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UC Riverside is raising tuition, cutting staff, and faces a reduction of $30 million in state support. Coincidentally, $30 million is how much the campus is spending on this gigantic new parking garage:

UC Riverside’s new four-level parking structure at the east end of campus is nearing completion. The main elements of the project — its concrete levels and frame — are finished though other features still remain to be done, said John Franklin, a project manager with the Office of Planning, Design and Construction. He estimated it will be completed by the end of April.

“It’s quite a substantial structure when you walk by it,” Franklin said.

Work on the 1,079-space parking structure on the east side of Parking Lot 13 on Big Springs Road began in January 2020. When complete, the structure and surrounding space will provide a total of 1,287 spaces — a net increase of 800.

Parking Lot 13

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Many drunk and drugged out drivers are notorious repeat offenders. But with a AB 3234, a new law that has gone into effect, previous misdemeanor convictions for DUI can be removed from a driver’s record — as if it had never occurred:

AB 3234,  taking effect on January 1, 2021, allows for diversion in almost all misdemeanor cases, including DUI, vehicular manslaughter, elder abuse, child abuse, assault, hate crimes, carrying a concealed firearm, possession of a firearm in a school zone, criminal threats, and dissuading a witness.  Upon completion of diversion, as defined by the judge, the case shall be dismissed and the crime deemed to never have occurred. Under AB 3234, a judge in the superior court in which a misdemeanor is being prosecuted can offer misdemeanor diversion to a defendant over the objection of a prosecuting attorney.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has argued that the law may cost the state Federal highway safety funds. The Federal FAST Act requires states receiving funding to enact and enforce a repeat intoxicated driver law (23 CFR 1275.4).

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Virginia decriminalizes jaywalking

HB 5058 has been signed by the Governor, meaning police in Virginia can no longer hassle pedestrians:

HB 5058 Marijuana and certain traffic offenses; issuing citations, etc,

Introduced by: Patrick A. Hope

Issuing citations; possession of marijuana and certain traffic offenses.

The bill prohibits a law-enforcement officer from stopping a pedestrian for jaywalking or entering a highway where the pedestrian cannot be seen. The bill provides that law-enforcement officers are not permitted to stop a motor vehicle for an expired safety inspection or registration sticker until the first day of the fourth month after the original expiration date. The bill also provides that no evidence discovered or obtained due to an impermissible stop, including evidence obtained with the person’s consent, is admissible in any trial, hearing, or other proceeding.

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Berkeley just opened a fancy new $40 million parking garage — then COVID-19 hit. The garage requires debt financing, but nobody is paying to park there. The city is tapping a one-time emergency bond reserve fund, but if there is a further economic downturn the impact to the General Fund would be considerable. The problem isn’t only the downtown garage but the other parking facilities as well:

$3 million taken from General Fund to cover deficit

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Sacramento St in Berkeley is currently under construction for what is described as a “complete streets” project. Here is the existing conditions:

As you can see, this is an extremely wide 4-lane arterial running through a residential neighborhood. The roadway has very low traffic volumes, leading to speeding and dangerous passing. The obvious solution would be a road diet to reduce speeds and space for buffered bike lanes (or perhaps even cycletracks). Instead, the city is only proposing to put in some new intersection treatments without doing any lane reductions or other measures to reduce speeding.

Let’s compare to a very similar project going on along Oakland’s 14th Ave. Here is the existing road configuration, which as you can see is also a 4-lane residential arterial:

Given the similarity of the two streets, one might expect these neighboring cities to implement similar solutions. But aside from the intersection treatments, the approaches are quite different. Berkeley is not adding bike lanes and will maintain its street as a dangerous high-speed thoroughfare. Oakland is doing a full road diet to calm traffic. Thus, the Oakland project is complete, the Berkeley one is not. The sad thing is that the Berkeley project sits directly outside a BART station and connects to a popular bike trail. The top community concern in meetings was slowing traffic, so how did Berkeley end up doing the bare minimum?

Oakland 14th Ave road diet
Berkeley “Complete” Streets project

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Dining with the Devil

By now you may have heard about Governor Newsom’s controversial dinner party at the posh French Laundry restaurant. Most criticism has focused on whether the party violated COVID social-distancing rules (almost certainly it did).

The cherry-on-top is that the party was to honor Jason Kinney — an oil industry lobbyist. Kinney had worked on getting permits approved for a major expansion of fracking in Kern County. The Newsom Administration approved those permits less than a month before the party:

The exquisite dinner was held to celebrate the 50th birthday of Kinney, a Newsom insider and lobbying firm partner with a knack for getting his way in the corridors of power. For example, Newsom — who claims to care deeply about climate change — came under fire from environmentalists after his administration approved fracking permits for Aera Energy. Who represents Aera in Sacramento? “That company, Aera Energy — a joint venture of Shell and ExxonMobil — is represented by the lobbying firm Axiom Advisors. Axiom’s lobbyists include Jason Kinney, a senior advisor to Newsom while he served as lieutenant governor,” reported Steve Horn of Capital & Main.

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The Biden/Harris climate action plan

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To celebrate Pedestrian Safety Month, the California Office of Traffic Safety has sent this out on their Twitter feed:

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This messaging makes clear that cars are the top of the pecking order. How about instead they flip it around to say: “Driving around? Think two steps ahead, and drive the way you would want to act if you were walking.”

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This is ridiculous. Here are back-to-back NTSB tweets giving contradictory messages on autonomous vehicles. One says they are good, the very next warns against overreliance.

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This past week, Berkeley police were out in force writing $250 tickets to cyclists for rolling stop signs on Milvia and the Ohlone trail. For those who don’t know Berkeley, these are the two of the safest places to walk or ride a bike in the city.

Screen Shot 2019-09-04 at 9.42.21 PM

In a Tweet, Berkeley Mayor Arreguin denied responsibility for the crackdown. As he pointed out, it is actually city policy to use limited police resources on dangerous driver behavior.

But the Mayor and Council are not exactly blameless here. This crackdown is the result of a state grant City Council applied for. Each year the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) gives money to local law enforcement to conduct these kinds of stings. As one of California’s most dangerous cities for bikes/peds, Berkeley routinely receives OTS grant money. Apparently, one condition of the OTS grant is that recipients conduct targeted enforcement against bikes/peds. Berkeley and other cities have regularly used OTS funds for this purpose.

So in accepting the OTS grant, it was inevitable cyclists and pedestrians would get caught up in a dragnet, and many on the Berkeley City Council surely knew this because they’ve heard complaints about it before. One year in particular stands out, when an OTS-funded jaywalking sting was conducted near UC campus. Quite a number of UC students attended a City Council meeting that evening to vent frustration at the exorbitant fines.

The OTS is one of those highway agencies few have heard of, but which desperately needs reform. The OTS promotes outdated safety advice bordering on victim-blaming. OTS admonishes pedestrians to wear bright colors and carry flashlights. Bike helmets are heavily promoted, and the OTS warns against distracted walking. So it is not surprising that OTS traffic safety grants would fund some dubious enforcement strategies. Cities that want to promote bike/ped travel should avoid OTS grant programs.

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