Wednesday, October 07, 2009

LA's Bike Plan - Return to Sender

At last night's Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee, the LABAC voted unanimously to "demand an extension of the comment period" effectively moving the deadline from 42 days to 94 days. This action from the LABAC is the same action that neighborhood councils throughout the city are taking and speaks volumes to the amount of energy that is wasted in Los Angeles on simply getting the process adjusted so that the public can participate.

That element of the development of the City of LA's Draft Bike Plan aside, now the real work begins and here are my recommendations for the Draft Bike Plan.

First, lose the softly worded vision and replace it with the simple call for "Consider every street in Los Angeles as a street that bicyclists will use."

All planning, design, engineering, supervision, maintenance, law enforcement, and enhancement must be driven by this simple principle and it must resonate through the many city departments that have any responsibility for our streets and the people who use them.

Second, put the Cyclists' Bill of Rights, as written, in the Draft Bike Plan.

Any objections are simply internal and bureaucratic and the argument that LA doesn't have authority over some of the rights is simply not true. LA has law enforcement, LA has mass transit, LA has streets, LA legislates and LA enforces and LA has influence over judicial activity. But regardless of LA's real and self-imposed limitations, the Cyclists' Bill of Rights is a simple enunciation of rights and it belongs in the Bike Plan.

Third, the Draft Bike Plan must use real language of commitment and that the soft words that dilute the potential effectiveness of the plan be replaced by words that have real meaning and that are absolute.

Fourth, it is imperative that we accept the insignificance of the Draft Bike Plan and start this process by backing up and asking how we can position it so that it has any meaning in the larger landscape of Los Angeles. We must be willing to stop the process and to engage in an EIR that will position the Bike Plan as a document that has authority and can withstand Level of Service challenges and that can be used to hold departments accountable.

I offer several examples of how the current Bike Plan is currently completely disregarded by the LADOT, by Planning, by the LAPD, by the Harbor Commission, by literally anybody with a plan who is doing anything in Los Angeles!

1) San Pedro Waterfront Development Project: The Port of Los Angeles just approved the San Pedro Waterfront Development Project which comes with a price tag of $1.2 Billion. Was there any consideration for cyclists in this plan? Did they incorporate the Draft Bike Plan into this plan? Over the 10 year development journey for the SPWDP, was there ever any synchronization between City Planning and the LADOT and the Port of LA to ensure that the needs of cyclists were addressed in the mobility element of the SPWDP? The Port ignores the Bike Plan.

2) Warner Center Specific Plan Revision: LA City Planning and the LADOT are in the process of updating the Warner Center Specific Plan with an initial budget of $500K. The process includes traffic studies, environmental studies, strategic economics impact evaluation and urban design. Was there any consideration for cyclists in this plan? Did they incorporate the Draft Bike Plan into this plan? Over the recent development journey for the WCSP, was there ever any synchronization between City Planning (Tom Glick) and the LADOT (Armen Hovanessian - Sr. Traffic Engineer) and the Consultants to ensure that the needs of cyclists were addressed in the mobility element of the WCSP? City Planning and the LADOT ignore the Bike Plan.

3) Topanga Canyon Boulevard: LA's 2002 Bike Plan classified 9 miles of Topanga Canyon Boulevard as Class II Bike Lanes. Caltrans provided the engineering and the funding for 9 miles of bike lanes and instead elected to pursue peak-hour parking. Do the LADOT's Sr. Traffic Engineers have the authority to override the LA Bike Plan? When there is conflict between the Bike Plan and the priorities of the local LADOT Traffic Divisions, who resolves the conflict? The LADOT ignores the Bike Plan.

4) Orange Line Bike Path: The Bureau of Engineering is in the process of widening Victory Boulevard east of Balboa Boulevard, with combined widening of 8 feet to accommodate the addition of a westbound left turn-lane and a bus bay adjacent to the Victory/Balboa Park & Ride Facility. Improvements include construction of concrete curb, gutter and sidewalk, AC pavement, street lighting, and striping. The roadway widening has reduced the radius of the curb return resulting in a new access ramp that is smaller than the old ramp. The City's position is that ADA access ramps are mandated by the Feds with only one priority, providing equal access to the disabled community to City services, and that sidewalks are considered a service per the courts. Is this section of the Orange Line Bike Path a sidewalk or a Bike Path? Is there a Bike Plan standard for curb cuts on Bike Paths? Is there a standard for Bike Paths and intersections? Is there an engineering protocol for Bike Paths vs. Street Widenings? Is the Orange Line Bike Path protected by the Bike Plan and who is responsible for maintaining its integrity? The Bureau of Engineering ignores the Bike Plan.

5) LAPD Headquarters: The new Los Angeles Police Department headquarters is nearing completion and includes bike racks on the north side of the building. The position of the new bike racks is out of sight of the LAPD staff and is tucked behind a large wall, several large planters, a small wall, violating the Draft Bike Plan standards and basic Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) standards. This building is across the street from the LADOT headquarters. Does the Draft Bike Plan call for the LADOT to communicate with the other departments in the City of Los Angeles so that the proposed standards become a reality? Is there any attempt to integrate the different departments within the City of LA so that there is some uniformity to the application of law, code, design standards, engineering standards, maintenance standards, accommodation standards and will it be with the same enthusiasm that the LADOT worked with the LAPD on the new bike racks or can we expect something more meaningful? The LAPD and the LADOT ignore the Bike Plan.

6) LADOT Headquarters: The City of LA recently reconfigured the intersection 2nd and Los Angeles which is the SE corner of the LADOT's headquarters. The drainage grate is the old style of parallel bars that will accept a narrow bike tire, creating a danger for cyclists who ride in the curb lane and roll across the drainage grate. At the same time, the LADOT has been embarking on a funded journey to swap out the old drainage grates with new cross-hatched grates that are purportedly safe for cyclists. Is there a standard for drainage grates in Los Angeles? If there isn't, why not? If there is, who enforces it and why are the old dangerous style being installed on new road projects? Who is responsible for integrating the many departments who have a piece of the streets? How do we change policy and address these situations more comprehensively? The BOE and the LADOT ignore the Bike Plan.

7) NBC Universal Development: NBC Universal Execs have announced plans to spend $3 Billion on developing their property in Universal City, allocating $100 million to traffic mitigation measure so that the project has a positive impact on the community, creating jobs and stimulating the economy. Meanwhile, the LA Bike Plan calls for a Bike Path alongside the LA River, an amenity that the NBC Uni folks oppose and there proposition is to cut the Bike Path and redirect it so that it is no longer a continuous LA River Bike Path. Do the NBC Uni execs have the authority to trump the Bike Plan? Who is entertaining these proposals and how does it happen away from public oversight? What good is the Bike Plan if years of development of the River Path can be interrupted by NBC Uni Developers? How do 38 community groups speak with unanimous opposition to this development and LADOT Bikeways doesn't step in to hold the Bike Plan as a document that must be reckoned with or is it a meaningless document that carries no weight? NBC Uni ignores the Bike Plan.

8) LA has plans, lots of them. The Southern California Association of Governments has a plan, Metro has a plan, LA has a General Plan. There are 35 Community Plans, lots of Specific Plans, and Master Plans for everything from Golf to Lighting to Parks. Toss in a Transportation Element and a Strategic Plan and all that's missing is a Printing Master Plan that would deliver all of these plans to the many people and departments and agencies and authorities who simply can't keep up with the dueling plans.

LA's Draft Bike Plan is not worth the dust it will collect as it sits on the shelf. For it to have any meaning, it must be given teeth and it must be integrated with the other plans that currently trump the Bike Plan. This is the missing element if for making the Bike Plan a document of significance. The evidence is there, even the departments responsible for the Bike Plan ignore it. Only fools repeat the same behavior and hope for a different result.

Ladies and Gentlemen, LA's Draft Bike Plan, brought to you by the fools who brought you the last Bike Plan.


Anonymous said...

To your comments I add:
1. The Element should open with the Cyclists' Bill of Rights.
2. Then continue with your simple proposition.
3. So much of the text is bureaucratic background, that --- wait! All that text should go in a "background report." Then the Element will be focussed.
4. The priority streets in the Appendix should be in the Element.
5. Yes, an EIR to finish the streets analysis for bikes -- NOW. I thought that was what the Bike Element was going to do. Instead we get policies for committees and monitoring.

Nancy said...

I received a brochure in the mail regarding the NBC/Universal plan. It included mainly freeway & interchange construction improvements. NBC/Universal was kicking in a paltry shuttle service (presumably for NBC/Universal-specific locations). The price tag? Over $1 billion from the taxpayer, and about $100 million from NBC. Though it hasn't been approved by city council yet, it seems inevitable at this point. The taxpayers are going to get stuck paying for this, and we can't even get one single bike improvement out of it. Sucks.