Last Night’s Bike Meeting Highlights: Late Start, Unanswered Questions but Anti-Harassment Ordinance Moves On

12_9_09_line.jpgCyclists wait in line to testify on Bike Plan.

By the time the bike portion of the "Bike-Only" City Council Transportation Committee hearing began at 3:45, one hour and forty-five minutes late, it was clear that the bicycling-love-fest that we’ve seen at past "Bike-Only" meetings wasn’t going to happen.  Not only did the meeting start late because of an over-run of the City Council meeting, but Councilman Richard Alarcon had already stormed out of the room because Councilman Bill Rosendahl had caused the full Council to lose quorum and Councilman LaBonge had already snapped at the audience for talking during public comment.

Because of time constraints, only three of the six items were heard and debated.  We’ll have to wait until January to hear the excuses on why the city has yet to paint Sharrows on city streets and why Los Angeles isn’t the best place to begin a bike sharing plan.  Rosendahl’s motion that the city re-draft it’s bicycle parking requirement for new development was moved to the full Council without a hearing.

So, that left an update on the Bike Plan, a report from the LAPD on its relationship with cyclists and Rosendahl’s effort to create an anti-harassment law to protect cyclists.  We’ll cover the issues in the order they were heard.

12_10_09_DOT_and_Planning.jpgLADOT and Planning were on camera throughout the hearing.

First up, was an update on the Bike Plan.  The Committee was just scheduled to hear an update on the plan, not take any sort of action.  This was the only agenda item for which there was a quorum, as Councilman LaBonge had to leave.  With Alarcon having already stormed out and Parks on vacation, that left just Rosendahl and Paul Koretz to sit on the dais for the LAPD report and to move the anti-harassment ordinance.

The City of Los Angeles, mainly Jordan Turner from City Planning and Michelle Mowery from LADOT, came with a new presentation highlighting ideas that hadn’t been highlighted in previous meetings.  Some of the new information was useful, such as a plan to create a cycling trust fund with developers fee, but some was just misinformation. For example, Turner claimed that the Draft Bike Plan calls for 529 miles of proposed and potential new bike lanes.  First, as C.I.C.L.E. points out, that number is horribly mis-leading as there are only 28 miles of lanes that are "feasible" in the Bike Plan, i.e. that the plan actually calls for the construction of.  The rest are lanes on roads that would "require" the removal of street parking or a "travel lane."  I guess that a bike lane isn’t a "travel lane?"  Further mucking up the numerical issues, if you go through the plan and add up the mileage of each proposed and potential project you reach 431 miles of lanes, not 529.

During public comment, several readers slammed the "529" number and wondered why the city bothered to include the number of "potential" bike lanes, referred to as "infeasible" in the early draft of the plan, instead of the number of miles that could actually be implemented under current street conditions.

The most interesting part of the hearing was a "Question and Answer" session between Rosendahl and city staff.  The questions were given to the Councilman by activists Stephen Box and Alex Thompson and were an effort to get the city on the record on certain issues.  However, the city seemed adept at dodging the questions for reasons I’m not sure of.  For example, the first question had to do with who was in charge of the plan from the original writing of the Scope of Work to the plan’s final presentation next year.  City staff answered correctly that Planning is the agency in charge and where the "buck stops," but the Councilman was unable to get a straight answer, on-the-record, that it was LADOT’s senior Bike Coordinator Michelle Mowery who wrote the scope of work.  I’m not sure what the secret is there.

A second question that received a strange answer dealt with why the outreach for the plan was so lacking compared to the outreach done by Alta Planning for the City of Portland.  Thompson, at Westside BikeSIDE, has a transcript from the hearing.  Mowery’s answer is, at best, puzzling.

With all due respect the City of Portland is 450,000 people.  It’s a
homogeneous community that is very white, and very progressive with
respect to transportation.  They have a trolley system that works very
well, as well as their transit overall.  We are a very diverse,
disjointed city of 4 million people.  They are 30 years ahead of us in
the development of their, well, they’re not quite 30, they’re more like
20 years ahead of us in the development of their bikeway.  So we’re a
step behind Portland in what we’re trying to do. Granted, several of us
would like to see a lot of changes in the city happen very quickly, but
again we have a very diverse city with a lot of needs.

If anyone can show me how this statement even tries to address the issue of outreach, there’s a Streetfilms t-shirt in it for you.  Because honestly?  This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

A last dodged question was "how does this plan differ then the one submitted by Alta Planning."  After explaining that this is the plan submitted by Alta, staff went on to explain all the editing cycles Alta’s original draft went through.  The question was clearly aimed at finding out what Alta’s original draft looked like as compared to what the city eventually submitted as the Draft Plan, to the public.

Up next was an update from the LAPD on its relationship with cyclists.  Speaking on behalf of the police department was Commander Jeff Greer, who is heading an internal group on cycling issues within the department but is soon to move on to be chief of detectives.  Amazingly, Greer stated that a report on the April incident where a hummer side-swiped Andres Tena and the reporting officer claimed Tena ran into the hummer wasn’t yet available.  However, there the LAPD is reviewing the report and the officer because of public and official complaints and the report could be available soon.  Rosendahl demanded the report at his next hearing and the LAPD agreed.  However, they made the same agreement at a May hearing of the full Council and a hearing of the Transportation Committee over the summer.

Greer also reported that Lt. Andre Dawson will not be heading up a Bicycle Working Group because there are already internal efforts occurring with the department to improve the relationship.  Specifically, the department is working on ways distribute a bicycling safety video, create an e-learning course for veteran officers and create the position of "bicycling liaison" to be a contact point for the cycling community and to distribute relevant information to different divisions.  After pressure from Rosendahl, Greer committed to making sure the bicycling liaison would be publicly available to the cycling community.

However, the most controversial issue from Greer’s report was a statement that the LAPD was working on a policy to better police "mass cycling rides."  Ridazz and Massers are concerned that is code for "the LAPD working on a way to end the rides."  Greer brushed off those concerns claiming that a formal policy would prevent officers from having a panic reaction when they see hundreds of cyclists rapidly descending on a position.  Greer’s statement comes less than two weeks after cyclists complained that riders were being drug off their bikes without adequate warning to stop during November’s Critical Mass.  How this new policy is created and enforced remain to be seen, but this could become a flashpoint in the poor relationship between group rides and the LAPD if done controversially.  If it’s done correctly, this could be a turning point in what has been a sour relationship.

However, the high point came when LADOT, cyclists, the City Attorney and the Council Members still present had a "kumbaya moment" and agreed that legislation protecting cyclists and pedestrians could be a watershed moment for the city and give Los Angeles a chance to be ahead-of-the-curve on bicycling planning.  Before an ordinance can actually be drafted, the motion must pass through the Public Safety Committee.  However, Deputy City Attorney Keith Pritzer seemed energized on the issue and pointed out to me in the elevator that before being hired by the city, thirty years ago, he was a "bike activist" himself.

So what constitutes "harassing a cyclist?" The resolution moved yesterday only called on the City Attorney to draft an anti-harassment ordinance, but public comment was about what could constitute harassment.  Some suggested that drivers shouldn’t be allowed to threaten cyclists with their cars, others suggested that verbal abuse should be banned and still others discussed setting a safe distance between cars and cyclists when cars zoom past.

When the Bicycling Harassment ordinance moves on to the Public Safety Committee in January, check back here for all the details.

  • MU

    You ask, “If anyone can show me how this statement even tries to address the issue of outreach, there’s a Streetfilms t-shirt in it for you.”

    Simple, the panel felt bad that they would not have an opportunity during the sharrows discussion to declare that “This isn’t Long Beach” as you predicted. They decided to make it up to everyone by stating that “This isn’t Portland.”

    True, so true…

  • D. X. Blink

    Mowery very clearly answered why LA is not worth outreach: Because we have too many brown people. Apparently she feels only white communities are worth reaching out to?

  • Eric B

    I think Michelle’s point was to say that outreach looks different in LA than it does in Portland. Yes, there are language and racial barriers, but more important is the political setting. The Portland process assumes that everyone involved believes more bikes are good and actually improve mobility rather than just interfering with car movement. In LA, we as bike activists still need to make that case to the motoring public at large and to particularly receptive audiences (such as immigrants that already ride bikes). Our transportation network may be 20 years behind Portland’s, but that is only because our political consensus is also decades behind the curve. Let’s work to create the political climate that supports progressive transportation policy rather than complaining that we don’t have it. This means reaching out beyond Streetsblog readers and talking to other users of the transportation system.

  • D. X. Blink

    Eric, you have a good point about the political setting of Portland vs. that of LA. But if that’s the difference she was talking about, why did she specifically bring race into it? I don’t get it.

  • Eric gets it exactly, but how is a plan that cost $450,000, and is supposed to be a city-wide plan, unable to reach out to the citizens of LA?

    Is it that hard to create a process to bring those diverse groups together and find out what they need?

    The MTA did a very thorough study in 2002-2003 called the Bikeways Enhanced Outreach Program, for less than this bike plan, and were able to reach a very diverse audience of real bike riders and regular folks.

    She got a big chunk of money to spend from the City Council, and she hired some expensive map-makers (whose advice she chose to ignore), and held meetings with the public after the consultants had created a plan. What the hell is up with that?

    LA is not Portland. Fine. How does Mowery trying to shut down cyclists voices help overcome that?

    I understand the larger point about cyclists “making the case” to the larger public – but we’re doing that in countless op-eds, videos, twitter, blog posts, group rides, rallies, and by attending every single public meeting and demanding our rights. What other interest group regularly fills public hearings? City employee unions? I mean, we are on City Hall’s ass – and we’re steps away from organizing at the ballot boxes. Either city hall gets with it, or they get out of the way.

  • To put it simply:

    Stating that “Los Angeles is different than Portland” is not a legitimate excuse for presenting an expensive bicycle plan update that is far below the standards set by other major American cities.

  • minibikebar

    SILENCE

    I listened to the transportation meeting on my computer at work yesterday.
    The silence was deafening from the Rosendahl, LaBonge, Alarcon, Koretz, and Parks concerning the new bike plan. You know the only CC member to actually remove parking for a bike lane is Ed Reyes why can’t he be put on the transportation committee. Are you listening Eric Garcetti?

    This new bike plan can give us over 300 miles plus in new bike lane if CC members give us the space. Everyone was saying there is only 35 miles on new bike lanes not true
    there is over 300 miles of bike lanes, bike blvds(or bike friendly streets)… but silence from the CC members.

    Did one CC member on the committee say I’ll give you those potential lanes by giving up parking or a travel lane……Silence.

    Did one say I’ll look at this new plan/map and review every single potential bike lane in my district and make it happen…..Silence.

    They said it would cost $280 million dollars to implement this plan.
    Did any of those CC members say they will go out and help, lobby to get this money to build these bike facilities…Silence.

    And when this bike plan is approved are we going to have more Silence from all the CC members and the Mayors’ Office. These elected officials have the power to make it happen and we need to put their feet to the fire and get those 300 miles plus of bike lane, and Blvds. by removing parking and travel lanes. It might take five years but I want the space.

    Come on BAC members you’re appointment by your CC and the mayor’s office…are you meeting with them on the Bike plan and map for your district and asking them commit to putting those potential bike lane in their district? .. I know BAC is nurtured and has no power but step up for these 300 miles with your individual council member. Do something!

    LACBC is your organization meeting with every CC member and mayor’s office to get those 300 miles of bike lane and asking them to commit to give us those potential bike lanes?

    Bloggers are you going to anything else but vilify LADOT as a personal sport!
    Why don’t you interview and meet each council member and get them to commit to these 300 miles of potential bike lanes.

    I already meet with my cc member transportation rep and council women to ask for these bike lanes in my district…
    Every single person who rides bike should be asking the cc and mayors office for those 300 plus miles for Los Angeles

    The SILENCE is so deafening from these CC and Mayors Office you could hear a pin drop. I want my space on the road!
    PS…VERY COOL DIY THE OTHER DAY!

  • Eric B

    Minibikebar is spot-on. If councilmembers wanted bike lanes (and were willing to remove parking or a vehicle lane), I’m sure Michelle would be the first one there with a paintbrush. Let’s target our political energy at the political targets (elected officials).

  • @minibikebar – yes – LACBC, C.I.C.L.E. and Green L.A. are working to meet with some of the city councilmembers that haven’t yet made the city bike plan an issue. We have one meeting scheduled next week and more coming up. Don’t wait for us, though… folks reading this should email their own councilmember and let her/him know what you think about the bike plan and what you’d like her/him to do about it.

    Also – for a little more explanation of Dept of City Planning’s Jordan Turner’s misleading “529” miles of bike lane in the plan (we wish!!!) there’s a breakdown at the C.I.C.L.E. blog here:
    http://www.cicle.org/cicle_content/pivot/entry.php?id=2495#body

  • also @minibikebar – I don’t know about the rest of the BAC (many of whom were at the meeting yesterday), but I am a BAC member (appointed by Council President Eric Garcetti), and yes – I recently met with Garcetti’s transportation deputy (Marcel Porras) and briefed him about what we do to improve the draft bike plan and what bike projects can be implemented in Council District 13.

    Porras has actually taken initiative on a possible road diet bike lane project on Virgil Avenue… he’s also trying to get the unyielding LADOT moving forward with the sharrows pilot.

    I agree with your broader point – we need more leadership from councilmembers, BAC members, non-profits… but I think that the Mayor, Planning and LADOT also need to step up and make the city more bike-friendly.

  • Rhode Bloche

    can we stop calling it a bike plan and start calling it a TRAFFIC SOLUTION?

    more short trips on bikes = less traffic!!!

  • joe

    I have a suggestion, if Michelle has issue communicating with non-whites. Maybe we should replace her with someone that is bilingual.

    Btw, this has given me great pleasure to tease all my non-white friends for the downfall of the Los Angeles bike infrastructure.

  • I lived in Portland and I can say Michelle is all wrong. . . except that it is more white than LA. Portland is far from “homogeneous.” In fact it is almost impossible to have a conversation with a stranger there unless you look, dress, and act just like them. Sure it is more progressive but I was harassed when riding my bike just as much as here in LA. The motorists there are just as much resistant to bicycle infrastructure as here. . . in fact I often heard complaints about the train taking space away from more lanes on the freeway that was never congested.

    Portland just decided that being livable is more important than more traffic. It is a traffic solution not a bike plan and what city needs it more than LA? Spending billions on the roads with the exclusion of pedestrians, cyclists, buses, trains, and livable streets is going to keep LA in the last century.

    We need solutions not excuses.

    (Not to mention Mowery should look for a new job if that is the best excuse she can come up with, because it is clear she is working on more excuses than solutions.)

  • It would be cool if one of our advocacy groups would send a person to city hall to tally the votes and build the 8 vote majority to get stuff done for bicycles. You’ve only got to send an email/twitter to a few bike advocates in different parts of the city to bring out the mob to a meeting or to flood an office with calls and letters.

    And what is up with the black councilmembers? The valley votes I sort of assume are too pro-car to care about removing car lanes (with the exception of Alarcon) – but many of the neighborhoods covered by Parks, Wesson, and Perry are distressed older commercial downtowns that have been ruined by auto-only infrastructure. Shifting to less capital-intensive modes will favor the sort of economic revitalization that left-wingers are always claiming their latest handout or infrastructure program will provide.

  • Council Members that have expressed their support for roadway space set aside for bicycles (and at the expense of cars), or simply expressed a desire to make bicycling better in LA:

    (1) Garcetti
    (2) Reyes
    (3) Rosendahl
    (4) Alarcon
    (5) LaBonge
    (6) Krekorian
    (7) Koretz

    I’m no pHd in math, but if you only need eight votes to pass a law in LA then aren’t we pretty close already? These councilmenbers should be praised for their verbal sentiments in favor of bikes, and our specific requests for projects and laws should be packaged up and delivered to them. Then, we need to start finding that eighth, ninth, and tenth vote to lock things up.

    Start showing up at the LA City Council’s Budget and Finance committee meetings, asking to see a detailed breakdown of the city’s Capital Improvement Expenditure Plan – where millions in “bicycle and pedestrian” dollars go every year (to produce … what?).

    Start showing up at the Board of Transportation Commissioners meetings, asking them to draft opinions regarding the policies the LADOT has with regards to E&TS surveys, traffic calming, Safe Routes to School funding, and loads more stuff. Hell, why aren’t any high-powered cyclists on this Board?

    It would be great to have the Mayor’s office, in their annual budget/city performance dog-and-pony show, to collect sociological and economic data from around the city and produce annual safety/injury reports, cyclist counts, pedestrian counts, sales tax recovery based on traffic speeds, etc. This is a pro-bike set of issues, and his office blows the couple of thousand dollars it would take to hire some group, or pay staff, to do this work for his office every year.

    We also need to get bike shops and other retailers in LA toegether to pay for these lobbying efforts. We probably can’t afford much, but it doesn’t take much to get this sort of stuff done.

    Finally, in the end, I’d have a damned Class I bikelane in my neighborhood – so I could ride downtown, or to the supermarket in peace with my wife and my kid without having to worry about maniac drivers and the traffic engineers that enable them!

  • minibikebar

    Joe Linton thank you for meeting with your council member about removing parking or a lane for bike lanes. Maybe he will be the second council person in the city to remove something for a bike lane.
    Can you ask him to replace Parks with Reyes on the Transportation Committee?
    And Ubjay you are right now we need more bicyclists like you go out and stop the silence from the Mayors Office and City council.

    OMG stop with the Mowery thing….she might be a great punching bag for the cyclist but really city council, and LADOT basically duck tape her hands and feet then throw in the pool and say swim your on your own.
    The bottom line is she has no power so I’m going to the city council members who do have the power to eliminate parking/lanes for those 300 miles plus potential bike lanes in their districts and the power to tell LADOT put the bike lanes in.

    If we don’t stop the silence from the City Council member’s bicyclist will always be second citizens in Los Angeles.

    Start meeting with your CC members with the bike plan and map in hand and ask them to support bikes by eliminating SOME on street parking and putting in bike lanes and most of all get the money to support the bike facilities. What was it again $280 million dollars…but its OK measure R gave LA $2 million dollars so we only need another $278 million dollars. CC and the Mayors Office must think we are stupid because that tells me what they think of bicyclist and bike facilities.

    Maybe ubrayj02 will final has his dream and have his class I bike lane for his family.

    Silence is not golden city council members!

  • minibikebar

    Joe Linton thank you for meeting with your council member about removing parking or a lane for bike lanes. Maybe he will be the second council person in the city to remove something for a bike lane.
    Can you ask him to replace Parks with Reyes on the Transportation Committee?
    And Ubjay you are right now we need more bicyclists like you go out and stop the silence from the Mayors Office and City council.

    OMG stop with the Mowery thing….she might be a great punching bag for the cyclist but really city council, and LADOT basically duck tape her hands and feet then throw in the pool and say swim your on your own.
    The bottom line is she has no power so I’m going to the city council members who do have the power to eliminate parking/lanes for those 300 miles plus potential bike lanes in their districts and the power to tell LADOT put the bike lanes in.

    If we don’t stop the silence from the City Council member’s bicyclist will always be second citizens in Los Angeles.

    Start meeting with your CC members with the bike plan and map in hand and ask them to support bikes by eliminating SOME on street parking and putting in bike lanes and most of all get the money to support the bike facilities. What was it again $280 million dollars…but its OK measure R gave LA $2 million dollars so we only need another $278 million dollars. The CC and the Mayors Office must think we are stupid because that tells me what they think of bicyclist and bike facilities.

    Maybe ubrayj02 will final has his dream and have his class I bike lane for his family.

    Silence is not golden city council members!

    Knowledgeable

  • Mini et al,

    I hope you’ll join us tomorrow for the LA Bike Working Group IV, 2-5 pm @ 1711 Van Ness in Hollywood. It’s the large purple church on Hollywood & Van Ness, next to the 101 Freeway.

    Tomorrow is the “Campaign Workshop” and Alex and I will be facilitating.
    We’d love to have everybody who is interested in making LA a great place to ride join us!

  • LAguy

    So now the DOT, aka the Department of Torpidity and Total Turmoil, is blaming its failure to conduct adequate bicycle plan outreach because LA is not “very white.” DOT always has some excuse or another for its failures but this one is the most outrageous one of all.

  • Syzgy

    This seems more like a meeting between a dysfunctional family than a city council meeting?

  • Szgzy,

    I’d like to know how many city council meetings you’ve been to in your life. I’ve been to close to hundred (I estimate). I’ve been to meetings in tiny cities like Hawaiian Gardens, all the way up to big ol’ monster cities like Los Angeles. I’ve been to meetings for the Ports, and for the MTA, and lots of other public entities.

    If the meetings aren’t like this, then they’re the milquetoast zero-occupant drone-fests that elected officials crave.

    Bring on the mob, it’s always more entertaining.

  • minibikebar

    Soap box
    Thank you for the invite but I don’t know if we are on the same page on the bike plan…..I want the bike plan approved and then I want city council members and the Mayor’s Office not to have a free get out of jail card on potential bike facilities in Los Angeles! I’m holding the city council responsible for implementation of the plan not LADOT. Plus I’m not a “raise hell person” but a “lower heaven person”.
    That doesn’t mean my expectation is lower but higher for the council members.

    Mobs have there uses but real change will come from individual bicycles, nonprofit groups, and bloggers approaching these council members individually and in city council meetings so they just don’t see an anger mob but individual bicyclists(young, old, children, male, female, different races and religions) who want their share of space and money in Los Angeles.

    A mob might open the door but will never get the same results as 50 individual bicyclists going the same council office and stopping the silence from the members.

    My desire is one day is when I walk in the council office and Mayor’s Office( can’t wait for that guy to be out of LA) is to see the bike map on the wall and the bike plan on their desk and I’m asking for that one last potential bike lane/Blvd in their district to make it complete.
    City council is responsible the deafening silences in Los Angeles when it comes to bicycle facilities.
    Come on City Council and the Mayors Office raise the bar!!!!!

    PS. I’m so there if you organize angry mob to go to MTA get the money we deserve for Los Angeles! MTA needs a mob.
    See you on the streets…….with our bike lanes.

  • Mini says:

    “I want the bike plan approved and then I want city council members and the Mayor’s Office not to have a free get out of jail card on potential bike facilities in Los Angeles!”

    I say:

    “Which is it? You can’t have both.”

    The current draft Bike Plan is the “get out of jail card” and will simply lower expectations. If you want to see Bike Blvds., read the plan and see if you can find the imperative for building them. It’s not there.

    Put down the Straw Man and walk toward the light.

  • LOL – @Stephen/SoapBox is totally correct on this one. The current bike plan draft is one big get-out-jail-free card!

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

A Broad Section of Cyclists Descend on City Hall, LAPD No-Shows

|
Post meeting, the Ridazz headed over to check out the Lakers Outgoing Transportation Committee Chair Wendy Greuel held what was supposed to be her swan song to the bicycling community at an almost-all-bikes Transportation Committee meeting earlier today.  It’s true, there were some low points, such as only Councilman Bill Rosendahl joining Greuel on the […]

“Weekend Update:” What Happened at the Big Bike Meeting

|
For a veteran of Transportation Committee Hearings, today was a strange day.  Maybe it was that instead of thirty people wearing suits, the committee room was full of over 100 bike activists wearing just about everything from suits to spandex.  Or maybe it was Councilman Rosendahl basically yelling at the LAPD.  Or maybe it was […]

Mandeville Canyon Crash Continues to Dominate Bike Discourse

|
The horrific July 4th Crash in Mandeville Canyon continues to be a focal point for discussions about bike safety. On Saturday, the Times published a remarkable editorial pleading with drivers to give cyclists their due respect on the road. Later in the day, Councilman Rosendahl’s office announced the cancellation of tonight’s scheduled meeting on bike […]

Streets Notes for the Upcoming Bike Plan Meetings

|
I’ll be going to the Westside Meeting.  If anyone wants to write about the other ones, let me know. Starting on Thursday, the City of Los Angeles will hold the first of five "official" public meetings on the Draft Bike Plan that was released for public viewing after some draft maps were released earlier this […]