It’s been a year since a group of Westside homeowners filed a lawsuit against the Expo Bike Path that would run adjacent to the rail line through the Westside into Santa Monica. The homeowners alleged that the categorical exclusion (CE) granted to the bikeway (a technical term meaning that only a partial environmental review is necessary) by Caltrans was wrongly granted. In response, Caltrans pulled the CE and the city went back to the drawing board. The bikeway opponents declared victory  and bike advocates fumed.
One year later, the story hasn’t changed much. The city is still involved in a back and forth with Caltrans over the city’s efforts to get an ironclad CE from Caltrans, but at this point there is no time frame for the documents to be approved. A pair of anonymous sources has confirmed that Caltrans won’t issue it until legal issues with the local homeowners are resolved.
Needless to say, there is no timeline for that, either.
So while no timeline is in place for environmental approval of the bike path nor a timeline to hire a contractor to design it, ground has broken for Phase II of the Expo Line and the bike path remains in limbo.
“For some agencies, this is the old story about cycling being an afterthought,” fumes Jonathan Weiss, a member of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee.
Perhaps even worse than the delay is that decisions are being made on the design of Phase II routing, crossings, and stations without bicyclists input. Despite Expo CEO James Thorpe’s promise to Westside Councilman and Expo Construction Authority Board Member, Bill Rosendahl, that a bicycle advisory committee would be formed, none has. Expo staff say that the committee will be formed when a contractor is brought on for bikeway design, but with design and construction work underway now for the light rail line, it seems as though cyclist input could be useful.
“As we have learned at recent Expo Urban Design Committee meetings, design work is underway that will impact bikeway planning,” explains long time Expo bikeway advocate Kent Strumpell, who also chairs the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee Subcommittee on Planning. “In light of this, it makes no sense to suggest that a bicycle advisory committee would be of no use at this time. Decisions could be made that will compromise the optimal integration of the bikeway, possibly missing important opportunities to get it right.”
But for now, no bicycle advisory committee, no agreement on when the bikeway is going to receive environmental clearance, no bikeway design plans being drawn up. 2011 was a great year for the Expo Light rail project, maybe 2012 will be a great one for the bikeway.