A Snapshot of City Priorities: Bike Applications to Metro’s Call for Projects


View 2011 Metro Call for Projects – Bikeways in a larger map
Google Map of Bikeways projects put together by Bikeside’s Daniel Rodman

(This is Part 4 of our Call for Projects review.  Part 1 explained why this series is importantPart 2 looked at the car capacity enhancement proposalsPart 3 looked at freight movement projects.  Part 5 on pedestrian programming will wrap the series on Monday.)

The LADOT Bike Blog has already written in some detail about the different projects that are part of their request to Metro.  To make a Streetsblog analysis easier, we created three categories for Bikeways applications: specific roadway projects, broad projects and Car Free Day.

Over the years, the LADOT’s Bikeway applications to the Call have been a lightning rod for criticism.  One reason for the criticism is that LADOT had a tendency to submit projects without getting community buy-in.  Also, LADOT’s Bikeway projects have been lacking compared to applications put in by other cities, such as Long Beach.

I have to admit to feeling underwhelmed about the “project specific” applications which include connecting the Orange Line and River Bike paths, construction of a bridge over Taylor Yard and a new stand-alone segment of the Ballona Creek Bike Path.  The accumulated cost of these projects is almost $20 million and the city is requesting over $16 million.

The dominant debate among cyclists over the last several years was about how to improve conditions along the most traveled roads in the city.  After years of advocacy, the Backbone Bikeway Network was enshrined in the last draft of the Bike Plan.  Yet, the first time the city has a chance to apply for projects along the Backbone, it doesn’t apply for funds that would improve conditions on any actual street, much less the Backbone.  Later in the call, there is a request for 15 Bike Friendly Streets, but the streets aren’t yet named.

I know the city can’t apply for projects based on a Bike Plan that hasn’t been passed yet, and the Draft Plan has a couple more bureaucratic hurdles before final passage.  But there really wasn’t one project anywhere on the Backbone that has an improvement project ready?

The next set of projects are what we’re referring to as “broad projects.”  These projects don’t have a specific are in which they’re working, but do have the potential to bring a lot of long-term improvements to the area.  The projects have names that probably don’t make sense to someone who hasn’t been following bike issues such as, “Bundle of Bicycle Friendly Streets,” “Bike Friendly Street In a Box,” and “Bike Corral Program.”

When Cafe de Leche in Northeast L.A. wanted to install a Bike Corral, a series of bike racks placed in a protected area on the street in place of a car parking space, the cafe ran in to a series of bureaucratic hurdles.  Eventually, the cafe would be forced to pay for a parking amenity which is pretty common in bike-friendly cities.  Now, the LADOT is proposing to bring 30 corrals to the city.  True, there’s little money behind the program now, and LACBC’s Alexis Lantz points out that it takes Metro years to hand out funds from the call, but it’s an encouraging sign that corrals, which were verbotten in 2009 have become mainstreamed.

Or, as Lantz put it in a phone interview, “Two bike corrals per district would be a great way to get these out throughout the city.”

Screen shot 2011-01-13 at 10.54.55 PMThe “Bundle of Bicycle Friendly Streets” and “Bike Friendly Street in a Box,” could also be programs that bring long-term change by expanding LADOT’s tool box.  The term “Bike Friendly Streets” first appeared in the 2010 Draft Bike Plan as a replacement for Bike Boulevards.  However, the plan is unclear what a Bicycle Friendly Street actually is, although the LADOT Bike Blog has written about some treatments the streets could see such as roundabouts and loop detectors.

The most famous of the potential “Bicycle Friendly Streets” is 4th Street in Mid-Wilshire and Korea Town.  The LACBC has a campaign designed to improve the street, 4th District City Council Man Tom LaBonge schedules rides on it, and it’s been a cause celeb within the community for years.  Even if it took two years, seeing major bicycle improvements along this route would be a visible and substantial victory for the advocacy community.

If the LADOT is serious about creating Bicycle Friendly Streets that are similar to the Bike Boulevards of Long Beach and Portland, then developing a tool box and beginning to place treatments on streets are the obvious first steps.  But too often, the city fails to make even the first steps on what could be great projects.

And last funding proposal is for “Car Free Day,” a once-a-month promotional event designed to get more people to try a commute by foot, bike or transit.  In a city that’s expanded Bike to Work Day to an entire week, celebrates Park(ing) Day and now CicLAvia, it seems like there has to be a bike lane project somewhere that could use those funds.

  • I suggested to intern Chris Kidd at LADOTBikeways to simply make improving bike infrastructure at a two mile or so radius from the major transmit hubs a call for project. Since Metro’s own bicycling surveys show an average distance of 1.8 miles that people bicycling would travel to a major rail or Orange Line BRT hub. Metro has also stated that the so called last mile of travel of people to and from these hubs is a concern of theirs. It seems to me that Metro would be willing to contribute money towards street bicycle infrastructure that focuses on what Metro wants to acheive also. This would essentially increase the total pool of money available for street bicycle infrastructure and would speed up it’s implementation.

  • I need to make a correction to my comments above. I contacted Chris Kidd by e-mail and one of the things I mentioned to him was a Metro bicycle roundtable subcommittee meeting where the bicycle survey results showed that the average distance for a bicyclist traveling to a transit hub was 1.8 miles and also it was 1.8 miles average for all the Orange Line BRT hubs. Chris in turn e-mailed me back stating that this just gave him the idea for his call for project to Metro that he would be working on.

  • Weeeeaaaak! So much more could be done for so much less. The only barrier is the City’s own reticence to sacrifice auto capacity (not speed, not throughput, but capacity – most of which is unused on LA’s surface streets) for any other mode.

  • New York City installed over 200 miles of bicycle infrastructure in about 3 years time and the total cost was 8.8 million dollars. Of that the city spent 1.7 million dollars of their own money.

    If the above numbers are correct these call for projects applications will cost a total of 20 million dollars and I assume the city will have to pay over 3 million of their own money to complete the projects. That’s considerably more than New York city paid to complete over 200 miles of bicycle infrastructure.

  • How depressing. LADOT doesn’t get it.

  • It would have been a much more persuasive argument for implementing bicycle infrastructure on a arterial street if there was a funding source that targeted a arterial street in a specific area. That could be what convinces a city council member to go ahead with it even though there might be organized opposition against it.

    There is also the strong possibility that the 10% set aside for peds/bicycles from the local 15% Measure R funds from Metro will not be there the next time city council votes on it. Then we are back to patch work quilt bike infrastructure improvements on city streets.

    Showing how bike infrastructure can make a major improvement in transportation for L.A. is vital for continued support from council members in this tough economic climate. Little drips and drabs of changes is not going towards a strong argument for keeping funding.

  • If a local city can’t be bothered to use the millions available to it to make a street safer for kids to cross the road, bike riders to use the Metro, etc. then why would an outside agency set aside funds for those projects? Even when the City of LA has won grants for specific bike projects, like bike lanes on Topanga Canyon Blvd. or the Sepulveda Blvd bike lane, they’ve wasted them, stalled, or simply haven’t done the thing they won the money for.

    It isn’t that hard to make the case for bike lanes as we’ve seen in other cities. You have to measure the safety, retail foot traffic, noise, and air quality improvements – things that the LADOT is completely blind to in its operating paradigm.

    Our communities serve some grand regional plan to the LADOT, and the street-level experience doesn’t matter to them. There are millions that the City can easily capture from both Bike and Pedestrian set-asides, to Safe Routes to Schools, to Transportation Demand Management. With Measure R, they’ve got $10 million on top of the dedicated $7 million that comes to LA for bike and ped projects.

    This money gets spent on off-street facilities despite the clear message that the MTA’s research showed in it’s Enhanced Public Outreach Program for the master bike plan in 2002: bike riders need access to the same amenities as cars drivers.

    The LADOT’s last barrier was CEQA law (“Sharrow? Slower average car speeds? That’s gonna trigger an EIR”), now they hide behind historical precedent (“This is how we build roads in LA.”) and false political controversy (“You will get voted out of office if you make the streets safer for bikes and pedestrians, and faster for buses”).

    You can see their crap attitude about LA’s streets reflected in their Call for Projects applications, even after the MTA heavily revised their funding guidelines two years ago to allow a wider breadth of projects for bikes and pedestrians to capture funds from formerly car-only sources. The LADOT is asking for money to stick bike lanes in expensive, out of the way places that will have minimal impact on anyone’s daily life as a cyclist or pedestrian. Further, their bike lanes do not leverage any other planning efforts by other city departments or neighborhood groups to improve their local quality of life.