Monday, May 11, 2009

CityWatchLA - Dude, Where’s the Bike Plan?

CityWatch, May 12, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 38

It's been almost six months since the LADOT's Bikeways staff went before the Transportation Committee and announced that LA's Bicycle Plan would be presented to the community in January of 2009. January has come and gone and the four promised community meetings haven't taken place, the draft document hasn't been delivered and the community hasn't been given the opportunity to participate in the process.

LA's Bicycle Plan is part of the Transportation Element of the General Plan of the City of Los Angeles and it is intended to guide the city in the development of a citywide bicycle transportation system as well as support efforts to fund bicycle projects and programs.

The Bicycle Plan is funded with Transportation Development Act funds to the tune of $450,000 and the work is being performed by Alta Planning, a consulting firm based in Portland and Berkeley. The City's Department of Planning is the lead on the project although it's the LADOT using Prop C funds to pay for their staff to work on the project.

Cyclists have gone on record with great hopes that the "2008 Bicycle Plan" would be a powerful document full of vision and commitment. Instead they have been rewarded with silence and exclusion.

Most recently, the Bikeways Division of the LADOT went before the Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee to explain their "closed" meetings conducted by consultants from Colorado, all as part of the Bicycle Plan public engagement initiative. Committee Chair Tom LaBonge expressed concern with "closed" meetings being held as part of the Bicycle Plan process, especially in City Hall. He deferred to the City Attorney who also expressed concerns with the process and suggested that the LADOT report back to the committee in 30 days. LaBonge concurred and gave the direction.

In response to criticism of the process, the Bikeways rep leaned into the microphone and said "It should be noted that the Department of Planning is the lead on this process."

The four public workshops held early last year were met with significant criticism and charges of weak and ineffective outreach. The meetings were held with such little notice that even the City's own Bicycle Advisory Committee had no warning and couldn't agendize the workshops or act to support or contribute.

The consultant from Portland came under fire during the first session when she positioned the Bicycle Plan as a funding document, perhaps music to the ears of bureaucrats but hardly the battle cry of a room full of cyclists who want to know how to make LA a great place to ride.

She continued by dividing cyclists into four groups, failing to acknowledge what's often referred to as the "invisible" cyclist, the Workforce Cyclist. They don't ride for fun or to change to world or to get some exercise, they simply ride as an economic necessity and they often ride late at night, unsupported and often unclear on rules of the road or right of way.

Things got worse, not better, at the second workshop and that was the last LA heard from Portland.

Since then, Alta Planning has been busy with the Pasadena Bike Plan, the LA County Bike Plan and who knows what else.

Meanwhile the cyclists in LA wait for a Bike Plan that was supposed to be delivered to the City Council month ago. But before it gets to the City Council, there are supposed to be four public workshops and a trip to the Transportation Committee which means that the Bike Plan might end up being a year late!

Perhaps the consultant from Portland with all of the funding experience was correct when she positioned the Bicycle Plan as a funding tool although we never imagined that it was the development of the plan that would be the funding opportunity.

Regardless of their motivations for riding, cyclists are transportation solutions. It's time for Los Angeles to look beyond the funding and to support cyclists with a Bicycle Plan that is full of vision and that is matched with a commitment to making Los Angeles a great place to ride. (Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist advocate and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at


TransitPlanner said...

This is really an embarrassment. Most consultants would love to conduct outreach to an engaged community. Its a lot more interesting than trying to drum up interest than working with a disengaged constituency, where you end up talking to a half empty room with 8 people. This is really a disappointment.

Anonymous said...

I am afraid that I owe the L.A. bicycling community a BIG apology. As I was plopping myself down tonight with a heaping plate of vegan oatmeal raisin cookies and a copy of James Howard Kunstler's "World Made By Hand", I noticed the wrinkled edge of a piece of paper poking out from my sofa. I yanked up the cushion, and discovered that the entire 2008 Bicycle Master Plan was there, along with 17 cents in change and a tile from Settlers of Catan! I vaguely remember Michelle agreeing to let me look it over as long as I also checked it for spelling errors (her intern was apparently called away to help restructure Bear Stearns). I must have dozed off while reading it—most likely somewhere in the middle of section 5012-B: "The Deadly Viscosity of Sharrow Paint Formulations", judging by the pink highlighter scrawls. I think that was more than a YEAR ago... I can't believe no one noticed it was gone until now!