Why Car Dependency Makes Healthcare Access Harder — Particularly for the Marginalized

More than 20 percent of car-free U.S. adults in car-dependent places are skipping medical appointments because they can’t physically get to the doctor, compounding the challenge of accessing a broken health system that already too often puts care out of reach even for those with automobiles, a new study finds.

Researchers for the Urban Institute found that “because of difficulties finding transportation,” roughly one in five non-elderly adults without access to a private vehicle or access to good transit were unable to obtain necessary healthcare at some point in the last 12 months. By contrast, only 5 percent of the general population said the same. 

Others, including people with disabilities, low household incomes, and those who rely on public health insurance plans like Medicaid, as well as people of color and those who live in rural areas were likely to skip care because they couldn’t get a ride — even if they did have a car in the household, which those groups disproportionately didn’t.

Click to enlarge. Graphic: Urban Institute

Of course, it’s not exactly news that structurally racist, classist, and ableist planning policies have put critical destinations out of reach of vulnerable families across America, including grocery stores, jobs, schools, and so much more. DOTs generally aren’t required to even measure how easy or difficult it will be for residents to access basic services across all modes as a result of new transportation investments — even though they are generally required to measure how those investments will impact vehicle delays for drivers.

But the researchers emphasize that gaining physical access to healthcare may pose its own unique, compounding challenges for underserved people, many of which have are woefully under-studied.

Urban Institute research associate Laura Barrie Smith pointed out, for instance, that because only 71 percent of hospitals accept Medicaid, recipients are often forced to travel longer distances to see providers they can afford — a problem that may be particularly acute in states that have made fewer people eligible for state-sponsored plans and disincentivized proximal hospitals from accepting public coverage.

A wave of hospital closures in rural areas, meanwhile, are increasingly making it even harder for people in the most transit-poor communities in the country to see a doctor for even routine medical reasons. And that’s not even considering the fact that many disproportionately rural states have enacted or are poised to institute bans on specific forms of care disproportionately needed by low-income people, like abortion, or restrictions on gender-affirming treatment, which people with disabilities already struggle to access — both of which can force patients to either forgo life-saving care or travel hundreds of miles to reach it.

“We have such a complicated healthcare system that there’s never going to be a one-size-fits-all way to promote access to care,” said Barrie Smith. “It’s really going to require people from outside healthcare to work together with policymakers and sustainable transportation advocates to address this.”

The good news is that improved transit can make a huge difference in the lives of car-free Americans — if it’s done right.

Among households without access to a vehicle, only nine percent of the people who reported their public transit access as “excellent, very good, or good” said they’d skipped the doctor for a transportation-related reason in the last year. People who simply lived near a transit line, meanwhile, weren’t always more likely to get care, because proximity alone “may not capture the limitations people face as accurately as their subjective perception of public transportation accessibility,” the researchers wrote. (Put another way: a train station on the corner may not do you any good if the train only comes once an hour, or if you can’t afford the fare, or if you’re terrified of being assaulted by transit police or murdered by another passenger onboard, or any of the other reasons why a marginalized person might not be able to make full use of their shared transportation network.)

Expanding telehealth options and non-emergency medical transportation benefits available under many health insurance plans could help, too, particularly if public transit fares are made eligible in addition to on-demand shuttles.

Commentary: The Paris Bike Boom Is Incroyable

My friends Marianne and Jean-Pierre offered me the use of their apartment in Les Gobelins in the 13th Arrondisment in Paris while they are away. So who was I to say non when they decided to go for Sicily for two weeks? French bread, strolling on the Seine and seeing old friends—and, more importantly, an opportunity to see the Paris Bike boom first hand was not to be passed up.

Cyclists on new infrastructure somewhere in the 13th.

I’m writing this while riding the train to Leipzig to attend the Velo-city conference after over a week in Paris that seemed to go by in five minutes.

I believe people in the safe-and-livable-streets field have an obligation to travel to countries and cities with good bike infrastructure to experience it for themselves. This is especially true for planners, engineers, and other transportation leaders who otherwise end up “iterating” (which is another way to say “experimenting on humans” *see note) designs that have already failed in other countries while ignoring best practices.

Everywhere I turned, bike infrastructure getting built. Note even the temporary barriers are heavy concrete.

First, the Paris Bike boom is real. I’ve never seen such in-your-face, undeniable proof of a city committed to change – and to safety. They aren’t hand-wringing over the design of a single street here or there—no, Paris is in the process of transforming the entire city, everywhere, all at once.

One of Paris’s many, standard, parking-protected bike lanes

While in Paris, I had the pleasure of meeting with Stein-van Osteren, a Dutchman who works for UNESCO and is author of Why Not the Bike? who was kind enough to take me on a cycling tour of the Rue de Rivoli and other streets in Paris, newly widened to provide real safety for cycling. He also showed me the Parisian school streets, from which motorists are completely blocked (with steel gates and concrete, not plastic posts and wishful thinking).

“Attention: the priority is for cyclists.” Paris is doing this literally, on the street, and in concrete.

“The idea is to stop the dangerous snake” said Osteren. In his view, when cars are permitted to drive in the same space as cyclists, it’s as if there were a huge, dangerous snake on the street, threatening anyone not shielded by two-to-three tons of metal and glass. And he’s right—even when drivers are patient and keep their distance, there’s something completely unnerving about having a giant, deadly machine driving behind, controlled by an impatient motorist looking for any opportunity to pass. It’s the main factor that deters people from cycling.

A street where the “dangerous snake” is eliminated. Photo: Stein-van Osteren

That’s getting addressed everywhere in Paris.

I also met with Mauricio Suarez, with the Parisian office of the Danish consultancy Copenhagenize, who talked about how the French bike boom isn’t just limited to Paris. There are similar changes going on throughout the country, in the smaller cities (many of which aren’t small at all) such as Lyon and Nantes.

I didn’t actively take notes; I just listened. That’s what everyone from the Bay Area and most other places in the United States needs to do. Given the inarguable success of the Dutch and the Danish in building bike friendly, safe, livable streets, there’s really nothing to do but listen with humility. These folks have figured it out; we have not. For the most part, this is what the Parisians have done in coming up with their designs.

But when it comes to the Paris bike boom, in a way I didn’t need to meet with anyone. All I had to do was look around. Today in Paris, you can’t walk more than a minute in any direction without coming across active construction sites where bus boarding islands, protected bike lanes, and protected intersections are being installed—with concrete dividers, not plastic and paint. There are already newly protected bike lanes on major routes throughout the city.

A new bus boarding island going in near the Jardin de Luxembourg

Yes, there are “brain farts,” as Copenhagenize’s Mikael Colville-Andersen calls them—lanes left over from a previous generation of car-based planners who put taxis, buses, and cyclists in the same lanes. Was the point back then to intentionally make cycling as terrifying as possible and to make sure buses go as slowly as possible?

One of Paris’s remaining brain farts–a combined bus, taxi, and bike lane. Don’t tell Jeffrey Tumlin–he’ll install it on Valencia

But that’s what Osteren calls “bicycle archaeology”–artifacts that show what Paris used to be, not what it is and what it’s becoming. It’s getting fixed thanks to Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s promise to build a Paris that is 100 percent bikeable. The evidence is everywhere.

It stands in stark contrast to the Bay Area, where engineers continue to talk about bikes while they actually build for cars. Maybe they give cyclists a lick of paint or a plastic post here or there so they can tick the “bike lane” box on some grant application without actually doing anything real. You can tell the Bay Area’s leaders are, excuse the French, plein de merde when it comes to safety. One just has to look at the garbage getting installed on Valencia. And how many times has Streetsblog reported on SFMTA officials celebrating some crap bike lane “protected” only by plastic posts and paint?

Even for a temporary installation, Paris uses concrete–with K-71s just as a warning to motorists

In stark contrast, when they use plastic posts in Paris, they’re only there to give drivers a last warning that they’re about to slam into concrete. I saw many installations where the first post before a bike lane barrier is white and obviously plastic, a K-71. The second one is black, painted to match the steel bollards one finds all over Paris, which will do serious damage to a car. So drivers get an obvious warning, then a last chance to pay attention before they get a terrible shock. Behind the plastic is concrete, which will physically stop a motorist before they kill or maim a cyclist.

After a white K-71, Parisian drivers get a last warning–another plastic post designed to look like the ubiquitous black steel bollards one finds in Paris

That’s, really, the only appropriate application for a plastic post. And yet, I’ve literally heard planners at SFMTA say they can’t use anything other than plastic because they might get sued by drivers. And I’ve heard leaders in Oakland say they need the bike lanes to be paint-only so they can double as a “breakdown lane.”

People who say such things and go along with such crap installations can talk about safety all they want, but that is not their goal. The proof is in what they put on the streets. Bay Area officials try to lie about the physics of what happens when an errant driver swerves into an occupied bike lane.

Plastic does not work. It cannot work. It is not protection. It is impossible.

I’m writing this as I ride a packed, 200-mile-per-hour high-speed train to Germany for the Velo-city conference in Leipzig. There, I’ll learn more about what’s going on in other cities in Europe. But first: here are a few more pics from Paris.

That’s me on the Rue de Rivoli! Photo: Stein-van Osteren

*Note: Unnecessarily experimenting on humans is considered a serious crime in most of the world – just not in the Bay Area.

Today: State House Transportation Committee to Discuss East-West Rail, T Oversight

The legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation is hosting a hybrid in-person and virtual public hearing this afternoon at 1 p.m. to discuss several bills related to transit expansion projects, East-West rail, and MBTA oversight.

You can find hearing details – including information about  how to attend in person or submit testimony virtually – at the Massachusetts Legislature’s website.

Here are some of the bills for which the Committee will hear testimony this afternoon:

Senate bill 2199, sponsored by Sen. Michael Barrett (Lexington), would relieve the state’s Department of Public Utilities (DPU) of its safety oversight role over the MBTA and app-based ridesharing services, and hand off that responsibility to a new 7-member “Commission on Transportation Safety Oversight and Regulation.” In a newsletter to constituents, Sen. Barrett writes that “no longer will transit be an add-on to an office preoccupied mainly by other things. Separating the DPU from transportation brings with it a crucial added benefit: The agency is freed up to concentrate on its major responsibility, climate change and energy policy.”
Another bill, H. 3452 from Rep. William Straus (Mattapoisett) would convene a high-level working group to produce a proposal to “transfer state safety oversight of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority from the Department of Public Utilities to the Office of the Inspector General,” while also establishing a process to document official disagreements between the T’s Chief Safety Officer and the T’s General Manager or Board of Directors.
Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa (Northampton) and Sen. Paul Mark (Pittsfield) are respectively sponsoring House and Senate versions of a bill that would direct the Secretary of Transportation to “negotiate and enter into compacts on behalf of the Commonwealth with the states of Connecticut, New York, and Vermont” for improved passenger rail connections through western Massachusetts to Albany, New Haven, Brattleboro, and beyond.
Sen. Mark is also sponsoring S.2269, which directs MassDOT to begin running east-west passenger rail service “at least five times daily” between Boston, Springfield, and Pittsfield by January 1, 2024.
Rep. Brandy Fluer Oakley (Mattapan) and Sen. Liz Miranda (Dorchester-Roxbury) are sponsoring House and Senate versions of a bill that would mandate electrification on the MBTA’s Fairmount Line by the end of 2024 and effectively make the line part of the T’s rapid transit network.

SGV Connect 110 : Life as a Reclaimer

We are Reclaimers because we have to, because of desperation. – Benito, one of the Reclaimers living in El Sereno.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to interview four of the El Sereno Caltrans Home Reclaimers: Benito, Marta, Ruby and Sandra. They were joined by two supporters, Roberto Flores and Fanny Guzman. I thought the interview would be a standard SGV Connect, updating listeners to the status of the reclaimer movement and their own lives since our last update over a year ago. What happened instead was an hour and ten minute emotional discussion of their lives both as Reclaimers and previously as people experiencing homelessness, why they chose to occupy unoccupied Caltrans-owned properties, their current legal status, and what will happen if courts uphold an eviction notice they received last month.

So we’re doing things a little differently this time. We’re skipping our regular introduction, and going right into the interview in the podcast. Below the embed, is a story and summary of the interview which might be a little easier for folks to follow than the transcript (which you can read here if you choose).

On the night of March 14, 2020, the world was in crisis. The COVID-19 shutdowns were just starting to roll across California, and the long- and short-term future was looking cloudy. That evening a group of people experiencing homelessness, with the support of a team of activists and community members broke into unoccupied Caltrans-owned houses and (re)claimed them as a place to live for themselves and their families. Caltrans owns houses along the 710-corridor as part of their now-abandoned efforts to extend the 710 Freeway north from its current terminus.

“I am from El Sereno. I saw these homes empty. And I always thought, ‘How come nobody does anything?’, recounted Sandra. “I never connected the way how these homes were hoarded and how other people are homeless in their tents. But when somebody mentioned that we’re going to squat in them, it totally makes sense….why hasn’t somebody done this sooner?”

At the time, nobody was exactly sure what would happen. Would the state police, LAPD or the Sheriff department show up and forcibly remove them? Would the chaos of the moment allow them to slip by unnoticed for a period of time? The initial reclaiming of the houses was meant as a statement about how unjust it was for so many houses to be unsettled when the homeless crisis locally, regionally and nationally was so large; but what would happen to the Reclaimers who were in the houses themselves?

In the end, the Reclaimers were either allowed to stay or moved to different short-term housing while they awaited a chance to move into permanent housing.

“The state and the whole world was in chaos,” recounts Marta of the day she moved in to her reclaimed home. “So they didn’t take us out. Governor Newsom told the CHP to stand down and not do anything when we reclaimed. But then with that process came also an offer to HACLA [Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles] and PATH [People Assisting the Homeless] agency here in Los Angeles, to give us temporary housing.”

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there.

For over three years, the Reclaimers signed leases with Caltrans, and saw their leases expire without permanent housing offers.

They created the El Sereno Community Land Trust to purchase as many of the homes as possible – to offer to Reclaimers and others experiencing homelessness; but they found the Trust excluded from local planning by disgraced racist Councilmember Kevin de León and by state legislation from Senator María Elena Durazo.

They have put in roots in the community, or deepened roots for those with a previous connection, but still received eviction notices for their temporary housing last month. Instead of a move into permanent housing, they find themselves fighting in court for the right to stay where they are.

While working with, or trying to work with, the government has proven difficult and frustrating, the Reclaimers have been buoyed by the support of a progressive community in Los Angeles, and with some education found that their physical neighbors would come to appreciate and welcome them as well.

“It was a lot of misinformation,” recounts Marta of her first interactions with her new neighbors. “They were saying that the Reclaimers were not from El Sereno. The majority of the Reclaimers are actually from this community, from El Sereno… Another thing that they said [was that] there was a lot of other services, or other things, that the city provides… as Sandra said that she wasn’t offered any.”

Over time, things began to change.

“In getting to know the neighbors and also talking to them about this misinformation; some of them did change their minds, not all of them. And my experience with my current neighbors is really good,” she continued. “Soon as I moved in, they offered material help. I am a single mother of two daughters, and so they also offered just to keep an eye out and keep me and my daughter safe, which I totally am grateful for.”

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing in the interactions with the housed neighbors. Benito is older, and his English isn’t as smooth as the other Reclaimers in the interview. He contrasts his experiences with the community broadly with that of his physical neighbors.

“I have one very good neighbor. And I have two neighbors who actually don’t talk to me. I think they’re confused. Because they are confused about the idea of ‘law and order.’ …They are really good people. So they said they understand the homeless, but this is not a way to take the [housing] …to go in the house illegally.” Benito says. “Some neighbors are angry, but there are more neighbors on our side. Who opened the house for us? The neighbors. Who was bringing us food? The neighbors. Who was keeping guard in the street to keep us safe? The neighbors. The people.”

Benito, like the other Reclaimers on the call, recounts the differences between life as an unhoused person on the street and life as a Reclaimer. In response to a question of, “Why?” His answer is simple. “​​We are reclaimer because we have to, because of desperation.”

Part of that desperation, as Marta mentions above, is that the services offered by the city and county aren’t sufficient to meet the needs of the mammoth unhoused population. Sandra and her family lived in a large encampment in a park near the Eastside Café where she, Marta, Fanny and Roberto met to take part in the interview. The encampment was well known in the neighborhood and was politically controversial. In her months living in the encampment, she said she could not remember a time when social services reached out to offer help.

“Not one time. Not one time did someone come to offer me services,” Sandra recounted of her time in the park. But once the Reclaimers were in the house and the Governor ordered CHP to stand down, things changed. “I remember people were getting placed in hotels. But before that, they didn’t even want to do a homeless count.”

The relationship between the Reclaimers and government agencies has been difficult. From basic annoyances – Ruby recounting how she often would have to “tell her life story” to multiple people from the same department over the course of a week – to larger ones – the first leases Reclaimers signed were described as “carceral” by the people who signed them. Offers for more stable housing are often far away from where the Reclaimers currently live, which would take them away from support networks, medical care and jobs.

“The houses are there.” Is a refrain heard repeatedly throughout the interview as the Reclaimers wonder why agencies seem intent on moving them away from the neighborhood they live in, and in many cases grew up in, instead of finding ways for them to stay where they are.

The answer is simple. The city and county have designs for the “Caltrans homes” in El Sereno. Councilmember de León was a de facto spokesperson for the program but has shrunk to the background following the release of his racist diatribe in the “fed tapes” revealed his efforts to use redistricting to marginalize historically black communities. Streetsblog broke down the differences between de León’s plans and those offered by the community in an article last year. However, just because de León is in the background doesn’t mean the plans have changed.

“Kevin de León’s plans didn’t go by the wayside,” explains Flores. “What happened is that HACLA is substituting in for Kevin de León and trying to legitimize the proposal.”

The de León/HACLA proposal has greater power behind it because of S.B. 51, authored by Senator Maria Elena Durazo, and signed into law last year. Among other things, the legislation disallows the selling of Caltrans housing to a co-op in El Sereno. Curiously, this provision of the legislation does not apply to Pasadena and South Pasadena properties that are also owned by Caltrans and are part of the 710 Corridor.

“I’m really irritated with Maria Elena Durazo,” begins Ruby. “She’s the image of, of what I once looked up to as an activist… somebody that was standing up for the marginalized, the unhoused, the immigrant, the hungry.” After S.B. 51, that image changed. “For what? For her to acquire this, this position in the state and all of a sudden to decide that that’s not what El Sereno needs?…. By creating a bill that was going to leave Pasadena and Alhambra good – and allow them purchase the houses in their hood. But not El Sereno? Because we’re Brown, we can’t buy the houses?”

While the Reclaimers have lived stressful lives, the urgency moved back into desperation when eviction notices arrived last month giving them three days to vacate their properties. The Reclaimers immediately took legal action to block the evictions, but they face a dark short-term future should they fail in court. While there may not be a “Plan B” if they lose in court, going back to the streets is not an option.

“You’re going to have to take me out in handcuffs,” says Ruby.

“But we’re definitely not going to go back to the streets. I do not plan to go back to my car,” adds Sandra.

“There is only ‘Plan A.’ And that’s to fight, fight, fight, fight,” finishes Benito.

If there’s one message the Reclaimers would like to leave, it’s that this movement isn’t just about them. Their story, their struggle, will hopefully end with them permanently housed. But they also hope they are part of a larger struggle to improve conditions for unhoused people throughout the world by showing what is possible if governmental efforts are to truly help the unhoused become housed again.

“We’re not here to just occupy space, we want to create justice for not only for El Sereno, but I think for housing in general,” says Ruby. “This is a global epidemic at this point.” And the solution is for the government to work with the unhoused, and work with the Reclaimers instead of working around or even against them.

“We want to see the government sitting down and negotiating with the Reclaimers,” concludes Fanny. “They should create a pathway in housing homeless people instead of criminalizing them. Because as we see, the homeless encampments are being gated [unhoused people being fenced out]. And that’s a loud and clear response from the government saying, ‘We don’t want you in the streets’… They need to sit down and negotiate with the Reclaimers and create a pathway with the Reclaimers to house homeless folks. Because who else better than the homeless people who reclaim these homes and make it into a house for themselves and their families and their kids?”

SGV Connect is sponsored by Foothill Transit. Foothill Transit was not consulted about the content of this podcast and the views expressed are those of the participants and interviewer and may or may not be representative of the views of Foothill Transit, its board, or its staff.

News Briefs: Free Bluebikes Sundays, Southwest Corridor Path Work Resumes

Free Bluebikes passes every Sunday for Mental Health Awareness Month

For the next four Sundays, the lead sponsor of the Bluebikes system, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, is giving away free Bluebikes rides in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month and National Bike Month.

To take advantage, Bluebikes users will need to open the Bluebikes App and select the two-hour “Adventure Pass.” Users will be able to claim unlimited passes on Sundays this month. 

The promotion will also include a free ride code to give to a friend, and the ten riders who log the most miles on Bluebikes in May will win a year-long Bluebikes membership.

Southwest Corridor paving work resumes

After a long hiatus, work is resuming on repairing pavement on the Southwest Corridor bike path between the South End, Roxbury, and Jamaica Plain.

In the days leading up to the Orange Line closure, the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) rushed to repair broken sections of pavement on the Southwest Corridor paths with fresh asphalt. DCR will return this spring to make more permanent repairs by milling and repaving the most damaged sections. Photo by Grecia White.

As we reported here last September, this work was supposed to be done last fall, after repair work done for the Orange Line shutdown left behind bumpy patches of new asphalt along the popular bike trail (see photo at left). But the contractors that were hired for the project were reportedly unavailable to actually do the work before winter began.

According to the Department of Conservation and Recreation, work resuming this week (pictured above) will remove broken patches of asphalt, repaving, and intersection improvements, including the removal of deteriorating cobblestone pavers in locations where the path crosses city streets and sidewalks.

Path users should be prepared to detour around work crews, either onto parallel paths in the Southwest Corridor, or adjacent streets and sidewalks.

Steal This Idea: In Québec, A New Traffic Light Only Turns Green for Safe Drivers

The Canadian city of Brossard, located right across the St. Lawrence River from Montréal, has installed a new traffic light in a school zone that only turns green for safe drivers.

The light’s Québécois manufacturers call it the “feu de ralentissement éducatif” (educational traffic-calming light), or FRED.

The light is red by default, but turns green when an attached speed camera detects an approaching motor vehicle that’s driving under the speed limit.

“Across Canada, near school zones, people are asking for concrete measures to control speeding. This (technology) has not been accepted yet by the government, and we’re going to do it as a test,” Brossard’s mayor, Doreen Assaad, told StreetsblogMASS.

Mayor Assaad added that though it’s the first time it’s being tried in Canada, similar signals have been in widespread use across Europe for years.

The FRED light in Brossard is being tried out for a 90-day trial period on Rue Stravinski, a two-lane street that runs through a suburban residential area.

Before the light was installed, Mayor Assaad said that Rue Stravinski had average vehicle speeds of 40 km/h (25 mph). But in the past week, average speeds have dropped to 29 km/h (18 mph).

Unlike Massachusetts, Quebec also has automated enforcement cameras that will issue fines when they detect drivers who exceed speed limits or ignore red lights.

“Fines might be effective, but it’s effective after-the-fact,” says Mayor Assaad. “The beauty of FRED is we reward good behavior, and it’s immediate. It doesn’t record any private information, it just detects that the vehicle is coming and measures its speed. So it’s a carrot instead of a stick.”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IYr-aoI7ls?version=3&rel=1&%23038;showsearch=0&%23038;showinfo=1&%23038;iv_load_policy=1&%23038;fs=1&%23038;hl=en-US&%23038;autohide=2&%23038;start=1&%23038;wmode=transparent&w=640&h=360]

Mayor Assaad warned that the current FRED light can only be used in specific circumstances: it’s not capable of controlling traffic at intersections, and it only works on smaller roadways, with one lane in each direction.

But anyone who’s dealt with antisocial, dangerous drivers can probably imagine lots of possible applications for similar technology here.

Many traffic lights are already equipped with cameras, sensors, and wireless connections: imagine a citywide network of traffic signals that can detect a speeding driver, or someone parking illegally in a bus lane, to prioritize red lights for dangeous drivers across the entire city.

And while legislation to legalize “automated enforcement” cameras that would use cameras to issue civil fines for speeding and other traffic violations remains stalled in the State House, there’s nothing preventing cities from reprogramming traffic signals to make bad drivers spend more time staring at red lights.


Ribbon Cutting Will Open Bike Access to Treasure Island Seven Days a Week

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, May 6 at 11 a.m. to celebrate the official opening of the “Southgate Road Realignment” project.

While some – namely the SF Chronicle – see this as the opening of a better on-and off-ramp from the Bay Bridge freeway onto Treasure Island, what really matters is that bike riders from the East Bay will once again be able to reach Treasure Island. Transit can complete the route into the city until the bike path on the West Span is built. And bike riders coming from San Francisco can take a ferry or bus to Treasure Island and ride the rest of the way into Oakland.

The ribbon cutting will take place at the trail lookout point on Yerba Buena Island – which offers a stunning backdrop of the new bridge and the East Bay hills in the distance. East Bay bike riders can reach the ceremony via the bridge. From San Francisco, Muni Line 25 or the short-hop Treasure Island Ferry can get you to the Treasure Island administration building where you can join an event-specific shuttle to the site. But note that bike-carrying capacity on all those modes is limited.

Official notifications say that, as of Saturday, the bike path will be open “sunrise to sundown,” so 24-hour access has not yet been approved. And there are currently no plans to restart the shuttle that provided weekend connections to Treasure Island for bike riders who didn’t want to subject themselves to the freeway-like conditions on the former, scary route up and around Yerba Buena Island.

Hopefully that shuttle will resume, however, because the new route, while better, is not ideal for all riders and involves some steep hills. There is a protected bike lane on both uphill segments, from the bridge and from the island, and the steepest part coming up from the island includes switchbacks on a separate path. Bikes will share the road with vehicles on the downhill segments, however. That should work for many riders, since they can more easily match the speed of cars, but will still require riders to be confident.

The completion of this project clears the way for another project that will – one day – offer an alternative route on the other side of Yerba Buena Island with more gradual climbs and descents. It is also planned to include, along with bridge replacements, a landing pad for future bike access on the West Span of the bridge, all the way into San Francisco.

Bike East Bay plans to lead a ride to test out the commuter connection all the way to San Francisco – there are ferry and bus connections from Treasure Island, with somewhat limited bike access – on Monday morning.

It’s Bike Month! Focus: Los Angeles and Long Beach

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

One could argue that every month oughta be Bike Month in Los Angeles and Long Beach, or could be if its bike infrastructure kept up better with the weather. With CicLAvia and other open streets events taking place on a regular basis all year long, it might be silly to pin down one month to be Bike Month – but it’s worth celebrating this beautiful machine anyway.

Officially, Bike Week is May 15 through 19, and Bike Day is Thursday, May 18. There are a lot of supportive and celebratory events planned.

Metro will offer free bus and train rides on Bike Day for all riders. That can double the length of any bike ride one feels ready to make. All Metro buses have room for 2-3 bikes on their front-loading racks. If you’ve never loaded your bike on a bus rack, or maybe if you have and are nervous about it, check out this video ahead of time to see how easy it is.

Metro also reminds riders that it provides bike lockers and bike hubs, where you can lock up your bikes safely while you ride transit, in case you don’t want to bring it with you all the way.

But it’s Metrolink that is really offering the big deal. Any rider who brings a bike onboard – and there’s a bike car on every train – will ride fare-free during all of Bike Week, from May 15-19.

Metro Bike Share will also celebrate Bike Day and the day after with pop-up events around town to offer bike commuters snacks, coffee, and fun bike stuff from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. These will pop up at the North Hollywood B Line (Red) Station on May 18 and Downtown Santa Monica E Line (Expo) Station on May 19. But there are multiple “pit stops” planned on these days; check the calendar for a full listing.

Metro Bike Share is also offering a steep discount on its thirty-day pass during Bike Month (one measly dollar gets you endless thirty-minute bike rides throughout May). You need to sign up online or use the Metro Bike Share mobile app and you do need access to a debit or credit card. For the thirty-day pass, use promo code BIKEMONTH23.

Bike-share is also free for everyone on May 18 (limited to 30-minute rides). On that day, use a debit or credit card at any kiosk and enter the promo code 051823. The code can be redeemed multiple times for as many 30-minute rides you want, all day. Rides longer than thirty minutes will be charged $1.75 per half hour thereafter, so be sure to return the bike to a kiosk within that first half hour. Metro is also waiving its extra fee for electric bikes that day.

Metro and BikeLA (formerly the L.A. County Bike Coalition) are hosting free bike classes lead by League of American Bicyclists-Certified Instructors (LCIs) during May, including instruction (in English or Spanish) on fixing a flat tire and what you need to know to commute by bike. Information on classes here.

What would Bike Month be without a competition and chances to win stuff? Riders who log their miles and trips on Ridematch are eligible for a number of cool prizes. Sponsors Around the Cycle, Electric Bike Company, and Unchained Bicycle Garage are offering the prizes, which include helmets, bicycle locks, and gift cards.

Other Bike Month events include a “CicLAmini” in Watts on May 21 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The “minis” are less bike-y than regular CicLAvias – compact, neighborhood-oriented routes mostly for walking, but appropriate for slow riders, including beginners and kids. “Expect things like self-guided walking tours, scavenger hunts, street games, local business engagements, and art and cultural activities for all ages,” says the calendar listing.

On the morning of May 27, Metro Bike Share and Metro Art will host a community ride. It will begin at Union Station and highlight the newly installed Metro Art exhibition, “Journeys,” as well as community art along the route. “Participants will be taken on a multimodal journey ending at Exposition Park and be witness to many sites of public artwork along the way.” Register ahead of time to ensure a space.

Long Beach will not be left behind in Bike Month.

On May 6 – Saturday – the city of Long Beach will hold events to encourage people to donate unused bikes for refurbishing and donation by Pedal Movement. That will take place at six different locations in the LB.

May 20 will also see Long Beach hosting another of its popular open streets events: “Beach Streets Downtown.” The free family-friendly car-free festival will open Broadway and other streets (see map) where people can walk, bike, skate, and socialize. There will be music, food, and games for the kids.

And on May 28, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the city of Long Beach will host a thirty-mile community bike ride along the Marina Green. The event is free, and “suitable for beginning to intermediate bike riders who are comfortable riding on bike paths and on streets.” Preregistration at the above link is required.

Advocates Urge Feds Not To Weaken Already-Weak Crash Reporting Guidelines

A new set of federal crash reporting guidelines could actually encourage cities to collect less data about the systemic factors behind the national traffic violence epidemic by treating basic information about road design at crash sites as supplemental, a prominent national organization says.

Ahead of a recently extended May 3 deadline, the advocacy group Salud America is urging safe streets advocates to submit their comments on the newly revised sixth edition of the Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria, which outlines hundreds of recommended data points that communities across the U.S. should collect about car crashes. The guidelines aren’t mandatory, but they’re a common touchstone for law enforcement, and much of the data are aggregated into national databases, where they play a critical role in guiding national policy and development decisions.

Since it was first introduced in 1998, though, the document has faced criticism from safe streets advocates for recommending that departments collect granular details about individual crash factors, like whether pedestrians were wearing dark clothing, while simultaneously ignoring key data related to systemic factors about which policymakers might take action.

Why U.S. Car Crash Reporting Is Broken

For instance, car crashes with pedestrians that don’t result in a serious-enough injury generally don’t meet the guidelines’ recommended reporting threshold, leaving as many as one-third of such traumatic incidents unrecorded and making it harder to identify and address common crash sites. Basic details like the height and weight of a vehicle aren’t requested either, even as evidence mounts that excessively tall and heavy car designs are a grown factor in the nation’s crash death totals and as after-market modifications like lifted trucks grow increasingly common.

And even some fundamental information about common roadway characteristics — such as the distance to the closest crosswalk when a walker is struck outside of one — is omitted.

The new edition of the Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria would not only replicate all of those omissions, but actually remove all data related to roadways entirely relegating it to a separate, supplementary document called Model Inventory of Roadway Elements. States have a mandate to adopt that document by September of 2026, but Salud America fears that in the meantime, it will be ignored.

“This is a problem because it shifts the priority of crash data collection off local law enforcement officers and onto states, expecting them to take additional, voluntary, steps beyond basic crash data reporting,” the group wrote in a sample comment that its encouraging advocates to submit to regulators.

Data on when vehicles involved in crashes are modified after-market, especially stuff like lifted trucks that raise the hood to the level of the head and neck

— streetsblogkea (@streetsblogkea) April 5, 2023

To capture an accurate picture of why so many people die on America’s transportation network, Salud America argues that the Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria should not only put roadway design back into the guidelines, but restructure the entire document around it and the other systemic factors that federal transportation officials themselves say are to blame for roadway crashes.

And they’ve already got a pretty good guideline. In the National Roadway Safety Strategy released in January 2022, U.S. DOT highlighted five systemic elements that need to come together to save lives — safer people, safer roads, safer vehicles, safer speeds, and better post-crash care —  which could also guide data collection for police departments and non-police crash analysts nationwide.

Source: USDOT

For instance, a “safer speeds” section, as the group envisions it, could direct officers not just to note the speed limit on the road where a driver struck a pedestrian and whether that motorist exceeded it, but to note the speed at which the majority of drivers actually travel according to the most recent 85th percentile data, which might signal that the road design itself is encouraging dangerously fast driving and needs to be calmed.

A “safer people” section, meanwhile, could be retooled to emphasize not just how often road users commit an avoidable “human error” — a now-debunked statistic that came directly out of federal crash databases — but also simple but critical measurements like the height and weight of victims, which would make it easier to understand how vehicle design impacts injury and fatality rates on people in diverse bodies.

Of course, even the perfect Uniform Crash Criteria wouldn’t make for perfect crash reporting. The guidelines, after all, are just guidelines, and even departments that wish to follow them to the letter don’t always have the resources to do so, especially when it comes to the sometimes difficult process of analyzing roadway characteristics. Police departments, arguably, aren’t well-equipped to do much of that analysis anyway, which is why some advocates argue that much of crash analysis should be done by roadway engineers, or even advocates willing to put in the time necessary to understand the root causes of preventable deaths and injuries.

If nothing else, though, better crash-reporting guidelines would encourage U.S. communities to dig deeper into the data behind traffic violence — and not settle for partial explanations of why so many people keep dying.

“Inconsistent and insufficient crash data has hindered efforts to identify risk factors and protective factors, which thwarts the development and adoption of strategies to prevent gruesome deaths and injuries,” Salud America wrote. “We need an MMUCC that strengthens crash data.”

This story has been updated with additional information about the MIRE supplement. USDOT declined to comment publicly. 

You can submit your comments on the Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria until May 3, or using one of the two sample comments provided by Salud America. 

Mayor Wu Announces Expanded Open Streets Events Calendar for 2023

On Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Michelle Wu announced that the City of Boston will continue and expand its day-long “Open Streets” festivals this summer, and bring them to more neighborhoods throughout the city.

Last year’s Open Streets series temporarily blocked car traffic to bring day-long festivals with outdoor activities and performances to neighborhood main streets in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Jamaica Plain.

“For six hours, in each of those locations, we closed certain roads to vehicular traffic and turned our neighborhood streets into places for people to cycle and skate, dance, create art, soak up the sun, and connect with one another,” said Mayor Wu at a press conference this afternoon. “I still remember very vividly the sounds that happen when you take away the buzz and hum of car traffic and replace it with kids laughing.”

The city will repeat open street events in those three neighborhoods this summer, and also bring new events to two additional neighborhoods: Allston and East Boston.

“For us, this is another excuse to celebrate the rich cultures of East Boston,” said Veronica Robles of the Veronica Robles Cultural Center. “Closing the streets (to car traffic) without having to go through all the permitting process, it’s something that we really want to take advantage of, and we would like to make sure that all the communities in our neighborhood find out about this, to come together so we can talk, love, dance, and create art together.”

The Veronica Robles Cultural Center is planning to schedule its annual Día de los Muertos parade during the East Boston event, which is scheduled for Sunday, October 15.

PHOTOS: Boston Celebrates Open Streets In Jamaica Plain

The full schedule of events includes:

Sunday June 25: Centre Street in Jamaica Plain
Saturday July 15: Blue Hill Avenue in Roxbury
Saturday August 19: Harvard Ave. and Brighton Ave. in Allston
Sunday September 17: Dorchester Ave. in Dorchester
Sunday October 15: Meridian and Bennington Streets in East Boston

The city has set up a new webpage with additional details, at Boston.gov/open-streets.

Mayor Wu also announced a major expansion in one of the city’s longest-running open street events, Open Newbury, which will become a weekly event this summer.

“This year Open Newbury will take place every Sunday from July 2nd through October 15,” said Mayor Wu. “That is 10 more events for residents and visitors to explore the 8-block, mile-long stretch of shops and restaurants, galleries and activities free from car traffic.”

Open Newbury started as a one-day event in August 2016, then returned for three Sundays each summer from 2017 to 2019, and again in 2021 after a hiatus during the pandemic.

During her first year in office, Mayor Wu’s administration expanded Open Newbury to 6 dates for the summer of 2022. This year’s schedule will close Newbury Street to cars to let foot traffic take over the street on 16 Sundays.

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