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Category Archives: ‘Transportation’


Editorial: Here’s how Jerry Brown can truly build a lasting environmental legacy

JULY 07, 2017 6:00 AM


Gov. Jerry Brown’s announcement that he will host the world’s climate leaders in San Francisco was well-timed. Ensuring he will remain relevant as his days in office come to an end, the event will take place in September 2018, at the height of the campaign to replace him.
But for all the acclaim that Brown receives internationally for his leadership in the fight against climate change, the governor has work to do in Sacramento to cement his environmentalist legacy.
His aides wheel, deal and draft a compromise to extend the cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gases and generate billions for years beyond his time in office, while forward-looking corporations are making clear how quickly the world is changing.
Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk tweeted the other day that the mid-market Model 3, an electric vehicle selling for a base of $35,000, would roll off the Fremont assembly line this month. Volvo, owned by China’s Geely Automobile Holdings, made the flashy declaration that by 2019, all its new cars would have electric motors.
Though some of the vehicles will be hybrids, the notion that a venerable Swedish automaker, known for producing safe but not slick cars, is fully committing to an electric fleet should spur other companies to make the same commitment.

For most Californians, a $40,000 car is hardly affordable. Leases on lower-end EVs might make financial sense for moderate or low-income Californians, though not make practical sense. The state must ensure that charging stations are spread beyond the Silicon Valley and West L.A.
The California Air Resources Board is reviewing a plan by Volkswagen to spend part of its $800 million penalty for lying about diesel emissions to build electric charging stations in out-of-the-way locales, vital if the state is to reach Brown’s goal of having 1.5 million zero emission vehicles on the road by 2025, as detailed by The Sacramento Bee’s Alexei Koseff.
All that notwithstanding, the car culture California helped create is changing. With apps, ride-sharing, and, soon enough, driverless vehicles, car ownership, we are told, will become passé. To get around, mass transit will be more popular. Buses and trucks powered by diesel are a source of much pollution. That’s changing, too.
The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority is expected to award a contract to begin transforming its 2,200-bus fleet into electric buses this month, and intends to have an all-electric fleet in 13 years. An initial contract for 60 buses is expected to go to the Canadian-based company, New Flyer. We don’t endorse protectionism, but there should be room for public agencies to reward companies that manufacture or assemble electric buses in California.
One such company, Proterra, moved to Burlingame from South Carolina, and operates a factory east of Los Angeles, recognizing that high costs of doing business here aside, California is committed to green energy. Its buses transport commuters in Stockton and soon in Fresno, among other locales. It’s the sort of green economy company that should be nurtured.
In an interview with an editorial board member, Ryan Popple, Proterra’s chief executive officer, predicted that by 2019, electric buses will cost less than diesel-hybrid-powered buses. By 2021, they will be on par with buses fueled by natural gas. Its factory can turn out 100 buses a year, with plans to increase production, and provide solid jobs for workers who don’t have advanced degrees.
Musk built his massive battery factory outside Reno, in part because Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and the Silver State’s Legislature provided rich incentives, and because California could not guarantee that Tesla could get the permits needed to quickly construct the factory. That shouldn’t happen again.

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Trump administration may let California keep emissions standards

By Carolyn Lochhead
July 9, 2017 Updated: July 9, 2017 9:17pm

Photo: Noah Berger, Special To The Chronicle

California’s auto emissions rules set the standard for automakers. The Trump administration appears likely to back off on challenging them.

The Trump administration may be quietly conceding defeat to California on car tailpipe emissions, the biggest battleground in the state’s showdown with President Trump over climate change.
Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt backed away last month from his threats to challenge California’s unique legal authority, known as a waiver, to set aggressive limits on vehicle emissions, including greenhouse gases.

Although Pruitt left the door open to a future challenge, experts said he is running out of time to stop California from dictating national pollution standards on cars, the nation’s primary source of greenhouse gas emissions.
“The auto manufacturers aren’t going to make two different kinds of cars, California and non-California, so by default they’re really required to make cars to the California standards,” said Michael Steel, a lawyer in the San Francisco office of the Morrison Foerster firm who advises companies on environmental compliance.
Because of the long lead time needed to design cars, Steel said, “It’s kind of too late” for the administration to block California’s rules. “There’s a timing issue in terms of whether you can effectively turn the clock back any later than now.”
California is the nation’s largest car market, and a dozen other states, comprising more than 40 percent of the U.S. population, have adopted California’s emissions standards.
Last week’s decisions by Chinese-owned Volvo to put electric engines in all its new cars, and by France to phase out gasoline and diesel cars by 2040, only strengthened California’s hand.
“I don’t want to attribute any one automaker’s statements to our regs,” said Joshua Cunningham, head of the California Air Resources Board’s clean cars branch, which develops the state’s car pollution standards. “But given the broad momentum of California’s regulations and what’s happening in Europe and in China, I think the industry sees some pretty consistent signals from a lot of governments that long-term emissions requirements are going to continue to get more strict.”

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Sacramento is no L.A. That’s why Volkswagen is bringing electric car program here

JUNE 29, 2017 3:00 PM


Sacramento motorists probably know this already: For all its sprawl and lengthy commutes, the city is far more manageable then Los Angeles.
Which is why Sacramento, and not Los Angeles, is about to be showered with a fleet of electric cars supplied by Volkswagen.
The carmaker announced Thursday it has chosen Sacramento as its first “Green City,” the place where it plans to spend $44 million building an electric car-sharing service, a slew of vehicle-charging stations and other benefits.
The program is part of the $14.7 billion settlement Volkswagen made with state and federal officials last fall after admitting it rigged thousands of diesel cars with software designed to get around air pollution regulations. Of the $14.7 billion, Volkswagen pledged to spend $800 million over ten years promoting electric car usage in California.
Mark McNabb, president of Volkswagen’s Electrify America subsidiary, said a car-sharing program is a way of making electric cars available to moderate- and low-income motorists who can’t afford the $30,000 price tag.

Volkswagen in March made Sacramento its tentative choice for the Green City designation. Then community leaders from Los Angeles made a concerted effort to replace Sacramento, arguing that L.A.’s global profile would create a more visible platform for promoting the virtues of zero emission vehicles.
Company officials, however, decided to stick with Sacramento. A key reason: The city is much more compact than Los Angeles, which makes it more suitable for a fleet of cars that can’t travel more than 100 to 200 miles without having to be recharged.
“L.A. is a monster. Commuting patterns are very different,” McNabb said. “Sacramento has ideal commuting patterns.”

He added that Volkswagen could learn from its experience in Sacramento and apply those lessons to a larger city. Volkswagen plans to designate a second Green City in a few years and will “continue to have discussions with L.A,” he said.

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Where to plug in? Lack of charging options is a big barrier to electric car adoption in California

Emily Guerin June 29, 04:59 PM
Angie Vorhies plugs in the charging cord to her Nissan Leaf electric vehicle at a San Diego mall in November 2013. LENNY IGNELZI/AP

California has just 300,000 electric vehicles – far short of Gov. Jerry Brown’s goal of 1.5 million by 2025. A new report says one of the biggest barriers to getting more electric cars on the road is a lack of places to plug in.
In the past, the price of electric cars was an impediment to their adoption. But cost is no longer as daunting as electric car batteries have gotten cheaper, subsidies have increased, and dealerships have begun offering affordable leases. 
Now, the question of where to charge is a bigger issue, especially for the 40 percent of Californians who live in multi-unit apartment buildings, said Ethan Elkind, lead author of the UCLA and Berkeley Law school study. Many of them don't have a dedicated parking spot, which makes it difficult to charge an electric car at home.
"It's really telling that 80 percent of electric vehicle drivers live in a single family home," Elkind said.
There are two big problems with increasing access to charging for apartment-dwellers. The first is convincing landlords or employers to install chargers. 
The average installation cost for a charger is $2,200, according to the Idaho National Laboratory. In California, a 2014 law requires landlords to allow their tenants to install electric chargers -- but it doesn't apply to rent-controlled buildings and those with fewer than five parking spots.
Another issue is the cost of electricity. Public chargers, like those at malls or near highways, and those at workplaces are subject to commercial electricity rates, which are higher than residential rates. At times, it can cost so much to charge an electric car that it makes more sense to drive a gasoline-powered vehicle.
The report offers an array of possible solutions, including:
Incentives to bring down the costs of installing chargers at workplaces
Changing commercial electricity rates to make public charging more cost-effective
Re-jiggering municipal parking rules to allow for curbside charging
Building public charging "plazas" where apartment-dwellers could leave their cars parked overnight.
The challenge is daunting. As the report notes, "to meet the 1.5 million electric vehicle target by 2025, the state will need to see an exponential growth in electric vehicle sales."

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Demand for Chevy’s electric cars is higher in Colorado than nation as new Bolt EV debuts

New Bolt EV can drive 230 miles on a single charge

Chevrolet The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV is the automaker’s first long-range electric vehicle. The Bolt EV, which hit Colorado dealers in May 2017, can drive 230 miles on a single charge.
By TAMARA CHUANG | | The Denver Post
PUBLISHED: June 27, 2017 at 6:26 pm | UPDATED: June 28, 2017 at 3:24 pm

Colorado’s thirst for electric vehicles was key for Chevrolet picking the state to sell its new Bolt EV before other states nationwide. The Bolt is the automaker’s latest plug-in car that goes 230 miles on a single charge.
More than 6,000 Bolt EV’s have sold since debuting in California and Oregon in December and last month in Colorado, according to Fred Ligouri, the company’s manager of electric vehicle communication. The new car will be available to dealers in the remaining 30 states in August.
Colorado is particularly fond of Chevy’s electric fleet, which includes the Chevrolet Volt, the hybrid electric car that debuted in 2011 and can drive 53 miles on one charge. Sales of the Volt nationwide increased 58 percent between 2015 to 2016. In the same period in Colorado, Volt sales grew 74 percent.
“Colorado has been (interested) for a long time. It certainly seems like the mindset is right,” Ligouri said. ” There’s a great amount of charging infrastructure, especially in the eastern half of the state, which makes it very viable, especially with the added range of the EV Bolt.”

Demand for Chevy’s electric cars is higher in Colorado than nation as new Bolt EV debuts

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Judge upholds California’s low-carbon fuel standards

By Bob Egelko
June 20, 2017 Updated: June 20, 2017 3:33pm

Photo: Anne Cusack, MCT

Ethanol is pumped into a truck for transport as ethanol production is coming back and Pacific Ethanol, Inc., in Stockton, California, has weathered bankruptcy and is cashing in on the current boon. (Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

A federal judge has upheld most of California’s pioneering low-carbon fuel standard but allowed oil companies and other fuel suppliers to challenge rules that may favor California ethanol producers over their Midwest competitors.
The standard, part of a 2006 state law intended to reduce air pollution that causes global warming, requires suppliers of transportation fuel sold in California to achieve a 10 percent reduction by 2020 in the amount of carbon released from their products.

Ruling in lawsuits originally filed in 2009 by oil refiners and ethanol producers, U.S. District Judge Lawrence O’Neill of Fresno rejected their broadest arguments: that the California rules conflicted with milder federal clean-air laws and were an unconstitutional attempt to shield the state’s energy producers from competition.
Federal law expressly “preserves the right of the states to enact their own legislation that is more restrictive,” O’Neill said in a 48-page decision Thursday.
In 2011, O’Neill had blocked enforcement of the low-carbon standard, saying it appeared to establish a preference for California-produced biofuels. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco quickly allowed the state to resume enforcement of the rules and later overturned O’Neill’s decision, in language he quoted in his latest ruling.
“There was no protectionist purpose, no aim to insulate California from out-of-state competition,” he said, citing the appeals court’s findings.
But he said ethanol companies in the Midwest, where nearly all of the nation’s supplies of the fuel are produced, could proceed with their claim that the California rules, though neutral in purpose, had a discriminatory effect.

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BMW and PG&E Prove Electric Vehicles Can Be a Valuable Grid Resource

Nearly 100 plug-in cars and a stack of second-life EV batteries successfully responded to dozens of demand response calls.
by Julia Pyper
June 20, 2017

The concept of using electric vehicles as a grid resource is no longer just theory. A pilot program recently conducted by BMW and Pacific Gas & Electric successfully demonstrated that electric vehicles can serve as reliable and flexible grid assets, which could eventually save money for both utilities and EV owners.
The BMW i ChargeForward Project is one of the best examples to date of a utility and an automaker working together to develop new technologies and use cases for electric vehicles (EVs) and their batteries.
“One of the things that we really wanted to test here was, how can we work closely with an automaker?” said David Almeida, electric vehicle program manager at PG&E. “We are an old company, and we're a large company. Automakers are old companies, and they're large companies. We both have our own internal bureaucracies. And so, one of the challenges I wanted to understand when we were setting this up was, how do we make those two independent entities work well together?”
“By and large, we didn't have any of those institutional challenges that I was [worried about],” he said. “We ended up working very closely, I think partially because we've got this common shared goal of increasing electric transportation.”

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Making cities more dense always sparks resistance. Here’s how to overcome it.

Urbanist Brent Toderian on how to deal with NIMBY [Not In My Backyard].
Updated by David Jun 20, 2017, 9:10am EDT

Vancouver’s waterfront. (Brent Toderian)
Urban density, done well, has all kinds of benefits. On average, people who live in dense, walkable areas tend to be physically healthier, happier, and more productive. Local governments pay less in infrastructure costs to support urbanites than they to support suburbanites. Per-capita energy consumption is lower in dense areas, which is good for air pollution and climate change.

Plus, dense, walkable areas tend to be buzzy and culturally vibrant. There’s a reason they are often so expensive to live in — lots of people want to live there. Demand exceeds supply.
But creating a dense, walkable area almost always means increasing the density of a built environment that already exists. Especially in developed countries, they’re not building a lot of new cities. They’re working with existing ones. And cities built after the advent of the automobile were generally built around cars, which generally means low density.
Densifying can mean up-zoning to allow greater height in existing urbanized areas, or to allow duplexes, triplexes, or apartments in previously single-family areas. It can mean allowing for mother-in-law units (“accessory dwelling units,” or ADUs, in the lingo) or units along back lanes and alleys. It can mean extending transit to new areas.

But one way or another it means change. It means telling the residents of an area that a bunch more people are moving in. And that always generates resistance, sentiment that has taken on the name NIMBY [Not In My Backyard].

I asked urbanist Brent Toderian, who has worked with numerous cities on densification projects, how he thinks about, and deals with, NIMBYs. (More of our conversation here.)
David Roberts
My hometown of Seattle is full of purportedly progressive people who enjoy urban amenities like everyone else, but if you ask them to up-zone, it’s a revolution. Talk a little about NIMBYs.

Brent Toderian
I work all over the world, and there are NIMBYs everywhere. Density is never easy. Change is never easy. We have a bias towards the status quo and we tend to weigh loss more heavily than gain. That is human nature.
To me, NIMBY is not a pejorative. It means people are saying, “that thing — we don’t want it in our backyard, in our neighborhood.” There’s nothing inherently bad about that. Sometimes it’s a reasonable point! I don’t want an abattoir in my backyard. I don’t want a concrete-batching plant in my backyard. There are things we don’t want in our backyard, and when you combine that with human nature, almost anything in your backyard that you don’t currently have is going to be a challenge.
So I don’t begrudge NIMBYs. I value them. I listen carefully and I learn what they’re afraid of, why they say no. Often I will learn how to do yes better and address their fears, or at least mitigate them.

NIMBYs are not necessarily the problem. They are behaving normally for humans. The problem is politicians and other decision-makers who know better, who don’t do the right thing because of NIMBY fear. If you’ve had a long process, heard from thousands of people, investigated and understood the technical issues, know your aspirations as a city, and you let 10 or 15 individuals at the last minute show up at council and turn it down? I don’t blame those 15 individuals, I blame the leaders.

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Pedal-ins and car burials: what happened to America’s forgotten 1970s cycle boom?

‘Bicycle madness’ once saw US bike sales outstrip cars, and spawned ambitious plans for 100,000 miles of cycle paths. Then the music stopped


Democrats and Republicans addressed a pro-bicycle rally at Denver Civic Center in October 1972. Photograph: John Sunderland/Denver Post via Getty Images

Friday 16 June 2017 02.00 EDT

“The bicycle’s biggest wave of popularity in its 154-year history,” gushed Time magazine in 1970 at the start of America’s five-year love affair with the bike. “Some 64 million fellow travellers are taking regularly to bikes these days, more than ever before,” the report continued, “and more than ever [they are] convinced that two wheels are better than four.”

US bicycle sales, which had been rolling along at 6 million a year, shot up to 9 million in 1971, 14 million in 1972 and 15.3 million the following year, according to a Bank of America report. While most pre-boom bikes had been sold for children, suddenly 60% were destined for adults.

Highly placed politicians – a few of whom were cyclists – told planners to get on and build miles and miles of urban bikeways. “Both national and local governments have recognised the phenomenal growth of bicycling,” reported Time, “and the Department of the Interior has plans for nearly 100,000 miles of bicycle paths to be constructed in the next 10 years.”

In 1973, 252 bicycle-oriented bills were introduced in 42 states. The Federal-Aid Highway Act of the same year provided $120m for bikeways over three years.

“Bikes are back,” claimed National Geographic writer Noel Grove in the magazine’s May 1973 edition. “Glutted roadways, ecological concern, the quest for healthful recreation, and the sophistication of geared machines have all contributed to a flood of cycling activity,” he explained, adding that “legislators are beginning to think bikeway as well as highway”. He concluded that “with bikeway construction and ecological concern marching hand in hand, America’s bicycling boom could harbinger a whole new era in transportation”. What went wrong?


A 1970 anti-automobile cartoon by Richard Hedman. It originally appeared in Autokind V Mankind by Kenneth R Schneider. Photograph: Richard Hedman

Ecological concern was certainly one of the drivers of the boom. During the 1967 Summer of Love, the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco reeked of patchouli oil, weed and incense. With flowers in their hair, some of the area’s self-styled “freaks” protested not just against the Vietnam war but also against waste.

We’re at the final stages of the climax of the automobile era … We’ve gone as far as we can go

US interior secretary Stewart Udall in 1972

The automobile became a potent symbol of everything that was wrong with the “military–industrial complex”. In February 1970, 19 humanities students at the San Jose State College bought a brand new Ford Maverick and, with the blessing of their professor, buried it in a 12 ft-deep hole dug in front of the campus’ cafeteria. This crowdfunded destruction of the hated motor car made news around the world.

Chicago-based Edward Aramaic explicitly linked cycling with environmentalism when he founded the Bicycle Ecology group and organised a “pedal-in” in October 1970. This was the era of “-in” demos – which started in the 1960s with “sit-ins” protesting against racial segregation at American colleges and universities. Later, there were “teach-ins”, “love-ins” and, in 1969, the famous “bed-in” with Yoko Ono and John Lennon who espoused world peace from the presidential suite of Amsterdam’s Hilton Hotel, and who were gifted a White Bicycle by the city’s Provo anarchist group.

“Bicycle Ecology … want to ban trucks, buses and automobiles from [downtown] and replace them with bikes,” reported the Chicago Tribune. “1,500 to 2,000 enthusiastic riders of all ages … braved a stiff north wind and temperatures in the 40s to wheel down major arteries to the civic centre, where speeches extolled the bicycle as good for the individual and for the environment.”


A Bicycle and Equestrian Day in Los Angeles in September 1971. Photograph: AP

New York urban planner David Gurin joined with other activists to form a Triple-A with a difference. An Action Against Automobiles demo in November 1972 called for an end to highway spending, and for cars to be barred from downtown Manhattan. Riders met in Central Park and rolled past the Greater New York Automobile Show, chanting “Cars must go! Cars must go!”

Speaking to a crowd of cyclists, Gurin applauded the radical bicycle activism of the Provo anarchists, and urged New Yorkers to adopt similar “eco-tactics”. One of the posters he designed to promote the AAA protest rides promised “massive demonstrations … until the streets are cleared of the auto gangrene.”

(In 1978 Gurin, who had been writing anti-car polemics in Village Voice since the mid-60s and was a friend of Jane Jacobs, became NYC’s deputy commissioner for transport, a post he held for 12 years. In the late 1980s the city banned not cars but bikes. Action Against Automobiles continues as Transportation Alternatives.)

Congressman Ed Koch – who would become New York’s mayor in 1977 – rode on some the early 1970s protest bike rides, and in 1971 he stressed: “The only way to ensure safety for the many thousands of New Yorkers who want to bicycle is to designate official and exclusive bike lanes.” Koch installed bikeways when he became mayor – but he also ripped them out again.


Bike Boom is published by Island Press

In Portland, Oregon, the bike lanes stuck. Sam Oakland, a Portland State University professor who led a group known as the Bicycle Lobby, told the Associated Press in 1971: “We want to redesign Portland to make it a city for people … instead of what it now is: a giant, smelly parking garage for commuters.” His lobbying for funds worked and a bill was passed which set aside 1% of state transportation spending for bike-specific facilities – the first designated state funding for cycling in the US.

A citizen Bicycle Path Task Force was appointed to oversee the programme, and Oakland was appointed chair. The Task Force met with resistance from the city’s car-centric engineers who had little interest in the use of bicycles for transportation and instead wanted to use money from the highway pot to build recreational trails. “As long as the bicycle continues to be considered a toy for recreational use only, we’re not going to get anywhere with paths in the city,” complained Oakland. After many struggles with city officials, the Task Force was able to push through a plan in April 1973. By the following year, 60 miles of bikeways had been striped statewide, with another 50 miles under construction and 70 miles to be delivered. Mighty oaks from little acorns grow; Portland is now one of America’s most cycle-friendly cities.

In March 1972, interior secretary Stewart Udall – one of the greenest US politicians of his generation – told the New York Times: “We’ve got to get away from the pretence that there is some easy painless way that we can save energy. We’re at the final stages of the climax of the automobile era … We’ve gone as far as we can go.” Give people a choice, he said, build more bikeways. “People cling to their cars because there is no alternative.”

Students, too, were keen on cycling. In 1972, University of Montana students could choose from geology, psychology, biology or – new for that year – bikeology, a combination of bikes and ecology.

And hundreds of articles in the mainstream press demonstrated that there was an alternative. If National Geographic was to publish a spread today similar to the one from 1973 it would likely have glossy adverts from the likes of Cannondale, Specialized and Trek, America’s leading homegrown bicycle brands. The three were founded during the boom years.


A cyclist marks Earth Day 1970 on 5th Avenue in New York. Photograph: Bettmann Archive

In Washington DC, there was a young Post staff reporter called Carl Bernstein – later to become half of the Pulitzer Prize-winning pair – known as the “office hippie” and a “long-haired freak who rode a bicycle …”

“Many cyclists harbour fierce antipathy for what they regard as an automobile culture that is choking the nation with fumes, speed, noise and concrete,” he wrote in the Post in 1970. He went on to describe a “growing group of cyclists who regard pedalling as an almost political act and inevitably flash the two-finger peace symbol upon encountering another person on a bike”.

The facilities for DC cycle commuters had been poor, but improved by the early 70s, partly because of John A Volpe, President Nixon’s secretary of transportation. In 1969, Volpe – who routinely rode a fold-up bicycle to work – told the city council chairman to build bikeways for the growing number of cyclists who, like him, were not all long-haired hippies. As Bernstein wrote in the Post, bike-boom cyclists were just as likely to be “stockbrokers and congressmen, secretaries and lawyers, students and government clerks, librarians and teachers, youngsters and oldsters”.

At the first bike-in I burned someone’s driver’s licence on network TV. Heady times

Marchant Wentworth

Hundreds of cyclists staged a “bike-in” in 1971, demanding more space on the key commuter route of Beach Drive. “At the first bike-in I burned someone’s driver’s licence on network TV,” bicycle advocate Marchant Wentworth remembers. “Heady times.”

In 1974, DC cyclists started to take direct action to improve streets. Cary Shaw installed an asphalt bike-ramp where the city Highway Department had refused. When a container of asphalt appeared on his street for a road-mending task, he decided to “borrow” some, adding a big traffic stripe leading to the ramp. “When it was finished, I turned around and almost immediately someone was wheeling her baby carriage up the ramp,” recalled Shaw. “A couple of minutes after that someone whizzed along on a bicycle, saw the thing, zipped up on the ramp, and away he went.” The ramp Shaw built was later adopted by the city, and is still there. Direct action works – sometimes.

Blame it on the baby boomers

Shaw, like other cycle advocates, was a baby boomer. The post-second world war birth spike resulted in a glut of teens and 20-somethings at the beginning of the 1970s. Many had cash, were eager for novelty, wanted independent mobility, and were desperate to throw off the shackles of their elders.

These consumerist kids, who came of age at the end of the 1960s, kept on buying, and despite the bulge predicted in the 1950s, the bike industry was caught off guard when the demographic alighted on their products. It was a perfect storm, with drop-out baby boomers attracted to cycling for its anti-motoring environmentalism; suburban-conformist baby boomers latched on to cycling because it was healthy and “outdoorsy”; and pre-motoring teens upgraded to lightweight 10-speed bikes after having been attracted to cycling because of bikes like the Schwinn Stingray, the cycle that inspired Raleigh to make the iconic Chopper.

Thanks to the 45 million bicycles sold at the height of the US boom, cycle ownership was higher than ever. The US was on the cusp of building a whole bunch of bikeways, with high-level support from the US Department of Transportation.


Davis, California – the American city which fell in love with the bicycle

Read more

David Rowlands, writing for Britain’s influential Design magazine, was impressed that the Department of Transportation organised a key 1974 conference, Bicycles USA. “What emerged from [this conference] was a far more comprehensive response to an expanding population of cyclists than any other country at present offers. Government assistance has been a major factor in this new awareness of the bike’s potential as a means of transportation in the developed world. It is an example that deserves much wider imitation.”

A report from the US Environmental Protection Agency, also published in 1974, came to the same conclusion. And the Department of Transportation published its first ever cycle infrastructure style guide, Bikeways: State of the Art 1974.

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Ignore the toxic myth about bike lanes and pollution – the facts utterly debunk it

Peter Walker

A series of articles in conservative media are pushing the bizarre argument that separated bike lanes worsen air quality. Here’s why it’s rubbish


‘Separated cycle lanes are vital for modern cities’ ... a cycle superhighway on London’s Blackfriars Bridge. Photograph: Alamy

Friday 16 June 2017 07.00 EDT

Juliet Samuel is a regular columnist for the Telegraph, who opines authoritatively about politics, society and business. And yet last month she wrote something which was very obviously incorrect.

Something needed to be done, Samuel said, about the “epidemic of bike lanes taking over otherwise useable roads all across London”. She continued:

I cycle and drive, but these lanes go far beyond the measures needed to improve safety and instead just make it almost unbearable to get in a car. It takes a minimum of one hour to get out of town, half of which is spent churning out extra exhaust as you sit on clogged roads and roundabouts that were flowing perfectly well until now.

Even if you ignore the idea that London’s roads used to flow “perfectly well” (perhaps all Samuel’s previous London driving and cycling took place at 5am on Sundays), there is a very obvious error here.

It’s the peculiarly tenacious, if easily disproved myth that building separated cycle lanes causes greater traffic congestion, and thus more pollution.


Can you guess the city from its bike lane maps?

Read more

In Samuel’s very minor defence, she is merely repeating what she has probably read elsewhere. The previous month, James Salmon, the Daily Mail’s transport correspondent, wrote a hugely odd story noting that Cambridge and London had among the slowest average traffic speeds in the country.

The paper put this down largely to cycle lanes, despite the fact other places in the list included Wolverhampton and Hereford, neither of which are known for their Dutch-style levels of cycling infrastructure. (As if in unconscious acknowledgment of the article’s essential absurdity, the story was illustrated with a photo of a bike lane in Cambridge, Massachusetts.)

Unbowed, the Mail used a story last month about the College of Paramedics raising concerns about separated bike lanes (a story that, it is worth noting, misquoted the college’s views) in an editorial column:

Segregated cycle lanes have increased congestion and worsened pollution ... Isn’t it time to abandon this cycle ‘superhighway’ experiment and admit that it was a stupid mistake?


London’s cycle superhighway along the Embankment. Just 3% of central London roads have any segregated cycle lanes. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

There are two elements to unpick this statement: firstly to debunk the myth; and then to try to understand why it is so persistent.

To use London as a good example, there is zero evidence that separated bike lanes have worsened congestion. Quite the contrary. Transport for London statistics show that just two weeks after the capital’s two new cycle “superhighways” were open, both routes were carrying 5% per hour more people than previously, a figure set to rise as more cyclists use them. Having given 30% of the space to bikes, these now comprised 46% of people using the roads.

This makes sense when you realise that the standard traffic engineers’ rule of thumb is that a road that can carry 2,000 cars per hour on average can carry 14,000 bikes.

There is precisely zero evidence that separated bike lanes have worsened congestion

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Diesel Was Supposed to Be the Future

Is the highly efficient fuel doomed?


On a smoggy day in Paris, police enforce an anti-pollution measure temporarily banning cars with even-numbered license plates.

Michael Euler / AP

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Once upon a time, diesel fuel was going to be the future. It was seen as more efficient, on a mileage-per-gallon basis, than other fossil fuels, and for that reason was also thought to be less polluting. About two decades ago, acting on those beliefs, policy makers in Europe—where high energy prices already made mileage a more-pressing issue than in the U.S.—made a number of rules that incentivized the growth of diesel over gasoline for use in passenger cars, moving past its traditional role in trucking and construction.

These policies were remarkably successful at meeting their goals, and diesel-powered cars soon accounted for half of the cars sold on the continent. Car companies poured resources into developing diesel-related technology. But the result of this success has been not greener, friendlier, cheaper motoring, but the creation of toxic clouds over major European cities. At the end of 2016, Paris was choked by its worst episode of smog in more than a decade, lasting longer than two weeks, according to the city’s pollution-watching agency Airparif, and prompting the city to enact emergency measures that included restricting car use. It was not the first time. During a March 2015 pollution event, Paris was briefly the most polluted city in the world, surpassing famously smoggy Beijing. London shared in the ignominy when it too beat out Beijing for the first time in January of this year.

Diesels have played the main role in this. Since the 1960s, advances in technology that treats and filters gasoline engines’ exhaust, like the widespread use of catalytic converters, have cut down on the amount of dirty, unhealthy, and smog-producing emissions these engines spew out into the surrounding environment. But while diesels get better mileage and so contribute less to global climate change, the local effects of diesel pollution are much worse than those of gasoline. Diesel is a less refined fuel, and so it contains more of the particulate matter that can have deadly health effects when spewed into the surrounding environment. And burning diesel produces, among other noxious gases, nitrogen dioxide, the main cause of smog.

In many cases the same regulatory bodies that were trying to get citizens into diesels only a few years ago are now working to get the engines off the road entirely, instituting additional, diesel-specific congestion-charging and other disincentives in cities, in recognition of the fact that their green-friendliness was mistaken. During particularly bad bouts of smog, several European cities have temporarily banned driving outright, or instituted restriction schemes where, for example, cars with odd and even number plates are allowed in on alternate days. The mayors of Athens, Mexico City, and Madrid have committed to ridding their cities of diesel cars altogether by 2025, and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said “there will be no diesel vehicles in Paris in 2020.” Other cities around the continent and world are implementing smaller-scale efforts to discourage diesel too.

But lately, the biggest story when it comes to diesel remains Volkswagen’s ongoing “Dieselgate” scandal, in which the company installed “defeat devices” that allowed its diesel cars to put out dramatically higher levels of toxic emissions on the road than show up during regulators’ lab tests. A year and a half after the cheating was discovered, the full results of the scandal are still uncertain: The U.S. has levied more than $22 billion in fines against the company, the world’s largest automaker, and more may still be coming. Meanwhile, millions of the deceptive VWs are still on roads around the world, with consequential EU action on the matter minimal.

Much worse for diesel at large, rumors that the offending practice was not limited to Volkswagen Group, which have been floating around since the scandal first broke, seem to be turning out to be true. The Environmental Protection Agency recently moved against the trans-Atlantic auto giant Fiat Chrysler for using similar devices, and General Motors is being sued in a class action for cheating in its diesel pickup trucks, which outnumber the offending VWs on American roads by several hundred thousand. The EU also started legal action against Italy for failing to meet its obligations as a member state to enforce regulations on Fiat Chrysler.

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With Tesla founder’s help, Chinese automaker comes to Bay Area

By David R. Baker

June 13, 2017

  1. pastedGraphic.pdf

Photo: David Mcnew, AFP / Getty Images

An electric car is plugged into a charging station. While many U.S. consumers have shown little interest in electric vehicles, Californians have been an exception. By the end of last year, the state had about 270,000 electric cars and plug-in hybrids on its roads.

Another Chinese automaker aims to break into California’s growing electric vehicle industry, with a little help from one of Tesla’s founders.

Sokon Industry Group has opened its U.S. headquarters in Santa Clara, the company reported Tuesday. It has also established a research center in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Formerly known as Chongqing Sokon Auto Industry Group, the company last year created a U.S. subsidiary called SF Motors and announced that it had lined up Tesla co-founder and former CEO Martin Eberhard as a consultant.

“As we expand our operations and R&D efforts, we hope to partner with like-minded corporations and recruit the top automotive and tech talent to ensure attainable, clean mobility for future generations,” said John Zhang, CEO of SF Motors.

The Santa Clara office, which will focus on business operations and product planning, employs about 50 people and should have 150 by the year’s end, according to the company.

California has seen a recent influx of electric vehicle companies either from China or backed by Chinese investors. The roster includes Faraday Future, LeEco, Lucid Motors and NextEV.

None of those companies, however, has succeeded so far in bringing an electric car to market.

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Brown: ‘Grossly Hypocritical’ To Oppose Oil Production In California

Monday, June 12, 2017 | Sacramento, CA | Permalink


Gov. Brown Press Office / Twitter

Jerry Brown’s trip to China earned him wall-to-wall media coverage — internationally and here at home.

Much less covered was another environmental visit the California governor took just weeks earlier: to Bell Gardens in Los Angeles County, a transportation corridor with some of the worst air quality in the state.

“It is a little surprising to actually be there (in Bell Gardens) and witness first-hand the amount of cement, the number of cars and trucks and trains, and the proximity of parks and basketball courts,“ Brown told Capital Public Radio's Ben Bradford in an interview last week during a car ride through Beijing. “But that’s the reality. California has 33 million vehicles and 39 million people. So they have to be somewhere.“

Those two trips highlight competing tensions as Brown seeks to shape climate change policies in California and around the world.

Click on the audio player above to listen to part of Brown's interview with Capital Public Radio's Ben Bradford last week in Beijing. The clip begins with the governor answering a question about whether he was surprised by what he saw in Bell Gardens.

Despite Brown’s ascension to the global stage in the fight against climate change, as evidenced in his journey across China last week, he’s far from universally admired by environmentalists here at home.

Many of them believe the governor sides too often with oil companies on issues like fracking and isn’t doing enough to force cuts in air pollution in parts of the state with poor air quality.

Take, for example, Americans Against Fracking co-founder David Braun of Oakland, who wrote in an email: “I'm wondering if you might ask Brown to reconcile the millions of dollars he has taken for himself and his projects from the oil industry, along with firing regulators at the industry's request, with his position on climate change. I'm curious as to how one can do the bidding of the same industry that is the worst polluter as far as climate change is concerned, and how he reconciles that within himself.“

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Uber, Lyft cars have heavy impact on SF streets, study finds

By Carolyn Said

June 13, 2017 Updated: June 13, 2017 12:05am

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Photo: Nicole Boliaux, The Chronicle

Ride-hailing cars like this Uber vehicle make more than 170,000 trips within San Francisco every weekday, according to a report released by the County Transportation Authority.

Uber and Lyft vehicles rack up over half a million miles every day on San Francisco streets, according to a report being released Tuesday by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, which manages local congestion.

Ride-hailing cars make more than 170,000 trips within the city every weekday, while putting in some 570,000 vehicle miles, the report said. That figure is 6.5 percent of total weekday vehicle miles in the city. When only considering trips that start or end within the city — the focus of the authority’s study — ride-hail vehicles amount to a fifth of all vehicle miles.

“The perception that there are a tremendous number of (Uber and Lyft) vehicles out on the streets today is, in fact, true,” said Joe Castiglione, the authority’s deputy director for technology, data and analysis. “We see huge numbers of trips across all days of the week, primarily concentrated in the most congested parts of the city and at the most congested times of day.”

Some 5,700 Uber and Lyft cars roam the streets at the weekday peak of 6:30 to 7 p.m., the report said. The busiest time, Fridays from 7:30 to 8 p.m., sees more than 6,500 ride-hailing cars. The report did not distinguish between Uber and Lyft trips; the two companies account for virtually all ride-hailing in San Francisco.

The app-summoned vehicles are heavily concentrated in popular areas such as the downtown core, South of Market, the Mission and Van Ness corridors, Pacific Heights and the Marina. In SoMa and downtown, ride hailing accounts for a quarter of all in-city trips at peak commute periods (6 to 9 a.m. and 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.). In outer neighborhoods like the Sunset, their impact is far lower.

Still, Uber and Lyft cars “provide broader service across the city than taxis, particularly in the western neighborhoods,” the report said. But they provide fewer trips relative to the population in lower-income areas such as the southern and southeastern parts of the city.

Friday is the busiest day, with 222,500 trips, while Sundays saw only 129,000 trips.

San Francisco officials want to gauge Uber’s and Lyft’s impact on the city. That’s why the transportation authority, which is distinct from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, produced the report. It was based on data collected from the companies’ apps by Northeastern University researchers over a six-week period late last year.

“Information is power,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who chairs the authority, describing the findings as “shocking” news. “This information will be used by me and my colleagues, and hopefully members of the state Legislature to ... take policy steps to rationalize this new frontier.”

Uber and Lyft are regulated at the state level by the California Public Utilities Commission, while taxis are regulated by cities or counties. (In San Francisco, the SFMTA regulates taxis.) Peskin hopes the Legislature will allow cities like San Francisco where the services’ impact is acute to create “a certain amount of reasonable regulation.” He pointed to Supervisor Jane Kim’s suggestion of a per-ride fee as an example.

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Sacramento streetcar project effort scores key local funding

JUNE 12, 2017 9:13 PM


The Sacramento streetcar effort got a major boost Monday night when the Sacramento Regional Transit bus and rail agency board agreed to put $25 million into the trolley project’s construction fund.

That money would be part of an eventual pot of $100 million in local and state funds to match a hoped-for $100 million federal grant for the $200 million project.

The money SacRT pledged comes from that agency’s share of a state high speed rail bond fund. Several bus and rail riders asked the SacRT board to keep that money for other transit needs, such as buying low-floor light rail vehicles or light rail improvements in the downtown railyard.

Local leaders, including city Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Sacramento Congresswoman Doris Matsui, asked for SacRT’s financial support for the project, which will be jointly controlled by the cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento. The streetcar line, if built, will run through the core areas of both cities.

Proponents called the transit agency’s financial assistance critical to keeping the project hopes alive. But it does not assure the project will happen.

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