Bike Master Plan Comments Due Friday: Here’s Mine

1_6_10_bike_plan.jpgCyclists from last May's "Expo Exposure" Ride. Photo: LA Streetsblog/Flickr

This Friday, comments are due on the Draft Bike Plan lovingly prepared by Alta Planning and Design and submitted for public perusal and comments by City Planning and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.  I've gotten some criticism from critics of the Bike Plan for not writing more about it myself, and instead writing "just the facts" reviews of meetings, even though Streetsblog has hosted blistering critiques of the plan by Stephen Box and Joe Linton.  The few supporters of the plan have urged me to write up some good news about the plan.  Below are the comments I'll be emailing to City Planning, through the "unofficial" Bike Plan website at http://labikeplan.com.  You can also submit comments through that site or the official site at http://labikeplan.org.

These comments appear as an informational piece, have not been reviewed by anyone else at Streetsblog, and are not to be considered anything more than my personal thoughts on the plan after finally reading it in its entirety over Streetsblog's winter break.  If you want to crib any of my thoughts feel free.

Dear Mr. Turner, Ms. Mowery, City Staff and Staff at Alta Planning,

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Draft Bike Plan.

While the following comments appeared at Streetsblog, please consider them my personal comments as Streetsblog does not make comments on bike plans.

My main concern with this plan doesn't have to do with what routes do or don't appear, there are many cyclists more familiar with Los Angeles' streets than I am and I would pay close attention to their comments on this matter.  Instead, I am worried that this isn't really what can be considered a "plan" at all.  A plan has deadlines, designates who is responsible for what, has a list of goals, objectives, strategies and tactics, and most importantly identifies a source or sources of funding to make the goals, objectives, strategies and tactics of the plan a reality.

Instead, this plan focuses only on the tactics...goals, objectives, strategies and funding are left to other people.  It's actually more a series of maps with supporting documents than a plan.  And that's too bad, because Los Angeles sorely needs a Bike Plan to get this city to where we need to be.

At a recent meeting of the City Council Transportation Committee, Senior Bike Coordinator Michelle Mowery claimed that Los Angeles is twenty years behind Portland when it comes to bike planning.  Fine.  Knowing that Portland has a 7% mode share for cyclists during commuting hours, then the City of Los Angeles should step up and declare that the City of Angels is going to have a 7% commuting mode share by 2030.  Ambitious?  Yes.  And that's how you set a goal.

How does one achieve a goal?  By setting realistic objectives.  Assuming that the 7% mode shift is a serious goal, the next step is to set objectives, which are a subset of goals, like mini-goals.  If the goal is a 7% mode switch, the objectives would be to improve the mode split by 1% every four years.  Of course, all of this assumes that the city has an idea of how many people are cycling as part of their commute right now, which we know they don't.

Next would be having strategies to meet the goals.  An example of some good strategies would be "painting ten miles of bike lanes every year, painting twenty new sharrowed streets, and completing improvements on two bicycle-friendly streets.

The last step of a good plan is the tactics.  Tactics would be the maps and individual street designations that this plan does lay out.  However, to really qualify as a set of "tactics" a timeline on when we can expect any of these maps to actually turn into reality on the streets.

In short, a good plan has four key components, a timeline and a funding plan.  This "Plan" has, at best, one of the four components, no timeline and no funding plan.  In short, it needs a lot of work to get from "Draft Plan" to anything really worth moving to a full vote.

Two other points I want to hit on before I end.  The first is that by not having a timeline we're missing out on real opportunities.  For example, Los Angeles recently celebrated the opening of the Eastside Extension for the Gold Line.  The bike plan calls for a series of "bike friendly streets," "bike lanes" and "bike routes" surrounding the extension.  Given Metro's claims of multi-modalism and dozens of bike racks along the route, this would have been a great time to unveil a multi-modal network supporting the line and creating a real multi-modal network in east L.A.  Instead, we learned that there is no actual timeline to move the plan from paper to the streets.  We're missing a similar opportunity for the Expo Line.  True, there is a bike path running next to the line, but that path doesn't have a timeline and a network of local lanes, routes and other markings that connect the entire community along the line to the stations would have an even more dramatic impact on ridership.

Last, one of the reasons I've been given, off the record, that bike planning is so lackluster in this city is the lack of political will from our elected leadership.  While planners and LADOT staff are happy to say this privately, they also let City Councilman run them through a ringer at public meetings without challenging them.  If I take the staff at their word, then this plan would have been the perfect time to challenge them.  For example, the plan could improve plans, to be completed in the next five years, that would: create a "Bike Boulevard" on Fourth Street, right in the heart of Tom LaBonge's district, or create the aforementioned network along the Expo Line in Bill Rosendahl's 11th District.  If it's a lack of political will that is leading to projects such as this not getting done, then let's let them tell us they don't support these projects instead of talking big at public meetings then killing the plans in private.

In closing, I do appreciate the work that has been done on this plan, but sadly there's a lot more that needs to be done.  Fortunately, the city has hired the visionary planners at Alta Planning.  It's time to let them do their jobs.

I can be reached anytime at thedaymen@gmail.com  if you have any questions or comments.

Damien Newton