Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/October 10, 2009
New York City's Transit Authority welcomes surfers on the subway while LA's Metro Rail management works to limit cyclists from the rail system. One large city embraces people and their "stuff" while LA looks squarely at cyclists and their gap-closing transportation solutions and says "you are a congestion problem."
Steve Lopez of the LA Times tells a story of an old LA surfing buddy who now lives in New York City and still manages to catch a wave or two, rising early to catch the A Train in Harlem and carrying a 7' surfboard all the way to Roackaway Beach in Queens. Somehow she is able to navigate the NYC subway system without the support of the NY Surfers' Advisory Committee or any other transit activists, she simply rides the subway and it all works out.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, cyclists are in limbo, waiting for word on the Metro's proposed limit on cyclists which would only allow two cyclists per rail car. The proposal was originally presented to the Operations Committee on July 16th by Mike Cannell, General Manager of Rail Operations. At that time, the Metro Board's Operations Committee directed the CEO to present to the Board by September 30, 2009, the following:
(1) A comprehensive legal opinion of all risks posed by MTA' s accommodation of bicycles, wheelchairs, luggage, strollers, et al.;
(2) A review and report on bike-an-rail policies adopted by other large transit properties in the United States; and
(3) A unified plan to ensure that our rail operations are as safe as possible for all users, including a specific bike-on-rail policy.
The odd thing about this directive is that is didn't instruct the staff to consult with the Metro's own Bikeways division. Does the Metro know that it has a Bikeways Division?
The Board, after some prodding from the public, modified the instruction to gather input so that it included, among others, the cycling community!
September 30, 2009 has come and gone. I made sure to let Mr. Cannell know that I would like to be included in the "cycling community" input process. Since then I've heard nothing.
I made a few inquiries, I sent a few emails, I finally filed a Request for Public Records (RPA) and the response I received was this:
"Unfortunately, after much searching, Records Management has no documents to provide on this matter since the relevant Metro personnel have not yet received all the information to make an informed decision. Therefore, we will close your request at this point. You may contact me at (213) 922-4880 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or comments."
About the same time that the Records Management department says there is nothing to look at, I'm reading a report that Mr. Cannell submitted quietly to the Metro's CEO and the Metro Board, way back on August 27th, 2009.
I'm not sure how this "non-report" qualifies as the fulfillment of the Board instruction or how this would qualify as "gathering input from the cycling community" but it is apparent that it was done so quietly that even the Metro's Records Management department was unaware of the action.
Ultimately, all snubs and fumbles and RPA failures and misunderstandings aside, it's a sad day when a surfer in Harlem gets more respect from the local transit authority than a cyclist in Los Angeles who simply wants to close those service gaps and get to work on time or home to the family.
It's time for the Metro to form a Metro Bicycle Advisory Committee and it's time for the Metro to embrace cyclists as transportation solutions.
"See you on the Metro!"