Finally, a Draft Bike Plan That Cyclists Actually Like

Nearly three years ago, Mia Birk, a principal with Alta Planning and Design, stood in front of a skeptical audience and promised that the final Bike Master Plan would be something that all Angelenos would celebrate.  What followed was a three year slog which saw repeated battles between cyclists, LADOT, cyclists, City Planning, and cyclists.  But now the end is in site.  A new draft of the plan was released yesterday to the cheers, yes cheers, of our city’s bike advocates.  The first hearing on this draft will be held next Thursday, December 16th at 8:30 am. at San Fernando Valley City Hall, 6262 Van Nuys Boulevard, Van Nuys, California 9140.

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When we last checked in on the Bike Plan, Joe Linton reported that a broad coalition of cyclists took over a City Planning Commission Hearing and managed to delay the plan’s passage until a host of issues were addressed.  Following the meeting, City Planning met with the organizers of the protests at the Commission, Los Angeles County Bike Coalition’s Alexis Lantz and Aurisha Smolarski, Bikeside’s Alex Thompson, and Linton to hammer out the details that were holding up the plan.  The result is that yesterday the plan was released, and for the first time in three year’s, Birk’s long-forgotten promise became reality.  Finally, everyone appears happy.

Looking at this plan, Linton sounds happy, but not overjoyed, “While it’s not perfect, it’s good enough to be a tool for the next phase of improvements to LA streets.”

Granted, the plan is still a long read, and the devil could still emerge from the details.  Streetsblog will have in-depth coverage of the plan next week, and the Bike Coalition promises an in-depth review on Monday.  But for now, let’s take a moment to enjoy not just the progress, but getting to watch everyone celebrate.

The most obvious winner is Bike Working Group, that labored so hard to create the Backbone Bikeway Network (BBN).  The newest draft of the plan is full of references to the BBN, as well as the Neighborhood Network, and the Green Network.  Via email, Thompson writes, “The bike plan has turned around three times now, but this last one was a pirouette.  It’s a great document – this is what can happen when experts of all sorts get together and work it out.”  A full copy of Thompson’s statement can be found at the end of the article.

All of a sudden, it seems like a lifetime ago, not just the summer of 2009, when Thompson was battling LADOT’s Michelle Mowery on KPCC about whether or not the BBN was a worthwhile model for bike planning.

Meanwhile, the LACBC was being a little more cautious until they can read through all those details, but was still feeling good.  In an email to members, they listed their eight concerns they outlined before last month’s planning meeting.  They did note that they expect all of these to be addressed when they finish the plan:

1. A more comprehensive Eduction/Outreach Program affiliated with facility implementation
2. Inclusion of the Backbone Bikeway Network
3. Availability of Repaving schedule and coordination with implementation
4. Removal of EIR requirement and language throughout the Plan
5. Increased accountability and evaluation
6. 10 ft lane requirement rather than 11 ft
7. More committed language for Bicycle Friendly streets
8. A Low-Income Equity based weighing system for prioritizing implementation

Thompson:

The bike plan has turned around three times now, but this last one was a pirouette.  It’s a great document – this is what can happen when experts of all sorts get together and work it out.  Claire Bowin and Heidi Sickler both did an excellent job after the November 4th Planning hearing.  Heidi got all the right people in the right rooms and made sure that all the right issues were addressed, rightly.  Claire, as architect of the plan, found some really smart ways to balance interests and make the pie bigger for everyone.  Somehow she’s got this huge document in her brain and she’s great at seeing how to modify it to get things done.

We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the dogged insistence on excellence by Stephen Box and Joe Linton over 3 long years.  From Alexis to Aurisha to Box to Joe to Josef to Roadblock and Enci Box, this plan is product of every cyclist who made time to be at the hearings and pushed hard for real change.  There’s so many times that we could have all given up on the plan and just settled for something second rate – we almost did at the end there.  Somehow, we didn’t.  And now we’ve finally got an ambitious plan that other cities can be envious of.  Will envy.  This community has a lot of moxy, a lot of guts, a lot of sand, and of course, as we knew all along,

  • well done LA.

    it’s “Birk”… btw.

  • “as we knew all along,

    LA has a Backbone.”

    quote got a bit truncated!

    Very happy with the new plan . . . looking forward to making it happen!

  • The plan calls for an annual count of cyclists in the city, and a count-based, crash-based, air quality-based, and public hearing-based assessment of the plan’s implementation. FINALLY!

    With this information, we can actually use some science to show what is, and isn’t working.

    The sections of the plan I’m most familiar with have been improved. Awesome!

    I wish that the bike parking swap was more specific, but that is likely an issue that can be tackled through law-making in later years.

  • stats dude

    Key quote: “this plan is product of every cyclist who made time to be at the hearings and pushed hard for real change.”

    I don’t know how that can be emphasized enough. Great work and thank you everyone!

  • Friends – we could not be more happy to see this email – it has been a challenging process indeed. As always though, a plan is just the start. Part of what we wanted to do was use the process to build momentum; now the momentum must continue as you work to implement the recommendations. We will feel like we have failed you if this plan sits on a shelf and gathers mold. Let’s work together to make sure this doesn’t happen.

    We at Alta live and breathe this stuff every moment of every day. We thank you for all the energy put into this plan by City staff and community members, and are thrilled to have met your expectations.

    Stay in touch please! Mia

  • Thank you to all the cyclists who not only came out to meetings, but who submitted comments and who have supported us all through this arduous process and trusted that in the end we would have a Better Bike Plan.
    And of course Claire, Heidi and Michelle for all of your work.
    This collaborative effort has produced a plan we can all stand behind!

    We are looking forward to implementing this new plan that LA can feel proud about!

  • Carlton Glüb

    Awesome news! Thanks for all your hard work!

  • @Josef – I’ve heard rumors a bike parking/car parking swap for non-SFR residential zones is in the works. Likely why it’s left non-specific in the draft plan.

  • Roadblock

    Congrats to everyone who worked on this, pushed for a better product and got it done right!

    This along with the (huge) revelation that the BoSS would be forwarding the street maintenance schedule to the BAC 15 months in advance (same time that LADOT receives it) sets the stage for LA’s bike advocacy people. repavement means FREE bike lanes thus canceling out the tired old arguments coming from LADOT that they cant afford to put in bike facilities.

    With 15 months lead time it is now up to us to study the schedule and begin lobbying local residents for SAFE STREETS and coordinate with this bike plan. As streets come up for repavement and slurry(sp?) we now have the time to rally residents’ support for better more bike/people/neighborhood friendly configurations. The fact is that local residents mostly do not care about bike lanes until they realize that bike lanes are their buffer zone between their houses and traffic. They don’t know about road diets until we inform them and explain that road diets calm speeders in front of their homes. Safety and safe streets is the selling point. Politicians can not argue against safety and neither can the LADOT.

    The next 5 years should be quite productive. No more excuses.

  • Roadblock

    I’d also like to point out the possibilities that we have here. With Alex Thompson’s extremely value-able crash stats analysis and leadership on the BBN and the LACBC’s bike count along with the fact that cyclists are connected and spread across the entire city we can start truly organizing city wide and agitating for SAFE STREETS. We can be analyzing the repavement schedule and designating local “block captains” to begin selling safe streets to residents, business, and property owners from a local perspective. support each others efforts with stats and bodies to collect petitions and distribute fact sheets explaining the benefits to property owners. Their property values go up when their street becomes safer and calmer.

  • What does “backbone” bike route really mean?

    The map shows Pico Blvd will be a backbone route. Now, I’m a pretty intrepid biker but I sure as hell won’t be riding my bike on Pico any time soon.

  • The backbone is a network of streets that, once re-configured, will allow a cyclist to travel to most major destinations in the city safely and conveniently. Pico as it is now, sucks. Pico as a bike-friendly street is what the backbone is all about.

  • Jeff Jacobberger

    On the same day that the City released the latest version of the Bike Plan with a backbone network including Wilshire Blvd., the Metro Board (at the insistence of Councilmember Paul Koretz and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky) rejected peak hour bus/bike lanes on Wilshire through Westwood. All of LA’s representatives on the Metro Board voted to remove these bus/bike lanes.

    Before the ink is even dry on the draft, our elected officials are taking action to deny us what they are promising.

    I judge my elected officials on what they DO, not what they PROMISE. And yesterday was an emphatic FAIL on their part.

  • East Sider

    Jeff, the draft bike plan is exactly that. A draft, developed by the planners for adoption by the elected officials. Unfortunately, good politics can always trump good planning.

    This speaks to the larger problem with the City of LA, as noted in the Fresh and Easy store article last week. Regulations, ordinances and planning documents are meaningless if the city council can ignore them at any time and for any reason.

    Which is why this is only the beginning.

  • If you think that Pico would be a scary ride for even the most intrepid cyclist, surely you would not want to share a bus only lane in Westwood on Wilshire with high speed buses. Bike lanes on Santa Monica Blvd. adj. to Century City westbound work well.

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