Unanimous BAC Votes for More Time to Review Draft Bike Plan

10_7_09_bwc.jpgThe Bike Writer's Collective huddles at last night's B.A.C Meeting. Photo: Stephen Box/Facebook

It may have been a few months late, but last night's review of the proposed new bike plan by the Bicycle Advisory Committee had enough fireworks for the fourth of July.

From BAC Chair Glenn Bailey to a small, but passionate group of audience members, a number of people expressed their anger about the plan - particularly about the short amount of time allowed for public review.

As a result, the committee voted to request an extension of the comment period to January 8, 2010, rather than the current deadline of November 6 of this year. The unanimous vote reflected unusual agreement between committee members who voiced support for the plan and those who expressed problems with significant parts of it.

However, all agreed that after the seemingly endless delays in releasing the plan, the public deserved more time to review the 212 page document. As Stephen Box put it, noting that L.A. allows more time to review new sanitation plans, it makes it appear that in the city's eyes, "Cyclists rate below trash."

While they said it might be possible to extend the deadline, none of the representatives of DOT in attendance claimed the authority to do so, nor did they explain the process required to get an extension.

A brief introduction to a very complex plan

The affable Jordann Turner from the Dept. of City Planning lead the council through a brief overview of the proposed bike plan, intended to replace the original 1996 bike plan that was reauthorized by the council in 2007 to remain eligible for federal funding.

As Turner noted, the goal of the plan is to create a continuous bicycle system that extends throughout the city, with a system of collector routes that would leave no resident more than a mile from the network. The plan also creates a technical design handbook that would provide design guidance for all bicycle types and roadway situations, and form a template for city agencies to follow.

He also touched on the conflicts inherent in off-road cycling within the city, as various groups, including cyclists, hikers and equestrians battle for limited trail space. Turner said the city had brought in a professional negotiator to try to develop recommendations that would accommodate all users.

In addition, the plan attempts to prioritize projects so they can be identified and move forward quickly as funding becomes available. And it was suggested that it's not difficult process to amend the plan, so if anyone thinks something was missed, they should offer suggestions on how it can be changed.

There was also talk that one more workshop may be scheduled for East L.A., though no details were available.

A mixed reaction from the committee

While a handful of committee members expressed satisfaction with the plan - and one member even suggested cyclists should be grateful for "what they have now" - several of the panel members expressed serious concerns.

Brad House, representing the 15th Council District, asked why the Cyclist's Bill of Rights wasn't included in the bike plan. Michele Mowery, Senior Bicycle Coordinator for LADOT, said that portions of the CBOR that the city has jurisdiction over were incorporated into the plan, while some parts that the city doesn't have jurisdiction over were left out.

That lead much eye rolling in the audience, particularly from Box, who later expressed amazement that any part of it would be "outside the city's jurisdiction," and questioned just what those parts could be.

Thirteenth District representative Joe Linton voiced his frustration that the current plan included 50 fewer miles of bikeways than the plan adopted 13 years earlier. "That seems like a retreat from the '96 plan, which was already a little whimpy." And he complained that streets that had formerly been listed as "designated" for bike lanes were now considered merely "proposed."

The real fireworks came from Chair Person Glenn Bailey, who showed visible anger as he complained about the short window for comments, noting that only a 6-day period was allotted for all four scheduled workshops. He went on to suggest that every Neighborhood Council in the city should receive the same bike plan CD that had been provided to the committee. "What would that cost? Twenty-five cents times 89? Let's get it out there."

And he drew a round of applause from the audience for insisting that the bike plan should have the rule of law if it's adopted by the council.

Police HQ bike parking, and other matters

While the bike plan took up most of the evening's discussion, more sparks flew when a motion was made to hold the next meeting at Deaton Auditorium in the new police headquarters downtown.

Box complained about inadequate bicycle parking at the new building, pointing out that the street level parking was at the far edge of the facility, behind nine planters and completely out of view from any watchful eyes. His wife Enci pointed out that no woman would feel comfortable leaving her bike there, especially after dark.

Bailey explained out that additional bike parking was included in the plans for the parking garage; however, he was not allowed access when he attempted to examine it. A motion was finally passed to hold the next meeting at Deaton, but to request that LAPD provide safe and secure bike parking prior to the meeting; Bailey also suggested that riders be allowed to bring their bikes inside the auditorium.

Other matters included requesting that space for bikes be maintained on Westwood Blvd during and after construction of the Expo line, and that bikes be accommodated in any redesign of Pico and Olympic Boulevards.

Tuesday night also marked the first meeting for Ramona Marks, the panel's newest member, and currently, the only woman on the panel, representing District 1. Marks is the current membership coordinator for the Friends of the Los Angeles River and has served as Treasurer for the Bicycle Kitchen.