Last night, between 15 and 20 members of the South L.A. Neighborhood Bike Ambassador (NBA) group gathered in the (amazing!) Civil Rights Museum at the Watts Labor Community Action Committee to talk with Jane Choi (Dept. of City Planning’s LA/2B), David Somers (Dept. of City Planning’s Bicycle Planner), and Nate Baird (Dept. of Transportation’s Project Coordinator for Bicycle Outreach and Planning) about infrastructure needs in the community.
Participants (myself included) benefited from hearing about the process behind the development and implementation of the Bike and Mobility Plans and the role we could play in promoting our interests. Then, we spent the next hour poring over and marking up the plans.
“It would be great if we could get a bike lane on Imperial,” Nicolas Ruiz of Los Ryderz suggested shyly as we stood looking at the map of the draft Bike Plan.
Sensing he had more insights to offer, I pulled him up to the head of the table where the LA/2B maps of the area were laid out. Together, Nico, Javier Partida (the leader of Los Ryderz), and Stalin Medina (owner of the Watts Cyclery) talked to Choi about unsafe pedestrian crossings at 103rd and Success Sts. and how cars often speed along the narrow corridor of Wilmington Ave. between the Rosa Parks station and 103rd. That kind of input is invaluable, particularly in the case of Wilmington Ave. Although pedestrians and cyclists are often hit (or narrowly missed, as in my case) along that corridor, few of the incidents are reported to the authorities, making it hard for planners to know the area needs some sort of intervention.
I moved over to where the East Side Riders were discussing the bike lanes they wanted to see prioritized in the area. We were all excited to learn that funding had been won to implement the lanes along Central Ave. But, given the boom in riding in the area and the tendency of riders to prefer main streets over side streets, the club felt there was a real need to get some of the lanes slated for implementation prioritized sooner rather than later. They also requested Normandie Ave. — not currently part of the plan — be considered for a lane. Similarly, NBA members from the West Adams area pushed for prioritization of the striping of a lane along Jefferson and for the rest of Adams to be marked with Sharrows.
Considering it was only the third meeting of the NBA group, we were making some great steps forward. We had gone from wondering about whether we should hold events and how to do outreach to communicating directly with planners. And, not only were the planners genuinely interested in hearing from the community, but they asked about the possibility of getting a riding tour of the neighborhoods so they could see areas of concern firsthand.
So, while it was really chilly riding home after the meeting, I think we all felt a little warmer at knowing we were making positive steps forward on behalf of the community. Although, that may have been wishful thinking on my part. It was pretty darn cold.
***I’d like to extend a huge thanks to the planners for taking time on their day off to engage us on the Bike and Mobility Plans and to the NBA members who braved the cold night to offer feedback on behalf of the community. The LACBC-sponsored South L.A. Neighborhood Bike Ambassadors meet on the second Wednesday of each month. For more information about our group or the one in your area, check the LACBC’s NBA page.