Today’s post, in which I offer a qualified endorsement of the new draft bike plan

Maybe it was the weather.

Wednesday’s humidity, which followed the scorching heat of the first few days of the week, may have discouraged people from attending the West L.A. hearing on the latest draft of the proposed new bike plan.

Then again, it might have been the unexpected rain that evening, since many Angelenos have a well-founded fear of melting if they get wet.

Or it could have been the gridlocked rush hour traffic, so bad it took over 40 minutes just to drive a few miles down Santa Monica Blvd to where the meeting was being held. And demonstrating better than anything else just why we need an effective plan that provides a viable alternative to driving.

Yes, I recognize the irony of driving to a meeting to create a plan that will encourage other people not to.

And yes, I could have gotten there much faster by bike.

So it’s possible that some people had already come and gone before I finally got there. Or maybe it’s just a sign of bike plan fatigue after nearly two full years of feeling like we’ve had to fight the city for a more effective roadmap to biking infrastructure.

Even if it is starting to look like we may finally be on the same side, after all.

But as Damien Newton points out on Streetsblog, only a handful of people attended the meeting. And only 6 spoke to offer their comments — and no, I wasn’t one of them.

For a change, I wanted to listen.

One of the things I heard was that many people feel overwhelmed by the sheer size of the plan. Which is actually a good thing, since the previous draft was sparse enough that it was relatively easy to pick it apart and expose the flaws.

But while some people complained about various details, most seemed to find things they liked about it, tracing lines on the various maps with their fingers to identify routes that actually led where they wanted to go.

I did the same thing myself, discovering routes in the plan that would allow me to ride various bikeways from the Westside to Downtown, which was my primary complaint about the previous draft.

Whether any of it will get built in my lifetime is another matter. Or at all, for that matter, if the 1996 bike plan is any indication.

Of course, there’s also a lot to dislike. As Joe Linton has pointed out, there are a number of errors in the plan; in fact, Gary found yet another one this week that misidentified streets in Santa Monica, raising the risk of misaligned bikeways.

Joe was also quick to direct my attention to the draft plan’s call for minimum 11’ vehicle lanes, noting that the current L.A. standard is 10’ and some other cities stripe lanes as narrow as 9 feet. Which could cause some proposed bike lanes to slip into the much despised and thankfully discontinued “currently infeasible” category, as the extra foot per lane crowds out space for bike lanes.

Not to mention that studies have shown narrower lanes slow speeding traffic and cause drivers to operate their vehicles more carefully. Always a good thing, unless all you care about is how many vehicles you can move through the city’s streets every hour.

But that was the old LADOT, right?

Meanwhile, Josef Bray-Ali says more could be done to allow building owners to substitute bike parking for car parking, and to remove lanes to make way for bikes.

Personally, I’d like to see a provision for regular maintenance of all city bikeways, along with a requirement that LADOT staffers ride every inch of bikeway in the city on regular basis — or at least encourage and respond to reports from riders — to ensure that they’re actually in safe, ridable condition. Unlike some UCLA adjacent bikeways I could name.

Along with a cycling equivalent of the Mayor’s 30/10 plan that would build out the bike plan while those of us who’ve fought for bikeways on our streets are still young enough to ride them.

I like a lot of what I see in the draft plan, though. Like the idea of Bike Friendly Streets, and a Neighborhood Bikeway Network that would allow riders to travel within their own local community or feed into the 660 miles of the Citywide Bikeway Network. As well as the fact that the city listened to cyclists and incorporated the Backbone Bikeway Network into the plan as the basis of the CBN.

But the devil, as always, is in the details.

Take Wilshire Blvd, for instance — currently a car-choked thoroughfare operating at or near capacity for much of the day, and one of the city’s most uninviting streets for bicyclists. And just one of the major boulevards that make up the Citywide Network.

So are they actually planning to put bike lanes Wilshire Blvd, which would necessitate the removal of one or more traffic or parking lanes — and could invite open rebellion from the driving public? Or are they simply planning to put up signs designating it as yet another meaningless bike route, leaving us to fight for our survival like Snake Plissken attempting to make his escape from the mean streets of L.A?

A lot depends on who our new BFF selects to replace Rita Robinson as the new General Manager of LADOT. While there have been signs of a culture change at the department in recent months, the person Mayor Villaraigosa hires will go a long way towards determining just how this plan gets implemented and what our streets will look like in another 10 years.

He can — and should — cement his new-found support for cycling by selecting someone who will truly reform the department, and implement genuine Complete Streets policies that will benefit everyone on or along the avenues of L.A.

Or he can appoint someone who will continue the same failed focus on automotive throughput that has ruined our neighborhoods, and puts the safety of every Angeleno at risk whenever we walk, ride or drive on city streets.

A year ago, I would have bet my life savings on the latter. Not that $2.37 would have got me very good odds on a sure thing.

Today, though, it’s a different question.

The mayor’s recent actions seem to show that he gets it now. And raises hopes that he’ll make a bold choice to lead the department and make a lasting mark on the city before he leaves office.

In addition, we seem to have a genuine champion in TranspoComm chair Bill Rosendahl, as his remarks at Wednesday’s hearing show. And I haven’t forgotten Council President Eric Garcetti’s words of support, including a promise to stay on top of the proposed anti-harassment ordinance that should come up for a hearing in the Transportation Committee later this month.

In other words, the pieces finally appear to be in place to transform, not just the streets of L.A., but the safety and livability of the entire city. This bike plan could and should be the catalyst to accomplish that.

So I’ll repeat the offer I made last year, with a little more hope and enthusiasm this time.

If the Mayor and council members will commit to support the new bike plan — and more importantly, fund and implement it — I’ll support it, as well.

And I will gladly ride it with them once it’s built.

There’s still one more chance left to express your opinions and influence what ends up in the final draft before it goes to the Council for approval. Or you can submit your comments online through October 8th.

………

Another day, another doping scandal as Ezequiel Mosquera, the runner-up in the Vuelta, tests positive along with a teammate, while Italian rider Riccardo Riccò is under investigation for pills found in his home. Despite sympathy over the miniscule amount of clenbuterol found in his blood — an amount Dave Moulton compares to a gnat’s testicle — Contador could face a two-year ban. Evidently, his excuse is possible, if not probable, after all. Bike Radar asks would you dope? And the Huffington Post points a finger at the investigators in the Lance Armstrong case, suggesting that cyclists may not be the only ones who’ve broken the rules.

………

Just 10 days until CicLAvia. LADOT Bike Blog updates the status of current bikeway projects. Long Beach’s biking expats relax in Philly on their way to New York. A cyclist is found dead on the side of the road near Lompoc after leaning his bike against a nearby tree, while a 62-year old bicyclist is killed in an Atherton crosswalk. A Rutgers study shows each additional mile of bike lane results in a 1% increase in bike commuters. Cyclelicious wants to see your decidedly non-bike chic riding attire. EcoVelo says just say no to stealth riding. Single-track riding gets a no in a Portland park; the League of American Bicyclist’s Andy Clarke calls the decision disappointing. People for Bikes says Portland isn’t perfect, but it offers a good example — even without single-tracks, evidently. Meanwhile, a Portland cyclist is arrested in a road rage incident after spitting at the passenger of a van that buzzed him. And still in Portland, police catch a brazen thief when he swaps one stolen bike for another, then pauses to admire a third. Tennessee asks cyclists to rate their experiences on local highways; anyone believe California really wants to know what we think? Me neither. An off-duty Louisville KY cop is killed when he stopped his bike on the shoulder of a highway; even though he wasn’t in the roadway, a witness calls it “unavoidable.” Slate accuses the New York Times of bogus trend-spotting — and cribbing from a 2007 NY Observer story — for their story on hot stylish women on wheels. The spokesman for New York’s Coalition Against Rogue Riding accuses NYDOT of fabricating bike-friendly statistics and calls for the firing of Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan; if they really want to get rid of her, we’ll take her. Seriously. Overly fragrant cyclists booted from the local pub. The London Transport Museum will debate whether bicycling is the wave of the future. Danish police say the death penalty applies for traffic violations. Utility bikes and election posters. An Indonesian militant is injured when his bike bomb blows up prematurely.

Finally, LAB ranked Eddie Merckx as the greatest cyclist of all time, followed by Lance, Major Taylor, Fausto Coppi and Jeannie Longo; needless to say, the vote was held before Longo finished 5th in the women’s world time trial championship at age 51.

Oddly, I somehow failed to make the list.

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One Response to Today’s post, in which I offer a qualified endorsement of the new draft bike plan

  1. cycler says:

    I will say that having a mayor who is really behind biking can make a real difference. It’s happening slowly here in Boston, but Hizzoner (AKA mayor for life Menino) started biking as his daily exercise a couple of years ago, then hired Nichole Freedman as his bike czar, and has really supported her and pushed a lot of city departments to start taking biking seriously. It doesn’t change overnight, and our biggest problem is the incredibly tight built environment, but there are very hopeful signs in all the city departments.

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