Mowery and the LADOT Have a Chance to Connect with Cycling Community through the Backbone
Last Thursday, KPCC's Patt Morrison aired a piece showcasing the Backbone Bikeway Network as presented by guests Alex Thompson and Mihai Petieu. I chuckled when I saw Alex Thompson’s tweet announcing that he was appearing “opposite” guest Michelle Mowery the LADOT Sr. Bike Coordinator because I knew the exchange would get fiery and rightfully so. Mowery has come under a lot of fire from the cycling community for not being an outright bulldog for cyclists. One gets the feeling she is afraid for her job should she get too rowdy over there at the LADOT. After eight to ten minutes of show debilitating glitches with the KPCC call in system things were finally on their way.
On air, Mowery dismissed the Backbone Bikeway Network as simplistic proclaiming that the LADOT's forthcoming Bike Master plan was sure to include most of what the Backbone was asking for anyway. I feel however that in dismissing the Backbone, Mowery missed an important opportunity to be that "YAYsayer" that the community desperately wishes for of someone in her position. That is, if most of the Backbone is already provided for in the LADOT plan then why not simply applaud it, commit to it as a “first step in a wider process” and move the topic to discuss the schedule of implementation and funding which is really the main symptom of a larger "starvation of political will" that continues to vex the LA cycling community. Sadly the exchange became a bout of bickering as to who had the better plan.
As Damien Newton opined recently in a Streetsblog article, it’s not really about what streets are and are not part of the plan - that can be agreed upon by the people who actually ride the streets themselves - it’s about whether the plan – any plan – will ever be implemented. The LADOT is notorious for it’s perceived lack of will or ability to implement bicycle infrastructure. The fact that the LADOT bike master plan is so vast and complex may be what hinders it’s sale-ability to the public and thus the political impossibility. In other words any Bike Master Plan needs to be market-able to constituents and The Bike Working Group has gone above and beyond the call of duty to create a simple politically market-able plan that motorists, citizens and politicians alike can understand and now is the opportunity for Mowery to take that and run with it.
By presenting it as a "bicycle freeway network” this plan has the potential to capture the minds of the motoring public and already, minds are being captured. The Backbone is being twittered and more importantly being talked about by media that traditionally pays little attention to bicycle issues such as the LA Times KPCC and NPR. Now is the time for Michelle Mowery to join US, the cycling community, adopt this simple powerful first step graciously created with no budget, and advocate to politicians and to the public. With the Backbone in place, the neighborhoods can work on their next steps which is implementing bike routes that will connect with the Backbone.