Friday, May 28, 2010

CityWatchLA - The Almost Final Word on NC Funds and the New DONE

CityWatch, May 28, 2010
Vol 8 Issue 42

Conspiracy Theorists have argued that the simplest way to neutralize the neighborhood council system would be to support it with funds that come wrapped in conflicting rules and a vague process, then get out of the way while participatory democracy destroys itself. Based on results, there seems to be a fair amount of evidence that this is a valid theory. After all, as the City of LA grapples with a $7 billion budget that includes draconian staffing cuts and reductions to city services, neighborhood council advocates remain sidetracked by debates over ATM cards, Demand Warrants, Rollover Funds, $45 K budgets and accounting fees. Meanwhile, Rome burns!

If City Hall had actually set out to neutralize the neighborhood council system, to keep them sidetracked and out of the way, then by all rights, it appears that the evil plan has worked.

Of course, as Ruth Galanter offered up years ago, to believe in conspiracy theories is to believe in the competency of City Hall, quite a stretch. "Most people look at government and they think it's a conspiracy. It's so hard to believe it's as inept as it is. I used to believe in conspiracies, until I discovered incompetence."

Whether by design or by simple systemic failure, the neighborhood council system is facing a significant crisis that is consuming incredible amounts of advocate energy debating the fine points of neighborhood council funding. From the NC Budget Advocates meetings to local NC meetings, from regional NC Meetings to Board Orientations, from City Council meetings to City Department meetings, and from the Neighborhood Commission meetings to the Education and Neighborhood Committee meetings, it’s all about the NC budget.

The concerns are consistent, the questions are simple, the answers vary from time to time and from place to place, leaving NC advocates a little more on edge as time goes by. The meetings typically draw questions and comments on these co-mingled topics:

● Neighborhood council Rollover funds through 2009.

The account is closed. The City Council has “swept” the rollover funds that neighborhood councils had left over from their budgets through 2008/2009.

Protest from NC’s that the process was unfair resulted in a reprieve and out of approximately $1.5 million in rollover funds, NC’s were able to retrieve approximately $900,000, leaving three groups of dissatisfied NC’s.

Some failed to turn in the appropriate paperwork to qualify for their previously encumbered funds, some claim to have lost their funds due to the confusing rules and process, and some claim that other NC's qualified unjustly as the result of an uneven application of the rules.

According to sources in Councilman Paul Krekorian's office, the process is complete and the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment has closed the books on old rollover funds.

● Neighborhood council Rollover funds from the 2009/2010 budget.

So far, so good. Neighborhood councils with funds left over from their 2009/2010 budget will be able to roll them over into their 2010/2011 budgets.

For all of the drama, the total funds swept as a result of the “assault” on the neighborhood council rollover funds is $600,000. Not a significant payday for the City of Los Angeles when you consider the incredible amount of time spent meeting and discussing and debating and fighting.

● The proposed neighborhood council budget for 2010/2011.

So far, so good. At this point, the proposed budget for neighborhood councils is $45,000 per council. With 91 certified neighborhood councils qualifying for funding, this amounts to $4,095.000 for the entire system. This does not include the budget for the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment.

While the current proposal to fund NC’s at $45,000 each and to allow rollover funds from 2010/2011, the caveat is that it comes with a proposal to require the NC’s to fund their own accounting at as much as 8% which tops out at $327,600 systemwide. $3,600 per council

Critics point out that this is another loss on top of the most significant loss of all, the gutting of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, which leaves the NC system gouged more than virtually any other department in the city.

● The proposed budget for the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment for 2010/2011.

We're still waiting. Based on results, often harsh but always fair, it’s reasonable to say that the budget for the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment is a bit vague.

A number of approximately $3 million has been bandied about but the details seem elusive.

At this writing, the Mayor’s office is unable to offer up specifics, the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment is unable to offer up specifics, the Community Development Department is unable to offer up specifics and the CAO’s office has not yet responded to requests for a breakdown of the Mayor's proposed 2010/2011 Neighborhood Empowerment budget.

On the day that the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment went before the City Council’s Budget & Finance Committee, one Deputy Mayor and two General Managers, complete with an obligatory swarm of staff, sat at the proverbial horseshoe and collectively revealed that the budget details were a mystery to them all. Somehow in the budget journey, the Departments training funds had literally disappeared and nobody had noticed prior to their journey to council chambers.

Short answer: the Mayor’s office and the CAO’s office have promised to meet with NC representatives to explain the intricacies of the proposed budget, just as soon as they get the answers themselves. Whose budget is this?

● The process for funding Neighborhood Councils.

We're on our own! Neighborhood councils are already looking forward to 2010/2011 by preparing a budget as the basic mandate for qualifying for their NC funds.

Beyond that, the rules for actually spending the money are so convoluted and fluid that NC advocates have taken it upon themselves to propose funding structures that address many of the complaints and problems from the past.

Shawn’s Plan now has company from Jay’s Plan which was joined by Adrienne’s Plan and Paul’s Plan. These plans all have something in common. They are an attempt by volunteers to fill the void left by those who are literally on the clock but are unable to come up with a simple and effective plan for managing the funds of neighborhood councils.

For all of the schemes, one NC advocate pointed out it only amounts to a half dozen checks per month per NC yet the City of LA has somehow made it into a cumbersome process that defies comprehension.

Another NC advocate pointed out that for all of the audits and criticism, it wasn’t the NC’s that came under fire but the system itself that allowed such deviation and discrepancy.

Through it all, it is apparent that there is an absence of leadership and it is an incredible distraction that is keeping many talented and well-meaning volunteers from engaging in the real and significant citywide budget debates, all in an effort to manage NC funds.

● The proposed consolidation of the Community Development Department and the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment.

Opposition is mounting! As of Wednesday’s Education and Neighborhood Committee meeting, it’s safe to say that the proposal to consolidate the two departments is far from over.

Committee Chair Paul Krekorian has received accolades for his commitment to engaging the community in the process and based on the public testimony, the consolidation plan has few, if any, fans.

Critics from around the city consistently line up during public comment to give testimony to the claim that the current system is broken, the proposed consolidation is hardly an improvement and that the neighborhood council system deserves better.

Critics of the consolidation offer many reasons for their opposition including:

DONE is a charter department, CDD is an ordinance department. To consolidate and then refer to the new organization as CDD/DONE is to rename the new department CDD or Community Development. In one fell swoop, Neighborhood Empowerment has been subsumed and no longer exists in the vernacular of the City of Los Angeles. (Conspiracy Theorists perked up!)

CDD’s mandate is dramatically different from DONE’s, there may be overlap but that is true for many departments. This does not bode well for DONE if the host department answers to federal grant regulations while the DONE answers to the City Charter and the will of the people.

The people of Los Angeles lose connectivity to the Mayor and the City Council if their department no longer has a General Manager but instead has an Executive Director who answers to an Assistant General Manager who answers to the General Manager who then answers to the Mayor.

The proposal to move the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment around is a smokescreen and avoids the real need, a systemic overhaul that addresses the failures of the past and positions the neighborhood council system for success. “It’s not where you park it, it’s how you park it.”

The consolidation proposal is superficial and the General Manager of CDD is light on the details, hardly the beginning of a fruitful and successful relationship.

Ultimately, Councilman Paul Krekorian summed it up best when he said “If policy decisions are to be driven by budget savings, then the budget savings must be real. Most important, the proposal must be effective for the neighborhood council system and I remain unconvinced that this is the best plan.”

● The vision for neighborhood councils and a commitment to supporting them.

There is none! Through all of the many meetings, it is apparent that for all of the org-chart proposals and budgetary distractions, the core vision for neighborhood councils is missing from the discussion.

The merger details, the funding proposals, the staffing structure are all meaningless if the City of Los Angeles doesn’t support the neighborhood council system with a department that is committed to a clearly articulated vision.

● The value of balancing the city's budget on the backs of the neighborhood councils.

There is none! At last week's Board of Neighborhood Commissioners meeting I counted 15 people who were on the City of LA Payroll, all sitting obediently and waiting obediently for their moment of contribution.

Wednesday's Education and Neighborhoods Committee meeting was more of the same. From Deputy Mayors to City Councilmembers to Mayoral and Council Staff to General Managers to City staff in numbers that would dwarf even the most bloated Hollywood entourage, and all to look for the crumbs in the sofas of the neighborhood councils. We don't even have sofas!

Neighborhood councils deserve support, a system that operates efficiently and effectively. There is no chance of balancing the City's anticipated half-billion-dollar budget shortfall by squeezing the neighborhood council system. To keep trying demonstrates a severe case of City Council and Mayoral innumeracy.

To continue the discussion regarding neighborhood councils, visit cd2policy.wordpress.com where Councilman Krekorian has a running poll on what people think should happen regarding the proposed consolidation.

(Stephen Box writes for CityWatch and views City Hall through his own unique lens. He can be reached at Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Metro/LADOT prefer the imports over the locals


Los Angeles is the largest city in the most populated state in the most powerful country in the world, and yet when it comes to transportation planning, apparently the experts are nowhere to be found.

Consider the Metro's upcoming Bicycle Design Workshop taught by John Ciccarelli, a well-regarded professional from Santa Clara County. Are there no professionals in Los Angeles who can address Bicycle Planning? Ryan Snyder lives mid-city, has served on the local neighborhood council, is a nationally recognized planner with experience in active modes, knows the streets and the people and yet he gets passed over. Ron Durgin is a League of American Cyclists certified instructor and his Sustainable Streets organization has planning and education street cred and yet he gets passed over.

How about the Metro's recent Bike to Work Week which was coordinated by the Inland Transportation Services company, a transportation demand consulting organization that claims "extensive experience in the management, implementation and administration of regional rideshare programs." They hail from Riverside County. Based on the Metro's miserable mode-share performance, perhaps it's time to give another consultant a shot at coordinating the Metro's TDM projects. Of the Metro's 9200 employees, 155 ride the Metro to work, 39 bicycle to work, and 36 walk to work. Surely there is a company in Los Angeles County that can beat those numbers.

The Metro isn't alone. The City of LA authorized the LADOT to enter into a contract with Bellevue, WA's Ilium Consulting and to produce a Bike Map with a cost "not to exceed $400,000." Ilum Associates was selected because of its "extensive experience in the production of maps for use by the public." The City Council approval took place in December of 1996 and since then, Ilium and the LADOT have apparently wandered off the trail as the funded Bike Map of Los Angeles has not appeared. Ilium, it should be noted does other marketing work for the LADOT. Apparently nobody knows the street of LA like the folks in Seattle. Are there no cartographers in Los Angeles? Are there no marketing companies in Los Angeles?

The City of LA is currently in the process of developing an updated Bike Plan, supported by Alta Planning with principals hailing from Portland and Marin County. Again, the City Council approved an LADOT initiated contract with the contractor, this time for $450,000, and one that relied on folks from far, far away to join us here on the streets of Los Angeles so they can help us locals find our way. Granted, Alta ended up hiring local folks to execute some of the work, the same thing a local company would have done if it had been awarded the contract, but the City of LA/Alta contract is executed between the Portland/Berkely principals and the City of LA. Isn't there an LA based transportation and planning company capable of handling this kind of work? Further complicating matters is the LA Bike Plan website, complete with an admin address in Portland. Does the City of LA not even own its websites? This is especially unfortunate since Alta Planning has moved on, claiming its work is done, and leaving an "Infeasible" Bike Plan in its wake.


The US Department of Labor reports that the unemployment rate in Washington State is 9.9% and the unemployment rate in Oregon State is 11.7%. Meanwhile, here in California, the unemployment rate is 13%. Why is it so tough for the Metro and the LADOT to hire local? Los Angeles is the center of the universe with people from around the world working hard to get here, to the capital of creativity and innovation. It's time for our transportation authorities to respect the people they purportedly serve by putting them to work.

LA's Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa claims that building a smart transportation system means "Jobs, jobs, jobs!" but the real question is "Who gets LA's transportation jobs?" The people of Los Angeles know the streets of LA, we know the traffic patterns of LA, we know the needs of LA and we know LA. We know the destinations, we know the communities and we know the people. Why do we have to watch from the sidelines while the "imports" bring transportation planning to the natives of Los Angeles?

We deserve better! We deserve accountability! We deserve a commitment from the Metro and from the LADOT that the work done in our communities will be done by locals and for the locals, not to the locals.

Live Intentionally - Your Choices are Lifestyle Choices!

Ross Hirsch and Jeremy Grant lead us through an L.A. neighborhood.
Photo from TucsonVelo.com

Josh Cohen, in his "We need people who ride bikes, not cyclists" post, writes of a commuter who gets on a bike but eschews the "cyclist" label, preferring to think of the bike as merely a conveyance and not a lifestyle choice. Josh writes:

"it’s just as likely that he will continue to see bikes as a tool and not an identity."

This post prompted a round of Tweets along the line of:

 @BikePedSCAG Bikes should be transportation-not lifestyle. Is this golden age of bike subcultures? RT @bikecommutenews We Need People Who Ride Bikes, Not Cyclists http://bit.ly/dBGLfL"

I take umbrage with this line of thinking (or blogging, as it may be) for a couple of reasons. First, it sets up an oversimplistic dichotomy, that one is either a casual commuter or a lycra wearing cyclist. Second, it ignores that fact that the simple choices that we make, regardless of their utilitarian purpose, reveal a great deal about us and communicate loudly to others. Regardless of one's desire to purchase, operate, or consume products and tools with anonymity, we have no option but to own the impact of our actions. Our lifestyle choices and decisions scream volumes and have a significant effect on others, regardless of our awareness.

I contend that a simple examination of something as a cyclist's choice of a recycled bike from a co-op vs. a handmade, one-of-a-kind bike crafted by NASA out of space materials goes a long way to communicating a persons values, politics, priorities, and also gives us an understanding of their social, political, environmental and even spiritual convictions.

Further, I contend that a glance at the same person's choice of energy bar (Clif vs. Power Bar?) or shoes (Nike vs. Columbia) or food (Trader Joe's vs. Whole Foods) or cell phone (Blackberry vs. iPhone) will reveal much of the person's personality and within a half dozen "lifestyle" choices, you can not only gauge the person's lifestyle integrity but you can also measure the person's accountability to the impact they are having on their sphere of influence.

To those who scoff and argue that these choices are superficial and don't really reveal character or culture, I would argue that they really do matter, the only thing that varies is our connectivity to the impact and the effect of our choices. Granted, many people drink coffee and buy gas and support entertainers without considering the impact of their support or of the message they send but that doesn't mean that there isn't an impact, simply that they aren't paying attention.

This is the new frontier for us as a community, intentional lives that connect actions to impacts, choices to lifestyles, behavior to character.

Yes, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that I think that those who yearn for the day when riding a bike is simply riding a bike are selling themselves short. I believe that everything we do, from little inactions to large leaps of behavior, has a tremendous impact and we must take responsibility and be held accountable for it all.

CityWatchLA - A Double Standard at LA’s Hypocrisy Hall

CityWatch, May 21, 2010
Vol 8 Issue 40

When visiting LA's City Hall, keep in mind that the beautiful front doors on Spring Street are for the exclusive use of City Hall staff while the back doors are for the public. This "two-tier" system of access is an apt metaphor for the double standard that applies to those who govern Los Angeles and to those who are governed.

Consider the tremendous display of irony at Monday's Board of Neighborhood Commissioners' Retreat when the General Manager of CDD reported that the money to fund the training of neighborhood councils on the management of NC funds somehow fell from the proposed budget, something he glossed over as a "mistake." This "mistake" somehow made it into the Mayor's proposed budget, made it all the way to the City Council, and is now on its way back to the Mayor for final approval.

Who watches the Watchmen?

The board retreat opened with a commitment to Transparency and Accountability and a mandate to address the impact of the proposed merger of the departments of Community Development and Neighborhood Empowerment on the Neighborhood Council system.

The 7 Commissioners were surrounded by 3 staffers from the Mayor's office, 5 staffers from Neighborhood Empowerment, 3 staffers from Community Development, 2 staffers from the City Attorney, and the retreat was facilitated by 2 staffers from Human Relations. Whew! 15 people on the clock to facilitate a board retreat for 7 Commissioners and about a dozen members of the public.

Yet nobody sounded the "Transparency and Accountability" alarm when it was revealed that a Deputy Mayor and two General Managers allowed the budget for Neighborhood Empowerment to make it all the way through the system without doing the math. It may be "budget dust" in the grand scheme of a $7 billion budget but for the neighborhood council system, $84,000 is significant.

More important than the loss of the Neighborhood Empowerment NC training budget is the fact that the very people who sit in a position of authority, contemplating "drastic measures" for the volunteers of neighborhood councils such as imposed mandatory training and funding suspensions, are not bound by the same performance standards.

The proposed Neighborhood Council review system, where city staff would rate councils and determine if they are "Low Functionality" or "Medium Functionality" or "High Functionality" and then prescribe appropriate measures for addressing their performance, should be turned on its ear and applied to those in City Hall.

The proposed matrix of performance standards is not bad. It reviews everything from Funding to Outreach to Collaboration to Technology. It's just aimed at the wrong people.

Now is the time to ask the hard questions of those folks who use City Hall's front door. It starts with "Where's the money?"

(Stephen Box writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@ThirdEyeCreative.net)

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!

Bikeside SPEAKS - Highlight of Bike Week


BikesideSPEAKS drew a trackstanding-room-only crowd to the Westside's BikeRoWave for a lightning round of 7 bike activists, speaking for 7 minutes each, on 7 topics relevant to the cycling community. At 5pm, the announced starting time for BikesideSPEAKS, the BikeRoWave looked suspiciously like a bike co-op, packed with bike stands, bikes, bike parts, tools, and cyclists engaged in bike repairs. Then pizza arrived, the crowd swarmed, and BikeRoWave was transformed into a theatre!

Steve Mattson, GM of BikeRoWave, warmed up the crowd with a bit of BRW history and a commitment to complement the BRW's wrenching schedule with more community events such as BikesideSPEAKS!



Mihai Peteu demonstrated LABikeMap, a crowd sourced community map that provides cyclists with the opportunity to log on and self-report collisions, incidents, road hazards, and hit-and-runs. LABikeMap is already loaded with 10 years of cyclists' collision data and provides a vivid visual of the LA region and incident clusters that deserve more law enforcement focus. Take a look at the map and remember that every small red dot is where a human being on a bike was taken out by a motor vehicle. There is entirely too much red on LA's map.

Ron Durgin, President of Sustainable Streets and a League of American Bicyclists Urban Cycling instructor, gave an overview of a campaign to engage and educate cyclists and non-cyclists on the fine art of lifestyle cycling. Too often, cycling is relegated to the side as a "recreational endeavor" rather that a legitimate transportation solution. Key to positioning cyclists as an effective mode share is good planning and education and Sustainable Streets is targeting planners and political decision makers, committed to getting them on bikes and into the urban traffic mix so they can effectively plan for cyclists and support cycling.

Enci introduced the LA Greensters, LA's only all-pedal-powered transportation team, created as part of her commitment to sustainable film production and taking on a life of its own. Enci's original objective was simply to make a movie. She wrote the script and set out to direct her first film, not knowing that her commitment to shoot sustainably would challenge the basic Hollywood tradition. From banning plastic and styrofoam to challenging Hollywood's car-centric bias, Enci's simple call for help from the cycling community led to the formation of the LA Greensters who not only provided all transpo needs for her film, but went on to demonstrate the effectiveness of cargo bikes and Xtracycles in everyday life.


Sara Bond gave a recap of the topic that has had the cycling community up in arms for quite some time, hit-and-run incidents that leave cyclists lying in the street, broken and bleeding, while the motorists flee the scene to avoid responsibility. Sara introduced Louis "Bird Man" Bianco who was riding home on his bike when a motorist left-crossed him, causing him to go head first through the window of the car. His face was jerked free as the motorist swerved forward and into a gas station before u-turning and fleeing, leaving Louis in the middle of the intersection. Louis gave a moving account of his long journey to recovery and the fact that he still experiences fear but that he is committed to overcoming it.

Alex Thompson, the heart and soul of Bikeside, was joined by Glenn Bailey, the President of LA's Bicycle Advisory Committee, and they got political with their guests Marcy Winograd and Bill Rosendahl. Alex introduced Marcy, the Bikeside endorsed candidate for Congress who met with the Bikeside crew last month and endorsed the Cyclists' Bill of Rights. Glenn introduced Bill, the Chair of the Transportation Committee who long ago responded to the Mandeville Canyon incident by standing with LAPD proclaiming that "Cyclists need a Bill of Rights."



I responded to the call by offering a brief introduction to the Cyclists' Bill of Rights, pointing out that they weren't written or conceived or created, they simply exist and they belong to the cyclists who claim them. Rights aren't given and the cycling community is going to have to step up as a constituent group if they expect to experience the most basic of human rights, the Freedom to Move. Our political leadership exists for one reason and that is to remove any obstacles to our ability to enjoy our freedom.



Jeremy Grant brought it home with an introduction to the Backbone Bikeway Network, laying it down as a Vision for Connectivity that is based on getting cyclists to destinations, real destinations that everybody else enjoys. The Backbone Bikeway Network is consistent with other dreams that great leaders have laid down as commitments and over and over again, visions that started with no plan, no funding, no support, all became a reality because a small group of people believed and took on the challenge of changing the world. That was the challenge that Jeremy gave to the cyclists, planners, wrenchers and politicians at the BikeRoWave. Let's work together to make Los Angeles the City with a Backbone!

BikesideSPEAKS wrapped, some rode off to Crank Mob, some stayed for a screening of Quicksilver, and Bike Week '10 came to an end. How was your week?

p.s. If you'd like to hear more:

On 5/27 - Dr. Alex Thompson will be presenting the LABikeMap this Thursday at the Caltrans7 Bicycle Advisory Committee. Enci will also be presenting the LA Greensters.    http://twtvite.com/Caltrans7BAC

On 6/1 - Jeremy Grant will be presenting the Backbone Bikeway Network at the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee. The BAC consists of 4 Mayoral appointees, 15 Council appointees.  http://twtvite.com/LABAC6

Trader Joe's - Weak on Bike Week!



Friday morning's Grand Opening of the new Trader Joe's in Hollywood was a joyous occasion for many but for the cycling community it was a vivid demonstration of how invisible cyclists are in the customer mix. There were no bike racks to be found in spite of the fact that the Trader Joe's is located at the southeast corner of LA's largest Transit Oriented Development, a project that purportedly caters to cyclists and pedestrians by combining density with convenience. (unless you're the kind of cyclist who actually uses a bike and then "never mind!")

This was also Bike Week, adding insult to energy, and cyclists had just experienced ten days of very effective, fair trade, shade grown, dolphin safe, handmade bullshit from Trader Joe's and a completely insulting and meandering journey with regards to responsibility.

Trader Joe's had argued vehemently and consistently that it was merely the Tenant and that the Landlord was responsible for bike parking, that the Tenant was limited in its ability to improve the property and that it was out of their control. Christie Hughes finally conceded and agreed to install bike racks at the Trader Joe's, just like the bike racks at other Trader Joe's. I cautioned her against repeating the mistakes of the past and urged her to hire a professional, after all, everything else is done by profesionals, why not bike racks?

Legacy Partners, the Landlord, argued that it was not responsible for installing bike racks and that Trader Joe's was responsible for all improvements but that bike racks could not be installed outside the Trader Joe's entrance and under the sign because "We're limited by the DDA with the Metro and the CRA." The Development Agreement purportedly addressed things like bike racks and "limited" the authority of the Landlord and the Tenant but Ed Kirk, VP of Legacy Partners, agreed to investigate before simply forbidding bike racks on the outside of the building.

The Metro, owner of the land under the W Hollywood compound and the authority holding the 99 year lease, was blamed for the DDA that might serve as an obstacle to the installation of Bike Racks but the proverbial hot potato left the hands of Greg Angelo, Metro's Director of Real Estate, as soon as he heard that the Metro was being offered up as opposed to bike parking.

The California Redevelopment Agency (CRA) was also offered as an obstacle because of the Development Agreement but Kip Rudd of the CRA was at the Trader Joe's ribbon cutting and he chuckled when asked about any DDA prohibition against bike parking. "Who told you that? The CRA is a proponent of bike parking and has three streetscape improvement projects for Hollywood that include bike parking."

That left the City of Los Angeles as the bike parking obstacle. At every turn, from Christie Hughes to Trader Joe's Director of Construction Rich Adachi, I heard about the City of Los Angeles and the mythological need to get a permit in order to install bike racks. Granted, Trader Joe's is on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, but my proposed location for the exterior bike parking is under the Trader Joe's sign on their property, not on the sidewalk. In fact, the City of LA has a municipal code that requires bike parking, it just lacks the political will to implement or enforce its own code.

As for Political Will, City Council President Eric Garcetti arrived on Friday morning to cut the ribbon and to present the Trader Joe's management with a resolution welcoming them to the neighborhood. When I spoke to Garcetti and pointed out that the largest TOD in Los Angeles had failed to include bike parking in its program, in spite of its purpurted commitment to active transportation. (I thought the "new urbanist" lingo might resonate!) He continued to smile and nod and I got more specific, pointing out that the City of LA was a development partner with the folks responsible for the largest TOD in LA and yet their were no bike racks. How can there be a standard for TOD developments funded with public money that does not specify a minimum for bike racks?


The W Hollywood is LA's largest TOD and its development partners include the Metro, the CRA, the City of Los Angeles, and the funding comes from sources that include the Federal Government and the State of California. This project is encumbered by rules and restrictions and regulations thick enough to choke an invasion of developers and heavy enough to sink a fleet of developers and yet Gatehouse Capital and Legacy Partners prevailed. They are to be commended for their perseverance in what was a decade long bureaucratic journey to the proverbial ribbon cutting.

At the same time, they fell short, way short. Their tenants followed suit.

Along the way, cyclists discovered that when push comes to shove, Bike Week is a token gesture that comes with no real conviction or support. Be clear on this, from the Feds to the State of California to the Metro to the CRA to the City of Los Angeles, facilities for cyclists are so low on the list of priorities that they fail to register. Cyclists will count when cyclists demand to be counted.

It ain't over!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Cyclists/LAPD Task Force Celebrates Bike Week


Thursday's meeting of the Cyclists/LAPD Task Force marked the 5th meeting of cyclists and LAPD brass, all in an effort to support cyclists on the streets of Los Angeles with LAPD policies and training that are relevant and effective. It's been a long journey but it has paid of and the LAPD has delivered.

Sgt. Krumer screened the LAPD's new online training module for patrol officers that clearly articulates the rights of cyclists and the LAPD's commitment to supporting cyclists on the streets of Los Angeles. It was rewarding to hear the LAPD's narrator say "All streets are a street that a cyclist will ride." The debate over "Ride where it's right" vs. "Ride to the right" is addressed and the training session concludes:

"As police officers, it is our duty to ensure the rights and the safety of all users of the roadway. Cyclists deserve a well trained police force that understands the law and its application. The Department is committed to supporting the cycling community and encourages all of its officers to educate both motorists and cyclists of their mutual obligations to respect each other and SHARE THE ROAD."

Chief Doan then recapped some new LAPD  policies, directives and a Special Order that address several of the issues that the Cyclists/LAPD Task Force has addressed over the last several months.

* Cyclists have long complained that the law requires them to ride in bike lanes (except in specific circumstances) yet the city turns a blind eye when motorists, production companies, armored trucks, or trash cans block the lanes, creating an obstacle course for cyclists.


 The LAPD met with LADOT's Chief Jimmy Price of Parking Enforcement and has issued an Operations Notice clarifying the need to cite for "impeding/blocking bike lanes."

* Cyclists are often given conflicting information about the appropriateness of riding in the crosswalk, typically after an incident involving a collision with a motorist. The irony here is that the Orange Line takes cyclists from the protected Bike Path through intersections by using the crosswalk, yet cyclists get cited in some cases and a dead cyclist was blamed for her death because "she was riding the wrong way in a crosswalk."


The LAPD has clarified that crosswalks are extensions of the sidewalk and if sidewalk cycling is allowed, crosswalk cycling is allowed.

* Cyclists in Los Angeles sometimes encounter law enforcement officers from different agencies, all on the same streets. From the LAPD to the County Sheriffs to the Highway Patrol, it can sometimes be tough to figure out who to call and who's in charge. Recently, a cyclist was hit by a Metro bus, he then called LAPD but the LASD showed up and allegedly prevented the cyclist from obtaining the bus operators information. (LASD works for the Metro)


The LAPD has clarified and issued a Communications Division dispatch policy that the LAPD has authority over incidents involving the Metro on the streets of Los Angeles.

*Cyclists who are injured when forced from the road or when taking evasive action are the victims of a No-Contact Traffic Incident and the motorists who caused the incidents are responsible, even though there was no contact. The term "hit and run" applies to those who fail to "hit" but flee the scene. Two recent incidents highlighted the need to clarify the need to address this situation and the LAPD has issued a Special Order that clarifies the LAPD's responsibility and commitment to "No-Contact Traffic Reports with Injuries."

When the Cyclists/LAPD Task Force first met, it was at times a bit adversarial, with cyclists pushing and the LAPD defending, but this journey has paid off. As of this Bike Week meeting, the LAPD speaks the language of Bike Activists. This was the best Bike to Work Day event in town.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bike to Work Week ain't over!




Three years ago Enci and I partnered with the Metro and celebrated Bike to Work Week by hosting a pit stop at the Hollywood & Western Metro station. We did it to celebrate bike culture and to encourage our cycling community, we did it to send a message to the motoring community, and we did it to encourage our friends to spend the day riding with us. (we so cleverly called our celebration "Bike INSTEAD of Work Day!")

We also did it because we were totally pissed that our friend Jen Diamond had been assaulted by a hit-and-run motorist and left in the street, only to have six months pass with no resolution, even though the LAPD had an independent witness and the license plate information of the vehicle.

We brought a prop bike so that the Metro staff could look like cyclists when interviewed on TV, we had a huge Cyclists' Bill of Rights Banner and we rode with the LAPD cyclists to City Hall. It was a great day, so much fun we immediately made plans to repeat it the next year.

Two years ago Enci and I again set up a pit stop at the Hollywood & Vine Metro Station, hauling out the Cyclists' Bill of Rights Banner and leading a merry band of cyclists on an all-day ride that took us to City Hall, to Caltrans, and to USC for the Los Angeles Neighborhood Institute. Nobody ended up at work, we instead focused on equal parts bike fun, bike activism, bike politics and straight up biking. We made friends with Randy, a member of the Midnight Ridazz Aid LifeCycle Team who was taken down by a hit-and-run motorist just a week later. Still she rides!

It was a long day and at the end, we were ready to simply ride home but it wasn't so easy. Heading through the Hollywood & Western intersection we were overtaken by a Metro bus operator who was not impressed with the Bike to Work theme. He was downright homicidal. Still we ride!

Last year Enci and I found ourselves less enthralled with the idea of riding to City Hall and decided to instead explore the controversial Expo Line with our Expo Exposure bike tour. Our friends from Clif Bar (Kitten Kuroi and Marin Vaughn) joined us at Hollywood & Vine and we gave the local commuting cyclists lots of encouragement before heading off on a ride to the westside and then back to USC for the always interesting Los Angeles Neighborhood Institute. The infamous Hummer vs. Cyclists incident had just occurred and cyclists were feeling a tad political, just enough to give the Bike INSTEAD of Work a bit of an edge. Still they ride!

This year, Enci and I intended to host a pit stop for Bike to Work day, we really did. But the simple reality is this, we spent all week on three campaigns and it left us with little enthusiasm or energy for the Hollywood & Western Bike to Work pit stop. To our friends who came by to visit but didn't find us, we hope you understand and we hope you'll join us in working to make Los Angeles a great place to ride.

As for the campaigns:

  • We've been fighting to defend the honor and the rights of a dead cyclist in Glendale. We don't know him but a newspaper article quoting a Glendale Police Detective as saying that a cyclist was killed by a stop-sign-running motorist shared 50% responsibility for his death because he rode his bike on the sidewalk in violation of State law prompted us to engage the Glendale Police Department in an awareness campaign that continues.
  • We've been fighting to ensure that our community supports cyclists. We love Trader Joe's but if they're going to open a store at the W Hollywood Transit Oriented Development without any bike parking, they're simply not welcome in Hollywood. Tough words but we backed it up by going after Trader Joe's Corporate with the full support of our friends and we're determined to prevail, not just for the specific improvements but to set a standard.
  • We've been fighting to develop a more effective relationship with the Los Angeles Police Department. Last night we celebrated Bike to Work Day at the LAPD Headquarters with Chief Doan, Commander Villegas, and Sgt. Krumer. Six months after we met with Chief Charlie Beck and formed the Cyclists/LAPD Task Force, we had results. We reviewed new roll call training on the rights of cyclists along with LAPD Directives and Special Orders that addressed 1) Non-Contact Traffic Reports with Injuries 2) Citation Authority for Impeding/Blocking Bike Lanes 3) LAPD Authority over Metro/Cyclist incidents 4) Interagency Coordination of issues relating to cyclists and their right to ride the streets of Los Angeles safely and free of fear!

Earlier this week I wrote a post for CityWatchLA in which I indicated that I was done with celebrating Bike to Work Week. I meant it when I wrote it and I really do hope that someday, riding a bike on the streets of Los Angeles becomes such a normal thing that there is no need to call out the news team, hold a press conference, and pass out rewards and stickers memorializing the occasion.

Until then I will keep fighting to make Los Angeles a Great City and I will start by fighting to make the streets of LA a great place to ride. For me, Bike to Work Week isn't over until Saturday and I'm proud to be participating in BikesideSPEAKS where 7 speakers will take 7 minutes each to address 7 subjects that are key to making our streets safer for everybody. I hope you'll join us in a real Bike to Work Week celebration!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Trader Joe's Celebrates "Bike to Work" Week



Trader Joe's is coming to Hollywood tomorrow, an event that was heralded with signage promoting the "Public Parking" to be found in the behemoth W Hollywood structure that caps the four acre Hollywood & Vine block. Enci inquired and discovered that the "Public Parking" was of the subterranean motor vehicle variety, not of the safe and effective bike parking variety, prompting Enci to send the Tweet heard 'round the Board Room, aka:

The TWEET that ROARED!

@ActOut Call Trader Joe's HQ 626-599-3700, ask 4 customer service re. Bike Parking at Hollywd/Vine. Then tell them 2 get bike racks 4 grand opening!

Friends from far and wide, on Twitter, on Facebook, and on MySpace, picked up on the alert and began calling Trader Joe’s. In spite of both of our requests for a call back, we never received one. Instead, we all called the corporate headquarters and were typically transferred to Tiffany who took the message, indicating that she would pass the “bike rack requests” on to Christy Hughes, District Manager for the Hollywood store. Her tone grew gruffer as the calls continued.

@DudeonaBike RT @BikeWriters @ActOut: Call Trader Joes HQ 626-599-3700, ask 4 customer svc re Bike Parking at H'wood/Vine. Tell them 2 get bike racks.

Gary Kavanagh From my experience Trader Joe's has never been especially bike friendly. The Santa Monica location only has a cheap wheel bender rack, but not only that, it is one made for 26" wheel size, my 700cc road wheels don't fit in it. I usually attached to the hand railing by the door, but now I pretty much only shop at the Co-Op, the only grocery store in Santa Monica with a proper bike rack.

Ron Durgin Just another example of how this TOD project fails the community and fails to meet minimum standards. TJ's offers a feedback form for local stores on its website, including H & V. I say we hammer them with feedback about their failure to accommodate cyclists, especially with a planned opening during Nat'l Bike Month and Bike to Work Week. Numbskulls.

@josesigala Hi Enci, called Trader Joe's customer relations office to ask for bike racks at Hollywood store. They stated they will set them up soon. txs

Jeremy Grant I did this and the girl (Tiffany?) sounded a little perturbed... She said "yeah, all your friends are calling". So I layed it on extra thick and had her write a bunch of techno mumbo jumbo down after I gave her a ton of reasons and then started quoting the code book. So fun.

Crispin Oochie I thnk it kinda starts at this juncture.....new building, new parking....they wont do it unless we ask, petition...demand! I'm not ready to take on a project, but I will call them and say WTF? No bike parking? Guess I'll shop on sundays at the farmers market!

@DudeonaBike TJ's cust service said they'll have racks at H'wood/Vine, but seemed very disinterested. Call so they know they've got to do it 626-599-3700

Eric Pancer They always come up with some statement like "the bike racks weren't ready yet".

Brian Bell I've always been amazed at the lack of bike parking at TJ's.

@josesigala Please let me know if I can do anything else 2 help. My family shops at the Eagle Rock and Silver Lake almost every week. I retweeted

Ana-Maria Lupan bike parking especially in that busy area will result in bike PARTS still being ripped off ;( ... in-store parking/walking bike in is the only way to do it these days in busy areas.

Hollywoodrac Rentacar just did, Christie Hughes regional manager is supposed to call Stephen or Enci back regarding this issue. keep me posted

@Ride_the_Bone RT @ActOut: Call Trader Joe's today at 626-5993700 to ask them to install bike parking by May 21, grand opening of H'wood/Vine.

Meghan Kavanagh done

Claudia Monroy on it!

Kevin Winston It's Trader Joe's, they better!

Jonathan Weiss Our closest TJs has 1 beat-up rack and it's kind of hidden. Let us know if you make progress. A couple of phone calls to Topa management for the shopping center at Sepulveda & National got us the first rack there. That's my shout out.


I tracked down Christies Hughes, the District Manager of Trader Joe's, and she unleashed a long litany of reasons that bike parking at the Hollywood Trader Joe's was not her responsibility including:

“Any bike parking is up to the City of Los Angeles. We’re just tenants and that is their responsibility.”

“We’re just tenants, any bike parking is the responsibility of the Landlord.”

“Bike parking on the front of the store would conflict with the design aesthetic and would be the responsibility of the architect, not us, we’re just tenants.”

At some point in the conversation I was able to convince her that I was clear on the agency who owned the land (the Metro) the agency who controls the sidewalks (Building & Safety) the landlord (Legacy Partners) the local development partners (CRA and City of LA and CD11) and the people who advocated years ago that the W Hollywood complex come with a 1) Bike Share program 2) a Car Share program 3) a local delivery service. Now that the W Hollywood was open and the promised community benefits have failed to appear, it is us (the cycling community) who are still fighting for transportation innovations that all start with the simple accommodation of cyclists. BIKE RACKS!

At this point, Hughes tried a different tack, letting me know that she didn't know why bike parking was her issue anyway. "I called our construction coordinators to find out why bike parking wasn't a standard operating practice." This was progress because we were moving past the "Corporate Denial of Responsibility" that I heard from the Construction Manager, two Store Managers, and one Customer Service handler.

I urged Hughes to go beyond a simple request for bike parking and to actually hire a professional to survey the property, to specify the appropriate racks, and to supervise the installation. I pointed out that well meaning operators often put in bike racks, selecting the wrong type and then installing them incorrectly and in bad locations. Hughes rejected my request along with my request for a call back to confirm that bike parking would be part of the Hollywood Trader Joe's facility. She went on to explain that it was all unnecessary, after all, "I'm a cyclist myself. I even drive a hybrid!"

Since the West Hollywood Trader Joe's is also one of her stores, I used that as an example of well-meaning folks installing bike parking that simply doesn't work. She said they had long ago fixed the bike racks at West Hollywood so I visited the location and this is what I found:


The "Wave" rack or "Ribbon" rack that was previously installed with finger tight bolts that offered no resistance to bike thieves had indeed been moved, this time to a spot that was equally bad, perpendicular to the curb line and blocking the walkway. Apparently this was why it was empty. It is unprotected space, it creates conflict with both motorists and pedestrians, and it simply fails to entice cyclists to use it. 


Meanwhile, cyclists arriving at the West Hollywood Trader Joe's demonstrate with their behavior that the best location for bike parking is within sight of the front door. Here the cyclists have demonstrated that they would rather lock their bikes where there in no ped conflict, even if it means locking it to a pole or a tree.


I mentioned to the manager that there appeared to be a fair amount of bike traffic in the area and that a Bike Corral might be a great solution, a parking space that is set aside in the parking lot with bike racks, a very efficient solution to the lack of sidewalk space for bike parking. "John" assured me that using any space in the parking lot would be a big problem because they had no control over the parking lot. "We're just tenants!"




This restriction is simply contradicted by reality as is demonstrated by the fact that shopping carts get three "Cart Corrals" while bike gets snubbed.

As for the claim that Christie Hughes made regarding improvements to the bike parking at the West Hollywood Trader Joe's, I think I discovered her solution. It appears to be a Hybrid with a bike strapped to it.


Meanwhile, back in Hollywood:

As of today, Ed and Sandy, the local managers of Trader Joe's assure me that there will be bike parking, 8 racks with space for 16 bikes, inside the parking garage and accessible through the Vine Street breezeway, just outside the P1 entrance.

As of today, Rich Adachi, the construction manager of Trader Joe's said that they would be installing bike racks. We had a long talk last week about bike rack design, bike rack locations, bike rack installation and Crime Prevention through Environmental Design. (CPTED)

As of today, Ed Kirk, the  Construction Manager of Legacy Partners, says that they are restricted by the Metro/CRA Development Agreement from putting bike racks outside the building. I pointed out that Metro and the CRA are purportedly proponents of bike parking and that he acknowledged that bike parking made sense, but that he operated under such harsh restrictions that they did what was required and that we would need to go the Metro/CRA for approval. Ultimately, he said that if it's okay with the Metro/CRA he is open to discussing bike racks on the corner of Vine and Selma, all he asks is that they be attractive, that the process for permitting be painless, that somebody wrap up the proposal and take responsibility for funding it.

As for tomorrow, the last day of Bike to Work week, Trader Joe's has promised that bike parking will be a part of the grand opening celebration for the 13,000 square foot store at the corner of Hollywood & Selma. Ride on over and join us in cutting the ribbon on those bike racks!



Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Glendale Police Department says "Circle the Wagons!"

The Glendale Police Department got an early start on the annual "Bike to Work" festivities with their pronouncement that a dead cyclist was 50% responsible for getting hit by a stop-sign-running motorist, after all, "He was riding a bike on the sidewalk in violation of California Vehicle Vode."

Cyclists railed that there is no California Vehicle Code prohibiting a cyclist from riding a bike on the sidewalk or on the extending crosswalk, in spite of the common misconception, pointing out that if there were prohibition, it would be based on local municipal code, not CVC. A review of Glendale Municipal Code reveals that there is a prohibition against sidewalk cycling in a business district.

10.64.025 Bicycle riding on sidewalks. No person shall ride or operate a bicycle upon any public sidewalk in any business district within the city except where such sidewalk is officially designated as part of an established bicycle route. Pedestrians shall have the right-of-way on sidewalks. The prohibition in this section shall not apply to peace officers on bicycle patrol. (Ord. 5116 § 1, 1996)

This started a debate over what constitutes a "business district" because the cyclist, Gerardo Ramos, was hit as he rode through the crosswalk at the intersection of North Concord Street and Milford Street. It appears to be a residential neighborhood but that's when things get murkier. The CVC defines a business district and it also defines a crosswalk.

Business District 235.  A "business district" is that portion of a highway and the property contiguous thereto (a) upon one side of which highway, for a distance of 600 feet, 50 percent or more of the contiguous property fronting thereon is occupied by buildings in use for business, or (b) upon both sides of which highway, collectively, for a distance of 300 feet, 50 percent or more of the contiguous property fronting thereon is so occupied. A business district may be longer than the distances specified in this section if the above ratio of buildings in use for business to the length of the highway exists.

Business and Residence Districts: Determination 240.  In determining whether a highway is within a business or residence district, the following limitations shall apply and shall qualify the definitions in Sections 235 and 515: (a) No building shall be regarded unless its entrance faces the highway and the front of the building is within 75 feet of the roadway. (b) Where a highway is physically divided into two or more roadways only those buildings facing each roadway separately shall be regarded for the purpose of determining whether the roadway is within a district. (c) All churches, apartments, hotels, multiple dwelling houses, clubs, and public buildings, other than schools, shall be deemed to be business structures. (d) A highway or portion of a highway shall not be deemed to be within a district regardless of the number of buildings upon the contiguous property if there is no right of access to the highway by vehicles from the contiguous property.

Crosswalk 275.   "Crosswalk" is either: (a) That portion of a roadway included within the prolongation or connection of the boundary lines of sidewalks at intersection where the intersecting roadways meet at approximately right angles, except the prolongation of such lines from an alley across a street. (b) Any portion of a roadway distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface. Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, there shall not be a crosswalk where local authorities have placed signs indicating no crossing.

I mention the CVC definitions only because that is what the Glendale Police Department talked about during the four phone conversations I had with them, each time trying to find somebody who could speak authoritatively about the Glendale Police Department's reported 50/50 assessment of responsibility in the traffic collission that took the life of Gerardo Ramos. It was an obtuse and cumbersome journey, resulting in my simple request for a formal investigation.

I initially spoke to the reporter who wasn't interested in a retraction or a correction, saying "He's a Detective, I thought I could trust him." She was wrong as was the detective. There is no state law prohibiting cyclists from riding on the sidewalk. It may not be a good idea, in fact it's typically a terrible idea, but it is not a violation of state law. I was at least able to confirm that the reporter stood by her quote of the Glendale Police Detective who said the prosecutors would be filing misdemeanor charges against the motorist. They determined that the cyclist was partially to blame. “They agreed that it’s 50-50,” Mankarios said. “He violated the vehicle code, but in essence had she stopped, he would have gone right through and in front of her.”

I spoke to Officer Metz who was pleasant and helpful, unfortunately also completely misinformed as to the law and its application for cyclists. He referred to a California Vehicle Code ban on cyclists and other "coasting devices" which he repeated a couple of times in during our conversation. I've heard of cyclists and pedestrians being inappropriately grouped but never cyclists and skateboarders. Sure enough, there is a Glendale Muni Code that refers to coasting devices but it's all irrelevant to the incident that resulted in a motorist running a stop sign and hitting a cyclist, causing his death. Officer Metz explained that the crosswalk was an extension of the sidewalk and therefore a cyclist would be prohibited from the crosswalk. He then tired of our conversation and begged off.

I tried again, this time calling for the Chief and when that failed, asking for the Chief's Adjutant. Somehow this sounded like Public Information Officer and I ended up chatting with Sgt. Lorenz who was quite officious and touted the City of Glendale's commitment to safety, requested my query in writing, and aggressively steered the conversation in the general direction of "Move along now! There's nothing here for you to look at!"

I spoke to the Watch Commander, Sgt. Fernandez, who was very helpful and seemed as interested as I in digging through state code and local code and I was encouraged, not by his knowledge of the laws as they apply to cyclists but by his open and enthusiastic approach to my questions. Ultimately, he was a pleasure to talk to but we had a hard time determining if the location was a residential neighborhood or a business district. He gave me his best understanding of the law and the Glendale PD policy but suggested that I should talk to someone else.

I pressed on, this time determining that Sgt. Dennis Smith was in charge of Detective Ashraf Mankarios and I called him to discuss the Glendale Police Department's policy on cyclists on the sidewalks and the 50% determination of fault that Mankarios referred to in the Glendale News Press article. He was slippery!

Smith quickly threw up the first defense saying "We don't litigate in the newspaper and I'm not going to litigate on the phone." I pointed out that we weren't litigating and that repeating this protest three times was a simple straw man argument that completely avoided my simple question. I again asked "Did he stand by the 50-50 responsibility determination that Detective Mankarios referred to in the newspaper?"

This set Sgt. Smith off on a commentary on journalists, interviews, quotes, accuracy, and the fact that it is possible that Detective Mankarios was misquoted or misunderstood. I pointed out that I had confirmed the quote with the journalist but that, nevertheless, my question wasn't regarding his confidence in the article but on his personal and professional opinion on the 50-50 determination. He settled down and said the Glendale Police Department would not make a recommendation such as the 50-50 determination.

Now we were getting somewhere but not for long. He quickly pointed out that we had nothing more to talk about since there the GPD had no 50-50 position on the traffic colission that took the life of Gerardo Ramos. I pointed out that we were just getting started and that the larger issue here was the simple fact that out of five Glendale Police Department officers, four of them had misquoted the law, all stating that to ride a bike on the sidewalk is a violation of state law. It isn't, they are wrong and as to the Traffic Supervisor of the Glendale Police Department it was his responsibility to address the failure of his department to understand the law.

Sgt. Smith was good, he knew the code(s) for business districts, for crosswalks (marked and unmarked) and the muni code for sidewalk cycling. He also knew that I was asking him for an investigation, not just a conversation. He didn't let on immediately but he gave me instructions on how to file a complaint if I thought the Glendale Police Department had failed to perform its duties. His instructions amounted to an obstacle, not a solution. "Come down to the station and file a complaint if you think we should investigate this matter further." I pointed out that since I had him on the phone, he could simply take the complaint telephonically. He then instructed me to "go online, I'll direct you to the proper forms and you can download them, print them out, fill them out, then mail them to the Glendale Police Department." I thanked him for the suggestion but again pointed out that since I had him on the phone and since it was department policy to take complaints and reports telephonically, I would prefer to proceed with my request for an investigation telephonically. He acquiesced, asking if he could finish up with somebody at the counter and then call me back. I agreed, he called me back, and we proceeded with a request that he indicated would go to the supervising Lt. and then the Captain.

We now wait on the Glendale Police Department and their determination on what constitutes a business district and where a cyclist may ride a bike. Personally, I'm not advocating for sidewalk cycling but I understand it. Most importantly, I'm advocating for a police force that not only understands and enforces the law, but that also serves and protects those on the street who are most vulnerable.

This is Bike to Work week around the country. Gerardo Ramos simply wanted to ride his bike to work and his life ended because he crossed the street at the same time as a motorist who failed to stop at that stop sign. All the bike maps and Clif bars and patch kits celebrating Bike to Work week are just salt in the wound if the City of Glendale's Police Department can't clearly and cohesively communicate and defend a cyclists' right to travel safely and free of fear.

It's Bike to Work week and the City of Glendale has a lot of catching up to do!

Monday, May 17, 2010

CityWatchLA - No More Bike to Work Week!

CityWatch, May 18, 2010
Vol 8 Issue 39

I hope this is the last year that “Bike to Work Week” imposes itself on the people of Los Angeles, urging cyclists to ride their bikes and beseeching the motoring public for a little consideration. Tough words from a transportation activist but I’m looking forward to the day when all modes of transportation are supported on the streets of Los Angeles, not just in funding but in law enforcement, in routine accommodations, in maintenance and repair standards, and in the development and implementation of standards.

I’m looking forward to the day when it isn’t necessary to schedule a special day in a special week in an effort to encourage cyclists, when the Police Chief doesn’t feel the need to ask motorists to consider the safety of cyclists on the road, when promoting active transportation is simply unnecessary.

I’m looking forward to the day when we celebrate cyclists and their contribution to our communities. For your consideration, I offer up a few reasons to be thankful for the cyclists who have gone before us as well as those who ride the streets of LA today.

•It was cyclists who spearheaded the 19th century “Good Roads” movement that resulted in a national campaign to pave America’s roads, affording cyclists and motorists alike a smooth ride. Ironically, for all of the contributions to the development of national road standards, cyclists still find themselves fighting for their place on the street.

•Many of the mechanical innovations now associated with the automobile were originally invented for cycling. It was Dr. Dunlop who invented pneumatic tires for his son’s bike. Rack and pinion steering, the differential, the band brakes, and even geared assembly-line machinery all originated in the world of bicycles.

•The development of human flight is the result of two bicycle mechanics who used their bike shop to develop the aircraft controls that made fixed-wing powered flight possible. Orville and Wilbur Wright spent years experimenting with gliders before they added an engine and took to the sky in the historic flight that saw their three-axis control trump the more powerful engines of their competitors.

•The bicycle craze of the 1890’s challenged popular perceptions of femininity and fashion, resulting in a movement away from Victorian sensibilities. The battle over restrictive clothing challenged public perceptions of female athleticism and proper female behavior. Susan B. Anthony commented that “bicycling has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.”

•Cyclists today continue to fight for streets that are safe and effective for all people. The next time you see a cyclist on the streets of Los Angeles, wave (Don’t honk, we think it means danger!) and give a silent thanks to the cyclists who developed LA’s Backbone Bikeway Network, a commitment to connectivity that focuses city resources on the streets that connect major destinations.

Better yet, join Bikeside this Saturday for BikesideSPEAKS, an evening featuring 7 Bike Activists talking for 7 minutes each on 7 topics that are sure to change the world.

As for Bike to Work Week, I’m going to pass on the festivities and instead call on our leadership to step away from the photo opp. It’s time for the Mayor, the City Council members, the LAPD, the LADOT, the Bureau of Street Services and everybody else who has a piece of the streets to join forces with LA’s most powerful non-profits, Bikeside and Sustainable Streets, and to work with us to make our streets safe for everybody, not just for the day or for the week, but for every day of the year.

Great Streets don’t happen by accident, they require year-round work by professionals who know that our streets are for people and who understand that what’s good for cyclists is also good for the community.

“See you on the Streets!”

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