Inside the Mandeville Canyon Task Force

Last night, Councilman Rosendahl’s Task Force on bicycle safety issues a in Mandeville Canyon met for the first time. Occasional Streetsblog contributer Kent Strumpell was there, and offers these notes from the meeting. Some of the highlights include many points of agreement between the community and the cyclists and that there will be a public community forum sometime this fall.

The Mandeville Task Force was attended by close to 30 participants including representatives from the three home owners groups, cyclists representing Velo Club La Grange, South Bay Wheelmen, Team Helens and others, city bikeways staff, LACBC and BAC reps, local police officers including the local captain, a representative from the city prosecutor’s office, a Public Works commissioner, a criminal psychologist and of course Councilman Rosendahl and staff. I apologize that I did not keep good notes on the names of the participants.
Rosendahl immediately made it clear that the Task Force was not a substitute for a town hall meeting on the larger issue of tensions between cyclists and motorists. He plans to convene a meeting of that nature in the fall, where all will be invited including the media. Tonight’s meeting, however, was to focus on the situation on Mandeville Canyon, though it was anticipated that some of what comes out of this group could inform the citywide debate. Elaborating on what he stated in the meeting announcement, Rosendahl said participants on both sides of the issue expressed concerns that a large meeting would be chaotic, encourage the media to focus on polarizing viewpoints and not be productive. Judging from the generally constructive outcome of this initial meeting, this seems like a wise choice. The Councilman remained for the entire meeting and provided a firm hand when needed to keep the discussions productive.
After introductions, Councilman Rosendahl got the discussion started by giving participants the opportunity to express their views and concerns. The tone of the comments was respectful and constructive. Both of the homeowners’ groups and La Grange distributed handouts that summarized their concerns and suggestions.
Homeowners acknowledged that the road has clear recreational value and should remain open for a variety of uses. They pointed out that it is, however, the neighborhood they live in, is narrow and needs maintenance. Their concerns about cyclists focused on the behavior of those who don’t follow the rules, who speed, ride two abreast, blow through stop signs, are noisy in early morning hours, use coarse, aggressive language towards motorists who encounter them and the hazards that silent, speeding cyclists present to pedestrians.
Cyclists stressed their desire to find solutions that will allow them to continue to use the road safely and with courtesy towards residents. They pointed out that they have made efforts in the past to work with the homeowners groups to address issues in the canyon, but these efforts have not been consistent enough to have much effect. Representatives from the riding clubs admitted that there are a few cyclists who exhibit bad behavior, but that these are far outnumbered by those who make an effort to be courteous and safe. They cited a major concern with speeding motorists, some of whom make dangerous passing maneuvers to overtake cyclists who are traveling at or near the speed limit, and some who drive aggressively around cyclists. There was widespread acknowledgment that the road surface is in such poor condition that this often forces cyclists to ride farther into the road. Sometimes trash containers are placed where they force cyclists towards the center as well.

The Councilman then asked the two sides to separate and caucus amongst themselves to identify their primary concerns and take a stab at finding solutions. When they returned, the homeowners group listed their primary concerns as:
1. Lack of accountability, ie, cyclists are anonymous and problem riders can’t be identified. Their proposed solution was some form of license plate that cyclist would be required to display. This idea was ruled impractical because it would require statewide legislation to enable it.
2. Lack of adherence to laws.
4. Lack of enforcement.
5. Cyclists who are unaware that motorists are near them and don’t move over to allow them to pass.
The cyclist group identified these issues:
1. The need for safe interactions between cyclists and motorists. Aggressive driving can prove deadly to cyclists.
2. Lack of understanding about how driver behavior affects the safety of cyclists and how to drive safely around them.
3. The need for repair of poor road surface conditions.
The bike riders then identified these strategies for addressing the problems:
1. Education. Create guidelines in the form of "rules of the road" to be distributed to cyclists via the internet, email, at bike shops and possibly on sign boards at both the bottom and top Mandeville Canyon. Also, collaborate with the homeowners groups to develop corresponding guidelines for motorists to provide guidance on safety factors for cyclists and how to drive around them. For instance, rather than honking (which seems to elicit adverse reactions), motorists should try to only tap their horn a couple times. Also, motorists need to understand that the harsh words they sometimes get from cyclists are not personal but reflect an instinctive reaction when they are put in a dangerous situation by a car.
2. Road surface conditions should be repaired and maintained so that cyclists can more safely ride closer to the right.
3. Traffic calming. It was acknowledged that this has been a controversial issue (residents of upper Mandeville have made legal challenges when lower Mandeville homeowners planned or implemented speed humps!). Nonetheless, at least speed "feedback" signs could be used, which display a motorist’s speed and have been shown to be effective.
4. Provide a means for homeowners to file complaints about and descriptions of unruly cyclists to the clubs so they can attempt to self discipline any members who warrant this. Could be an email address or website. It was pointed out that perhaps 40% of the cyclists who ride on Mandeville are not affiliated with the clubs, so they could not be controlled.
When the homeowners were asked what solutions they could offer, they said they would "match" the education and other programs offered by the cyclists.
Bikeways staff pointed out that there might be opportunities to incorporate initiatives into the city’s bicycle plan, which is being updated, to address issues brought up in this meeting.
Next steps
1. A site tour will be organized involving Department of Public Works, cyclists, homeowners, police and LADOT to survey Mandeville and Westridge for pavement problems and other conditions that affect cyclist safety and road positioning. This group will summarize its findings and formulate recommendations.
2. Minutes of tonight’s meeting and the sign-in sheet will be distributed.
3. Cyclists will develop their rules of the road guidelines, as well as collaborating on guidelines for motorists.
3. A future meeting of the Task Force will be scheduled.
4. A town hall-type meeting will be scheduled for the fall.

My apologies if I left out any important points, but I wanted to, at least, get out a brief report.

Image: Silent Sensei/Google Earth

20 thoughts on Inside the Mandeville Canyon Task Force

  1. Sad that a public meeting went underground and then failed to establish a basic foundation of the law as the starting point for any discussion and action.

    There is no law forbidding riding two abreast, this is not a shareable lane, lane positioning is not dictated by the impatience of the motorist but by the safety of the motorist.

    This issue has city-wide impact as is demonstrated by the incredible animosity revealed in the 600+ comments on the LATimes blog.

    While those involved in this meeting were making plans to reorganize, Cycling Education Professionals were out on Mandeville Canyon preparing this video that goes he distance in addressing this situation.

    http://laist.com/2008/07/14/video_of_the_day_how_to_bicycle_rid.php

  2. I’m not sure I understand what happened here. Some guy attacked and severely injured two bicyclists, and the proposed solutions are bicyclist education and repaving the road? Non sequitur

  3. How can this incident be anything other than the motorist’s fault?

    The only user group using a moving weapon to get around are motorists. Speed indicator signs? Come on!

    Heaven forbid that car drivers would have to obey the law for their own safety, and for the safety of others!

    Traffic calming should have been the FIRST item on the agenda. This may be “their neighborhood” – but it is a public right of way! They’ve no right to expect to be able to drive, with impunity, over the speed limit on a narrow mountain road (regardless of what the car commercials tell them).

    Bullshit. This is bullshit.

  4. While “two abreast” is not used in the language of the law, it is prohibited… According to the law, a cyclist riding slower than the flow of traffic must ride as close to the right curb of the road as safely possible unless passing or avoiding an obstruction or cyclist. If there’s another cyclist between you and the curb and you’re not passing that cyclist, then you’re in violation of that particular statute.

  5. You’re forgetting the “slower than the flow of traffic” qualifier.

    You also substitute “possible” for “practicable.”

    Please don’t dispense any more bad legal advice.

    The City of Pasadena attempted to pass a law restricting cyclists from riding THREE abreast. It failed because the municipality does not have the authority, under CVC21, from enacting this restriction. It failed to pass the legal challenge. I was there.

    Cyclist are allowed to share the lane and in this case the only other there isn’t enough room to share with anything larger than a bicycle or a motorcycle.

    This is not just the good law, it’s good physics.

  6. I deleted the rant I was going to spew and condensed how I feel into this: Mandeville Canyon does not have a bike problem – it has a car problem.

  7. I applaud the effort that went into this meeting and the city’s response. Now if some angry motorist will mangle a couple of bike riders on my commute route (Sepulveda Blvd), maybe the city will fix the deteriorating ashpalt that forces me to take the entire lane in traffic that is exceeding the speed limit by an easy 10-15 m.p.h. Maybe then the city will educate motorists that go so fast up Sepulveda they move into the bike lane with me on the curves that they may just be going too fast. Maybe a task force with come study Sepulveda and ask how an official “Bike Route” can have a shoulder that goes from 5 feet to 6 inches repeatedly without notice. This is a great day for cyclists. Now, can I get a couple of volunteers to get mangled so my bike commute can be improved!!

  8. David,

    As tempting as that sounds…

    There is a bad piece of engineering work on the horizon for that stretch, lovingly referred to as the “Sepulveda Reversible” project.

    There were at least three members of the Bel Air Beverly Crest Community at yesterday’s Storm the Bastille, all opposed to the “improvements” that will move more cars, faster, squeezing cyclists into a reversible lane dilemma in the tunnel. Funded with bikeway dollars, engineered to squeeze cyclists. The LADOT at work!

    Look forward to more cars, moving faster unless we can modify this project some more.

  9. First, I am a cyclist.

    Second, I am a motorist.

    Third, both need to follow the rules of the road.

    Fourth, Hence, this is both a bike & car problem. It is more an attitude problem.

  10. It is a shame that this problem is has become so contentious that the public meeting had to be postponed. Mandeville Canyon isn’t the only area affected by this “road rage against cyclists”. It’s happening more and more frequently all over the LA City/County area. Flinging acusations, however justified, back and forth is only inflaming this ongoing situation.

    As stated by James in the comment above, this issue is both an attitude problem and an education problem. There are more and more people everyday out on their bicycles on the streets. Most of the cyclists have safe riding skills but quite a few have no clue how to ride safely in traffic. A graver concern is the very high percentage of drivers who are totally ignorant (ignore) about a bicyclist’s right (and need) to share the road.

    The road sharing video mentioned above is excellent and many of our local advocacy groups also post safe riding tips on their websites.

    A lot of good points were raised by all parties from the task force. Hopefully, this initiative will continue and spread all across Los Angeles.

    Suggestions:

    More “Sharrows”, please.

    Why not turn the frequent traing runs into an organized, scheduled event. A time trial, for instance. The bike clubs and the neighborhood associations could run them as a benefit and charge a nominal fee with the proceeds going to street maintenance and signage. That way the runs could be scheduled in intervals and the traffic could be controlled better.

    Smile and wave all five fingers when someone honks at you. Or blow them kisses. Sometimes they smile back;)

  11. #10’s got a good idea, but I’d put the onus of paying for use of the road on car drivers. There could be a special time, say 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. daily when they could hold an all-car rally in the streets – all for a simple fee. The money raised would go directly to funding traffic calming and improving the pedestrian and bicycle experience on this narrow road.

  12. This entire meeting stinks, councilman Rosendahl must have gotten hosed by some rich folks up the canyon and called off the real meet and only invited some people of his choice.
    This is a sad state of affairs.

    The cyclist must be respected on the road, this problem is going to only get worse as more and more cyclist hit the roads as the price of gas goes wild.

    Lets hope something good comes of this, NO MORE PRIVATE MEETINGS!!!

  13. I have long contended that I would be exponentially safer on the 405 than on Sepulveda. Some day when I get fed up enough, I will take the shoulder of the 405. At least that shoulder is 10 feet wide! As I ride Sepulveda each morning I am traveling much faster than the cars on the 405. Yet at the same time, on Sepulveda, I am traveling a couple of m.p.h. slower than the speed limit and cars blow by me inches away like I’m sitting still. It really makes no sense. If it only came down to being able to take the safest route, I would be on the shoulder of the 405.

    Yes, I am aware of the planned widening of Sepulveda. That’s going to be fun for about a year during construction! Yes, I think the end result will be enabling cars to go even faster than they do now, endandering cyclists even more.

  14. The Pasadena ordinance still has potential to pass, it’s up for review shortly. While there need to be some public meetings, public comment meetings should be ‘public’, decision meeting should be ‘public’ but meetings where real work is performed can’t be public, people have used the opportunity to control the discussion with loud none meaningful arguments and more then about 7 people in a meeting of this kind can easily become counter productive.

    As for the vehicle code issue, what we do on bicycles and the current speed of motor vehicles is not adequately addressed but in most cases, police are untrained in bicycle physics and laws anyway. That’s true in Pasadena for sure. The police consider traffic flow well before cyclist safety and don’t even know that 21202 contains the words “including but not limited to”. Giving Cyclists the opportunity to decide the safety of a situation at that time. So ofetn, I see drivers (of a vehicle whose space could hold 10 bicycles and can go over 100 MPH if desired) complaining about the actions of bicycle which can go MAYBE 35 on the flat and takes you about 3 feet wide on the street. What are they really complaining about? Goliath complaining about David, seems nonsensical to me. Even if it is TWO cyclists together, is that any different then a car traveling at or near the speed limit on say Walnut in Pasadena where the speed limit is already a substandard (for a 4 lane road) 30 MPH anyway? (There is a story on that in the Star News a few months ago)

    A similar situation to the Mandeville crash occurred a number of years ago on Mullholland Drive but in that case, the car which cause the ‘accident’ was a California Highway Patrol Car on duty. He also just wanted to talk about the cyclists taking up too much roadway. I think it is regretful for a major injury to happen before we can discuss these issues deeply and meaningfully.

  15. Pasadena Area Rider brings up a good point – how can cyclists “take up road space” when cars are several times larger and heavier? Does having an internal combustion engine make someone so special that they now own the road?

    I am routinely passed (while going the speed limit) by cars going much faster than me on residential or busy commercial streets – and I am the “nuisance”? Hurtling around in a multi-ton vehicle is a real safety hazard. Just ‘cuz everyone has one doesn’t make it okay for them to abuse the rules of the road.

    The tenor and outcome of this meeting would have been markedly different if some bicyclists with a backbone were in attendance.

  16. I question the sanity of any bicycle advocate who produces that list of recommendations. If I was at such a meeting and it produced those recs, I would be out the door and on the phone with local press decrying the outcome before the meeting was over. The absence of that suggests to me that the bicycle advocates at the meeting either don’t know how to do their work, or simply aren’t advocates at all.

    The town hall is a good recommendation and could be great. The other stuff is awful.

  17. Alex Thompson: It’s easy to complain about things with no need to prove yourself and questioning the sanity of someone who takes the time to at least be involved concerns me because complaining with little action is how we got to where we are now. Give us YOUR short list of recommendations. I will pass them on to OUR local committees.

  18. Pasadena Area Rider,

    Lay off the ad hominems.

    I co-founded the Bikerowave, stewarded it for nearly a year, and dropped $11.5K into it. I worked over 50 shifts as a head mechanic. I co-authored the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights, endorsed now by three neighborhood councils representing over 150,000 people. I write the fourth most authoritative LA based biking blog according to Technorati, behind Will Campbell’s blog [sic], LA Streetsblog, and CICLE. I co-founded ibikeu Wiki. I assist in organizing Santa Monica Critical Mass, CRANK MOB, ROB0101011TZ, and Venice Critical Mass.

    I have a doctorate pending in Mathematics.

    So when you say I haven’t proved myself, it doesn’t work for you, but against you, because you appear to be ignorant.

    Here are my recommendations:

    1) Triple fines for traffic infractions in which motorists endanger cyclists.

    2) Conduct one police sting a week in which a experienced vehicular cyclist police officer rides the canyon and a patrol car ahead pulls over and warns offenders.

    3) Send a mailer to residents. Illustrate graphically the results of driver error and motorist aggression. Humanize the players.

    Longer term:

    4) Conduct regular town halls to re-engage cyclists.

    5) Fire a few key city staff, or shuffle them out of their current positions.

    6) Endorse the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights.

  19. Thank you very much for the suggestions, I have passed them along. Every idea helps and this is a great time to hit this issue hard everywhere, not just in Brentwood.

  20. I am glad to see Alex’s suggestions on ideas for cyclists demands in response to the Mandeville Canyon assault. I especially like item 3 – I’d like to see Rosendahl and the city getting behind education of motorists and cyclists about the results of driver error, and if I can add, safe cycling and driving for canyon roads and elsewhere. I like the biyclist bill of rights, too!

    For another possible demand, I’d like to see Councilmember Rosendahl show that he values cyclists lives by getting behind accelerated implementation (ie: within one year) of approved facilities in the city’s approved Bicycle Master Plan (at http://www.ci.la.ca.us/PLN/Cwd/GnlPln/TransElt/BikePlan/B1intro.htm ). Facilities in Rosendahl’s district that haven’t been completed (as far as I know) would include: Bike lanes on Montana, lower Sepulveda, Beverly Glen, Manchester, Westchester and Pershing (and maybe others – that’s from a quick look at the westside facilities Bicycle Master Plan map at http://www.ci.la.ca.us/PLN/Cwd/GnlPln/TransElt/BikeMaps/B2West.gif
    These won’t quite make it bike heaven on all those streets, but it’s aready approved and will make a big difference. They’re all bike lane projects – very cheap, but often a matter of political will, as sometimes they require some removal of parking and/or travel lanes. Consider it a big downpayment on a westside where it’s safe and enjoyable to bike.

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