Friday, February 27, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 17
Gwendolyn Coleman stood at the corner of 5th and Flower in downtown Los Angeles, waited for the signal to change and then stepped into the crosswalk where she was promptly struck by a DASH bus and killed instantly. That was seven weeks ago.
In the days immediately following the tragic incident, a spontaneous memorial was erected curbside and flowers, notes, candles and photos appeared, as strangers came together to pay respect to the victim and to draw attention to the circumstances that took her life.
Since then, the memorial has disappeared, the debate over the walkability of our downtown streets has faded, and the intersection of 5th and Flower is as it has always been, heavily traveled by pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, truck drivers and bus operators, all competing for space and all in a hurry.
Pedestrians standing at the Southwest corner of 5th and Flower look across seven lanes of traffic to the north and six lanes of traffic to the east. Crossing the street here is not for the feint of heart, which is a shame because this is an intersection that invites crossing.
After all, there's a shopping mall on one side, a restaurant, a Starbucks, a bank, the Central Library and a huge park area that simply beckons and invites people, if only it didn't require crossing the traffic sewer.
For the intrepid pedestrian who is determined to cross, it pays to be ready, for 5th and Flower only allows between four and five seconds of "Walk" which means one needs to be standing on the curb and ready to jump. The street is wide and a pedestrian doesn't get very far in five seconds, perhaps across two of the six or seven lanes. Then the flashing hand appears and the real pressure starts, along with the vehicles nudging and nosing into the crosswalk as they compete for their turning opportunity.
The science of signal timing is touted by the LADOT as being quite complicated, requiring a room full of computers, located in a bunker under City Hall, and run by a team of experts who are able to fine-tune and adjust signals throughout the City to keep traffic flowing smoothly and efficiently and at capacity.
All of which begs the simple question, why can't we give pedestrians at the southwest corner of 5th and Flower more than a 5 second "walk" phase? Are we so committed to moving vehicles that we'll squeeze the pedestrians down to the absolute minimum and then tighten it just a tad more? Apparently so.
The high-tech sophisticated signal timing is supported by the low-tech "human touch," the LADOT traffic officers who step into the whirlwind of traffic to coax a little more capacity out of the street. Just one block west of 5th and Flower an officer works his magic, whistling and waving and directing motorists to their respective lanes, all in an effort to move cars onto the freeway quickly and efficiently, clearing the intersection and making room for other motorists. None of this activity has anything to do with protecting pedestrians though, simply getting more vehicles through the intersection.
Elsewhere in the downtown LA area, pedestrians fare better than in the 5th and Flower auto-zone.
DOT staff leaving their headquarters at 1st and Main can cross the street to City Hall with 30 seconds of "walk" giving them plenty of time to think about that pedestrian safety report they're about to deliver to the City Council's Transportation Committee. Lest they dawdle, the countdown signal, a feature not found at 5th and Flower, will remind them that the clock is ticking and the flashing hand will give them 15 additional seconds of encouragement.
Meanwhile, DOT staff on their way to meet with the LAPD brass over at Parker Center will get 30 seconds of "walk" supported by a countdown signal, all in order to safely cross the street at 1st and Los Angeles.
DOT staff have a Starbucks close by, just like the folks at 5th and Flower, the difference being that Starbucks customers at 1st and Los Angeles Street get 30 seconds of "walk" supported by a countdown signal in order to facilitate a safe coffee break.
As for our friends over at the LATimes, the same ones who neglected to note Gwendolyn Coleman's tragic death until pushed by LAist, StreetsBlog and CityWatch, they enjoy 20 and 25 seconds of "walk" in order to cross 1st and Spring streets on their way to City Hall.
Pedestrians on Broadway, one of the busiest and most vibrant streets in the downtown area, fare better than those on 5th and Flower but not as well as those at City hall. Broadway enjoys a more modest 15 seconds of "walk" at 5th, 4th, 3rd and 2nd streets, leaving one to wonder if the "science" of signal timing is based on any connection to the reality of the local street life in the downtown area or if it's based simply on a commitment to moving motor vehicles as efficiently as possible, pedestrians be damned.
When intersections with heavy pedestrian traffic receive little support and intersections with light pedestrian activity receive favorable signal timing, it appears that the real commitment is to keeping the traffic moats flowing while pedestrians remain isolated and trapped on urban islands. Unless of course, you're on your way to City Hall!
It's not too late to celebrate the life of Gwendolyn Coleman with a tribute that will truly honor her, a pedestrian-safe 5th and Flower intersection complete with signal timing that encourages and protects those on foot. (Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist activist and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@ThirdEyeCreative.net.)
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 16
Six months ago, Jason Michaud went to the City of LA's website and ordered bike racks, intending to offer a free beverage to customers who rode their bikes and locked them in front of Local, his new 40 seat diner on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake.
Since then, business is doing well. He now has 10 employees, seven of whom live within walking distance.
What he doesn't have is the bike racks promised by the City of Los Angeles.
Instead, he received a notice from the City of Los Angeles demanding that he add six parking spaces for cars, something that he reckons will set him back $2000 a month and that will have a devastating impact on his small business.
Ironically, Michaud opened Local with grand intentions of operating a sustainable business featuring locally sourced product, using recycled and biodegradable packaging, staffing with those from the neighborhood, advertising in the community newspapers and catering to a local clientele by encouraging them to walk, ride a bicycle or take mass transit.
"I still plan on executing those intentions," Michaud explained. "But it's much more difficult than I had envisioned and I'm not getting much help from the City. I'm a line cook who opened a restaurant and I'm just trying to figure it out."
It would seem that when a business operator works to get people out of their cars and onto their feet, a bike or a bus, the City of Los Angeles would support them rather than simply demanding "What about the parking spaces?"
There are 10,000 restaurants in the City of Los Angeles and yet there are only 3,000 curbside bike racks. Meanwhile, there are seven parking spaces for every vehicle in LA County.
If the leadership of our City is serious about supporting walkable, ridable and transit friendly communities, they'll start putting the same energy into providing the amenities that support pedestrians, cyclists and transit passengers as they put into the creation of more parking spaces.
The City of Los Angeles will be well on its way to becoming the "Greenest, Cleanest Big City "when it gets serious about getting into the business of supporting good behavior, good businesses and good people who simply want to improve the quality of life in their communities. (Stephen Box is a transportation activist and a cyclist advocate. Box writes for CityWatch.)
Friday, February 20, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 15
Good, bad or indifferent … at least we’re talking.
The ongoing debate over Measure B has, among other things, stirred the most significant solar energy dialogue in recent history. Regardless of where you stand on Measure B, any conversation inevitably leads to the question "How do we make Solar energy a reality for Los Angeles."
The Department of Water and Power's management has gone before the City council, the Energy & Environment Committee, the DWP Commission and BreatheLA declaring that the department has been committed to the public process, sending speakers to neighborhood councils, and community groups throughout the city. "When this election is over, we'll have spoken before 50 Neighborhood Councils and at six Town Halls." he reported this past week.
Representatives of the "VoteNoMeasureB" know the feeling. "We know. We attend the same meetings, we engage in the dialogue, the discussion and the debate. The difference is, we walk out of those meetings with resolutions opposing Measure B." The VoteNoMeasureB website lists groups from the United Chambers of Commerce to VICA to Valley Vote to more than 30 Neighborhood Councils on its endorsements page.
The DWP has attempted to maintain a neutral position in the debate, presenting the SolarLA plan and approaching the Measure in terms of how it fits into the future of LA's renewable energy portfolio.
The debate actually takes place between the "Working Californians" who send their reps to debate the volunteers from the "VoteNoMeasureB" campaign.
On the off chance that there are still some out there who have missed the discourse, there are still 15 events scheduled between now and March 3 where SolarLA will be presented and Measure B will be debated.
Regardless of the outcome on election day, Measure B has brought Angelenos out into the marketplace of discourse and provides the very real opportunity for LA activists to work together post-election to make the future sustainable energy a reality. That is, if we're still talking. (Stephen Box is an issues activist and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@ThirdEyeCreative.net)
Vol 7 Issue 15
Councilman Bill Rosendahl's highly anticipated Town Hall on Solar Energy Measure B drew a vocal audience of almost 300 people for a spirited debate that was rich on rhetoric but light on answers.
Ron Kaye minced no words as he opened his comments by declaring "If there was a three strikes law on failure on Solar Energy, the LADWP wouldn't be eligible." The room erupted in applause and the evening of dueling choirs was on as Brian D'Arcy, author of the measure, and David Freeman, former GM of the DWP, both dropped their opening position of "good jobs and clean air" and went after the panelists.
At one point Freeman responded to the criticism of Nick Patsaouras by charging "You were there (DWP Commission) for 4 years and you haven't got didely-squat to show for it."
D'Arcy and Freeman, who had a large number of supporters in the audience, were joined on the "pro" side by James Provenzano of Clean Air Now, whose contribution to the debate was limited to pointing out that solar energy was good for public health and that it was good for people.
Kaye and Patsauoras were joined on the "con" side by DeDe Audet of Venice Beach who threw two body punches that must have hurt. In her opening comments she pointed out that the must touted tax credits and depreciation that were a part of the plan no longer existed, quoting an August '08 letter from the IRS. There was no response.
Rosendahl had called for a show of hands, asking the audience who was in favor, who was opposed and who was undecided with an open mind. All three options drew thundering applause and when the evening was opened up for questions, it became apparent that most of those in attendance were there to offer opinions and only a few had questions.
In keeping with the unique and passionate nature of Venice, three of the speakers who spoke were from "Free Venice" and simply couldn't pass on the opportunity to protest the parking restrictions.
As the evening ground on, science became mixed with politics which became mixed with statistics, all of which led to a debate over the consulting reports that support the two sides.
As Rosendahl held up the PA Consulting report in one hand and the Huron report in the other hand, DWP GM H. David Nahai stepped up to clarify the difference between the two reports, referring the Huron report (favorable to Measure B) as a significant report based on extensive work and the PA Consulting report (critical of the DWP and Measure B) as a simple report assembled over a weekend.
Kaye jumped to his feet and shouted "You keep lying!" to which Nahai replied "You're the one who is lying." All of which could have simply dissolved into a battle of the reports, but DeDe Audet, who had stayed out of the fray all evening interrupted and threw her second punch of the evening. "Bill, I'm sorry, but there are actually three reports when you count the one prepared by the DWP. The PA Consulting report and the DWP report are close in their prediction of costs."
Critics claim the evening was dramatic but that too many questions related to the cost of the program, the unions involved, the timeline and penalties for failing to perform, product from China, shipping and transportation impact, private party participation and a host of related subjects went unanswered.
Rosendahl capped the evening with his proclamation that "Some studies give us hope, some studies give us doubt. We don't know the costs. This is a new day for Los Angeles and if you're undecided like me, hopefully you're closer to making a decision." (Stephen Box writes for CityWatch.)
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 13
The mystery of the blighted Orange Line Bikeway was solved when Paul Meshkin of the LADOT's Bikeways Division revealed that the contractor responsible for maintenance had "overlooked" the section from Hazeltine to Sepulveda and that the person responsible for supervising the contractor had "overlooked" the failure to perform but that all parties somehow remembered to cash their checks. All's well that ends well!
The contractor, Sunscape Landscaping, was paid $160,000 for a six month contract which required them to sweep the path twice a week and trim the brush. The contract expired this past Saturday.
Sunscape has been busy executing their landscaping contract with the Metro in the same area but on the busway portion of the Orange Line. Somehow in all of the confusion over which bush belongs to whom, the contractor simply forgot to maintain the bikeway which is the LADOT's area of responsibility.
The rapid deterioration of the bikeway drew the attention of the CityWatch, Daily News and LAist all of which motivated the Metro, the LAPD, the Sheriff's Department, the Council office and the Van Nuys Neighborhood Council to action and that's when the LADOT was discovered to be asleep at the handlebars.
The response from all parties was swift and a multi-disciplinary committee is in place to address the larger issue of environmental design, security, homelessness, crime, graffiti and the basic maintenance and supervision of the bikeway and busway facility.
Sunscape was gracious enough to move through the area, clearing trash, trimming bushes and putting an edgeline on the Van Nuys jungle. This one shot fulfillment of the six-month contract seems to have taken them off the hook to the city and they now stand in line to pick up an extension of the contract, this time for 3-5 years. Apparently, no failure-to-perform goes unrewarded!
By midweek the bikeway had been cleared of trash, the bushes had been trimmed back and the richly landscaped and overgrown bikeway now has a lovely edgeline, all of which must make the bikeway residents feel much prouder of their accommodations.
It's fair to say that the bikeway is now a well maintained campground, free of trash but still an attractive refuge for those who seek shelter or a place to hide. It still has the bush "caves" and a trail through the brush that parallels the bikeway.
LADOT staff turned up at the Van Nuys Neighborhood Council in response to concerns over the deterioration of the bikeway and the resulting negative impact on the community.
A concerned board member gave a list of problems that included burned out landscaping, plywood shelters, concertina wire, bottles, trash, and loitering men dropped off by the housing authority. When she pointed out that that very day she had been accosted by a drunk as she made her way down the bike path, the LADOT Coordinator graciously responded with a discussion on the difference between a bikeway and a sidewalk.
Perhaps if the LADOT spent less time debating the limits on their responsibilities and more time on multi-departmental solutions, valuable facilities such as the Orange Line Bikeway wouldn't deteriorate as if in a bureaucratic no-man's land.
Perhaps if the LADOT spent more time biking or walking the bikeways of Los Angeles, they would be able to spend less time in the Neighborhood Councils explaining the many limitations on their ability to supervise their areas of responsibility.
Perhaps if the LADOT dropped the "Yes, We Can't" approach to problem solving we could spend less time on discussions of the difference between a sound wall and the side of a building and more time on the lack of supervision that makes the Orange Line such a great place for graffiti, trash, crime, and all of the other symptoms of an unsupervised, overgrown, isolatated, ill-landscaped and poorly maintained environment, book-ended by two liquor stores which provide the tenants of the bikeway with fuel for the decline.
LA deserves better. There are too any departments involved for something as significant as a 14 mile long bikeway to simply fall between the cracks.
The cyclists who ride this path knew what was going on, the pedestrians and joggers who use the path were aware, the commuters who frequent the area knew of the problems, the local residents knew of the problems, and yet …
The LAPD, the Sheriff’s Department, the Metro, the City Attorney, the Council Office, Street Services and the LADOT all stand by with a look of jurisdictional confusion on their collective faces and watch as the Bikeway deteriorates to the point of absurdity while the contractor stands in line at the bank.
(Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist activist and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@ThirdEyeCreative.net)
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
VAN NUYS - Final cleanup took place Tuesday on a San Fernando Valley bikeway that had become home to transients and trash, city transportation officials reported.
A contractor for the L.A. Department of Transportation removed the last of the trash Tuesday on a 1-1/2-mile stretch of Orange Line bikeway between between Sepulveda Boulevard and Hazeltine Avenue.
The bike path had become blighted with trash, homeless encampments, drinking spots and overgrown weeds along the route.
"It's done. It's all cleaned up," said Paul Meshkin, an LADOT transportation engineer in charge of the 14-mile bikeway. "Today, it looks really nice. Every tree is trimmed. Trash has been removed. We just have to make sure the contractor stays on top of it."
Meshkin said Sunscape landscaping was hired last summer on a six-month contract to maintain the bikeway. Negotiations are under way to renew the contract, which expires this month.
Los Angeles police and Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies had periodically picked up trash along the route.
"I'd like to see a requirement for how often they (the contractor) must do maintenance," said Glenn Bailey of Encino, chairman of the city's Bicycle Advisory Committee. The bikeway "needs to be clean and maintained. And the users and the residents need to know exactly how often the work will be done - and that it be done."
Monday, February 09, 2009
Great Bike Racks are like Welcome mats for cyclists. They communicate to cyclists that they are a part of the gestalt of the community. Putting bike racks up front where everyone can see them is not just a benefit in terms of safety, but it has a significant impact on the non-cycling community and it normalizes and integrates cycling as a transportation choice.
What's best is when they're part of an overall streetscape improvement campaign that includes other elements such as trees, planters, and street furniture that both improves the overall aesthetic of the street while contributing to a vibrant streetlife.
This long, windy into is all to set up the big announcement:
Ladies and Gentlemen of the cycling world, the creative world, the DIY world, the "I think I can do it better" world, the "I want to win a contest " world and the "I want to design a bike rack on Hollywood Boulevard" world:
BICYCLE RACK DESIGN COMPETITION FOR LOS ANGELES ARTISTS & DESIGNERS
Presented by City of Los Angeles, Council District 13
DEADLINE: 3 PM Friday, March 6, 2009
Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti, in partnership with the Bike Writers Collective and the support of the Hollywood Project Area of the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, is sponsoring a competition for a unique bicycle rack for the East Hollywood community.
This project seeks to add visual appeal and transportation amenity to its vibrant East Hollywood streetscape along Hollywood Boulevard between Western Avenue and Vermont Avenue.
The City of Los Angeles welcomes the creative energy of the greater community to assist in the creation of this important element of street furniture – the bicycle rack.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
Bikerowave is based in West LA, so locations West of the 405 and North of Washington Blvd are ideal.
Unfinished industrial space, and odd spaces are welcome.
If you have resources or leads, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more info visit http://www.westsidebikeside.com/bikerowave-seeks-a-new-location
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Hollywood is the land of promises, the land of dreams, the land of hope.
It's the kind of neighborhood that urban planners had in mind when they estimated that as much as 30% of the traffic congestion is caused by motorists circling the block and searching for a parking place.
It's the kind of neighborhood that traffic engineers had in mind when they estimated that half of all motor vehicle trips were only a couple of miles in distance.
It's the kind of neighborhood that cyclists have in mind when they suggest that they would be more likely to ride their bikes if only there were end-trip accommodations. (that's another way of saying "Where are the bike racks?")
A couple of years ago, Chicago's Mayor Daley declared his city the greenest big city and went to work supporting healthy activities such as cycling by promising to install ten thousand bike racks. One can track the progress of the bike rack installation online and search by zip code and by ward and by neighborhood. The Department of Transportation has a Department of Bike Parking. Very promising!
Meanwhile, here in Los Angeles, the Department of Transportation's Bikeways Division just presented a contract to the Public Works Department for payment after a four year journey to install 700 bike racks. All this in a city with 6500 miles of streets. At a rate of one bike installed every two days at an average one per nine miles of street, it appears that the contractor did the work on foot.
Of course, this is the land of promise, not of action. This is the land of dreams, not of reality. This is the land of hope, not of results. This is the land where the LADOT paints the orange bike rack markers outside the City Council President's office 8 months ago and then never returns to install the bike racks. They then get away with complete failure to complete a simple bike rack installation.
All this on Hollywood Boulevard, the "Walk of Fame," a pedestrian oriented district and a transit hub, a community with such potential if only there were some bike racks upon which to rest a weary bike. Between La Brea Avenue and Western, there are approximately half a dozen inverted U bike racks, one of the simplest, cheapest and most effective forms of bike parking and yet so rare.
The intersection of Hollywood & Western has a few opportunities for bike parking, none of them good and all of them serving to advertise why riding a bike in Hollywood is a bad idea.
The CRA's Hollywest (Ralph's) development on the NE corner has bike parking at less than the LAMC required minimum but who's gonna bust the CRA. They elected to go with the wheel-bender bike rack and chose to instal it so that the bikes extend into the walkway. The inability to lock the frame of a bike to the rack is advertised by the remains of a bike, a wheel that remains locked to the rack.
The Metro Village (Red Line) development on the SE corner also has bike parking with two typically unused wave racks on the street level and the more popular and effective inverted U racks in the center behind a wall. There's also a bike locker for two but that's a VIP situation and the waiting list is a year long. The inverted U racks have a bike carcass still attached as a reminder to all that leaving a bike at the Hollywood & Western Red Line station is at your own risk. With empty storefronts and a patio that now serves as a campground, the station is far from a secure location for bike parking. Too bad. Such promise if only the racks were in a better position.
The Mayer Building on the SW corner has security bars on the windows and little orange paint marks that promise bike parking in the future but other than that, there is no evidence that riding a bike is an encouraged or supported behavior at the SE corner of Hollywood & Western.
The Thai Hot Dog has the best promise for bike parking with a wrought iron fence that is stretched for several yards. Patrons of the 24 porn shop have plenty of opportunity to lock up their bikes under the brightly illuminated signage and in front of the heavily trafficked popular business. Who would have thought?
Bike parking is such a simple amenity and it goes such a great distance in changing the character of a neighborhood. Putting bike racks up front in plain sight is not only a great security measure, it also encourages and reinforces cycling as a viable transportation solution.
The inverted U rack is the simplest and cheapest but there are other racks that are a bit more stylized while still offering the basic two points of frame contact and an opportunity to secure the frame with a U-lock, all while securing the bike out of the traffic lane of the pedestrians.
A little wayfinding goes a long way and serves to normalize cycling by reminding people that cyclists also have a place in the neighborhood.
Bike racks don't have to be boring and plain, they simply need to work.
Sometimes they take on a whimsical or artistic flair.
Sometimes they are a part of the public art in a public space.
They simply need to run parallel to foot traffic and offer two points of contact for the frame.
They can be converted parking meter poles.
In some lands they even protect from the elements. (I know, we don't even do that for people!)
Car spaces can be converted into bike parking with great success and look at the capacity !
Great racks in great locations are good for cyclists and good for the neighborhood and good for business!
Bike parking can also be innovative and opportunistic, such as this out of commission boat that uses the sliding racks like the ones that have been sitting unused at Hollywood & Western for a couple of years.
These bike racks have been kept under lock and key where they're safe, since 2005. Not one has been stolen.
These are some of the loneliest bike racks in the city of Los Angeles. The next closest racks are a mile to the west and a quarter mile to the east.
When in doubt, add some more racks.
Why can't we get along?
Apparently we can!
For the nature lover in all of us!
While the City of Los Angeles is full of examples such as these of weak and ineffective attempts to provide bike parking, the City Council went to work and put into place an ordinance specifying the City's bike parking standards. All that's required is the political will to implement this legislation.
From the Los Angeles Municipal Code: (LAMC 12.21-A. 16)
16. Bicycle Parking and Shower Facilities. (Added by Ord. No. 167,409, Eff. 12/19/91.) Off-street parking spaces for bicycles and facilities for employee showers and lockers shall be provided as follows:
(a) In the C and M zones, for any building, portion thereof or addition thereto used for non-residential purposes which contains a floor area in excess of 10,000 square feet, bicycle parking spaces shall be provided at the rate of two percent of the number of automobile parking spaces required by this section for such non-residential uses; provided, however, that at least one bicycle parking space shall be provided for any such building having a floor area in excess of 10,000 square feet of non-residential use. If the calculation of the number of required spaces under this paragraph results in a number including a fraction, the next highest whole number shall be the number of spaces required.
(b) The bicycle parking space requirements in Paragraph (a) shall also apply to any building, regardless of zone, owned by the City of Los Angeles and used by the City for government purposes which contains a floor area in excess of 10,000 square feet.
(c) All bicycle parking spaces required by this Subdivision shall include a stationary parking device which adequately supports the bicycle. In addition, at least half of the bicycle parking spaces shall include a stationary parking device which securely locks the bicycle without the use of a user-supplied cable or chain. Devices which hold the bicycle upright by wheel contact must hold at least 180 degrees of wheel arc.
(d) Each bicycle parking space shall be a minimum of two feet in width and six feet in length and shall have a minimum of six feet of overhead clearance.
(e) Bicycle parking spaces shall be located no farther than the distance from a main entrance of the building to the nearest off-street automobile parking space.
(f) Bicycle parking spaces shall be separated from automobile parking spaces or aisles by a wall, fence, or curb or by at least five feet of open space marked to prohibit parking.
(g) Aisles providing access to bicycle parking spaces shall be at least five feet in width.
(h) Signage which is clearly legible upon approach to every automobile entrance to the parking facility shall be displayed indicating the availability and location of bicycle parking.
(i) Showers and lockers shall be provided as required by Section 91.6307 of this Code. (Amended by Ord. No. 177,103, Eff. 12/18/05.)
It was up to the LADOT Bikeways Division to develop the standards for bike parking and they did not disappoint!
While cities such as Chicago fumble along with commitments and results, Los Angeles demonstrates its unique approach to supporting the cycling community by putting pen to paper towel and drafting some almost accurate plans for bike parking installation, closing any back doors and putting to rest any insinuations that the LADOT is insincere in its support of cycling as a valid means of transportation.
(The paper towel is actually the bike rack plan offered by LADOT Bikeways to facilitate the installation of the bike racks at the Griffith Observatory. It's hard to imagine how it resulted in the re-installation and then the re-re-installation of the racks. It looks so simple, complete with the minor error included!)
Let there be no doubt. The evidence is in! The LADOT Bikeways Division is committed to supporting the cycling community!
CityWatch, Feb 3, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 10
Orange Line Bike Path a Bumpy Ride
By Stephen Box
The Orange Line … an express bus service that runs across the south Valley … is a classic example of the axiom "Success has many parents but failure is an orphan."
When it comes to ridership, LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Metro CEO Roger Snoble and LA City Council Transportation Chair Wendy Greuel all speak glowingly of the popularity of the Orange Line and point at the near capacity numbers as evidence of their wisdom.
When it comes to the bikeway that runs alongside the Metro Orange Line, all of a sudden the crickets chirp and there's nobody left at the podium taking credit or responsibility for the maintenance issues, the homeless encampments, the graffiti, the crime, and the general decline of the bikeway.
Calls to the Metro are forwarded to the Sheriff's Department with an explanation that the Sheriff has a contract to provide security and law enforcement for the Orange Line. Calls to the Sheriff's Department yield an explanation that their contract is for the transitway, not the bikeway and that it’s an LAPD problem. Calls to the LAPD yield a series of referrals to the gang detail, the homelessness detail, the bike patrol and the Senior Lead Officers, all of whom seem to be missing in action, based on recent experience.
At the end of the day, it turns out that the LADOT has a Bikeways Division that has a contract with a contractor who is then responsible for the maintenance of the Orange Line bikeway, 14 miles of bike path, separated in many areas with a sound wall on one side and a chain link fence on the other, heavily landscaped, overgrown and littered with campsites.
The Orange Line opened in 2005 with a celebration that included a bike ride for supporters. Bike Activists reveled in the attention but grimaced at some of the engineering and design choices that indicated a lack of empathy for the cycling population and a sensitivity to the basic needs of a cyclist.
Cyclists compiled a report of the bikeway and provided recommendations on the intersection conflict points, the lack of cyclist oriented signalization, the poor landscaping choices and the isolation that results from putting up chain link fence and sound walls on either side of the path.
The Orange Line Bikeway was developed in conjunction with the LADOT Bikeways division and somewhere along the way the responsibility for the Orange Line Bikeway shifted from the Metro to the City of Los Angeles.
The City of LA took over like a proud parent, producing a PowerPoint show entitled "Orange Line Bike Path: Integrating a Bikeway within a Bus Rapid Transit Corridor" that they take on the road to transportation conferences.
The unfortunate reality is simple. The Orange Line Bike Path is no-man's land. It is isolated. The entrances are littered with shopping carts. The abundant trash and the overgrown landscaping give witness to the lack of supervision. The paths worn through the bushes bear indicate heavy off-path foot traffic.
This past Saturday, Nate Kapin of Sherman Oaks interrupted his Orange Line bike ride to comment. He says he's a regular, having lived in the Valley since May of 1940 "when you could hunt rabbits here." He says he's seen it all and that he rides the Orange Line every day. "This could be a real park. Put in some benches so people could sit and socialize, clear some of the brush back, put in a water fountain, some bathrooms, people would flock to this path. But not now! Look at it! It's trashed! I see people in the bushes, I see it all!"
It's too late to redesign the Orange Line bike path, but it's not too late to hold the contractor responsible for fulfilling his obligations for maintenance. It's not too late to get the Sheriff's Department and the LAPD to agree on who has jurisdiction and to get law enforcement to patrol the bike path. It's not too late to get the LADOT Bikeways Division to put the PowerPoint aside and to spend some time on the Orange Line bikeway.
Perhaps it's even time for a Bike Ride. After all, the Sheriff's Department has a bike patrol team. The LAPD has a bike patrol team. The Park Rangers even have a bike patrol team and by the overgrown look of things, perhaps they're the ones we should start calling