Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bike Week gives way to Bike Life

Bike Week is over and the Metro planners have driven back to the office, the LADOT employees have tossed the leftover Bike Week supplies, the consultants are cashing their checks, the press is busy covering Lindsay Lohan, and LA's law enforcement is banking shifts in anticipation of the upcoming Memorial Day traffic.

As for the cyclists, Bike Week has simply given way to Bike Life, the ongoing and long term campaign to change the world by focusing on LA's streets, making them safer for cyclists.

For all of the attention that Bike Week draws, the real test is the following week. Who rode to work on Monday? How many people at the Metro plan to get out of their car and give bike commuting a shot this week? How many staff at the LADOT will justify that $50 LA City Parking Buyout by hopping on a bike and riding to work? Seriously, this is the week to count the cyclists, to measure the impact of the huge Bike Week focus that took meeting after meeting after meeting of Metro and LADOT staff, all on the clock in the midst of a huge budget crisis, all so they could drive their cars to the Bike Week events.

Forgive me for my cynicism, but this is the week that either justifies the efforts of the Bike Week promoters or challenges the effectiveness of their efforts.

I'd be willing to forgive the Metro and the LADOT their commitment to their cars if they would just give us a good turnout of staff at this Thursday's Caltrans District 7 Bicycle Advisory Committee and next Tuesday's Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee. But, based on results, the attendance will be thin, very thin. Last month's Caltrans7BAC meeting drew the LADOT Bikeways Coordinator for just a few minutes and was unable to hold her attention, in spite of the fact that Topanga Canyon Boulevard was on the agenda. As for the Metro, nobody attended. The prior month, LADOT Bikeways was unable to send staff to the LABAC meeting, in spite of the fact that the Bike Plan was on the agenda. The Metro hasn't sent staff to the Bicycle Advisory Committee of LA, the largest city in the State of California, for a couple of years. How's that for priorities!

And yet, the LADOT and the Metro are able to send staff in quantities sufficient to invade small countries for fun stuff, as long as it interests them, and as long as it takes place in the daytime. Have these people never heard of flex-time? Come in a little later, stay a little later. Better yet, split up and stop sending so many people to the same meetings, send them where they might benefit. Best of all, send them where the public might benefit.

This Thursday, Alex Thompson will be presenting the LA Bike Map during the "open space" brown bag lunch session at the Caltrans 7 Bicycle Advisory Committee. Enci will follow with a presentation on the LA Greensters. During the BAC, Sgt. Krumer of the LAPD will be presenting "Cyclists and the Law (Enforcement)." One would think that the crowd-source mapping technology, the pedal-powered transpo team, and the LAPD Cyclist Training would interest Transportation Professionals, yet the Metro and the LADOT seem to find the Caltrans 7 BAC of little interest.

On Tuesday, Jeremy Grant will be presenting the Backbone Bikeway Network during the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee. The Backbone is a simple Vision for Connectivity that is a revolutionary commitment to the destinations that involves the LADOT, the Metro, Caltrans, the LAPD, the LASD, the Bureau of Street Services, the Department of Public Works, Street Lighting, the CRA, and just about anybody else who has a piece of the streets.

And yet...

Based on the past, expectations are low that the Bikeways staff from the Metro and the LADOT will be in attendance at either of the upcoming opportunities to engage the community and work with them on making our streets a great place to ride.

I think it's time for that to change. I think it's time for the Metro and the LADOT and also LA's Department of City Planning to consider the cycling community a constituent group, just like they do neighborhood councils, homeowner associations, community councils and others. Cyclists may not be a geographic group but as a common interest group, cyclists deserve the same respect and attention that other groups get.

I regularly meet Planning Department staff at neighborhood council events. Apparently the budget crisis hasn't prevented them from engaging in planning work in the community. Yet when the LA Bike Plan, which is part of the Transportation Plan which is part of the General Plan which is the responsibility of the Planning Department, comes up, we hear "Budget Crisis!" as the excuse for not sending staff to the Caltrans7 BAC or the LABAC.

I really think it's time for that to change and I'm calling on the Metro, the LADOT, and the Department of City Planning to work with the cycling community to make the streets of Los Angeles great places to ride. I'm calling on the Metro and the LADOT and City Planning to keep that Bike Work commitment going and to embrace Bike Life, the idea that what's good for cyclists is good for the community, all year long!

Bike Week has given way to Bike Life, let's make it happen!

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