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Spend the Sunday of Your Holiday Weekend at the Bicycle Commuter Festival

It’s been nearly four years since the “Streets Summit” called together many of the city and county’s leading bicycling advocates to discuss advocacy, safety, and how the Livable Streets Community can move forward. While the movement has made great strides in this time, I miss the camaraderie and fun an event similar to the 2010 Street Summit and 2009 Bike Summit created.

BCIEnter the “Bicycle Commuter Festival.”

On February 16, the Bicycle Culture Institute (a relatively new non-profit helmed by Nona Varnado) and AIDS/Lifecycle are holding the first Bicycle Commuter Festival to “entertain, educate, connect and inspire bicycle commuting in Los Angeles.” You can sign up for the festival, here. A full schedule is available at the end of the post.

“The best way to inspire new ideas, confidence and loyalty is through a great time! No one wants to go to a conference, but everyone wants to go to a killer festival,” exclaims Varnado.

“By creating a festival environment and making learning fun, we’ll be able to cross boundaries that traditional sports, advocacy and promotion can’t. Our workshops are like parties with an open festival environment of bicycle advocacy, culture and brands; rivaling the greatest lifestyle fairs happening in Europe or other major cities.”

The festival includes both indoor and outdoor workshops, and two open air festival areas. Festival areas encourage talking directly with people representing local bike groups: from CicLAvia and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition to L.A. Bike Trains and SoCal Cross; cycling brands BERN, Abus and Lezyne; local favorite commuter bike shops Orange 20, Flying Pigeon and many more.  Oh, and Streetsblog will be there too. Read more…


Council Member Tom LaBonge Responds to Streetsblog’s Bike Licensing Story

Yesterday, Council Member Tom LaBonge called to follow-up on our bicycle licensing story from Monday.

Labonge took issue with a couple of parts of the story, both that we reached out for comment several times (it seems to be a communications issue between me and their office team) and that outreach for the proposal is sub-par. It’s not sub-par the Council Member argues, it just hasn’t happened yet.

Councilman LaBonge poses with cyclists before his office's "Positively 4th Street" bike ride in 2008. Photo: Tom

The Council Member stated:

The one key that I wanted to express to you is that government runs on statistics.

You can say you don’t want a license, Michelle Mowery doesn’t want a license, DOT doesn’t want a license.But unless there are numbers…when we have numbers it always backs you up.

In issues of theft and recovery, in issues of injury and accident, especially solo riders having some way to contact family, it (licenses) can be helpful.

We always work with community organizations. When we introduce motions at Council we don’t just rush it through, we have outreach.

There’s one comment…”We’re honestly just puzzled by this proposal, which was resurrected with zero input from bicyclists,” writes Eric Bruins from the county coalition.

The county coalition has a place in every discussion that’s taking place on bicycles right now and they will be discussed with.

We thank the Council Member for reaching out to us, and we’ll be sure to speak with him if and when this proposal moves forward.


Let’s Get Ready to License, Council Members Want to Re-Examine City’s Bike License Program

KIDD 240/Flickr via marino at Midnight Ridazz

Back in 2009, a discussion of the city’s bicycle licensing program was at the core of any Livable Streets discussion. Two members of the Los Angeles City Council have introduced a motion to bring that discussion, if not the licenses themselves, back.

At the time, the LAPD had two police stations in the entire city that offered licensing, which is really more of a registration for the bicycle than any sort of license that requires skill or knowledge of traffic laws, but was still citing bicycle riders for not having license stickers on their bicycles. The fines were outrageous, sometimes higher than the cost of the bicycle being cited, and were in violation of a state law that allows cities to run bicycle licensing programs.

After a series of public hearings held by the City Council Transportation Committee, initially chaired by Wendy Greuel but later by Bill Rosendahl, the LAPD recommended the suspension of the program. The City Council complied, although there were still the occasional ticket issued by clueless officers.

The motion, presented by Council Member Tom LaBonge and co-sponsored seconded (see comment by Tony Arranaga for clarification of the difference between “c0-sponsor” and “second”) by Mitch O’Farrell, talks about licensing as a needed way for the city to support cycling. Licensing will allow the city to better track the number of bicycles owned by residents, provide a way for the LAPD to track stolen bicycles, and identify the rider after the most serious of crashes.

California caps both the fine that cities can collect for unlicensed bicycles in a mandatory program and the amount that a city can charge for a license. The latter charge is $4, which means that it would be nigh impossible for a city to make money on such a program.

Despite the supportive language in the proposal, and that it only calls for a discussion on how to best bring a licensing program back, most bicycling advocates are not supporters. The proposal is similar to one made by Ed Reyes in 2009 which was tabled indefinitely. The state also only allows cities to license and enforce the licensing of bicycles of residents. This means that even if I wanted to, I couldn’t get my bicycle licensed in Santa Monica, nor could LAPD ticket a Santa Monica resident riding an unlicensed bicycle.

“We’re honestly just puzzled by this proposal, which was resurrected with zero input from bicyclists,” writes Eric Bruins from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. “All of the supposed aims of the program can be accomplished more efficiently and effectively by other means.  The internet has enabled national registries to fight bike theft and personal identification is more reliable than a tag on a bicycle that may or may not belong to the rider.”

The most puzzling part of the proposal is that a licensing program would allow the city to track how many bicycles are owned by city residents. Given the dismal state of the program in the years preceding 2009, and the four years since where the program was completely dead, it’s hard to imagine how such a program would register the literally millions of unlicensed bicycles in the city. Bruins has a different idea for how the city could spend its resources. Read more…


Last Month’s Headlines

10_16_09_alarcon.JPGCouncilman Alarcon with the Family of Judy Ramos, killed on July 28 while crossing the street.

While I was on paternity leave there were a lot of stories that I would have covered if I had been writing.   I didn't want to let them pass without any commentary or coverage beyond a sentence in Today's Headlines.  H


After half a year of debate, numerous reports from Metro's new CEO staff begging them not to continue the contract and one of the most ethically challenged public relations campaigns I've ever seen; the Metro Board of Directors decided to extend their exclusive contract with Italian Rail Car manufacturer AnsaldoBreda.  You may remember that the company "promised" to build a rail car manufacturing plant in Greater Los Angeles if they got the contract, a fact that couldn't legally be considered by the Metro Board.

However, every month that went by since the debate erupted last March brought more reasons to not trust the rail car company.  Board Members Zev Yaroslavsky, the Westside's representative to the County Board of Supervisors, and Santa Monica Council Member Pam O'Connor were among the rail car manufacturer's harshest critics, but that wasn't enough to stop Mayor Villaraigosa and his allies from pushing the contract extension through.

At least Villaraigosa, who bent over backwards to keep his union supporters happy, didn't insult our intelligence by pretending the decision was made in the best interest of Metro or its riders.  One day after they extended the contract, Villaraigosa held a press conference announcing all the new jobs coming to L.A. with the new factory.

For our full coverage of the AnsaldoBreda controversy, click here.  Note that the coverage started neutral and became more negative as time went on.

Alarcón, City Council Offer Reward for Information on Deadly Hit and Run.

Earlier this week, Councilman Richard Alarcón succeeded in getting the City Council to allocate $50,000 dollars for any information on the deadly Hit-and-Run that killed Judy Ramos on July 28.  In a city where too often there seems to be a lack of energy on finding Hit-and-Run drivers, this is an encouraging sign of elected officials and the LAPD taking this instance seriously.  What would be more encouraging would be harsher fines for Hit-and-Run Drivers.  Under current law, there are harsher fines for drunk driving than hit-and-run driving.  This encourages murderous drivers to flee the scene of the crime.

For more information on the crash and how to inform the LAPD, visit this article in the Daily News.

OCTA Wants Ideas on How to Improve Transportation

h/t to Spokker and Transit Rider OC

The Orange County Transportation Authority has an online survey to solicit feedback from residents on how to improve transportation behind the Orange Curtain.  Naturally, the majority of the questions are about freeways and capacity enhancement, but at least this time they mention buses several times.  You can take the survey here.

Mel Gibson Gets DUI Expunged

I was shocked to find out that Mel Gibson was able to get his 2006 DUI Conviction expunged from his record; but I was even more outraged to read that such an act is routine in California.  The Times reports:

As a first-time drunk-driving offender, Gibson was eligible to have the conviction removed from his record after completing the terms of his probation. The expunging request and procedure is routine and took place before Judge Lawrence J. Mira during a 90-second hearing.

I guess it's a good thing that you have to drunkenly hit people with your car twice before hurting them or else this law would make no sense.

A New Bike License Controversy Brewing in Santa Monica?

We have yet to hear a report for someone getting ticketed, but our friends the Santa Monica Police Department are at it again.  Blogger Gary Kavanaugh noted that the SMPD is flyering about the need to have your bike licensed before you can ride in Santa Monica.  Long-time readers may remember that the LAPD was taken to task for abusing a state law that allows police departments to create licensing programs to help cyclists recover stolen bicycles.  The LAPD had to back off after it came to light they were handing out illegally high fines and repeatedly running out of licenses when cyclists asked for them.

Is Santa Monica going to copy one of LAPD's less than inspiring attempts at law enforcement?  The city has somewhat of a Jekyll and Hyde reputation with cyclists.  On one hand, the city has more and better bike facilities per capita than any city in the county save Long Beach.  On the other, the SMPD are known to harass group rides to the point of comically over-policing Santa Monica Critical Mass and of course became national laughing stocks for taking a principled stand against people who exercise in public spaces.

Controversial Bike Lane Stays in Santa Clarita

Way back in August we discussed the angry reaction of some in Santa Clarita to new bike lanes on Decoro Avenue.  The City Council eventually reached a compromise after lengthy debate.  The bike lanes stayed and the road was re-striped to increase automobile capacity.  Hooray?

More TAP Problems

On the Metro Rider discussion forums, writer J Marino writes about how he was falsely accused of trying to evade TAP fares because the TAP readers were broken:


Fare officers started checking tickets about 7 stops in. They check my TAP card and tell me that it hasn't been used since June, 2009! This is clearly not true, but I have no way to prove it. Officers march me through the train like a criminal and escort me off the train at Imperial station. This is in Compton. I will probably catch hell for this, but I should mention that I am a 5'1'', 100-pound girl. And I'm stranded, alone, in Compton. Awesome. I also hold in my hand a citation that will cost me several hundred dollars to correct.

I bought another day pass (paper this time, no way will I trust the TAP card again), and headed right back home. As soon as I could, I called the number on the TAP card and spoke to a wonderful customer service agent, Rita, who verified that I had indeed bought and used a day pass through TAP that morning. She had me send copies of my citation, bank statement showing the $5 deducted for the fare, and ID to TAP customer service, stating that she would have the citation voided. Super!

When reader Erik Griswold wrote to Cubic and Metro about the issue he was told that monthly pass holders can avoid these kinds of problems by carrying their receipt with them.  Uhm, wasn't the point of TAP cards that Metro would move to paperless ticketing?  Now we're supposed to carry around a paper receipt?  I think I'll stick to day passes, thanks all the same.

It's no wonder that Foothill Transit announced they were opting out of the TAP system.

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Santa Monicans React to Controversy Over Narrowed Ocean Park Blvd.

Alert Reader Johnathon Weiss pointed me to a story in the Santa Monica Daily Press, and posted on the Times' LA Now Blog, about the impact the narrowing of Ocean Park Boulevard on traffic and safety in Santa Monica. In 2007, after a series of crashes involving cars and pedestrians, the city of Santa Monica decided to narrow the four lane.  The Daily Press explains:

Responding to concerns over safety on a 12-block stretch of Ocean Park Boulevard after several pedestrians were struck over the past few years, City Hall launched a pilot project in which they condensed the busy corridor from Lincoln to Cloverfield boulevards from two lanes in each direction to one, hoping to calm the speed of traffic and eliminate some of the dangers posed in the previous configuration.

Nearly two years and several community workshops later, the project is still in its pilot phase, partly the result of an understaffed Transportation Management Division that lost two planners whose positions have yet to be filled. 

The Daily Press takes a neutral view on the controversy between motorists who complain about the traffic congestion and residents who view the 2007 narrowing of Ocean Park as a needed safety improvement.  If you read the article you'll see a rather dispassionate article examining both sides of the issue.  Given that, you might expect a rather even-handed evaluation from the Times.  You'd be wrong.


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Cycling in National Cemetery: Yea or Nay?

Local D.C. issues aren't the stock in trade of Streetsblog Capitol Hill, but the Washington Post lately has been refereeing a debate that resonates on the national level: Is Arlington National Cemetery inhospitable to cyclists?

cemetery.jpgA Marine pedals through D.C.'s Congressional Cemetery. (Photo: M.V. Jantzen via Flickr)

The Post ran a letter to the editor on Friday that suggested as much, relaying the tale of a local resident named David Jordan who was prevented from pedaling to the military cemetery to observe Memorial Day. Jordan suggested that the cemetery's private security guards were discriminating against cyclists:

Of all the places in Washington, where the words "freedom" and "liberty" are uttered frequently, it seems especially sad and ironic that anyone seeking to pay his respects would be denied the opportunity simply because he wasn't in a car.

Today, the newspaper ran two letters responding to Jordan (viewable here and here). Both were sent by locals with family members interred at Arlington, and both expressed concern about bikers overrunning the facility if it were opened to them. One letter-writer worried that cyclists could turn the cemetery into "an exercise track".

As it happens, neither cars nor bikes are allowed to move freely through the grounds at Arlington. M.V. Jantzen A local blogger at WashCycle contacted the cemetery and found that cars and bikes are treated equitably when it comes to access issues.

The back-and-forth over cycling at Arlington appears minor on its face. But it could prove emblematic as lawmakers decide how to tackle bike and pedestrian access in the upcoming federal transportation measure.

With "complete streets" legislation poised for inclusion in that bill, it's important to re-frame the issue so cyclists and non-cyclists can feel like allies, not opponents. (Conservatives who blast bike initiatives as pork-barrel spending -- well, they can stay opponents.)
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Breaking News: Bike License Repeal on City Council Agenda Tomorrow

Via the Bike Advisory Committee’s Glenn Bailey, the long awaited final repeal of Los Angeles’ Bicycle Licensing Law is on tomorrow’s City Council Agenda.  The meeting begins at 10:00 A.M. at City Hall.

For your information, the long-awaited repeal of the City’s bicycle license ordinance is scheduled before the Los Angeles City Council tomorrow Tuesday, June 2, 10:00 a.m. as agenda item number 5:

ITEM NO. (5) – Motion Required
08-2944 COMMUNICATION FROM THE CITY ATTORNEY and ORDINANCE FIRST CONSIDERATION relative to repealing Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) Section 26.01 regarding the City’s bicycle licensing program. Recommendation for Council action, SUBJECT TO THE APPROVAL OF THE MAYOR: PRESENT and ADOPT the accompanying ORDINANCE repealing LAMC Section 26.01 regarding the City’s bicycle licensing program. Fiscal Impact Statement: None submitted by the City Attorney. Neither the City Administrative Officer nor the Chief Legislative Analyst has completed a financial analysis of this report. Community Impact Statement: None submitted. (Transportation Committee waived consideration of the above matter)

A public hearing will be held.


City Council Celebrates Bike to Work with Bike-Themed Meeting

5_8_09_cyclists.jpgCyclists pack last week's City Council Meeting in Van Nuys after "Storming the Bastille."  Photo: Dr. Alex Thompson/Flickr

The City Clerk's office just emailed out copies of next week's City Council Transportation Committee Agenda.  When the Committee meets next Wednesday at 2:00 P.M. it will be celebrating Bike to Work week with an agenda full of bike items.

As has been the case at every one of these meetings, one of the main topics for discussion will be bike licenses.  This time, the final repeal of the city's bike license program will be debated.  However, just getting rid of the program isn't going to be the end of the story, there's also a motion by Ed Reyes an the agenda that simply reads:

I MOVE that the Police Department, the Department of Transportation and the Planning Department be directed to report with recommendations for establishing a Bicycle Safety and Licensing Program in the City of Los Angeles.

Also on the agenda is the maintenance of the Orange Line Bike Path, better leveraging federal funds for bike safety projects, a motion that would set aside some city funds from Metro for future bicycle and pedestrian programs, and one transit motion about examining the potential public-private partnerships for LADOT transit programs such as DASH and Commuter Express.

Sadly, there is no mention of the nine-months-overdue Bicycle Master Plan.


Who Watches the Watchmen?: LAPD Still Ticketing for No Bike License

3_23_09_thompson.jpgImage via Alex Thompson at WestSide BikeSIDE!

This Saturday, Crank Mob, possibly the largest of Los Angeles' group bike rides, had a more than interesting evening even by Crank Mob standards.  The Mob experienced a constant police presence including a road block and the detainment of several cyclists at the Ralph's at 3rd and La Brea.

After the police were summoned, perhaps because of a shoplifting incident which saw riders catch and turn in the alleged thief; there are many many reports that the police started harassing random cyclists in an attempt to control the mob.  Apparently, they didn't succeed as later in the evening the Hollywood District of the LAPD referred to them as a "herd of wild buffalo."

A big part of the LAPD's control strategy was similar to those seen across the country.  Grab a small group of cyclists and write up bogus citations.  Unable to effectively arrest those that were breaking the law, after all the Hollywood District didn't issue citations to the "herd of wild buffalo," the LAPD goes for a "guilt by association" strategy that leads to handcuffing and searching a pedestrian for crossing against a flashing red hand and more distressingly ticketing for a violation of LAMC 26.01 b "NO (sic) licence (sic) on Bike (sic)."  Handcuffing someone for not having a bike license?  For crossing the street against a flashing red hand?  What country am I living in?

What's really weird is I would have sworn that I read a report by LAPD Police Chief William Bratton that called for the ending of the program.  Even worse, I then remember the City Council approving Bratton's plan and suspending the city's program.  It's a good thing I write these things down, or I would assume I were going crazy.  Is the City Council just an advisory group these days?

No matter one's feelings on group rides, one should be able to agree that everyone deserves equal protection under the law.  On Saturday night, the LAPD didn't just thumb its nose at the LAPD Police Chief, and the City Council...they also took the opportunity to thumb their nose at the Constitution.


Breaking News: LAPD Recommends Discontinuing Bike License Program

In a report to the City Council, Chief William Bratton of the LAPD recommends to the City Council the discontinuation of the wildly unpopular bicycle licensing programming and announces that the LAPD will no longer enforce bicycle licensing unless the Los Angeles City Council. That the Council would push for the implementation of this program seems unlikely as two councilmembers basically yelled at an LAPD representative to kill the program when the LAPD was still defending it.  The City Council Transportation Committee will hear the LAPD's reccomendations next Wednesday.

However, just to make sure there is no confusion as to the LAPD's intent, here is the exact wording from the report:

I recommend that we follow other large municipalities and discontinue our bicycle licensing program. Additionally, I have directed that Emergency Operations Division develop correspondence implementing an immediate moratorium on the enforcement of Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) section 26.01 requiring that all bicycles within the City be licensed. It is important to note that per Information and Communications Services Bureau, they were only able to identify five such citations issued by Department personnel. If this recommendation is approved, the Department will move forward with eliminating the City's bicycle licensing requirement (LAMC section 26.01).

Reaction to this afternoon's news has been quick as the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition has already thanked and congratulated everyone involved in getting this law repealed.  Executive Director Jennifer Klausner wrote:

LACBC was very pleased to see the correspondence from LAPD today and we thank all the agencies and individuals involved in conducting the research that lead to this decision.

Over at Midnight Ridazz they are slightly more succinct.  A poster going by i_junes responds to the news by simply posting:


If you're new to Streetsblog and want to read why everyone is so happy, read on after the jump: