Conjecture Versus Statistics: Spring Street Letters Show Differences in Style

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that delays in politics rarely offer good news for those with facts on their side. This is especially true when the political powers that be suddenly develop a case of collective laryngitis.

Which is why the news that the Los Angeles City Council hearing and vote on the future of the Spring Street Green Buffered Bike Lane was delayed again is almost certainly bad news. The hearing, originally scheduled for last Friday then re-scheduled for today, is now scheduled for tomorrow at 10 am. For now.

But while we wait, and wait, for a final decision and the long-awaited showdown between the Film and Television Industry and Downtown businesses, residents, bicyclists, pedestrians, Neighborhood Councils and everyone that just likes a safe place to walk, bicycle or be outside; two letters sent to the City Council do a better job of telling the story thus far than I ever could.

But first, some brief background. In November of 2011, after an impressive outreach among Downtown stakeholders, the City of Los Angeles re-striped Spring Street through the historic core. The new design, part of a pilot program, put a painted buffer between mixed-use travel lanes and bicycle lanes. It also painted the Southbound bicycle lane green. A similar plan for Main Street, running parallel but northbound, was scrapped at the request of the Film and Television Industry. When the LADOT planned to repaint the lanes, they were blocked by a request for “more outreach” for at least the past two months by Council Members Tom LaBonge and Eric Garcetti. During the outreach, a group of compromises were proposed, but the industry walked away from every compromise that didn’t cause a re-design that wouldn’t pass federal guidelines for road markings.

In other words, they refused any compromise that wasn’t a poison pill for the project.

The first, written by the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council, expresses support for repainting the lanes, using statistics gathered by the LACBC and their own consultants, as well as listing a myriad of supporters of the projects. The second, on letter head with logos of three film unions, the Motion Picture Association of America and the Association of Independent Commercial Producers, expresses their displeasure with the lanes and uses hyperbole to state their case.

Some samples:

From the Neighborhood Council Letter:

As you may recall, the initiative to install the  green lane was a community-driven effort with the support of both Councilmembers Huizar and Perry, and involved  multiple City departments, downtown residents, property and business owners, the Fashion District BID, Historic  Downtown BID, and the pedestrian and bicyclist communities. DLANC also worked with these stakeholders and the Los  Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) to ensure the public was engaged and informed of the project, its benefits, and  installation and repainting logistics to minimize impacts to the Historic Core community and filming activities (via communication with Film LA).

The Big Film letter:

Over the past few months, the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP),  International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employes (IATSE), Motion Picture Association of  America (MPAA), Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists  (SAG-AFTRA), and Teamsters Local 399 have been working diligently to find a solution to  Council Member Jose Huizar’s motion to re-paint the bike lane on Spring Street in Downtown  Los Angeles.

From the Neighborhood Council Letter:

According to a report by LACBC, the number of people bicycling on Spring Street increased substantially after the  installation of the green buffered bike lane, up 52% overall from 2011-2012. The number of women bicycling on Spring  during this same time period increased 100% during weekdays and 650% on weekends, an indication that the added  safety feature of green infill material to better define the space for bikes and prevent vehicle encroachment enhances the  attractiveness of bicycling for people of all ages, abilities, and comfort levels. In addition, counts from our own DLANC  Complete Streets Working Group conducted between 2012-2013 indicate a continued trend of increased bicycling on  Spring, of 40%.

The Big Film letter:

As you are aware, the solid green bike lane on Spring Street has all but halted exterior filming on  one of the only streets in Los Angeles that can stand in for cities like New York, Philadelphia, or  Chicago.

One side uses statistics to back the safety argument made by a broad selection of the community and stakeholders. The other uses conjecture and refuses to issue statistics to back their position. In fact, the only statistics publicly available show a city-wide filming increase in 2012.

We know which side would win in debate class, but which is winning behind closed doors?