It was a long and arduous journey but along the way the City Council responded to the clamor. The Transportation Committee and the Planning and Land Use Committee intervened, resulting in an action that reorganized the BAC and directed departments from Planning to Rec & Parks to Public Works to the City Attorney's office to assign and direct staff to support the efforts of the "new" BAC.
Along the way, Paul Meshkin was named as the new head of the LADOT Bikeways Engineering Group. Paul is returning to Bikeway's and to this position and we are optimistic that the City Council directed reorganization and his leadership will result in a successful LABAC.
Attached is a copy of a letter I submitted to Paul this week.
Congratulations on your tour of duty as the head of the LADOT Bikeways Engineering Group. I hope you are successful in revitalizing the department and I look forward to working with you.
As for the opportunity ahead:
1) The City of Los Angeles has an early notification system in place so that members of the community can simply sign up and then receive an email with the agendas of the City Council, the Council Committees, the Commissions etc. I realize that the LA Bicycle Advisory Committee has a long tradition of using the US Postal Service in order to deliver little packets of printed matter including agendas and clippings but those days are so long gone. We have a new president, he twitters and the time has come for the City of Los Angeles and the BAC to join the revolution.
Please, take advantage of the technology and let's start communicating effectively and let's truly engage the public in the business of the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee.
2) The City of Los Angeles has property throughout the City. There is no reason to continue to use the cold and inhospitable Parker Center auditorium unless your real objective is to alienate the public in an environment that is best suited for catching pneumonia. The simple standard for a meeting place is that it is accessible on foot, by bike and by mass transit. There are many facilities that fit the bill and we have had the conversation before. If the location choice is made based on what suits the staff of the LADOT best, then you are simply demonstrating that the BAC belongs to the LADOT and not the people of Los Angeles, a charge that has been leveled in the past.
Please, pick a new location for the LABAC meetings. While you're at it, get the committee meetings out of the LADOT offices and hold them in the evenings when the public might actually attend them. Put the public first and watch the BAC actually become an effective advisory body.
3) The City of Los Angeles has a Bikeways department but the LABAC seems confused as to where bikeways facilities come from and how they appear. Perhaps now would be a good time for the Bikeways department to clarify its role, its function, its responsibilities in the grand scheme of things. Many on the BAC are surprised to discover that the Bicycle Plan is a Planning document, part of the Transportation Element, a part of the General Plan. hence the need to keep Planning involved in the BAC business or visa versa.
Please, clarify once and for all the many departments who have a piece of the streets and let the BAC know who does what and how it all works, or in many cases, doesn't work.
4) The City of Los Angeles is a big place with 6500 miles of streets. It would be great to have an idea of where we stand with regards to bikeways amenities and infrastructure. Especially since we are the advocates who are urging our elected officials, from local to federal, to support our communities in the development of robust transportation projects that truly revitalize and stimulate our communities. Yet we don't even know where we stand with regards to bikeways status, let alone performance and goals.
Please, give us an inventory of the City's bikeways assets and a report on the progress that was made last year along with the goals of this upcoming year. It would seem that this would be the most basic of information, especially if we are to work together to change the world. "Where are we, what's going on and where are we going?"
5) The City of Los Angeles has almost 90 Neighborhood Councils, all of whom are filled with volunteers who operate under that same basic Brown Act, Conflict of Interest, Ethics standards as our City Council and Commissions. Somehow the NC's are able to function with some degree of success under these rules and regulations while the LABAC seems to flounder. The last meeting had the Brown Act getting abused while the Committee argued over how to make a motion.
Please, bring in the City Attorney as the City Council has recommended, train the BAC in the Brown Act and then get serious about putting the debate over process to rest and let's get busy changing the world.
6) The City of Los Angeles, in its infinite wisdom, created the Bicycle Advisory Committee in 1973. Along the way, a Charter was adopted and it refers to an expectation that BAC members "regularly communicate in writing with their respective council member and staff as well as the Mayor's Office and staff." Copies of this correspondence was to be forwarded to the Bikeways Section of the LADOT.
Please, make the BAC member reports for 2008 available as soon as possible. This goes a long way to determining where we are so that we can agree on where we want to go. In light of the upcoming agendized elections, it would seem that this small performance standard would also be of relevance as we evaluate candidates for Chair and Vice-Chair.
7) The BAC is an advisory body yet the bulk of the committee's activity seems to be listening to reports. The cycling community is regularly directed to the BAC by departments including the LAPD, the City Council, the Planning Department and the City Attorney when issues related to cycling in the city come up. To that end, it is imperative that the BAC get in the business of representing and of offering advice to the City of Los Angeles. In order to accomplish that, topics must come before the BAC before they are history. Everything from the Bicycle Plan workshops to the reorganization of the BAC seemed to take the BAC by surprise this past year.
Please, put the agenda in the hands of the committee so that the public can get items on the agenda in a timely fashion. Whatever the process is, it must be open and transparent and it must be clearly articulated. The agenda is not a secret document developed behind closed doors. Items on the agenda must be for discussion and for action if the BAC is to truly become effective.
8) The City of Los Angeles is in the midst of updating the Bicycle Plan, a process that was to include two workshops that seemed to have fallen off the landscape. In fact, the entire plan seems to have disappeared off the radar. The civic engagement element is one of the most important elements of the process and the cycling community has been quite vocal about the poor outreach in the first four workshops. Under "NEW!" the LA bike plan website offers a summary of public input from April of '08. That's not really news and it's not really new.
Please, communicate loudly and clearly the status of the Bicycle Plan and ensure that the outreach to the public will be more effective and inclusive than the first four sessions and the second two sessions that disappeared.
9) Streets are currently being resurfaced and striped. Western, Hollywood, Vermont, Edgemont are just some of those in Hollywood that have recently received a facelift. We're told that this is the best time for bikeways striping and yet...no bikeways improvements. Are the different departments talking to each other? Are the plans for bikeways improvements on hold? Are the priorities for the different departments our of sync? What happened to the promise of Sharrows?
Please, reveal the immediate plans for the Sharrows in Hollywood and let's work together to make them happen.
The upcoming "Storm the Bastille" ride on Tuesday, February 3, 2009 will be our two year anniversary! We've been riding to the LABAC meetings and banging the drum, all the while hoping that the BAC would become an open and inclusive and effective body, committed to supporting cyclists and improving the quality of life in Los Angeles.
I look forward to working with you to make this happen.