Helmets Ready! Mayor Hosts First Bike Summit

Screen_shot_2010_08_17_at_5.07.38_AM.pngFormer Mayor Richard Riordan presents training wheels to the wounded Mayor. For more pics from the conference, visist Gary Rides Bikes’ Flickr Page

Despite the Monday 9am hour and the picture perfect weather, a
standing-room only crowd assembled in the Metro Board Room for city of
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s first Bike Summit.  Alongside
Mayor Villaraigosa were Department of Transportation (LADOT) General
Manager Rita Robinson, Metro CEO Art Leahy, Department of City Planning
(DCP) General Manager Michael LoGrande, and  Police Department Deputy
Chief Kirk Albanese sitting in for Chief Charlie Beck.

Kicking off the summit was a visit from former Mayor and recreational
cyclist Richard Riordan and longtime former Bicycle Advisory Committee
chair Alex Baum, presenting the current mayor with a set of training
wheels as a gift from Lance Armstrong.

After brief remarks from the mayor, the meeting format quickly boiled
down to about a hundred cyclists speaking for one minute each. This
format is familiar to seasoned bicycle activists, but was unclear to a
few cyclist speakers who expressed that it was indeed their first public
hearing.

Attendees included a veritable who’s who of Los Angeles’ bicycling
community. Included were representatives from the city’s Bicycle
Advisory Committee (BAC), BikeSide, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition
(LACBC), International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), Bicycle
Kitchen, CicLAvia, Concerned Off Road Bicyclists Association (CORBA),
and many many others. Putting in an impassioned appearance was Los
Angeles City Council Member Bill Rosendahl – chair of the Council’s
Transportation Committee.

Overall the mood was very upbeat, with cyclists expressing a great
deal of gratitude to the Mayor for convening the summit and addressing
bicyclists’ concerns. Public comment topics ranged from cyclocross to
potholes to obesity to resurfacing to the cruelty of biking with
restrained pets. This article doesn’t attempt to catalog all the
concerns raised by cyclists, but focuses primarily on the Mayor’s
reactions and stated commitments.

Mayor Villaraigosa initially expressed his past support for Los
Angeles cyclists based on his leadership in setting aside 10% of the
city’s Measure R transportation sales tax "local return" funding. This
funding is expected to total $19M over the next five years, and will go
to both bicycle and pedestrian projects. The mayor pledged to use this
money as leverage in seeking additional Metro bicycle project
funding. He also committed to improve cyclist access to Metro rail and
to complete bikeways in conjunction with Metro’s future Expo Line and
Orange Line extension.

The strongest recurring theme in the mayor’s remarks was support for
bike helmets. Villaraigosa frequently recounted details of his recent
car-bike incident. Avoiding colliding with the taxi, he fell from his
bike, initially hitting the ground with his helmet-protected head. His
elbow struck next and was "shattered in so many places" that it "swelled
to the size of a grapefruit." His physicians stated that its severity
more resembled a motorcycle injury, then a bicycling one. The
mayor spoke with deep conviction that his helmet had likely saved his
life. Initially he pledged to appear in a public service announcement
to encourage riders to always wear a helmet.

As the meeting proceeded, Villaraigosa’s helmet support grew
stronger. To the audible dismay of many cyclists present, he further
ardently pledged to push for a statewide mandatory bicycle helmet law – a
controversial subject. (Helmets are not required for driving or walking
– both activities arguably with similar or greater injury risk than
that of bicycling. Bicycle helmet requirements also tend to result
in less bicycling, hence inadvertently result in less "safety in
numbers" and overall decreased physical activity and public
health.)  The mayor’s helmet mandate support was most articulately
criticized in the comments of cyclist Road Block, who pointed out that
nobody wears helmet in European cycling capitals including Copenhagen,
and that a better focus would be to create safer streets.

Though strong, clear and steadfast on helmet issues, the mayor was
more hesitant with other pledges. At times, Villaraigosa paused
indecisively over his words, apparently not accustomed to speaking about
bicycle issues. Similarly, LADOT GM Rita Robinson, who often speaks
persuasively on budgetary issues,  faltered in trying to describe what
bike projects her department was implementing. (The mayor subsequently
pledged to make a bike project listing with scheduled dates available
online.) While these officials appear genuine in their support for
stepping up the city’s commitment to bikes, they just don’t quite sound
well-versed in the issues that bicyclists face… yet.

Robinson did commit to staffing levels necessary for implementing the
city’s pending Bike Plan, which DCP GM LoGrande pledged to fully
release soon. The mayor stated that his first response the city’s
pending new Bike Plan was "30 years?" – expressing disbelief that it
would take the city so long to become truly safe for cycling.

The mayor expressed "frustration" over the "bureaucracy" in the
city’s plan to hosting CicLAvia – a car-free event modeled after similar
events the mayor enjoyed in Guadalajara, Mexico. Councilmember
Rosendahl went one further in expressing that he was "embarrassed" when
he compares Los Angeles’ progress to that made by other cities,
including Long Beach.

Cyclists wished the mayor a speedy recovery, hoping that he will be
back up on his bike long before he convenes his future bike summits on
"at least a yearly basis."

  • Helmet Law? No, thanks. 3-foot passing law? Yes, please.

  • Silver Fang

    Remember. The voters have the power to recall a mayor who pisses them off.

  • Brent

    It’s easy to forget what it’s like to ride on streets without cars, where the bicycle can serenely negotiate the few “dangers,” and where crashes are rare. Mandatory helmets aren’t necessary, and would be really unnecessary if our streets were safe. The mayor should have paid better attention in Copenhagen.

  • hubbert_nli

    I remember riding with the fully kitted out Mayor Riordan in the last victory ride of the “LA to Mono Lake Bike-A-Thon” in 1995. He seemed a competent rider. He was also instramental in the saving of Mono lake.

  • Eric B

    This link came from Ted’s blog, but it’s worth posting here: http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/wellbeing/4028896/Compulsory-bike-helmets-questioned

    Helmets are good; very few people dispute that. However, it does not follow that mandatory helmet laws are good. If our newly bike-friendly mayor understood basic policy analysis, this wouldn’t even be an issue. Unfortunately, he prefers to legislate by anecdote and personal experience.

    Someone else pointed out that helmet laws are like dealing with gang violence by requiring everyone to wear a bulletproof vest.

  • Clutch J

    Mayor Villaraigosa is to be congratulated for hosting this event. Having him push a bicycling agenda in Sacramento will be very helpful.

    Granted, a mandatory helmet proposal is worrisome. But bills have a way of being amended in Sacramento…There’s every reason to hope that some real good will come of this.

  • Alek F

    Yup,
    the Mandatory Helmet law is a bad, bad idea, in a long history of bad ideas.

  • Thanks to all of the advocates and citizens who attended the meeting. Another thing that was particularly interesting was that one of the main takeaways the Mayor stated was bicycle access to city parks. Granted, this is not a transportation/safely issue per se, but there are a lot of mountain bikers who live in the city who would benefit from this, not just recreationally, but also from a youth perspective. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that a bicycle-friendly LA is not limited to the streets.

  • Scott H.

    I agree that a mandatory helmet is a bad idea — we need police doing more important work than stopping every cyclist without a helmet.

    HOWEVER, cycling in LA without a helmet is also a bad idea. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost been hooked by a car, forced out of my lane, or almost become a door prize.

    Safety first. I’d rather ride with a brain bucket than be without a brain…

  • Cycling in LA without a helmet is a great idea.

    It signals that one is engaged in a normal, safe, mode of transport.

    I don’t wear one unless I’m going to be in a race or on a ride that i know I’ll be taking risks on (i.e. Wolfpack).

    Read the legal disclaimers on the next helmet you buy and see how much “protection” you’re buying for yourself. You’d do better to push for traffic calming in the streets, donating time or money to Bikeside or LACBC or CICLE.

  • Keep in mind that the mayor was very recently seriously injured in his near-collision with an errant driver, and credits his own health (and his life) to the fact that he was wearing his bike helmet. I think it’s no surprise that he would strongly promote helmet use.

    Hopefully, as he and his staff look into the overall issues, he’ll come to support solutions that will have his intended outcome: keeping cyclists safe – a goal I expect we all agree on. Perhaps he can step up city programs to distribute needed helmets to cyclists who can’t afford them…

  • Erik G.

    Helmet laws discourage bicycle use.

    Helmet laws waste valuable police enforcement resources (and are a low-hanging fruit, so the helmet law gets enforced while the speeding car passes by unhindered).

    Helmets will not save you in a serious accident.

    Helmets are a good idea, but then so is brushing one’s teeth, and we’ve yet to pass a law requiring that.

  • Thanks for this coverage! I linked to it from our blog: http://www.pacoimabeautiful.org/2010/08/mayoral-bike-summit/

    We’re working on making Pacoima a better place for cyclists, pedestrians and transit users, as part of improving Pacoima’s environmental and community health.

  • Tim Simone

    I bike to work everyday. To me the one biking situation that is the most dangerous is when cars w/in or at or in an intersection get so frustrated with the pace of traffic that they “gun-it” (turn right) w/out looking. This morning alone I had 2 near accidents. Santa Monica blvd. was a parking lot because of Obama’s visit if I hadn’t been very careful and mindful of the fact that motorist get frustrated and just ‘blast off’ I would have 100% been hit 2x. Even with being mindful I was still amost run over. I don’t know what can be done to help make this type of thing from happening – perhaps there should be steep fines for blocking intersections or failing to signal? Or perhaps there should be signs on the main biking roads (like SM or Beverly) saying “Watch out for bikes – look before turning right” Anyway, very scary day out there on my bike. I’m glad I’m in one piece.

  • Tim,

    There is a lot that can be done to make the streets safer that are easier and more effective than passing a law or posting a sign.

    The trouble is not the law, but the way the roads are designed. Everything is tilted in favor of the fastest possible auto speeds (15mph above the speed limit is the design threshold) and the highest volume of cars. This is not the way to design an urban street. Great for car-only highways, not so much for business, local commerce, and a multi-modal future.

  • Steve M

    LADOT took a lot of heat for dragging their collective feet on any bike infrastructure in the last 14 years of bike master planning. I could tell what was up when the LADOT rep pronounced “Sharrow” as “Shaaro” . And I couldn’t help but notice Michele Mowery silently off to the side. Silent.

    The Mayor took some heat for having his staff walking out early during his own Bicycle Advisory Committee meetings. Maybe things will change.

    I really appreciated Road Block’s criticism of the Mayor’s wanting a helmet law. It went something like–You were in Copenhagen, right? Were they wearing helmets there? No, they weren’t. Make our streets safe, we won’t need helmets.

    The Mayor is new to the message, I think he got it loud and clear that we are grateful for his interest in changing what is, we had a great turn-out despite the 9 am timing of the meeting.

    Oh, and Dick Riodan–we don’t need more once-a-year bike marathon-like(tm) race thingies. We need a safe place to ride.

  • Elena Astilleros

    Great job relating the story Joe.

    Like my friend Andy says, its like our city officials and transportation engineers have never looked at what other world cities do!

    Really – fining folks for not wearing a helmet is going to make that somehow safer? mmmmm….i don’t think so.

    frustrating, but exciting over the movement going on with you guys!

    Congrats there!

  • Tim Simone

    ubrayj02,

    I agree that the street design is a major problem. It could be the ‘almost getting crushed 2x this moring talking’ but I’d still like to fine the heck out of drivers that block intersections and turn right w/out signaling. There’s not a lot we can do about too many cars on the streets (in the short term) and there’s no way you can make every los angeles street bike friendly (as much as I would love that). I’d settle for 4 or 5 major east/west and north/south routes. Anyway, I think enforcement of current laws (I believe it is illegal to block intersections and to turn w/out signaling) and signs help. Are they ‘the’ answer – no. But what should we do “in the short term” to help protect cyclist on the streets? Why not move the safety needle an inch in the right direction? W

    Tim

  • should motorcyclists not be required to wear helmets as well and auto passengers not have to wear seatbelts?

  • Eric B

    @airAndMagic:

    Few people would argue with the idea that helmets are immensely valuable in certain types of crashes. But comparing bike helmets to motorcycle helmets and seatbelts is a bit of a red herring. Cold, hard statistics show that health outcomes decline from mandatory helmet laws for two reasons, both related to decreased rates of cycling:

    1) Health benefits from cycling far outweigh the relatively minor safety risks something on the order of 20:1. Helmet laws decrease bicycling for everyday purposes like riding a mile to the store or the transit stop. Both the individual and society are far better off if more people ride bikes, with or without helmets.

    2) Decreasing the number of riders on the streets makes bicycling more dangerous for the remaining bicyclists due to the “safety in numbers” effect. Bicycling in Copenhagen is extraordinarily safe because there are a large number of bicyclists and drivers expect to encounter bicyclists. Helmets are rare in Copenhagen and all other bike-friendly cities using that model.

    Statistically, you would prevent more head injuries by requiring pedestrians (or car drivers) to wear helmets than bicyclists.

    Mandatory helmet laws reinforce the idea that bicycling is a dangerous sport rather than a normal, safe transportation option.

    In the U.S., we imagine “cycling” to be Lance Armstrong flying down a mountain or a bike messenger dodging rush hour traffic downtown. Both of these are risky and you’d be stupid to try either without a helmet. But in bicycle-friendly places, “cycling” is grandma riding down the street to the park, or mom and her child riding to preschool. If riding a bike is so dangerous as to need a helmet, then you can bet that none of these people will do it as a normal activity.

  • It’s what’s in your head that will keep you safe; not what’s on it. Let’s focus on the causes of crashes and injuries, and educating both cyclists and motorists to prevent them.

  • Buddhahead Steve

    The mayor is a politician first, looking for some cred. Mandatory helmet laws look good on his resume, but does little to effect the daily safe conditions on the streets. It is a simple and easy way to “Look Good”. Not nearly as difficult as putting down sharrows or bike lanes (I got to laugh, EVERYWHERE in Amerika cities have them, miles of them) He can’t put paint on the ground, but he can put ink on paper…..

    Build me a truely light weight helmet that actually works, will protect my head, neck and face, I’ll put it on. NOTHING on the market will do that. The helmet laws are a smoke screen for safe streets….

  • Buddhahead Steve

    ps… thanx joe for the article and everybody for showing up, wish I could have been there.

  • Any talk of an EIR for the bike plan? I think someone’s bike summit twitter feed mentioned it, but this is a huge part of making the plan mean something more than a bunch of maps that will require EIR’s for every single lane.

    Take care of the environmental review now, and save tens of millions down the road.

    Any talk of this?

  • @Josef/ubrayj – no talk of Bike Plan EIR at the summit. From earlier (BAC meeting – or maybe part of my conversations with DCP and DOT) discussions presentations, this is my understanding:

    – there’s no funding to do an EIR on the Bike Plan
    – so, city doesn’t intend to do EIR on the Bike Plan – just some sort of negative declaration, with a caveat that anything being implemented that needs EIR will get one during implementation
    – the city plans to fund and do an EIR on specfic needed facilities in the “5-year” implementation document… looks like they’ll just EIR the stuff that says “pilot”… which their code-word for road-diet or other travel lane reduction (?and maybe some of the more substantive Bike Friendly Street stuff.) The “5-year” will be a separate document from the plan itself for the approval process (and I think that keeps the EIR on the plan simpler?)

    Maybe if any city staffers (like the bike blogger PR guy) read streetsblog comments, they can verify this.

  • I spoke with the people working on the Negative Declaration filing for the city, and they said the same thing.

    What a load of horse shit.

    This is what each “potential” bike lane is: $1 million+ in city staff time to generate a new EIR for each project.

    Who the F&*K is in charge of this process that would do this to a plan?

    How much money is required for an EIR on the bike plan? $2 million? $5 million? Surely it is better than the $10 to $20 million that will be spent in paperwork stretching out over more than a decade every time we want to complete a “potential” bike lan into a real bike lane/facility.

    As Stephen Box said, this plan has been inflicted upon us.

  • Spokker

    I wish it were acceptable to wear a helmet in a personal automobile.

  • @Joe: that’d be an issue to take up with City Planning, but I’d be more than happy to ask them on your behalf.

    Off the top of my head, what I’ve heard from Claire Bowen in the past was that to do an EIR for the entire Bike Plan would be prohibitively expensive. She related a story where she had asked some consultants about its possible cost and was practically laughed out of the room.

    Also, it’s my understanding that one of the benefits of the ‘pilot project’ treatment is that the City will not require an EIR, where applying a standard road treatment in the same situation would trigger an EIR requirement.

    @Ubrayj: The number I had heard bandied about for project by project EIRs was roughly $500,000 and not $1 million+.

    I’m sure there’s more to all of this than the response I’ve given. I’ll be happy to look into it further.

  • The conversation about an Envirionmental Review took place between consultants and city staff, not with the public, not with our elected leaders, and not in light of the actual costs and effectiveness of a bike plan that can’t do anything significant without going through a project-by-project EIR!

    This is why there is so much anger about this stupid plan – you guys won’t lay all the cards on the table and let an honest debate take place.

    We need the EIR.

    The City of San Francisco’s EIR (not counting years of wasted resources in court, etc.) cost “over a million bucks” ( http://www.sfbg.com/politics/2010/06/17/sfs-bike-project-ban-coming-end ).

    How many bike lanes require an EIR to get done? 10? 20? Multiply that times $500,000 and you end up with a figure much larger than “over a million bucks”.

    Executive level staff need to man up and make the proper decision here, to back up the “we love bikes” rhetoric we get fed at regular intervals by lower level “staff” (I love this City of LA term, which totally de-personalizes the process of delivering local services, “Hi, I’m ‘staff’, just following orders”).

    You guys start naming names, and the bike community will get to work making and EIR happen. Your “potential” bike lanes are a false bill of goods, when each one of them comes with a $500,000 paper shuffler surcharge.

  • AirandMagic,

    Bicycle helmets are not like seat belts. It’s a huge difference. A seat belt will keep you from being thrown from your car and into the street when you’ve been hit head on or from behind; it will also keep you from being thrown around your car as it rolls. A bicycle helmet is a thin layer of foam between your head and the pavement when you’re already on your way to the ground. The level of protection is NOWHERE NEAR THE SAME.

    Motorcycle helmets are also hugely different in that motorcyclists are traveling at high speeds, while the average commuter is doing less than 20.

    The studies have shown that helmet laws discourage cycling, and fewer cyclists actually means less safe roads, because motorists are less used to seeing cyclists and knowing how to drive around them.

    So while wearing a helmet is a good idea and safer, a helmet LAW actually hurts the safety of cycling.

  • John Gloristan

    In the unlikely event that the mayor’s idea for a statewide helmet law makes any progress, it is vital that those opposing it do so from a logical and factual position.

    Too many helmet opponents are basing their opposition to helmets using nonsensical statements on “walking helmets” and “driving helmets” and on statistically and scientifically fraudulent “studies” on the effect of helmet laws on cycling numbers rather than on the more defendable position of personal freedom. The pro-helmet law forces are a collection of doctors, paramedics, police, nurses, etc., that are able to coherently present their case with factual evidence.

    There are _no_ credible studies that show any reduction in cycling following the introduction of an all-ages helmet law.

    The population based studies all show a decrease in fatalities and serious injuries following the introduction of an all ages helmet law.

    The ER studies actually underestimate the beneficial effect of helmets because those that are protected by the helmet don’t show up at the ER to be counted.

    The bottom line is that cycling is not a dangerous activity and an adult is perfectly capable of choosing to accept slight extra risk and not wear a helmet. Education will work better than forcing people.

    Meanwhile, the mayor could look at why some cities with very low helmet use are safer to bicycle in. It’s all about facilities and driver attitude.

  • anty

    For once I’d love to have a discussion of cycling safety that didn’t put the entire burden on the cyclist. Whatever we do is supposed to be centered around either not being hit by a car or protecting our noggins if hit. For once I’ve love for the burden to be on the automobile drivers to not hit us in the first place! If the mayor really wants to change the culture, he needs to understand that much.

  • Eric B

    @John Gloristan,

    That personal liberty argument worked for the motorcyclists, didn’t it?

    I’m not sure what “fraudulent” studies you’re referring to, but here’s some more news from a country that’s debating its helmet mandate:
    http://road.cc/content/news/21503-strewth-aussie-academic-calls-repeal-countrys-compulsory-bike-helmet-laws

    If the goal is to make hopping on a bike more convenient than getting in a car, then that is the case we want to make–personal liberty is pretty much beside the point. This is a public health reason to NOT mandate helmets. The decline in serious injuries/fatalities is more likely related to the decline in cycling rather than the increase in helmet use. Meanwhile, just about everyone believes that increasing cycling is good for public health–particularly medical professionals.

  • ubrayj:

    Mayor Villaraigosa mentioned at the bike summit and at the Huffington Post that he will be answering the most popular questions on Google moderator. The questions are now listed in order of most popular vote and your EIR question is in the top 25 of popularity. It’s too bad that your question was not addressed publicly in front of the cameras, but at least there is likely to be an answer posted by the Mayor’s office in response to your question.

  • At this point what is prohibitively expensive in terms of the 2010 bike plan are the bike paths. The first 5 year implementation strategy states that it will cost $43,560,000 for bike paths in years 2011-2015 and the street projects will cost $5,173,875. That’s over 8 times more money for 23.83 miles of bike path infrastructure in those years than it would be to do 182 miles of bikeways on the existing city streets.

    To do a bike path next to the L.A. river requires work on bridges to meet the height requirement for bicycles to pass under them, asphalt must be laid, lighting and fencing installed, along with paint and signs. This is partially funded by seed money from sources outside of the L.A city government, but the city still has to supply some of the money for capital expenditures and LADOT has to provide the staff to do all of the extensive design elements.

    If the city would cut back on the amount of bike paths in the 2010 plan then there would likely be more than 40 miles of street bikeways completed per year. It’s the bike paths that are taking up most of the limited money and staffing.

    Even with EIR fillings for installing a mile of street bike lane it would be hard to match the costs in terms of money and staffing that a mile of bike path along the L.A. river would require.

  • John Gloristan

    Eric, actually the personal freedom argument has worked well for motorcyclists, with a great many states weakening their motorcycle helmet laws for adults. Injuries and fatalities went way up in states that weakened their laws, but those are risks that motorcycle riders are free to take.

    The point is that you can’t argue against bicycle helmet laws any other way. The idea that if a helmet law is put into effect it will reduce cycling has been proven to be false. Trying to argue this against politicians, EMTs, doctors, etc., who no doubt are also aware of this fact is pointless.

  • The idea that if a helmet law is put into effect it will reduce cycling has been proven to be false

    I’m sorry, but what?!

    This is the case all over the globe from what I’ve read. As you force people to wear helmets, ridership shrinks.

  • Brent

    @John Gloristan: “The idea that if a helmet law is put into effect it will reduce cycling has been proven to be false.”

    I know of only one study, conducted in Canada and based on written surveys (not street counts), that shows mandating helmets has no effect. Every other study I’ve seen shows a marked decrease in cycling after helmet laws. We might even look here to California, where children hardly ride at all anymore, and put at least some of the blame on helmet laws. When I was nine, I was riding all over town; if I were nine today, I’d say it’s just too cumbersome.

  • Marino

    Joseph, what do we need an EIR for?
    Do they produce EIRs for traffic/parking signs ?
    Paint the bike lanes already.

  • Marino,

    Here is how it breaks down:

    If you build something in California that “impacts” the “environment” in a million specially defined, but often vague, ways you have to prepare a report about the impacts your project causes, and show methods of mitigating those impacts.

    To make L.A. truly bike friendly, we will need to take road space away from cars.

    When we remove road space from cars, we’re “impacting” the environment in a bunch of specially defined, and some vague, ways. We need to prepare a special, magic, report called an EIR about the impacts of our car-lane removal, and the mitigations to that impact.

    This process is expensive and tedious. Once it is done for the entire bike plan, we’ll not have to worry about going through the whole tedious and expensive process for each and every bike project that will remove a car lane, slow down car speeds, etc.

    The way the plan is written, the “potential” bike lanes are lanes that will require an EIR for each and every “potential” lane. It’s penny wise and pound foolish strategery on behalf of the bike plan staff and leaders in city hall.

    The EIR brings with it a certain legal authority that makes it very hard for opponents of a project to win in court, since their concerns were heard and mitigated our bypassed in some special way in the EIR/project design process.

    Without this EIR, the plan is a recipe for nothing to change barring a $500,000 to $1 million surcharge for an EIR on every “potential” bike lane that is to be built.

  • Joseph E

    Yeah, we shouldn’t need an EIR.

    San Francisco thought they didn’t need and EIR.

    Then Rob Anderson sued them, and got the judge to grant and injunction against any new bike lanes, which lasted several years, until SF managed to finish a huge EIR.

    So now in California you have to do an expensive “study” just put any a bike lane, if it might slow down car traffic. Usually painted stripes are fine, but anything more substantial might need an EIR.

    We really need to reform the “environmental” impact report so that it actually has something to do with quality of life and the environment, rather than mainly being about the speed with which cars can travel and how much parking is available.

  • Marino

    “To make L.A. truly bike friendly, we will need to take road space away from cars.”

    Borrow space from cars not “take away”.

    As you make it possible for more people to use alternative modes of transportation (mass transit, bikes etc) these people won’t have to use cars that much any more, which makes it easier to move around with a car.

    Still skeptical about the need for “massive EIR”.
    EIRs are often used to monkey-wrench a project. For us to advocate it before anyone complains seems a bit like stalling our own projects.

    If there is political will, those politicos can pass whatever the hell they want.

  • Marino, I would agree with you if I hadn’t done a bunch of my own research, and if I hadn’t spoken directly with the planning staff working on the environmental clearance for the Bike Plan.

    The “potential” bike lanes are lanes that will require their own, expensive, environmental review. The “politicos” *ARE* passing whatever the hell they want – and that is a relatively toothless, half-assed, bike plan.

    The EIR (or Mitigated Negative Declarations that staff are now preparing), affords a lot legal immunity for a bike facility that will require a car travel lane removal for traffic calming, bike lanes, etc.

    The State of California recently revised their CEQA descriptions of an environmental impact, and removed automobile Level of Service from the list of project impacts that need to be mitigated. This plan, however, proposes no metrics for judging the impacts bike facilities will have once they are installed.

    Removing a car travel lane is immensely controversial – but this is the primary method of re-dedicating our city for use by people instead of just auto throughput. It is necessary to marrow roads, take away travel lanes. To do something this big requires the legal cover of an EIR. There is a reason that LA’s planning and transportation staff have worked to invent this new type of “potential” bike lane.

    It serves two purposes: (1) it allows them to inflate the numbers of lane miles they can claim the plan contains; (2) without proper environmental clearance, and a hefty per-project fee of $500,000 to $1 million for individual EIR’s, these alleged bike lanes will never get built.

    They get to have it both ways, and we won’t get a damn thing from it but more platitudes about how “bike friendly” they are but it’s just … oh dash it all … there just isn’t enough money for the EIR on this one, and oh if we’d only done the environmental clearance on that one.

    This entire process has been ass-end backwards. The LADOT dumped a plan on the public and we’ve had to work backwards over the years to get to where we are now – a half-ass plan. The input from the public that should have come at the front of this process will eventually arrive at the tail end of it.

    With no EIR for the bike plan, there will be no citywide bikeway network.

  • Cory

    There are a lot of streets out there that will not require removing vehicle travel lanes, simply narrowing them will allow sufficient space to include bike lanes. Protected bike lanes are a little more difficult because they require quite a bit more space.

    Further, not all road diets require an EIR. There are streets is this City that believe it or not are under utilized. There simply needs to be substaintial evidence (and there is alot of supportive data out there) that the reconfiguration will not exceed the City’s thresholds of significance. These are most likely based on intersection Level of Service. Intersection impacts can often be mitigated as a result of the road diet as well (there may be additional space to allow for an extra left turn pocket… etc.). If the impacts can be mitigated then a Negative Declaration should suffice and it should be defendable based on the data currently available about road diets. Worst case, you can include a mitigation monitoring program that if there are significant traffic impacts 6 month or a year after the project then the roadway will be returned to its previous configuration… its only paint!

    An EIR with a Statement of Overiding Consideration would be awesome to have with the plan, but it may not be necessary to see some serious improvements on the streets. It just takes some staff level support.

    I would say that the first thing I would fight for is a reduction in the minimum lane widths. They do not need 10 1/2 feet vehicle lanes. I believe Alta’s original recommendation was for 10 feet and the City shot it down. Lanes that wide just induce higher speeds. Narrow the lanes and slow down the cars. Slower speeds will do more for safety for all modes than a bike lane will, if there is enough space to add the bike lanes as a result then bonus! 10 foot lanes with a 9 foot center turn lane city wide!

  • Cory, I cannot agree more.

    However, on (even on underutilized streets like North Figueroa Street), the LADOT has been intransigent when it comes to compromising auto speeds and throughput. They will fight anything that slow cars down tooth and nail. Lying, faking policy and law, misdirection, subterfuge – you name it, they’ll do it.

    In order to make cycling safer, and to increase the mode split of bicycles on the street, the city will necessarily have to remove access and mobility from private automobiles on LA’s surface streets. There is simply no way around this. The cheapest way to implement cycling facilities is to take a car lane away or, as you said, reduce it’s width – this is also the most effective as well as beneficial to local commercial districts and the overall air quality and livability of the city.

    To do this, we’ll have to go through some sort of environmental review – an EIR is the cheapest long-term strategy to see this plan turn into bike facilities.

  • Marino

    “…the LADOT has been intransigent when it comes to compromising auto speeds and throughput.”

    Yes because there has been no political will to do otherwise.

    Bloomberg turned huge chunks of Broadway to a pedestrian mall and didn’t ask anybody. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/12/nyregion/12broadway.html?_r=1

    Developers in LA routinely get the City Council to waive planning, zoning rules, laws, taxes and give them billions of dollars worth of land for nothing.

  • Josef – while I am not convinced that the Bike Plan absolutely needs an EIR… I think it’s important the city be aware that with the current dismal drafts, their lawsuit is more likely to come from bicyclists than from motorists.

  • Cory

    “To do this, we’ll have to go through some sort of environmental review – an EIR is the cheapest long-term strategy to see this plan turn into bike facilities.”

    I agree with you completely. Despite the hardship in SF they are in a great position now to implement some pretty drastic changes. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous!

  • A Winter’s Tale

    As a cyclist living in downtown Los Angeles, I am very aware of other cyclists, thier riding behavior, and thier ride. The observation from what I see on the street and from my loft window, is that a helmeted cyclist is extremely rare. While a lot of the riders fit what might be called a low income profile (I live next to skid row), the next group – the fixie or multi-gear, flat-bar cyclist – also foregos helmets almost uniformly. It is only the lycra/spandex cyclist, whether on a road or mountain bike, that can be seen consistently wearing a helmet. A mandatory helmet law would be facing these groups of riders.

    In my 21 years aboard my Klein, I have fallen just twice, once on the dirt, and once on the street. Both times it was at speed, which resulted in being slammed to the ground. Personally, I would never ride without a helmet, and nothing less than my full-faced Giro.

    Ride safely, keep an adequate distance from parked vehicles to guard against the door opener, which has the double potential of shattering a knee and throwing you into traffic. When approaching an intersection, make eye contact with the right-hand turner. And to the squirrely driver, give a quick stink-eye, which serves to validate that the particular manuever was not acceptable.

  • Ron Skarin

    My Hat is off (but my helmet is on) to the Mayor for his serious reaction to the need for bicycle safety in this good City of LA! Many great promises were made, now we all hope that there will be action where there promises are!

    For the people who object to the helmet law they need to look back a few years and see how there were similar arguments to the seat belt law that has literally saved thousands of lives. Even though these “air-heads” think they have nothing to protect, they need to at least be “conscience” of the millions of dollars that are spent each year to prevent brain injuries. Not to mention the untold cost it has on the family and friends of cyclists who died because it wasn’t “convienient or cool” to wear a helmet.

    I know personally because wearing a helmet has saved my life at least 5 times (that I am conscience of), and I lost a marriage due to the brain injury is suffered in an accident that I don’t even remember to this day. I read a study that showed that you can suffer terminal brain damage if your head hits a solid object at less than 10 mph!

    Final thoughts use your helmet and not your head, and I fully support the Mayors proposal to make wearing a helmet a law.

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