21 leaders from the bicycle and pedestrian community have banded together to ask Metro to include a small set aside for better amenities for walkers and cyclists in the planned expenditures should the voters approve the half cent sales tax increase this fall. Many of those that have already signed will be familiar with readers of Streetsblog or those involved with either bicycle or pedestrian issues. However, their signatures alone will not be enough to sway the agency so now we're asking for your help.
Below is a copy of our letter. If you agree with what you read and want your voice to be heard, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us you want to sign up. Then, your signature will be added to the list. Feel free to write comments below, but if you want your signature counted, please send us an email! Oh, and don't worry, your email won't be added to somebody's update list or sold to spammers. You'll only here from us if there's a question about your signature.
Copies of the letter will be presented at Metro Board Committee meetings and their Full Board Meeting on July 24th. Signatures will be collected until the morning of the meeting.
Dear Metro Boardmember,
As currently proposed, Metro's plan to spend the $40 billion that would be created by a half cent increase in the county sales tax includes no funds set aside specifically for bicycle and pedestrian projects. This is a critical mistake, both from political and public planning perspectives. Given recent headlines, it is impossible to argue that the county is meeting cyclists' needs and after all, anyone that uses public transportation is a pedestrian at the beginning and end of their trip.
By not funding two popular and sustainable modes of transportation, Metro is unwittingly alienating people who would likely support both the proposed increase and many of the projects the increase would fund. To fix this problem, we propose setting aside 1% of the annual intake to fund bicycle projects and another 1% to fund pedestrian projects from the windfall that will be achieved by increasing the sales tax.
The case for better funding for pedestrian projects is an easy one to make. No matter one's preferred mode of transportation, for part of every trip the traveler spends some time as a pedestrian. People who walk to and from transit stops deserve wide, flat, unbroken sidewalks and attractive and comfortable shelter at the stops. People who only travel by foot are engaging in the most sustainable form of transportation and should be encouraged by their government officials to continue to do so.
Tens of thousands of LA residents travel everyday on their bikes, and many of them aren't doing it by choice, but because of economic reasons. While the law states that cyclists have equal rights to the road, the reality is they are not treated as equals by their fellow travelers. To not set aside funding for bicycles in a $40 billion budget just affirms what so many people erroneously believe, that bicyclists are second class users of our roads and should not be treated with the same respect as an automobile. Of course, the state of the bike networks in LA County varies wildly depending upon what municipality you happen to be in. Setting aside money for everyone to compete for would create an incentive for all municipalities to put forward deserving and well thought out bike project proposals.
At Metro's June Board Meeting, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa compared those interest groups fighting for a favorite project to people fighting over who gets the biggest cookie. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky used the same analogy for pies. Taking their imagery to its logical conclusion, those fighting for better funding for bicycles and pedestrians aren't even allowed in the kitchen. Instead, we're being told to wait at the kid's table to battle it out for the leftover crumbs, i.e. the 20% of the budget called "Local Return" funds that filter back to individual communities to be spent as they wish. With just 2% of the total budget, you would not only send the message that non-motorized travel is critical to Los Angeles County's future, you also help create a future where cyclists and pedestrians have a safer and more enjoyable way to travel.
Colin Bogart, Enci Box, Stephen Box, Josef Bray-Ali, Jason Burns, Liz Elliott, Rob Galbraith, Aimee Gilchrist, Siel Ju, Jennifer Klausner, Erik Knutzen, Dorothy Le, Jessica Meaney, Ron Milam, Deborah Murphy, Damien Newton, Ingrid Peterson, David Pulsipher, Shay Sanchez, Alex Thompson
Photos: Jazamaripae, Atwater Village Newbie/Flickr