Villaraigosa in Copenhagen: L.A. Needs to Do More for Bikes

Yesterday Mayor Villaraigosa gave an interview to KPCC, Southern California Public Radio, where he talked about what Los Angeles can do to be a more green city.  CicLAvia has the mayor’s comments about bicycles:

In the area of bicycling I’ve got to do a better job and the city’s
got to do a better job… we’re planning to… close down some streets in
the city. We’re going to give people, probably on a Sunday, an
opportunity to just take over streets. Much as we took over the
freeways you remember on the 110.

CicLAvia makes two quick observations: the Mayor sounds an awful lot like Professor Robert Gottlieb and second, it sounds an awful lot like the Mayor is committing to a "closed street" festival similar to Bogota’s Ciclovia or New York’s Summer Streets.

Now I know there’s going to be a lot of skeptics that this means that the Mayor is suddenly going to become Mr. Bicycle.  However, let’s remember two things in this Season of Hope: exposure to a real bike town can have an impact on the previously uninitiated such as when then-Councilwoman Greuel witnessed Denver’s temporary bike share program during the DNC in 2008 and came home a believer.  Second, New York’s Mayor Bloomberg, and then NYCDOT Commissioner Iris Weinshal, were Livable Streets  villains until he made green transportation a priority and hired Janette Sadik-Khan.

  • Will Campbell

    >THUMP<

    That's the sound of me fainting in shock that Villagairocksta used the word "bicycling" on the record, even if he is parroting Gottleib.

  • I almost fainted when I read the update, for reals, he used said bicycling, and we need to do better. It’s only words, but he never said a peep before, and typically actions are preceded by words first. Gives me a little hope for sure.

  • Let’s not get too hysterically happy, but this is good news!

    After the mayor pioneered sharrows in NELA, he solicited a general response from the public on his COP15 web page, his YouTube channel, Twitter and via a contact me form on his site.

    Social media works to get through to the mayor’s staff, and they communicate with hizzoner. Cycling advocates, take note!

    http://twitter.com/villaraigosa

    http://www.youtube.com/user/antoniovillaraigosa

    http://www.mayor.lacity.org/MeettheMayor/AsktheMayor/index.htm

    Keep your response on-point, short, and digestable. This is one small way we can let him know that he’s not doing his duty by ignoring the benefits of planning for bicycles in the roadway.

    Apparently, it works (a little bit). Hopefully this is our foot in the door – he can’t be green while pissing on bikes and handing out thousands to car owners!

  • Stats Dude

    Jeff Mapes said in his book “Pedaling Revolution” that traveling to Copenhagen really influences thoughts on the possibilities of biking as a form of transportation (badly paraphrasing here).

    Perhaps the entire LADOT (or at lease much of their senior management) should take a trip to Copenhagen?

  • Rhode Bloche

    FINALLY!

  • What this does seem to say is that he is starting to get our message that LA needs to be doing more for bikes. I hope these are not only words and that we see some action. Let’s start holding him to it!

    Here is a letter you can sign which directly asks him to support a better LA Bike Plan. That is definitely one way he can start visibly “doing more”.

    http://la-bike.org/action_items/bike_plan_email_letter.html

  • MU

    CicLAvia is a great concept and it’s nothing but good news to hear the Mayor support it. But in the “don’t get too excited” department, he is supporting the kind of cycling that isn’t really transportation per se, doesn’t replace car trips, doesn’t inconvenience the “important car trips” that don’t happen on Sundays, etc. At least not in the short term. He is talking about supporting cycling as recreation, not transportation. I plan to make the distinction when I “AsktheMayor”.

    That said, it’s a whole lot better than what he’s said before now which is essentially zero.

  • Greg Cantori

    The miracle about CiLAvia is it’s not just for bikes! Its for all people, in fact it’s for many more people than just those with cars. Thus we are not “Closing” the streets we are actually “Opening” them to ALL people. This is a huge paradigm shift.

  • MU

    per Greg’s point, I certainly don’t mean to belittle CicLAvia. It is a real change in the way the relationship between people and their streets operate and are perceived. I think it is an important concept and movement that will have great long term benefits.

    But my concern is that, at least in the Mayor’s mind, it is a “recreational” concept. “We close a few streets on a Sunday so people can play on them.” But come Monday morning, the streets return to their “real” use, moving cars. The fact that he chose to call out CicLAvia instead of implementing the bike plan or something else that rapidly and directly contributes to shifting transport out of cars leaves me unconvinced that he has had a real “road to Damascus” moment.

    But at the least, it shows he is opening up to rethinking what streets ‘are’ and ‘are for’. Hopefully that means there will be more support for all kinds of changes.

  • Erik G.

    Stats,

    Nah, Copenhagen is too white.

  • @MU:

    You make a good point. Certainly, staging L.A.-based Cyclovias will be a fantastic tool for promoting communities and non-motorized transportation, and it’s obviously a fun, life-affirming event that will be impossible to ignore.

    As you say, though, the real positive impacts on the environment, traffic and overall quality-of-life will only be improved when cycling and pedestrian trips begins to replace car usage. I think it is imperative for activists to make a clear distinction between the ultimate goals and benefits of recreational activities vs. the much more difficult endeavor of re-orienting our city’s transportational road space for bikes and peds.

  • So long as a shift in the use of our roadways is wrapped in a gauzy layer of Ciclavia goodness, health, safety, and economic beneifts, I think we won’t have to worry too much about making the case to the public that much. I think it is a matter of stamina and resources for us to see the changes we’d like to see done.

  • Seeing this little glimpse of light come through, we’ve got to start hammering this thing big time. We need everyone writing a letter to the Mayor, forget the rest, go straight to the top, telling him how much you want bikes, how you wouldn’t mind giving up road space for cars because you’ll be getting much more space for people, especially if youre a small business owner. We need a stronger bike plan, which is a commitment to bikes as TRANSPORTATION! The pols only let the DOT run wild because they think every old fogie who goes nuts over losing parking spaces represents 99.9% of the city’s residents. We’ve got enough professional people behind this thing to really break it open in the months to come; let’s do this people!

  • @MU,

    In Bogota, since the ciclovia is a network throughout the city EVERY Sunday, it actually is a functioning transportation network, not just for recreation. You can use it to get to where you need to go on a bike very easily. My idea for CicLAvia is that it gets so big in LA that you actually can use it to run errands or get around the city, not just to ride your bike in circles for recreation. I agree the Mayor is probably talking recreationally here, but once this gets in the door we can open people’s minds more towards bike being a legitimate form of transportation.

  • @Bobby,

    I only leave my house once a week anyway, so a ciclovia every Sunday is a perfect solution!