Thursday, November 27, 2008

CityWatchLA - Griffith Park Festival of Rights

CityWatch, Nov 28, 2008
Vo. 6 Issue 96

The City
By Stephen Box

The Griffith Park Festival of Lights opened with a whimper this past Monday night as Councilmember Tom LaBonge joined the DWP in hosting the Festival's token "Bike-Night."

This year the displays were brighter, the attendance was lighter, and LaBonge's stubborn resolve to limit cyclists to this one night of pre-holiday festivities was as strong as ever.

LaBonge reaffirmed his claim that it's simply not safe for cyclists to ride on the street at night with so many automobiles, forgetting that Crystal Springs is striped with a bike lane. Well, it was. Actually, the bike lane disappears during the Festival of Lights in order to create another lane for motor vehicles.

All this from the self-proclaimed Patron Saint of Cyclists!

This is the 13th year for the Griffith Park Festival of Lights. It was originally conceived by Councilmember John Ferraro as LA's "gift to the people." Ferraro was inspired by a Festival of Lights he witnessed in San Antonio and he returned to Los Angeles vowing to create a display worthy of LA. This he accomplished, in ways he may not have imagined.

In all fairness to the DWP, this year's festival shows great improvement with two weeks (November 25 - Dec 7) set aside for a vehicle-free festival featuring special accommodations for equestrians (Tues, Wed, Thurs) and even a protected lane for the peds who bring their dogs. In other words, even those who arrive by dog-sled can enjoy the Festival of Lights, all while cyclists are banned.

The progressive changes in the operation of the Festival are largely the result of strong lobbying from the Parks, Rec and Open Space Committee (PROS) led by Bernadette Soter and a coalition of supporting organizations which includes the Los Feliz Improvement Association, the Oaks Homeowners Association, the Sierra Club, the Greater Griffith Park, the Hollywood United and the Atwater Village Neighborhood Councils, the Bike Writers Collective and a full complement of community groups that totals approximately 30.

The Coalition has long been advocating for improvements to the auto-centric, environmental nightmare that the Festival of Lights wreaks on the local community. Fully a half-million people arrive each year to enjoy "LA's gift to the people" resulting in traffic congestion so significant that the adjacent freeway is brought to a halt. Festival attendees sit in traffic congestion so thick that the notion that cyclists would be endangered is laughable. (Coughable?) Signs announcing 90 minute to 2 hour delays in traffic bear witness to the significant negative impact that the large number of idling vehicles represent, all as they wait for access to the one-mile long Festival of Lights.

Meanwhile, cyclists are banned in order to allow for more motor vehicles. (Or was it for the safety of the cyclists?)

In either case, the "Yea for Motorists! Nay for Cyclists!" Griffith Park Light Festival is well under way, with only one week left to join the DWP in its effort to help the City of LA become "America's Greenest City!" and to enjoy the vehicle (and bicycle) free Festival. After that it's business (bike-free) as usual.

As for the cyclists of Los Angeles, December 8th, which is the opening night for the motor vehicle crowd, is also the night for the Griffith Park "Festival of Rights," a ritual ride of protest where cyclists adorn themselves in the appropriate holiday decorations and ride through the gridlock, sharing holiday goodwill and cheer with the motorists who find themselves trapped in the awe-inspiring gridlock that is most certainly worthy of a city such as LA. This was certainly not what Ferraro had in mind. (Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist activist and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at )

INFO: For the “Festival of Rights” ride, cyclists meet at the Mulholland Fountain at the SW corner of Los Feliz Boulevard and Crystal Springs/Riverside Drive at 6:30 p.m. December 8 and ride @ 7:00 pm. (3700 Los Feliz Blvd. LA, CA 90027)

Transpo Committee - Character Reveal

Last Friday's Transpo Committee meeting was significant, so significant that it warrants another pass, this time to take a look at the three groups who were represented at the meeting and the "character" that was revealed by their participation and performance.

1) The City of Los Angeles was represented by members of the Police Department, the Department of Transportation, the Planning Department and Office of the City Attorney, all of whom contributed to a stunningly cavalier and obstinate display of arrogance and hubris.

Swatting off the requests of the public as little more than the babbling buzzing of the ignorant masses, DOT staff did little other than to demonstrate a commitment to more studies, more reports, more funding requests and more staff. This prompted Committee Chair Greuel to comment "Less studying, more working!"

Planning sidestepped a discussion of integrating the the Bicycle Master Plan into the Community Plans by babbling about meetings and presentations and recommendations, all of which hid the simple truth, the BMP sits on a shelf, a lonely funding tool with no teeth. Supah!

Not wanting to be left out of the big reveal, the Deputy City Attorney referred to the Cyclists' Bill of Rights as "a laundry list of issues!" that would require review, something she had not had the time to do. The motion was introduced over 4 months ago! In all fairness, she has been busy, writing ordinances allowing for the speed limit increases throughout the Valley.

But at the end of the day, it was Chief Paysinger who gave the greatest reveal of character when he went before the Committee, avoided responsibility for the inability of his department to administer the bike licensing program and then refused to suspend enforcement at the request of the Committee.

What kind of job security do these people possess that they can simply duck the hard questions, blow off the charges of the public, ignore and reject the instructions of the Committee? Apparently, it's iron-clad and part of the "business as usual" work-ethic for the City of Los Angeles.

If nothing else was accomplished, the meeting was a brilliant reveal of character for those who spend so much time and effort maintaining the status quo and resisting the efforts of the community to make LA a great city to ride. Thanks for the reveal!

2) The Transportation Committee was represented by Chairwoman Wendy Greuel, Councilman Parks, Councilman Rosendahl and Councilman LaBonge. It was a crazy day, with Greuel opening the meeting solo, LaBonge arriving late and leaving early, Rosendahl and Greuel stepping out to work on budget business and the items on the agenda coming non-sequentially and rapidly, with public comment limited to one minute. 60 seconds! WooHoo!

When that many people from the public show up, the Committee doesn't need the LADOT, the LAPD, Planning or the City Attorney to go and do a study, it simply needs to open up the mic and start engaging the public in the business of making Los Angeles a better place to ride.

The Committee members revealed to the public that 1) they are willing to accept words and studies and excuses over performance and results and 2) they will give instructions and then back down when they are rejected. This is not the leadership that the City of Los Angeles needs!

3) The Cyclistas! They came from all over, with a wide range of experiences and attitudes and goals. But they turned out and they sat for hours, all for their 60 seconds of opportunity, in which they appealed for a Bicycle Master Plan with teeth, support for a bike-share program, meaningful street improvements that would actually support and encourage cycling as a transportation solution, a repeal of the City's bike licensing law, a Sharrows program and the adoption of the Cyclists' Bill of Rights "as written - as ridden!"

They listened to excuse after excuse on why things can't be done. They listened to LADOT explain that they can't paint Sharrows because they don't know if the paint will be slippery prompting one cyclist to comment "Have they never spoken to a cyclist before?"

Another cyclist referred to the LADOT as the department of "Yes We Can't!" while another referred to their presentation as the "Why You Can't Have What You Want" Bicycle Plan.

Through it all the public witnessed City staff that not only lacked any commitment to improving the City but actually demonstrated a resistance to any call for improvement or change, all the while asking for more staff and the public witnessed City Councilmembers who asked the hard questions and gave specific instructions but then accepted excuses and non-answers and outright rejection from City staff.

This was the proverbial fork in the road and the cyclists could have looked at the status quo maintaining agents of mediocrity and grown discouraged by the system but instead the experience resulted in a display of resolve, immediately, that night, the next day and in the days since.

It was on Kill Radio the next day that the cycling community was urged to kick it into DIY and DIT gear, taking responsibility for getting the City going. In discussions on Midnight Ridazz, LA Streetsblog, the LATimes Bottleneck Blog, SoapBoxLA, BikinginLA, Westside-bikeSIDE, sic, MikeyWally cyclists are demonstrating that the time is nigh, that change is on the horizon and that the agents of change are the cyclists and that they are gonna make it happen.

illuminateLA audio

Character Counts!

"See you on the Streets!"

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

CityWatchLA - Cyclists’ Bill of Rights Heads to Full Council

CityWatch, Nov 25, 2008
Vol 6 Issue 95

LA Transit Watch
By Stephen Box

A standing room only crowd of cyclists attended last Friday's Transportation Committee, all in support of the proposed Cyclists' Bill of Rights (CBR) "as written - as ridden!" and of roadway improvements that would encourage and support cycling as a transportation solution.

Cyclists spoke passionately and eloquently of the need to affirm the rights of cyclists and to inform the community of these rights. The CBR was originally penned by the Bike Writers Collective and the motion to endorse it was initiated by Councilman Rosendahl. Council President Garcetti and Transpo Committee Chair Greuel signed on as co-presenters it was seconded by Councilmembers Reyes and Parks.

Greuel spoke of the need to support cyclists and Rosendahl referred to it as "a no-brainer!" Public Works Commissioner Paula Daniels joined the Committee and spoke in favor of the need to work to create a safe environment for cyclists. Speakers from the community recounted their experiences on the streets of LA and of their hope that our City leadership would support cycling as a transportation and environmental solution by endorsing the Cyclists' Bill of Rights "as written - as ridden!"

The LA Department of Transportation acknowledged that rights articulated in the Cyclists' Bill of Rights already exist but then went on to express hesitation with a call for the "full support of our judicial system." The DOT rep went on to express concern with a call for "full access...on mass transit," referring to it as a Metro issue, apparently forgetting that the City of Los Angeles operates a significant mass transit fleet of its own. The LADOT's reluctance to comply with the Transpo Committee Chair's request that the CBR be included in the Bicycle Master Plan was a telling character revelation and spoke volumes of the uphill battle that cyclists fight.

The City Attorney waxed un-poetic on the "rather long laundry list of items" contained in the CBR and expressed a desire to review the document in order to analyze the legal implications for the City of Los Angeles. This reluctance matches the concerns expressed by the LADOT's outside consultants who opined that by supporting the rights of cyclists, such as "the right to travel safely and free of fear," the City might open itself up to liability and an expectation that it could not meet.

Councilman Rosendahl was on fire, bringing it back on track by reminding the Committee, the LADOT and the City Attorney that the motion had been made, that it came from the cycling community and that he didn't want it changed. Greuel, Rosendahl and Parks then acted to endorse the Cyclists' Bill of Rights and this turned out to be the highlight of the meeting.

As for low points, the LAPD sent Chief Paysinger to the meeting to defend the department’s enforcement of the City's antiquated requirement for bike licenses, one that results in $160 tickets for cyclists found riding without the $3 sticker on their bike.

Cyclists argued that current bike licensing law is simply an opportunity to harass cyclists by enforcing a law that is badly written, contradicts the state's Uniformity Code and is thereby invalid, has no real purpose other than loss prevention, can't be followed because the LAPD is incapable of providing the licenses and that if the LAPD can't provide a mechanism for obtaining the license, it could hardly then enforce the law.

Rosendahl asked, loudly and firmly, for a moratorium. Parks expressed the opinion that it was within the authority of the LAPD to hold off on enforcement of the archaic law until the issue could be resolved. Chief Paysinger smiled and rejected the requests of the Transpo Committee.

The LADOT took things lower when it expressed concern that the encouragement of cycling as a transportation option might interfere with the free flow of automobile traffic, thereby opening the City up to liability for inducing traffic congestion and causing air pollution.

Ultimately, the rights articulated in the CBR already exist and are guaranteed by Federal, State and Local laws, regulations and policies. The City of LA endorsement is not necessary in order to "create" or codify any of the rights but the endorsement of our city council is a significant symbolic gesture that informs the cycling community and affirms to the Community as a whole that cyclists ride as equals and with the support of our leadership.

To that end, we're thankful for the enthusiastic support of Councilmembers Greuel and Rosendahl in endorsing the Cyclists' Bill of Rights and in encouraging and supporting the cyclists of Los Angeles.

(Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist activist and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at

Monday, November 24, 2008

LADOT Reality Check

The LADOT Bikeways staff reported to the City's Transpo Committee that their three most significant bikeways "successes" are:

1) The LA River Bike Path. Apparently by success, the LADOT was referring to:

a) Successful litigation! The City of Los Angeles is flush with victory after fighting all the way to the State Supreme Court to avoid taking responsibility for the design and maintenance of the LA River Bike Path. The City of LA rejected the claims of an injured cyclist who was injured on the gate/chain link fence at the Victory end of the bike path. The City of LA fought the claim arguing that the City of LA is immune from any liability for the bike paths, that anyone who rides on a bike path does so at their own risk and that they are recreational facilities and not transportation facilities.

(No attempt was made to reconcile the fact that the LADOT apparently calls the LA Bike Path a transportation facility when seeking funding and then a recreational facility when looking for immunity.)

The bottom line is this; cyclists riding the LA River Bike Path do so at their own risk, (there's a sign just N of the Los Feliz bridge informing cyclists of this limitation) and the LADOT has argued successfully that riding a bike is a recreational endeavor inherent with the risks that come with such dangerous pursuits. Hunting bear? Jumping out of a plane? Swimming with sharks? Wrestling Gators? Riding a bike on the LA Bike Path? You are a daredevil and you are on your own!

b) Successful communication! Cyclists on the LA River Bike Path often find themselves at odds with other user groups and mistakenly take the term "Bike Lane" to mean "Bike Lane." That's not the case. The LA River Bike Path is actually the LA River "Mixed Use" Path and is fair game for dog-walkers, roller-bladers, joggers, pogo-stickers, ballroom dancers, hop-scotching, jump-roping, shopping cart pushing, picnic basket carrying, non-motorized vehicular travelers of all flavors and speeds! Of course, that's a mouthful to put on a sign so the LADOT continues to post "Bike Path" signs because it's simpler that way.

c) Successful eradication of light pollution! Apparently the wildlife in the LA River were kept awake at night by the pesky Bike Path illumination. No Worries. Freelance wildlife fans liberated all of the copper from the bike path electical system (twice!) leaving the Bike Path in the dark and the wildlife free to do whatever they do when it's dark.

2) The Orange Line Bike Path. Apparently by success, the LADOT is referring to:

a) The Metro's successful Orange Line Bike Path. In a classic demonstration of "Success has many parents, failure is an orphan." the LADOT is more than willing to glom onto the success of the Metro's OL Bike Path when discussing success but when it comes to taking responsibility for the maintenance of the Bike Path, the LADOT fought for two years to avoid signing the paperwork, insisting that the Metro hasn't completed the project.

b) The Chandler extension which consists of bike lanes (yea for magic paint and the BSS who actually did the work!) and the Chandler Bike Path which was in the news recently as the location of the collision between a roller blader and two League of American Bicyclist licensed instructors, resulting in broken bones for both cyclists and yet another confusing debate over the use of the term "Bike Path" vs. the use of the more appropriate term "Anybody-but-that-motorist-Path." The LA section of the Chandler Bike Path is distinguishable from the Burbank City section in that the LA side features drought resistant (dirt) landscaping while the Burbank section uses reclaimed water and is actually landscaped and green and feels like a parkway.

3) The Expo Line Bike Lanes/Path. Apparently by success, the LADOT is referring to:

a) The future? Is the list of accomplishments so short that by #3 the LADOT has to start pulling out the list of hopes, dreams and good intentions? The report started off with "We've been doing a number of things..." and then shifted into the future of the Expo line, a facility that is a Metro project. Telling other agencies how to do their business seems to be the major "success" of the LADOT Bikeways Department.

b) The opportunity? Perhaps this time around, the cycling community will have the opportunity to forge a relationship with the Metro, developing and refining on the bikeways design standards and establishing safe and effective accessibility to the Expo line for cyclists. As for the role of the LADOT in the development of the Expo Line, one need only look to the streets surrounding the Orange Line and Van Nuys Blvd. for a demonstration on the LADOT's commitment (or lack of commitment) to connectivity for cyclists and pedestrians. (Busted curb lanes, missing crosswalk, parking for 18 wheelers? Is this an industrial zone and traffic sewer or a transit hub?)

At the end of the day, it is excruciatingly apparent that the LADOT operates with little if any accountability or obligation to lay down real goals, actual accomplishments and any sense of accountability. This meeting, just like all the others, included an LADOT call for more staffing in order to continue with the Transportation malpractice that is inflicted on the people of Los Angeles.

All totaled, there are 11 people currently working on the secret projects that purportedly are the future of LA's Network of Bikeways. As our City leadership is scrambling to find opportunities to cut the City budget, the Bikeways department brazenly steps up to the mic and acknowledges that they can't think of three things they have done that would justify their existence. Bold, cavalier and utterly contemptible!

This would be a great time for the LADOT Bikeways Department to start preparing the "stuff-we-did-this-year" report for the upcoming Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting on Tuesday, December 2, 2008. As usual, we'll be "Storming the Bastille" and asking for accountability in measurable terms.

"See you on the Streets!"

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bike Writers Collective at

BikeTalk, a new show over at KillRadio, gave the Bike Writers Collective the opportunity to recap our recent exploits at the city's Transpo Committee and the endorsement we picked up for the Cyclists' Bill of Rights.

Erik and I rode over to Kill Radio's luxurious studio, located at Beverly & Vermont. Enci and Alex joined in telephonically and then we were four, fully one-third of the Bike Writers Collective!

BikeTalk's host, Nick Richert, has put JimB of the BikeKitchen and JimC of Orange20 to work as the moderators of the no-holds-barred, free form open forum arena of microphone jousting that is Kill Radio.

We quickly covered the CBR and its journey. Erik then regaled us with his take on the shocking but completely in-character manner in which the LAPD completely blew off the City Councilmembers who strongly urged the LAPD to hold off from harrassing cyclists for not having bike licenses, at least until the City Council could review the municipal code.

Apparently encouraged by the arrogance of the LAPD, the LADOT got in the game of cavalier by offering up bits of logic defying wisdom such as "the presence of Sharrows might encourage cycling which could interfere with the flow of traffic and would then cause traffic congestion."

Erik hit a nerve and both PC and Rhode Bloch called in, both of whom hold bike license tickets for daring to ride the Streets of LA without the proper documentation.

The show was great fun, Eric Potter joined us at the Studio and Veronica was there to keep us in line and online. We were rockin' through the issues, covering bike rights and bike routes and bike rides and then we were brought to a humbling fork in the road; the technical question. Amanda wanted to know about French 3 speed hubs, bottom brackets and coaster brakes.

The bike activists in the studio moved over to the luxurious and well-appointed craft service table for Bellinis, crumpets, gingerbread waffles and fresh Kopi Luwak, the Indonesian coffee of champions and KillRadio.

Professors JimB and Jim C took on the tech challenge like champs, parrying and thrusting and debating the merits of French hubs, bottom brackets and other...stuff. The debating turned out such great fun that JimB offered up his theory of riding sans illumination at night which inflamed the masses and opened up the floor to strong opinion on big streets vs. little streets, bright lights vs. no lights and then took on the whole notion of the invisible cyclist.

BikeTalk was a lot of fun and the show is a great complement to our favorite show - Talk is Cheap hosted by DJChickenleather and Veronica. (BWSK)

"See you on the Streets Air!"

Bike Writers Collective at Transpo Committee

Yesterday's Transportation Committee endorsement of the Cyclists' Bill of Rights was a significant victory for the Bike Writers Collective and marked the culmination of a journey that began in January of this year when the BWC was formed and when we first set out to change the world, one bike right at a time.

The rights articulated in the CBR already exist and are guaranteed by Federal, State and Local laws, regulations and policies so the City of LA endorsement is not necessary in order to "create" or codify any of the rights but is instead a significant symbolic gesture that informs the cycling community and affirms to the Community as a whole that cyclists ride as equals and with the support of our leadership.

The Transpo Committee's Special Meeting had much more on the agenda but for me, it was all derivative of the endorsement of the CBR.

Item #1 on the Agenda was the LADOT report on the Bicycle Master Plan. Our complaint has long and loudly been that efforts to engage the community were feeble...

CBR #8 Cyclists have the right to be actively engaged as constituent group in the organization and administration of our communities.

Item #2 was the LADOT report on the possibilities of a Bike Share program for Los Angeles, a program for which I have no confidence the LADOT could administer let alone simply sub out. Keep in mind, this is the department that can't simply provide bike parking at city owned facilities, all of which is already required by Municipal Code.

CBR #10 Cyclists have the right to end-of-trip amenities that include safe and secure opportunities to park their bicycles.

Item #3 was the Cyclists' Bill of Rights. Nuff said! Endorsed and sent to the full City Council with the blessing of the Transpo Committee.

Item #4 was a request for a report on the City's bikeway infrastructure and proposals to increase biking opportunities as a viable transportation option.

Duh! There was a SRO crowd of cyclists there to offer a report..."It sucks!" As for increasing opportunities to increase biking opportunities...?

CBR #1 - 12!!!

Seriously, treat cyclists as equals and support equal access, provide educated law enforcement, prosecute those who endanger, injure and kill cyclists, provide routine accommodations, involve cyclists in the process, provide signals and signage, proved mass transit access, get serious about providing bike parking and always defend the 1st and 4th amendment rights of cyclists.

Item #5 was a motion relative to the current status of the City's bicycle licensing program.

This one will get a post of its own, it's such a hot topic, but for now, suffice to say...

The current bike licensing law is simply an opportunity to harrass cyclists by enforcing a law that is badly written, contradicts the state's Uniformity Code and is thereby invalid, has no real purpose other than loss prevention, can't be followed because the LAPD is incapable of providing the licenses...

CBR #11 Cyclists have the right to be secure in their persons and property, and be free from unreasonable search and seizure, as guaranteed by the 4th amendment.

(This item allowed us to see the cavalier nature of the LAPD as Chief Paydinger simply rejected the Committee's admonitions to refrain from enforcement until the Council had rules. LaBonge asked and then backed down when rejected. Rosendahl asked loudly and was rejected. Parks interjected that the LAPD was acting appropriately if they acted to refrain from enforcing until the issue was settled. Paysinger smiled and ignored the Committee!)

Item #6 was a report relative to a Shared Lane Pavement Markings (Sharrows) pilot program.

CBR #2 Cyclists have the right to equal access to our public streets and to sufficient and significant road space.

(This item allowed the LADOT to show its colors as they reported that "painting the sharrows and encouraging cycling might interfere with the movement of the motor vehicles and would subsequently cause traffic congestion.")

The last three items on the agenda dealt with the Rand Corp's report on "Short-Term Strategies to Reduce Traffic Congestion in Los Angeles" (ride a bike!) a report on the Dodger Stadium shuttle service and a report on charter bus services.

I have no comment on the last three because we were all in the hallway celebrating the endorsement of the Cyclists Bill of Rights!

It was a great day! PC, Danny, Luis and Alan came up from the LB/San Pedro, Alex, Candy Cane and Sara rode over from the Westside, Sexy Jr. & Sr. came from the NW Valley, Rhode Bloch, Angle, Trickmilla, Mr. Rollers, Rev. Borfo, DJ Chickenleather and Veronica, cyclists from Caltrans, cyclists from the Metro, cyclists from Reyes and Garcetti's offices, loads of familiar faces and lots of new faces (Ted) all showed up and spoke up and took a huge step to changing the world as we know it, one bike right at a time!

"See you on the Streets!"

Bike Writers Collective at Antioch University

Erik, Alex and I were invited by Antioch University to present at their all-day "A Future Without Cars" forum, an event that featured urban planners, environmentalists and bike activists challenging the grad students and faculty from Antioch to imagine a better way.

All three of us chose to PowerPointificate on our unique approaches to changing the world, one bike at a time, and on reflection, I note that we represent fully one-quarter of the Bike Writers Collective. (One of the effects of spending time with Dr. Alex, our resident mathematician, is that I see things more statistically than before!)

Erik, one half of the Homegrown Evolution duo, opened strong with his sustainable approach to riding a bike and took us on a journey over the last century, painting a dismal picture of the decline of society and the direction our communities are headed. His call to action literally challenged the audience to get up on their high horse and ride a bike, as a duty, an obligation, an imperative if we are to truly change the world.

I've seen Erik's presentation at Caltrans and at USC and I enjoyed it as much, if not more, than ever. Okay, I enjoyed it more. This time he added a new close, pointing out that LA has a car-free population comparable to San Francisco and Chicago (10%) and that for many this isn't a "change the world, reduce the carbon-footprint, lose some weight, etc." choice, but simple economics. For many the bike isn't a statement but a simple brutal reality of not having the money to operate an automobile. It is at this point that Erik positions riding a bike in LA and our support of riding as a civil rights issue. Strong finish!

Alex took off on a journey that promotes the use of F.U.N. as a tool for encouraging cyclists, a journey I felt compelled to interrupt, pointing out that the best way to encourage cycling was to promote the rights that cyclists possess and to affirm those rights and inform the community.

That was the opening shot of the F.U.N. vs. Rights debate, a mano y mano battle that went to the wire, with Alex giving detail on how bike culture has grown exponentially over the last couple of years because of the success of the many rides that were simply fun. These rides drew people in, gave them skills and confidence and utilized the many popular social networking hubs to create a foundation of communication and community that has resulted in a strong presence on the streets.

I conceded that riding a bike is fun but pointed out that one by one, every single right articulated on the Cyclists' Bill of Rights had tested, challenged and violated on one of the many rides over the past couple of years and that if cyclists didn't know they had rights, they were likely to accept violations, limitations and restrictions without question and that this had a dampening effect on bike culture. On the other hand, cyclists equipped with knowledge of their rights, riding a bike with the Cyclists' Bill of Rights spoke card tucked into their spokes, were a force to be reckoned with and they were on their way to changing the world.

We both conceded that the other had made good points. Alex exclaimed "Hey you got Rights all over my F.U.N.!" and I acknowledged "Hey, you got F.U.N. all over my Rights!" and we agreed that it was a draw, but we both vowed to prevail on the inevitable rematch.

It was good to be challenged, it was good to stand before the choir, it was good to debate and it was good F.U.N.!

"See you on the Streets!"

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Under the Radar!

KTLA covered the debate over the proposed speed limit increases in Woodland Hills and took an interesting approach which was to point out the folly of the current paradigm of speed limit enforcement.

I met Chip Yost up on Wells Drive so he could look at the lovely, quiet residential neighborhood that becomes a raceway when it's used as a cut-through during rush hour. Complaints about the speeding motorists led to an LADOT speed limit survey (during off-peak hours and with unobstructed flow of traffic) which resulted in a recommendation to increase the speed limit to match the prevailing speed of traffic.

The LAPD concurred, the Council office concurred and the City Attorney prepared an ordinance raising the speed limit.

Wells Drive was one of a half dozen West Valley speed limit increases on the Transportation Commission agenda for October 23 but at the last minute the agenda was revised and the items were pulled. (I had emailed the LADOT on October 21 requesting information on the 6 proposals...coincidence?)

The speed limit proposals were re-agendized for the November 13 Transportation Commission meeting. Before the Commission could act, LADOT's John Fisher and the LAPD's Officer Williams stood together and asked that the Wells Drive proposal be pulled from consideration. (KTLA had filmed Wells Drive on November 10...coincidence?)

Both Chip and I requested from the LADOT a list of surveyed roads. Chip's list doesn't have Wells Drive listed on it. Curious! In fact there are a lot of streets that aren't listed. Fisher reports that there are 700 streets for which speed zone surveys are maintained. Why is Chip's list missing over a 100 streets?

Anyway...Chip's report indicates that Councilman Zine of the 3rd District "supports changing state laws, and today introduced a motion at city council supporting a review of how to improve the way speed limits are determined."

If this is true, then something good may come out of all of this brouhaha. Until then...

"See you on the Streets!"

Friday, November 21, 2008

Griffith Park Festival of Rights!

Monday, December 8, 2008 @ 6:30 pm

It's the opening of the "Yay for Motorists! Nay for Cyclists!" Griffith Park Light Festival.

The DWP, in an effort to help the City of LA become "America's Greenest City," has banned cyclists from the auto-centric, environmental nightmare known as the Griffith Park Light Festival.

This year approximately half million people will arrive at Griffith Park, the largest urban wilderness park in the country, while they will sit in idling automobiles for 90 minutes while they wait for their opportunity to drive through the one-mile long Festival of Lights.

Join us as we once again adorn ourselves in the appropriate holiday decorations and ride through the gridlock, sharing holiday goodwill and cheer with all those trapped in their fossil fuel burning, infernal combustion machines of horror.

Bring a thermos, a flask, a friend or two and some bail money. After all, cyclists are forbidden from riding in the Griffith Park Light Festival! Holidays are for motorists!

We meet at the Mulholland Fountain at the SW corner of Los Feliz Boulevard and Crystal Springs/Riverside Drive at 6:30 pm. We ride @ 7:00 pm.

CityWatchLA - Special Transpo Meeting Full of Cycling Issues

CityWatch, November 21, 2008

Civil Rides
By Stephen Box

LA's Transportation Committee meets today (Friday) in a special meeting to weigh in on an agenda that is full of cycling issues, all anchored by a motion to endorse the Cyclists' Bill of Rights. The Cyclists' Bill of Rights was penned early this year by members of the Bike Writers Collective, a group of bloggers and bike activists who write about riding in Los Angeles. Based on simple existing laws, standards, principles and directives, the Bill of Rights was created by the Collective as a tool for engaging the community in a discussion of the rights of cyclists and as a mechanism for engaging the City's leadership in a commitment to support cyclists and their place on the streets.

The Cyclists' Bill of Rights has spent a lot of time on the road this year, picking up endorsements from East Hollywood, Silver Lake, Atwater Village and Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Councils along with the Caltrans and Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committees and then finally ending up in the Ventura County Bicycle Master Plan.

The CBR has been featured on KCRW and KFI radio as well as the KCAL and KTLA news. It has been featured in the LA Times, the Wall Street Journal, the London Times and the London Telegraph newspapers as well as blogs in San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York, Australia, New Zealand and India.

Along the way the CBR inspired cyclists in Florida to initiate a petition urging the State legislature to adopt the Cyclists' Bill of Rights. It also inspired a local Harley Owners' Group to write their own Bill of Rights, a trend that has continued with the LA Horse Council now riding under the Equestrian Bill of Rights.

It has been a long journey and today the Cyclists' Bill of Rights comes home, to the City of Los Angeles' Transportation Committee where cyclists will converge from all over the City to urge the members to endorse the CBR and recommend it to the full City Council for adoption.

The Cyclists' Bill of Rights really needs no endorsement, after all it's simply full of rights cyclists already possess when they ride but it's important to the cycling community that these rights are recognized and supported by our City's leadership.

To that end, the Bike Writers collective is asking the City Council's Transportation Committee to 1) endorse the Cyclists' Bill of Rights "as written - as ridden!" and to 2) direct the LADOT to incorporate the Cyclists' Bill of Rights "as written - as ridden!" in the city's Bicycle Master Plan.

Cyclists have scheduled two group rides to City Hall, one from the Westside and one from East Hollywood. Those unable to "Storm the Bastille" can follow the CBR's journey on Twitter, on Facebook and on Midnight Ridazz.

"See you on the Streets!"

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Van Nuys Civic Center Frowns!

The Van Nuys Civic Center is a fairly significant complex consisting of the Municipal Building, the Federal Building, the State Building, the County Records office, the Van Nuys Superior Courthouse, the Van Nuys Police Division, the Public Library, a Childhood Development Center and, last but not least, the Marvin Braude Constituent Services Center.

One would think that with so many Federal, State, County and City departments represented on this property, someone would be familiar with the Los Angeles Municipal Code or at least know how to locate somebody with a copy and a bit of understanding of its contents.

LAMC 12.21 specifies the requirements for bicycle parking, something that I thought was nonexistent at the Civic Center or on the public sidewalks that wrap the Center. I was wrong but not by much.

In the back of the Marvin Braude Center I found this Wave rack complete with custodial equipment chained to it. There are many things wrong with scenario including the location, the proximity to the emergency exit, the uselessness of the Wave racks and the fact that is was being used as storage by the custodian.

I snapped a picture of the bike rack which drew the attention of a City Security Officer who informed me that the City "frowns on someone taking pictures of the back of the building."

I pointed out that "frowning" was a long way from "prohibiting" and that taking a picture of a public facility while standing on public property was within my rights and that I could not take responsibility for his "frown."

He asked me to follow him to the Security Office. I declined and continued with my business, returning to the courtyard of the Marvin Braude Center. Officer Ruiz followed and was joined by two more security officers, officers who might be referred to as "Venti" and who were also frowning.

I used my camera, which also doubles as a cell phone, to call for backup which consisted of the Mayor's staff who were busy coordinating the Mayor's press conference in the Courtyard, complete with a half dozen television crews and several still photographers. The Mayor's rep intervened and the security allowed me to continue with my business, offering a concluding "We frown on that type of behavior!" as they walked away.

Personally, I think that if anything is "frownable" it is the fact that the Civic Center has better accommodations for shopping carts than for bicycles. It's also "frownable" that our City's security officers would think that cell phone cameras outdoors in a public place are a security risk.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

LADOT Pushes for Speed Limit Increases

"The Vehicle Code is clear that a radar-enforceable speed limit does not affect the speed limit in school zones when children are present, which remains at 25 mph. The ability to use radar to enforce the 25 mph speed limit in school zones is retained."

LADOT in a letter to Neighborhood Councils

The LADOT has proposed speed limit increases throughout the Valley, all as a result of the surveys conducted as mandated by State Law in order to allow for the use of radar/laser speed limit enforcement.

The current standard calls for the LADOT to survey the street every 5-7 years in order to "certify" the speed limit in accordance with the State's antiquated speed trap law, resulting in speed limits set so that 85% of the motorists traveling freely (non-rush hour) are considered to be moving legally.

In other words, in order to use radar/laser to catch the speeding motorists, a speed survey is conducted, the speed limit is raised and then the LAPD can use radar/laser to catch the motorists who are now driving as fast but legally.

Speed Zone Surveys are maintained for 700 streets in Los Angeles and the process for re-certifying the streets consists of the LADOT measuring the speed of 100 cars during a non-congested time of day, calculating the 85 percentile mark and the appropriate speed limit, asking the Councilmember if they want radar/laser enforcement, asking the LAPD if they want radar/laser enforcement, having the City Attorney draft a new ordinance which is then submitted to the Transportation Commission's consent agenda before heading off to the Transportation committee and the City council for final approval.

The most significant expense for this whole process is for the abundant number of rubber stamps that are used to keep this machine running.

Until recently, this process occurred quietly, with nary a peep or squeal from the community. Then about 3 months ago, the public caught on and protested 1) the complete insanity of repeatedly raising the speed limits to accommodate high-performance vehicles and low-performance operators, while 2) leaving the Neighborhood Council out of the process.

The most recent submissions to the Transportation Commission (Mulholland Drive, Corbin Avenue, Saticoy Street, Wells Drive, White Oak Avenue and Fallbrook Avenue) failed to collect an endorsement, with Wells being pulled by the LADOT & the LAPD as an inappropriate speed limit increase and with the other 5 failing to pick up the necessary votes.

This leaves us with dualling philosophies: the maintenance of traffic sewers vs. livable, walkable, ridable neighborhoods.

Attached is an article that ran in CityWatchLA on the most recent round of submissions.

"See you on the Streets!"

CityWatchLA - Speed Limit Increases Hit a Speed Hump

CityWatch, Nov 18, 2008
Vol 6 Issue 83

LA Traffic Watch
By Stephen Box

The Transportation Commission's consent agenda for this past Thursday hit a speed hump when the LA Department of Transportation and the LA Police Department withdrew the first of six proposed speed limit increases and the remaining five were pulled from "consent" because of a public comment card.

The proposed speed limit increases are the result of speed limit surveys conducted by the LADOT as required by the State in order to utilize radar and laser speed limit enforcement. When the prevailing speed is in excess of the speed limit, the speed limit is adjusted so that 85% of the motorists are now driving legally. Opponents to this process argue that 1) the LADOT has no business raising the speed limits on residential streets used for cut-through traffic 2) there are other traffic calming techniques that would bring the prevailing speed of traffic and the posted speed limit in sync 3) the 85% rule that the LADOT relies on when setting the speed limits is in the process of being reviewed and potentially revised at the State level and, 4) the community MUST be involved in the process of evaluating the speed limits and traffic in the neighborhood.

The LADOT was well represented with GM Rita Robinson flanked by two Assistant General Managers, John Fisher and Amir Sedadi, along with LAPD Officer Troy Williams, the Radar/Laser Coordinator for the Valley Traffic Division, and Senior Transportation Engineer Randall Tanijiri. This formidable team was assisted by Shelley Smith of the City Attorney's office who stated "What's being presented to you is the opportunity to enforce the speed limit."

Commissioner Andrea Alarcon took issue with the Assistant City Attorney's representation of the situation and countered "We're voting to increase the speed limit."

The LADOT gave a lengthy presentation on the need to increase speed limits in order to use radar/laser, and worked hard to create an "anti-radar - safe streets" dichotomy, one that failed when Alarcon pointed out that we all want safe streets, this is simply a discussion of how we make them safe and how we engage the community.

Commissioner D. Malcolm Carson was tenacious in establishing that radar enforcement is not the issue and that it has significant support. He argued that there must be other mechanisms for bringing the prevailing speed of traffic in line with existing speed limits and that these options must be explored with the community's support before there is a rush to simply raise the speed limit.

At one point in the discussion, a reference was made to the objections of the community to the speed limit increases and Robinson waved her hand at the single member of the public at the table and said "He's just one man." This comment was revealing for LADOT and its record of engaging the community.

Robinson also failed to acknowledge the dozen emails protesting the speed limit increases and the Woodland Hills Warner Center Neighborhood Council Board Resolution calling for a moratorium on the speed limit increases until LADOT involved the community and began giving 60 day notices of proposals for speed limit increases.

At the end of the day, the five proposed speed limit increases for the West Valley failed to pick up the approval of the Transportation Commission.

Commissioner Carson and AGM Fisher agreed to work together to establish policies for exploring other traffic calming techniques that could be incorporated into the process and to also review the process for engaging the community.

Unfortunately there was no agreement for Robinson and the LADOT to better listen to and involve the public in the process.

(Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist activist and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at

Saturday, November 15, 2008

CityWatchLA - Neighborhood Council to LADOT: “Slow Down!”

CityWatch, Nov 14, 2008
Vol 6 Issue 92

Safe Streets Watch
By Stephen Box

On the eve of the Transportation Commission's meeting to consider speed limit increases for a half dozen streets in the west Valley, the Woodland Hills Warner Center Neighborhood Council Board voted to call for a moratorium on the increases until the LADOT includes the Neighborhood Councils in the process and provides 60-day notification of any proposed changes.

The vote came at the Board's regularly scheduled meeting and just six days after the LADOT notified the NC Board of the proposed speed limit increases for streets such as Mulholland Drive, Corbin Avenue, Saticoy Street, Wells Drive, White Oak Avenue and Fallbrook Avenue.

At issue was the simple fact that the LADOT has spent a year engaged in the process of evaluating the streets, conducting speed surveys and preparing recommendations for the City Council office, the LAPD and the City Attorney, but never notified the Neighborhood Council until the week prior to the Transportation Commission's meeting to approve the recommended speed limits.

Officer Troy Williams of the LAPD attended the meeting and spoke in favor of the speed limit increases saying "Speed limits enforced by radar must be justified with speed limit surveys and the surveys indicate that the speed limits on these streets are too low."

Meanwhile, CityWatch readers have been emailing their comments to both the state and local level, calling for a revision to the 85 percentile rule used to set speed limits, for the use of alternative methods of traffic control and for greater involvement of the community in the process of setting local speed limits. Here’s a sampling.

  • "How long is government going to accommodate those who break the laws at the expense of the rest of us." --Chatsworth
  • "This goes directly against the Complete Streets law and only favors motorist. Wendy Greuel was at the Mid City West board meeting last night, and stated that LADOT no longer abides by the philosophy of "speed up cars" - She said that was a thing of the past" --Mid City
  • "I don't know if my street is one of the 20 being contemplated to have speed limits raised based on the speed of the idiots who careen through our neighborhood but it is a sorry day when those agencies that are responsible for planning have totally dropped the ball, and now seek to solve a problem by further risking our safety. What next when they break the new limit - increase it again?" --Granada Hills
  • "Our practice of setting speed limits based on the 85th percentile in conjunction with our radar rule, has contributed to making our streets unsafe for cyclists, pedestrians, seniors and children walking to school." --Local Traffic Engineer
  • "While I do not pretend to know the ins and outs of the state laws that regulate speed limits on residential streets in Los Angeles, I do know that I want to have input to the speed limits in my neighborhood. I, as well as my 1,100 neighbors in our homeowner association, know our neighborhood better that a bureaucrat who answers to the state government in Sacramento..." --Mid City
  • "Please allow local communities the right to decide their own neighborhood traffic protocols." Toluca Lake
  • "Speed limits for our streets should be set based on the unique character of our streets, our woodsy neighborhood and our friendly community while accommodating the many pedestrians and cyclists who use our serene streets. Note that many of our Toluca streets DO NOT have sidewalks." --Toluca Lake
  • "WHY WERE OUR VOICES NOT HEARD? The Woodland Hills Warner Center Neighborhood Council and the Woodland Hill Homeowners Organization are both well-known and active groups that are entitled to be informed of and involved in any discussion on choices and decisions related to the safety and livability of the community." --Woodland Hills
  • "I have been unable to get my Councilwoman of the City DOT to do anything about the degradation of safety due to increased traffic volume, excessive speed, design flaw and disregard for safety of the local neighborhood by a majority of the motorists who use it." --Tujunga Canyon
  • "Glad to see you are fighting the good fight." --ReACT (Residents Against Cut-thru Traffic)
  • "Provide local communities real tools for traffic enforcement including a "soft floor" on the 85th percentile rule, a reduction in the reliance on the 85th percentile rule and support from Caltrans in the use of alternative methods of traffic control." --All City
(Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist activist and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

CityWatchLA - Neighborhoods Want a Voice on Speed Limits

CityWatch, Nov 11, 2008
Vol 6 Issue 91

LA Traffic
By Stephen Box

The LA Department of Transportation is chomping at the bit, standing by with 20 proposed speed limit increases for the Valley, all the while claiming that their hands are tied, that they are simply abiding by State Law and that in order for the LA Police Department to use radar enforcement, local speed limits must be set based on the 85 percentile mark.

In other words, "motorists vote with the gas pedal."

Six of these speed limit revisions are up for approval by the Transportation Commission on Thursday 10 a.m. If approved, the proposals go to the Transportation Committee and then to the City Council for final approval. The process takes a little over a year from initiation to Commission presentation.

In spite of the long journey, the LADOT doesn't notify the Neighborhood Councils until, in this case, seven days in advance of the Commission meeting. Granted, it's more than the legal minimum of 72 hours but with a one year lead time involving the DOT, the Council office, the LAPD and the City Attorney, a seven day notice hardly communicates a sincere desire … much less a commitment … to involve the community.

Meanwhile, the State of California is considering revisions to the state law regulating the establishment of posted speed limits and is considering a proposed modification that would allow local municipalities a "soft floor" that would provide a mechanism for setting legal and radar enforceable speed limits at lower than the 50 percentile, simply by documenting the mitigating conditions and justification for the lower speed.

The California Traffic Control Devices Committee (CTCDC) took public comment on this issue at its September meeting and also took written recommendations from the City of Carlsbad, the City of Escondido and the Santa Clara County Police Chiefs' Association. The draft minutes for this meeting indicate that the City of Pasadena, the City of Thousand Oaks, the City of San Jose and the California Police Chiefs' Association were also all in the mix.

With all of the recent debate over the LADOT's proposed speed limit increases, how is it that the communities in the City of LA didn't hear until now that the statewide standard for setting speed limits is under evaluation and that a recommendation for revision is being entertained by the California Transportation Department? After all, the City of Los Angeles is represented on the CTCDC by LADOT Assistant General Manager John Fisher.

If you think the speed limit for your street should be set by the motorists who cut through your neighborhood, sit back and let the LADOT slide those speed limit revisions through the Transportation Commission and the City Council.

If you think the speed limit for your street should be set based on the unique character of your street, your neighborhood and your community and should accommodate the pedestrians and cyclists who might also use the street, speak up.

If you'd like to see us develop and use more tools for traffic calming and enforcement, speak up and challenge our leadership to innovate and to support healthy neighborhoods where a commitment to quality of life is a reality, not simply a campaign promise.

If you think that your opinion matters, email Will Kempton, Director of the California Department of Transportation at to view it and urge him to provide local communities real tools for traffic enforcement including a "soft floor" on the 85th percentile rule, a reduction in the reliance on the 85th percentile rule and support from Caltrans in the use of alternative methods of traffic control.

Send a copy to me and I'll take your message to the Transportation Commission on Thursday, November 13, 2008 at 10 a.m.

(Stephen Box is a cyclist advocate in Los Angeles and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at

Sunday, November 09, 2008

CityWatchLA - Private Memoirs of an IEA

CityWatch, Nov 8, 2008
Vol 6 Issue 90

By Stephen Box

(Note: Neighborhood Council elections are now managed and overseen by the City Clerk. Independent Election Administrators are no longer a part of the NC election process.)

This past Saturday marked the end of my tour of duty as an Independent Election Administrator charged with supervising Neighborhood Council elections throughout the City of Los Angeles.

My final election was held in Chatsworth, where stakeholders have traditionally been identified as those who "Live, work, own property or board a horse." The week prior, I was in Coastal San Pedro where stakeholders have traditionally been identified as those who "Live, work, own property or dock a boat." Such is the diversity of Los Angeles. Of course all of that changed when our City Council imposed the new "Live, work, own property or whatever" stakeholder status on Neighborhood Councils and it was then that I knew the end was nigh.

Through it all, I learned a great deal from those I've worked with, encountering along the way a multitude of people with unique talents and perspectives who challenged me to be innovative in making the election process relevant to the needs of their local community.

I've also been humbled as I watched newly immigrated senior citizens listen patiently as a translator explained how to use a ballot, all as they prepared to vote for the first time in their lives. I listened to a candidate explain to a Forum audience that he came from a country that held no elections. Now that he was here, he felt that it was his duty to run. These experiences served to remind me that Neighborhood Council elections are a significant and important step into the world of participatory democracy.

As an IEA, I've been run ragged and overwhelmed with voters. I've sat in an empty room, bored and holding an empty ballot box, waiting for the day to end. I've been yelled at and cursed and I've been hugged and thanked and made to feel like family.

I've conducted elections in museums, churches, community centers, schools, a train station and even the Farmer's Market. I've even held meetings in parking garages and I’ve held two elections on the sidewalk after getting locked out by LAUSD. Along the way, I was perpetually reminded that it was never the comfort of the facility but it was always the spirit of the people that made for a successful election.

In spite of the fact that Los Angeles is the second largest city in the country, I now think of LA as a collection of small towns, NC sized, complete with unique character, personality, needs and desires. It's my experience that it was the ability of NC's to make unique the Neighborhood Council experience, tailoring the bylaws and election procedures to their needs and philosophy, that was key to creating ownership and responsibility.

While critics claim that the old system of elections allowed for too much variation, deviation and even failure, I counter with this: True democracy is a guarantee of process, not of result. Granted, it allows for failure but it also allows for success. Either way, the results belong to the participants and that is the essence of participatory democracy.

For all of the pontificating and posturing as the City Council weighed in on the Neighborhood Councils and revised the DNA of the system, I never encountered a City Councilmember at an NC election. Perhaps they think it inappropriate to meddle in NC politics and they might have a point, a good point.

Still, it would have been nice to see them drive by, drop off a box of Krispy Kremes and thank the volunteers. After all, this is where the business of the people takes place.

As this era fades, I'm optimistic for the Neighborhood Council system, not because of the recent changes in process but because of the people I've met, the friends I've made and the passion and enthusiasm I've encountered along the way.

To the neighborhood councils I've worked with, thanks for the ride!

(Stephen Box served as an Independent Election Administrator for a number of years. Box writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at

Saturday, November 08, 2008

CityWatchLA - Welcome Sign Comes Down at Board Meetings

CityWatch, Nov 7, 2008
Vol 6 Issue 90

DWP Watch
By Stephen Box

This past Tuesday I traveled to the DWP Commission meeting in order to request a repeal of the ban on cyclists during the DWP's Griffith Park Festival of Lights. This was my 4th visit to the Commission this year in an effort to lift the ban and this is my third year of fighting to lift the prohibition. (I've also gone to the City's Bicycle Advisory Committee, the Caltrans Bicycle Advisory Committee, Councilman LaBonge, San Antonio and the Parks, Rec and Open Space Committee, all in an effort to sway the DWP)

I arrived late to find a thinly populated room with Commissioner Forescee Hogan-Rowles chairing the Commission, Commissioner Lee Kanon Alpert to her left and Commissioner Wally Knox to her right.

The Commission Chambers, traditionally a full house, was thinly populated and those in attendance seemed distracted and bored with a couple most certainly taking a nap.

I tried to sign in for public comment but my opportunity had passed so I attempted to turn in a speaker card for the last item on the agenda, only to be informed that they heard that item at the beginning of the session because of the large number of people who turned out to speak. I asked how many people turned out and was told seven. That included Councilmembers Garcetti and LaBonge.

With little to do but watch, I settled in and was immediately struck by the new tone and demeanor of the proceedings.

A couple of contracts come up for approval which prompted DWP GM David Nahai to address the issue of conflict of interest and DWP Chief Operating Officer Raman Raj's relationship with DWP vendors. Nahai began an overview of the process to ensure that all contracts were executed openly and transparently and in accord with the DWP's ethics policies, only to be cut off by Commissioner Alpert who said "I know Mr. Raj, I've had conversations with Mr. Raj and I've experienced his commitment to an ethical style of operation. I don't need to hear any more, Mr. Nahai. I trust Mr. Raj and I trust you."

Commissioner Knox leaned into the microphone and offered his endorsement saying "I echo Commissioner Alpert's comments."

Chair Hogan-Rowles beamed, the speaker who was preparing to speak was relieved, the issue was put to rest and the Commission voted unanimously to approve the contracts.

Long gone were the days of the (Commissioner Nick) Patsauoras-Nahai tension. Days when one could show up a half hour late and still make public comment. The DWP Commission had morphed into a mutual admiration club with checks and balances and oversight replaced by a new love fest environment. All that was missing was a round of Kumbaya and some Graham Crackers and milk.

The meeting adjourned and the room cleared, quickly.

I found myself standing in Commission Chambers with Nahai and Knox and so I took the opportunity to present my case for the repeal of the ban on cyclists in Griffith Park during the DWP's Festival of Lights.

Mr. Nahai made eye contact, listened, nodded and seemed to be interested. Knox paused for a moment, looked at Mr. Nahai and dismissed me with the simple comment "Cyclists have been given concessions and access to the Festival. They're allowed in on Bike Night." He then nodded, turned and left the room. Apparently he thinks that cyclists should celebrate the holidays on Nov 25th. He's wrong.

Since I had the opportunity I charged ahead and pointed out that a DWP ban on cyclists violated State Law (CVC 21 - Uniformity Code which precludes municipalities from restricting cyclists unless expressly permitted) Griffith Park Charter (transportation “kept within the reach of the most modest means.”) and simple logic. (who on earth can defend a ban on cyclists in an urban wilderness environment, all in an effort to make way for more automobiles who will then spend 90 minutes in a traffic jam)

Nahai responded that stakeholders had responded favorably to the DWP's "Bike Night" access plan. I pointed out that there were no stakeholders in favor of the "Bike Night Preview" on November 25th and that, in fact, I had the support of the City's Bicycle Advisory Committee and the Caltrans Bicycle Advisory Committee in lifting the ban. I pointed out that the significant stakeholder attitude was one of opposition to an auto-centric Festival.

I stated clearly that the DWP's ban on cyclists was simply indefensible and asked him to lift it. To his credit he never wavered but simply acknowledged my argument and promised to investigate. I thanked him and turned for the door. As I crossed the room, he called out, "By the way, I admire and respect your tenacity."

The ball is now in Nahai's court. Here's hoping the holidays are happy for everybody in Los Angeles, including the cyclists.

(Stephen Box is an important cyclist advocate in Los Angeles and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at

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.)