How Does LA City’s Mobility Plan Modify Its 3-Year-Old Bike Plan?

LA City Planning Dept graphic showing how the bike plan does and doesn't become the Mobility Plan. From the DCP handout: Where did the Bicycle Plan go?

LA City Planning Department graphic showing how the bike plan does and doesn’t become the Mobility Plan. From the DCP handout: Where did the Bicycle Plan go?

Streetsblog readers are probably aware that the city of Los Angeles Department of City Planning (DCP) is currently updating the Transportation Element of the city’s General Plan. The Transportation Element has a great deal of influence over what L.A.’s streets look like, and which uses they prioritize.

The new Transportation Element, called Mobility Plan 2035,  has been released in draft form. For a plan overview, read SBLA’s Mobility Plan review, and also read SBLA’s series of Community Voices on the Mobility Plan: part one, two, and three. Read the plan documents and summaries at the DCP’s LA/2B website. DCP just concluded a series of community forums, but is still receiving public comment through May 13, 2014.

In the past, the Transportation Element included a somewhat independent bike section, called the Bicycle Master Plan. In 2011, after much controversy and struggle, the city adopted its latest bike plan, titled the 2010 Bike Plan. That plan is currently in effect, governing what streets are approved for bike lanes, as well as a host of other bicycle related policies.

At its community forum meetings, DCP distributed a handout entitled Where did the Bicycle Plan go? which states, in part:

The goals, objectives, policies and programs of the 2010 Bicycle Plan are incorporated into Mobility Plan 2035, which lays the policy foundation necessary for the City to plan, design and operate streets that accommodate all users including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and motorists. [...]

A few components of the 2010 Bicycle Plan have been modified during the Plan’s integration into Mobility Plan 2035. These modifications were made in order to reflect the latest input from the community, as well as to reflect further refinements of the bikeway system.

The details of the “few components [that] have been modified” are not entirely clear.

Bike Plan facilities have been carried over into the new Mobility Plan, but there’s no clear thorough accounting of what’s in and what’s not in. DCP lists a category called “Deferred Backbone” (the gray oval in their chart above) of 195 miles of streets that were approved in 2011, but, in DCP’s designation, just won’t happen before 2035, so they’re out.

The handout also states that the Neighborhood Network is “relatively unchanged.” Relatively unchanged never quite means a little more bikeway mileage. According to the stated totals, the Neighborhood Network appears to have lost 5 miles. The 2010 plan totals say there will be 825 miles of bikeways. The draft Mobility Plan shows a total of 820 miles: 50 miles in the Bicycle Enhanced Network (BEN) plus 770 miles in the remaining Neighborhood Network.

Which 5 miles are missing? Or was new mileage added, and more than five deleted? It’s hard to tell. It’s a bit like finding a needle in a haystack.

What makes comparisons like these difficult is that the Mobility Plan doesn’t actually include a list of street segments approved for bicycle facilities. Street segments are mapped in the Map Atlas and are listed generally – with no end points or mileage – in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR.)

Here’s an example of the sort of text that’s listed (from the Mobility Plan EIR, page 3-7) for each facility:

Downtown Los Angeles, via Figueroa and Flower Streets Couplet, Spring and Main Streets Couplet, and Seventh Street

That’s all. There’s no indication of what the end-points are for any of these streets. Though this is described as a “corridor,” it includes two north-south couplets (four streets) and one east-west street. Some of the corridors are more clearly delineated than this, but, other than referring to a map, there’s no way to tell what bikeway starts and ends where, nor how long it is.

The mobility plan does include total mileage. For example the new Bicycle Enhanced Network (BEN) totals “330 miles,” but there’s no listing of components that add up to that total. Perhaps the overall mileage was totaled on a piece of scratch paper, which was subsequently discarded.

The same is true for the plan’s Transit Enhanced Network. It’s 240 miles long, but there’s no list of street segments with end points and distances.

Unfortunately, in the past, when the city published totals with incomplete or inaccurate supporting data, bikeway mileage suffered. A 2009 bike plan draft stated that the plan included a total of 125 miles of bike lane, but, when C.I.C.L.E. added up the actual facilities listed, there were only 28 miles. In 2011, the L.A. Department of Transportation (LADOT) claimed to have implemented 55 miles of bike lanes, but the actual total was only 35 miles.

The 2010 Bike Plan contains both facilities and programs.

It appears that a lot of the programs approved in 2011 have been, in abridged form, incorporated into the Mobility Plan’s “Action Guide” (pages 132-153.) But, again, without reviewing these documents with a fine-toothed comb, it’s not clear what’s left in and what’s left out. The action plan appears to have fewer words, so the 2010 Bike Plan has been modified, abridged and/or edited.

For example, there’s a program in the 2010 Bike Plan, called “LAPD Officer Bicycle Education Program” (page 3-63.) This program is described with a short paragraph:

LAPD Officer Bicycle Education Program
In an effort to educate adult bicyclists and encourage the enforcement of bicycling laws, a cooperative program between the [LAPD and LADOT] has been developed to provide additional bicycle education to LAPD officers as well as to produce materials regarding bicycling laws for distribution to the public. Materials include a roll call training module for LAPD officers, as well as materials for distribution to the public such as a safety brochure and pocket guide to bicyclists legal rights and responsibilities

The program, under that name, does not appear in the draft Mobility Plan. The closest similar item found in the Mobility Plan would be: (Item ED.5 on page 139)

LAPD Officer Training: Train officers on the rights and responsibilities of all roadway users and improve their ability to evaluate conflicts and collisions between different modal users

It appears that bicycle has been written out of bike plan programs, in favor of generic “all roadway user” type language. In doing this, a great deal of specificity from the Bike Plan has been lost. This is one example. It’s unclear what programs have been kept, modified, deleted, etc.

This begs some questions:

What serves bicyclists best: a bicycle-specific master plan, or inclusion in a multi-modal transportation plan?

Is it really necessary to invalidate the three-year-old Bike Plan in approving a new Transportation Element? When the 1999 Transportation Element was approved, it didn’t overwrite the 1996 Bike Plan. Could a new Transportation Element similarly merely add to the Bike Plan, and/or stand alongside it?

Streetsblog L.A. is continuing to dig into the finer details of the draft Mobility Plan, but the opacity of the initial draft, especially in regards to facility specifics, doesn’t bode well.