Monday, November 02, 2009
CityWatchLA - LA’s DIY Bike Plan
CityWatch, Nov 3, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 90
The City of Los Angeles took another swing at the public hornet's nest when it released LA's Draft Bike Plan, a 563 page document that cost $450,000 and took two years to complete, stirring such public contempt that the cycling community simply put down the protest signs, formed the LA Bike Working Group (BWG) and set out to draft "LA's Best Bike Plan" in open workshops around the city.
The first challenge to the efficacy of LA's commitment to mediocrity came when LABikePlan.com appeared, hosting the same Draft Bike Plan as the city's LABikePlan.org website and the same opportunity to submit comments to the city, but also offering links to articles that criticize the Draft Bike Plan process and content.
The second challenge came when cyclists met in Hollywood to dig into the city's Draft Bike Plan, breaking it up into manageable chunks, a process made necessary by the significant size and the limited comment period of 42 days. (It ends on November 6, 2009)
It took a couple of hours but there came a point at which it became obvious, the best place to start is at the beginning and for the Bike Plan, that meant a do-over, this time a DIY (Do It Yourself) do-over!
The third and most recent challenge came when cyclists met downtown this past weekend to refine the many contributions from the diverse group of participants into a focused vision that would serve as the foundation for LA's Best Bike Plan.
Embracing a democratic and participatory process, the work product of four groups was refined into 23 points which were simmered down to a foundation of three that serve as the platform for LA's Best Bike Plan.
1) "Consider every street as a street that cyclists will ride."
2) "Build a Backbone Bikeway Network as the engineering focus in the immediate future."
3) "Los Angeles must commit to the implementation of key measures within 2 years."
In the time it took the staff of City Planning and the Department of Transportation to organize its out-of-town consultants and to stage the four Draft Bike Plan workshops, the LA Bike Working Group had gathered input from the community, established teams with specific focus, and positioned a platform based on equality.
This may seem like a "Bike Culture" victory that benefits the few but it represents much, much more and it benefits the city as a whole.
City staff dismiss critics as "trashtalkers" and argue for mediocrity by pointing out that "not everybody is an angry cyclist." This demonstrates the cavalier manner in which our city is (mis)managed. As Laura Chick pointed out "If you're not angry, you're not paying attention."
Today it's the Bike Plan, tomorrow it's your Community Plan, last week it was Cloud Computing, next week it'll be Golden Parachutes. The bottom line is this, the leadership of Los Angeles is counting on our indifference to maintain the status quo and to avoid accountability.
Whether you ride a bike or walk or take mass transit or ride in a car, we all benefit from citywide support of cycling as a transportation solution, as an environmental solution, and as a community building solution.
Great Streets are well maintained, they're shareable, they have moderate traffic volumes and speeds, they result in lower crime rates, and they benefit local businesses, resulting in healthy, sustainable and complete communities.
If you believe that Los Angeles should be a Great City, it is imperative that you join with other constituent groups such as the cycling community and support their pursuit of greatness. After all, this is Los Angeles, why settle for anything less!
This isn't the first time that the DIY movement has been active in Los Angeles. Past efforts have resulted in Sharrows (shared-lane markings) in Echo Park and in Highland Park, a DIY Bike Lane on the Fletcher Bridge and a community park at Wilshire and Vermont.
In other cities, the Official Urban Repair Squad (OURS) has taken to improving the streets of Toronto, leaving behind a Bike Lane in their first engagement and a note saying "Our agents inform us that your city is too busy patting self on backside about 2001 bike plan that they don't bother to make any bike lanes. We come to make roads safe for citizens of Toronto. We hear city is broke. We fix. No charge."
Residents of Hawaii's Kauai island reacted to the government's $4 million and two-year long plan for the repair of a vital road as unacceptable and so they fixed it themselves in eight days for free. Their livelihood was threatened, their intelligence was insulted and their spirit of self-sufficiency was engaged.
As for LA's Draft Bike Plan, the apologists stand in the background and murmur "it's not that bad" and "there's some good stuff in there" and the cloud of mediocrity just gets thicker.
LA's Bike Plan is part of the Transportation Element of the city's General Plan and the current Bike Plan was drafted in 1996, readopted by City Council in 2002 and again in 2007.
Many funding sources, from both the federal and state levels, require that proposed bike projects be part of a City Council approved Bicycle Transportation Plan.
This enthusiasm for plans is motivated by the desire to qualify for funding and then the enthusiasm fades. The current Bike Plan is effective until December of 2012.
In the last 13 years, LA has spent $65 million of Bikeways funding which has produced 13 miles of Bike Paths (one mile per year!) 54 miles of Bike Lanes (four miles per year!) and one mile of Bike Route (136 yards per year!)
Critics charge that the money has also funded the LADOT's Bikeways Department of a dozen people who are best known for their "Why You Can't Have What You Want" PowerPoint presentation which positions cyclists as adversaries with other modes rather than as a "Common Ground" transportation solution.
As for next steps, the bureaucrats are off in search of rubber stamps while the LA Bike Working Group continues to work on "LA's Best Bike Plan."
(Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net) ◘
● “Bikes and Cars: Can We Share the Road?” – LA Times LINK .