A Recent History of Bike Lanes in the U.S.

May 13, 2014

As frustratingly slow as Ecocity change seems to be at times, good people are working on good projects all the time. Look no further than the streets of San Francisco at the astounding development of bike infrastructure there. In the past 5 years designated bike lanes, bulb-outs and the like have exploded. Riding “The Wiggle”–a winding path that avoids the steepest hills between downtown and the Panhandle–has gone from a terrifying race through speeding traffic on Market, Oak and Fell streets, to a much saner and more accessible protected bike lane route. The signature green paint and share-os of bike lanes seem to multiply every week.

San Francisco’s rapid development of cycling infrastructure is no accident, and is not simply the work of Bicycle Coalition lobbying. The Fog City is part of a network of cities organized by the Department of Transportation called PeopleForBikes Green Lane Project. The Green Lane Project creates a bridge (and funding opportunities) for bike advocacy groups and city governments to work together to improve urban biking conditions. Selected cities receive up to $250,000 of financial, strategic and technical assistance from the project for building protected bike lanes.

In cities across America, investing in bicycle transportation is transitioning from an add-on catering to few cyclist hobbyists to an essential component of citizen transportation. In the last two years, the number of protected lane projects in the country has nearly doubled, reports Streetsblog. According to the Green Lane Project, 48% of all trips in the U.S. are 4 miles or less–a perfectly acceptable cycling distance for most riders. Protected bike lanes not only protect riders, but shave been shown to reduce traffic crashes for all street users by 34%. Dividers, bulb-outs, and other road development “help to make drivers more aware of their surroundings and more cautious.”

The payoff on cycling investment continues beyond the safety and enjoyment of the cycling experience to addressing pressing needs for urban transportation in the coming years.

“When you have a swelling population like the USA has and will have for the next 35 years, one of the most cost-effective ways to better fit that population is to better use the existing grid,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx at a recent Green Lane Project gathering. Bikes are part of the solution to a highway trust fund that is “teetering toward insolvency” by August or September, he said.

Six U.S. cities–Austin, Chicago, Memphis, Portland, San Francisco and Washington, DC–began the Green Lane Project in 2012. This April the partner cities expanded to include Atlanta,  Boston, Denver, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Seattle.

To celebrate the new city partners, the Green Lane Project has released a short film highlighting the advances in cycling infrastructure of the last few years. Enjoy!

The Rise of Protected Bike Lanes in the U.S. from Green Lane Project on Vimeo.

Liberating Streets

July 26, 2012

By Sven Eberlein

Sunday Streets returned to my neighborhood in San Francisco’s Mission District. Sunday Streets is an event organized by the City of San Francisco, MTA, and Livable City that creates a large, temporary, public space by closing off stretches of a neighborhood’s streets to automobile traffic, and opening them to pedestrians, bicyclists, and activities. Or to be more specific, a huge street party for old and young to come out and be human for a day.

sunday streets 1

I’ve posted about Sunday Streets quite a few times and I keep telling myself that I don’t need to do it again, but what makes this event so special is that it’s never quite the same. Each time I go, even for just a couple of hours, there are new sights and sounds.

The people who’ve been there before keep reinventing themselves, and all the first-timers add so many new layers of fun and creativity that it’s hard to keep up. I really can’t say it enough, but when the streets are for the people and the people get out of their cars, really cool, creative, and unexpected stuff happens, just like that.

sunday streets 2

Of course, there were the usual suspects, like the lindyhoppers…

Sunday Streets, June 3, 2012

the hula-hooping kids…

Sunday Streets, June 3, 2012

and the finger-pickers…

Sunday Streets, June 3, 2012

there was serious chillin’ out…

Sunday Streets, June 3, 2012

and the roller-blading acrobatics…

Sunday Streets, June 3, 2012

There were some variations on familiar themes. For example I’d seen lots of cute pets and heard cool tunes, but I hadn’t seen the bulldog standing in as a flyer for a sidewalk sale…

Sunday Streets, June 3, 2012

or a Balkan brass band smokin’ it up…

Sunday Streets, June 3, 2012

But I knew something was up when even bubble girl — a Sunday Streets institution — was stopped in her tracks. Was that really what I think it was?

Sunday Streets, June 3, 2012

Yup, it was a mechanical pony, a modern day hobby horse made for streets of few cars. Bubble girl couldn’t resist a closer encounter…

Sunday Streets, June 3, 2012

But wait, that wasn’t it. As we kept walking, they kept coming in our direction…

Sunday Streets, June 3, 2012

as if it was the most normal thing in the world, like checking your emails…

Sunday Streets, June 3, 2012

Indeed, this could become a daily sight if it’s up to these guys bringing horses back to the mission district…

Sunday Streets, June 3, 2012

This kind of transportation may seem a little unusual, but I think it really signifies the bigger kind of changes we need to see in how we get around in our cities, if not literally but definitely symbolically. It’s all nice to tinker around the edges, a bike lane here and a Smart Car there, but I think it’s not just about physical changes but about a different kind of thinking, a more imaginative way of being together, if we really want to have cities and settlements that are on a people scale.

Most ideally, a little people scale…

Sunday Streets, June 3, 2012

In order to create a whole new paradigm we really have to dare to embrace the impossible, and as we were walking back towards 24th Street, we were stopped in our tracks by a perfect demonstration of what’s possible when we collectively attempt to rearrange the existing pieces…

Sunday Streets, June 3, 2012

Yup, there it was, the leaning tower of street jenga…

Sunday Streets, June 3, 2012

With the slanted table and a fierce San Francisco wind blowing we thought that we were pretty much witnessing the end of the game, but what happened next…

Sunday Streets, June 3, 2012

was really amazing.

Sunday Streets, June 3, 2012

One guy after another kept stepping up, pulling out piece…

Sunday Streets, June 3, 2012

after piece…

Sunday Streets, June 3, 2012

There were so many oohs and aahs, and people were having a great time, laughing and cheering each other on…

Sunday Streets, June 3, 2012

With each move it felt more and more like we were all in this together. This kid was amazing, he literally took out the foundation of the tower…

Sunday Streets, June 3, 2012

and unbelievably, with its entire bottom corner missing, the tower stood…

Sunday Streets, June 3, 2012

It was nothing short of a miracle, but then again I kept thinking to myself that this is what we can do on a larger scale, to re-envision our entire foundation without collapsing the whole thing. We just have to work together and support each other. And we’ve got to be bold!

Sunday Streets, June 3, 2012

In the game, however, we know what must happen…

Sunday Streets, June 3, 2012

but in life it’s the process of collaborating, pushing each other further, and expanding our horizon that frees us from the same old building blocks that got us stuck in the first place. The future we want is in our hands, and in our streets.

Sven Eberlein, Ecocity Media sven@ecocitybuilders.org

Sven Eberlein is a writer, musician and activist living in San Francisco with roots in Germany. As an associate of Ecocity Builders, Sven has been intimately involved in the advancement of sustainable cities and urban design. His essays have been featured in magazines ranging from the SF Bay Guardian to Global Rhythm Magazine. His new book, Dancing on the Brink of the World, weaves themes of ecology, social justice and spirituality onto a canvas of art, music and creative storytelling. He is a founding member of the band Chemystry Set and publishes the creative portal Tuber Creations. You can read Sven’s creative musings at his blog, A World of Words.

Moving around suburbs costs more

November 4, 2009

An article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle titled S.F. transportation costs lower than in suburbs quotes a report being released by the Urban Land Institute with the all-encompassing title of “Bay Area Burden: Examining the costs and impacts of housing and transportation on Bay Area residents, their neighborhoods and the environment.”

Not that we didn’t know this already, but it says that “the average San Francisco household spends roughly $500 less on transportation each month than households in such suburban outposts as Antioch or Livermore.” All the talk about the inherent costs and problems associated with suburban life is great, but it’s the hard numbers that often drive the point home.

For families in more distant automobile-reliant suburbs, though, the monthly transportation costs spike. The estimate for Antioch is $1,311, for instance, while in Livermore it’s $1,281. Cities with little connection to transit also suffer – such as Pacifica, where a household’s monthly transportation is estimated to cost $1,246.

Read the whole article, it’s a good one to quote the next time someone tells you they live in the suburbs because it’s cheaper. Also check out the full report at bayareaburden.org. Also, check out the recent article Investment in public transit creates U.S. jobs for new green economy in The Hill.

Walter Hood at Day 3

May 12, 2008

Walter Hood, Principal, Hood Design, Oakland, CA

In his landscape architecture practice Walter Hood’s interests include the critical examination and development of specific urban landscape typologies for the American city. He likes to reinforce specific cultural, environmental, and physical complexities of the city and neighborhood landscape. He is renown for his much-enjoyed public opens spaces such as “Splash Pad Park” in Oakland.  He is currently working on the Ecocity Builders sponsored redesign of the open space where Center Street is now located in downtown Berkeley where his new design will celebrate and help reveal the dynamics of Strawberry Creek and the connection between city and campus.

Hood Design: www.wjhooddesign.com

Ecocity Tours

April 14, 2008

Get a chance to see the city!

As a special opportunity for the many international guests and attendees to the Ecocity World summit, 6 guided tours will be conducted on the first day of the main event, Thursday, April 24 from 3pm to 6pm. Hosts from around the city will lead you on a guided tour.

Your options will include:

A. BART Infill Development Tour (to the East Bay)

  • Host: Bay Area Rapid Transit

B. SF Waterfront Bicycle Tour

  • Hosts: San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and San Francisco Neighborhood Parks Council

C. CA Academy of Sciences LEED Green Building and Green Roofs

  • Host: SF Environment, CA Academy of Sciences

D. Downtown and Chinatown Walking Tour

  • Host: San Francisco City Guides

E. Crissy Field Wetlands Tour

  • Hosts: Nature in the City, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy

F. MUNI Infill Development Tour (San Francisco)

  • Hosts: SF Municipal Transportation Agency, San Francisco Redevelopment Agency

Please Note: Those not participating in an off-site tour have the option of remaining at Nob Hill Masonic Center for a screening of A Convenient Truth, Urban Solutions from Curitiba in the Auditorium, followed by a discussion session with the filmmakers, Maria Vaz and Giovanni V.Del Bello