CityWatch, Feb 13, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 13
The mystery of the blighted Orange Line Bikeway was solved when Paul Meshkin of the LADOT's Bikeways Division revealed that the contractor responsible for maintenance had "overlooked" the section from Hazeltine to Sepulveda and that the person responsible for supervising the contractor had "overlooked" the failure to perform but that all parties somehow remembered to cash their checks. All's well that ends well!
The contractor, Sunscape Landscaping, was paid $160,000 for a six month contract which required them to sweep the path twice a week and trim the brush. The contract expired this past Saturday.
Sunscape has been busy executing their landscaping contract with the Metro in the same area but on the busway portion of the Orange Line. Somehow in all of the confusion over which bush belongs to whom, the contractor simply forgot to maintain the bikeway which is the LADOT's area of responsibility.
The rapid deterioration of the bikeway drew the attention of the CityWatch, Daily News and LAist all of which motivated the Metro, the LAPD, the Sheriff's Department, the Council office and the Van Nuys Neighborhood Council to action and that's when the LADOT was discovered to be asleep at the handlebars.
The response from all parties was swift and a multi-disciplinary committee is in place to address the larger issue of environmental design, security, homelessness, crime, graffiti and the basic maintenance and supervision of the bikeway and busway facility.
Sunscape was gracious enough to move through the area, clearing trash, trimming bushes and putting an edgeline on the Van Nuys jungle. This one shot fulfillment of the six-month contract seems to have taken them off the hook to the city and they now stand in line to pick up an extension of the contract, this time for 3-5 years. Apparently, no failure-to-perform goes unrewarded!
By midweek the bikeway had been cleared of trash, the bushes had been trimmed back and the richly landscaped and overgrown bikeway now has a lovely edgeline, all of which must make the bikeway residents feel much prouder of their accommodations.
It's fair to say that the bikeway is now a well maintained campground, free of trash but still an attractive refuge for those who seek shelter or a place to hide. It still has the bush "caves" and a trail through the brush that parallels the bikeway.
LADOT staff turned up at the Van Nuys Neighborhood Council in response to concerns over the deterioration of the bikeway and the resulting negative impact on the community.
A concerned board member gave a list of problems that included burned out landscaping, plywood shelters, concertina wire, bottles, trash, and loitering men dropped off by the housing authority. When she pointed out that that very day she had been accosted by a drunk as she made her way down the bike path, the LADOT Coordinator graciously responded with a discussion on the difference between a bikeway and a sidewalk.
Perhaps if the LADOT spent less time debating the limits on their responsibilities and more time on multi-departmental solutions, valuable facilities such as the Orange Line Bikeway wouldn't deteriorate as if in a bureaucratic no-man's land.
Perhaps if the LADOT spent more time biking or walking the bikeways of Los Angeles, they would be able to spend less time in the Neighborhood Councils explaining the many limitations on their ability to supervise their areas of responsibility.
Perhaps if the LADOT dropped the "Yes, We Can't" approach to problem solving we could spend less time on discussions of the difference between a sound wall and the side of a building and more time on the lack of supervision that makes the Orange Line such a great place for graffiti, trash, crime, and all of the other symptoms of an unsupervised, overgrown, isolatated, ill-landscaped and poorly maintained environment, book-ended by two liquor stores which provide the tenants of the bikeway with fuel for the decline.
LA deserves better. There are too any departments involved for something as significant as a 14 mile long bikeway to simply fall between the cracks.
The cyclists who ride this path knew what was going on, the pedestrians and joggers who use the path were aware, the commuters who frequent the area knew of the problems, the local residents knew of the problems, and yet …
The LAPD, the Sheriff’s Department, the Metro, the City Attorney, the Council Office, Street Services and the LADOT all stand by with a look of jurisdictional confusion on their collective faces and watch as the Bikeway deteriorates to the point of absurdity while the contractor stands in line at the bank.
(Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist activist and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@ThirdEyeCreative.net)