Thursday, October 29, 2009

CityWatchLA - If Only the Mayor Rode a Bike...

CityWatch, Oct 30, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 89

If Mayor Villaraigosa rode a bike, the current process for updating the LA's Bike Plan would be a lot different. For starters, it would have the Mayor's attention and that alone would be a significant shift, but most importantly, it would be incorporated into the Mayor's campaign for turning LA into a Great City.

1) The Mayor has committed to making LA one of the safest big cities and if he rode a bike, he'd realize that the place to start is on the streets of LA. They're one of the most dangerous places in the city.

People die on a daily basis. It's no longer news. The public as a whole is desensitized to the fact that our streets are a battleground and that nobody is free from the conflict. LA is a city under siege.

If the Mayor were to jump on a bike and attempt to pedal from City Hall to the far reaches of his kingdom, he'd quickly realize that the real opportunity to make Los Angeles a safer city for everybody would be to start with the streets of LA and that would result in a Bike Plan with real vision, with real imperative language and with a real commitment to moving people safely. That would be good for the Bike Plan and it would be good for LA.

2) The Mayor has committed to making LA the greenest big city and if he rode a bike, he'd realize that the place to start is with our air. Breathing LA's air is one of the most significant threats to our health.

Long time residents take it in stride, repeating the "It used to be worse!" mantra that has become the battle cry for mediocrity.

If the Mayor were to look at the city from a bike, he'd realize that supporting alternative transportation is key to greening our city and it that would result in a Bike Plan with a real commitment to the environment and to supporting positive transportation choices.

3) The Mayor has committed to supporting the well funded and long term expansion of LA's mass transit system and if he rode a bike, he's realize that one of the simplest and most inexpensive ways to complement the effectiveness of mass transit is to close service gaps and to offer people more choices.

Cycling is a gap connecting option that allows mass transit passengers to travel more efficiently and it requires little effort to support. If the

Mayor were to use a bike to get from his home to the Metro, he'd realize that simple innovations to accommodate rather that to alienate cyclists would go a long way toward improving the efficiency of the transit system as a whole. This would result in a Bike Plan that strongly positions cycling as a transit solution and would establish strong standards rather than weak suggestions.

4) The Mayor has committed to making the creation of jobs his number one priority and if he were to show up for one of the Bike Plan workshops, he'd realize that the simplest place to start would be to have the City of LA actually hire locals.

The Bike Plan is being developed by consultants from Portland, San Francisco, and Colorado and the city staff who are guiding the process come from Inglewood, Santa Clarita, Fullerton and Long Beach.

If the Mayor were to ride a bike on the streets of LA, he'd realize quickly that there is no "high-altitude" approach to creating a great Bike Plan. It requires rubber on the road experience and it requires local knowledge of not just the streets and the community but of the political landscape.

The people who are in LA after the office is closed are the people who are in the best position to create a robust and powerful vision for LA's Bike Plan. Hiring local would result in a great Bike Plan and it would put Angelenos to work.

Safer streets, a greener city, more efficient mass transit and the creation of jobs!

If only the Mayor rode a bike.

For more information on LA's Bike Plan, visit http://LABikePlan.com

(Stephen Box is an LA cyclist advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

CityWatchLA - LA is Suffering from a Severe Case of Disconnect


CityWatch, Oct 27, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 88

The Mayor's proposal to dump the city's current email system in favor of a $7 million Google "cloud computing" platform is about to slide through City Council. It demonstrates a short-sighted willingness to invest in technology as a substitute for a commitment to training city staff in a larger communications strategy based on LA's Connectivity Vision. If you haven't heard of LA's Connectivity Vision, it's because LA doesn't have one.

Typically, a vision would drive goals and strategies and eventually result in the selection of tools, which would then be put to work by well trained people, all embracing specific responsibilities and working toward a common goal. (See video report .)

LA's approach is to embrace new technology in the hopes that old habits and older paradigms will simply fade with the click of a "system upgrade" button. If only it were that simple.

The City of LA has been using Novell's Groupwise email system and software since the early days and is currently in possession of an upgrade that LA has failed to implement. The upgrade, the training and the maintenance that supports the upgrade, and the promise of a 10% reduction in future licensing fees have all been offered by Novell over the last year in an attempt to keep the Los Angeles contract.

Novell is the third largest provider of email systems, after IBM and Microsoft, and relies on servers to support the email system.

The Mayor's proposal would replace Groupwise with Google's Enterprise email system and would also include an array of services that start with Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, Google Docs, Google Sites, Google Video, Google Message Security, and Google Message Discovery.

Google is new to the corporate email support industry and LA represents the "big fish" account in Google's aggressive pursuit of large clients.

Google relies on cloud computing (off-site storage, hosted by Google, accessed by internet) to support the array of services they offer, a small but significant issue that has critics screaming "You're going too fast!"

Personally, I'm a huge fan of Google. I switched to the Gmail this past year and I'm still discovering great features that enhance productivity and efficiency.

I love Google Docs and its ability to allow participants to work on the same doc simultaneously.

Google Calendars are wonderful and I have private calendars, public calendars and multiple user calendars for organizations. The best part is that all of these services are free! Well, they are to the common folks but that's because Google is very good at generating revenue by mining our data and then targeting us with advertising.

I'm sure it's a bit more complicated than that but the robust array of brilliant Google services are free to the public because we are an unwitting audience to the Google family of sponsors.

Herein lies the rub! Critics charge that it is foolhardy to give all of LA's records and data to a company known for its ability to mine data without proven guarantees of security and privacy and without huge financial penalties for service failures or security breaches.

As the City Council grapples with the financial impacts and the security concerns and the operational obstacles of a switch from Novell to Google, there are some advantages to Google that will probably distract the decision-makers at City Hall.

● Gmail offers users the ability to consolidate several email accounts into one. This alone probably justifies the switch. The Mayor can get his Mayor@LACity.org emails along with his SanAntonio@Hotmail.com and his YoTony@yahoo.com emails, all without having to signout and then back in to check each account. This feature is part of the City's $7 million deal and it's also free to the public.

● Gmail filters and labels make it possible for a busy world leader to organize incoming emails, separating requests from constituents, offers from investors, advice from the unions, demands from developers, threats from the City Attorney, lolcats from the City Council and alibis from City Department Managers into their respective folders.

Gmail's system is the best and it provides the pro and the novice alike an unparalled system for workflow management and efficiency in communications.

● Gmail accounts are actually multiple accounts, a feature that allows both city staff and common folk to register once and then to take advantage of multiple (unlimited!) email accounts.

SanAntonio@gmail.com is also SanAntonio@googlemail.com. One Gmail account can now be used to open multiple Twitter accounts and fans can follow @Villaraigosa, @SanAntonio and @YoTony without the interns having to open separate email accounts for each Mayoral Twitter account.

● Google Alerts are a great way to monitor the world without having to actually participate in the conversations that can take up soooo much time.

Simply set up a Google Alert to let you know anytime somebody refers to you or the topic that you're tracking. City leaders and average folks alike will get an email notifying them of conversations that reference them or their issues.

This is a very powerful "hot-line" tool that will get an official's attention in the early hours of the day. Use their name and get on their alert!

● Google Talk allows you to see who's online and to chat with them at all hours.

Imagine how efficient the City of LA will become if the Mayor can see who's working late and who's closing down early!

When LA goes from its ten-to-four operating style to 24-7, the public is going to see accountability like never before. The best part is the fact that the public can participate. Google Talk is for everybody. (If the Mayor lets you in!)

● Google Docs is a wonderful tool for collaboration. I wrote this document on Google Docs, I invited my wife to read it, she was able to edit from her computer and when we were done, we simply invited CityWatchLA and the document became this article.

Real time collaboration, one master with no derivative copies, multiple contributors, multiple formats, organized filing system, and nothing to get lost on a hard drive. As with all Google Treats, free to the public, not to the City!

● Google Calendars are the best and I have several, all overlayed so that I can identify schedule conflicts, but all unique so that I can keep some private, some shared and some public.

The Mayor could even link his Facebook account to his Google Calendar so that the events automatically sync up. When his friends on Facebook invite him to a neighborhood council meeting or to a soiree at LALive, the event will show up on his Google Calendar. Of course, he'll need to be specify which calendar he wants to use, the official calendar or the "other" calendar.

I could continue with the Google cheerleading but it's important to remember that LA will become Google's biggest Enterprise account. The proposed Google system is experimental and unproven for a city the size of LA.

Other cities use Gmail but only as an email backup system. The City of LA is in no position to spend $7 million on a "cloud computing" experiment that leaves privacy advocates storming the gates of City Hall, not Google.

If Google wants to land the "big fish" account, they should offer up the Enterprise system at no charge to the City and they should take the prestige of servicing the largest city in the most populated state in the most powerful nation in the world as their reward!

Missing from this City Council debate over Novell vs. Google is the simple fact that technology is no substitute for vision and skills. Learning to type fast does not make one a great novelist.

The strategy of "bigger and faster" upgrades coupled with enthusiastic and forceful campaigns, all employing the same habits and skills will only result in "more of the same" but delivered with "bigger and faster" enthusiasm.

Any successful company or organization of any significant size has a leader in charge of communications, not just technology, but of the greater need to connect with the public, the audience, the market, the world, and with itself. We need that leader.

In the land of the well-connected, Los Angeles is suffering from a severe case of disconnect. All the bells, whistles, and new-tech tools will not change that. LA needs a Vision for Connectivity.

Friday, October 23, 2009

CityWatchLA - Without a Car in the World

CityWatch, Oct 23, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 87

Artist Diane Meyer challenges the primacy of LA's auto-centric transportation system and puts the spotlight on the "alternative" element with her 18th Street exhibit "Without A Car in the World" (100 Car-less Angelinos Tell Stories of Living in Los Angeles). Pairing beautiful lifestyle portraits with poignant and pithy interviews, Meyer brings to life the wide variety of subjects, ranging from the idealists who eschew the automobile as part of a lifestyle commitment to those who live car-free lives because of economic, legal, and health limitations.

The timing of "Without a Car in the World" is especially relevant, coming on the heels of Mayor Villaraigosa's legacy battle for a regional transportation plan that has communities throughout the county fighting over projects and funding, and engaging in parochial high-altitude bombing, all claiming to represent the "common man" but demonstrating at every turn a commitment to representing those who already have the freedom of choice.

Meyer's show features the invisible constituency, the 30% of LA's population who have no choice, who will never show up at a High Speed Rail press conference and who will never travel to One Gateway Plaza to address the Metro Board with 60 seconds of public comment. Instead, their stories are told on the gallery walls of a Westside gallery, 18th Street Arts Center, one with a great reputation for stirring the public discourse and featuring art that engages the community.

My wife Enci and I were honored to be selected as subjects and we rode our bikes to the opening of the show, pedaling over with a couple of friends who were also featured.

For a while, it seemed like a family reunion, there were so many friends from so many walks of life and from all over Los Angeles. But slowly the "glow" wore off and our focus moved to the subjects that we didn't recognize, the "invisible" Angelenos who travel quietly and patiently, simply attempting to get home safely to their families each night.

Just to the left of our portrait, right in the center of the gallery, hung a picture of three men, day-laborers, who tell of getting picked up for work, transported to a strange neighborhood where they toil for long hours, getting paid in cash and then having to figure out their way home, late at night, strangers in a strange land!

A blind man tells of sitting on the bus bench, listening to the pitch of the oncoming engines, rising to meet every bus, never knowing which one is his and always wondering about the ones that don't stop.

A man in a wheelchair boasts of his intimate knowledge of sidewalks and curbcuts and his ability to get around, never in a direct line but navigating the obstacles that the average person simply steps over and ignores.

Balancing it out are stories of a skateboarder who tears up shoes but loves to skate everywhere, cyclists who celebrate the freedom of riding the mean streets of Los Angeles and social creatures who thrive on the camaraderie found on mass transit.

Urban planners and social scientists smile as they take the high road, positioning their small footsteps as the beginnings of the impending transportation revolution. Some spoke of their transportation choices as simple economic decisions based on priorities that favored tuition and family over autos while others used mass transit and bragged of the work they were able to complete while commuting.

But the story that established the baseline against which the success of LA's transportation system must be judged was told by a gentlemen who simply explained "I'm on the bus six, seven hours a day. MTA doesn't see what we see, they need to come from behind the desk, take a two or three day trip, get on all the buses, see how they aren't on schedule, they're always crowded ..."

When we arrived at the opening of the show, we were honored, but by the end of the evening, we were humbled.

Enci and I ride bikes in LA because we choose to ride, we "Storm the Bastille" and we celebrate our freedom and we lay claim to the streets, reveling in the growing numbers of cyclists who often share the "See you on the Streets!" greeting that has become our battle cry.

But after meeting so many people who walk, roll, pedal and use mass transit simply because they have no other choice, I realize that we also ride for those who can't attend the Pedestrian Advisory Committee or the Bike Plan Workshop or the Metro Board hearings.

We ride for the significant number of Angelenos who have no choice, who have no voice and who represent the failure of LA's Transportation System.

LA's weakest and most vulnerable community members live in fear, sometimes unable to simply cross the street. If LA is to become a Great City, it will start with a commitment to mobility as a civil right, a basic guarantee of effective transportation choices that extends to everybody.

Until then, Los Angeles is simply a city under siege.

Note:

Without A Car in the World
continues through December 11.
18th Street Arts Center
1639 18th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90404

(Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net) ◘

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

CityWatchLA - LA’s Best Bike Plan

CityWatch, Oct 20, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 86

The City of LA's recently released Draft Bike Plan has stirred so much controversy, the cycling community moved right past "public comment" and convened the LA Bike Working Group in an effort to simply go to work drafting "LA's Best Bike Plan."

Drawing people from all over the city and from all walks of life, the first Bike Working Group (BWG) took place this past Saturday in Hollywood, one of the communities that the LADOT and City Planning continue to overlook as they schedule workshops for the Draft Bike Plan process.

The BWG opened up the Draft Bike Plan for discussion and then drew the participants into the process of actually creating a real Bike Plan, rather than simply commenting on somebody else's version. From the opening vision to the need for imperative language, to the standards and designations to the tools for implementation, the entire document is open to revision or replacement.

The release of a "plan" is no news in Los Angeles, a city where at any given moment there are a dozen Community Plans in various states of revision along with an assortment of Master Plans, Specific Plans, Strategic Plans, Overlays, Surveys and Zones, all of which demonstrate that if nothing else, Los Angeles has big plans.

Typically generating little interest from the community, plans such as this are usually decent paydays for a consultant, all in fulfillment of some funding mandate that requires a municipality to maintain a "City Council approved Transportation Plan" in order to qualify for funding that will likely get cobbled together with other funding sources, all of which slips into a murky mess that defies oversight.

According to the Draft Bike Plan, in the last 13 years the City of Los Angeles has spent $65 Million on Bikeways amenities. During that time they have built "13 miles of Bike Paths, 55 miles of Bike Lanes and 6 miles of Bike Routes." I'm sure there are other elements in there such as bike racks, bike maps, little blinkie lights and racing socks. But $65 Million? This Draft Bike Plan is a cry for help, better yet a cry for an audit.

As the LADOT and City Planning come up on the two year anniversary of the initiation of the Draft Bike Plan process, it is apparent that this plan is worse than a mess, that it is a boiler-plate document rife with mistakes and lacking even the simplest attempt or ambition to improve over the old 1996/2002 Bike Plan that currently reigns as the Bike Plan of record.

Two weeks ago at the NC Action Summit, Dr. Alex Thompson presented, as one of the six action issues on the agenda, the Cyclists' Bill of Rights. He called on the neighborhood council members at the Summit to take the CBR to their respective NC's for endorsement and then he went further, urging them to ask for a longer comment period for the just released Draft Bike Plan and to use the CBR as the starting point in their examination of the plan.

Since that time, the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils voted unanimously to ask the City of Los Angeles to extend the comment period for the Draft Bike Plan from 42 days to a minimum of 90 days in order to allow the NC's to analyze the plan and to offer comments.

The City's Bicycle Advisory Committee also voted unanimously, this time to "demand" an extension of the comment period for the Draft Bike Plan from 42 days to 94 days, ending on January 8th, 2010.

As neighborhood councils grapple with their committee and board schedules in an effort to add their voices to the call for a lengthened comment period, a survey of the Draft Bike Plan revealed the true motivation for the enthusiastic push for an accelerated approval process, the document is a pro forma mess!

The LA Bike Working Group will convene again on Saturday, October 31, 2009 at 1 pm to continue with creation of LA's Best Bike Plan. For information visit http://LABikePlan.com.

As for the other issues from the NC Action Summit, the next meeting of the Rate Payers Advocate Task Force will be on October 24 at 1pm, immediately following the SLAP meeting. (4th Saturday). For more information visit the DWP Ratepayer Advocate.

Also meeting on the 24th is the Sidewalk Repair Task Force, at 1pm, immediately following the SLAP meeting. (4th Saturday) For more information visit the Sidewalk Repair Program.

Meetings location:
Hollywood City Hall
6501 Fountain Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90038

(Stephen Box is a cyclist advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@ThirdEyeCreative.net)

Friday, October 16, 2009

CityWatchLA - East Hollywood Sees the Light…Yard

CityWatch, Oct 16, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 85

In park-poor East Hollywood, LA's Bureau of Street Lighting service yard on Santa Monica Boulevard is looking very attractive to community members who think the large 4.2 acre storage space is the perfect location for a park.

Last month the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council hosted two Park[ing] Day LA celebrations and one of them was on Santa Monica Boulevard, across the street from the Cahuenga Library and right in front of the Street Lighting service yard. Their message was simple. People need parks and in a densely populated neighborhood surrounded by three elementary schools, it's strange to see so much LA city property used for storage while kids are playing in the streets.

The idea of converting the Street Lighting service yard into a park is not a new idea. Years ago, Proposition K was passed, positioning three decades of funding "to develop recreational opportunities for our city's young people." When Councilmember Mike Hernandez initially positioned Proposition K, he called on the other Councilmembers for projects and cobbled together a list that included the development of the Street Lighting service yard for soccer fields. Prop K was quite controversial and there were charges from the public that the money wouldn't be spent on the proposed projects and would instead turn into another City Council slush fund. The assurance at the time was "The City Council must ultimately approve every Proposition K expenditure. We are the ones who will be accountable to the public for the proper use of those monies."

Last week, City Council President Eric Garcetti's staff took a couple of dozen community members on a tour of the Street Lighting service yard, offering a backstage view of the very busy service yard. The invitation referenced the "great deal of interest in locating green space/park space/community space at this site" and promised that Garcetti's office would be working with the CRA "to undertake a study in that direction that looks at creative, collaborative possibilities." All of which was in stark contrast to the repeated comments from Heather Repenning, Garcetti's District Director of Community Development, who took several opportunities to state firmly that they would look at opportunities to accommodate some green space but that in no way would they compromise the efficiency and efficacy of the Street Lighting service yard.

All of this is in stark contrast to the Prop K commitment and to the City Council motion of 2006 which stated "The conversion of the site into a park would serve to improve the aesthetic quality of the local community." The motion directed staff to identify a new location for the service yard and specified that once the service yard is relocated, the existing site can be converted to much needed park space.

It appears that the framers of Prop K thought the Street Lighting service yard would be a great place for a park. It appears that the City Council thought the Street Lighting service yard would be a great place for a park. It also appears that the community thinks the Street Lighting service yard would be a great place for a park.

Yet City Council motion 06-07-07 expired on August 25, 2009 and simply died, mortally wounded by City Council inactivity.

There's no doubt that the Street Lighting service yard provides an invaluable service. Approximately 80 Street Lighting trucks call the lot home and every morning, they load up with poles, fixtures and supplies and head to the four corners of the City of Los Angeles, from the Harbor to the Westside the the far reaches of the Valley and to the Eastside, confirming that East Hollywood is indeed the center of Los Angeles. They repair or replace about 75 light poles each month that are damaged or destroyed by motorists in auto collisions. They replace burned out light bulbs and they conduct routine maintenance in order to keep approximately 5000 miles of LA's streets illuminated for our safety and comfort.

There are approximately 400 different street light fixtures used on the 5000 miles of LA street that the Street Lighting maintains and they store approximately 200 of those fixtures at the East Hollywood service yard. Some are rare and historic fixtures that require custom repairs at the welding shop. Some are common such as the cement or aluminum poles. Some are experimental and the light yard is also used to test the new LED lighting, low impact lighting, solar panels and solar wraps, all of which represent some of the changes that are taking place in the Bureau of Street Lighting as new technology drives new solutions to the old public safety commitment of illuminated streets.

The Street Lighting service yard has been in this location for decades. It has grown over the years, taking over space that formerly served as film production facilities, as restaurants, as apartment buildings and as a gas station. There is no more room to grow and the yard now counts among its neighbors a convalescent home, apartment buildings, and a a library. There really is no place to grow.

Meanwhile, every morning the local kids walk past a chain link fence topped with razor wire as 80 large utility trucks leave the service yard to take care of the lighting needs for the entire city.

The Bureau of Street Lighting needs more room and the local community needs a park.

One would think that the opportunity here would be win-win instead of the either-or situation that Repenning works to deflect when she repeats the "community green space as long as it doesn't interfere with the efficiency of Street Lighting" mandate for further development of East Hollywood green space at the Street Lighting service yard.

It was not too long ago that the City of Los Angeles, as it grappled with the budget crisis, surveyed the City-owned property and looked for opportunities to divest itself of unused or under-utilized property. Surely that information could lead to a large facility that could accommodate the Bureau of Street Lighting and supporting their invaluable contribution to the quality of life in Los Angeles while at the same time allowing for the development of the 4,2 acres of service yard into a great park for East Hollywood.

The City Council motion of 2006 directed General Services to identify property that could be used to accommodate the Bureau of Street Lighting service yard and property was identified but the motion died. It simply died.

This area is part of the Specific Plan Area of "Vermont / Western Station Neighborhood Area Plan" and the property is earmarked for redevelopment into "public elementary, secondary or high schools; police stations and related uses; parks and recreation facilities, including bicycle paths and walking trails, nature trails; park land and lawn areas; children's play areas; picnic facilities; athletic fields (not to exceed 200 seats); senior citizen centers, community centers, clubhouses; swimming pools, libraries; tennis courts; rest rooms; gyms; camping facilities; museums; aquaria, observatories, planetaria and zoos."

Perhaps there is an opportunity here for the community to partner with the Bureau of Street Lighting and to look for a way to support and to even enhance the efficiency and efficacy of the people who bring light to our community. Perhaps there is a way to repair and store the special, historical and architectural lighting fixtures and poles without having to service the entire city from one location. That only serves to make all commutes equally inefficient. Perhaps there is a way to explore inventory management innovations so that the Bureau of Street Lighting can more effectively service the communities that have unique lighting needs.

All of which would free up the East Hollywood Bureau of Street Lighting service yard so that the Prop K commitment can be kept, so that Council President Eric Garcetti's City Council motion can be honored and so that the community of East Hollywood can enjoy a park within walking distance of their homes and of their schools.

Seems like a win-win situation to me!



Wednesday, October 14, 2009

LA.Streetsblog - Courtroom Drama for Cyclists throughout the County

LA Streetsblog by Stephen Box on October 13, 2009

The wheels of justice grind slowly and sometimes it's hard to believe that the system is working but a survey of the legal landscape in LA County reveals that there are several cases working that should be of great interest to the cycling community. Danny Jimenez, local cyclist and lawyer, says "victims are often discouraged by the difficulty in obtaining justice but when the system works, it's encouraging to see a Judge and a Prosecutor and a Jury doing their job and doing it well."

In the last year and a half, there have been several drunk driving and road rage incidents that have shaken the cycling community, leaving a trail of dead and broken bodies behind along with a general feeling of frustration and despair for the friends and families of the victims.

Dr. Christopher T. Thompson is charged with 2 counts of Assault with a Deadly Weapon (245a) 2 counts of Battery with Serious Bodily Injury (243d) reckless driving (23103a) and reckless driving causing specified injury (23105a) and Mayhem (203) all stemming from the Mandeville Canyon Road Rage incident that left two cyclists broken, bleeding and lying on the road. Thompson's case is slowly working itself through the system at the LAX Courthouse. Today, they will pick a judge to replace Judge Cynthia Reyvis and will then hear pre-trial motions. Tomorow, they start jury selection.

Alejandro Hidalgo is charged with vehicular manslaughter (191.5a) and DUI (23153a) (23153b) in the death of Jesus Castillo on Glendale Boulevard and his case is coming up in the Downtown Criminal Courthouse. The next hearing is on October 30 at 8:30 and no trial date has been set for this case.


Robert Sam Sanchez is charged with Vehicular Manslaughter (191.5a) and DUI (23153a) and Hit-and-Run with serious bodily injury (20001a) in the death of Rodrigo "Rod" Armas and the injury to his son, Christian Armas on PCH and that case is coming up in the Malibu Courthouse. The next hearing is on October 20 at 8:30 am and no trial date has been set.

Marco Antonio Valencia is charged with Vehicular Manslaughter (191.5a) and DUI (23153a) and Hit-and-Run with serious bodily injury (20001a) and in the death of Joe Novotny on Bouquet Canyon Road in Santa Clarita and that case is coming up in San Fernando Courthouse. The next hearing is on October 28 at 8:30 am and no trial date has been set.

Jim Azpilicueta is charged with two counts of Assault with a Deadly Weapon (245a) and Hit-and-Run with serious bodily injury (20001a) in an incident that caused a cyclist to sustain significant injuries including severe damage to her face. The arraignment is set for October 14 at 8:30 am.

There is another case pending in the Hit-and-Run with Serious Bodily Injury (20001a) incident that left Roadblock lying on Glendale Boulevard after being hit from behind and flipped into the air, landing with just enough consciousness and awareness to catch a partial license plate of the car as it sped off into the distance. The arraignment is set for Nov. 2 at 8:30 am in Dept. 60 Metro Court.

Missing from the dockets of the Southland Courthouses is the infamous Hummer vs. Cyclists case. The LAPD response to the Hummer vs. Cyclists incident received much attention and resulted in a City Council motion directing an LAPD report on police activity and the resulting investigation. It also stirred a Storm the Bastille ride to City Hall, three visits to the Police Commission, and claims filed with the LAPD Inspector General. But it did not result in a court case.

This is why cyclists need the Cyclists' Bill of Rights. The CBR has picked up endorsements from the City Council, from the City's Bicycle Advisory Committee and from neighborhood councils around LA. The CBR claims as right #4 "Cyclists have the right to the full support of our judicial system and the right to expect that those who endanger, injure or kill cyclists be dealt with to the full extent of the law."

Now is the time for the cycling community to embrace the Cyclists' Bill of Rights and to insist that it be included, as written, in LA's Draft Bike Plan, just released and already under attack for having a 42 day window for public participation and not using imperative language that will support the rights of cyclists on the streets of Los Angeles.

Pay close attention to what's happening in City Council, in the Courts and, most of all, on the Streets!

LA.Streetsblog - Where’s the Bike Parking at the New LAPD HQ?

LA.Streetsblog by Stephen Box on October 13, 2009

The largest and most expensive police building in the United States is about to be dedicated and as the world watches, the LAPD's ignorance of basic Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) standards will be revealed. The new headquarters are located across the street from LA's City Hall and the 10-story, 500,000-square-foot building has a beautiful open plaza featuring drought resistant plants and a zen garden theme that creates a sense of calm in the middle of the busy and congested city center. It also features a bike parking area that violates basic CPTED standards as well as simple bike parking standards.

CPTED is the simple philosophy that crime can be prevented by designing an environment so that criminal behavior is not supported by hiding places, blocked vision and isolation. The LAPD headquarters have installed bike racks that are as far from the front door as possible, to the left and out of sight, around the corner and blocked by nine large planters and surrounded by a wall that would hide a bike thief who was working on the bikes. Topping off the poor design is the existence of a 8' by 8' setback in the wall, creating an ideal hiding place. As for the racks themselves, they are positioned so tightly that anybody parking a bike there has a ready alibi for handling other bikes because they simply don't fit, falling far short of the basic standards established by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycling Professionals.

The ultimate irony in this is that the LADOT is also across the street and they, along with City Planning, are in the process of developing the Draft Bike Plan for 2009 which would replace the 2002 Bike Plan. Both Bike Plans have bike parking standards and even go so far as to give the LADOT responsibility for communicating these standards to other city departments.

A simple visit to a park, to a library, to a fire station, to a regional City Hall, to Parker Center is enough to demonstrate that there is no citywide standard for something as simple as bike parking, all while the City has a person in charge of Bike Parking.

One might forgive some of the old wheel bender "toast" racks or the useless "wave" racks or the simple inverted U racks that get installed incorrectly, rendering them useless and serving only to remind cyclists that they simply don't belong. But as the City of Los Angeles prepares to hit the spotlight and to dedicate the most enormous and expensive monument to modern crime prevention, it seems sad that they forgot to consider CPTED.

The area just to the west of the plaza is the wrong location for the bike racks. They belong no more than 50' from the main entrance, they must be visible to those in the lobby, to those passing by and to the guests who visit the LAPD headquarters. They must be safe, convenient and secure. It's not just about bikes any more, it's about the LAPD's reputtion.

LA.Streetsblog - Bike Working Group Gives Cyclists a Chance to Talk Bike Plan This Weekend

LA.Streetsblog by Stephen Box on October 13, 2009

The Bike Writers Collective is calling up the LA Bike Working Group to take on LA's Draft Bike Plan, reviewing it, discussing it, and then working together to make it a powerful visionary document that supports the rights of cyclists on the streets of Los Angeles. All LA cyclists are invited to join in as the spirit of Government 2.0 takes over the Los Angeles City College Faculty Lounge at 1pm this Saturday, October 17, 2009.

The Draft Bike Plan was released on September 24th and the comment period is scheduled to close on November 6th, a window of 42 days for public participation. This is the first of many objectionable elements to the Draft Bike Plan and the City's idea of civic engagement. The LA Bicycle Advisory Committee voted unanimously to "demand" that the comment period be extended until Jan 8, 2010. The Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils also voted unanimously to support the fight for an extension of the comment period. Now it's up to the cycling community to prepare those comments.

Riding a bike in Los Angeles has always been a demonstration of self-sufficiency and independence. At first it simply meant carrying a spare tube, some tools and a pump. Somewhere along the way it grew to include carrying a pocket guide to the law, some key phone numbers and some bail money. Then the Department of DIY took things into their own hands and now the cycling community finds themselves confronted with the fact that if they want a decent Bike Plan, they're going to have to make it themselves.

Cyclists can take a look at the complaints and the criticism of the Draft Bike Plan, from LAStreetsBlog and again on LAStreetsblog to CityWatchLA to WestsideBikeSide to BikeGirl. But the most important thing they can do is to take a look at the Draft Bike Plan, (editor's note: If you want to compare the "original" maps from earlier this summer with the current ones that were quietly downgraded, you can find the original maps here.) download it to their laptop and then to ride over to the LA Bike Working Group and to dig in. We'll start as a group then we'll break into smaller groups and we'll work through the plan and create a vision for Los Angeles, by cyclists for cyclists.

Portland is currently going through the same Bike Plan update process as Los Angeles and they have 11 Working Groups, 1 Steering Committee and 1 Technical Advisory Committee, all working together to ensure that the Bike Plan is a robust document that represents the desires of the cycling community. Somehow the City of LA got consultants from Portland but not the spirit of community nor the commitment to an open and engaging process. Now is LA's chance to change that and to create a Bike Plan that truly supports cyclists and their rights on the streets of Los Angeles.

LA Bike Working Group, 1 pm on Saturday the 17th of October, 2009. LACC Faculty Lounge, right in the center of the campus which is right in the center of LA. To plan your visit via public transportation, go to metro.net. The Red Line drops you off right by the College at Santa Monica & Vermont.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

CityWatchLA - Bike Group First to Take Action

CityWatch, Oct 13, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 84

The LA Bike Working Group, made up of cyclists from around the city, is meeting this Saturday in East Hollywood to develop grassroots recommendations for the LA's Draft Bike Plan, an element of the Transportation Plan which is part of the City's General Plan.

City Planning and the LADOT recently released the Draft Bike Plan, an element of the Transportation Plan which is part of the city's General Plan. Cyclists charge that the 42 day comment period is insufficient for meaningful review and significant contribution, further charging that the entire process is simply a charade and that the Draft Bike Plan actually proposed less bike lanes and bike paths than the old Bike Plan. Two weeks ago, Dr. Alex Thompson presented the Cyclists' Bill of Rights to the NC Action Summit as one of the six issues that were on the agenda for action. The CBR received a 50-1 endorsement and it was at that point that the neighborhood councils were asked to support the cyclists by 1) calling on City Planning and the LADOT to extend the comment period for the Draft Bike Plan to 90 days 2) calling on City Planning and the LADOT to include the Cyclists' Bill of Rights in the Draft Bike Plan and 3) asking for a inventory of the Craft Bike Plan improvements within the neighborhood council boundaries.

Since then, the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils voted unanimously to call for an extension of the deadline for public comment. The Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee voted unanimously to call for an extension of the deadline for public comment. Neighborhood Councils are working to agendize the call for an extension along with the call for an inventory of their community, all while the clock ticks.

The hard charge here is that in many cases, the Draft Bike Plan has actually removed bikeways amenities from the plan, resulting in a retreat rather than an advancement, which makes one wonder why it takes a $450K plan in order to do less, rather than more.

The controversy over the Draft Bike Plan has been documented at CityWatchLA [LINK] on LA.Streetsblog again on LA.StreetsBlog and on WestsideBikeside BikeGirlBlog and on SoapBoxLA

The cycling community is asking for support in developing a powerful visionary document that will begin with "Consider all streets as streets that cyclists will ride." and that will continue with real language of imperative rather than simple suggestions and hopes and wishes. This plan, like all plans, belongs to the people of Los Angeles and it must be a plan that reflects the wishes of the community.

It must be an improvement, it must integrate with the other plans that cover the community and it must have teeth.
●●●
As for the other topics covered at the NC Action Summit those working groups are scheduled as follows:

● The Rate Payers Advocate Task Force which will meet on October 24 at 1pm, immediately following the SLAP meeting. (4th Saturday) For more information visit the DWP Ratepayer Advocate.

● The Sidewalk Repair Task Force will also meet on October 24 at 1pm, immediately following the SLAP meeting. (4th Saturday) For more information visit the Sidewalk Repair Program.

● The Budget Reform Task Force will meet on November 7 at 1 pm, immediately following the LANCC meeting. (1st Saturday) For more information visit the City Budget Reform.

● The Medical Marijuana Task Force will meet on November 14 at 1 pm, immediately following the PlanCheck meeting. (2nd Saturday) For more information visit Medical Marijuana.

● As for the 1/2 Off Initiative, the campaign is moving forward and the organizing committee is taking on volunteers and funding. For more information visit Half off Initiative.

To follow upcoming NC Action Summit events visit the calendar at the NC Action Summit website.

(Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephe@ThirdEyeCreative.net) ◘

A Tale of Two Cities: LA's Metro vs. NYC's MTA


New York City's Transit Authority welcomes surfers on the subway while LA's Metro Rail management works to limit cyclists from the rail system. One large city embraces people and their "stuff" while LA looks squarely at cyclists and their gap-closing transportation solutions and says "you are a congestion problem."

Steve Lopez of the LA Times tells a story of an old LA surfing buddy who now lives in New York City and still manages to catch a wave or two, rising early to catch the A Train in Harlem and carrying a 7' surfboard all the way to Roackaway Beach in Queens. Somehow she is able to navigate the NYC subway system without the support of the NY Surfers' Advisory Committee or any other transit activists, she simply rides the subway and it all works out.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, cyclists are in limbo, waiting for word on the Metro's proposed limit on cyclists which would only allow two cyclists per rail car. The proposal was originally presented to the Operations Committee on July 16th by Mike Cannell, General Manager of Rail Operations. At that time, the Metro Board's Operations Committee directed the CEO to present to the Board by September 30, 2009, the following:

(1) A comprehensive legal opinion of all risks posed by MTA' s accommodation of bicycles, wheelchairs, luggage, strollers, et al.;
(2) A review and report on bike-an-rail policies adopted by other large transit properties in the United States; and
(3) A unified plan to ensure that our rail operations are as safe as possible for all users, including a specific bike-on-rail policy.

The odd thing about this directive is that is didn't instruct the staff to consult with the Metro's own Bikeways division. Does the Metro know that it has a Bikeways Division?

The Board, after some prodding from the public, modified the instruction to gather input so that it included, among others, the cycling community!

September 30, 2009 has come and gone. I made sure to let Mr. Cannell know that I would like to be included in the "cycling community" input process. Since then I've heard nothing.

I made a few inquiries, I sent a few emails, I finally filed a Request for Public Records (RPA) and the response I received was this:

"Unfortunately, after much searching, Records Management has no documents to provide on this matter since the relevant Metro personnel have not yet received all the information to make an informed decision. Therefore, we will close your request at this point. You may contact me at (213) 922-4880 or lord@metro.net if you have any questions or comments."

About the same time that the Records Management department says there is nothing to look at, I'm reading a report that Mr. Cannell submitted quietly to the Metro's CEO and the Metro Board, way back on August 27th, 2009.

I'm not sure how this "non-report" qualifies as the fulfillment of the Board instruction or how this would qualify as "gathering input from the cycling community" but it is apparent that it was done so quietly that even the Metro's Records Management department was unaware of the action.

Ultimately, all snubs and fumbles and RPA failures and misunderstandings aside, it's a sad day when a surfer in Harlem gets more respect from the local transit authority than a cyclist in Los Angeles who simply wants to close those service gaps and get to work on time or home to the family.

It's time for the Metro to form a Metro Bicycle Advisory Committee and it's time for the Metro to embrace cyclists as transportation solutions.

"See you on the Metro!"

CityWatchLA - Lessons Learned

CityWatch, Oct 13, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 84

The impact of the impending Social Media Revolution is limited by the widespread lack of basic computer skills and it is imperative that we start at the beginning if we are to "Get Connected".

That was the lesson that Enci and I learned as we hosted two "Get Connected" sessions at the NC Congress on Saturday, presentations that covered an overview of the most popular Social Media tools and then strategies for putting them to use as outreach tools to create community. From the beginning, it was apparent that the biggest obstacle for neighborhood councils as they grapple with the websites, blogs, networking groups, and online communications was the simple fact that their "audience" has such varying levels of internet savvy. The message may be there but the audience is still adjusting the virtual "rabbit ears" and wondering "is this thing on?"

The "Get Connected" sessions were held in the Public Works Chambers, a wonderful venue filled with an eager and receptive audience and supported by a great crew from Channel 35 which made it a real pleasure to present "the 7 Secrets of Social Media" and "NC Strategies for Social Media." The first question gave us pause and made us realize how far from "Connected" we really are.

"What does the little button with the phone on it mean and will I get charged if I click on it?" one attendee asked as we attempted to dive into the sophisticated tricks of #hashtags and conversation searches. We paused as the audience member explained "I look at the screen but I'm afraid to click the buttons. What do they mean?" It was evident we had a long way to go and it was in the other direction!

Another guest simply asked "How do I make little pictures turn into big pictures? I can see the picture but I can't see what's in it!" Sophisticated strategies for linking photos, tagging photos and creating contribution groups are obviously lost when the audience can't see the results and again, we turned and went the other direction.

An NC Board Member asked how much some of the websites that we designed would cost and was shocked by the low prices explaining "We gave this guy $7500 for a web site and we still don't have anything to show for our money. We still don't have a website!" The websites we featured in our presentation were simple, inexpensive and allowed community contribution, and dispensed with the need for a webmaster. The Board Member shook his head and walked out of the room.

On Saturday, at the NC Congress, Enci and I learned as much or more than the most attentive and engaged members of the audience.

We learned that there are 89 neighborhood councils out there, all forging their own path in the world of the Wild, Wild Web. There is no guidance on sourcing for website creators, webmasters or web access. There is no legal guidance on NC Forums and the legality or illegality of activity within those forums. There is no Brown Act advice for activity within Yahoo Groups, Google Groups, Webinars and other online arenas which vary from open to moderated to closed.

Neighborhood councils receive no support or guidance or direction on one of the most basic NC expenses and one of the most vital tools, all while they are told to communicate faster, communicate better, communicate more effectively!

We learned that the individuals out there are struggling to connect with their families and friends. One guest at "Get Connected" asked if we could help him use the computer to find his relatives because there was a death in the family and he didn't know where to start. If the lack of basic access to the internet and the lack of simple computer skills is holding people back from simply chatting with their loved ones, what makes us think that more sophisticated social media tools is going to start an outreach revolution in the neighborhood council system?

We learned that simple fear of identity theft is an obstacle that is quite common and is preventing a large number of people from participating in Social Media opportunities but that a little guidance on privacy, security and controls can give people a great deal of confidence.

All this talk of NC Board members failing to take the online ethics training makes me wonder if the failure rate is simply because there are a lot of people who won't simple stand up and say "What button do I click?" There is a huge assumption out there that by tossing something up on a website, it is now universally accessible. I'm now firmly convinced that this couldn't be further from the truth.

If the neighborhood council system is to flourish and to reach its potential, it will happen because we connect and create a strong community and for that to happen, we must make sure that everybody has basic computer skills and simple access to the internet. Anything less allows for division and separation in our community.

If the neighborhood council system is going to get on the Social Media revolution, it is imperative that we start with internet access and computer skills, for everybody!

(Stephen Box … and his wife Enci … are experts on “Social Media” and the web world. They are the creators of Get Connected and have provided hours of help to neighborhood council members and other groups. Stephen Box writes for CityWatch and can be reached at Stephen@ThirdEyeCreative.net) ◘

Friday, October 09, 2009

CityWatchLA - Congress Can Get You Connected

CityWatch, Oct 9, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 83

Saturday's NC Congress will offer two "Get Connected" sessions that unlock the mysteries of Social Media, providing an overview of the most popular social media tools in the first session and then applying specific advanced strategies for using the tools to connect neighborhood councils with their communities.
The first session of "Get Connected" is at 10 am in the Public Works Chambers on the 3rd floor of City Hall and promises to introduce the Social Media storm and cover the most popular applications such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Ning. This is an introductory overview of the Social Media arena and will empower attendees to select a tool or three to include in their communication toolbox.

The second session of "Get Connected" is at 1:45 pm, again in the Public Works Chambers on the 3rd floor of City Hall, this time digging into specific strategies for using the most common Social Media tools for creating community, engaging stakeholders, maximizing the impact NC communications, enhancing the demographic spectrum of the neighborhood council, and getting more message with a limited budget.

There's something for everybody, from individuals who just want to connect with their friends and family to those who are responsible for driving NC website traffic, managing email campaigns and creating blog content. During the day, "Get Connected" will cover internet footprints, networking sites and effective communication in the digital arena.

For more information on "Get Connected" visit http://ConnectTheLinks.com

(Stephen and his wife Enci are social network experts. Box writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@ThirdEyeCreative.net)

LABAC Demands Draft Bike Plan Comment Period Extension

Gail Goldberg, Director of Planning
Jane Blumenfeld, Citywide Planning Division
Department of City Planning
City of Los Angeles

Dear Ms. Goldberg and Ms. Blumenfeld:

The Bicycle Advisory Committee of the City of Los Angeles voted unanimously at its regular meeting of October 6, 2009 to “demand” that the Draft Bicycle Plan Update comment deadline of November 6, 2009 be extended to Friday, January 8, 2010.

The reasons for this action include, but are not limited to, the following:
1. Only six weeks were provided for review and comment on a Draft Plan that has taken 18 months to release, including four months after its promised “end of May” release date;
2. The BAC and its subcommittees only meet once every two months, a sixty (60) day cycle;
3. The Draft Plan was released less than two weeks prior to the full BAC meeting, thus providing inadequate time for a thorough review and submittal of comprehensive recommendations by any BAC subcommittee prior to such meeting;
4. The next regular BAC meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, December 1, 2009;
5. The Draft Plan is a very detailed and lengthy document, containing 195 pages of text and 17 pages of maps citywide as well as a 351-page appendix;
6. The BAC members have not been provided printed copies of the Draft Plan;
7. Some BAC members do not have the ability to print out a document of this length, or at all;
8. The maps are difficult to read online; and
9. There are only a very limited number of printed copies of the Plan available for public review (only at the nine regional City libraries and two City Planning offices).

These are significant challenges to providing meaningful input. The BAC is composed of 19 members appointed by each Councilmember and the Mayor and serve as volunteers without compensation. An extension of the comment deadline will allow the BAC to submit its recommendations in a thoughtful, orderly manner. I believe City Planning and the BAC share the same goal of achieving the best possible Bicycle Plan for the City of Los Angeles. You can assist by extending the comment deadline to January 8, 2010.

Thank you.

Glenn Bailey, Chair
Bicycle Advisory Committee
City of Los Angeles


c: Bicycle Advisory Committee

Thursday, October 08, 2009

LA relegates Cyclists to 2nd Class Status

For all the talk of Share the Road and Equality and supporting all modes of travel, Los Angeles falls so short on the most basic of accommodations for cyclists that it is acutely evident that there are two castes in LA, those who arrive in private automobiles and those who don't. Those who arrive on foot, by mass transit and on bicycles are definitely the square pegs in a society full of round holes and those in charge continue to greet us with suspicion and hesitation and often simple contempt as the non-motoring public continues to assault the stability of the community.

On Tuesday night, flush with victory after sitting through hours of LA Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting, several cyclists rode from the LAPD's Parker Center (a facility that has a new "wave" bike rack which fails the city's bike plan specifications for adequate bike parking) in search of sustenance and nutrition. The cyclists rode the deserted streets of downtown LA and found themselves at 5th and Flower which features Weiland Brewery Underground, a wonderful restaurant and pub that serves great food long after the rest of the downtown dining opportunities have closed shop. The Weiland website also features abundant driving instructions and directions to the automobile parking. As for bikes, not a mention.

Arriving at 5th and Flower, the cyclists crossed a fairly deserted and typical downtown business district courtyard and elected to access the underground community from the south side. With no bike racks near the entrance, they locked their bike to a rail that surrounded the courtyard and that already hosted a couple of bikes. They chatted with a security guard who wore a blazer and carried a clipboard and grew confident that this was a safe place to lock their bikes.

Then "Gilbert" appeared. With a smile on his face he informed the cyclists "If you leave your bikes here, they will be gone when you return." Thinking he was referring to the safety of this area, the cyclists looked around but it was well lit, it was close to the entrance, it was in the most traveled area of the entire complex and there were already bikes there indicating that others also considered it to be a safe place. Gilbert clarified "If you leave your bike there, we will cut the locks and take them."

Under what authority does a security guard threaten to impound personal property? This community is notorious for bike thieves and the community policing map for the area indicates that 5th and Flower is the best place in Los Angeles to donate your bike to those who do not fear the presence of "Gilbert" or any of his blazer-wearing, clipboard-carrying team of "Just say No!" greeters. Why can't they treat those who walk, ride or take mass transit with the same respect as those who arrive with thousands of pounds of personal property?

If a motorist parked his car illegally would "Gilbert" and the clipboard team break in and roll the car off into City National Plaza McGuire impound? I think not! This particular property is the home of Fixing Angelenos Stuck in Traffic (FAST) a non-profit organization addressing congestion in Los Angeles. The Chairman of FAST is James A. Thomas, President and CEO of Thomas Properties Group, which has an interest in the City National Plaza. What type of disconnect is there if the guy who owns the property and runs the organization is funding the RAND report that advises our leadership on ways to reduce congestion while "Gilbert" does everything possible to make sure that those who bring their bikes are treated with contempt and threats. Why would I attempt to bring hard earned money to the tenants of City National Plaza if guys like "Gilbert" are just doing their job, reminding cyclists that they are 2nd class citizens who stand to lose their personal property if they choose to secure it within 50 feet of the entrance to the establishment.

On Wednesday night a group of cyclists, including a "newbie" who was on his second big time adventure on his new bike, journeyed to the Linwood Dunn Theater on Vine, part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a fantastic organization with a lot to be proud of including the documentary series which featured The Garden. The Linwood Dunn has no bike parking and the Academy Security staff instructed the "newby" to put his bike alongside the hand rail on the entrance ramp. (This was a crime at the City National Plaza!) Upon entering the building the first Blue Shirt promptly instructed the cyclists to put their property including the water bottles back in the car. When it was pointed out that cyclists rarely also have cars, four Blue Shirts scratched about a bit and wondered aloud what to do next. They elected to take the water bottles (nice metal canisters) refusing to allow the cyclists to simply empty them and then looked at the array of bike tools as if they were oddities from another civilization.

Bottom line, the Blue Shirts seem to think their job is to say "No!" and that advancement comes with their enthusiasm for saying "No! No!"

The Linwood Dunn Theater is in the middle of Hollywood and one would think that as we look for ways to encourage people to walk, ride or take mass transit, the simplest thing we could do, would be to welcome them as they reach their destination rather than look at them as if they are 2nd class citizens who dare to challenge the primacy of the motor vehicle paradigm. In fact, Moray Greenfield, Director of Operations for the Theater explained "It's Los Angeles. Of course we're going to tell people to put their belongings back in the car!"

The Linwood Dunn Theater is in the middle of some sort of remodel or construction work which means that they should have a building permit. The Certificate of Occupancy will then depend on the property being brought up to code, which will include bike parking at 2% of available automobile parking and as close or closer as the nearest handicapped parking space. Ultimately, cyclists don't need a lecture on private property everytime they ask for routine accommodations, they simply need some respect. When the operator of a facility asks cyclists to simply accept the policy of the property owner, it's more than appropriate for the cyclist to ask the property manager to comply with municipal code.

A little respect would prevent dueling policies and codes and allow us to work together to make sure that Angelenos have multiple choices and opportunities to select the mode of transportation that suits them best. At the minimum, a little respect for everybody, even the 30% who don't have access to a motor vehicle.

After the excitement at the Academy, the cyclists took off for the Palms on Hollywood Blvd. where the security guard said "Don't lock your bikes to the railing, put it in the garage out back." Of course, this means using the wheel-bender bike rack that prevents the frame from being secured, that uses the wheel to support the bike...in other words, no.

The manager on duty simply rolled her eyes and told the security guard that it was alright for the cyclists to lock up to the rail, in plain sight of the front door and close to the traffic area. She had been through this before, apologized for the property owner's idea of bike parking and welcomed the cyclists to the restaurant.

What's it going to take to encourage people to ride bikes in Los Angeles? A little respect, a little accommodation and an end to the 2nd class treatment for those who dare to move about Los Angeles on foot, on a bike or by mass transit.

"See you on the Streets!"

LA.Streetsblog - Car Is Still King at Alt-Car Expo

by Stephen Box on October 6, 2009

Santa Monica's AltCar Expo made it crystal clear, from a distance and in the parking lot, "The Car is King" and all else receives a token gesture and comes in a distant second.

I attended the 4th Annual AltCar Expo misunderstanding the concept and expected to find "Alternatives-to-the-Car" at the Expo, thinking that the promise of "Alternative Fuel and Transportation" would entail some shift in the auto-centric focus but I was wrong.

Attendees to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium event were promised cheap parking and upon arrival were greeted with abundant opportunities to test drive "alternative-cars" including automobiles that ran on electricity, hydrogen, cooking oil, good intentions and high-hopes. People lined up as beautiful men and women plied them with data and promises and assurances that by driving these beautiful "AltCars" they would seriously change the world. Immediately.

Hidden behind a bus and a large truck and at the very back of the parking lot was an area reserved for the "Alternatives-to-the-Car" such as the Segway, the electric bicycles and other options that were obviously secondary and obligatory and not even close to worthy of headliner status. Such was the priority of the Expo.

The LA Greensters, Hollywood's first all pedal powered transpo team, had a "double-wide" booth which Ron "the Sherpa" Durgin and Jeremy Grant turned into Park[ing] Booth, recreating the park that the LOAD[ing] Zone team hauled across LA as part of the Park[ing] Day LA celebration. Park[ing] Booth screened videos including Reel Sustainable, a documentary about sustainable film production, Park[ing] Day LA and the Crenshaw Crush, a Greenster organized discovery bike ride in the Crenshaw District.

We had a great time in "the Annex" and the folks that stopped by Park[ing] Booth were tickled to hear of the LA Greensters, the see the Xtracycles on display and to hang out in the Park[ing] Booth and to watch videos that demonstrated that the bike was a serious option for moving gear, for shopping, and for all of the basic transportation needs that come up in a community.

Our neighbors in "the Annex" ranged from a design team that built a electric assist bicycle capable of 35mph, a woman who conducts weddings on bikes, BikeRoWave bike co-op, the, a Dahon folding bike dealer and other "Alternatives-to-the-Car" folks. Meanwhile, in the main room...



There were cars. Big cars and fast cars. Cars from the major manufacturers and cars from small startups. GM had a booth, Daimler had a booth, Mini had a booth, a guy named Bob had a booth and they all promised motor vehicles with incredible performance but without the petrol.

Bravo! All the congestion but without the pollution.



I took a lap to get the lay of the land and then I took a much slower lap and once I had dispensed with the automobiles, I found several non-vehicle booths tucked into the main room. The Clif Bar booth is always a favorite and although I was a wee bit jealous that they were in the main room while the LA Greensters were in "the Annex", I was happy to take advantage of their wares.

I came across a booth that featured a motor vehicle and I almost slipped right by until I realized they weren't promoting the vehicle but were instead washing it without using water. The Lucky Earth company sells a non-toxic, dye free, cleaning solution that is sprayed on your dirty vehicle and with a "spritz, spritz" and a "wipe, wipe" leaves behind a sparkling clean car with no wasted water. When my mild interest was met with an offer of a bottle, I declined and explained that I had no car to wash. They immediately switched bottles and gave me "Bike Wash" demonstrating very clearly that if these people were hosting the Metro's booth, there would be more people riding mass transit.

Lemonade, the catering company, got in the swing of things and enticed the "green" crowd to pay more for less by positioning a large poster at the beginning of the lounge that dramatized the impact of methane vs. the impact of auto emissions, positioning guilt as the appetizer for the vegan-fare that served as penance for the supplicants.

Lest there be any confusion, let me clarify, Ed Begley Jr. is still the reigning Rock Star of the Green Revolution and there were two booths proudly displaying a life-sized cutout of Ed, demonstrating that there are two kinds of green products on the market. Those that enrich Ed and those that don't. Ed was selling a system that reduced "phantom-power" waste and promised to reduce utility bills by 25% and Ed was selling a water system that promised to provide clean water. It was good to see Ed and I thoroughly enjoyed his water, especially since it was delivered in a cup that appeared to be plastic but was actually made from corn starch and was bio-degradable. I was thirsty so I drank a few glasses of water but I drank quickly, worried that the cup would start to fade on me as I drank. It all worked out and I was again in Ed's debt!



It was quickly apparent that there were three "castes" at the AltCar Expo with the "Alternative Car" in first position, the "Green Products and Services" in second position and the "Alternatives to the Car" in third position. Once I was clear on the lay of the land and on the structure, I settled in and simply invited folks to visit the "Annex" which I rebranded as the "VIP" room and things picked up accordingly at the Park[ing] Booth.

Sometime during the afternoon on Friday, I noticed an increase in the number of "men in suits" making repetitious laps around the facility and it dawned on me that it was time to go into "Guv mode." We tidied up our booth and repositioned our selves, spreading out and putting DJ Chickenleather in a lead position, now very grateful for the Lucky Earth bike wash!

Sure enough, just as the Expo closed to the public and just as the staff for the Metro, the Big Blue Bus and all of the other "clock in an go to work in a booth" folks had left the Expo Hall, a dozen large black vehicles pulled up and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped into the Main Room of the AltCar Expo and the show began. Booth by booth, car by car, the Guv strolled through the Expo, surrounded by an entourage that started off as a group of individuals but within minutes had taken on amorphous qualities and began to move an a singular entity featuring the head of the Guv and then two dozen feet, two dozen hands and a half-dozen cameras flashing at regular intervals.

Governor Schwarzenegger visited every booth featuring a car, a generator, a battery, a cable, and anything else related to moving motor vehicles, demonstrating the traditional commitment to the personal motor vehicle and the complete disconnect from the larger challenge of getting people out of cars and of providing transportation alternatives. The Governor spent close to an hour visiting the booths in the main room and he was methodical, almost Austrian, in his up-down, back and forth, survey of the AltCar Expo. Then the pace quickened and it was apparent that the Governor's visit was ending and the entourage headed toward the exit.

In a demonstration of the disproportionate energy and attention that is dedicated to traditional auto-centric transportation vs. alternative transportation, Governor Swarzenegger spent 55 minutes looking under the hoods of electric and hydrogen vehicles and two minutes talking alternative transportation. Of course, I'm grateful for those two minutes, especially because he spent them talking to the LA Greensters!

As the Yukons outside idled and Santa Monica's air quality dipped, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was introduced to the LA Greensters, Hollywood's first all pedal-powered transportation team, featured in Reel Sustainable, the documentary that asks the hard question, "Can Hollywood produce films sustainably?" The LA Greensters demonstrated that the answer is yes by hauling all grip and electric, camera and audio gear on Xtracycles and with trailers, supporting the full shoot from shopping at farmers markets to all production runs, using only bicycles.

The Governor smiled and nodded, said "Great!" and I'm convinced that for a moment he contemplated ditching the entourage and instead hanging out with the LA Greensters. Maybe next time!

LA.Streetsblog - Zócalo – from the sublime to the ridiculous!

Directions to the Skirball from its official website.
There are some transit directions at the bottom.

by Stephen Box on October 6, 2009

On Wednesday evening, Zócalo will host an evening entitled "The Curse of Oil" at the Skirball Center and featuring a discussion with Peter Maass, New York Times Magazine writer and author of Crude World, all in a demonstration of sublime irony or in a ridiculous display of complete disconnect.

Zócalo has a tremendous track record for bringing brilliant guests and invigorating topics to the community, hosting films, discussions, panels and presentations in a wide variety of venues.

In honor of Wednesday's subject matter which will take a look at the unhappiness that oil-producing nations experience as a result of the oil production, from Nigeria to Venezuela to Angola, Zócalo has selected a venue that is inhospitable to those who elect to travel free of the "Curse of Oil!"

The Skirball Center is a wonderful facility but it is located in a location that is difficult to walk to, challenging to ride to, fairly inconvenient to those who travel by mass transit and is promoted with the promise of free parking. In other words, bring a motor vehicle. Burn some fuel, park for free, embrace the irony, gnash your teeth as we examine the injustice of oil production and then burn some more fuel to get home. Your awareness is all that is needed to change the world, not a shift in your behavior, just a wee bit of guilt as you tool down Sepulveda Boulevard in your fossil fuel burning motor vehicle.

Zócalo is a Spanish word that means Public Square. We know that LA is lacking in public space that would qualify as a "public square" but surely Zócalo could have done better, especially for a program that promises to "explore the consequences of gas-guzzling, the paradox of plenty, and how to cure our addiction to oil."

I love the Zócalo programming and have enjoyed a screening of The Garden at the Laemmle Music Hall, an evening with Tom Vanderbilt at the Actor's Gang, and panel discussions at the Central Library and at the Endowment Center, all easily accessible to those on foot, to those who ride bikes, to those who travel by mass transit and even to those who arrive in motor vehicles. The Zócalo Public Square is a wonderful organization and it hurts to criticize them, almost as much as it hurts to watch them commit the gaffe of the oil-addicted.

I expect this from City Hall, from our elected officials, from the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, even from the Metro but to have Zócalo host an event on oil-addiction and then host it in an environment that favors the oil-addicted and is inhospitable to the point of absurdity to those who dare to put down the oil is simply unacceptable.

Zócalo, meet us at One Gateway, the Endowment Center, Union Station. Offer transit passes instead of free parking, host this event at a venue with a well lit sidewalk that encourages pedestrians. Make it a standard to host your events at locations with bike parking. Stop with the free auto parking and walk toward the light!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

LA's Bike Plan - Return to Sender



At last night's Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee, the LABAC voted unanimously to "demand an extension of the comment period" effectively moving the deadline from 42 days to 94 days. This action from the LABAC is the same action that neighborhood councils throughout the city are taking and speaks volumes to the amount of energy that is wasted in Los Angeles on simply getting the process adjusted so that the public can participate.

That element of the development of the City of LA's Draft Bike Plan aside, now the real work begins and here are my recommendations for the Draft Bike Plan.

First, lose the softly worded vision and replace it with the simple call for "Consider every street in Los Angeles as a street that bicyclists will use."

All planning, design, engineering, supervision, maintenance, law enforcement, and enhancement must be driven by this simple principle and it must resonate through the many city departments that have any responsibility for our streets and the people who use them.

Second, put the Cyclists' Bill of Rights, as written, in the Draft Bike Plan.

Any objections are simply internal and bureaucratic and the argument that LA doesn't have authority over some of the rights is simply not true. LA has law enforcement, LA has mass transit, LA has streets, LA legislates and LA enforces and LA has influence over judicial activity. But regardless of LA's real and self-imposed limitations, the Cyclists' Bill of Rights is a simple enunciation of rights and it belongs in the Bike Plan.

Third, the Draft Bike Plan must use real language of commitment and that the soft words that dilute the potential effectiveness of the plan be replaced by words that have real meaning and that are absolute.

Fourth, it is imperative that we accept the insignificance of the Draft Bike Plan and start this process by backing up and asking how we can position it so that it has any meaning in the larger landscape of Los Angeles. We must be willing to stop the process and to engage in an EIR that will position the Bike Plan as a document that has authority and can withstand Level of Service challenges and that can be used to hold departments accountable.

I offer several examples of how the current Bike Plan is currently completely disregarded by the LADOT, by Planning, by the LAPD, by the Harbor Commission, by literally anybody with a plan who is doing anything in Los Angeles!

1) San Pedro Waterfront Development Project: The Port of Los Angeles just approved the San Pedro Waterfront Development Project which comes with a price tag of $1.2 Billion. Was there any consideration for cyclists in this plan? Did they incorporate the Draft Bike Plan into this plan? Over the 10 year development journey for the SPWDP, was there ever any synchronization between City Planning and the LADOT and the Port of LA to ensure that the needs of cyclists were addressed in the mobility element of the SPWDP? The Port ignores the Bike Plan.

2) Warner Center Specific Plan Revision: LA City Planning and the LADOT are in the process of updating the Warner Center Specific Plan with an initial budget of $500K. The process includes traffic studies, environmental studies, strategic economics impact evaluation and urban design. Was there any consideration for cyclists in this plan? Did they incorporate the Draft Bike Plan into this plan? Over the recent development journey for the WCSP, was there ever any synchronization between City Planning (Tom Glick) and the LADOT (Armen Hovanessian - Sr. Traffic Engineer) and the Consultants to ensure that the needs of cyclists were addressed in the mobility element of the WCSP? City Planning and the LADOT ignore the Bike Plan.

3) Topanga Canyon Boulevard: LA's 2002 Bike Plan classified 9 miles of Topanga Canyon Boulevard as Class II Bike Lanes. Caltrans provided the engineering and the funding for 9 miles of bike lanes and instead elected to pursue peak-hour parking. Do the LADOT's Sr. Traffic Engineers have the authority to override the LA Bike Plan? When there is conflict between the Bike Plan and the priorities of the local LADOT Traffic Divisions, who resolves the conflict? The LADOT ignores the Bike Plan.

4) Orange Line Bike Path: The Bureau of Engineering is in the process of widening Victory Boulevard east of Balboa Boulevard, with combined widening of 8 feet to accommodate the addition of a westbound left turn-lane and a bus bay adjacent to the Victory/Balboa Park & Ride Facility. Improvements include construction of concrete curb, gutter and sidewalk, AC pavement, street lighting, and striping. The roadway widening has reduced the radius of the curb return resulting in a new access ramp that is smaller than the old ramp. The City's position is that ADA access ramps are mandated by the Feds with only one priority, providing equal access to the disabled community to City services, and that sidewalks are considered a service per the courts. Is this section of the Orange Line Bike Path a sidewalk or a Bike Path? Is there a Bike Plan standard for curb cuts on Bike Paths? Is there a standard for Bike Paths and intersections? Is there an engineering protocol for Bike Paths vs. Street Widenings? Is the Orange Line Bike Path protected by the Bike Plan and who is responsible for maintaining its integrity? The Bureau of Engineering ignores the Bike Plan.

5) LAPD Headquarters: The new Los Angeles Police Department headquarters is nearing completion and includes bike racks on the north side of the building. The position of the new bike racks is out of sight of the LAPD staff and is tucked behind a large wall, several large planters, a small wall, violating the Draft Bike Plan standards and basic Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) standards. This building is across the street from the LADOT headquarters. Does the Draft Bike Plan call for the LADOT to communicate with the other departments in the City of Los Angeles so that the proposed standards become a reality? Is there any attempt to integrate the different departments within the City of LA so that there is some uniformity to the application of law, code, design standards, engineering standards, maintenance standards, accommodation standards and will it be with the same enthusiasm that the LADOT worked with the LAPD on the new bike racks or can we expect something more meaningful? The LAPD and the LADOT ignore the Bike Plan.

6) LADOT Headquarters: The City of LA recently reconfigured the intersection 2nd and Los Angeles which is the SE corner of the LADOT's headquarters. The drainage grate is the old style of parallel bars that will accept a narrow bike tire, creating a danger for cyclists who ride in the curb lane and roll across the drainage grate. At the same time, the LADOT has been embarking on a funded journey to swap out the old drainage grates with new cross-hatched grates that are purportedly safe for cyclists. Is there a standard for drainage grates in Los Angeles? If there isn't, why not? If there is, who enforces it and why are the old dangerous style being installed on new road projects? Who is responsible for integrating the many departments who have a piece of the streets? How do we change policy and address these situations more comprehensively? The BOE and the LADOT ignore the Bike Plan.

7) NBC Universal Development: NBC Universal Execs have announced plans to spend $3 Billion on developing their property in Universal City, allocating $100 million to traffic mitigation measure so that the project has a positive impact on the community, creating jobs and stimulating the economy. Meanwhile, the LA Bike Plan calls for a Bike Path alongside the LA River, an amenity that the NBC Uni folks oppose and there proposition is to cut the Bike Path and redirect it so that it is no longer a continuous LA River Bike Path. Do the NBC Uni execs have the authority to trump the Bike Plan? Who is entertaining these proposals and how does it happen away from public oversight? What good is the Bike Plan if years of development of the River Path can be interrupted by NBC Uni Developers? How do 38 community groups speak with unanimous opposition to this development and LADOT Bikeways doesn't step in to hold the Bike Plan as a document that must be reckoned with or is it a meaningless document that carries no weight? NBC Uni ignores the Bike Plan.

8) LA has plans, lots of them. The Southern California Association of Governments has a plan, Metro has a plan, LA has a General Plan. There are 35 Community Plans, lots of Specific Plans, and Master Plans for everything from Golf to Lighting to Parks. Toss in a Transportation Element and a Strategic Plan and all that's missing is a Printing Master Plan that would deliver all of these plans to the many people and departments and agencies and authorities who simply can't keep up with the dueling plans.

LA's Draft Bike Plan is not worth the dust it will collect as it sits on the shelf. For it to have any meaning, it must be given teeth and it must be integrated with the other plans that currently trump the Bike Plan. This is the missing element if for making the Bike Plan a document of significance. The evidence is there, even the departments responsible for the Bike Plan ignore it. Only fools repeat the same behavior and hope for a different result.

Ladies and Gentlemen, LA's Draft Bike Plan, brought to you by the fools who brought you the last Bike Plan.