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Cyclists Ride in Portland’s Disaster Relief Trials

Ifanyi Bell, Oregon Public Broadcasting

In Portland, it’s not uncommon to see people riding all manner of pedal-powered vehicles. Local cyclists are famous for constructing two-wheeled creations that aren’t always the most practical. However, amongst the frivolity and fantastical are cargo bikes, the utility of which is turning the gears of emergency planners and city officials.

Cargo bikes are used to haul everything from yard debris for landscape projects to furniture during a move. Carbon-conscious parents use the large, sturdy bikes to transport their families. And last week a small contingent of the Portland bicycling community, led by Mike Cobb, aimed to add “emergency supply vehicle” to the long list of functions performed by cargo bikes.

After a disaster strikes, one of the most important tasks is getting help and supplies to those who need it. But when obstacles like fallen trees or rockslides prevent other response vehicles from reaching a group of survivors, Cobb believes that cargo bikes can play an instrumental role.

“A bicycle carrying 100 pounds can go many, many places that a car can’t,” explained Cobb.

To test the feasibility of including bicycles as an official component of a large municipal disaster response effort, the Portland Office of Emergency Management sponsored this year’s Disaster Relief Trials. Participating riders were tasked with locating and retrieving emergency supplies along a 30-mile route around the city of Portland, and then returning the supplies to the starting location. Along the way, various obstacles were set up to simulate real-world disaster scenarios.
(June 22 2012)
Suggested by Daniel Lerch of Post Carbon Institute who writes, “Wish I’d seen this! Treat connection between (disaster) resilience and bikes.”

Related post at EB: Your bike – the coolest part of your disaster kit.

SF Has Turned 30 Car Parking Spots Into 336 Bike Parking Spots

Aaron Bialick, SF.Streetsblog
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One of the newest bike corrals was installed at the crowded corner of 18th and Guerrero Streets in the Mission. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

Bike corrals are popping up so quickly around San Francisco, who can keep track anymore?

The SF Municipal Transportation Agency has installed 27 corrals since it started rolling them out in 2010, adding 168 bike racks without taking up any sidewalk space. That means 30 on-street spaces normally reserved for one parked car each can now accommodate 336 bikes.

One of the newest corrals, added at 18th and Guerrero Streets in the Mission, freed up some space on a heavily crowded sidewalk. Between the scores of people walking to Dolores Park, patrons eating and waiting for tables at jumping restaurants, and bikes locked to every rack and pole available, the corner was regularly filled to the brim on weekends.

The new corral added 12 bike parking spaces off the curb in front of Pizzeria Delfina, replacing one former car parking space. Andres Burgos, a chef at Delfina who bikes to work, said that by taking bikes off the sidewalk, the corral has made a lot more room for people while helping to meet the high demand for nearby bike parking.

“Most of my co-workers, the first day it got put in, everyone was ecstatic,” said Burgos. “We filled it up the first day. Everyone just went straight for the corral.”
(2 July 2012)

Suburbia or Urban Infill?

Francesca Lyman, Sacramento Bee
… This latest burst of the housing bubble, however, has exposed the dark underside of the suburban dream – with its cascading foreclosures, shuttered malls and shopping centers – on an enormous scale. In California, as well as in Arizona, Florida and Nevada, vast numbers of tract houses, with swimming pools under perpetually sunny skies, have turned, suddenly, as one Realtor put it, “into entire neighborhoods under water.”

In Sacramento, look no further than Elk Grove, which Money magazine dubbed America’s fastest-growing city in 2006. There I found Don Michalek, a carpenter who helped erect many of this area’s sprawling subdivisions, standing in line with his wife, Joleen – and dozens of others, at the Elk Grove Food Bank. Not so long ago, the Michaleks religiously tithed a portion of their modest income to this cause; now they depend on it for their rent, not mortgage – as they don’t own their home.

“I’ve been through at least two recessions, seeing the boom and bust,” Michalek says. “In the last one, we’d be putting in houses so fast, 300 houses at a time, but they’re all upside down now.”

… As the housing industry recovers from the worst economy in decades, it’s building rental apartments, multi-family and smaller housing in cities and denser suburbs rather than in exurban areas.

“Where the action is now,” says Mike McKeever, director of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, “is in building walkable neighborhoods, and in filling in vacant lands in the suburbs.”

Yet pressure remains on local elected officials, both in Sacramento and elsewhere, to rezone agricultural land on the periphery into new suburbs. Banks and other investors that hold options on farmland can profit from such rezonings, even if there isn’t the kind of demand for large-lot houses that existed before the bursting of the housing bubble.

When the economy picks up, some analysts think that many Californians will continue to seek out single-family, detached suburban houses. And builders have long found it easier to build on “greenfields” instead of urban properties.

… Crook’s views epitomize recent surveys showing young people genuinely disenchanted with suburbs. “There’s just no culture like there is here, in city neighborhoods like midtown, where every house you walk past has a different flavor to it, and there’s so much going on.”

Today, a new set of demographics are at play, real estate analysts say. A younger generation of “millennials” is having fewer children or no children, and favoring smaller places to live in downtowns, while aging baby boomers are shedding their big houses, Leinberger says.

Americans also want to drive less: Surveys report a decline nationwide in vehicle miles traveled in recent years, particular among young people, where there’s been a 23 percent drop.

As California’s population grows in coming decades, demographer Arthur C. Nelson, author of the 2011 report “The New California Dream,” forecasts a rise in demand for smaller lots, multi-family units and other housing types built close to transit.

Francesca Lyman is a Seattle-based freelance journalist. The Fund for Environmental Journalism, sponsored by the Society of Environmental Journalists, helped support research for this article.
(24 June 2012)