Welcome to Curbed Cuts, a tri-weekly digest connecting the dots between shelter, structure, parks, transportation, and more.
Deliver the environment from meal prep kits
Meal prep kit delivery companies trade on the inherent virtuousness one feels when one cooks at home instead of having a Postmate deliver your take-out dinner. But how virtuous is a meal that generates oodles of hard (or impossible) to recycle waste? This isn’t a new question, of course—Grist tackled this very issue in 2014, acknowledging that companies like Blue Apron “virtually eliminate food waste” even as their packaging heads “to the landfill.”
Over two years later, KQED circles back to Blue Apron to see if they’ve improved their landfill problems. The answer, sadly, is not great: much of their packaging still isn’t appropriate for curbside recycling. And then there’s the shipping. “It’s entirely possible, for example, for a customer in Georgia to be getting food that was first shipped to New Jersey and then back to them,” they report. “All those trucks driving around also requires more ice packs and insulation to keep the food fresh—making the boxes heavier, requiring more energy to ship, etc.”
So what’s the solution? A local delivery company—Good Eggs gets high marks from KQED—means less packaging and less of a shipping footprint. Or, you know, you could do a little meal planning and hit a grocery store in person every so often. Sure, you might end up making more food waste, but that stuff can be easily composted, turning your uneaten food into something good for the environment without the need for endless baggies and boxes that languish in landfills long after we, too, are food for the worms.
How Muni can harm you
A report published last week by the British Medical Journal has cyclists smiling: the article, entitled “Active commuting is beneficial for health,” declares that many adults “are not attracted to sports and other leisure time physical activities,” so commuting by bike or foot is a good way to wedge life-extending exercise into the lives of non-athletic folks.
In a study of 250,000 “adults in paid employment,” those who drove or took public transit (aka “passive commuters”) to work were more likely to suffer heart attacks than cyclists or pedestrians during the study, but, interestingly, “the risk of cancer or all cause death” was the same for passive commuters and for pedestrians during that same time period.
Only cyclists escaped the grim reaper during the study, as they were “41 percent less likely to die from any cause,” ABC 7 reports. So, basically, if you want to live forever you need to hop on a bike and enroll in a bunch of medical studies, otherwise you risk dropping dead on Muni at any moment.
Smile for the camera, Speed Racer
You might think that cops and prosecutors would love the idea of speed enforcement cameras to nab scofflaw drivers, but you would be wrong! As Assembly Bill 342 winds its way through state legislature, the SF Examiner reports that “the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, the California Association of Code Enforcement Officers and myriad law enforcement groups” penned a letter opposing the bill, which would allow SF and parts of San Jose to install cameras to snap photos of speeding drivers and mail them tickets (similar to how red light enforcement cameras work today).
As traffic enforcement is widely derided as punishment by the SFPD officers to whom I’ve spoken, this seems odd! As does the opposition of prosecutors, who you’d think would welcome actual photographic evidence of a crime in progress. It comes down to psychology, the bill opponents said in their letter, as cops that pull drivers over “offer lectures to speedsters, which helps scofflaws remember the incident.” Police officers, they say, can also use their own discretion on when to ticket speeders, but “cameras do not.”
Despite the letter, it appears one local law enforcement body thinks the cameras are A-OK, as last fall the SF Police Commission endorsed the use of the devices. According to SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin, the arguments presented by the opposing groups are bunk, as last fall he said that the cameras "reduce speeds” and “over time, the number of citations that are issued come down, which suggests they're actually changing behavior."
The bill, which was authored by SF Assemblymember David Chiu, hits the Assembly Transportation Committee today. Assuming it isn’t quashed there and moves forward as planned, Streetsblog reports that if the bill took effect at the earliest possible date, January 1 of 2018, the SFMTA wouldn’t even start implementation of the five-year pilot program until 2019. Guess that means you have a couple more years of impactful lectures from Officer Friendly to look forward to before you start getting tickets in the mail, speedo.
Carte blanche parking for Scoot?
Scoot Networks had a bumpy introduction in SF, with a spokesperson from California’s DMV telling me in 2012 that the company was violating the state’s regulations around (legally required) motorcycle licenses for scooter riders and Michael Keating, the company’s CEO, sneering to me that “It would be a real pity if this thing got squelched because some kind of mid-level CHP thought that this didn’t meet his or her idea of how California vehicle code should be enforced.”
Since then, the company has clearly worked things out with regulators, with their rules page saying that you don’t need a motorcycle license to rent from Scoot, but that “Members without a motorcycle license (M1) or moped license (M2) are prohibited from renting a Scoot or Scoot Cargo in California for more than 48 hours at a time.” This jibes with what Keating told me back in 2012, that some DMV rules allow specialized vehicle rental by holders of “regular” drivers’ licenses for less than two days.
In contrast, law-abiding scooter owners must pay a $31 application fee for a motorcycle learner’s permit (which prohibits night driving), take a written test, and pass a riding test (administered at the DMV) or present proof that they completed the California Motorcyclist Safety Program. It’s unclear why owners of scooters are somehow considered more dangerous to themselves or others than short-term renters by the state, but it appears that soon Scoot will have yet another advantage. According to SFMTA spokesperson Erica Kato, Scoots might be exempted from all residential parking restrictions including time limits and get “unlimited parking rights at metered motorcycle spaces without paying,” the SF Examiner reports.
Under the current rules, Scoot riders “can’t park in front of their houses, sometimes,” a company spokesperson complained to the Ex. But in addition to that oh-so-desirable shorter walk from Scoot to front door, Scoot says that loosened regulations could cause their current user base of over 19,000 members using their 750 scooters to double. The proposed policy changes are currently being mulled by the SFMTA’s Policy and Governance committee, with their timeline to full Board discussion as yet unknown.