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Archive for the ‘San Francisco’ Category

Last week, I returned from a week long trip to Los Angeles.  I was awarded by the wonderful Alliance for Biking & Walking, a seat at their National ‘Open Streets’ Conference.  If any of you reading this don’t know what Open Streets is its an initiative where you temporarily close streets down to autos and open them up for the people.  During this time which is between 4-8hrs of street closure and usually on a Sunday, car traffic is replaced with people traffic.  People can bike, walk, skateboard, do yoga, dance, sit, and many other activities. Open Streets is an initiative I’ve been obsessed about for well over three years.  The first time I had heard about it and saw pictures, I immediately knew the benefits that a movement like this could produce for cities.

There have been well over 90 documented Open Streets here in the U.S. alone and global cities such Cape Town, Bogota, and Wellington hold ‘Open Streets’ initiatives of their own.  In Bogota, its such a way of life that ‘Ciclovia’ happens every Sunday.  What’ s so appealing about Open Streets?  Well, when we, as adults think of ‘playing’ in the streets, we think of only childhood memories.  We’ve become so engrained with streets ‘belonging’ to cars and that’s it.  WRONG.  Streets are under utilized.  They are so much more than parking and traffic.

How is an initiative like Open Streets different than say a festival or block party?   I’m glad you asked.  The core objectives are fundamentally different. Indeed, Open Streets are typically part of a broader city or organizational effort to encourage sustained physical activity, increase community engagement, and build support for the provision of broader transportation choices.

The National Open Streets Conference I attended brought experts from cities all over the U.S., Africa, and New Zealand to share experiences and best practices about their planning process of Open Streets.  Substanial data has been collected that shows how transformational holding an Open Streets in your city can be (feast yourself on delicious data here:  www.openstreetsproject.com)

I remember last week, Jeff Miller of the Alliance asked aloud, ‘raise your hand if this will be your first CicLAvia.’  A few of us (including myself) raised our hands.  Immediately, you heard the crowd make an ‘oooooooooooh’ remark meaning, you’re mind’s going to be blown.  My spunky response was, ‘no shit.’  I knew what I was prepared for.  CicLAvia is Los Angeles’ ‘Open Streets.’  The demand for CicLAvia is so high that L.A. now holds CicLAvia three times a year.  Their most recent route was six miles of street closure…. on the iconic Wilshire Blvd.  Let me repeat myself SIX MILES OF STREET CLOSURE… for six hours.

Los Angeles aka ‘Carmageddon’ / traffic sewer city of the U.S. has one of the most successful Open Streets movements in the world.  Over 100,000 people come and enjoy miles upon miles of car-free streets.  Being able to experience L.A.s CicLAvia was a dream for me.  My pictures didn’t do justice for the sights that I saw.  I think my favorite visions were of ALL of the families.  So many families out enjoying their city at a slow pace.   Nobody got angry.  No aggressive horns.  No cars intimidating you.  Strangers smiling and talking to one another.  Businesses along the route bolstering with people hopping off their bikes and supporting.  Music on corners, art being painted, and streets being alive.  

One of the most powerful acknowledgements happened.  My friend Marc said, ‘look around at all these families.  It’s not that there’s a deficiency of families not being able to afford bikes, its the fact that they don’t feel like there’s a safe place to ride.’  When he said that aloud, it slapped me in the face.  I saw families with four and five kids; all of them had bikes.  It was so true.  And I wonder, how that relates to here in Columbus.  There’s also a huge health undertone to this initiative.  Not only are these initiatives reimaging streets where people walk and bike as a form of transportation, but, there’s such an appeal to this ‘urban playground’ where people are out for hours being physically active.  I remember I thought I would be at CicLAvia for only 3-4 hours.  Nopers.  I was there from 830am -4p!  You take your time and stop along the route and engage in activities.  You talk to people.  You stop in the middle of the street and let the sun shine on your face, why?  Because you can!  

After my conference, I came back here and have been more dedicated than ever before of making Columbus Open Streets a reality in 2014.  I have the best momentum that I’ve had in all 2 1/2 years I’ve been trying to put this thing together.  I know that once Columbus gets a taste of the first Open Streets, the demand will be created and there WILL be more.  The beautiful thing about Open Streets is that it attracts such a wide variety of audiences coming from numerous neighborhoods where just like San Francisco’s ‘Sunday Streets’ this initiative can move from one community to another, showcasing the uniqueness of each neighborood.  This movement connects people.  

The city of Columbus has approved 1.4 miles of downtown street closure for the first Open Streets.  The tentative date; Sunday September 28th from 10a-2p.  While it’s not six miles, it’s a great first ‘Open Streets’ route.  Again, this first Open Streets will introduce both the people of this city and city staff to how effective and beneficial Open Streets are, and the subsequent ones to follow will be that much easier to organize.   I’ll keep y’all updated on Columbus’ progress.  Also, if any of you reading this have businessses that would be interested in supporting financially, message me.    

Enjoy the pics.

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Woman just cruisin’ down Wilshire.

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From left:  Erika, Misty, and Ryan.  My CicLAvia peepsphoto 3 (3)

 

Of course, dogs have a place in these kinds of initiatives!
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Walking herephoto 4 (10)

This was the cutest!  Father and daughter time.  My heart filled up seeing this sight time and time again.photo 3 (12)

 

So of course, I spoke to this dude.  He was awesome.  He comes to CicLAvia every time it happens.  He loves it and thinks it’s wonderful for the all the people.photo 4 (12)

One of the businesses filled up with people supporting local businessphoto 4 (18)

Right when CicLAvia started in the morning.  I caught this little guy.  photo 1 (12)

 

One of the many wonderful volunteers keeping order during the mandatory dismount zone.  photo 3 (9)

Just a bunch of people, waiting at the red light.  Wouldn’t you rather this than lines of cars?  Can’t get any more human than this!
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The dismount zone / pedestrian zone.  
erica 4

 

There’s me!  I was just so swoonie seeing all the kids having so much fun!  Growing up and being a part of this movement!photo 2 (7)

This image captures the essence of what streets can look like when you replace car traffic with beautiful people traffic.  photo 1 (6)

 

As far as the eye can see……  PEOPLE bringing the streets to life.

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I spent a glorious week here in the city that I can’t quit.  When ever I land into SFO and hop onto BART, I feel this sense of calmness that covers me like an invisible bubble.  I also feel that I become a different person.  A person who feels like she’s ‘home.’  The diversity of this city fills me up with such joy.  The way that this city continues to improve for the better and will become one of the most sustainable cities in the country; well, its incredible to watch this happen every time I come back.

San Francisco is a different kind of city.  Its made up of a lot of transients from all over the world.  Maybe that’s why this city has such determination from its people to become such a great city.  San Francisco is a petri dish and everyone is willing and active to put in some kind of ingredient or another which seems to be working.

Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to just watch the theatrics of this city by just sitting at a coffee shop.  Parklets are every where.  On-street bike corrals are so abundant that’s its almost like they’ve always existed here.  There are protected bike lanes that lead onto very heavily traffic streets such as San Jose Blvd.  There are green lanes on Market and the newly improved ‘Wiggle,’ regular bike lanes everywhere and if there aren’t bike lanes, there are sharrows.  Market St. is like High St.  Its the backbone to the city.  This morning prior to my departure, I took the BART to Powell St. Station and just watched and got my fix of early morning bustling of San Franciscans.  I felt alive.  I couldn’t keep up with pictures.  There were so many bike riders that I became over whelmed.

I want this very thing to happen in Columbus but it won’t happen until infrastructure is laid down and laid down – SMARTLY.  Infrastructure needs to be thought through with women and children in mind.  If this happens then the infrastructure should be laid down smartly and safely.  The best way to change behavior is to change the infrastructure.  When a ’roundabout’ is put in in Hillard, people are uncertain and will probably complain at first but then like anything else, it becomes habit and then just another piece of infrastructure.  It’s no different with bicycle infrastructure.

Protected bike lanes.  Green lanes.  Buffered bike lanes.  Bicycle dedicated signals.  All make for safer commutes and also draws out more riders of all levels.  San Francisco is surrounded by water on three sides.  It’s only seven miles big and cannot build out.  San Francisco has to make due with what they have and they are.  They are redesigning their streets for ALL people.  If San Francisco can do this, so can we.  We need leaders who are willing to piss a few ppl off in order to make our city thrive.

Mayor Coleman said in a speech once:  ‘If we continue to stay the same, we’ll get left behind.’  I’m tired of staying the same and tired of continually playing catch up.  I want leaders willing to risk their positions in order to do GREAT and innovative things.  I’d rather be the leader who was remembered as being ballsy as opposed to a leader who was status quo.

We still have a problem retaining young people and once again, its all due to lack of options in transportation.  I am one of those people who WILL LEAVE this city if things do not change and change SOON.  I assure you Columbus, it’ll be your loss.

Here are a few pictures of this morning on Market St.  Folks commuting via two wheels.  Buses in the back ground, people walking.  A city that’s ALIVE.

Be safe and keep riding:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Etiquette:  Walking your bike through a cross-walk.

Another great example of proper biker etiquette.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting for green light

 

 

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A quote from Angela Hunt which I find to be very fitting with my mood these last few weeks.  If you want to get noticed, you do something bold.  When I think of bold artists I think of people like David Carson,  Kiriakos Iosifidis, Woody Allen, Ishita Gupta, Lynn Hershman – this list could be endless.  Hell, I’ll even put up a little Columbus love and throw in Jeni Britton Bauer – local visionary at its finest.

When I think of visionary and bold cities I think of San Francisco. New York City,  D.C., Los Angeles and Boston.  Why do I think of these cities??  I think of these cities b/c when it comes to their city’s walking and biking infrastructure – they are visionary; they are bold.

In 2006, an injunction was imposed for four years restricting any physical improvements for bicycles in San Francisco.  No bike lanes, no sharrows, no bike signage, nada.  An ‘environmental review’ was to be done to evaluate potential impacts from the San Francisco Bikeways Plan in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  Once the environmental review was finished, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) approved the Bikeways Plan in 2009.  In 2010, the injunction was lifted.  In a matter of a couple months, 35 bike lanes projects were slated to begin and most of those projects have completed.  There’s been an increase in bicycle ridership of over 53%.  Their bold goal:  Connecting the City is by 2020 seeing 100 miles of crosstown bikeways and having individuals from eight to eighty bicycle safely through their city.  I use to live there.  I try to get there twice a year and each time I’m there, I’m in awe at their advancement and their vision to make bicycling a priority in their city.  It’s beautiful.

New York City – Janette Sadik-Khan.  For those who know her, she is NYC’s Transportation Commissioner and is kicking serious ass.  In four years, Janette and city leaders striped over 240 miles of bike lanes.  Bicycle commuting has increased in NYC about 44%.  Janette Sadik-Khan and PPS transformed Time Square and permanently closed Broadway to traffic re-creating the area completely around people.  ‘Brass is good’  Janette stated in a video interview she gave about a month ago and I couldn’t agree more.  You can’t always choose ‘Vanilla’ just because you know its good and it’ll never let you down – sometimes you need to choose ‘Queen City Cayenne,’ to kick your ass and reinforce that you’re alive

D.C. currently has the biggest, baddest and boldest bike share system in the U.S.  with over 1,100 bikes and over 100 stations and more are due to be installed this year.  New York City will easily beat this by April of 2012 with 10,000 bikes and 600 stations.  Along with D.C. currently having the biggest success with their bike share, they have innovative and bold bike infrastructure – a cycle track down Pennsylvania Ave, contr-flow cycle track on 15th st and New Hampshire Ave and more bike lanes all through their city.  I was there last March for the Annual D.C. Bicycle Summit and the four days that I was there, I, with ease, used a different mode of transportation, every day (walk, bike, bus and metro).  I moved through D.C. with complete ease and NO car.

Los Angeles, I can say confidently is leading the charge and turning heads with their incredible attendance numbers from their ‘Ciclavias.’  The term Ciclovia is a Spanish term which means ‘bike path’ in English.  Ciclovia’s are exploding here in the U.S.  When a Ciclovia happens, a street is shut down to motor vehicles and is re-humanized for a few hours.  You bike, walk, skip, dance, play basketball, yoga, musicians, whatever you want, you can have; you just can’t have cars.  Ciclovia’s celebrate streets as public places and you get connected with your community, your surroundings as well as enjoying life in a slowed down pace.  LA has done three Ciclavia’s thus far.  The last one they did, they shut down over 10 miles of streets and humanized these streets with over 300,000 men, women, and children for four hours.  Those numbers are NOT a typo.  10 miles, throughout LA, one of the most congested cities in the United States – that’s BOLD.

These cities are taking chances.  They are using bicycle infrastructure that isn’t necessarily ‘approved’ in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).  which is a manual that engineers live and die by.  If traffic-controlled devices aren’t approved in the MUTCD chances are we won’t implement which brings me back to BOLD and VISIONARY.  These other cities that are kicking Columbus’ ass when it comes to bicycle ridership and infrastructure.  Why is that?  These cities are designing their streets and using infrastructure that may not be ‘approved’ in the MUTCD but these ‘best practices’ have been overwhelmingly successful in Europe hence, one of the main reasons why bicycle commuting is so much higher (some countries have close to 40% bicycle commuting).

2012 is going to be a VERY critical year here in Columbus.  I think our city and key decision makers really need to step it up and ‘walk the walk’.  If we want to be ‘Bike City USA,’ we need infrastructure.  We need to experiment with more bike boxes, buffered bike lanes, colored bike lanes, better signage, bicycle designated signals.  We need to re-allocated our roads so that cars don’t drive 45-55mph down our 5-8 lane downtown streets.  You design a street that’s inviting and makes people want to ‘stay,’ you get more eyes on the street, you get safer streets and you get a more ‘human’ street.  By the way…  the Columbus Commons WILL NOT SUCCEED if we do not slow down streets like 3rd and 4th.  The Scioto Mile, this summer the city should experiment with closing the street down for one Sunday a month to cars.  Create a pedestrian street like many other cities have already been doing.  Take chances.  Be bold.  Stop playing ‘follow the leader’ and actually BE the leader.

 

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