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RIP: Buffered Bike Lane in Front of LAPD Headquarters

During the Dorner drama, the bike lane and sidewalk in front of LAPD headquarters was media parking. Image via UCLA Public Affairs/Twitter

This weekend, the Bureau of Street Services will be repaving parts of 1st Street in Downtown Los Angeles. After the repaving, the street will be repainted. Part of the repainting will include removing the buffer from the 1st Street Buffered Bike Lane in front of LAPD headquarters between Spring and Main Streets.

The good news is that the buffer will remain for the rest of 1st Street and the bike lane itself will be undisturbed. The bad news is that the LAPD officially asked that the buffer be removed and LADOT agreed. The parking lot for LAPD headquarters requires nearly 100 yards of extra walking as compared to the headquarters. Downtown cyclists complained about LAPD cruisers parking in the lane since it was painted, and the result of those complaints seems to be removing the buffer so the police can resume curb parking in front of the headquarters.

Of course, the LAPD and LADOT are not saying that this is about curb parking. They continue to assert this issue is about emergency access to police headquarters. But, given that the LAPD was completely unable or unwilling to enforce “no parking in the buffered bike lane,” it seems wildly unlikely that they’ll enforce “no parking in the stopping but no parking lane.”

By removing the buffering in front of LAPD headquarters, the LAPD is sending a message that it was more interested in non-emergency parking (a police car can park in any lane in an emergency, so this was never about access) than road safety. Cyclists proposed several alternate solutions that were never considered very seriously including making the lane L.A.’s first cycle track or protected bike lane or using plastic bollards to keep the lane clear of all but emergency vehicles and cyclists.

Downtown cyclist Roger Rudick makes the case for keeping the lane in a previous story on Streetsblog. Read more…

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VROOM! Speed Limit Increases for Sunland Boulevard Roar Back to Council

Sunland and Nettleton, facing North. Image via google maps.

It’s been nearly a year since a speed limit increase was brought before the City Council Transportation Committee, but a new proposed increase on for chunks of Sunland Ave in the San Fernando Valley will be heard tomorrow at 2 p.m. The ordinance would establish speed limits of 40 and 45 miles per hour on Sunland Boulevard from Nettleton to Tuxford Streets; between Nettleton Street and Sunland Park Drive, and between Nohles Drive and Foothill Boulevard Newhome Avenue; between Foothill Boulevard and Tuxford Street; and, between Sunland Park and Nohles Drives.

You can read the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting here. You can read the draft ordinance itself, here.

As we’ve seen in the past, the speed limit increase proposal is actually brought by people that want to see slower moving traffic.  Because of state law requiring that speed limits be set at the 85th percentile of traffic flow in order for the police to use radar to enforce traffic, many stretches of city controlled road have no speed enforcement. The LAPD back legislation that would change the law, but also support limit increases. They argue it makes their jobs easier, more cost efficient, and more safe.

The state law, known as the speed trap law ins Sacramento, is viciously defended by the California Highway Patrol and AAA.

In this case, constituents living along the street have complained to their City Councilman, former Transportation Committee Member Richard Alarcon about the lack of enforcement and he brought the motion to the committee. When he served on the transportation committee in 2007, Alarcon would vote for similar proposals after complaining bitterly about the state law, so this must be something of a bitter fight for him tomorrow.

Sunland and Nohles, facing South. Image via google maps.

We say “fight” because the Transportation Committee under the leadership of Chair Bill Rosendahl has been reluctant to pass limit increases. In addition, representatives from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Los Angeles Walks and Midnight Ridazz will be on hand to fight the increases. While all of the groups would like to see slower moving traffic, they point out that state law only forbids radar enforcement. There are other means of fighting speeding traffic available. Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Sepulveda Blvd. Bike Lane Turning Into “Express Lane” for Scofflaws

When not riding his bicycle, Chen takes pictures of bike lane violators from his perch in a Culver City Bus.

In May, Streetsblog reported that new bike lanes were painted on Sepulveda Boulevard between Venice Boulevard and National Boulevard. The new lanes could connect all the way to the Expo Line Station scheduled for Sepulveda and Exposition, about a half mile north of where the lanes now end.

Reader Irwin Chen notes that the lanes are being put to good use…by speeding motorists as well as cyclists. Chen photographed cars both violating the bike lane and driving to the right of the lane at high-speed. He then mails the pictures to the LAPD, who assure Chen that they are enforcing vehicle code on drivers who violate the lane.

In a letter to the LAPD, Chen writes:

I’m writing to you with some follow up info. It has been about 6 weeks since I reported my experience riding in the bike lane on Sepulveda near National and since that time, I have stopped riding in this area because it is far too dangerous with cars constantly driving illegally in the bike lane and passing me on my right. I have attached some photos which I think are self-explanatory: cars are illegally entering the bike lane and using it to bypass traffic, sometimes at speed greatly exceeding the posted speed limit. Read more…

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LACBC Starts Save the 1st Street Bike Lane Campaign and Some Alternate Designs for the “LAPD Lane”

The "Watch the Road" sticker is a nice touch. Photo: Roger Rudick.

Last night, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition e-mailed an action alert to members, asking them to write LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, Mayor Villaraigosa and others asking them to save the 1st Street Buffered Bike Lane that runs in front of LAPD Headquarters. The bike lane has become a de-facto parking lane for LAPD cruisers, as documented by Streetsblog contributor and author Roger Rudick. While complaints mounted, the LAPD responded with a request that the buffer be eliminated so that the lane run against a “car stopping” lane for the police.

Yesterday, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition responded with an action alert for members asking city officials not to change the bike lane design. The LAPD officals confirm that emails are already starting to flow in, as cyclists take to the keyboard. A full copy of the action alert can be found at the end of the article.

For Rudick, the debate is about more than just one bike lane. “We have a new bike plan in place. It’s not an accident that a buffered bike lane was placed right in front of LAPD headquarters. It’s supposed to send a message to cops, every day, that bikes have all the rights of cars–and that they’re required to enforce the law. Many officers, as we know, have been highly supportive. But LAPD still has vestiges of the bad old days. The same cops who park on that bike lane, trust me, are the same ones who are going to look the other way when a car runs a cyclist off the road.”

Despite the assertations in the letter and earlier this week in Streetsblog. We don’t actually know what the LAPD’s complaint against the bike lane is. Advocates and journalists assume it has to do with access to the headquarters, but requests to LAPD for the exact cause of the complaint have yet to be answered.

For the sake of argument, the rest of this article assumes that access is the key problem identified by the LAPD. There are other solutions to the issue outside of removing the buffered bike lane completely. Read more…

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It’s Official, 1st Street Bike Lane Will Lose Some of Its Buffer

Taken 10/20. All pictures by Roger Rudick

For months, cyclist and writerRoger Rudick rides down the 1st Street Buffered Bike Lane. Often, Rudick stops near LAPD headquarters and snaps a picture of a police cruiser parked in the bicycle lane. Rudick would then send it to a sympathetic ear in the department, be it Sgt. David Krumer or Officer Jeff Kievit. After the complaints were too numerous to be written off as the work of a few rogue scofflaws, the LAPD revealed their internal strategy for informing officers that parking in a bicycle lane is not only unsafe, it’s illegal.

Parking in the bike lane was a 24 hour activity.

Last week, Biking in L.A. reported on a persistent rumor that an educational campaign wasn’t the LAPD’s only strategy for dealing with the problem of cruisers parked inside of the buffered bike lane. The second strategy involved getting rid of the buffering and reconfiguring the street so that parking is created between the bike lane and curb. The timing of this leak was especially unfortunate because anecdotally, there are fewer and fewer reported instances of LAPD cruisers being parked in the bike lane.

In other words, the buffered bike lane would be replaced with a far more dangerous door zone bike lane. Instead of a space separating bicycles from car traffic, the new configuration could actually force cyclists into traffic.

Sadly, the rumor turns out to be true. LADOT spokesman Jonathan Chui  explains:

LAPD did make a request to LADOT to accommodate police vehicles in front of the headquarters without blocking the bike lane.  As a courtesy we try to accommodate other city agencies when possible.

The bike lane will remain on 1st Street.  In this case, for a single block, the bike lane on the south side will be realigned adjacent to the number 2 lane.  The area adjacent to the curb will still preclude parking, but will allow police vehicles to stop if necessary without blocking the bike lane.  This will be part of an upcoming resurfacing project.

Please note that the use of ‘buffers’ with bike lanes is generally used in unusual cases where the right-of-way is too wide for a single bike lane.  There are only a handful of locations with this condition and this block happens to be one of them.

Given that the LAPD was utterly unable, or unwilling, to stop police cars from parking in a bicycle lane, it is wildly unlikely that there will be a successful effort to keep them from parking in a “stopping but no parking” zone. The announced change has many bicycle safety advocates incensed, especially because the LAPD’s Parker Center is connected to a large parking structure. Read more…

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Sgt. Krumer out, four new LAPD bike liaisons in

There are big changes under way in the way the LAPD deals with the bicycling community.

In a meeting last Thursday with departmental representatives and civilian members of the department’s Bike Task Force, as well a handful of other bike advocates/activists, former bike liaison Sgt. David Krumer and Operations Commander Matt Blake laid out the new program.

It was nearly three years ago that Sgt. Krumer was appointed to represent the LAPD in dealing with the L.A. bicycling community, at a time when relations were at a low point. Since then, his efforts, and that of the three Commanders he worked under, have lead to a turnaround that has helped make the LAPD the envy of cyclists around the nation.

Although it’s clearly far from perfect yet.

Now that Krumer has been transferred to the Devonshire Division — a lateral move that Streetsblog’s Damien Newton describes as a de facto (and I might add, well-deserved) promotion — he will not be replaced as the single point-man for cyclists who need help in dealing with the department.

Instead, four new bike liaisons have been selected, one for each of the four Traffic Divisions within the city. Each will have responsibility for issues that arise within their own division — and won’t deal with anything that occurs outside their jurisdiction.

The boundary lines for each of the four LAPD traffic divisions; bike liaisons can only assist with issues within their own division

For instance, if you have problem with an officer in the Central Traffic Division, the liaison from South Traffic won’t be able to help you, though they can refer you to someone who will.

Or as one officer put it during the meeting, the dividing line between the Valley and West Traffic Divisions runs right down the middle of Mulholland. So if you have a wreck there and would prefer to work with one division over the other, make sure you land on the right side of the road.

And the program is still in the process of being settled, as evidenced by the fact that two of the four liaisons are different from the officers named by the LADOT Bike Blog just a week earlier.

The new bike liaisons are:

  • Central Traffic Division:  Sgt. Laszlo Sandor        30124@lapd.lacity.org    213-972-1853
  • Valley Traffic Division:    Sgt. Steve Egan               26860@lapd.lacity.org    818-644-8146
  • West Traffic Division:      Sgt. Christopher Kunz  26315@lapd.lacity.org    213-473-0215
  • South Traffic Division:     Sgt. Jon Aufdemberg   31630@lapd.lacity.org    213-421-2588

You’d be wise to save their contact information. And program those phone numbers into the phone you carry when you ride.

All four have received bike patrol training, and are experienced traffic collision investigators. So they understand bicycling, and get that bikes — and bike riders — respond differently from motor vehicles in a crash.

As Cdr. Blake stated, though, the bike liaisons aren’t there to solve every problem you may have on your bike. If you object to the way you were treated by an officer, or how an incident was handled, you’re better off contacting the Watch Commander the officer works under — and doing it as quickly as possible following the incident, while there’s still time to do something about it.

The role of the four bike liaisons was defined by the department as:

  • Meet regularly with community members to hear concerns
  • Pass along concerns of the bicycling community to officers
  • Clarify police methods to the bicycling community
  • Conflict resolution between cyclists and motorists
  • Safety programs, such as Bike to School
  • Traffic stings at bike lanes and Bike Plan streets
  • Report to Commander Blake on city-wide issues

Meanwhile, Officer Jeff Kievit, who worked with Sgt. Krumer as part of the bike liaison program, will continue to work with Cdr. Blake on larger bike policy issues for the central Office of Operations.

And the Bike Task Force — made up of Blake, Kievit and other officers, alonge with representatives of the cycling community ranging from the LACBC, Bikeside and the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee to Midnight Ridazz, Eastside Bike Club and Major Motion — will continue to meet on a quarterly basis for the foreseeable future.

If you know of any additional bicycling organizations that should be included, contact Officer Kievit at 36898@lapd.lacity.org.

There’s still a lot of work to be done. And large areas of disagreement, such as the department’s policy on handcuffing cyclists who don’t pose a threat, and the use of force to stop riders who don’t follow police instructions to stop and dismount.

But we’re getting there.

It’s sometimes astounding to look back and consider just how far the department has come in dealing with the bicycling community, and how much attitudes towards the police have changed in just a few short years.

Hopefully, this new decentralized plan will continue to take us in the right direction, and provide even better responsiveness and service to L.A. cyclists and the larger community.

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At Pro Walk Pro Bike, Activsts and Police Officers Talk About Working Together

On Tuesday, I was honored to be featured on a panel at the Pro Walk Pro Bike Conference entitled, “Crash Reduction through Advocacy, Enforcement, and Support Programs.” In addition to myself, I was joined by Peter Flucke and Rebecca Resman. Since we know most Streetsblog readers don’t get to go to conferences such as Pro Walk Pro Bike, Flucke, Resman and I thought we would do our best to bring our small part of this conference to you.

Our panel was led by Flucke, a former law enforcement officer, who introduced me and Resman. For anyone reading Streetsblog for the first time I’m the editor of the Los Angeles site and have been since March of 2008. Resman is with the Active Transportation Alliance (ATA), formerly the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation.

Flucke explained that while we were all coming from different directions, the thread that tied our presentations together was that we were all interested in improving the relationship between bicycle and pedestrian advocates and the police. I would be going first discussing what advocates can do to improve the relationship from their end. Next, Flucke discussed the training available to police departments, including a program he offers and another one by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Last, Resman introduced the Crash Support Program offered by ATA to victims of crashes.

Then Flucke handed over the microphone.

Streetsblog for PWPB – Police Relations (1)

Comparing New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco Streetsblog, I’m comfortable saying that in Los Angeles we have   the most positive relationship with our local police department. Obviously, a big part of that is that the local police are willing to work with us and give us straight answers to questions. As I noted in the panel, “Some of the things that worked with us and the LAPD won’t work with every department. It’s not as though our relationship with the County Sheriffs is near what it is with the LAPD.” Read more…

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What to Do When the LAPD Is Parked in a Bike Lane

Parked in the bike lane on August 16. Photo: Roger Rudick

Regardless of one’s feelings of the LAPD, it’s hard to argue that they’re not trying to become a more bike friendly law enforcement agency in recent years. From actively supporting group bike rides, to new internal policies and training regarding cyclists and cycling rights and even occasionally appearing at public hearings to testify in favor of smart transportation design the LAPD has been slowly becoming a force for bike safety.

The LAPD is a gigantic organization, with nearly 10,000 officers and 3,000 civilian staff. Reforming the entire agency won’t be easy or fast. For example, cyclists and pedestrians still complain about unfair treatment during crash investigations from time to time. Streetsblog has hardly been quiet when we believe an investigation isn’t being handled as it should as well.

And of course, there’s the problem of police cars parking in bike lanes. We’re not talking about when there’s an emergency, public safety is public safety. But, if the police don’t see a problem parking their cars in the bicycle lane for non-emergency situations, it’s unlikely that they will be handing out tickets to other scofflaws.

The good news is, the LAPD has begun to police itself.  Traffic officers have official letters warning illegally parked cars of repercussions that will come if LAPD vehicles are parked in lanes that are left on police vehicles illegally parked. While these memorandums are internal notices and do not carry penalties by themselves. Traffic officers have also discussed the issue with officers if they see a violation occurring. Anecdotally, the traffic officers say that response has been “positive.”

So what should you do if you see a police car parked in the bike lane? I asked Sgt. David Krumer, who was still acting as a liaison, what the best corse of action would be. He wrote:

Unless an officer is responding to an emergency or a call for service where officer safety requires unconventional parking, an officer is required to operate and park his/her vehicle in accordance with all laws.  They can not block a lane (bike lane) or otherwise park illegally  out of mere convenience.

I would recommend that if someone sees an officer parked in the bike lane to write down the number of the car (located on the upper left hand corner of the trunk and under the City seal on the doors), the date and the time of the observation.  A photo would be helpful as well.  Also on the trunk itself is a large number that corresponds to a division of assignment.

Read more…

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Stops and Searches Lead to an Unsafe Feeling on Eastside Streets

Screen grab from a google map shows LAPD patting down a young man.

(This is the second part in a series on how police actions can make people feel unsafe in their own communities.  After all, if one can’t be outside in their own space without fear of harassment, be it from the police or gangs, then how can a street be Livable?  Read part one, here. – DN)

If you spot Sammy Carrera riding his bike in Boyle Heights, you won’t think much of it. At 5’5, bald and wearing a baggy shirt and jeans, and an amiable smile hidden behind his glasses, Carrera can’t go down the street without running into a familiar face. Always one to stop for a moment to say ‘wad up,’ he’s know in the community as a member of Corazon del Pueblo and all around swell guy. Yet at the same time, he can’t go down the same street without fear of being stopped and questioned by LAPD officers from the Hollenbeck Division because of the same baldhead and baggy clothes that help him stand out.

On November 2nd, 2011 Carrera was making his way to the Annual Self Help Graphics Day of the Dead Celebrations. He never could imagine that he’d end up beat up and in jail. On that night, Los Angeles Police officers from Hollenbeck Division stopped to question him after he was mistaken for an unidentified gang-banger, whom officers were looking for that same night.

He cooperated with officers and their orders, but as Carrera asked and pressed as to why he was being stopped and searched, the officers got more and more aggressive. “Shut the fuck up, you don’t know who the fuck we are man, we’re the LAPD, when we tell you what to do, you do that shit our way,” are just some of the comments Carrera claims officers made during the stop.

Sammy after his stop.

Due to his profile, shaved head and baggy clothes, officers mistook him for the unidentified suspect they were looking for that night. What followed resulted with Carrera having a swollen eye and other injuries from the arresting officers. “Everything that they asked me to do, I complied, all while asking them, ‘what the fuck is going on?’ I was really shocked, especially at the way they came at me,” says Carrera.

The line between serving and harassing the community is one that officers have abused in the past, but is still commonplace in working class communities of color such as Boyle Heights. While police cause pause for people walking down the street, the violent history, and it’s current state in the community, still impact community members that are caught in the cross fire.

Protection from Harassment or Harassment from Over Protection    Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: The Spring Street Bypass Lane

Avid Streetsblog reader Simon Hartigan is tired of drivers driving down the Spring Street Green Buffered Bike Lanes. After catching drivers using the bike lane as bypass, he sent the video to Streetsblog. This raises the question of what should the city’s next step to protect the bike lane be? Is it time for grade separation, or would a little LAPD enforcement be the best effort?

A portion of Hartigan’s email that accompanied the above video is below. Added emphasis is mine:

Bike lane or bypass lane? I was filming before and caught many culprits using the Spring Street bike lane as a bypass lane. The average might be as high as 1 per minute or two. I even took a phone call before while on the lane just hanging out for a bit not blocking any bike traffic, and got yelled and screamed at by motorists for blocking their bypass lane, so the car drivers also feel entitled to it as their space. This happens every time there’s heavy traffic on Spring Street…