Tuesday, December 01, 2009

CityWatchLA - Neighborhoods Win Input Extension on Bike Plan

CityWatch, Dec 1, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 98

City Planning Department has extended comment period for LA's Draft Bike Plan. This is good for cyclists, great for neighborhoods!

Three weeks after the deadline for public comment on LA's Draft Bike Plan ended, Jane Blumenfeld, City Planning's Acting Deputy Director, reversed position and announced an extension on the public comment period until January 8, 2010. This reversal signifies a victory for the bike activists, the community groups, and the neighborhood councils who rose to the occasion, calling the initial 42-day comment period on the 563 page Draft Bike Plan an insult to the civic engagement process. In the grand scheme of things, it would be easy to dismiss LA's Draft Bike Plan as a simple document that humbly addresses the needs of a niche transportation mode. Hardly the stuff of the LA visionaries who are frothing at the mouth as they position themselves to spend billions of dollars on mega-transit projects, quickly and quietly and fueled by the conviction that they know best. But that would be a mistake.

LA's Draft Bike Plan has the potential to benefit the city as a whole, for cyclists and non-cyclists alike, and the process for developing the plan, as well as the final document, is important for several reasons.

First, LA's Draft Bike Plan has gone a long way toward establishing a reasonable and meaningful minimum standard for public comments on the planning that impacts our communities.

The Department of Transportation and City Planning initially released the Draft Bike Plan with a 42-day comment period, clearly demonstrating a cavalier approach to the public participation process.

With neighborhood councils requiring 60 days just to cycle through a monthly committee meeting and then a monthly board meeting, the chances of NC review were reduced to nil.

Bloggers seized on this failure and issued the challenge. This simple rallying cry brought together bloggers, the NC Action Summit, the Valley Alliance, the LA Bicycle Advisory Committee, the CD11 Transportation Committee, and neighborhood councils from Mar Vista to Silver Lake to Studio City to Mid-City West to Palms to East Hollywood to Encino to others too numerous to list.

Result: a meaningful process for public engagement and a meaningful comment period.

Second, LA's Draft Bike Plan has the capacity to bring a sense of scale to the streets of Los Angeles by addressing them from the perspective of a single human on a bike.

Developing a powerful Bike Plan demands that we look at the city from the ground up, starting with the movement of people instead of adding them as an afterthought.

For too long, the streets of LA have been evaluated simply on their ability to hold more cars and side streets have been evaluated based on their ability to absorb overflow and cut-through traffic. The development of LA's Bike Plan demands that we grapple with the tough questions and decide how people will live and work and socialize and move about the City of Los Angeles.

This discussion positions multi-modal transportation choices as the starting point for LA's Transportation and Planning departments.

Result: streets that are for people, supported by real transportation choices.

Third, LA's Draft Bike Plan is just one of many plans. After all, Los Angeles is a "City of Plans."

There are 35 Community Plans, then there are the Specific Plans, complemented by the Master Plans, supported by Vision Plans, all overlapping and lost in the melee created every time the Mayor and the City Council initiate a Trash Plan, a River Plan, a Sidewalk Plan, a Tree Plan, a Golf Plan or a Lighting Plan.

Toss a couple of mega-plans such as the Harbor Plan or the NBC-Universal Plan in the mix and it's evident that the only people who benefit from this scenario are the consultants who churn plans as if City Hall has unlimited shelf-space, complete with unlimited dust.

The development of LA's Bike Plan comes complete with community calls for integration. It comes with challenges for real implementation, not just as an exercise in required planning but as the first real step in improving the quality of life in our communities.

Result: integrated Community Planning supported by a commitment to implementation.

Finally, LA's Draft Bike Plan is already serving as a reminder that as much as Los Angeles is the land of diversity, it is also the land of Common Ground.

Regardless of geography, culture, language, economics, professions or modes of travel, the people of Los Angeles all share the same desire to travel freely and safely on their streets. Some walk, some ride, some drive, some take mass transit and all will benefit from a robust Bike Plan with a real vision.

After all, cyclists simply want well-maintained streets free of potholes and debris.

They prefer streets with moderate vehicle volumes and speeds, an environment that is likewise safer and more hospitable for drivers and pedestrians.

They want to patronize local businesses that offer accommodations for cyclists.

They want great routes to schools, jobs, city centers and residential communities and they want a great relationship with law enforcement so that the streets are free of crime. In other words, what's good for cyclists is good for the community.

Result: the establishment of common ground and the development of real community.

INFO: The journey to a better Bike Plan continues and if you'd like to participate, visit LABikePlan.com to download a copy of the Draft Bike Plan.

Visit BikeWritersCollective.com to download a copy of the Cyclists' Bill of Rights.

To participate in the development of LA's Best Bike Plan, join the LA Bike Working Group in Hollywood on Saturday, December 12 at 2pm. 1711 Van Ness Avenue, Los Angeles, 90028.

(Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@ThirdEyeCreative.net) Photo credit: Photo by Lucyrk in LA via LAist Featured Photos on Flickr

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