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,