LADOT: No Timetable on Sharrows Pilot Program; LACBC: How’s Next Month Work?

1_14_10_roca.jpgI (heart) Long Beach. Photo: Russ Roca/Flickr

Yesterday, the City Council Transportation Committee met to discuss, once again, what the heck is taking so long to bring a Sharrows program to Los Angeles.  For over two years, the program has been a top priority for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, and funding has been in place for a pilot program for over six months.  Conversely, the above painted-lane Sharrows program in Long Beach took four months to move from Mobility Coordinator Charles Gandy’s head to the street.

Of course, as we’re often reminded, this isn’t Long Beach.

Explaining the delay, LADOT Senior Bike Coordinator Michelle Mowery stated that just because funding was in place, it didn’t mean that the project would automatically move forward.  Because some of the money is to be allocated to LADOT, some to the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and some to LACBC, there are a variety of bureaucratic issues that need to be worked out.  But we’ll definately be Sharrows on some L.A. streets sometime.  She wouldn’t say when, but definately sometime.  Maybe even this year.

Despite her somewhat dour presentation, Mowery tried to sound an optimistic tone. The wait would be worth it, that Sharrows would make the streets more safe.  When discussing a report by Alta Planning on the impact of Sharrows in Los Angeles, she said:

“…studies show that Sharrows do two things.  It moves cyclists out of the door zone.  It also, and this addresses Councilman LaBonge’s point, has cyclists moving in the right direction.”

Mowery was referencing a related story from Councilman Tom LaBonge where he complained about cyclists riding the wrong way in the street.  Despite an LACBC cycling counts report that showed that only six percent of cyclists travel in the wrong direction; this story ended up being a focal point of the meeting for much of the rest of the afternoon.

Before the public had its chance to speak, Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl tried to pin down the LADOT on a timeline and required that the department return next month days with an update.

“My problem is with the black hole of history (for this project) in the past.  I want an update in thirty days.  I’m impatient with this issue.”

Next, the public had a chance to speak.  LACBC’s Aurisha Smolarski testified that she had been in touch with the Bonet Foundation and SCAG, two of the major funders of the project, and that they are getting impatient as well.  However, there is a plan to begin the outreach associated with the program next month that would have the Sharrows on the ground in May.  This is hardly a lightning fast timeline.  Last May, Smolarski told me her dream was to have the Sharrows on the ground by Christmas of 2009, but when dealing with a buerocracy as large as LADOT, just getting them on the ground would be a victory of sorts.

Ramon Martinez defended the “wrong way” cyclists by noting that in the absence of a robust system, people are going to do what they deem most safe.  Of course, many times these people are wrong and putting themselves in greater risk, but Los Angeles had a system as intricate as those in other major cities such as Portland or New York, or other local cities such as Santa Monica and Long Beach, than fewer cyclists would make bad choices.

Another issue that arose was the “D.I.Y.” Sharrows that appeared in Northeast L.A. last month.  LaBonge asked about them.  Mowery grumped that removing them will cost money, but that the city would do them.  However, Jeremy Grant testified that the Sharrows are actually working and that cyclists are riding safer on the “Sharrowed” streets because there is less conflict between modes.  Grant suggested that instead the city should either leave them be or make them official.  LaBonge responded that there’s a legal issue in leaving them down, if a cyclist was involved with a crash in the area.  However, the Sharrows are still there, at least for now.

In other news, the Committee also discussed bringing a bike share program to Los Angeles, although it seems as though LADOT is counting on Metro to bring one to some of their transit hubs.  LAist has more details of their discussion here.

Rosendahl also let slip that February 24th is the tentative date for his “town hall” between cyclists and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.

  • DJB

    Those sharrows in LB are great. It’s worth noting that they put those in the photo down at Belmont shore, which has a bunch of narrow blocks, each with its own traffic signal. Traffic tends to move slowly through there as a result and it’s easy to keep up on a bike.

    Faster traffic would destroy the pedestrian-friendly character of one of the city’s most popular shopping streets (“hey hon, let’s eat outside on a street where cars roar by at 40 MPH”). You’d think we’d be interested in emulating good design principles.

  • roadblock

    It seems that yesterdays Transportation Committee hearing and Monday’s City Council meetings were wrought with the phrase “scofflaw cyclists.” This phrase was being used by ignorant politicians naysayers and bureaucrats as a catch all excuse and deflection everytime cycling infrastructure was being pushed on the agenda.

    EXCUSE ME?

    Does the LADOT and the naysayers of the city council crew bring up “Scofflaw Car Drivers” everytime a new piece of car centric infrastructure is discussed? Last I checked the sheer volume of traffic tickets and revenue generated from them for Los Angeles is proof positive that we have PLENTY of “scofflaw auto drivers” in this town. Using their reasoning, maybe these politicians needs to curb all automotive projects too?!

  • I think the “scofflaw cyclist” argument is simply a way to appease the bike-hating segment of the population. By complaining about the minority of riders who ride dangerously, it allows them to show support for all those drivers who insist that they’ll support cycling when we obey the law, pay taxes, get licensed, blah blah blah.

    Roadblock is right, as usual; the percentage of drivers who run stop signs, speed and fail to signal is probably greater than the percentage of cyclists who break the law. But no one other than the cycling community ever seems to notice that.

  • Hey wait, I’m confused, didn’t the Mayor already implement sharrows in LA?

    http://flyingpigeon-la.com/2009/12/ladot-launches-sharrows-pilot-project/

    Wait – I’ve got our winning strategy figured out! We’ll do a pilot sharrow project on Mowery’s commute. When she slips and falls on the paint (dangerous slippery bike shaped paint!), she’ll have a liability suit against the city she can pursue for millions! Then she can retire and try to best her Long Beach to UCLA drive times from the 1960’s when she’d go to Pauly Pavillion and be home in LB in 40 minutes (from her talk when David Byrne came to town).

  • As a continuing citizen of LB, I’d like to remind everyone that we’re not perfect either. Yes, we seem to be doing alot better than LA proper, but there is still a lot left to do. The Vista and Broadway/3rd projects are taking much longer than four months, and even when they are done it’s going to take more work for Long Beach to have a cohesive bike network. But at least we’re working towards it.

    I really hope that LA can get its act together bike-wise, I’d like to be able to travel by bike not just in Long Beach but in the whole metro area. If only there were some way to expand Bike LB to cover the rest of LA.

  • The issue of “liability” is a bike rider is involved on a street with an “illegal” sharrow … um … yeah. When a bike rider is hurt while riding in a bike lane, where does liability get assigned? When a bike rider is inured anywhere, do they actually get justice?

    The new name for this meeting is “Transportation Red Herring Committee”.

  • la rider

    I hate studies. They always point out the obvious and cost alot of money. Anybody with half a brain could tell you what the studies result will be.

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