Bike Sharing Coming to USC and City Passes Rough Timeline for Anti-Harassment Ordinance. Speed Limit Increases Delayed.

The City Council met today and discussed two cycling related issues.  The first was the ongoing discussion of whether or not the city should have a bike sharing program.  Second, the Council debated how to create an ordinance that would better protect cyclists from harassment.

As predicted, Councilman Rosendahl moved to "re-open" the public record on the anti-harassment ordinance so that the cyclists present can speak.   But first, the Council heard an update on the effort to bring "Bike Share" to Los Angeles.

1_27_10_velib.jpgA shot of a rack of Velib bicycles in Paris. Photo: SlimmerJimmer/Flickr

Bike Share: After a lengthy public comment period, we finally reach the "bicycle" portion of the meeting.  Senior Bike Coordinator Michelle Mowery is called to the front.  Apparently, Metro is also looking at a bike share program and have already identified an investor.  Metro and their investor are most interested in bringing bike share to Hollywood.  Meanwhile, despite bike share being brought up over a year ago, the LADOT still doesn’t have an idea of where it would do its own pilot program.  If there were a community as excited about bike share as they are about Sharrows, this would be as large a scandal in the cycling community as the stall on Sharrows is.

While Mowery and Rosendahl skimmed the idea of bringing bike share to "around our college campuses," Council Woman Jan Perry is already ahead of the game.  Responding to a question from Councilman Tom LaBonge, Perry announced that her office is already working with a private investor to create a bike share corridor between USC and the Downtown.  This seemed to be news to Mowery, who asked that Perry’s office coordinate with her and Metro to make sure that their plan is integrated with other efforts.

There were some other general comments on bicycling from Councilmen Dennis Zine, Ed Reyes, Eric Garcetti, Tom LaBonge and Greig Smith.  All of the Councilmen offered some praise for bike sharing and cycling in general.  Garcetti noted that his staff is also working on a bike share plan for Hollywood and mentioned the "S"word (Sharrows.)  Reyes offered praise for cycling and noted that the city needs to do more for its bicycle dependent population and praised the "City of Lights" Program.  LaBonge noted that an easier way to encourage cyclists to take transit and bike for the "last mile" is to make it easier for cyclists to take their bikes on buses and trains.

The Council was just hearing a report on the potential of bringing bike share to Los Angeles and was not asked or required to take any action.

1_27_10_digable_soul.jpgBelieve it or not, this was done with the offier’s cooperation. Photo: digablesoul/Flickr

Anti-Harassment: The Council opted for what we’ve been
calling the "three step process," but did so with Rosendahl’s consent
and gave a real time line for a process to bring new laws designed to protect cyclists on our streets.  In other words, it seems that the Transportation and Public Safety Committees have agreed to work together on the best-possible ordinance.

Councilman Greig Smith,
the Chair of the Public Safety Committee, kicked off the debate by re-stating his preference
that the Council should require a joint report from LADOT and the City
Attorney to create a report on what kind of ordinance the city could
pass to better protect cyclists.  This plan, which was also backed by
Councilman Rosendahl, will include opportunities for cyclists to
provide input on what kind of harassment they see and the final report
would say whether the law could be changed locally or would require a
state fix.

When it was Rosendahl’s turn to talk, he outlined the timeline.  First, the LADOT and
City Attorneys will meet with cyclists to determine what the major
issues are on the streets while drafting a report on where are local opportunities and where are state opportunities.  Next, and perhaps the highlight of the process, will be a
February 24 "special" City Council Transportation Committee Hearing
that will only deal with bicycling safety issues and will be attended
by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.  There will also be a joint hearing between
the Transportation and Public Safety Committees to hear the report by
the City Attorney and cyclists before the final ordinance is drafted. 
Speaking of his goals for the process, Rosendahl stated that "We have
to change our culture about bicycling.  We have to work together."

Following the discussion from the Council Members, a score of
members of the cycling community spoke about harassment, "hit and
runs," and downright ignorance by the LAPD when it comes to enforcing
the law. 

One speaker, Ian M., recounted how after being involved in a
Hit-and-Run crash, he was able to get the driver’s information, but not
able to get the LAPD to take a report.  One officer told him he was
"biking the wrong way," because he was biking with the flow of traffic
and not against it.  As he moved up the chain of command, that logic
was abandoned by the police, but officer insisted that no law had been
broken despite the car driver assaulting him with a vehicle and fleeing
the scene.

Speaking for the LACBC, Aurisha Smolarski urged that the ordinance
include training for motorists in how to share the road with motorists
and pushes the idea of a "three foot passing law" for motorists.  "In
the work place we have anti-harassment law to protect us from sexual
harassment.  No LAPD officer needs to be present.  But on the road
cyclists have no such right."

After public comment was completed, three more Council Members,
Reyes, Anthony Cardenas, LaBonge and Rosendahl spoke.  Reyes noted that
the most common response to a cyclist being physically harassed or
assaulted on the road is, at-best, indifference from the LAPD and that
cyclists deserve more.  Earlier Reyes spoke about the vulnerability of
seniors on bicycles, but this time he focused on younger cyclists who
bike because it’s their only option as "working-poor."

Cardenas asked the City Attorney to clarify that threats of physical harm, be they at someone on a bike or someone at a super market, constitute assault already in our municipal code.  The City Attorney commented that of course it is.  Cardenas also noted that a big reason to push this kind of law is to use it as an educational tool.

Councilman LaBonge pushed for greater cooperation between the LAPD and LADOT on the anti-harassment issue.  He also commented that cyclists are also endanger from "a public works standpoint" because theft of copper wire has left the L.A. River Bikeway to be without lights before Garcetti brought him back to the issue of anti-harassment.  LaBonge joked, "But I was being harassed by the darkness."  He then took a moment to grandstand asking that "Share the Road" signs be replaced with "Watch for Bikes" to cheers from the audience.

Rosendahl wrapped up the discussion with a crowd pleasing closing statement.  "The culture of the car is going to end now!  The purpose of this ordinance is to protect cyclists in a way that they haven’t been protected before.  The LAPD hasn’t been part of the solution, but sometimes has been part of the problem.  We’re going to pass an ordinance that isn’t going to be challenged and protects cyclists."

Check Back Here at 2:00 P.M. for updates on the Speed Limit Increases that will be in front of the Transportation Committee this afternoon.

Speed Limit Increases:  At the request of Councilman Paul Krekorian, in who’s district the speed limit increases would occur, the two speed limit ordinances for Chandler Boulevard and Riverside Drive were temporarily pulled from the agenda.  As you might remember, Paul Krekorian, when he was an Assemblymember, sponsored legislation that would have allowed communities to control traffic speeds instead of the commuters traveling through the streets.

However, Dorothy Le of the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition, Donna Casset, Stephen Box, Jay Goldberg, from the local neighborhood council, and Krekorian himself were permitted to speak against the ordinances.  Because the motions were not passed, there will be another chance to give public comment before a new vote occurs.  Bryan Gallagher, a senior transportation engineer for LADOT’s Valley
Division, testified that these studies and limit increases are
necessary because of state law that requires that limits are set at the
eighty-fifth percentile of drivers.  Under questioning from LaBonge, Gallagher gave a revealing look at LADOT traffic programming, when he discussed the theory of "big streets, big traffic; little streets, little traffic."

LaBonge rhetorically asked if "safety is the number one goal, right?"  Gallagher responded that, "Safety is the number one goal, but if studies show that if you set the speed too low, then you’re actually increasing accidents."  This caused Councilman Paul Koretz to sarcastically comment that we should just stop enforcing the speed limits altogether if we’re just making the streets less safe.

  • MU

    “Councilman LaBonge pushed for greater cooperation between the LAPD and LADOT on the anti-harassment issue.” – Uhhh, why does THAT make me worried?

    Bike Sharing – because what’s holding people back from riding bikes in Los Angeles is that bikes are just so hard to get a hold of.

    ‘Mowery uninformed’ – in other news, water declared to be “wet”.

    At least thank god for Reyes and Rosendahl even if it is mostly talk so far.

  • One of the next steps is to gather input from cyclists in order that the Ordinance can be as comprehensive as possible. Rosendahl has asked us to help gather all types of harassment from motorists that cyclists and pedestrians face on a daily basis. Please include even the most minor types of harassment.

    We will be collecting all of your input and passing it onto LADOT, Rosendahl, the City Attorneys Office and all other parties involved.

    Email input to: aurisha@la-bike.org

    This is exciting and thank you all for helping make this happen!

  • roadblock

    I applaud Rosendahl’s comments today. Truth is that the ordinance will probably never come to fruition and even if it does, wont be enforced BUT it will provide an another avenue to ratchet up the pressure on LAPD to respond to road rage complaints.

    I sure wish LaBonge would quit his tired recurring tirade against “scofflaw cyclists.” Seems like every effin’ time a bicycle project or ordinance is discussed he chimes in about cyclists breaking the rules. GET OVER IT LABONGE. With his logic, no parking projects or car centric initiatives should EVER be discussed because god knows by virtue of the sheer volume of parking and traffic tickets processed every single day everywhere in the city, there are plenty of scofflaw car drivers to scream about too.

    JUST FOCUS ON TRAFFIC SOLUTIONS. Enabling more cycling trips means LESS cars clogging the streets, less dependence on oil and less obesity. STAY FOCUSED SILLY COUNCIL.

  • outerspace

    Thank you, Roadblock!

  • I agree with MU on bike share; would a few scared tourists on unwieldy cruisers really enjoy cycling down Hollywood Boulevard as it is today? And Reyes, people who are bike-dependent probably can’t afford to pay for bike share.
    The harassment thing is tricky for me, because I find that if I don’t say anything to drivers who cut too close or honk at me as I take the lane, then they don’t verbally assault me. But if I have the audacity to pull up next to them at the inevitable light just ahead and try to politely address their rude behavior, they let loose with the verbal slurs. So, if I just ride along and take their ill treatment, no verbal harassment, but if I engage with them, out come the “you bitch” and “fuck you” statements. Does that count?

  • The solution is simple to address a policy of the LAPD to put more cops on bicycles to enforce the vehicle code for public safety (their primary job); It would sure lower the healthcare cost of the LAPD’s insurance entitlements that taxpayers fund thru their property tax accessments every year with new fees and public bonds. Remember the Los Angeles Sheriffs superb bicycle racing team a few years back…Where is the LAPD on physical performance skills on bicycle issues without some form of competition?

  • Adonia, the secret to making people who’ve just buzzed by you dangerously say “I’m sorry”, is as follows:

    Pull up next to them at the inevitable light up ahead. Lean over and say “Sorry I got in your way back there – I’m on my home.”

    This works like a charm.

  • I’m with Mack on this one – more LAPD on bikes would not only ally our mutual interests in safe streets for cyclists and pedestrians, but it would give officers a finer-grained appreciation of street-level conditions. LA has historically been a car-policed city. Putting some of them on bikes on first consideration would seem to require more cops as they’re less mobile. But I suspect they are more effective at responding to complaints – and more of a deterrent – if they are consistently visible as when they are on the foot beat or on two wheels.
    But why not go farther? What if we had more parking meter readers on bikes? More utility readers on bikes? Why not perform many of the civic functions on two wheels? (I was reminded of the promise on this when it was suggested to me that I reach out to bike cops to gain support for bike planning in Beverly Hills.) When more city employees are out in the streets we’ll see a shift not only in how cycling is regarded, but in the policies that would keep us safer.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

The Week in Livable Streets Events

|
I thought July and August were slow months!  We are packed with great events and important meetings, including what might be the last hearing for the bicycle anti-harassment ordinance at Wednesday’s City Council hearing. Monday – The San Gabriel Valley Bicycle Coalition meets for the first time ever.  Congratulations to Alice, Efron, Wes and everyone […]