Cyclists Saved LADOT Bikeways, or Did They?

5_19_09_vahedi.jpgCyclists are becoming more politically active, as these two Cyclists for Vahedi proved earlier today.

Last night the City Council passed a motion recommending that the Mayor and LADOT not include any "special fund" positions, i.e. those funded by a source not funded through city revenue which includes , in their budget cuts as part of the "Shared Responsibility" budget requested by the Mayor.  The LADOT’s Bikeways program, which is funded through state funds, is included in "special fund" projects so for now, Bikeways is safe.

After a group of cyclists pedaled down to City Hall to protest the proposed cuts, the City Council backed cycling by not only asking the city to hold off on "special fund" positions and by passing two other resolutions asking LADOT to consult with them before proposing any other Bikeways cuts.

Given their role in fighting for Bikeways and highlighting the LADOT’s intent to completely dissolve the program; cyclists should now find themselves better positioned to push the Bikeways division for a more aggressive approach to bringing projects from paper to the streets.

Or will they?

While cyclists certainly deserve more than what they’ve gotten from LADOT, and yesterday proved their interest in working with the city to improve their lot, I’m worried that yesterday we got caught up in a larger budget game.  The more I read and hear from talking to people about the memorandum posted yesterday, it appears that the LADOT was playing a shell game with its departmental funding in this year’s budget.  By responding to the Mayor’s request that departments eliminate 10% of their staff as part of budget cuts by recommending cuts to positions not funded by the city would require the city to send money back to the state if they were eliminated. 

In simple terms, the LADOT responded to a mandate to cut staff by recommending cuts that the city would never actually approve.  While it might have been amusing to see the City respond to a budget crisis by giving Prop. C funds back to the state; it wouldn’t have been good policy or politics and probably wouldn’t have happened regardless of the stand taken yesterday.

Regardless of the LADOT’s intent, yesterday proves one thing that bike activists have long known but the City Council and other city leaders are still learning: L.A.’s diverse bike community is an active and fast mobilizng constituency that is growing to loud to ignore or push aside any longer.  After all, this is the second time this month that a group of cyclists has descended on the City Council and walked away with resolutions passed by the Council based on their testimony.

  • How ironic that the same day we were down at city hall talking about risk of death and injury I get plowed by a beligerent likey drunken driver.

  • I think the LACBC mis-read this one with their APB to fight for bikeways funding in the LADOT without taking a more macro view of what is happening in City Hall.

    It was however pretty awesome to see our multi-ethnic mutlti-generational grassroots show up and give some hell.

    I think bikeways (and the entire LaDOt) shoulg be eliminated and have their functions moved to different depts.

  • as a reminder of what it looks like when a city supports biking, go (re)watch this streetfilms interview with NYC’s commissioner of the DOT:

    http://www.streetfilms.org/archives/transforming-nyc-streets-with-jsk/

    watching it is half depressing that we don’t have that kind of support, and half inspiring of what is possible…

  • Well, change was very slow coming to NYC. When I told my bosses I was leaving for L.A. in March of that year we were still complaining about NYCDOT Commish Iris Weinshal who thought her top role was to keep suburban traffic through city streets. By the time I left in August, Sadik-Kahn had replaced Weinshal and the people complaining about Iris were brought in to the top levels at NYC DOT.

    On our end, we need to be ready to seize the opportunity when it presents itself. Half of activism is showing up, and the bike community has gotten real good at that. Now we need to take our advocacy to the next level.

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