LADOT Proposes Eliminating Its Bikeways Department

5_18_09_mowery.jpgLADOT Bike Coordinator Michelle Mowery talks to Councilman Tom LaBonge. Photo: Ingrid Peterson

Days after the City of Los Angeles sponsored a series of events to celebrate bicycling in Los Angeles, the City Council heard the first draft budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year as presented by the LADOT.  Let’s cut right to the chase, the budget eliminates the Bikeways Department completely, or as the Rita Robinson signed memorandum, available exclusively at Streetsblog, explains: 

Discontinue bikeways function, including bicycle path maintenance, bicycle programs and school bicycle and transit education.

Discontinue work on Safe Routes to Schools

While I’m sure there are some of you that look at these paragraphs and wonder how we’ll survive without those yellow bracelets that tell us to "ride right and stop at the light," there’s more at stake here.  As Kent Strumpell put it in an email:


That LADOT would even consider eliminating Bikeways programs as their
solution to this budget crisis is a vivid example of how out of touch
the Department is.  With more people riding bikes than ever before,
with a vibrant cycling culture developing and with congestion and
climate change consequences screaming at us, this is exactly the wrong
time to cut the entire bikeways staff.  If you think cycling doesn’t
get enough attention in Los Angeles now, wait until we have no staff at
all to look out for our needs.

I couldn’t agree with Strumpell more.  With Los Angeles already a punchline for Car-Culture jokes throughout the world; eliminating the bikeways department is a great way to make certain those jokes continue ad infinitum.  The only argument that would make sense would be if one wanted to argue that Bikeways was under performing; but that would speak to a need to reform the program not eliminate it altogether. Over at LAist, Zach Behrens gets to the bottom of the fiscal nature of the proposed cuts, and why parts of Bikeways should be saved; but even if it makes fiscal sense the LADOT has already sent the message to cyclists that they don’t have their full support.

The first pushback against the proposal came this morning on the Council floor when a group of cyclists, Midnight Ridazz and LACBC staffers, took to the podium to rail against the plan.  The proposal will still be heard at least by the Budget and Finance Committee and full Council before it goes to any sort of actual vote.  A full Action Alert by the LACBC, including contact information for Robinson, the Budget and Finance Committee and Mayor Villaraigosa, can be found after the jump.

LADOT THREATENS TO CUT THE ENTIRE BIKEWAYS DEPARTMENT!!  BIKE PROJECTS WOULD BE CUT!!

Los
Angeles is facing a perilous budget crisis. All city departments are
being asked to submit plans on how they will cut spending, and LADOT
have proposed to eliminate the entire Bikeways staff. Not just lay off
some people, but cut it altogether.

TAKE ACTION!! 2 things you can do to save LA bike projects:


1) ATTEND MONDAYS COUNCIL MEETING

NEED
CYCLISTS TO ATTEND AND GIVE PUBLIC COMMENT TO CITY COUNCIL MEETING
MONDAY May 18, 10 am! Get there by 9:30am to sign up for public comment.

WHEN: Monday, May 18, 10:00AM
WHERE: City Hall Council Chambers. 200 N. Spring Street 90012, Room 340

2) WRITE EMAILS AND CALL- 1st THING MONDAY MORNING BEFORE THE MEETING to LADOT, the Budget and Finance Committee Members and to the Mayor.
see below for contact information

Background:
A May 4th
Inter-departmental Correspondence titled Shared Responsibility and
Sacrifice signed by LADOT General Manager Rita Robinson and addressed
to the Budget and Finance Committee, contains the following text under
the heading, Transit Capital Programming:

"Discontinue
bikeways function, including bicycle path maintenance, bicycle
programs, and school bicycle and transit education. Discontinue work on
Safe Routes to School."

Numerous bicycle projects are underway which will be curtailed or compromised by this short-sighted move, including:

· The update of the city’s Bicycle Plan, already behind schedule.
· Numerous bike lane projects.
·
The Expo Bikeway, in which the city must complete its environmental
review by the end of the year (to keep pace with the light rail
project) or the bikeway may be delayed for years.
· The Sharrows study, which should lead to an implementation plan for this much-needed bikeway enhancement.

Some talking points:
·
With more people riding bikes than ever before, with a vibrant cycling
culture developing and with congestion and climate change consequences
screaming at us, this is exactly the wrong time to cut the entire
bikeways staff.
·
This city faces rising health problems, obesity and high pollution
problems. Encouraging cycling is an easy and cost-effective way to
start reducing these problems.
· Cycling is not being prioritized in
Los Angeles, if there is no staff at all to work on more infrastructure
to create safer streets for ALL users, more injury and deaths will
occur.

TAKE ACTION!
ATTEND THE MEETING and/or WRITE EMAILS AND CALL IN ON MONDAY!!! NEED YOUR VOICES IN NUMBERS!!


Contact info:

Mayor Villaraigosa
(213) 978-0600
mayor@lacity.org

Rita Robinson 
Fax: 213  972-8410
rita.robinson@lacity.org

Budget and Finance Committee Members:

Councilmember Bernard C. Parks, Chair

 (213)-473-7008
councilmember.parks@lacity.org

Councilmember Wendy Greuel

 (213)-473-7002
councilmember.greuel@lacity.org

Councilmember Bill Rosendahl

 (213)-473-7011
councilman.rosendahl@lacity.org

Councilmember Jose Huizar

(213)-473-7014
councilmember.huizar@lacity.org

Councilmember Greig Smith

(213)-473-7012
councilmember.smith@lacity.org

  • Following cycling news in Los Angeles is a roller coaster of brief moments of hope with crashing falls of depression, more likely to induce vomiting than excitement. Sigh..

  • I’ll send e-mails, but it seems like this post went up too late.

  • Brent

    There is a chicken-and-egg in all of this: the number of cyclists won’t go up without better bike lanes/paths, but better lanes/paths won’t be built until the number of cyclists goes up. I don’t see any easy way to break through the stalemate. The incredible cycling networks in Denmark and Holland came about through a combination of unique circumstances, not least of which is the HUGE sales tax on autos and gasoline. And maybe, ultimately, the wallet will be the defining element with us, too. When gasoline prices rose so much last summer, bicycle sales rose. Put gasoline at $10 per gallon, and I’d imagine Angelenos would clamor for better bicycle lanes and subways and anything else non-auto.

  • What Gary said.

  • dudeonabike

    Strumpell did say it well. It’s painful to read a blanket pronouncement from our transportation officials like: “Discontinue work on Safe Routes to Schools.” Displays total lack of foresight. It would seem that by showing and encouraging school-aged kids that one CAN get to school by means other than cars (or even buses) would do so much to promote livable streets, healthy lifestyles, vibrant communities, etc. Sad, sad, report.

  • (1) A common tactic for large bureaucracies, when faced with budget cuts, is to push forward cuts to popular programs or pet projects of politicians in order to scare away those coming at the bureaucracy with knives and hatchets. The LADOT boss, Rita Robinson, is ultimately answerable to the mayor – and he can pick and choose budget cuts in her department. He’ll likely go with what her adminstrative people recommend, but if a program is popular you can bet it won’t get cut.

    (2) Who cares if the LADOT bikeways people get canned? Why does the LADOT even exist except to baffle local interests and build car-only facilities? This planning function belongs in the planning department. The engineering function belongs in the Public Works Department (which already has a bikeways design section). Cut the fat! Give us planners who will see that concerns other than high-speed auto travel are worth considering.

    (3) What have we gotten out of the LADOT’s bikeways division anyway? $450,000 vapor trail of a bike plan? More dead cyclists and no regime of safety measurement citywide? More dead pedestrians? Oh, and the City will stop pursuing Safe Routes to School money! Oh no! But wait, the LADOT misses tens of millions in Safe Routes to School funding opportunities every year! This department fought long and hard to prevent traffic calming around elementary schools in the Valley! Fire them all and let us all say “Good riddance!” Our elected officials will have one less pasty bureacrat to hide behind when we come a knocking.

  • angle

    In my experience, the LADOT Bikeways department has been a major impediment to every single forward-looking bike-oriented project that has been proposed over the last several years. The sharrow “pilot program” has been indefinitely delayed, the ball was dropped on the Expo bikeway and the Bicycle Master Plan—a FUNDING DOCUMENT—is M.I.A.

    There are other agencies that can fulfill the role that LADOT Bikeways is supposed to take, and if bike projects can be better integrated into general transportation projects, I think they might have a better chance of being realized. As of now, progressive bike projects are dumped into the LADOT Bikeways black hole, and the only thing that ever comes out is a litany of excuses why they can never be accomplished.

    It’s possible that the loss of the LADOT Bikeways department could ultimately be a positive thing.

  • angle

    @ubrayj:

    Beat me to it!

  • @ How Green Is My Valley

    Don’t worry, today is just round one of the budget battle for LADOT. We’ll have plenty of chances to weigh in at committee hearings and such

    @ Angle, Ubrayj

    I know I’m going to take some flack for this, SoapBox I’m sure will have words for this, but unless there’s a plan to replace Bikeways with something at Planning, I see this as a huge setback. Bikeways can be more than frustrating at times, but if they’re gone completely all that will remain are the traffic engineers and bureaucrats. Not a recipe to get anything done.

    I write Streetsblog and do my own advocacy because I believe people and circumstances can change. But without a Bikeways division at LADOT we’re going to have a heavier lift, because if we manage to convince enough people to see things our way; we’ll have to bring a division back before we can get some real planning.

  • Dave

    +1 Brayj

    Given the massive incompetence of LA city govt when it comes to transportation, I think benign neglect is the best outcome we can reasonably expect.

    I would welcome the elimination of the bikeways dept, personally.

  • Or let’s put it this way, do you think the LADOT is proposing cutting bikeways because they want to do more bike projects.

  • What a strange experience. I actually agree with everyone.

    I was actually reading the LACBC Action Alert when the earthquake struck last night, and I honestly don’t know which experience was more stomach-churning.

    Any department that can honestly claim that they can’t start a sharrows project because they don’t know what kind of paint to use has pretty well demonstrated their uselessness.

    But Damien is right, getting rid of it would mean starting at less than zero. It would take years, if ever, before it was restarted or replaced. What we need is for someone on the council to step forward and kick some budgetary ass by threatening LADOT’s entire budget unless they have a real, empowered bikeways department that can actually get things done.

  • +1 Gary +1 Damien

    meh….. It just all seems like a lost cause. I was happy to see that people came out to talk against the cutting of funding but what’s it really going to do when you have people in the LADOT and not even the bike person seems like she wants bicycle infrastucture… I think they see all the recent bike activity as a fad.. this city is just doomed.

  • WTF?? Isn’t the whole idea to get people OUT of their cars? Shouldn’t all planning be towards non-reliance on automobiles to get around? What are these people doing? I don’t see how eliminating bike projects or public transportation projects addresses any of our problems. Not traffic and congestion, not pollution, not parking, not cost and not dependency on oil. Are they all on crack?

  • The LA Bureau of Street Services (within the Department of Public Works) has a small team of engineers who do bikeways engineering. The LADOT “contracts” with these guys for the work most of the time anyway!

    The planning department should absorb the transportation planning functions of the City, and the LADOT’s grant writers should work within the Planning Department – which is responsible for an over-arching vision of our city’s future anyway. We have no long range transportation plans – what good is the LADOT when they’ve had decades to get it right, but have instead been fighting to remove crosswalks and kill more bikes and let drivers get away with it.

    Seeing Michelle Mowery in City Council the other day next to the LAPD dude, and to have her stating that bike riders run stop signs when questioned about an H3 being used as a weapon in DTLA … I mean, why do we need this person representing us to City Hall? She’s more of an impediment to progress than anything else. We need a politically savvy, empowered (by the mayor’s office) advocate for bikes in LA. LADOT’s paper shuffler for bikes isn’t what is going to get it done.

    There are a bunch of options we, as cyclists, could offer up to a City Hall that will honestly try and find a way to soothe us in the face of Bikeways being eliminated. Give us a Bureau head who is a bike-planning nut, give us a mayoral deputy who puts the funding and people together to produce transportation reform to support bikes.

    Saving the Bikeways Division is a phyrric victory – we get nuthin out of the fight.

    I’m only sad that the other options I’ve listed above would need a broader consensus among cyclists and our own paid lobbyists to be faithfully considered in City Hall and the Mayor’s office.

  • it’s so frustrating to hear about our own fractious opinions on bicycle infrastructure as well…. some people advocate for bike lanes, bike paths, and others advocate against them. I have my own strongly held opinion and find myself completely frustrated… all I can say is RIDE IN THE NETHERLANDS and see that it ALL works. bike paths, bike lanes, sharrows, isolated bikeways…. there are applications for them ALL and we just need anything and everything we can get. I love the orangeline bike path just as much as I love the sunset bike lane just as much as I love guerilla sharrows (sorry dont think we have an example of sharrows in LA do we?) and I love DMV questions on bikes and I love the cyclists bill of rights… we need everything we can get….

  • Is there a way to bring all those working towards a more livable LA in on this somehow? While I can’t even begin to think of anything reasonable to say about a transportation dept in a major city like LA even contemplating eliminating their bicycling dept (DD-64? Complete Streets? Common Sense? Safety? Innovation? Reduction in Greenhouse Gases? Quality of Life? Leadership?) It was inspiring to read this in LA Magazine just now:

    “Here in L.A. we need solutions that go beyond the zero-sum game of wider streets, synchronized lights, and left-turn signals. Let’s create projects that allow the city to be knitted together in a new and novel way.”
    by Aaron Paley, President » Community Arts Resources
    http://www.lamag.com/article.aspx?id=15654

    There’s got to be a way to have our communities reflective and inclusive of us all and our happiness and safety – our old school leaders just aren’t the ones to guide us there – we are.

  • Roadblock, I couldn’t agree more. We should take anything we can get, anyway we can get it. Class 1, 2 or — legitimate — 3, sharrows, bike boulevards, whatever. Like you, I ride any and all of the above, often on the same ride.

    As for LADOT, I really couldn’t care less if the Bikeways department lives or dies, as long as it doesn’t mean the end of bicycle projects and planning in Los Angeles. It’s not like they were actually doing anything. If we can arrange an alternative, as Ubrayj suggests, let it die. If not, let’s fight to turn it into something worthwhile, even if that means the existing staff has got to go — starting with the jackass who suggested cutting the damn thing to begin with.

    And there are sharrows in L.A., on the UCLA campus. To the best of my knowledge, no cyclist has ever been injured and sued the university because they made the sharrows with the wrong kind of paint, despite Mowery’s concerns to the contrary.

  • Dominant car culture, … cycling is just so marginal, … this is Los Angeles. Prejudices confirmed, … entire department closed. Discontinued.

    Else, let us make Transportation Demand Management (TDM) the center of DOT, a management of resources, and let them devise strategies how to get people out of cars. They run already a few big bus companies.
    Let them put their parking spaces on the free market, but not without a commitment to TDM. The council would set goals of de-motorisation (x % of all trips under x miles not by car etc) and DOT would have a decent mission to accomplish. Put the green party out of work and get on with it. Of course Public Health would suddenly find entirely new ways to work with cycling folks of LADOT.
    Then the bicycle work could really fly. DOT mission would include bike encouragement, it would include bike education, and it would commit the city to recognize and advertise the limits of car use. Metro would follow suite and their Call for Projects would no longer ban bike encouragement and education, excluded as “Marketing”. And each mile cycled could suddenly count towards the carbon reductions required by SB 375.
    Who cares for the bikeways section if we can go for the big prize! Can we?

    “…has dedicated himself to developing viable and convenient alternatives to driving… ” This is Mayor Villaraigosa in the 2009 DOT Transportation Profile, the very first sentence, no less. The words are on the page. Something to work with, at least.

  • Fellow Cyclistas,
    I just started to pay attention (since last June) to all the bike activism we have in the city and the lack of respect we have received from city agencies and politicians. We have participated in events, summits, rides and memorials and I have met some wonderful, intelligent, brilliant, and bike passionate people from all parts of the city.

    Enough lip service from city bureaucrats! They have just been stringing everyone along. There have been no significant changes! Missing money and delayed plans with no results. We have played by their rules – with ZERO results.

    WE ARE STRONG – They have not stopped the rides, organizing, and blogs.
    Let’s show our strength in the streets. We have seen the Million Man March in 1995, we seen hands across America in 1986, we seen the massive May Day rally in 2006.

    Now it’s our time to draw attention!
    Lets ride, safely in numbers. Let’s take critical mass into a new level for the WORLD to witness!
    Let’s plan and execute – who’s in! No contaban con mi astucia!

  • I think we could do more as well by producing a bicycle project budget plan to the city. The Bikeways division at the LADOT is funded through a variety of sources, and the same thing goes for the Bikeways people in the Department of Public Works’ Bureau of Street Services.

    If anyone in City Hall would like to sit down with us (or even just me), I’d be glad to help them figure out what special funds to pull from to preserve a project budget for bicycles in LA.

    What we need is the mayor to become a champion for our cause in city hall. In New York, they’ve got the mayor and their DOT head Jannette Sadik-Kahn. In Chicago, they’ve got Mayor Daly and his chief of staff.

    If we do a ride, I would recommend that we find a way to make this a political priority for the mayor. That is my opinion (though I’m willing to change it).

  • False alarm. This document was an exercise in responding to a 10% cut directive. Bikeways and Safe Routes to School positions are Prop C positions and to cut them would mean that LADOT would be sending money back to the State.

    Any savings realized from this exercise would not impact the City’s General fund.

    I spoke to Rita Robinson yesterday. I spoke to the Mayor’s office yesterday.

    These are crazy times at City Hall and for everybody in the City of LA.

    At the same time, perhaps this is a good time to ask LADOT Bikeways “What have you done for me lately?”

    Bikeways improvements, Bike Racks, Bike Plan, Bikeways Dept. Priorities.

    I asked in January for a list of last years accomplishments, of LA’s Bikeways assets and of the goals for this year. Crickets chirped.

    If we’re gonna partner with a department, surely we should know their goals and their accomplishments!

  • Stephen, I ran into an “Annual Report” from the LADOT during Gloria Jeff’s brief and terrible tenure as DOT head, and the bikeways section’s annual activity is laughable.

    You can check it out (from 2006-2007)
    http://www.ladot.lacity.org/pdf/PDF8.pdf

    “8 miles of bike lanes” … ooh wow.
    “Partcipated in Bike to Work Day”

    Nothing in there about how many fatalities and injuries their plans prevented, is there? No air quality reduction goals met or missed? These clowns aren’t answerable to anyone, it seems.