Friday, March 30, 2012

Transit-accessible event: Riverside Air Show

Tomorrow (31 March 2012), the Riverside Municipal Airport will host its annual air show. There's nothing like a flock of high-performance aircraft to excite your inner child (or your outer children, should you have any). And, as is often happily the case with events in the area, admission is free. Parking costs $10, but you don't care about that, right?

Take RTA 13 or 15 to Arlington/Monroe. Bicyclists will find relatively easy access from Van Buren/Arlington and the Rutland exit of the SART.

More information at

Charlie Gandy likes my blog!

Or at least the title of it. At last night's Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting, he suggested "a blog, with a title something like 'Riding in Riverside'" as a medium of communication about City bike projects. I must admit I was a bit territorial (for which I apologize, in case Mr. Gandy is reading this post).

On the bright side, we had a fantastic conversation about what to do about University between Canyon Crest and the UV. Wheels are turning- watch this space for more.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bike Taxes

There's not a whole lot of detail on this one, but apparently Assemblywoman Wilma Carter (D-Rialto) proposed a bill for this year's legislative session that would impose a $2 tax on the sale of new bicycles, with proceeds going to fund state parks and bicycle trail networks.

I've talked to many bicycle advocates, and a lot of them seem to have an almost visceral reaction against bicycle-specific taxes. This is most likely because one of the tired, repetitive arguments that auto drivers make against cyclists is that we don't pay gas taxes-- the "user fees" that motorists think fund all roads in the country ever. (Of course, they don't- they only fund highways, and not even all of those.) Drivers argue that, if they have to get licensed and registered and pay gas taxes to use the roads, cyclists should have to do the same thing. This is obviously a horrible argument, as cyclists do far less damage to roadways, and pose far less danger to other road users, but it's one that's made-- and I think it's behind an almost reflexive revulsion to bike taxes among cycling advocates.

Here's the thing: if I have to pay $2 more every time I buy a new bike, and in exchange I get state parks and trails... I'll pay the $2 with a smile on my face. Even the cheapest new bikes are at least $150, so the difference between paying $150 and $152 is pretty marginal. This holds even more true for higher-end bicycles-- you're not going to notice an extra $2 on your $1200 bike purchase. I'd also be fine with something like a dime-a-tube tax on bicycle tubes, dedicated to bicycle infrastructure. (This, of course, assumes that the cost of collecting such a tax wouldn't be more than the revenue it would bring in, and that isn't a given.) I mean, it would be nice if our cities, states and nation would divert some general fund money to bike infrastructure, but I'd rather pay $7.10 for a tube and ride on plentiful Class I and II bikeways than pay $7 and dodge parked cars.

Americans in general are terribly under-taxed. If it's a viable funding mechanism, we should embrace bike-specific taxes-- so long as they go to bike-specific expenditures.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bike News

The next Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting will be held on 29 March, at 5:30pm on the 5th floor of City Hall. Part of the discussion will no doubt revolve around the upcoming Bicycle Master Plan revision, and will include a presentation from the City's Bicycle Consultant, Charlie Gandy.

Also, an update to the City's Bicycle Master Plan is afoot. The proposal is available, and comments are requested. (The more quickly you send them to me, the more likely I can pass them along to the City.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Monday, March 12, 2012

Downtown is Special

Lamenting the under-use and massively wasted potential of our downtown is a regular habit of Riversiders. We all think that downtown Riverside is somewhere pleasant to be, somewhere special, and yet somehow lacking in a way that we never actually end up going down there for anything useful, besides city government. And, it turns out, that most Riversiders (at least the ones that I keep running in to) all have their finger on exactly what the problem is:

You have to pay for parking. If only the City would make parking free, we could stop going to the Plaza or Tyler Mall and go downtown instead!

Whenever I hear this argument, I alternate between feeling sick and feeling an overwhelming rage rise up within me. It has taken a lot of practice to get to a point where I can calmly, rationally, and efficiently demolish this argument when I encounter it... and yet it keeps popping up.

Okay, Riversiders, listen up, because I've got a few fundamental truths about cities for you. First, cities are populated by people. Not cars, people. Second, paid parking generally means that a lot of people want to go to a place-- so many people, in fact, that there's not enough space to store all of their cars. Third, parking lots are great places for cars, but not terribly pleasant places for people-- they're so unpleasant, in fact, that they destroy neighborhoods.

Knowing these things, we can derive that downtown is a special, unique place within the city. It's the one place (that's not a college campus) where automotive dominance is not complete, the one place where walking to get around is normal. That's what we like about downtown, everybody! We like being able to walk places, to feel the sun on our faces, to wave at our neighbors, to not have to worry about several tons of metal passing all around us all the time. We like the density, the passersby, the feeling that this place was built for human beings, not automobiles.  That's what's so special and unique and wonderful about downtown-- and the reason we're all lamenting its failed potential is that this vision is not quite realized. Huge parts of downtown have been rebuilt to cater to cars, and all of it has been forced to conform to single-use zoning. (More on the latter later.)

We can also see that adding free parking would destroy that- in one of two ways. First, if the City were to add a small section of free parking and not expand the parking system downtown, it would generate massive amounts of traffic circling in and around and through that area in hopes of snagging one of those elusive free parking spots-- because everyone should have the right to dump a ton or so of their property on public land at no charge-- and the traffic would harm the pedestrian environment wherever it went. (Not to mention, it would make going downtown an exercise in road rage.) Second, though-- and this is the more plausible scenario-- it would create a demand for more free parking. Surely, if we can make one lot free (and hey look! That lot's always full, it must be bringing people downtown), we can do it for every lot! And now they're all full, and there's no parking downtown, so we'd better bulldoze a building and blow your tax dollars on paving over the resulting empty lot. Give this process 10 years or so, and downtown will be even more choked by pavement than it already is.

No, what we really need downtown is not more cars, but more people. Remember that phrase above about single-use zoning? Yeah. When downtown was built, all of those little doors in the sides of buildings led up to apartments. Now they lead to dance studios and legal offices. Neither dance studios nor law offices are bad things, but neither produces a whole lot of activity outside of business hours. Apartments, on the other hand, mean that the people who are living there come and go at all hours of the day-- and, furthermore, that they're likely to shop in the area, creating demand for grocery stores and drugstores and coffee shops and restaurants and bars all the amenities of urban life that downtown currently lacks, like dry cleaning and 24-hour store hours. If you want to revitalize downtown, the solution isn't parking, it's people.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mistaken identity

Mistaken identity, originally uploaded by plattypus1.
A Commuterlink-painted NABI running as the #16 on University, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.