Shirley Gonzales made no secret of her views on transportation when she ran for the San Antonio City Council in 2013. She laid them out in her answer to a questionnaire: “pedestrians first, followed by cycling, public transportation and private automobiles, in that order.” Gonzales promoted this agenda even though she was running in a city where fewer than 2 percent of commuters walk to work.A few months later, after she’d won the election, the tales of some of her constituents drove the issue home. Most prominent was the story of Sharon Ledesma, a 28-year-old single mother who was crossing a four-lane street one night when a car switched lanes and veered toward her and her two children. Ledesma managed to push the children out of the way. Dominic, who was 11 at the time, and Mallory, who was 8, survived but had serious injuries. Both had broken bones and were on crutches for weeks. Ledesma, however, did not make it. She was declared brain dead at the hospital. The next day, after her kids had a chance to say goodbye, her family took her off life support.Gonzales began to hear from other San Antonio families. The city had one of the highest pedestrian death rates in the country. In fact, 373 pedestrians had died in the metropolitan area over the previous decade. And Gonzales’ own district, largely poor and Hispanic, had some of the most dangerous streets, especially Culebra Road, the arterial where Ledesma died. That four-lane road shares many of the characteristics of other deadly stretches for pedestrians: Cars traveling near the speed limit of 40 mph pass between modest homes and retail outlets, while pedestrians walk along sidewalks separated from the traffic by only a low curb for as much as half a mile between crosswalks.
In the battle of cars versus raised bike lanes, the cars just won a small battle in San Francisco.The city had planned on installing a two-inch raised, mountable lane on a section of Polk Street, where, on average, cars hit one cyclist and one pedestrian every month. But now it’s scrapped that plan in favor of a more traditional lane, which will be protected with soft-hit posts.The switch comes after San Francisco evaluated its first, experimental raised lane on downtown’s Market Street. The lane proved challenging to some cyclists since it debuted in late 2015; at least two collisions occurred (one resulting in a “major injury”) when people tried to roll up onto the path. But the main issue was the raised lane just wasn’t keeping cars away, as evident in angry social-media posts about police cars and a delivery truck blocking cyclists’ right of way.The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency says it believes lanes in these kinds of heavily commercialized corridors should be protected with a line of parked cars (something Oakland recently did, with varying success). But since that’s not possible on Polk, it will have plastic barriers sticking up from a buffer zone, as depicted on the right:
Ask Americans which state is the greenest, most unspoiled, most eco-conscious place in the country, and a lot of people would probably say Hawaii. So it may come as a surprise to learn that Hawaii is actually the most oil-dependent state in the nation. Because it’s unreachable by trains or pipelines, the state spends $5 billion a year importing oil. As recently as 2003, more than 90 percent of their electricity came from foreign oil. That’s not just bad for the environment; it’s bad for consumers: Hawaii residents pay the highest electricity rates in the nation.That could all soon be changing, however. Thanks to sweeping legislation adopted last year, Hawaii has set a goal to become the first state in the country to generate 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy resources. If it’s successful — the 100 percent goal has a deadline of 2045 — Hawaii would move from worst to first on clean energy. To call the plan ambitious would be an understatement. Getting to a completely renewable portfolio requires not only new investments and new technologies, but also a complete overhaul of the energy industry in the state. But the truth is that Hawaii has already made notable strides in reducing its dependence on fossil fuels. Thanks to a committed effort over the past 15 years, the state has decreased its dependence on oil by about 20 percentage points from that 2003 high.
One of the most common issues facing public transit riders is the “last kilometre” problem. While rapid transit is frequent, not all of the bus or streetcar routes leading from the stations are, so the final part of a commuter’s journey is often a long wait or a long walk… which can be made easier by bicycle. Bike Share and more bicycle parking in new condos and office towers are already helping to alleviate the last kilometre problem, and now the TTC is making hybrid commutes easier too. New self-service bicycle repair station and parking at Rosedale Station, image by Jack LandauThis week, 20 new self-service bicycle repair stations and six larger bike parking facilities were installed at stations on Toronto’s subway network, giving cyclists a means of storing and repairing their bikes during commutes. The installation of this new cycling infrastructure follows the September 2015 installation of 10 initial bike repair stations, and delivers on a promise made in the TTC’s 2016 Customer Charter.
7 Cities That Are Starting To Go Car-Free
After over a hundred years of living with cars, some cities are slowly starting to realize that the automobile doesn’t make a lot of sense in the urban context. It isn’t just the smog or the traffic deaths; in a city, cars aren’t even a convenient way to get around.Traffic in London today moves slower than an average cyclist (or a horse-drawn carriage). Commuters in L.A. spend 90 hours a year stuck in traffic. A U.K. study found that drivers spend 106 days of their lives looking for parking spots.Now a growing number of cities are getting rid of cars in certain neighborhoods through fines, better design, new apps, and, in the case of Milan, even paying commuters to leave their car parked at home and take the train instead.Unsurprisingly, the changes are happening fastest in European capitals that were designed hundreds or thousands of years before cars were ever built. In sprawling U.S. suburbs that were designed for driving, the path to eliminating cars is obviously more challenging. (And a few car-loving cities, like Sydney, Australia, are going in the other direction, and taking away pedestrian space on some downtown streets so there’s more room for cars).Here are a handful of the leaders moving toward car-free neighborhoods.