but are nevertheless imperative as at least a starting point.

“Cruising the green lane” on John “Bucky” Perez talks about his shift to biking rather than driving the five miles to work. He talks about the money savings, the health benefits, and that biking gets him energized in the morning and unwound at the end of the day.

The “What can I do” sidebar list seven individual actions, including checking your Walk Score (which I posted about yesterday). The others are: 1) support sustainable land use initiatives; 2) think about moving; 4) try finding a job closer to home; 5) telecommute; 6) shift daily trips to walking, and 7) drive more efficiently. Each of these is worth exploring in more detail.

These may seem like pretty big changes, particularly where you work and live, but think about that fact that most people these days change jobs a number of times and residences several times. Each of these changes is an opportunity to make a decision for sustainability.

Walk Score

Walk Score offers an assessment of the walkability of any location. It is available in any browser at http://walkscore.org/, and is also available as a free app for the iPhone and Android, and in any browser at https://www.walkscore.com. Walk Score is based on the distance to the places people want to go, such as grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, bars, movie theaters, schools, parks, libraries, bookstores, fitness locations, drug stores, hardware stores, and clothing & music.

I live at O St and 16 St in mid-town Sacramento P and 12th in downtown Sacramento, which has a WalkScore of 85, very walkable, shown at right. The R St and 16th St corridors, which have higher scores, are easy walking distance. The Neighborhood section of the app offers Walk Score, Transit Score, and Bike Score, but for the entire neighborhood of downtown, not for specific address.

The browser interface offers more information, for both specific addresses and general areas such as Sacramento. The graphic below is only part of the web page. Note that the results from the app and the web site are not the same, and I don’t know why, but they are similar enough that it should not make a big difference.

The exact algorithm that weights these amenities is not public, but you can get an idea by selecting the Street Smarts Walk Score option. Having six grocery stores within 0.6 miles, eight restaurants within 0.2 miles, and eight coffee shops within 0.3 miles supports my score. One critical item not on the list is farmers’ markets, which I would weight very highly, though the seasonal nature of most farmers’ markets might be a challenge. The closest one to me is two blocks away, but it only runs May through September. It is only 1.4 miles to the year-round farmers’ market at 8th St and W St. Some performance theatres show up in the movie theaters category, but some of them do not, so I’d make that a separate category since plays are such an important part of my life.

Continue reading “Walk Score”