This is our second in our new e-interview series. The first was with Melissa Hebert of LAX Car Share. If there’s an advocate or personality that you think we should interview, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alexis Lantz was recently named the “Planning and Policy Director” of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition taking over for Dorothy Le. Lantz is no stranger to cycling issues in Los Angeles, having worked on a full bike count study as part of her graduate work in the UCLA Planning Department.
Now that she’s taken a more high-profile position with the LACBC, I thought it would be a good time to talk with her and see what her plans, and the Bike Coalition’s plans are, going forward.
Name – Alexis Lantz
Online Name: I usually post with my name
Residence – Silver Lake
Advocacy Background – to tell you the truth I’m pretty new to (bike) advocacy. I did a lot of AIDS advocacy when I was in high school (I grew up outside of Washington, DC) I lobbied my congressional representatives on providing more funding for AIDS education, volunteered with AIDS Walk etc…
I went to college at American University in Washington, DC with the motivation of becoming a lobbyist but after one semester of political science classes I decided to switch gears and got into graphic design, performance art, and public relations. It wasn’t until I landed in LA that I became passionate about transportation issues.
I grew up primarily in cities with good public transit systems, a large chunk of my youth was spent in Germany and I was able to ride my bike to school etc – moving to LA opened my eyes to urban planning and transportation issues primarily because LA seemed to have done everything wrong when it came to city planning. Almost every other place I have lived (other than my stint in the suburbs of Virginia) was designed at human scale – LA is built at car scale.
I love living in LA and see making LA more bike/ped (and transit) friendly as one of the most important things this city can do to make itself into a more vibrant, equitable, and sustainable world-class city.
Streetsblog : Your title is “Planning and Policy Director” with the Bike Coalition. Could you talk about some of the planning work you’re involved with?
In regards to the planning work I do we have two grant projects funded through the LA County Department of Public Health (DPH); the Culver City Bicycle and Pedestrian Initiative and the Boyle Heights Living Streets Initiative. In Culver City, we are waiting for the bike plan to get through Planning Commission and then City Council, but in the meantime I have been working with the city and DPH to develop an outreach program to work with large employers in Culver City. I work with employers to provide information and incentives to encourage more employee commute trips to be by bicycle. I will also be conducting Bicycle Friendly Business workshops for smaller businesses in Culver City and hopefully this is something LACBC will be able to expand upon.
In Boyle Heights I am working with Green LA to identify three streets that we can pilot the Living Streets concept – visit livingstreetsla.org for more info on the project and about Living Streets. I’ll be organizing some community bike rides (stay tuned for info about our upcoming Dia de los Muertos ride!), walks, audits, and bike/ped counts. Creating Living Streets supportive policy is also a large aspect of this project.
Streetsblog : And the Policy?
In regards to the policy work I do, my primary goal is to achieve LACBC’s mission of building a better, bike-able Los Angeles County. I see this being accomplished through working with and putting pressure on Metro and SCAG to do more to encourage the 88 cities in the county to plan and provide for cyclists and pedestrians. I have been learning a lot in the past few months about how little has actually ever been done. Of the 88 cities in the county, just over 20 actually have some form of bike, pedestrian, or trail plan, and many of those plans have not updated since the 70s. Even fewer cities are applying for funds to implement their plans. Last year only nine cities applied to the Metro Call for Projects with bike/ped projects. State policies such as SB 375 place a new pressure on smaller cities and the region to provide for non-motorized transportation. Because of this legislations there is great need for bike/ped planning, setting regional bike/ped mode share goals, and actually measuring bike/ped use through yearly counts in the 88 cities in the county and throughout the region.
Additionally, many of the policies that I think will help our region become more bike/ped friendly actually need to be addressed at the state level. So I am actively working with California Bicycle Coalition, one of the big issues coming out of LA is getting a 3’ Passing Law passed. I am also working the California Bicycle Coalition and other bicycle organizations from around the state to organize a State of California Bike Summit for next fall. This is still in the early stages of planning but my hope is to bring advocates from around the state together to collaborate on a legislative platform that we can collectively provide a massive groundswell of support for.
Streetsblog : I’ve noticed that a lot of groups are springing up around the County that are affiliated with the LACBC. Could you describe the relationship?
Another way I am hoping to achieve LACBC’s mission is through the development of local bicycle advocacy chapters. Some have been naturally springing up such as Santa Monica Spoke, Long Beach Cyclists, West San Gabriel Valley, and the South Bay Bicycle Coalition. And some LACBC has been helping to form by putting motivated LACBC and community members in touch with each other. There is now the Culver City Bicycle Coalition, Better Bike BH, and a few other groups forming in cities such as Glendale and West Hollywood. LACBC is essentially becoming an incubator and fiscal sponsor, just like we were for CicLAvia, for many of these organizations. We are also offering our experience, knowledge, and staff time to help these groups be the voice for cyclists in their respective cities. We realize that we do not have currently have the capacity to advocate for cyclists in all 88 cities in the county, so we need to empower and work with cyclists that live in each of the 88 cities.
Streetsblog : What’s new with the LACBC?
Over the next few months I will be working on developing a strategic policy plan for LACBC with the help of the rest of the staff, our local chapters, and regional partners. Included in the plan will be the passing of a Complete Streets Policy in the City of LA. Integral to passing a Complete Streets Policy is figuring out how and what needs to be changed to make the policy implementable. In the City of LA this likely means we will have to update the Transportation Element of the General Plan. Right now there is no way to really implement complete streets since our street standards do not even allow for the consideration of cyclists, transit, or even pedestrians. As any loyal Streetsblog reader knows our Transportation Element only measures vehicle Level of Service and that places a lot of limitations on what can be done with our roads… or at least that’s what they like to tell us.
Streetblog : LACBC has done their own bicycle and pedestrian counts in recent years. What happens to that data?
Well, as you know we published a report summarizing the results of LA Bike Count and Glendale Counts. In LA we provided the data to LADOT Bikeways department for them to be able to use and we saw reference to the report in the draft bike plan. The data we collected in the LA Bike Count established a baseline and we are planning on getting folks back out to the same intersections in September of 2011 to conduct the counts again and see how cycling measures up to the baseline after two years. We hope that cycling will have increased across the board, but we are particularly interested in seeing if cycling has increased where there has been some improvement in the infrastructure.
Streetsblog : Changing gears, how is the Sharrows project going? Do you think we’re going to see it expanded?
I think there is no question that sharrows will be expanded to bike routes around the city, what seems to be the take away from the project, at least in my opinion, is that each street needs some individual attention when placing the sharrows. It goes back to LADOT’s favorite line about how LA streets are different. In this case, because of our horrible street standards that require new developments to widen the street, that statement sort of rings true. We have streets that fluctuate in width not just block by block by often within one block that can cause Sharrows placement to point you into the back of a parked car even though it was set further than minimum requirement of 11′ from the curb.
We are about to conduct the second round of counts and surveys this weekend & next week. It will be interesting to see what the results are regarding people’s perspectives about safety and where they are riding in the road post sharrows installation. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the study and what LADOT’s approach to installation will be post pilot project.
Streetsblog : My last question is always the same. “If you had a magic wand and could change any one thing about transportation in the region, what would it be?”
Argh! Only one thing… there are so many things I want to change – but I guess I’ll go with education – if I could change one thing it would be that every Angeleno and Southern California understood how to share the road, why bicycle and pedestrian investments are important for them and the region, and that taking away road space from cars will provide them with better neighborhoods, safer routes to school, and a better quality of life. That kinda of sounds like three things… but basically I just wish we were all on the same page in regards to bicycle and pedestrian accommodation and investment.