Transportation headlines, Thursday, May 28

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Editorial: CicLAvia Pasadena much more than a cycling festival (San Gabriel Valley Tribune) 

The editorial likes the event and would like to see Colorado Boulevard closed to cars much more often:

Two lanes should be taken out every other day. Parklets should bloom along its curbs. Whole blocks should be shut down to traffic much of the time for farmers markets and other strolling-oriented commerce. Wouldn’t that be anti-business? The reverse is true. You can discover a lot more, and buy a lot more, on foot than zooming by at 35 mph. Come Sunday, walkers and riders going the whole route will see places they had no idea existed before. Colorado is paralleled by two one-way streets, Union and Green, that can handle all the necessary automotive traffic.

Interesting. Works for me. That said, it’s kind of strange the editorial doesn’t mention something else important: that Pasadena finally has a new proposed bike plan that might make it easier to reach some of the six Gold Line stations in Pasadena a little easier. It also might make cycling in Pasadena safer: there have been 543 reported bike-related injuries in Pasadena between 2009 and 2014 and five fatalities.

As a cyclist and long-time Pasadena resident, I don’t think the existing bike infrastructure is any great shakes. Here’s the map of the existing and proposed changes — unfortunately it doesn’t show the location of Gold Line stations. The map also doesn’t show some other proposed improvements for “Roseways” and “bike boulevards” that could make biking on smaller residential streets more comfortable.

I’d be interested to know what Pasadena residents think of the plan. Leave a comment or email me. Addendum: the Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition advocates for biking improvements (among other things) and you may find their website to be a good source of non-government info about the proposed bike plan.

Existingbike

Bicycle safety facts (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

Excerpt:

In 2013, there were 743 pedalcyclists killed and an estimated 48,000 injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Pedalcyclist deaths accounted for 2 percent of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities (Table 1) and injured pedalcyclists made up 2 percent of the people injured in traffic crashes during the year.

The number of pedalcyclists killed in 2013 is 1 percent higher than the 734 pedalcyclists killed in 2012. The increase in 2013 is the third straight increase in pedalcyclist fatalities, a 19-percent increase since 2010.

I’m sure that the numbers will continue to generate discussion about bike safety. One thing to keep in mind is that the rise in bike injuries likely coincides with a rise in biking. That said, I think most people agree that’s no excuse for continuing to make cycling safer and to try to minimize bike-car conflicts.

California could soon legalize motorcycle lane-splitting (L.A. Times) 

The Legislature will soon vote on a bill that would legalize lane-splitting, a popular practice which is neither outlawed or expressly allowed by the law. The bill would allow motorcyclists to travel between lanes at 15 mph faster than traffic is moving up to a speed of 50 mph. Some say the change doesn’t go far enough, others say this would make lane-splitting safer and still others say the practice is dangerous at any speed.

Tough issue. Speaking personally (and as a Subaru driver), I think the 15 mph cap make sense as it seemingly removes the big differentials in speed that can make lane-splitting a frightening thing to watch at times.

I sell handmade rosaries (Zocalo Public Square)

Carmiña Villamizar. Photo by Zocalo Public Square.

Carmiña Villamizar. Photo by Zocalo Public Square.

The latest in Zocalo’s ongoing series of profiles of Metro riders.

New Jersey faces a transportation funding crisis with no clear solution (New York Times)  

Beautiful New Jersey. Photo by Jazz Guy, via Flick creative commons.

Beautiful New Jersey. Photo by Jazz Guy, via Flick creative commons.

Everyone agrees roads and rails need major repairs. But a state fund to pay for the fixes is due to run out of funds in 2016 with no solution agreed upon. One result: New Jersey Transit commuter rail riders are facing a big fare increase that they say doesn’t match the service they get.

A state gas tax increase — New Jersey’s taxes are second-lowest in the nation — is one way out, but that’s an option with little appeal for Gov. Chris Christie. Critics say his presidential ambitions don’t exactly jibe with a tax increase while others are still incensed that in 2010 he canceled a project that would have added a new rail tunnel between Manhattan and Jersey.

Random thought: what Jersey lacks in modernized infrastructure it still has in good music. A little something from the relief concert for Hurricane Sandy…

Project exodus (New Yorker) 

The reddish planet. Photo: NASA.

The reddish planet. Photo: NASA.

A thoughtful book review and essay of sorts on interplanetary transit — in particular, attempts to colonize Mars. Take it away, Elizabeth Kolbert:

Every sensate being we’ve encountered in the universe so far—from dogs and humans and mice to turtles and spiders and seahorses—has evolved to suit the cosmic accident that is Earth. The notion that we could take these forms, most beautiful and most wonderful, and hurl them into space, and that this would, to use Petranek’s formulation, constitute “our best hope,” is either fantastically far-fetched or deeply depressing.

As Impey points out, for six decades we’ve had the capacity to blow ourselves to smithereens. One of these days, we may well do ourselves in; certainly we’re already killing off a whole lot of other species. But the problem with thinking of Mars as a fallback planet (besides the lack of oxygen and air pressure and food and liquid water) is that it overlooks the obvious. Wherever we go, we’ll take ourselves with us. Either we’re capable of dealing with the challenges posed by our own intelligence or we’re not. Perhaps the reason we haven’t met any alien beings is that those which survive aren’t the type to go zipping around the galaxy. Maybe they’ve stayed quietly at home, tending their own gardens.

Concur. Mechanical space exploration works for me. Besides, we should probably deal with our infrastructure issues on planet Earth before building infrastructure on other planets, including the reddish ones.

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18 replies

  1. Besides, we should probably deal with our infrastructure issues on planet Earth before building infrastructure on other planets, including the reddish ones.

    As a longtime space enthusiast, I couldn’t disagree more with this sentiment. Admittedly, there’s a much bigger gap (and far greater challenges) than there were in 1492, but how much of a setback would it have been if Columbus thought that way? How about Marco Polo? Magellan? Would any exploration happen if we always thought “Let’s take care of our domestic problems first, before we go looking for more?”

    We have the advantage of using robotic pathfinders, which the early terrestrial explorers lacked, but short of the development of self-aware artificial intelligence, the practical limits of remote-controlled robotics are always going to be a limiting factor.

    Finally, as we’ve seen throughout NASA’s entire history, the space program has yielded benefits far outstripping its expense. Technology developed to make Mars or Venus habitable could be useful to help fix the problems we’ve created here on Earth through hundreds of years of burning fossil fuels. Right now, Earth is our only biosphere – and we’re slowly poisoning it with our greed. We have very little room in which to try and find solutions. We can’t just go and test a hypothesis on a suitable, uninhabited world–except for the two right in our own cosmic backyard.

    Echoing Interstellar,

    Mankind was born on Earth. It was never meant to die here.

    • “but how much of a setback would it have been if Columbus thought that way? How about Marco Polo? Magellan?”

      Simple difference.

      Most of explorations you’ve cited were had an underlying motive: trading. The age of exploration was also the age of mercantilism (read: pre-capitalism). Seek out new lands and enhance new trading opportunities. European contacts with the Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans during the 1400s-1600s were based on that. Some even became advisers to their culture (read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Adams_(sailor) ; an Englishman who became a confidante of the Tokugawa shogunate in introducing western-style sail ships and arms to the samurai)

      Put them in negative terms, words like “conquering new lands,” “enslaving the indigenous peoples,” “forcibly converting them to Christianity against their will,” “exploitation of natural resources” and “bringing new diseases” also come into play. Spanish conquistadors like Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro who led the fall of the Aztecs and Incan Empires come into mind. And we share a dark history of slave ships/slave trading too.

      Space exploration does not have that motive: it lacks an incentive for profit. Space exploration is purely based on advancing scientific knowledge.

      And unfortunately, mankind has still yet to invent the first star ship capable of warp drive, food replicators, transporters, holodecks, create the United Federation of Planets or have a evolved to the point of respecting the Prime Directive. We’re still stuck in the age of killing each other over petty differences like religion, ideology, etc. etc.

      • And unfortunately, mankind has still yet to invent the first star ship capable of warp drive, food replicators, transporters, holodecks, create the United Federation of Planets or have a evolved to the point of respecting the Prime Directive. We’re still stuck in the age of killing each other over petty differences like religion, ideology, etc. etc.

        What are you trying to say, that we need to wait until after World War III for Zefram Cochrane to invent the first warp drive, before we go out and start exploring in person? Do you realize how absurd that sounds?

        NASA’s budget, as a fraction of the federal budget, has been steadily decreasing ever since Nixon killed the Apollo program. It got mired up in inter-agency politics, resulting in the Shuttle era – where science was accomplished despite political roadblocks and bureaucratic infighting, but people died as a result.

        Our problem as a society is a lack of vision. NASA’s current budget is about 1/100th of the amount of money we sunk into Iraq – or to put it another way, with the money we spent on war with Iraq, we could have funded space exploration at current levels for 100 years.

        People like to pick on the space program as if it’s some sort of useless boondoggle with no benefits to society. They couldn’t be more wrong.

        For the science and technology it has produced, the space program is cheap.

        War? Now that’s expensive. Gut the military-industrial complex, and we could fully fund both NASA and transportation in all forms.

      • “War? Now that’s expensive. Gut the military-industrial complex, and we could fully fund both NASA and transportation in all forms.”

        Most would agree with the sentiment that the US should stop wasting money in wars which costed taxpayers trillions in dollars that could’ve been spent here. However, that doesn’t mean our government at home shouldn’t also be able to tighten their own belt too for the benefit of taxpayers.

        Alternative view is that SpaceX (a private company) is starting to do many things NASA does at a fraction of the cost that is being spent on NASA, and unlike NASA, SpaceX is located right here in Southern CA (Hawthorne) which contributes directly to the CA economy. Of course, it won’t be time SpaceX moves to TX the way things are going with the anti-business climate in CA so if you’re a space enthusiast, you might want to consider writing to your politicians in Sacramento to stop interfering with the space businesses in CA lest they want them more moved to other states.

        Another alternative view is that there are countries around the world that have proven themselves that it’s very well possible to run mass transit profitably as a private enterprise, with little or no government (taxpayer) assistance. And one cannot say that it can’t be possible the US when densely populated cities like Hong Kong can run their transit at a profit as a corporation with stability in fares, whereas another densely populated city in the US like NYC runs at a complete loss under misguided municipal government authorities and continuously raises fares all the time.

  2. “I think the 15 mph cap make sense as it seemingly removes the big differentials in speed that can make lane-splitting a frightening thing to watch at times.” Really? If I’m driving at 35 mph (which means on a freeway you are in moderately heavy traffic), having a motorcyclist fly by at 50 mph while lane splitting seems very frightening to me.

  3. I am a Pasadena resident and look forward to Sunday’s CicLAvia event. I am also very excited to learn about the city’s bike plan. Currently Pasadena has bike route signage all over the city but these routes are misnomers as they offer absolutely no bike friendly amenities other than a simple street sign. For example, I don’t know who would consider riding on Del Mar at Los Robles to be a bike friendly route. Unfortunately I fear this plan won’t be implemented for another 10 or so years. I wish they would fast-track better cycling conditions through Old Town. Right now the bike lanes only reach Old Town’s borders, e.g. the Morengo bike lanes and the planned Union cycle track doesn’t go all the way through.

    • Hi Moel;

      Couldn’t agree with you more about Del Mar and some of those other ‘bike route’ signs. They were put there years ago to indicate those streets are good for biking — obviously the persons who put them there and allowed them to remain there either don’t use the streets, don’t bicycle on them or both. It’s one of those things to make it appear that something is being done when, in fact, nothing is being done. As a longtime Pasadena resident I also hope that the bike plan is implemented sooner rather than later.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. Lane splitting is very much needed for motorcyclists in LA. It’s the only way we’re able to get our commutes done without being stuck in traffic like the rest of the cagers (that means car drivers to non-motorcycle riders). Otherwise, it’s pretty idiotic for one motorcycle to hog up an entire car space that contributes to more traffic jams when they’re just as agile enough to squeeze by in-between cars.

    http://i.imgur.com/A64aaae.gif

    I’d also add to the political cartoon above: “saves a lot of money in gas,” “saving huge $$$ in auto insurance,” and “it’s a lot cheaper than a car.”

    • Our roads were not designed to accommodate lane-splitting. When we see lane-splitting motorcycles approaching and we skew to open up space for the lane-splitters to pass through ….No, it is not that we are courteous. It is only because we are not so sure about their skills and don’t want them to scratch our cars.

      • Hard to prove your argument when road width differs from place to place. You can’t put an one size fits all argument to support your claims without facts and data.

        Road widths varies from a small back alley, to city streets in DTLA to suburban surface streets. Space for lane splittimg can also change depending on size of vehicles; you can’t argue that all vehicles have the same width so space for lane splitting is the same between two subcompact vehicles or between two big rigs.

      • “Our roads were not designed to accommodate lane-splitting.”

        Where exactly is “our” roads that you are specifically referring to?

        Roads in all of the State of California? Because that’s what this is, a statewide law legalizing lane-splitting. Traffic laws in CA are regulated by the CA DMV and it’s a statewide mandate; that’s why local surface streets is 35 mph whether you’re driving in Fresno or driving in DTLA, and freeway speeds are 65 mph whether you’re driving on the I-5 in Fresno County or the I-5 in Los Angeles County (though hardly one can get up to 65 mph in LA traffic).

        Roads in Fresno and Bakersfield are wider than roads in Los Angeles and San Francisco. You can argue that lane splitting is more “safer” in “wider” roads, but state law regarding lane-splitting cannot discriminate to say it’s legal in Fresno County but illegal in LA County, much like state traffic laws can’t say local surface streets can go 50 mph in Fresno but 35 mph in LA.

        Of course, road sizes also differ within cities in a county so that’s another issue. Lancaster/Palmdale and Santa Monica are two different cities with average road sizes too so you can’t just simply say “lane-splitting should be illegal in LA County” because road sizes can vary between cities within LA County as well.

        So you might say “then just make lane-splitting illegal in the City of Los Angeles!” but that too cannot be applied as road sizes can differ within cities too. You have the City of Los Angeles where roads in San Fernando Valley are wider than roads in Koreatown.

        When you say “our” you do not speak for the rest of California, the rest of LA County, and the rest of City of Los Angeles.

  5. People who are against lane-splitting as a “safety issue” is just a mask for “I think they’re cheaters being able to cut across me, they shouldn’t be allowed to do that; they need to suffer the same traffic jams like the rest of us!”

    Everything is a “safety issue” for these people who want to ban everything, like how jungle gyms are “safety issues,” children walking home alone is a “safety issue,” smoking pot is a “safety issue” same sex marriage is a “safety issue” it’s all about morality this, safety that, won’t someone please think of the children and stuff like that. “Safety issues” this, “safety issues” that, it’s like the modern day form of “separate but equal” when it’s really about control. Deep down, they’re just haters and they just use “it’s about safety” as an excuse to cover their bigotry.

    Keep it up, let’s continue to ban everything! It’s all in the name of safety!
    http://www.political-humor.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/life-is-dangerous-ban-everything-for-your-safety.jpg

    • Excellent points about ‘safety issues’. Some folks refuse to believe that life has alway been a series of risk – benefit tradeoffs.

      Space exploration is a grand adventure that we should continue, but barring some unforseen technology I can’t see populating a distant planet as a panacea for fixing our own. Americans especially need to …….

      plant More Trees, have far Fewer Children.

      • “have far Fewer Children.”

        Disagree. The view isn’t shared by many here in the US and it certainly isn’t government’s business to get into population control either. Much like government shouldn’t be butting their nose into everything in the name of “safety” (which I face a lot: the TSA) like a nanny state, government should stay away from procreation, what the origin of life is, what goes on in the private lives in peoples’ bedroom, or going around telling their citizens they can only have certain number of children.

        The last thing we need is a “one child policy” that Communist China imposes upon their people. We’re not Communist.

  6. It is interesting to learn that there are many changes being made in transportation. It is important to always progress in technology.I would like to learn more about how to improve transportation systems.