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Cycling Booms in London, and the City’s Not Looking Back

Image: City of London

If current trends continue, there will be more people bike commuting in central London than car commuting by 2018. Image: City of London

Boris Johnson says that one of his goals as mayor of London was to make cycling “more popular and more normal.” As Johnson’s eight-year tenure winds down, it looks like the progress he made in his second term has accomplished that mission.

If current trends continue, bike commuters will outnumber car commuters in central London by 2018, according to a recent report from Johnson’s office [PDF]. Citywide, Transport for London estimates people already make 645,000 bike trips on an average day.

When Londoners head to the polls later this week to elect their next mayor, five candidates will be on the ballot, all of whom have signaled they will continue to expand the city’s bike network, reports the BBC’s Tom Edwards. Most of them have pledged to triple the amount of protected bike lanes in the city.

You can trace the London cycling boom to several factors, including the introduction of congestion charging under Johnson’s predecessor, Ken Livingstone, in 2003. But the big turning point came during Johnson’s second term, when bike advocates prompted him to get serious about installing protected bike lanes.

In his first term, Johnson championed the construction of “cycle superhighways” on some of the city’s busiest streets. But these routes, which offered little or nothing in the way of physical protection, didn’t live up to their billing. Cyclists were not satisfied with them and staged huge protests calling for safer bike infrastructure. The BBC’s Edwards recalls how cyclists booed Johnson when he was seeking reelection four years ago.

In recent years, Johnson has devoted more resources to protected bike lanes, upgrading the existing “cycle superhighways” and laying out a plan for more. He now says his “single biggest regret” was not doing so sooner.

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Streetsblog.net
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After Countings Cars for Ages, Dallas Starts to Count Walkers and Bikers

They say “what you measure is what you get,” and for the first time, the North Central Texas Council of Governments is measuring walking and biking activity in the Dallas region, reports Brandon Formby at the Dallas Morning News’ Transportation Blog.

It’s an important precedent for an agency that historically has concerned itself with the movement of cars. Planners hope to use pedestrian and bike counts to assess what makes some paths more heavily used than others, and how ped/bike infrastructure is affecting the broader transportation network, Formby writes:

Armed with a first-of-its-kind collection of data about Dallas-Fort Worth walking and biking trails, regional planners this month unveiled an emerging picture about which paths see the most use.

“If there’s a restaurant or a food truck or anything related to food, those seem to be the locations where we see the most counts,” said Karla Weaver, a program manager for the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

That planning agency last year used data from 26 mechanical counters in five cities to begin understanding where and when walkers, runners and bikers use trails. The agency wants to keep collecting data from additional spots so planners don’t have to rely on anecdotal evidence about trips North Texans make without a vehicle.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Court Denies Amtrak Regulatory Powers Over Competitors (The Hill)
  • Feds Grant $25 Million For Rail Infrastructure Upgrades (OH&S)
  • Do NJ Rail Riders Pay the Highest Fares in U.S.? (NJ.com)
  • New Buildings Near Chicago’s L Line Geared Mostly to Affluent Residents (Chicago Trib, Streetsblog Chi)
  • Maryland Purple Line Proponents Push for Public/Private Partnership to Build It (MC Sentinel)
  • New Project Will Link 20 Miles of Detroit Walking/Bike Paths (CBS)
  • Nashville Mayor Emphasizes Transit, Affordable Housing (Nashville Scene)
  • Housing Sprouts Near Train Stations in Lower Hudson Valley (LoHud.com)
  • Paris’s Plan for Car-Free Sundays (CityLab)
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Talking Headways Podcast: A Shared Space Revolution

On the podcast this week is Robert Ping, executive director of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, who tells us about Pittsburgh’s plans for the largest shared space in an American city.

Robert also discusses why it’s so important to get public officials from different agencies in the same room together to talk about improving conditions for walking and biking. And we wonder why parents are being threatened with arrest just for walking their kids to school, and how getting driven around affects kids’ perceptions of where they live compared to walking.

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Boston Wants to Lower Its Speed Limit to 20 MPH — But Can’t

Twenty is plenty in Boston, according to its elected officials. The City Council voted unanimously this week to lower the default speed limit on most residential streets to 20 mph — and not for the first time.

Speeding is the number one complaint council members hear from residents. And on Boston’s narrow streets, packed with pedestrians, driving 40 mph — as people regularly do — is especially dangerous.

The current speed limit is 30 mph, and, unfortunately, changing it isn’t as easy as passing a City Council rule. The state of Massachusetts sets default speed limits, and when Boston tried to lower its speed limit before, state law prevailed.

“In the past the state has been reticent to change the prevailing speed limit because of the way it would affect so many towns,” says Walk Boston’s Brendan Kearney. “Potentially every single little city or town would have a different speed limit.”

Jackie DeWolfe at Livable Streets Boston says advocates are hopeful this time will be different, but it won’t be easy.

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Streetsblog.net
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Owners of Big Parking Lots Have to Pay More in Northeast Ohio

This big box center will be charged almost $11,000 a quarter. Image: NE Ohio Sewer District

This big box center will be charged about $44,000 a year for its parking lot. Image: NE Ohio Sewer District

Impermeable surfaces like parking lots are terrible for the environment in several ways, including the water pollution that results when stormwater runoff causes sewer systems to overflow. In Ohio, the state’s highest court recently upheld a fee on parking lots to help mitigate the damage to water quality.

Greater Cleveland, like a lot of older cities, was ordered by the EPA to fix its sewer infrastructure to prevent raw sewage from being dumped into Lake Erie every time it rains. It’s a not a cheap task, so it’s good to see the culprits will have to pony up to help cover the costs.

Marc Lefkowitz at Green City Blue Lake looks at who will pay what. The fees aren’t huge, when you consider how much it already costs to build and operate a large parking lot, but they shift incentives in the right direction:

Curious, we looked at some of the properties — the kind that you can easily pick out from a satellite image — and snooped at what they’ll have to shell out on a quarterly basis for their profligate parking lots and acres of operation centers.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Foxx Says “No More Excuses,” Appoints Three Safety Experts to D.C. Metro Board (WaPo)
  • FTA to Make Millions Available for On-Demand Mobility Demo Projects (GovTech)
  • West Baltimore’s “Highway to Nowhere” Poised for Makeover With $4.7M From Feds (Biz Journal)
  • Feds Dole Out Green Bus Grants to Seven Transit Agencies (Bond Buyer)
  • What’s Tampa’s Path Forward After Nixing Sales Tax for Transit? (Tampa Trib)
  • Why Transit and Affordable Housing Should Go Hand in Hand (Mobility Lab)
  • BRT Opponents Try to Block Projects in Two Utah Cities (Salt Lake Trib)
  • What If Seattle’s Viaduct Closure Isn’t the Traffic Nightmare Everyone’s Expecting? (Crosscut)
  • How the Burbs Will Be Different This Time (Treehugger)
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Does It Make Sense for Transit Agencies to Pay for “Last Mile” Uber Trips?

Should transit agencies subsidize short “last-mile” Uber trips to expand transit access for people who live outside comfortable walking distance of a train station?

Is it smart of transit agencies to use Uber subsidies to expand their service areas? Map of Atlanta's MARTA plus a three-and-half mile buffer via CAP

The green areas denote where people would be eligible for ride-hail commute subsidies. Map: CAP

Columbus, Ohio, has proposed something along these lines as part of its application for U.S. DOT’s Smart City Challenge. The city is one of seven finalists competing for a $50 million federal grant.

New technologies associated with ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft make such a program more feasible, but is it a good idea? In a new report, the Center for American Progress explores how such a program might work for low-income residents of Atlanta.

CAP’s Kevin DeGood and Andrew Schwartz don’t reach a firm conclusion about the merits of such a program, but their report suggests it would have very limited impact.

They start by defining who would be eligible for the subsidized ride-hailing program, mapping out a radius of 3.5 miles from MARTA stations while excluding areas closer than half a mile away from a MARTA rail station or a quarter mile away from bus lines that connect to rail.

In one of their scenarios, any commuter living in that zone who doesn’t own a car would be eligible for a $3 ride-hailing subsidy for each trip to or from work. That would reach an estimated 8,300 people and cost $12 million per year.

In the other scenario, the same subsidy would be available for workers in households below the poverty line with three or more children, regardless of car ownership. CAP estimates this would encompass 3,300 people and cost $5 million per year.

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Streetsblog.net
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Take a Moment to Appreciate the Absolute Enormity of This Interchange

Louisville's new "Ohio River Bridges" Interchange, right between downtown and the waterfront. Photo: Ohio River Bridges project

Louisville’s new and expanded “Spaghetti Junction,” right between downtown and the waterfront. Photo: The Ohio River Bridges Project

Every once in a while you have to step back and gape at the sheer scale of the highway interchanges America has built smack in the middle of our cities.

Branden Klayko at Broken Sidewalk is taking a moment to do just that with Louisville’s Spaghetti Junction, between downtown and the waterfront. This giant interchange is being expanded as part of the $2.6 billion Ohio River Bridges Project, after wealthy suburban property owners and Kentucky’s highway industrial complex squashed a grassroots effort to reclaim the Louisville waterfront from cars.

Klayko says a whole city neighborhood could just about fit inside the footprint of this one interchange:

When you’re zooming through Spaghetti Junction for most of the day when there’s no traffic, it might seem like the tangle of highway ramps isn’t really that big. Or if you’re stuck in construction traffic, it might seem like it never ends. Speed has a way of distorting our sense of distance.

The Downtown Crossing segment of the Ohio River Bridges Project (ORBP) recently shared these aerial views of the junction taken this spring by HDR Engineering, and it’s apparent you could fit a large chunk of Downtown Louisville within the bounds of the highway.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Boston City Council Votes to Lower Speed Limit to 20 MPH on Most Streets (Universal Hub)
  • Google, Uber, and Ford Launch Self-Driving Car Lobby (Tech Wire)
  • D Magazine: Does Texas’s Newly Free-Flowing SH 161 Disprove “Induced Demand?”
  • Driver Critically Injures 6-Year-Old Akron Boy on Bike; Victim “Won’t Be Cited” (Plain Dealer)
  • Seattleites Disappointed With New Five-Year Bike Plan (The Stranger)
  • Uber Preparing to Exit Houston Because of Its Rules (Texas Tribune)
  • Arkansas Posts Depressing Videos of Downtown Little Rock Highway Widening Plan (Arkansas Online)
  • Akron’s New Planning Director Wants to Put the City’s Roads on a Diet (Crain’s Cleveland)
  • WSJ: Increase Housing Density to Lower Rents in Cities
  • The “Car-Free” Neighborhood Design for a German Suburb (Fast Company)