Tuesday, January 05, 2010

CityWatchLA - LA's Best Bike Plan - "Bringing home the bacon!"

CityWatch, Jan 5, 2010
Vol 8 Issue 1

Anyone who cares about the quality of life on the streets of Los Angeles, whether they ride a bike or not, has a vested interest in the development of LA's Bike Plan. More importantly, anyone who cares about LA's budget crisis, whether they care about the streets or not, has a vested interest in the development of a powerful visionary Bike Plan for Los Angeles. Any bike related funding requests made at the Federal, State or County levels are immediately challenged by the simple hurdle "Is this proposed project part of a City Council approved Bicycle Transportation Plan?" If the answer is no, the project is summarily disqualified for funding and Los Angeles then watches the money go to other cities that have laid down a bold vision for their community, that have written powerful proposals for transportation and that have made a commitment to going after the funding and bringing it home to make their streets safer and more effective for everybody.

LA's current Bike Plan was developed in 1996 and is part of the Transportation Element of the City's General Plan, a state mandated document that directs the growth and development of the City of Los Angeles. The Bike Plan was updated and re-approved by City Council twice and is current through 2012. In a rare demonstration of enthusiasm, the LADOT's Capital Funding Department initiated a Bike Plan update process a couple of years ago, secured funding, hired a consultant, and partnered with the Planning Department on the development of the Draft Bike Plan.

This is in stark contrast with the LADOT's enthusiasm for actual Bikeways projects and over the last 13 years, the City of LA has picked up about $65 million in Bikeways funding which has resulted in 13 miles of Bike Paths and 55 miles of Bike Lanes. Critics charge that this demonstrates a complete lack of commitment to developing a "bikeable LA."

LA is nothing if not the City of "Big Plans" which include the General Plan, the 35 Community Plans, the Master Plans, the Specific Plans, and many Vision Plans. In this environment, the Bike Plan is a small and obscure document, a funding document, yet it contains within it the potential power to provide connectivity, not just to the cyclists who want to ride the streets of Los Angeles, but to the many plans that sometimes overlap, contradict, overrule or simply fall short. In other words, the Draft Bike Plan is the missing link.

The public comment period for the $450,000 Draft Bike Plan closes this Friday, and the consultants, the LADOT and City Planning will then go to work, reviewing and considering your comments for inclusion the Draft Bike Plan that will then be presented to the Planning Commission. Of course, that is contingent on them receiving your comments by this Friday.

Critics of the Draft Bike Plan claim that the document "aims low and still falls short" and charge that, if nothing else, the $450,000 Draft should at least be an improvement over the old plan. While it's easy to find people who agree that the new Bike Plan should be an improvement over the old Bike Plan, it's hard to find people who will wade through the 563-page document.

Of those who have read the Bike Plan, the response has been consistently negative, varying only in intensity. Among the harshest critics was the "LA Bike Working Group" and which conducted four public workshops to engage the public and to develop "LA's Best Bike Plan," resulting in 35 significant recommendations that were pared down to the following 12 principles.

If these sound reasonable, please go to LABikePlan.com and send them in as your recommendations for LA's Draft Bike Plan. If not, I would love to hear your opinion. Either way, I hope you'll take a moment to give your opinion.

The 12 PRINCIPLES of "LA's Best Bike Plan"

1. Genesis:
Every street is a street that cyclists will ride.

2. All City:
A Backbone Bikeway network will be the engineering focus in the immediate future

3. Action
LA must commit to the implementation of key measures within 2 years

4. Transformation
Neighborhood pilots projects to create pockets of ultra bike friendliness, including bike boulevards

5. Strength
Any new plan should go through a full programmatic EIR

6. Intelligence
Evaluate success by measuring progress against goals, timelines, bike counts, and collision data

7. One Generation
Get em' young - building a car-free army from LA's youngest generation - beginning at the school level

8. Justice
LAPD will undergo mandatory 8 hour training in cyclists' rights and laws concerning cyclists, and practical bike training.

9. Execution
Move Bikeways out of LADOT

10. Democracy
Have the plan voted on by cyclists, or the NCs

11. Complete
The six Es - Equality, Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, Evaluation - are the structure for the plan.

12. Equality
The Cyclists' Bill of Rights is the foundation for the plan

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

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