Despite Rocky Hearing, Draft Bike Plan Moves to Last Stop, the Full City Council

This picture would be evidence of a crime in many Los Angeles parks. However, this picture is from the San Gabriel Mountains outside city limits. Photo:##http://www.flickr.com/photos/lonewackodotcom/172450849/#/photos/lonewackodotcom/172450849/in/set-72157594470093143/##LoneWhackDotCom/Flickr#

(Note: We’re just covering yesterday’s hearing in this article.  For more on the actual content of the plan, click here.)

Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Council held a joint hearing of the Transportation Committee and the Planning and Land Use (PLUM) Committee to discuss the city’s Draft Bike Plan.  By the end of the hearing, which lasted well over two hours, the Committees had sent the plan to the full Council for final approval along with a five-year work plan and a schedule for City Planning and LADOT to update the Council on the plan’s progress every three months.

But it wasn’t always easy.

Ed Reyes, pictured preparing for an interview at a City of Lights press conference, was credited by Mowery for kicking off this process with a motion for a new Bike Plan...in 2005.

Seven Councilmen sat in the main chambers, Richard Alarcon, Paul Koretz, Paul Krekorian, Tom LaBonge, Bernard Parks, Ed Reyes, and Bill Rosendahl.  All of the Councilmen were supportive of the plan in general terms.  After testimony from Alex Thompson wondering why Sepulveda, a critical North-South route with poor conditions for cyclists, wasn’t in the top ten projects to be completed, Rosendahl became the only Council Member to call for any specific changes in plans for his District.

Also present were LADOT Acting General Manager Amir Sedadi and Planning General Manager Michael LoGrande.  Sedadi didn’t mince words, calling the hearing a “Historic moment in the City of Los Angeles.”  With the exception of staff’s insistence that a plan to extend the Beach Bike Path through Venice not be included in the Final Bike Plan, it would be difficult to tell who was an advocate and who was a staffer.  Even LADOT Senior Bikeways Coordinator Michelle Mowery, who was once the spokesperson for those not wanting to see the Backbone Bikeway Network be a large part of the plan, referred to the Draft Plan, backbone and all, as “the most fabulous plan I could have dreamed of.”

The bulk of the testimony came from cyclists who were happy, if tired, after three years of meetings and public comment.  It seemed another kumbaya moment for the long fractured bike advocacy community as representatives from Bikeside, the LACBC, the BAC all sang from the same hymnal and another dozen unaffiliated cyclists praised the plan’s passage.

However, the bulk of the debate by the Councilmen was over a provision in Chapter 3 of the Draft Plan that calls for further study of a way for mountain bicycles and equestrians to coexist on the city’s mountain paths.  This is apparently cause for outrage amongst the city’s equestrian community, and reason for a lengthy debate that had little to do with the rest of the plan or with making life better for the city’s “transportation cyclists.”

Wearing a cowboy hat, Dale Gibson, the chair of the equine advisory committee, argued that mountain biking should be excluded from the plan because “it’s a recreation issue, not a transportation issue.”  Later, Mary Kaufman with the Chatsworth Neighborhood Council argued that excluding mountain biking from the plan was a public safety issue because of the mixed use nature of the trails.  However, that testimony supports staff’s position that the city has an obligation to figure out a way to provide safe mountain cycling because it doesn’t have the manpower to enforce a ban and cyclists are already unsafely using the trail.

Lynne Brown, of National Trails Incorporated, took the same information and argued the opposite angle.  If the city allows cyclists to use trails not designed for them, it opens the city to liability it doesn’t face while cyclists “poach” those trails today.

Most of the debate between the Council Members was about the Mountain Biking v Equestrian issue.  The most vocal defender of the equestrians was Councilman Alarcon who chastised Councilman Koretz for making a joke about “horsing around” because this is a very serious issue.  However, the Council seemed utterly unable to grasp that the solution that Planning seemed most comfortable with, separate trails for mountain bikers and equestrians, should address the concerns of those worried about bike access to our city’s parks and about safety issues involving bike/horse conflicts.

There was also a debate about extending the beach bicycle path through Venice as discussed on Streetsblog yesterday.  Despite an impassioned plea from Jim Kennedy, with more support added by Thompson, a motion by Councilman Alarcon to include the project  in the plan failed to get a second Councilman’s support so it didn’t even get to a vote.

Also not getting a “second” was a motion by Councilman LaBonge that would ban any plan to create mixed use trails for cyclists and equestrians to use.  For awhile the Councilman seemed to believe he could amend the plan himself.  When he was assured he could not, he seemed shocked that nobody else would second the motion.  Later, some face saving language was added to the plan asking City Planning to come up with a compromise solution that works for cyclists and equestrians.

In the end, the plan was moved and most two-wheeled advocates left the room happy.  However, there was one dark cloud on the horizon.  One equestrian noted that the horse riders have hired an attorney.  Thompson reports that their attorney is a CEQA specialist named Doug Carstens.

Some of the equestrians claim to be representing the local Sierra Club which could create an “only in Los Angeles” moment if a lawsuit actually came to fruition.  Only in L.A. could you see the Sierra Club sue the city over a popular bike plan…

  • I believe Alex called for Sepulveda Blvd to be included in the top 10, not Centinela Blvd.

    And the whole equestrians vs mountain bikers issue is, quite frankly, horse-sh*t. Horses are more difficult to control than a bike, hence the lack of skill on the equestrians’ part is the problem. Horses cause damage to trails, and they’re not especially clean. When’s the last time you ever saw a cyclist take a dump in the middle of a public trail or road?

    As for the rest of it, it’s time for DOT to walk the walk.

  • Lynne Brown, of National Trails Incorporated, took the same information and argued the opposite angle. If the city allows cyclists to use trails not designed for them, it opens the city to liability it doesn’t face while cyclists “poach” those trails today.

    WRONG!

    Prokop vs. City of Los Angeles. The city is not liable for injuries to cyclists on trails. It was fought all the way to the California Supreme Court. Cyclists lost, the City won and was relieved of the responsibility to maintain off-road paths and trails.

    The horse people are not very nice. Shared-use “doesn’t work”, but making no official space for mountain bike riders is only turning regular citizens into law breakers. I am not a mountain bike enthusiast, and I don’t really care one way or another, but a ban on all bike use on park trails in LA seems way too harsh.

    Overall I am pissed that so much time got sucked up by this stupid issue. There are substantive things that need to be discussed, and they got skipped over for this baloney.

  • I think it really is a case of equestrians wanting to arrogate the trails to themselves. They’ve often been nasty to me when I’m hiking, for cryin’ out loud! I might “scare the horses.” The MTBers I’ve met have been either neutral or polite, at least. (I am a huge street cyclist but ride trails& fireroads only rarely, much preferring to hike off pavement.)

    Anyway, the equestrians’ position is either hypocritical or willfully ignorant. Horses have been used in war for millennia and have worked in the midst of rifle and cannon fire for hundreds of years. It’s a matter of training. If equestrians are so lazy they can’t or won’t train their horses properly, they shouldn’t ride them on public property. But what they really want is to keep people out. As I said above, they even hate hikers.

    By the way, I don’t hate horses and am an adequate though very occasional horseman myself.

  • Guys, I’m not sure why but for some reason a draft of this story that Carter and I worked on all morning didn’t post and my rough from last night did. Give me a couple of minutes here to make some changes. Factually, there’s nothing wrong, but it reads like it was written in the middle of the night by a father who’s son is going through “teething pains.”

  • Mountain Bikes Should Remain Banned

    Gee, bikers get totally worked up to keep cars away from them, but no regard for the pedestrians who get hit.

    A mountain bike speeding down a blind, windy trail is not only a threat to the cyclists, but also to all other users. Not only equestrians, but hikers too – and hikers = pedestrians.

    The same rule that you advocate for streets – that the mode that has the greatest vulnerability to injury is the one whose interests should take precedence – applies here too.

  • “Mountain Bikes Should Remain Banned”: cyclists, generally, don’t ask for cars to be banned from the roads. We ask that drivers to be alert, respectfully give us space, and pass safely. It would be reasonable for all trail users to ask for respect from other trail users, regardless of transportation mode. Banning one party without seeking compromise is unfair and extreme.

  • You can ban mountain bikes, but they are still going to ride. If you criminalize them, it is only going to cost more and create an outlaw culture.

    If people want to ride their bicycles off road, there should be some places where they can do so without impacting other users in LA’s parks.

    Nobody wants to have their hike or horse ride ruined by dumbasses on bikes blowing down the trail, so i think we all get it. But there are plenty of recreational bike riders in LA’s parks that need some place to do their thing.

    It isn’t fair to prevent STUDY of this issue, which is all that is being called for in the plan.

    _____

    Christ, there goes 15 more minutes of my life talking about something I don’t really give a shit about.

  • I know I’m a broken record on this point, but I’ll say it again: bike activists need to move beyond knee-jerk “bicycle boosterism” and address recreational and transportational cycling as separate issues. While there is some grey area between the two modes, they ultimately have very different needs, and it’s a grave disservice to both causes to not make a distinction between them.

  • I can’t express how much pleasure I find in Councilmember Bernard Parks having to sit through Bike Planning meetings. It was Bernard Parks I remember best in his position as LAPD Chief, standing by while his officers wrongfully arrested me and 70 fellow cyclists during a Critical Mass ride at the 2000 Democratic National Convention.

    It was that event that turned me from being an occasional bicycle rider into a bicycle activist. We´ve come a long way Los Angeles.

  • The inclusion of the park access to the Bike Plan was done by city staff, and not via an outcry of concerned cyclists and citizens. Or rather, the people calling for this whole debate to take place via the bike plan are in a small minority in terms of the groups of activists and cyclists that have engaged heavily in this process.

  • Certainly, most of the bike activists who have been driving the changes in the Bike Plan are not pushing for the mountain bike element; however, there’s not a real concerted effort to remove it, either. I think its inclusion in the plan is extremely problematic, not just in leeching energy and focus from transpotational biking projects (the purpose of the Bike Plan), but also in how bicycling is viewed by both policymakers and the general public.

    Not to mention the fact that It is really tiresome to have transportation-oriented meetings completely monopolized by equestrian groups railing against mountain bikes.

  • Trail etiquette guide:

    http://www.hikerstrail.com/2009/08/hiking-etiquette-share-the-trail/

    I’ve seen these signs along the Backbone Trail (minus the motorcycle symbol), where hikers, cyclists, and equestrians get along well.

    Most trail cycling is recreational, but so is all the horseback riding. And some trail cycling is transportational, though not much in LA.

    It definitely is a side issue for LACBC, and I don’t see the point of focussing on it–but the principle of exclusion that the equestrians are trying to establish is simply wrong.

  • I couldn’t agree with Angle more – he’s said how I feel succinctly.

    @WALT – Bernard Parks did not attend the hearing.

  • He was there at the start, you can hear him on the audio

  • I vote for angle.

  • I got there 15 min late, and Parks wasn’t there, and they hadn’t even started the staff report yet. That doesn’t count as being there.

    He spent more time at the LA County Young Democrats meeting that evening – at least a half an hour. A depressing meeting by the way – I’ve never seen so many unanimous votes, not even in City Clowncil.

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