CityWatch, June 19, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 49
Transportation Committee Chair Wendy Greuel chastised representatives from both the Transportation and the Planning Departments, saying "We've got a room full of people, all claiming to have been left out of the Bicycle Plan Update process. You can't call that the result of effective outreach!"
This took place at a "Special" meeting of the Transportation Committee scheduled for 8 am on what turned out to be Laker Celebration Day. A glance at the agenda indicates that it must have been Greuel's intention to wrap up all of the cycling issues in one big meeting, as she approaches the conclusion of her reign as the Transportation Committee Chair and prepares to take over the City Controller helm. Unfortunately, Councilmen Parks, Alarcon and LaBonge were no shows and it was left to Chair Greuel and Councilman Bill Rosendahl to navigate a busy bike agenda that included the Bike Plan, Bikeways funding, Bike Parking, Abandoned Bikes, the efficacy of the Bikeways Department and the LAPD's relationship with the cycling community.
When it came time for the LAPD to report on their training for LAPD officers on cycling rules and regulations and to report on recent incidents between the LAPD and cyclists, Greuel called for the LAPD to step up and ... they weren't there. Somehow it was the LADOT who knew the LAPD weren't going to attend the meeting, not the Councilmembers, an interesting revelation in the realities of our City Government.
Greuel at first moved the item to another date but the room erupted in protests from people who wanted to be heard. She took public comment on the item and heard from a long list of people who called on the LAPD to support cycling as a transportation choice and who called for better education of the LAPD on the specifics of the California Vehicle Code that cause so much confusion on the streets.
Attending the standing room only meeting were cyclists from all over the city representing a wide range of cycling interests and expressions but united in their desire to see the City of LA support cycling as a transportation solution. They were joined by representatives from homeowners associations and neighborhood councils, as well as cycling organizations and a variety of advocacy groups.
We’re all here noted one participant because "we just want to be involved in making our streets better places to ride and our communities better places to live."
When speakers complained of the consultant-driven process that has kept the public from participating, Rosendahl sat up and called for the consultants to step forward. Nobody moved. Not the consultants in Portland, not the consultants in Berkeley, not the consultants in Colorado, and not the consultants in San Francisco. They just couldn't hear the call.
Rosendahl found this to be disturbing and he began digging into the money. "How much have we paid these consultants?" he asked the Transportation and Planning representatives. When he heard that the City of LA has already paid out 80% on a plan that all at the table profess they have not yet received, he was not happy. He called for the consultants to show up next week at the regularly scheduled Transportation Committee meeting to account for the money, the contract and the Bike Plan.
The Department of Transportation was well represented at the meeting, in spite of their claim that this is a Planning Department process. Rita Robinson, General Manager of the LADOT was flanked by Haripal Vir, Michael Uyeno, and Carolyn Jackson, all of whom were there backing up a Bikeways staff that claimed not to have the Bike Plan. As for the Planning Department, GM Gail Goldberg, who said last month "The Bike Plan will be out in two weeks!" was nowhere in sight and in her stead were two Planning reps with a feeble PowerPoint presentation that should have been entitled "Smoke and Mirrors."
In a meeting that stretched for three hours in spite of the 60 second limit on public comment, cyclists took opportunity after opportunity to share their experiences riding the streets of Los Angeles and stressing the need to address the significant safety issues that cyclists confront every time they roll onto the streets, it was a comment overheard after the meeting was adjourned that was the most revealing.
"Well, I guess we survived that one!" said one LADOT staff member to another … demonstrating clearly that from their perspective … it's meetings such as this with calls for accountability that pose the most significant threat, not the streets of LA. (Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@ThirdEyeCreative.net) ◘