Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Design Charrette with Los Angeles Walks

This Saturday (August 25) join the awesome folks from Los Angeles Walks for a design charrette co-sponsored by the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council. Here are the details from the site:

Saturday, August 25, 2012, 10 am – 1 pm
Silver Lake Library
Plaza and Community Room
2411 Glendale Blvd @ Silverlake Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90039

At 10:00 am we will gather in the Silver Lake Library plaza on Glendale with Silver Lake Neighborhood Council 2012 candidates for a “meet the candidates” and hear what they have to say about making our streets safer of people walking, biking, taking transit and driving.
Bagels, tea and coffee will be served. Then at 10:30 am, after meeting the candidates, we will enter the building for a Safer, Kinder Streets Design Presentation and Charrette hosted by Los Angeles Walks.
Pizzas will arrive at 1:00 pm, and by then we will have learned about interesting and dynamic best practices from across the world, which may be applicable in Silver Lake, identified dangerous streets in need of safer, kinder design and begun articulating the plan that will guide us in the years to come.
Representatives from LADOT and City Planning will be in attendance.
Click here for more info.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

And another creative solution...

This Big City reports on yet one more DIY effort to improve streets in Russia:

“Make the bureaucrat work!” is the slogan of a local campaign [ru] run by the regional Internet news agency, Ura.ru. Their solution to the road problem is as simple as it is elegant: They simply spray-paint the portraits of local dignitaries around potholes, with quotes of their promises to fix the problem, and guess what – problem solved!

What has taken local politicians years not to do, is now done overnight. The embarrassment of having their portraits so concretely fixed to the potholes of their power, has seemingly made authorities run about like mad to pave over their portraits of impotence, filling the holes in streets and roads.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Battling the Bureaucracy to Create Better Streets

I'm a bureaucrat myself, so I'm allowed to say it: sometimes well-meaning regulations get in the way of really great stuff. Navigating the state and local rules that govern how we use our streets can be costly and intimidating for the professional, completely disheartening for the average "outsider" who wants to get creative with an otherwise boring streetscape. I'll share two very different approaches being taken in Denver and San Francisco, but first a couple tips from someone on the inside:
  1. Find an advocate. A savvy staff member or elected official can open doors that seem permanently sealed shut.
  2. Look for grey areas. There's more flexibility within the law than you might imagine, and it just might allow your wild street art scheme after all.
  3. Question authority. If a rule doesn't make sense to you, say so. Even better, offer a solution.

SF Better Streets
San Franciscans with bright ideas for streets can learn how to make their dreams reality by visiting a site put together by the City’s Planning Department, Department of Public Works, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency: www.sfbetterstreets.org.

The site includes dozens of pages on information on permits, maintenance, codes and guidelines for each type of streetscape project. It also includes a friendly, easy-to navigate interface and welcoming look, important elements that can easily be forgotten in the world of rote government websites. As the web increasingly becomes the "front counter" of city departments, sites like this one can help engage the public and encourage the creative use of street space that transforms the pedestrian environment.

My favorite part? The way the city calls them street openings on their website, instead of the outmoded street closings. It's a small thing, but it represents a big change in thinking about which users should have priority on local roadways.
Better Blocks
Not every city is quite as open to innovation as San Francisco. As this story describes, sometimes you have to break the rules to get things done on the street:
In order to make his neighborhood more livable, Jason Roberts had to break the law. In fact, he and 1,500 other people didn't stop at just one city ordinance; they violated dozens of them, more than once, without getting caught. But their idea definitely caught on: Since April 2010, when they revolutionized their Oak Cliff block in Dallas, Roberts' Better Block initiative has spread to more than twenty blocks across the country.
From DIY crosswalks to yarnbombing, sometimes it takes a little insubordination to make your street into something everyone really wants.

I think this is great a way to demonstrate a street's potential, and raise awareness of problem regulations that prevent good streets from happening--but of course, the real solution is the (long and often tedious) process of changing those rules.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Ray Bradbury: Author, Visionary, Pedestrian

Joseph Mugnaini — The Pedestrian

Last month the world lost one of its great authors, futurist and fellow Angeleno Ray Bradbury. Unique for many reasons, I just learned something about him that makes me love him even more: he never drove a car. (Though for the record his family owned one--his wife just did all the driving because, "In a really smart family, the woman does the driving. If a man is smart, he says to his wife, ‘You drive because I’m not a good driver.’")

Bradbury dreamed of a future where city-dwellers ditched their cars for high-speed monorails, but acknowledged that reality might look bleaker if we continue down our current path. He describes a much darker vision his 1951 story The Pedestrian, about a city where one brave man dares to walk the sidewalks--and the consequences of engaging in such devious behavior.

You can read more on Bradbury's thoughts on transportation here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Following the money

We all know that it creating great pedestrian environments take money, but understanding transportation funding is a little trickier. Last week Tri-State Transportation came out with this great tool that helps you understand how much your state is spending on bicycle and pedestrian projects (not to mention bridges, transit, and other transportation infrastructure).

And if the recent federal transportation debacle has you confused (not just depressed), here's a nice summary of the MAP-21 legislation.