Saturday, November 01, 2008

CityWatchLA - LA City Council Commits to Cyclists

CityWatch, Oct 31, 2008
Vol 6 Issue 88

By Stephen Box

LA's City Council took time at the end of a long session this past Wednesday to approve a motion directing the reorganization of the Bicycle Advisory Committee, a simple act that demonstrates a new commitment to engaging the cycling community in the process.

The motion passed unanimously but that didn't stop debate, albeit one-sided and supportive, with Councilman Ed Reyes taking the lead in addressing the needs of cyclists for support from our Transportation and Planning Departments. It was Reyes who originally moved to reorganize the BAC and it was his office who got involved, attending meetings and offering suggestions on how the process could be more inclusive and open to the public.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl followed Reyes and held nothing back as he spoke of the City's obligation to provide cyclists with safe access and accommodation, pointing out that he was spending that evening with the Mandeville Canyon Task Force and working with the community to integrate cycling as a viable means of transportation. Rosendahl spoke passionately of the Cyclists' Bill of Rights (Co-Presented by Rosendahl, Garcetti and Greuel and seconded by Reyes and Parks a little over three months ago) and its journey through Committee as it heads to the Council floor, all the while positioning the BAC motion in the context of LA's transportation opportunities.

The BAC reorganization motion directs the BAC to elect officers, it directs the Transportation and the Recreation and Parks Departments to staff the BAC with support from the Planning Department and with Public Works directed to address the concerns of cyclists. It further assigned the City Attorney the responsibility of addressing the Brown Act and offering support as appropriate or when requested. It's not quite the document it was when introduced, having gone through committee three times, but if it clearly communicates a Council commitment to supporting an effective BAC, then so be it. (The motion directs the BAC to hold elections on Feb 15, 2009 - a Sunday!)

The Bicycle Advisory Committee has been around since the Bradley Administration and in recent years it has been the subject of charges that it has grown insignificant or benign. Critics pointed out that in 2007 there were only 10 actions coming from the BAC; six times the minutes were approved and four times the Committee voted to send a letter although no letters were drafted that year.

In February of 2007, cyclists staged the first "Storm the Bastille". The cyclists were ruled "out-of-order" and the heat was on.

For the last 20 months cyclists have been meeting at Santa Monica & Vermont (named Red Quarters after the Red Line Station) and "Storming the Bastille," riding to the BAC meetings and engaging the DWP and DOT staff in a long and arduous debate over the Brown Act. The battle started with simple access to meetings and then access to the agenda and the minutes and then the simple ability to weigh in on items on the agenda. It was the BAC’s institutionalized reluctance to engage the public that brought the City Council into the picture, a sad reflection on the City staff who supported the BAC and an even sadder indication of how far we have come and how far we have to go, all in the pursuit of access to the process.

It is apparent that the cycling community has a few City Council Champions fighting for the rights of cyclists, and some of these Champions are up for reelection. Perhaps we will see the Cyclists' Bill of Rights become a campaign issue, an opportunity for the cycling community to Bike the Vote!

INFO: The next Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee is scheduled for December 2, 2008 @ Parker Center @ 7pm. There is no automobile parking, which troubles the BAC members more than the public. After all, we'll be riding bikes! If you don’t have a bike, take the Metro and we’ll go out for tacos after the meeting.

(Stephen Box is a transportation activist and a CityWatch Contributor. He can be reached at: You can also join the Bike Writers Collective who wrote the CBR on facebook.)

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