CityWatch, Dec 8, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 100
The 14th annual DWP Festival of Lights has finally stepped over to the green side, hosting 14 pedestrian nights vs. 13 vehicle nights, and slowly adjusting to the inevitable. Apparently it's cheaper to open up the streets to pedestrians than to run shuttles, engage in traffic control and otherwise wrangle the traditional traffic congestion nightmare that was the hallmark of the Griffith Park holiday nightmare of years gone by. The shift in priorities is due to the intrepid advocacy of locals from the Greater Griffith Park NC, the Los Feliz Improvement Association, the Oaks Homeowners Association, the Atwater Village NC, and the many supporters of Griffith Park who have fought year after year for a people powered celebration of the holidays.
As for the cyclists of Los Angeles, there will be the traditional coal in the stocking.
On December 3rd, the Festival of Lights opened with the traditional Bike Night, consisting of two flatbed trucks hauling press down Crystal Springs as the 4th District Councilman and his staff ride the Festival of Lights, all to distract from the simple fact that cyclists are not welcome at the Festival of Lights on Pedestrian nights (makes sense) and on Vehicle nights. (doesn't make sense)
This will be the fourth year that cyclists will protest "Bike Night" and if the turnout is anything like years gone by, the LAPD, DWP, General Services, LADOT, Rec & Parks and Council office staff will easily outnumber the celebrants. Kicking off the Festival of Lights with a whimper, the cyclists plan on being there on Friday, December 18th to open the vehicle night with a shout!
Cyclists have long argued that California's Uniformity Code restricts a municipality from excluding cyclists from streets open to motor vehicles. The irony here is that there are bike lanes through the park but they are decommissioned for the duration of the Festival in order to make more room for cars.
Cyclists also argue that the auto-centric Festival of Lights is an ecological nightmare that shuts down the freeway, clogs up the neighborhood and wreaks havoc on the park environment.
To be fair, great strides have been made in accommodating other modes of transportation with pedestrians, equestrians and even dog-walkers receiving access that has steadily improved each year. The tremendous attendance by these groups indicates there is an audience in favor of reversing the priorities from an auto-centric Festival to a people-centric Festival, and slowly progress is being made.
But as long as the streets are open to motorists yet closed to cyclists, the Department of Water and Power, the Department of Rec and Parks and Councilman Tom LaBonge are guilty of treating cyclists like second class citizens.
This year, cyclists will gather at the Mulholland Fountain at 5pm and will ride at 6pm. They will bring their own music, their own lights and their own Santa.
This Festival of Rights promises to be memorable not just for the cylists but also for the motorists and their passengers who will be suffering through gridlock that typically lasts from 90 minutes to 2 hours.
As the minivans creep along, cyclists will ride through the festival, enjoying the evening air, the lights, the music and the free expression of their rights!
It might even prompt a few to add a bicycle to their holiday wish list!
(Stephen Box is a cyclist advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@ThirdEyeCreative.net) ◘