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LA Times Editorial: Councilmembers Should Not Be Tinkering with Bike Plan

Bicyclists on North Figueroa Street. Photo via Fig4All Flickr

Bicyclists on North Figueroa Street. Photo via Fig4All Flickr

I was excited to read yesterday’s pro-bike Los Angeles Times editorial entitled Some bumps in the road on the way to a bike-friendly L.A. The piece calls out Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo for stopping the approved North Figueroa bike lanes. The Times supports the “worthwhile objective” of  implementing bicycle infrastructure to make “the city safe and hospitable for cyclists… [to] reduce carbon emissions and overall congestion.”

Most critically, the Times highlights the regional importance of completing the city-wide bicycle network:

Unless some demonstrable miscalculation was made in the bike plan, or unless there’s a real safety issue, individual City Council members should not be tinkering with the plan, which was designed carefully with the whole city in mind. (italics added)

When the city approved its bike plan, it affirmed the importance of bicycling as a valid and worthwhile component of the city’s transportation systems. If individual councilmembers opted out of crosswalks, curb-cuts, bus stops, or, heaven forbid, freeway on-ramps, in individual districts, would the mayor and LADOT be so compliant? What if councilmembers start opting out of sewers or flood protection infrastructure? Should councilmembers be nixing regionally interconnected projects? I am glad that the Times doesn’t think so.

Unfortunately, even in this welcome editorial, I think that there are a few ways in which the Times misses the mark.  Read more…

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Cedillo Kills Approved North Figueroa Bike Lanes Citing “Safety” Reasons

#fig4all supporters decked in green to show their support for the bike lanes

#fig4all supporters decked in green to show their support for the North Figueroa Street bike lanes. Yesterday, Councilmember Gil Cedillo confirmed his opposition to the lanes.

As a candidate, Gil Cedillo pledged his support for the approved road diet bike lanes on North Figueroa Street. Once elected, Los Angeles City Councilmember Cedillo maintained that he was listening to community concerns, while he and his staff phone-banked and canvassed to rally opposition to the bike lanes. 

Cedillo hosted two disgraceful community meetings on the North Figueroa Street bike lanes, both of which turned out greater numbers of bike lane supporters than opponents.

Yesterday, Cedillo made his flip-flop official.

Councilmember Cedillo wrote that he will be “deferring the implementation of any bike lanes on Figueroa until [he] can ensure all residents who travel along this corridor will be safe.”

It is a topsy-turvy Orwellian statement justifying his opposition to safety improvement on the grounds of safety–a bit like a smoker saying that he won’t quit smoking until everyone around him is healthy.

The full text of Cedillo’s statement follows the jump.  Read more…

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Metro: We’re Not Opposed to North Figueroa Road Diet

Responding to coverage in Streetsblog of the May meeting held concerning the North Figueroa Road Diet, a spokesperson for Metro reached out to Streetsblog arguing that despite our characterization of Metro’s position as “opposed to the Road Diet,” Metro is not opposed to reducing mixed used traffic lanes to create a buffered bike lane.

Metro Line 81 buses on North Figueroa Street. Photo: ##https://www.flickr.com/photos/fig4all/8745176419/##Fig4All/Flickr##

Metro Line 81 buses on North Figueroa Street. Photo: Fig4All/Flickr

“It’s pretty clear Scott DID NOT speak against the Figueroa bike lanes as your article states,” writes Dave Sotero, a spokesperson with Metro. ”He merely said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that when the lanes come in, we’ll monitor and make changes to the schedule accordingly and do our best to ensure the buses stay on time.”

Watching the video again, I can see Sotero’s point. However, Metro’s Scott Page gave his presentation surrounded by public officials speaking against the road diet in a series of agency testimonials orchestrated by the office of Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo. Video of Page’s testimony is available here.

Read more…

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Showdown Becomes Slowdown: North Figueroa Street Project Drags On

Different options that community members have to chose for Figueroa

Different options that community members have to chose for Figueroa

In the latest installment in the fight for bike lanes on North Figueroa, North East Los Angeles communities found themselves at yet another community meeting organized by Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo at Franklin High School in Highland Park. These community meetings have been literally dragging on and it looks like they will continue to drag on for the foreseeable future until Cedillo finally decides on a course of action.

Yesterdays meeting only seemed to serve one purpose in this on going debate for bike lanes, to piss off everyone.

Trying to avoid a repeat of the shouting matches that took place last meeting in May, no public comment was allowed. Ground rules prohibited clapping (except clapping for Cedillo, his staff, and all the other folks Cedillo acknowledged,) and any kind of noise making from anyone or thing. Cedillo Deputy Sharon Lowe had to break this down for everyone, at length, longwindedly, repetitively, over and over, point by point, patronizingly, both verbatim and with commentary, and stressed the disruptions wouldn’t be tolerated.

#fig4all supporters standing in the back while LAPD office keeps a watchful eye Photo by Erick Huerta

#fig4all supporters standing in the back while LAPD office keeps a watchful eye. Photo by Erick Huerta

If anyone got outta hand, they would be asked to leave after receiving a single warning. The increased presence of the Los Angeles Police Department, which at one point during the meeting had to take the mic to remind everyone to simmer down, only added to tensions. Perhaps the councilman felt he needed the added LAPD presence because he was expecting everyone to get mad from his filibustering-style speech?

Rather than skipping the pleasantries, Cedillo spent the better part of an hour thanking and introducing his entire staff, random people in the audience who are his friends, and many more people and organizations not present. It was worse than a rapper-giving shout outs to all the homies after winning an award.

The majority of folks in attendance were reppin’ their colors, green for support of lanes and red/pink for anti-bike lanes. Streetsblog counted roughly 180 people in attendance: roughly 70 wearing prominent green, roughly 30 wearing prominent red/pink, and roughly 30 city staff.

With no meaningful information being presented or exchanged more than 70 minutes into the meeting, attendees (from both sides of the debate) were losing interest and began trickling out. They missed out on later stalling. 

Additionally, the meeting also featured a brief presentation from Mayor Garcetti’s transportation staffer Nat Gale. Gale announced that Garcetti’s Great Streets initiative includes North Figueroa Street between Avenues 50 and 60, where the proposed bike lanes were to be installed.  Read more…

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Previewing Tonight’s Fig4All Meeting: Cedillo Doubles Down, Activist Step Up

Rendering of the proposed buffered bike lane on North Figueroa Street. Image: Flying Pigeon L.A.

Rendering of the proposed buffered bike lane on North Figueroa Street northbound across from Nightingale Middle School Image: Flying Pigeon L.A. More renderings and diagrams at SBLA Lite Tumblr

In case you haven’t heard, tonight there will be another big public meeting regarding the future of planned “road diet” bike lanes for North Figueroa Street. The meeting takes place tonight at 6:00 p.m.* at Franklin High School, more information at this Facebook event. Supporters of safe streets and bicycle lane supporters are encouraged to arrive early and to wear green.

(*Corrected: The meeting time is 6 p.m. tonight not 6:30 p.m. as reported earlier. Make of it what you will, there is definitely a meeting tonight, but there’s no public documentation of it on any of Councilmember Cedillo’s website, facebook, etc.)

The host of the meeting is Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo, who expressed support for the bike lanes during the election, but, since, has promoted an alternative circuitous sharrow-ed bike route instead. Cedillo hosted this earlier meeting, where public safety representatives testified against the bike lanes, which would improve public safety. Then it turned out that the officials didn’t have any documentation to back their assertions.

Cedillo has been going all out to rally opposition to the bike lanes. Northeast Los Angeles residents have been receiving “robo-calls” recorded by Gil Cedillo. Cedillo staff have organized anti-bike lane petition signature-gathering door-to-door targeting North Figueroa area businesses. Activists, including Flying Pigeon and the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition, have countered these efforts by door-to-door business signature gathering in favor of the bike lanes. Road diet supporters have printed sashes, organized feeder rides, reached out to media, and are primed to pack the meeting.

What’s up with all this? Why is Cedillo so opposed to this road diet?  Read more…

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LAFD: No Evidence NELA Road Diet Would Impact Emergency Response Times

When a bike lane and road diet were approved by LADOT for 5.1 miles of N. Figueroa Street, from San Fernando Road to Colorado Boulevard, safe streets advocates were thrilled. The plan promised better pedestrian crossings, buffered bike lanes and reduced traffic speed. But once Councilmember Gil Cedillo replaced Ed Reyes in last year’s election, the plans were knocked off track.

In less than a year, Cedillo re-opened the public process, stacked a meeting with representatives of city departments who weren’t representing their departments and is now phone-banking and sending out volunteers door-to-door against the project. The next meeting is Thursday of this week at 6:00 p.m. at Franklin High School. Despite Cedillo’s efforts, he has yet to fill a room with more people opposed to the project than for it.

But after Fire Department Captain Ed Elguea of Station 44 appeared in uniform at the last public meeting to state that the road diet would negatively impact LAFD emergency response times, enough was enough.  City Bicycle Advisory Committee Chair Jeff Jacoberger demanded to know on what basis Elguea made this claim in a public records request. The response is embedded above. The LAFD has undertaken no study that would back Elguea’s claim.

In fact, the only study that’s ever been done on the impact the diet would have on response times was done as part of the environmental review of the project. The City’s CEQA analysis included an “Initial Study” prepared by City Planning states:

The implementation of the proposed projects would not impede emergency access. Bicyclists would follow the same protocol as vehicles in surrendering the right of way to emergency vehicles. The design of all bikeway facilities will be governed by the Technical Design Handbook and applicable federal, state and local guidelines.

The proposed projects would comply with all City of Los Angeles fire department requirements. Less than significant impacts to emergency access are anticipated.

(Initial Study, page 25 ) Read more…

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North Figueroa Bike Lanes: Public Safety Reps Against Public Safety Project

Los Angeles Police Department Captain Jeff Bert testifies against North Figueroa bicycle lanes at Councilmember Cedillo's Bike Lane Community Meeting on May 8, 2014

Los Angeles Police Department Captain Jeff Bert testifies against North Figueroa bicycle lanes at Councilmember Cedillo’s Bike Lane Community Meeting on May 8, 2014. photo vis Fig For All Flickr

At last week’s North Figueroa Street bike lane meeting there was a contentious debate. Cyclists are urging installation of road diet bike lanes to improve safety for all. Bike lanes were approved in the city’s 2010 Bike Plan; L.A.’s Transportation Department (LADOT) studied the lanes extensively, and appeared to be on the verge of installing them. Then a new L.A. City Councilmember was elected.

Though Councilmember Gil Cedillo expressed verbal support for the lanes during his election campaign, he subsequently stepped away from that commitment and is nixing the bike lanes and instead proposing to install sharrows on a circuitous bike route that roughly parallels some portions of North Figueroa.  

Councilmember Cedillo summarized the meeting in his email newsletter, stating:

On Thursday over 350 residents attended a spirited community meeting hosted by Councilmember Cedillo at Nightingale Middle School in Cypress Park to hear input on LADOT’s proposed bike lanes for North Figueroa Street (from Avenue 22 to Avenue 52, in Cypress Park, Sycamore Grove and a portion of Highland Park). The proposal would remove one of two southbound traffic lanes (“a road diet”) on North Figueroa Street.

Councilmember Cedillo heard thoughtful input from stakeholders. Testimony was also provided by Captain Ed Elguea, LA Fire Department Fire Station 44, Captain Jeff Bert, LAPD Northeast Station, Sergeant Luciano Meza, LADOT Traffic and R. Scott Page, LA Metro Operations Planning Manager, Service Planning. These Los Angeles City Department representatives expressed concerns of increased traffic congestion if the southbound traffic lane is removed as proposed by LADOT.

While it’s common for bicycle, and other transportation, facilities to be subject to political pressures, cyclists were disturbed that representatives from the city’s police (LAPD) and fire departments (LAFD) expressed opposition to the bike lane project. 

Here’s an example of the public safety testimony, which has been posted on YouTube: LAFD, LAPD. Los Angeles Fire Department Captain Elguea stated:

From a professional opinion, this [North Figueroa bike lane project] will slow down our response time.

City public safety officers spoke in opposition to a public safety project.

What’s the evidence? Do bike lanes actually pose a threat to public safety? Do road diets threaten public safety?

Thanks to L.A. City Bicycle Advisory Committee chair Jeff Jacobberger for tracking down relevant city documents. See the full text of Jacobberger’s communication to Cedillo posted here

LADOT studied the North Figueroa bike lanes extensively, and concluded that they “would not impede emergency access.” As part of its Environmental Impact Report (EIR) documentation, LADOT studied the project and stated:

The implementation of the proposed projects would not impede emergency access. Bicyclists would follow the same protocol as vehicles in surrendering the right of way to emergency vehicles. The design of all bikeway facilities will be governed by the Technical Design Handbook and applicable federal, state and local guidelines. The proposed projects would comply with all City of Los Angeles fire department requirements. Less than significant impacts to emergency access are anticipated.” (Initial Study [PDF], page 25.) [emphasis added by Jacobberger]

LADOT spent time and money analyzing how North Figueroa bike lanes could impact emergency response. During that process, LAPD and LAFD were notified, and neither LAPD nor LAFD expressed any official concerns. The final approved LADOT study documents concluded that there weren’t any significant adverse impacts.

There are numerous examples from elsewhere, too.  Read more…

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The Other Lesson of Our #LA2050 Listens Events. We Need to Get Younger People More Involved.

Scarlet models her favorite childhood memory, which inspired her complete street view program for North Figueroa.

Scarlet models her favorite childhood memory, which inspired her complete street view program for North Figueroa.

Wider sidewalks, bike paths, fewer car lanes, park space.

These were some of the ideas that Scarlet, a participant in James Rojas’ interactive workshop focused on thinking of a new design for North Figueroa Street, presented to the group. The eight-year-old was the team leader for one of two tables set up for the workshop, which happened to include me and local bike-celebrity, Josef Bray-Ali. By the time we were done, we had designed a street for 2050 that was much smaller than the current five-lane mini-freeway that exists today.

At the same time advocates and residents were engaging with Rojas and Scarlet, Councilmember Gil Cedillo was working away at an alternative to the LADOT’s previously-approved proposal to both put North Figueroa on a road diet and add more road diets. Cedillo’s plan calls for Sharrows to be placed on side streets and minor improvements to the crosswalk design on North Figueroa.

The contrast between what we’ll call the Cedillo Plan and the Scarlet Plan couldn’t be more stark.

Students at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights placed as much space on the side of the traffic lanes as in the traffic lanes on Soto Street.

Students at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights placed as much space on the side of the traffic lanes as in the traffic lanes on Soto Street.

This is an ongoing theme of Rojas’ workshops when the participants are high-school aged or younger. They want to see a transportation network that provides safe and attractive options for all road users. When politicians think of transportation planning, too often they still think of how to best move the most cars as quickly as possible.

The April 26 “Fig4All Interactive Planning Workshop” was the last of ten workshops conducted by the Southern California Streets Initiative and Place It! throughout the month. The other events, held at Roosevelt High School and in Pacoima with super-group Pacoima Beautiful, were designed to help the Goldhirsh Foundation get feedback for on its Goals for #LA2050.

These goals include:

  • LA is the Best Place to Learn
  • LA is the Best Place to Create
  • LA is the Best Place to Play
  • LA is the Best Place to Connect
  • LA is the Healthiest Place to Live

There was a lot of enthusiasm from all participants for a plan that includes placing more emphasis on after-school programs, clean air, safer streets, more open space, and more transportation options. The workshops focused on the street designs, so we received the most feedback related to complete streets, open space and public safety.

Not one person of any age argued that Los Angeles needed more space for cars, wider streets, or faster car commute times. Not. One.

Of course, these are near-universal truths. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who is not a member of the Los Angeles City Council who thinks we need fewer transit options, and even then it’s hard to imagine someone opposing after-school programs.

So, the lesson learned wasn’t just that young people want better, safer, streets that support the environment, mobility, and having places to come together…but that there’s a strong disconnect between young people and these goals and some of our decision makers.

In Pacoima, the workshops were open to anyone attending the Bradley Street Plaza festival...but it was younger attendees that  mostly took part.

In Pacoima, the workshops were open to anyone attending the Bradley Street Plaza festival…but it was younger attendees that mostly took part.

I’m not saying that we need to hand over planning decisions to our children, but there’s clearly a major gap between what future generations want and what we’re planning to leave them. Building the city of the future necessitates inclusion of the voices of today’s younger residents, tomorrow’s city dwellers.

How to best do that is the million dollar question.

In Boyle Heights, City Planning’s David Somers attended a second set of workshops on April 25. After the workshop, Somers and teacher Gene Dean discussed the possibility of having both he and two of his students participate in the city-sponsored roundtable regarding the future of Soto Street. Sahra Sulaiman will have more on the second set of workshops later this week.

If you can think of a better plan, leave it in the comments section.

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Fight for Figueroa Bike Lanes Heats Up at Community Meeting

Crowd at Nightingale Middle School waiting for meeting to start. Photo by Nathan Solis

Crowd at Bike Lane Community Meeting at Nightingale Middle School. Photo by Nathan Solis

If there’s one thing that was made clear from yesterday’s community meeting for the proposed bike lanes on North Figueroa, it’s that Councilman Gil Cedillo is going to continue dragging his feet on whether or not the Highland Park community is going to get bike lanes.

Last night’s meeting at Nightingale Middle School, which was moved to the auditorium from the cafeteria because of capacity issues, had vocal supporters from both sides of the issue. At one point, it turned into a back-and-forth match between clapping and booing each speaker, regardless of their points of view.

The agenda for the meeting was simple enough: Cedillo and his staff welcomed the crowd and talked about the purpose of the meeting (to gather community comments), the Department of Transportation gave a presentation on the bike lane proposal that went from having bike lanes on a major boulevard, as originally planned, to instead having bike sharrows on side streets.

The presentation was to be followed by public comments and an explanation of the project’s next steps. Except those next steps never came. The meeting ended with no mention of what is to come. Instead, Cedillo gave everyone a lecture on how, in his 40 years of being a politician, arguing back and forth never got anyone anywhere…which raises questions about Cedillo’s decision to re-open a contentious public process on already-approved bicycle infrastructure.

If the Councilmember was hoping his “compromise plan” of placing Sharrows on different streets surrounding the Figueroa Corridor instead of traffic calming and bike lanes on the corridor was going to mollify the proponents of safe streets, he was disappointed. Perhaps it was because the compromise plan was actually the position put forward by the opponents of slowing down traffic or creating corridors that are safe for all road users during the last round of community outreach last year. Read more…

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While Advocates Meet to Plan for North Figueroa 2050, Local Politics Are Muddy on #Fig4All 2014

Scarlet demonstrates her favorite childhood memory. Photo: Damien Newton

Scarlet demonstrates her favorite childhood memory. Photo: Damien Newton

It’s hard to say what North Figueroa Street will actually look like in 2050, but participants in James Rojas’ latest interactive model workshop shared their ideas on what the future might hold. Unlike so many events that focus on future-planning, many of the participants in this event were children. One of the two tables final visions was dictated by Scarlet, an eight-year-old who lives in the area.

It’s nice to have a visioning process led by the people who would actually be alive when the vision could come to reality.

Held last Saturday at Greayer’s Oak Park in North East Los Angeles, across the street from the Bike Oven, Rojas lead folks on “a journey of self discovery” to envision a #fig4all.  The workshop was sponsored by Streetsblog L.A. as part of the Goldhirsh Foundation’s #LA2050 Listens series that took place around the city through out April.

The simplicity and accessibility of Rojas’ “Place it!” workshops help him tap into an individual’s creativity, but to also get them to rethink our interaction with the space around us. One of the methods he uses is asking participants to recreate a favorite or memorable childhood memory, which he then follows up with a group build. Take my chosen memory for example; I decided to focus on the memories of all of the animals I’ve had growing up. It ended looking like a bunch of plastic animals in a circle, but I took those memories and decided to add a dog park to the group build.

Of course there were other memories shared at the workshop.  Andy Moreno  remembered how she would take the bottom of pizza boxes and used them as a checkerboard.  Josef Bray-Ali, Flying Pigeon shop owner, shared his memory of wiping out while surfing and almost “breaking his neck.”

After everyone shared their childhood memory, Rojas split us into two smaller groups and let us have a go at re-imagining imagining Figueroa. For the most part, people’s ideas focused on ways to use the space now given over to cars for more people-oriented uses. They included the addition of more greenery, public parks, windmills or even a bio-swale that would run into the Arroyo Seco. Read more…