LADOT: We Were Never Considering Removing Bike Lanes on Reseda Blvd.

Yesterday I got an e-mail from Carolyn Jackson at the Los Angeles Department of Transportation which basically said that the LADOT has no plans to remove bike lanes or change the street parking patterns to increase peak hour travel on Reseda Boulevard.  Realizing that she was facing a skeptical audience of one, Jackson even included an email from the LADOT to the Northridge West Neighborhood Council to prove her point.

First of all, I have checked with both our Meter Planning group and our
Geometric Design section; and there are no plans to install either
parking meters or peak hour lanes on Reseda Boulevard at this time.
 Secondly, the reduction in DOT staff hours due to furloughs and DOT’s
severely reduced overtime budget do not make it possible to send
someone to your meetings to talk about something that we do not plan to
do.  Please accept this written summary of the situation on Reseda
Boulevard in lieu of our attendance at your meetings.

Northridge West Neighborhood Council Chair Dennis DeYoung explains that after the Council received a flurry of calls because the LADOT posted a sign announcing the removal a stop sign; the Council decided to be more proactive in making statements about their transportation vision before potential projects are sprung on them.

DeYoung had heard discussion of a proposal to remove bike lanes and parking on Reseda Boulevard and had sponsored a motion supporting that concept.  In response, cyclists mobilized through blogs and Internet mailing lists and turned out sixty speakers to speak of the need for the current bike lane and push for an extension for the lane to cover all of Reseda Boulevard.  Even a skeptic such as DeYoung, who’s office faces Reseda Boulevard, was converted to a believer in alternative transportation.  A motion opposing the the concept of removing bike lanes and parking in favor or peak hour car travel lanes.

As for next steps, the LADOT continues to insist that it has no plans to remove either the bike lanes or the parking; but also couldn’t commit to a timeline for completion of the bike lanes to cover the entire length of Rededa Boulevard.  Jackson stated that LADOT is currently working with the local Councilmen to set the timeline.

So, what happened?  How did bloggers and activists, myself included, get the story so wrong?  There are a couple of options.

The first is that the traffic engineers in the West Valley DOT offices were evaluating removing the lanes on their own and pulled the plug after the plan was leaked and opposition rose.  The main source for the original story at Biking In L.A., Glenn Bailey, is Chair of the city’s official Bike Advisory Committee and not someone known for hyperbole and over-reaction.  However, his position does give him some insider access to DOT staff.  In which case, the cyclists that pedaled to the Neighborhood Council meeting on Monday may have headed off a disaster.

A second option is that DeYoung, Bailey and everyone else misread the signs, so to speak, and the LADOT was never intending to change the road design.  If that’s the case, then those attending Tuesday’s meeting can still take credit for educating a Neighborhood Council to the value of complete streets and bike lanes.

Either way, the take home message is that, at least for now, the LADOT has no plans to do anything to the Reseda Boulevard bike lanes.  The Neighborhood Council still has the issue on the agenda for next month, so check back here or at Biking In L.A. for more updates.

  • It sounds like an open and shut case of miscommunication. No harm, no foul.

  • It sounds like the LADOT has an amazing state of affairs wherein they’re simultaneously planning and not planning to do and not do things, depending upon whether or not their lies are exposed via direct citizen complaints.

    What a crock.

    Kudos to those who stepped up to the plate on this one.

  • Yes, you bravely stood up to stop them from doing something they were not going to do anyway. The proud cyclists have won again!

  • You know, I was going to parenthetically exclude myself from the implication that I, personally, did something. Then I thought, only a real douche bag would read that into what I said.

  • They may take our bike lanes, but they will never take our inflated sense of self-worth!

  • Right, Spokker. And I’m sure you believe Nixon wasn’t a crook, and Bill Clinton really didn’t have sexual relations with that woman. Face it — LADOT got caught with their hand in the cookie jar, and now their denying that they ever had a sweet tooth.

  • The old Bike Plan indicates that Reseda Blvd. is a Class II Bikeways facility all the way to the north end of Reseda.

    The new Bike Plan Maps indicate that Reseda Blvd. is a Class II Bikeways facility on the south end and the mid-valley it is labeled “infeasible” meaning it would “require either roadway widening or the removal of travel lanes or on-street parking)

    The LADOT Bikeways Coordinator explained to the LA Bicycle Advisory Committee, at its Aug 4th meeting, that there was a struggle within the LADOT over the development of streets such as Reseda and that it came down to Bikeways improvements or holding them for peak hour lanes or other “congestion relief” improvements.

    As always, it was clear that getting people out of single occupant vehicles is never considered to be a congestion relief tactic for the LADOT.

    As always, it was clear that accommodations for cyclists was very, very low on the list of improvements that the LADOT would ever get behind.

    As always, it was clear that the greatest skill that the LADOT wields as it approaches the improvement of LA’s traffic management is the ability to spin.

    The old Bike Plan indicates that Reseda Blvd. is a Class II all the way to the top. Downgrading Reseda indicates a decision. If not, leave it a Class II and let the local comunity work to implement and develop the area according to plan. The local LADOT Engineer and the LADOT Bikeways Coordinator have both engaged in separate discussions of the future of Reseda and it is not good for cyclists or for the development of Bikeways Facilities on Reseda.

    For the LADOT, if there are no plans on the horizon to install either parking meters or peak hour lanes on Reseda Boulevard, when can we expect to see the Bike Lanes completed?

  • Nixon was a crook and I don’t care who was sucking on Clinton’s dick.

    You know, there’s some rumblings around LA DOT about removing bikes lanes and redesigning the street and all that on Reseda. They get out and people complained, and rightly so. Turns out it was a miscommunication and all is well.

    But at no point do certain people put their hands up and go, “Alright, no harm, no foul.” It’s always a battle. The Man is always out to get you. The LA DOT is personally trying to ruin your life.

    Individuals do not represent the views of the whole. Recently an OCTA board member suggested that they remove all bus service in Orange County. He got blasted, but it in no way reflected the views of the OCTA as a whole, whose CEO recently gave an interview about how crucial bus service is to Orange County.

    Jesus Christ, for one blog post, relax. It doesn’t always have to be a goddamn battle.

  • Except it was a battle, and when LADOT saw they were badly outnumbered, they gave up and went home.

    No harm no foul? If the cycling community hadn’t turned out in numbers to oppose it, you could kiss your bike lanes goodbye.

    Maybe it’s always a “goddamn battle” because we seem to have to fight for everything we get. And then we have to fight to keep it.

  • You get by in this world by acting with a little diplomacy, not by acting like you’ve got a chip on your shoulder and everybody and anyone is your enemy.

    But this really comes down to the fact that a government agency cannot do what the private sector can do. There is no incentive for LA DOT or Metro to fulfill the public need. As long as they stay reasonably legal in their actions, they’ll keep their jobs regardless of whether or not the buses run on time or whether or not cyclists have safe places to ride.

    We would greatly benefit from a public auction in which streets in and around Los Angeles are sold to private companies. Imagine sections of Wilshire Blvd. sold off to City of Angels Street Co. or LA Road King. Small business owners can get in on the act and buy roads or sidewalks in front of their storefronts, offering whatever amenities they think will stimulate business.

    If City of Angels Street Co. offers more and better bike lanes than LA Road King, then City of Angels Street Co. will make more money, prompting LA Road King to step up their efforts.

    Using GPS technology you’ll be able to CHOOSE which roads you want to ride on and which companies you want to support and pay each company accordingly. Even if you are an LA Road King customer, you can still drive, ride or walk on City of Angels Street Co. streets by paying the appropriate roaming charges of course.

    That’s how you create accountability, and most importantly, results. Or you can keep trying to squeeze blood from a stone by badgering LA DOT at their sham meetings.

  • Will Campbell

    Auction public roadways to private entities? Talk about a road paved with poor intentions. They may become smooth as billiard slate and accommodate all manner of commuter modes, but you’ll find “Right to pass by permission of owner” plaques every 5 feet and security goons in between them feet hassling anyone taking a picture of a building from the sidewalk.

  • Yeah, I admit it’s a wacky idea that I have zero support of, but it’s a lot more rational than a dialogue that looks like this.

    Public Angecy: We’re going to do this idea we have.

    Advocates: No, fuck you, we don’t want you to do that.

    Public Agency: Okay, okay, we won’t.

    Advocates: That’s right, mother fucker.

    Public Agency: Jeez…

    When bike utopia comes to fruition what’s going to happen when drivers become the minority group and show up in force at public meetings? You’re probably going to treat them the same way you perceive Metro or LA DOT treat you.

  • Joe

    Here’s evidence from the LADOT in writing that they declined to move forward with the Reseda Boulevard bike lane, due to planned car lane expansion. Paul Meshkin is the LADOT’s head engineer in charge of bikeways. Meshkin’s August report to the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee states under the category for bike lanes on Reseda Boulevard: “West Valley District does not concur with the project, cites peak hour lane usage in near future.”

    I put the document on-line here: http://glatwg.wordpress.com/files/2009/08/bike_lane_projects_in_progress1.pdf

    The harm in this is that many bike lane projects already approved are being shelved because the DOT staff who favor more car capacity are winning internal battles against the DOT staff who favor bikes, pedestrians, and preserving the quality of life in our neighborhoods.

    Glenn Bailey and Ted (bikinginla) deserve a huge THANK YOU from all of us who bike or breathe in Los Angeles. I also think that they and StreetsBlog deserve an apology from LADOT’s Carolyn Jackson for her inaccuracy. (Thanks also to Aurisha from the LA County Bicycle Coalition for keeping me in the loop on all this.)

    The LADOT should complete the Reseda Avenue bike lanes as soon as possible.

  • Spokker,

    Sorry for the cuss words above. Few things are as viscerally effective at generating hate at a public agency as the dangerous conditions on the road one regularly encounters as a cyclist in LA. Our friends get hurt and die because some jerk at the LADOT is a go along to get along engineer.

    The fight found us.

  • Speaking for myself only – I want to degrade the high speed motoring experience, so yes, having the deck stacked is likely what is needed to push major bike improvements. HOpe nobody gets an owie.

  • Thanks, Joe. I moved the comment you left on my site up to the top of the page, where it will get the attention it deserves. And I think I’ll leave there through the weekend, so more people will see it.

  • Dan K.

    Privatizing streets?

    The only part of that I like is if it comes with MASSIVE congestion pricing. I’d be happy to see some private company take over the major boulevards if they were able to make a 200% profit on congestion pricing rates, roll half of it back to non-automotive projects, and pay taxes on the rest.

    I also want a talking gorilla that wears a derby hat and suspenders for my birthday, which is coming up, amigos.

  • Joe

    LOL @Dan K!

    fyi – I got the date wrong on my comment above. The Paul Meshkin report was from June 2009, not August 2009. Thanks to Glenn Bailey for alerting me to my error.

  • WTF is wrong with the DOT staff that is losing battles against pro-car DOT staff? Are they mentally off or something? They could have an email, twitter, and cell phone text message based army show up at meetings to help keep them employed and working for the next decade on quality bike projects.

    If they can’t get their act together and communicate with the us, the cyclists on the road everyday, then maybe they shouldn’t be working in the bikeways division.

    Can I get an email wut wut!

  • Joe

    @Josef’s “WTF is wrong with the DOT staff that is losing battles against pro-car DOT staff? Are they mentally off or something? They could have an email, twitter, and cell phone text message based army show up at meetings …”

    My guess would be that many of these staffers, who I expect are a minority at LADOT, want to keep their job, their salary, their healthcare, their homes… those things are big motivators. I don’t think that valuing one’s job qualifies one as “mentally off.” If I work for LADOT and I use twitter to alert cyclists (or drivers, or homeowners) about something I don’t agree with that my supervisors are pushing… I can expect to be ostracized (if not fired) when that tweet comes to light. Being a whistleblower is courageous, but not easy. I wish the pro-bike pro-community pro-transparency DOT staffers were more courageous… but I don’t think that they are the problem. I think the problem is much more based in LADOT’s pro-car majority (who are in postions of greater power) not so much in LADOT’s pro-bike minority.

    I am worried about Paul Meshkin, the LADOT staffer who put the truth in writing – regarding the Reseda bike lanes. I don’t think that he’s a whistleblower – he just did his job – he was honest, open, clear with information. I hope that his honesty doesn’t cost his career. I don’t expect that he will be immediately openly fired or reprimanded, but folks who swim against the grain (sad that telling the truth can be seen as against the grain) find themselves passed up for promotions, etc. Meshkin did exactly what you’re asking for – he communicated with cyclists – via the city’s official body: the Bicycle Advisory Committe (LABAC.)

    Let’s keep an eye on and compare Meshkin’s trajectory with that of Ken Firoozmand at DOT’s West Valley District office. It appears to me that Firoozmand is the person who denied that LADOT had plans for Reseda peak-only lanes, after communicating those very plans with LABAC chair Glenn Bailey, DOT Bikeways’ Paul Meshkin, and probably some folks at the Northridge West Neighborhood Council. He told various folks one thing, then denied it. His superiors repeated his denial, suggesting that bicyclists, LABAC appointees, Neighborhood Council activists had fabricated some kind of crazy “rumor.”

    For this incident, I suggest that it’s important for cyclists to support good things done by DOT staff (including LADOT Bikeways’ Paul Meshkin,) and to reserve the bulk of criticism for DOT staff that have actually prioritized cars over bikes and have lied about it (including LADOT West Valley’s Ken Firoozmand.)

  • BikeNo

    Where is your apology for spreading rumors?

  • +1 for joe… linton.

    i like you too josef. but linton is spot on.

  • I have had my mind changed – so thanks for that Joe.

  • Joe, ever think about running for mayor? You got my vote already.

  • Joe

    Thanks, Josef (for having the wisdom to change your mind and admit it,) David, Ted, but don’t give me too much credit. The heroes in this story (which isn’t over yet – let’s get those lanes striped)are:

    Glenn Bailey – Chair of the LA Bicycle Advisory Committee. Glenn is an appointed volunteer who spotted this issue near the bottom of a boring monthly report – keeping an eye out for the bike facilities planned in his neighborhood – doing what a bicycle advisory commitee member should do. (Truth be told, I got that same report when Glenn did and I didn’t notice anything.)

    Paul Meshkin – LADOT Bikeways Engineer – did his job, told the truth. He didn’t stick his neck out, but compared to the duplicitous later response from DOT, Meshkin’s basic status report is an example of openness and transparency, which could make government more collaborative and more effective. I bet he was frustrated when the DOT West Valley folks overrode the bike lane project Paul was working on.

    Also heroes include: Ted of bikinginla, Streetsblog, LACBC, Midnight Ridazz.com – all of whom got the word out on this after Glenn Bailey raised the issue briefly at the August BAC meeting.

  • Bikeno,

    The story isn’t over yet. If it is proven that the cyclists were over-reacting, I’ll apologize. However, that’s not the way the evidence is pointing.

  • Marcotico

    Also I might point out to Ubrayj, that planners and engineers have a code of ethics. Doing a run around on your agency to help people you agree with sounds great when they are on your side, but imagine if the same phone call was placed to the AAA, or to a road construction company. We wouldn’t cheering that on.

  • One thing I’ve learned about politics is that the other guys rarely care about ethics. We’ve been (I’ve been, personally) lied to by DOT staff. I don’t buy the ethics argument at allin this instance, but I can see where you are coming from.

  • gan

    When all the evidence is evaluated together, it seems pretty clear that there WAS in fact a lot of consideration within LADOT given to removing the bike lanes and put in peak hour lanes. Not only do the plans themselves reveal that but also many informal conversations with city staff support that (one interesting anecdote from inside DOT: the bridge over the aqueduct near Victory Blvd. way was widened precisely with the intention of making Reseda a major North-South Cross-valley car traffic thoroughfare).

    So, even if a decision had not been made yet, it was definitely being considered.

    We just need to remain conscious of the fact that planning agencies are a jumble of internally conflicting points of view and plans, and who wins out in the end is a result of multiple pressures, one of them being public support or outrage. (Albeit, that’s hardly the most influential pressure, compared to politicians, private developers, and internal politics within the agency). However, The fact that activists and residents came out STRONGLY against this approach, when the plans were merely being considered internally and only whispers had reached the public, has definitely sent a message. It’s gave them a preview of what they may face if they were to try to move forward with the car lane expansion.

    So the ‘bike thugs’ – and I use that term lovingly – definitely scored an early victory here. The fact that LADOT is now publicly backing away from those plans is a very very good sign.

    That being said, public and private sector institutions have greater longevity than grassroots organizations. After all, they are paid to be there every day. The rest of us have to take away from our daily lives to participate. So, it is often VERY COMMON for agencies to wait for public response to die down, deny that any deicions have been made (which is technically true), and then quietly move forward with that plan a couple years later.

    SO, this victory is temporary. Continued pressure is going to be necessary to ensure that the peak hour plan is permanently shelved, therefore showing up to subsequent meetings, forming coalitions with Reseda home and business owners, and coordinating with adjacent neighborhood councils remains crucial.

    Towards that end, crafting a credible, alternative vision is very helpful for exciting and mobilizing us and our allies. Dedicated bus lines and bike lanes – that’s the good stuff. Articulating a credible vision shows DOT that we are not just a bunch of reactionary NIMBYs but a community that actually welcomes change, if its the right kind.

    So, everyone who showed up should congratulate themselves. It was a job well done.

    See you at the next meeting!

  • Erik G.

    @UBRAY02 and anyone-else:

    Is there any way to get Ken Firoozmand censured or “dis-barred” by one of the professional engineering organizations he beongs to? Who licenses him, and could this incident be placed in evidence for when his license is renewed?

  • Joe

    @gan: I agree with you that this is a victory for bicyclists, and I agree that we really need to keep the pressure on at this point.

    I would assert that you’re inaccurate in your suggestion that the the peak hour parking restriction plan was “merely being considered internally.” The LADOT would like for you to think it was just being considered internally, but that’s not true. It was a plan that was already made public and already acted on – in that it had already stopped the alternative (the approved bike lane) from moving forward.

    Please consider the record:

    1. The LADOT bikeways folks began work on bike lanes on Reseda; lanes that had been approved since 1996.

    2. The LADOT bikeways folks stopped said work because West Valley District told them that they were putting in peak hour lanes in the near future.

    3. The LADOT bikeways folks reported this project work stopped in writing, citing the planned peak hour lanes.

    4. Bicyclists and others responded to the LADOT’s written plan overruling the bike lanes.

    5. The LADOT West Valley District, LADOT Management and LADOT Public Relations folks went out and made statements that there were no plans and that it was all a “rumor” that LADOT “had not propagated.”

    This doesn’t sound “internal” to me – it was reported in writing in a status report at a public meeting. At that point it’s external – it’s public! Nor does it sound like it was “merely being considered,” the DOT stopped work on the bikeway because of “peak hour lane usage in near future.” The plan for the peak lanes had already won at that point.

    Fortunately, the LADOT backed away from their plan when faced with public pressure. At that pont, they lied about it – calling it a “rumor”. A rumor, according to the dictionary, has “no discernable source” but the source was the LADOT itself, in writing.

    I think that we bicyclists should be outraged at the deceptive behavior of the LADOT on this plan, and on the subsequent falsehoods propagated about it. I think that we should work hard until Reseda (and the other streets that fall into the same peak-lane category – including Tampa and others) is striped with bike lanes.

  • Joe

    @Erik G: I don’t know about profession disbarring or anything like that, but I’d like to see Ken Firoozmand talk about this under oath. I think that the LA Bicycle Advisory Committee should invite him to our next meeting, but probably better that a City Council committee request his appearance.

    @nobodyinparticular: To me, this whole episode is rather sad… I expect that the LADOT will favor bikes over cars… I expect that LA’s elected officials will favor bikes over cars… I expect that the general public in LA favors bikes over cars. I am not happy with any of that… but it’s obvious… not irrational… and certainly not a surprise to me.

    What I DON’T expect is that public agencies will lie about something that they can easily tell the truth about.

    Why didn’t LADOT’s Ken Firoozmand (and Bruce Gilman and Carol Jackson) just say “Of course we’re planning peak lanes on Reseda – because we see the need more capacity for more cars.” It doesn’t seem like the LADOT would have gotten themselves in trouble for just telling the truth here. There would have been no story. Instead the LADOT vociferously denied something that the LADOT already put in writing… I don’t understand quite why.

    This saddens me because we depend on a great deal of trust for the public to work with public agencies to get things done… and, with their false denials, the LADOT has strained the public trust. This is going to make their jobs tougher in the long run.

  • While Khalil (Ken) Firoozman is a licensed civil and traffic engineer (C52268 and TR1679, respectively), it is incredibly difficult to “disbar” an engineer for anything other than gross incompetence or failure to perform duties to the clients, which in this case is the City of Los Angeles as an institution, and not individual residents of the City. If you want to file a complaint, you can read http://www.pels.ca.gov/consumers/complaint_licensee.shtml and the laws and regulations for professional engineers, at http://www.pels.ca.gov/licensees/laws.shtml

  • Matt

    I’m a newbie to this blog, but Mr. Spokker seems to personally attack the concerned bicyclists and is a denier that there was anything afoot. The memo posted here clearly indicate that there was a plan to stop the bike plans because of a plan to put in a peak hour lane, so his argument seems to be one of a long time feud of sorts and has nothing to do with this instance. Is that a fair reading of his position?

  • this is nothing compared to the Cluster F that they just created by turning wilbur into 1 lane each way with 2 hugwe bike lanes. What a f’ing joke. Call your councilman call the west valley DOT the stupid m’fers

  • Dewey:
    It actually was the decision to make Wilbur safer for drivers by reconfiguring the roadway which allowed the room to install bike lanes, not the other way around.
    http://ladotbikeblog.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/ladot-set-to-install-2-miles-of-bike-lanes-on-wilbur-avenue/

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