Category Archives: Bicycles

The View from the Street: How Mutual Respect Makes for Safer Streets

Radials probably doesn’t spend enough time talking about cycling. It could be because I’ve been relocated to Southern California for a few months, a place so unfriendly to casual cyclists and pedestrians that I’ve actually been honked at for walking through a crosswalk at a stop sign. Longtime friend of Radials Abe Finkelstein may be the solution to our velo-needs as he is a devoted bicyclist living in San Francisco, one of the bastions of progressive cycling policy here on the west coast. Abe will be contributing to Radials as long as he stays in the good graces of the editorial staff which, knowing Abe, might not be that long. Here’s his first post. 

A recent incident here in San Francisco, where a pedestrian was mowed down in a crosswalk by a cyclist, has led to major uproar and has caused a push by the city to get tough on bicycle scofflaws.  The incident happened at the busy intersection of Market and Castro, where pedestrians, cars, bikes, buses, trolley cars, and even dogs are “frequently entangled in amusing and not-so-amusing ways.”

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(Credit:  San Francisco Chronicle)

This comes at a time when more and more American cities are seeing vehicular homicides outnumber all other homicides.  The street has become the danger zone, a place where pedestrian injury accounts for over $20 billion annually.  Almost every day you hear about the life of another pedestrian or cyclist ruined by a gas-guzzling machine. It may seem like automobiles are the only culprit.  However, a moving bicycle on a city street is a dangerous vehicle too.  Even though pedestrian deaths by cyclists are rare, there needs to be more of a shared attitude about the law.

Almost 40 percent of land within American cities is devoted to public streets.  Streets are the foundation that makes a city a great place to live, but also a place where people of all modes of transportation are jumbled together into a complex madness.  There is a competition for claims on public space, causing a disconnect in the way we treat each other on the road and the way we want to be treated.

4096328491 e02621e48a z The View from the Street: How Mutual Respect Makes for Safer Streets

(Credit: Spacing Magazine via Flickr)

A lack of respect for space exists between both cyclists and motorists alike.  

On a bicycle, you are completely exposed to the dangers of the road.  Cyclists will take command of a street not to be rude, but because they have to in order to stay alive.  Hordes of oblivious drivers move through traffic as fast as possible, drifting lanes and swerving around everything in their path.  A cyclist who takes the lane to avoid dangerous obstacles would otherwise get swiped by someone trying to squeeze by.  Sometimes on a bike you need to keep moving just to survive.

From the motorist point of view, it seems cyclists are renegades who refuse to obey traffic signals.  My observations while commuting to work (as a cyclist myself) through San Francisco are that some bikers will just keep on rolling, right through red lights and busy crosswalks (again, see above for a fast-moving example) unless there is an imminent threat of slamming into a truck or city bus.  The above-the-law riding habits are of some cyclists are atrocious, and a major headache to all others on the road.

According to the motorist, bicycle facilities are a traffic headache as well – valuable street space previously intended for car lanes and parking are given away to these entitled cyclists, who don’t follow the rules to begin with.  Unless we want more people to get hurt and things to boil over, something’s gotta give.

roadrage1 The View from the Street: How Mutual Respect Makes for Safer Streets

Every cyclist spends time in an automobile at some point or another.    

As a city dweller, I do not own a car, nor do I plan to own one in the near future.  I use my bicycle and public transit to traverse the city streets for daily purposes.  One thing I’ve found however, is that I need to use a car every once in a while (read: often) for long distance trips or to move large items.  Riding in a car is not a bad thing; it’s become a necessary and enjoyable part American life.

It is also important to note that each and every person on a city street who uses a vehicle, whether it be a bicycle or an automobile, must also become a pedestrian at some point.  Once you park your car or bicycle at your destination, you will find yourself walking the very same streets.

usa nyc bike car conflict The View from the Street: How Mutual Respect Makes for Safer Streets

(Credit: NYC Bicycle Coaltion)

The major issues related to pedestrian, bicycle, and automobile interaction on a city street boil down to conflicts on perspective and design.  

Depending on which mode you may be currently using at the time, your perspective on safety and responsibility will change drastically.  The place of the pedestrian, cyclist, and automobile on the designed infrastructure within the urban network should be agreed upon in order to prevent these conflicts.  This means the ways in which we interact with facilities, signage, and other vehicles must be implicitly clear. If we want to have safe and positive interactions between all groups, we need to start taking these issues seriously.

Abe Finkelstein is a transportation engineer living in San Francisco and an avid cyclist. Recently, he rode from coast-to-coast in the summer of 2011 in coordination with Habitat for Humanity on their annual Bike and Build trip. You can get in contact with him here

Smart Growth Federal Funds Coming to the Boston Suburbs; Do It Yourself Bike Lanes in Mexico

A couple of stories have been floating around the interweb that address at progressive urbanism from either end of the spectrum. First, the suburbs around Boston are receiving an influx of funding from the Federal government that are expressly dedicated to “smart growth.” While the terminology might be nebulous the projects are surprisingly well-targeted. Here’s a couple of examples from the Boston Globe (via Planetizen):

In Everett, $52,796 in federal funding will be used to develop specific goals for housing, transportation, economic development, and public services. Throughout the process, planners will employ innovative techniques to engage residents of diverse backgrounds.

The $60,000 federal grant in Lynn will be used to develop the best ways to reach local immigrant entrepreneurs and help them increase their businesses so that the most successful initiatives can be replicated in other urban gateway communities.”

Just as a quick geography lesson for non-New Englanders: Everett is a predominantly white (~80%) working class (median income: $49, 830) north Boston suburb; Lynn is more mixed ethnically with a slightly lower comparative economic profile (median income: $41,993) up on the North Shore. The semantics of the Globe article are important as the money—minor on the Federal ledger but a decent influx to middle class communities—goes towards studies that are predicated on utilizing “innovative techniques [and] initiatives” and not the projects themselves necessarily. It might seem like a silly use of money, i.e. using small amounts of grant funding to initiate studies, but (and this is coming from some one who used to consult for a living so there’s a little bias alert here) analyzing the project before getting too far down the road can save millions in project delays and potential fines.

Overall, the study funding will be interesting to follow as shovel-ready projects emerge in several communities around Boston. Boston itself is beginning to progress on the urbanism front with a bicycle share program unveiled this summer and the expansion of food truck permitting following soon after (yes, food trucks are important to liberal metropolitanism). Here’s hoping that the entire urban area moves forward in the same vein.

On a completely different plane we see the construction of a do-it-yourself bike lane in Mexico (via Radials’ good friends over at This Big City, I encourage everyone to check out the excellent pictures on Mr. Peach’s blog, they are especially inspiring for velo-activists; StreetsBlogNet picked it up as well):

Mexico City’s government pledged in 2007 that it would build 300 km of bike lanes around the city by 2012. However, the city still only has 22.2 km because most money is allocated to car infrastructure, leaving aside non-motorized mobility. That’s why the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and the National Network for Urban Cycling (BiciRed) launched a campaign called ’5% for bicycles and pedestrians’, which asks national legislators to assign at least that percentage of the transportation budget to non-motorized infrastructure.

To promote that campaign and pressure legislators into action, several cycling and pedestrian organizations decided to paint their own bike lane in front of Congress on October 20th. This was our way of showing how little money and time is required to create quality infrastructure. We wanted to show that governments just need the will to promote non-motorized transport. However, that bike lane was efficiently erased just two days after it was painted, and no city official claimed responsibility.

We were all understandably angry, so we decided to do it all over again but better. We set a goal of painting a 5km bike lane that would end at Congress, the Wikicarril (wikilane). We funded our effort through Fondeadora, a crowd-sourcing site, and we managed to collect 13,500 pesos (about US$1,000) in just 4 days thanks to the collaboration of 37 generous supporters.”

The project title may not be the catchiest thing in the world (believe me, it’s not much smoother in Spanish) but the concept is pragmatic, achievable, and popular, a public policy trifecta. These are also exactly the brands of community development projects that Mexico’s neighbors to the North could stand to emulate: cheap, grassroots, and inherently beneficent. While the initial bike lane was erased by public officials the stalwart efforts of a few dozen activists, paired with even keeled interaction with police officers and city officials, put DIY-community development front and center for bicycle activists in D.F.

Are We Part of Our Cars and Bikes?

Driving is a dangerous endeavor—in fact for  most people who drive to work every day it’s probably the most dangerous aspect of their lives.  In the immediate, operating a motor vehicle is deadly because of physics and metallurgy: steel boxes hitting each other at 45 MPH create several spheres of danger outside of pure impact. It’s also dangerous because—and if Immanuel Kant drove a Chevy he would have probably coined the term—of a mind-machine separation. Between ignition and park most people become lesser animals: differentiating between car and driver becomes cognitively impossible, like an elephant considering a jeep and its riders one strange beast.

Like some sort of  quotidian Japanese kid’s show/videogame, a car becomes a Zord/Xenogear/Voltron, a mirror of their owner’s personalities and quirks. Anxious people make for anxious drivers, agression begets agression, and—this is generally the most disheartening on the highway—short fuses make for quick road rage triggers. The mind merge that happens when we get into a car even affects how we interact with other people on the road: pedestrians, cyclists, and other vehicles. 102 road rage Are We Part of Our Cars and Bikes? This, of course, isn’t good for most people as a car will typically win a joust with any number of other machinery or human. The danger to a pedestrian is obvious and well-documented, if a car hits you at anything more than say, the speed of a 7-year old’s fastball, you’ll be lucky to survive. There is also a lumpy multiplier effect here. Traffic, urban and suburban, slows cars from lethal to bruising speeds but it also introduces several other obstacles that aren’t present in ideal driving situations such as obstruction and frustration (perhaps obfuscation?) which, in tandem, can create scenarios where fleshy thuds are just collateral damage.

Anxious people make for anxious drivers, agression begets agression, and—this is generally the most disheartening on the highway—short fuses make for quick road rage triggers.

But we’ve all seen Red Asphalt and understand the dangers of both sides of the car-pedestrian calculus. Bikes are slightly different. They are a machine in the most classic sense: a crank, a seat, and a handlebar. Their masters think they merit their own dedicated track of travel (though we are seeing a more pronounced schism between pro and anti-lane constituents in recent months) and are legally obligated to occupy the same plane as their overgrown and combustible cousins.

Cycles are also vulnerable people movers in that when hit by a car (as once happened to me) their bodies twist and mangle rather than dent, and their operators are more likely to suffer head trauma than a bad case of whiplash. Their administrative limbo is almost Kurdish—cyclists are not wanted by (most) pedestrians on the sidewalks or (most) drivers on the streets. It seems as though corridors of travel are distinctly bicameral and any attempt to add a category overloads the Platonic idea of a street.

gofitandgogreen Are We Part of Our Cars and Bikes?

Photo: Viv Magazine

Their purgatory is starting to fade bit-by-bit though and a few government officials are attempting to push future policies towards vehicles with a lower metal-to-human ratio. The forward-looking policy is not so much equating as it is separating. Many areas in New York and Portland have dedicated, bordered bike paths that fabricated a third way. Bikes and their advocates have successfully espoused what they considered frustratingly obvious: that they are not skinny cars nor swift people, but a bleeding hybrid.

…it seems like many drivers who don’t sympathize with self-propulsion devices treat them as if they are particularly annoying car owners, going too slow or swerving out of their lanes or turning without warning.

So why the philosophical divide between man and machine? Cyclists are of course more separate from their vehicles than drivers are but it seems like many drivers who don’t sympathize with self-propulsion devices treat them as if they are particularly annoying car owners, going too slow or swerving out of their lanes or turning without warning. It’s startling to consider that as reality, especially as a novice cyclist who goes without a fixie or coordinated spandex outfits, because the bone chilling screech-and-crash is tangible rather than just audible.

alg bicycle brooklyn Are We Part of Our Cars and Bikes?

Photo: NY Daily News

When we step—or in the case of the Escalades-and-the-housewives where I live, leap—into cars we tend to check separation at the door. Our mobiles selves become our only selves and all our terrible humanity gets equipped with a 2,000 pound steel ram (or Ram). The odd, modern quirk of this, of course, is that we’ve dedicated our main veins of travel to something rather chimeric: the modern automobile. The catholic elimination of cars of city and suburban streets is, of course, a preposterous idea that would probably cripple local economies without a completely novel approach to delivery systems, but the alteration of the prevailing dynamic and vernacular is a certain possibility.

Bikes and cyclists, for their part, deserve more room than the narrow canals on main thoroughfares. Infrastructure begets demand and reversing the prioritization could bring bikes into a better tandem relationship with their behemoth partners on the roadways. Of course this presumes a burgeoning army of cyclists flooding the streets of New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago—unfortunately that’s just not the case. But making it more difficult to drive—which is, essentially, what progressive planners are doing—does make that scenario more likely and that may just go a long way towards bringing humanity back to the roads.

Innovative Public Spaces? Boston Could Take a Lesson from New York and NYCDOT

With the near-5.5 mile stretch of road closed between Park Avenue at 72nd Street and the Brooklyn Bridge closed for New York’s Summer Streets campaign, lower Manhattan took on an unfamiliar soundtrack. You could still hear the cars on Broadway a block over, but the lack of idling engines and tourist buses was unsettling in a good way. After the requisite euphoria subsided it felt like a natural oddity in a city that was doing most things right by way of transportation policy.

Lafayette Summer St 1 1024x764 Innovative Public Spaces? Boston Could Take a Lesson from New York and NYCDOT

Lafayette St. During Summer Streets

Walking up Lafayette Street with the cyclists, pleasantly surprised tourists, and the equally pleasant (but not surprised) natives, it was evident that New York was at the vanguard of turning threatening asphalt into remarkable experiments in public space. A Mayor with considerable disdain for the glacial pace of government and a disproportionate faith in what it can do to transform geography paired with a transportation commissioner who has considerable literacy in realpolitik and a Moses-lite attitude towards urban planning (without the highways) have taken roads and made them sidewalks. The simplicity of the transformation doesn’t negate its innovative definition, and other cities are starting to get the point—slowly.

Portland, Oregon, a sort of practice in progressive urban utopianism, would have legitimate reason to challenge a New York’s forward looking supremacy, but the Rose City does not have the same sort of entrenchment issues that New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago have. The ability for a city like Portland to have significant flexibility in its design separates it from larger cities; the bike paths and robust transit system a beneficent byproduct of that same latitude. More important than that, though, is a more apparent advantage: it’s small. Not all small cities are so easily transmuted though, and Boston in particular has stalled where there are significant opportunities.

Lafayette Summer St 2 1024x764 Innovative Public Spaces? Boston Could Take a Lesson from New York and NYCDOT

Lafayette St. During Summer Streets

Boston blurs the line between petite malleability and historical institutionalism—unfortunately progressive planning initiatives have been limited to fledgling bike path network and a new bike sharing network sponsored by the New England footwear brand New Balance. The city does do large-scale well though; the green hook of the Esplanade running along the Charles River and the engineering alchemy that resulted in miles of highway buried below a park.

Boston comes with its own set of quirks and planning idiosyncrasies, not least of which is its unorthodox—or organic—street map. There are neighborhoods like the North End and sectors of Allston and Brighton where the series of short darts from long thoroughfares represent a Jacobean ideal. In fact the North End, representing one of the only barrios with any community glue is experienced in getting road closure permits for public celebrations like St. Anthony’s feast in August. This transformation of major arterial roadways into a smorgasbord of street vendors and revelers shouldn’t be viewed as an annual departure from traditional ideas about roads because it’s exactly what a city like New York bases its brutally effective piecemeal approach on. You take a street, regardless of the traffic load it endures on a daily basis, and instead of talking to commuters you talk to local business-owners who would see their revenues rise if you inserted a makeshift park next door and a public space instead of a road. Those cosmetic changes are not without ancillary effects: real estate values rise, revenues go up, and traffic fatalities fall precipitously.

Lafayette Summer St 3 1024x764 Innovative Public Spaces? Boston Could Take a Lesson from New York and NYCDOT

Lafayette St. During Summer Streets

Boston has a chance to adopt the incrementalist approach that New York has put in play so effectively and gracefully. A road closure here, a public space there, a bike path yonder, and pretty soon the city has had a facelift and instead of a bisection of city space by cars you have a conflation of public geography. And pretty soon people start coming here for the space, not just the sports.

Radilarious | Vilnius Mayor Must Crush Cars Parked in Bike Lane, Proof that Tanks Make Things Better

A friend of mine shared this video with me and I have to say that while I’m kind of sorry he didn’t crush the Ferrari or the Rolls, doing some work on an old school Benz was still amazing. With all the illegal parking in Boston and New York (I’m sure it happens all over the country) it would be something to see Mayor Menino or Bloomberg rolling over a Prius with a garbage truck or see if the street sweepers have some 4-wheel drive on them.

Seriously though, don’t park in the bike lanes. Lithuania still has some soviet planes leftover and I’m pretty sure Mayor Zuokas wouldn’t mind riding a Panzer through Brooklyn.

Hubway Brings Bikeshare to Boston; Food Trucks Also Cool

It’s rare that progressive urban policies happen in pairs, especially in Boston. Bike lanes don’t come with traffic calming techniques, public space expansion doesn’t come with market parking rates or toll increases, etc., etc. This morning, or at least I found out about it this morning and it looks like I’m on-time for the party on one and city planners were a little late for the other, I saw that most elusive of pairs when I passed the new Boston Hubway —or bike share— and a brand new food trick space occupied currently by the Dining Car on Boylston Street near Copley Square.

boston hubway bicycles Hubway Brings Bikeshare to Boston; Food Trucks Also Cool

Boston Hubway copyright IBM Smart Planet

A couple bikes and some delicious sandwiches doesn’t qualify as the vision of a beautiful urban future that most of us have in mind. But unless you’re New York, where resources and public will typically overflow, or China, where one matters and the other doesn’t, the changes in a city are gradual and painful; the Hubway program by itself took years to find the correct balance of political and financial fortitude to come into being, but at least we got one before New York did.

dining car at copley Hubway Brings Bikeshare to Boston; Food Trucks Also Cool

Dining Car Food Truck Copyright Keramurphy Tumblr

That doesn’t mean we’re in a new age, there’s still a significant resistance to novel programs as an assault on traditional New England stoicism and, to be frank, staleness. Boston has been more than antagonistic towards mobile provision providers pushing most of them to that liberal and hungry enclave to the North across the Charles. The city has also been slow to adapt to cyclists whose ranks are growing but still represent slightly more than 2% of commuters while personal automobiles are still north of 50% (the reluctance to expand the city’s burgeoning bike lanes significantly before the rollout of the Hubway, a service that is likely to see its share of map-wielding tourists, is still a cause for concern though). It seems like the temprate Julian swoon put Mayor Menino and the city planning department in good spirits, and I hear from a good source that Governor Patrick likes the sandwiches over at the Clover Food Lab truck as well.

Linus and Superb

The newest member of the Radials family: a deep blue Linus Roadster Classic single speed. I just sold my car and I figured getting a pair of two wheels would make up for my years on four. (Check out pics of my personal one over on the Facebook fan page!)

 Linus and Superb

Linus Roadster 1

Radilarious | Stay in Your (Bike) Lane!

I am a sucker for good old-fashioned physical comedy from Looney Tunes to Mr. Bean to Jackass (the gross out stuff is another story) and everyone knows that transportation (bicycles, transit, urbanism, all that stuff) is what I’ve chosen to give my (limited) professional skills to. Isn’t it beautiful when those things just match up perfectly? The video below gave me more than just a few good chuckles and, just for good measure, it’s educational in that Johnny Knoxville meets Thomas Paine sort of way. (Via GOOD Magazine and Casey Neistat)

Do it for the Capital, Cycling Ovechkin

Boston is a small city; you can walk from one official end to the other in under an hour at a brisk pace. Being small has its advantages. Most Bostonians can walk to work when the weather is nice when they have the will and public transportation tends to serve areas of dense employment pretty thoroughly. Lacking megalopolis status also means that Boston has a relative affinity for its bicycle-bound commuters and late this past April, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino made the push for bicycles to become a permanent part of Boston’s infrastructure landscape by initiating a bike-sharing program.

Bike sharing is a fledgling concept in the United States and has the tendency to be scattershot geographically. Chicago, Minneapolis, and Des Moines have programs in the Midwest while shares in Miami, Boston, and Washington, D.C. dot the coastlines. Two cities known for their high share of cycling commuters and typically progressive agendas, New York and San Francisco, are exploring their options. The most robust of these programs, Capital Bikeshare in Washington, has about 1,100 bikes and 114 stations distributed throughout the metro area, about one-fifth the size of Montreal’s Bixi (the largest in North America) and one-twentieth the size of Paris’ Vélib´.

 Do it for the Capital, Cycling Ovechkin

The relative size of the American bike programs to their international counterparts has more to do with the lack of political and economic will to invest in a program that is seen as both detrimental to the car industry —still one of the most powerful lobbies in the US even post-bailout— and impractical due to the still burgeoning suburbs. America is, ostensibly, an urbanized country (82%) which should provide a population that would make wide use of bike shares, but the statistics are misleading as the geographic idiosyncrasies of American metro areas lead to demographics much more wont to use their cars, not their bikes. Sunny and sprawling Phoenix, Arizona spans more than 500 square miles and every resident that resides within that plane is counted as an “urban” dweller.

That being said, bike sharing has been gaining momentum in major metropolitan areas in recent years and months and it’s best exhibited by the Capital Bikeshare (C.B.). While there are cities with higher percentages of cycling commuters —Boulder, Colorado, an idyllic college town has one of the only double-digit modal share among U.S. metro areas— Washington, D.C.’s program is a model for other densely populated cities. Sam Kelly, a Peace Corps volunteer on his way to Namibia in August, took his first ride on C.B. Two weeks ago. “The two stations near to me were pleasant surprises,” he said in an interview last week, “and as I got towards the city center I started seeing more of them. The system seems like it’s working great.”

 Do it for the Capital, Cycling Ovechkin

This is what a bike share program is all about. The demographics that won’t use bicycles for reasons personal and principled are staunch, but there is a large population that doesn’t use them because they lack access and the ancillary products of using bikes —storage, maintenance, practicality— are prohibitive for their lifestyles. The station method of sharing bikes solves those problems simultaneously: ease of storage is a keystone for bike sharing systems and that you never, in practice, own the bike means that taking care of them during inclement weather doesn’t fall on the rider.

New York City has the potential to take those concepts and scale them up to a size unseen on this side of the Atlantic. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a man the transportation community has a complicated relationship with, has been dangling a transformative bike sharing program in front of alternative transportation advocates since 2009 when New York’s city planners issued an “exhaustive proposal” that included a 10,000 strong fleet of safety-equipped, GPS-ready bikes. Economically, the deal is a victory for innovative financing because it puts the burden of maintenance, damage, and —as this is a city— theft, vandalism, and “artistic destruction.” New Yorkers would buy their memberships on weekly, monthly, or yearly bases and get an unlimited number of free rides that take less than 30 minutes; ride a little longer, pay a little more. New York has decided that an initial burst of capital will serve their purposes the best not least because of their uniqueness among American cities in terms of density and population.

Other cities have taken the incremental approach: Boston won’t crack the four-digit bike mark during its initial rollout but does intent to create a “proxy path” by placing its stations along a designated bike-way. San Francisco will ultimately be a successful program — even with its significant topographical challenges— because of its archetypically progressive population ready to take on whatever environmental mantle they can. And the Capital Bikeshare seems to have a positive trajectory based on its recent expansion and glowing reviews from riders. Bike sharing programs in the United States are young but ready to hit adolescence running not least because we seem to be progressive on transportation projects when presented with detailed proposals. Americans, while taking fierce independence as a sort of sovereign heirloom, are looking for ways to reconnect to their surroundings and have begun to crave community after decades spent in detached homes and detached neighborhoods. It’s amazing how a simple bike program may get us closer to both.

A version of this article first appeared in This Big City on 6/24/2011. This is the author’s personal blog.


Well Look What I Found…

The family bulldog had to go in for some x-rays in Tustin, CA and I took the opportunity to walk around the office park where the veterinary emergency offices are. For those of you familiar with the less-dense areas of Orange County (Tustin used to house the El Toro air force base) the dominant landscape features are bi-level concrete office buildings and 6-lane roads with an afterthought of a sidewalk. Typically it’s intimidating to even get out of your car much less wander around, especially with summer flowering. But I had some time to kill and didn’t see much to eat, so I took a stroll and look what seemed to pop out of nowhere:

train station 1 1024x764 Well Look What I Found...

A big, beautiful train station. Tustin isn’t a hub of major economic activity in California much less Orange County. Like I said, office parks dot the various arterial roads and there are some long-range bus routes that provide spoke service to this station’s hub, but there aren’t more than a few hundred jobs within walking distance of this station, though those bike racks suggest a potential cycle-bound population, hopefully. That being said I’m encouraged by even seeing an Amtrak/Metrolink station somewhere within shouting distance of some jobs in Southern California (Santa Barbara’s station is in the middle of downtown which is great) because it at least provides an ample commuter population that could feed public transit investments.

The Amtrak and Metrolink network in Southern California also stretches from San Diego to Santa Barbara, a corridor of about 300 miles. The map, rendered below, resembles a transit directory more than a train geography which is a nice change from the typical landscape out here (Tustin is one stop south of John Wayne Airport):

train map metrolink Well Look What I Found...

I had no idea I could have a one seat ride from Orange County to Ventura, for $16.50 no less. The fare calculator on MetroLink’s no frills website actually shows drivers how much it would cost to drive from one station to another; the same trip wold cost $55.18 if I packed up the car and spent the weekend in Ventura.

As Californians we’re predisposed to an auto-addiction. Car culture is the dominant culture here and it’s near impossible to get anywhere without driving if you live in the suburbs like my mother does, but the fact that this map even exists speaks to the willingness to go after public works projects in a landscape that can be unforgiving to anything without four wheels. Who knows, maybe the tired soul below is the first of many who, instead of firing up the engine, grab their bikes and a train ticket:

train station with bike 764x1024 Well Look What I Found...