LADOT approves NELA bike lanes after lengthy contentious battle. But don’t declare victory just yet.

Update: City Planner Claire Bowen sends word that the determination sent out yesterday was merely a procedural matter, and should not be read as a final decision in the matter. The city is still accepting input and no decision has been made.

So much for that.

……..

The announcement, when it broke yesterday, came without warning, potentially declaring an end to one of the most contentious battles on the streets of L.A.

Since late last year, both supporters and opponents of planned bike lanes in Northeast L.A. have phoned, written and emailed their elected leaders, lobbied local businesses and attended a seemingly endless stream of often angry meetings on the subject.

Yet both sides were surprised when LADOT General Manager Jaime de la Vega unexpectedly made an official determination that the lanes would be built.

The decision includes plans to install 5.1 miles of bike lanes, combining both standard and buffered bike lanes, on North Figueroa Street from San Fernando Road to Colorado Blvd in accordance to the 2010 Bicycle Plan. However, due to construction associated with replacing the Riverside Drive Bridge over the Los Angeles River, the initial section will end at Avenue 22, rather than San Fernando; whether or not the second phase will be completed likely will depend on additional outreach efforts in Council District 14.

In addition, the plan call for a three-mile combination of buffered and standard bike lanes on Colorado Blvd between the Glendale and Pasadena city limits. Again, however, a portion will be delayed pending repair sections of the concrete roadway east of Figueroa.

Imagine that — actually fixing a street before installing bike lanes.

Opposition to the plans to remove traffic lanes on North Figueroa and Colorado Blvd has been small but determined, apparently lead by Boulevard Sentinel publisher Tom Topping and Galcos owner John Nese, who claims to support bike lanes in theory, but not at the expense of traffic lanes.

And not always accurately.

The Sentinel claimed to have collected 565 votes in opposition to the lane removal on its website, with only three votes in support. However, the survey was criticized as a classic push poll, in which the question is formed in such as way as to lead to the desired response. And even that number paled in comparison to the more than 1400 signatures gathered by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition in favor of the bike lanes.

The opposition criticized those signatures, and many of the people who came to meetings to speak in favor of the bike lanes, as coming from outsiders who did not live or work in the area, suggesting they should not have a voice in the matter. Even though no one would suggest that the many drivers who pass through NELA on their way to and from other areas should have no say in the matter.

Other efforts focused on garnering opposition from local business people, some of whom responded by posting signs opposing the lanes in their storefront windows. But rather than respond negatively, supporters, including a group lead by Flying Pigeon LA bike shop owner Josef Bray-Ali, rode through the area to visit — and spend money at — some of those businesses run.

The importance of those positive efforts to support the bike lanes, lead primarily by Bray-Ali, the LACBC and the groups Figueroa for All and Take Back the Boulevard, cannot be overstated.

According to Alek Bartrosouf, LACBC Policy and Campaigns Manager,

These bike lanes wouldn’t have happened without overwhelming community support from local groups like Take Back the Boulevard and neighborhood councils. LACBC’s Neighborhood Bike Ambassadors showed up at each and every community meeting — and there were many — to show their support. Local voices make all the difference.

Meanwhile, the LACBC’s Eric Bruins, Planning and Policy Director for the coalition, shared credit with the council members who represent the area.

With this determination, Northeast LA will be the first neighborhood to get a truly robust bike lane network since the 2010 Bicycle Plan, making it easy to do daily errands by bike.  Councilmembers Reyes and Huizar deserve a lot of credit for seeing the Los Angeles of the future and actively promoting it within their districts.

Not everyone is happy with the process, though. Or trusts that this seemingly final decision actually is.

Responding to an email requesting comment, Flying Pigeon’s Bray-Ali complains about L.A.’s obtuse planning process, which resulted in what he described as propaganda war with a “local newspaper owner who has pulled out all the stops short of physical violence and death threats” over the proposed bike lanes.

The way this city makes transportation decisions is broken. It is an information-free zone, which isn’t a surprise given how blindly those at the top fly as they deign to manage our city…

The community in NELA continually surprises and energizes me and I wish I could say that all the hard work so many have put in to get the project to this point was worth it — but I really can’t. I had no idea that this letter was coming despite speaking with the principal staff working on the project at least once a month (at public hearings) since February. I still don’t know if this means the lanes will be installed this year. Is there money set aside? What about this meeting on June 3rd?

There is no way in hell I am declaring victory and heading back to my mechanics bench. Not until the disgusting “NO BIKES” signs Tom Topping and his anti-bike fans have spread around the community are torn down and certainly not until I am riding in a quality bike lane on North Figueroa Street.

That’s a comment many others have made over the past 24 hours.

The promise of traffic calming and bike lanes on two of the city’s iconic streets is great. But as the determination states (see below), it does not become official for another two weeks. And there are still opportunities for opponents to gum up the works before any rubber hits those buffered lanes.

In fact, as Bray-Ali touched on, a previously scheduled meeting with CD 14 Councilmember Jose Huizar will be held on Monday, June 3, 2013, at the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts to allow LADOT to present the adjusted designs based on input from the community.

While Huizar has long been supportive of bicycling and complete streets in his district and around the city, supporters of the NELA bike lanes should make a point to attend the meeting. Because the opponents certainly will, especially after this announcement.

The battle may be won.

But until we actually see paint on the street, the war is far from over.

WHAT

Colorado Blvd. Bike and Traffic Improvement Plan

WHEN

7 p.m., Monday, June 3, 2013

WHERE

Eagle Rock Center for the Arts

2225 Colorado Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90041

LADOT Declaration 5-30-13 (pdf)

DCP Staff Rec Report (pdf)

Notice of Exemption 053013 (pdf)