Whither the Bike Master Plan?

5_13_09_franz.jpgPhoto from Bike Master Plan outreach meeting courtesy Franz Ellers, 2/2008

You may have noticed that recently I’ve been finding a way to work the oft-delayed Bike Master Plan into just about every post about bicycles.  This being Bike to Work Week, there have been plenty of chances.

Yesterday I had a chance to visit the Los Angeles County Bike Advisory Committee’s Planning Sub-Committee, where the BMP, and when the public is actually going to get to see it, was on the agenda.

It’s been so long since Alta Planning, the Department of Planning and LADOT held public outreach to help design the plan, that I covered it at Street Heat in February of 2008.  At that meeting we were told that they hoped to have the first draft of the plan ready by the end of the year, then in November we were told it would be in early 2009, then in January we were told it would be out in April.  A glimmer of hope arose when Wendy Greuel announced she fully intended to hold hearings on the plan, which since she is termed out of office on July 1, would have to be soon.

Yesterday, it was announced that the draft BMP will be unveiled sometime in July or August.  This series of delays has consternates just about every cyclist that I’ve talked to, who are worried the city is watering down the initial report written by the highly-regarded Alta Planning.  I’m sure those concerned won’t be happy to hear that one of the reasons for the delay is the city government has sent back comments and re-writes a couple of times to Alta, who is doing another round of revisions as I speak.

However, one of the main pieces of the plan, a map featuring the current and proposed bike amenities could be out as soon as June.  The LADOT has asked City Planning, who is in charge of the project, to release the plan piecemeal as the parts come together, but Planning prefers to wait until all the pieces are finnished.  Unfortunately, that includes concluding the debate over whether mountain bikes should be allowed on certain trails in the hills and other parks.  Public meetings on that issue are still going on.

The good news is that once the plan is out, there will be plenty of chances for public comment.  Once the draft plan is released, there will be at least ten public hearings on the plan including five downtown in the form of City Council, Transportation Commission and Planning Commission hearings as well as a handful of public meetings in communities.

Meanwhile, the drumbeat continues to grow from cyclists and activists alike: Where is our Bike Master Plan?  For more on the BMP, check out its official website.

  • (1) The mountain bike issue is a stupid, stupid, joke. We make way more enemies than we gain, as a cycling interest group, when we fight for our collective right to RUIN LA’s parks. I want facilities on the street, at grade, and down the same thoroughfares that cars have speedy and safe access to. Horse riders, hikers and environmentalists would get behind that initiatize if we asked for their support AND we dropped this inane issue.

    (2) I have a feeling that the BMP has been politicized into oblivion, as every council office has got the bike religion these days, and is paying lip service to our needs as cyclists. Damien, I would shift focus from the plan to WHERE THE MONEY WILL COME FROM TO BUILD WHAT IS PROPOSED IN THE PLAN.

    We’re not talking about billion – we’re talking about, maybe, $100 million over the course of a few years. There is enough bicycle-specific money that is sent hither and yon in the City’s budget that needs to be consolidated and spent properly on a bikeway network pronto!

    The City’s “Capital Expenditure Improvement Plan” gets almost all of the city’s Prop. C bike and ped project money – and what do we get out of the deal? More dead pedestrian and cyclists and no holistic planning of our streets to accommodate all user groups.

    Likewise, there is AQMD money, several million a year, that the City gets to reduce car trips. This money mostly goes to the green smoke puffers in the Environmental Affairs dept. to print up rolling papers for their green washing campaigns. That is money that likewise needs to be directed at this issue.

    Money, money, money. Screw the plan, let’s fight for the money, so when it is finished being flushed through the political process we won’t have to wait another decade to get the changes we need installed and built!

  • Brent

    In this video ( http://tinyurl.com/q8ukj9 ), one of Copenhagen’s city planners said it took forty years for them to become bicycle friendly.

    In LA, we have to start somewhere, but it’s going to be a long journey from where we are now to a livable city.

    I hope the Bicycle Master Plan gives us a workable bicycle network. And I hope it’s the right kind of network. The city can’t paint a few lines on the side of the road, stencil in a bicycle, and then expect cyclists to sprout there. You’ll have the current crop of fearless riders using it, but new ones won’t. It just feels too dangerous.

    Instead, the network has to be about encouraging cyclists to ride. In my mind, that means at least one Class 1 lane, protected from cars, running along some major thoroughfare. I’d like it to run from the beach to downtown, and have easy access to businesses and residences alike. Wilshire Blvd. would be a dream…

  • The big fight with that sort of effort, Brent, is that we need political leadership that is willing to REMOVE A CAR TRAVEL LANE to accommodate slower car speeds and bicycle amenities. The last bike plan we had called for bikeways on loads of arterial streets – but the part of the plan where the city departments decide how they will enact the plan, the monitoring and evaluation section, they used car-centric measurements to judge bike projects!

    In fact, the way we measure roads in LA is entirely car-centric. Councilman Reyes is working in some alternative road measurment regimes into the Cornfield-Arroyo Seco Plan, but that is not a city-wide document.

    In Holland, a political shift had to occur that allowed non-car road design and measurement to be considered at least the equal of car-only measurements (i.e. Level of Service, Average Daily Trips, and Mobility are at least the equal of pedestrian street use surveys and livability indexes).

  • angle

    The mountain bike issue is indeed a complete joke, and is draining resources and energy from our city’s critical investment in bicycle transportation. A crystal-clear delineation needs to be made between recreational bicycling and transportational bicycling, and the two activities need to be kept completely separate in regards to funding and advocacy.

    Dumping transportation dollars earmarked for bicycle projects into mountain bike facilities is the equivalent of spending highway dollars on a NASCAR race track, and should be considered a misappropriation of funds.

  • I used to be excited about the bike master plan. And like Bicycling Magazine, when they named L.A. a “future” bike-friendly city in anticipation of the forthcoming plan from Alta, I had high hopes for something that would at least start the city on the right path.

    I no longer have those hopes, since the endless delay suggests we’re going to end up with a severely watered down plan that will one again bow down to the eight-cylindered god and end up accomplishing nothing.

    But frankly, I don’t think it even matters anymore. In a city where the city council doesn’t even have enough authority to get their own bureaucracy to respond when they demand sharrows, I would expect only a tiny fraction of what the plan finally suggests to ever become reality. And as Damien pointed out last week, whatever does finally get built won’t matter without adequate enforcement to keep our bike lanes from turning into double-parking lots.

    On the other hand, I was thinking along the same lines as Brent awhile back: http://tiny.cc/bikinginlawilshireblvd.

  • Stats Dude

    I wonder…
    And I am just speculating, as I have no information.
    If the bike plan was going to include non-road features, such as the LA River bike path, and the Marvin Baude bike path, which are not payed for out of transportation dollars, but parks and rec (at least, I think that), then their reasoning may be that it would be discriminatory to not include mountain bike trails.

    Just speculating, so don’t flame me bro.

  • Will Campbell

    I’m a commuter cyclist first and a recreational mountain cyclist second and would rather not see off-road concerns drain resources from what seems to be an increasingly eviscerated BMP.

    While I’ve not at all been content with the trail ban that’s been in place for 17-plus years (at least), I’ve got mountains I can go to — such as the Verdugos and the San Gabriels and the Santa Monicas– that aren’t too far away where I can legally get my dirt on — and do so with respect for my fellow trail users and the trails themselves.

    Therefore I take umbrage with Josef for his statement categorizing anyone in support of opening trails in the city up to mountain bikes as being about fighting for a “collective right to RUIN LA’s parks.”

    He’s certainly entitled to his opinion, and in the context of off-roading distracting from the BMP’s business I can understand it. But as a safe-and-sane mountain cyclist I can’t help but be disappointed with the kind of venomous generalization that I hear all too often from bike-hating residents, hikers and equestrians — not fellow cyclists.

  • A clear separation of transportation and recreation? So I can’t have fun when I ride my bike to the grocery store? Or swing through the dirt jump park on my hard tail on the way downtown? My commuter bike is a hard tail mountain bike. I blur the line all the time.

    Any linear route can be used for both transportation and recreation, whether a paved bike path or a sweet piece of singletrack. I have seen areas within bicycle master plans where gaps in the system occur because there is not sufficient width for a path which meets AASHTO standards. A mtn bike path would allow connectivity while still meeting the needs of 90% of the users.
    The biggest barrier for getting people riding is fear of motor vehicle interactions. Providing off-street facilities, whether they be paved, gravel paths, or trails allows that largest group of potential riders – interested but concerned, some 60% of the general population (gotta double check this #) – to get comfortable on a bike.

  • Clarification- my notes from a presentation by Roger Geller, Bicycle Coordinator for the City of Portland, stated that 60% of the general population are “interested but concerned” in bicycling for transportation. They aren’t currently cycling, but if there were better facilities, they might.

  • angle

    @ Jill; good questions:

    Of course you can have fun when you are running errands by bike, and you can obviously use some bicycles for a variety of different purposes. What I’m getting at is that in order to be effective, bicycle facilities need to have a design intent. I believe the most useful way to judge their effectiveness is to divide their intended uses into recreational and transportational modes.

    Admittedly, it’s certainly possible to use off-road trails as part of a bicycle commute. However, these facilities should never be deemed adequate to serve the vast majority of cyclists’ transportational needs. Dirt trails, by their very nature, require a certain degree of specialized handling skills to use, and are not meant to accommodate many hundreds of riders a day, as any basic paved road can. Also, off-road trails are virtually unusable for people who choose to ride traditional road bikes.

    As another example of what I’m talking about, I cite the Venice Beach bike path, which I used as part of my daily commute many years ago. Despite how I used it, it’s clearly designed to be a recreational facility. It follows a serpentine, meandering course across an open stretch of beach, which means that it is often coated with a slippery layer of sand. There are few designated intersections for pedestrians to cross along its length, so unwary tourists, en route to the water, routinely wander directly into the path of bicycles. For a vacationing couple, pedaling leisurely on rented beach cruisers, the bike path is great fun. It’s not so great if you’re late to work.

    These types of bike facilities should never be counted as part of a city’s transportation network, because they fall far short of providing the kind of safe, efficient passage that most potential cyclists would require in order to take the bicycle seriously as a viable alternative to using an automobile. If we can agree that getting more people to use bicycles for transportation and utility is the primary goal, bicycle projects need to reflect that, and be accommodating to all the new commuter cyclists that will storm the boulevards (we can hope).

    As far as having completely separated or off-street facilities for bikes as a solution for safety issues, I will say that, here in Los Angeles, it’s an impossibility. We simply don’t have the space to install that stuff. In my opinion we need to instead focus on calming traffic and integrating cyclists better with other road users.

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