Planning Commission Leadership Strengthens Bike Plan

Last time an army of cyclists descended on Van Nuys City Hall, it was in anger over the Bike v. Hummer Crash and the LAPD mis-handling of the case.  What a difference a year and a half makes.
Last time an army of cyclists descended on Van Nuys City Hall, it was in anger over the Bike v. Hummer Crash and the LAPD mis-handling of the case. What a difference a year and a half makes.
Yesterday morning, at its meeting at the Van Nuys City Hall, the city of Los Angeles’ Planning Commission approved the latest draft of the city’s Bike Plan.

In November, the commission’s hearing was contentious and drawn-out, resulting in a vote to continue the plan, essentially sending it back to Planning Department for revisions. Yesterday’s hearing saw near-unanimous harmony between the bicycle advocacy community and the city staff backing the plan. Michael LoGrande and Amir Sedadi, respectively the General Manager of the Department of City Planning and the Acting General Manager of the Department of Transportation, opened the hearing praising city efforts toward greener transportation and the stressing the importance of bicycling in that mix. Commissioners and staff related that the month’s continuance had been productive, greatly improving the earlier draft in a number of important aspects. Those changes have been enumerated here and here in earlier L.A. Streetsblog articles as well as in this Bike Coalition aritcle.

Speakers in support of the plan included representatives from the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, Bikeside, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC), the Valley Bikery, BikeRoWave, and the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. Nearly all of these speakers had testified against the earlier draft plan in November.

The only serious outlier concerned mountain bike access to city parks. More than a half-dozen hikers and equestrians rallied against the “extreme sport,” “inevitable conflicts” and threats to “public safety” involved in mountain biking. Speaking in favor of mountain bike access were representatives of Concerned Off Road Bicyclists Association (CORBA), the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), and LACBC. Voices in opposition to mountain biking significantly outnumbered supporters. The anti-mountain bicycling contingent also took the serious step of hiring a lawyer to challenge the plan’s environmental review.

The commission took in the comments, concurred with staff to make a few small modifications to the draft, then voted unanimous approval.

During the last month, draft Bike Plan changes have been made at a rapid pace. These include quite a few significant modifications, including some that the cycling community had fruitlessly pushed for for well over a year. Much of this rapid turnaround can be credited to the green-transportation-minded Planning Commision (with credit to Mayor Villaraigosa for appointing them.) When it became clear that the Planning Commission was unwilling to approve a draft plan that a large contingent of cyclists didn’t support, Planning staff stepped up collaboration with many of most vocal bike advocates. The process resulted in broad support for a significantly stronger plan.

Next up for the plan will be mayoral review for the next 30 days. After that, likely in February, it goes before the City Council Planning and Land Use Management Committee, then the full City Council.

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