CityWatch, Sept 12, 2008
Vol 6 Issue 74
LA’s Cyclists: ‘Count Me In’
By Stephen Box
LA Department of Transportation’s Bikeways Coordinator stood before a room full of cyclists gathered for a Bicycle Master Plan workshop and explained, with a straight face, that the City no longer did traffic counts on cyclists because “the company that did the counting went out of business.”
It was unclear at the time if this meant that there simply was nobody left to do the counting or if the technology of counting things has disappeared when the company went out of business.
LA’s City Council, in 2002, implemented a Bicycle Plan that directs the Department of Transportation to conduct traffic counts including bicycle counts at intersections along designated Citywide Bikeways for comparison purposes.
The Plan further specifies that traffic studies conducted as part of DEIR’s or other environmental clearances include bicycle traffic counts if the intersections are located on Citywide Bikeways.
The Plan further directs the DOT to undertake annual bicycle parking counts at public bicycle parking facilities.
The Plan concludes by directing the LAPD and the LADOT to track bicycle accident reports as part of Bicycle Plan monitoring. It also specifies the creation of an accident report map as a means of pinpointing safety enhancement needs.
And yet, as the City of LA is in the middle of updating the City’s Bicycle Plan, an element of the City’s Transportation Plan, all of which is part of the General Plan, the City has no data.
The Hawthorne Effect, tested in the 30’s, found that when something is measured, it improves and when it is measured and reported, it improves exponentially.
Other Cities have demonstrated the effectiveness of this principle by laying down a goal, establishing a starting point, keeping count and evaluating success based on performance.
Mayor Daley set out to make Chicago the most bicycle-friendly city in the United States. He established goals for improvement and he measured performance by counting and is responsible for installing 10,000 bike racks, more than any other city in the United States.
San Francisco’s vision to establish the highest per-capita bicycle use in North America includes having the Municipal Transportation Agency measures the effectiveness of this campaign by counting cyclists. The MTA reports that cycling on Market Street increased 31% from last year to this year, demonstrating that the City’s efforts to ensure that cyclists feel safe and welcome on the streets were successful.
Meanwhile, the LADOT can report with thorough detail where we stand on funding but when it comes to accounting for those dollars, nothing. No performance reports. Nada.
What happened to the Sepulveda Reversible project and were any cycling counts included in that project? How about the Safe Routes to School projects? Were cycling counts included to determine if the efforts were effective? How safe are our streets and how many cyclists have been injured or killed in traffic collisions on the streets of Los Angeles?
What is our record for moving people, not simply motor vehicles, through the intersections of Los Angeles? Do we even count people?
The only way the City of Los Angeles will ever improve conditions on the streets is if we evaluate based on performance, not simply the funding or completion of projects. Effectiveness has to be based on real numbers.
As for this cyclist, I know I count and I expect to be counted!
(Stephen Box is a cyclist activist and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at: Stephen@ThirdEyeCreative.net)