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#DamienTalksSGV 5 – Gold Line Opening and Women on Wheels

Today, #DamienTalks to Habib Balian, the CEO of the Gold Line Foothills Construction Authority and Amy Wong with Women on Wheels a project of Bike SGV.

Damien Talks SGV logoThis weekend, the long-awaited extension of the Gold Line to the San Gabriel Valley Foothills will finally open. Balian discusses the advocacy and work that led to the extension and the excitement that the line will be open soon. It is likely that any sales tax on the fall ballot will include another extension of the Gold Line, so Balian and his team are preparing in the eventuality that funding becomes available in 2017 for an extension all the way to Montclair.

Our second segment features an interview with Amy Wong of Women on Wheels, a project program of Bike SGV (WoW.) WoW works to create safe spaces and events for female bicycle riders to meet, have fun, and improve their bicycle skills. Wow has a couple of events coming up, a social on Sunday, March 13, and the LA to SGV: Sister Cities Ride & Mechanics Class with the Ovarian Psycos on Saturday, March 19.

#DamienTalks is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of Downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit foothilltransit.org. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

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“Ovaries so Big…” that They’ve Got Their Own Documentary

Ovas Taryn Randle and Maryann Aguirre speak with the crew working on the documentary about the group. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Ovas Taryn Randle and Maryann Aguirre speak with the crew working on the documentary about the group. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The Ovarian Psyco-Cycles have been a game-changer in the Los Angeles cycling landscape. And now, with a documentary featuring the stories of three of their members set to debut at South by Southwest (SXSW) this year, they are essentially announcing that they are here to stay. Y con ganas.*

The Ovas first burst into the cycling community’s consciousness in 2012, when former Streetsblog writer Kris Fortin wrote a two-part introduction to a group of bad-ass womyn of color with “ovaries so big, [they] don’t need no fucking balls.” (Part two is here)

Fortin’s exploration of the life challenges that had brought the womyn together and the sisterhood that grew from cycling and reclaiming the streets as a group elicited cheers from readers here and around the country.

Then the Ovas decided to hold a “Clitoral Mass” bike ride to celebrate their two-year anniversary and some folks lost their damn minds.

While the idea of carving out space for womyn and womyn-identified folks — particularly those of color — who don’t feel their experiences are validated or welcome in other cycling spaces is not terribly controversial right now, conversations around equity, inclusion, and the mobility of those on the margins had yet to really take root in the livable streets movement. So, the idea of a female (identified)-centric ride caused a bit of a stir.

The Ovas were accused of exclusion by some and of misandry by a (thankfully) small minority of disgruntled men. Some of the critics threatened to show up and crash the ride. A few even took it upon themselves to organize a counter-balancing ride for “Brovarian Psychos,” where those poor and oppressed (and grammatically-challenged) souls seeking to promote “man-ism, jism, mens’ rights, reform of family court, selective service, anti-male stereotypes, to counter-manginas and white knights, and restore balance to the force” could finally feel supported.

Despite all the foolishness, the Ovas’ first event went off peacefully. And instead of the world ending, the ride became something of an institution — a day of sisterhood and solidarity around which riders from around the Southland and beyond were willing to adjust their summer schedules so they could be sure to be in town. It even inspired a national movement and, in 2013, saw sister rides spring up in Oakland, Toronto, New York City, Atlanta, and Chicago. Last year’s ride was no different. Hundreds — many of them new to cycling — showed up in the heat to spend a day exploring the city, sharing meals, dancing at pit stops, and engaging in conversations around social justice.

Riders circle up for the 2015 Clitoral Mass event. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Riders circle up for the 2015 Clitoral Mass event. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The Ovas’ visibility has helped change stereotypes about who bikes and complicated the conversation around what cycling and, more broadly, accessing the public space, means to different communities. Read more…

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Army Corps, LADOT Announce Circuitous Detour For LA River Bikeway Closure

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers installing flood barrier along L.A. River. Image via USACE

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers installing flood barrier along L.A. River. Image via USACE

Due to this year’s El Niño storms, the federal Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is clearing vegetation (arguably illegally according to a similar regional water board lawsuit) in the most natural areas of the L.A. River. USACE is also adding temporary flood barriers along the river in the middle of the central stretch of L.A. River bike path. The flood barriers have closed the river bike path between the 134 Freeway and Fletcher Drive. The closures apply not just to bicycling, but also to the equestrian crossing from Atwater Village to Griffith Park.

The closures are temporary; USACE Twitter suggests that they will be gone around mid-April.

The circuitous detour xxx

The circuitous detour encouraged by USACE and LADOT. Image via USACE [PDF]

USACE, via twitter, encourages cyclists to avoid the bike path closure by taking a rather circuitous detour, apparently a route planned by the L.A. City Department of Transportation (LADOT). The detour is mostly fairly quiet streets, but to get to these streets, cyclists are shunted onto bike-unfriendly arterials – Los Feliz Boulevard and Fletcher Driver – for stretches littered with freeway on- and off-ramps. The detour is not marked with signage. It is apparently only for folks who find it via Twitter or the USACE website.

Would drivers settle for an un-signed circuitous detour like this? Think of all the publicity afforded to detours during recent freeway closures for bridge demolitions.

For subway construction in downtown L.A., LADOT installed detour bike lanes on Hill Street south of First Street. Could the river path closure be a good excuse for temporary (or permanent) bike lanes to be added to Riverside Drive between Los Feliz Boulevard and Glendale Boulevard? These would create a relatively direct detour route – and connect with existing Riverside Drive bike lanes between Glendale Boulevard and Fletcher Drive.

Winston Churchill said “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Certainly it appears that the USACE is taking advantage of an alleged crisis here (the L.A. River has a history of flooding in La Niña years, but not El Niño years) to generate lots of work to advance their agenda. Could LADOT have used El Niño to spur some bike lane implementation at the same time? There is still time.

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#DamienTalksSGV 4 – Mural History and Bicycle Education in El Monte

Welcome to episode 4 of #DamienTalksSGV, an episode that focuses primarily on two projects in El Monte. We didn’t plan it that way, but sometimes these things happen.

Damien Talks SGV logoFirst, #DamienTalks with David Diaz Avelar about Historia de los Monteros, a collaborative effort between a handful of groups to explore the lost history of El Monte’s mural culture. Day One, East of East, and the South El Monte Arts Posse have programmed six events featuring discussions, bike rides, and lectures all focused on this topic. The next event is March 5; find event details at the Historia’s webpage or the event poster.

If David’s name (or voice) sound familiar, that is because he is the same person we interviewed in the last #DamienTalksSGV for another project: advocacy for the Las Tunas complete streets project in Temple City for Bike SGV.

Speaking of BikeSGV, our second guest is Jose Jimenez, who runs Bike SGV’s bicycle education center in El Monte. Jose discusses the brief history of the center, upcoming programs and invites everyone to come visit to learn how to ride, fix or improve their bicycle. The education center schedule can be found at the Bike SGV website.

#DamienTalks is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of Downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit foothilltransit.org. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

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Ride4Love Rides Again: More than 200 Cyclists Roll for Unity, Love in Watts

Watts is LOVE. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Watts is LOVE.
Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“This is such a great turnout!” was something I must have heard come out of my own mouth somewhere between 20 and 30 times during the East Side Riders’ Ride4Love last weekend.

And it was.

I mean, they always get a good turnout.

Last year, just under 200 cyclists showed up for the event.

But I still clearly remember the days when it was a struggle to get folks to come to Watts — the days before people believed there could be such a thing as a South L.A. bike community and the days before the clubs around South L.A. and the larger Southland were so well-connected and supportive of each other.

So, I would not be lying if I said that seeing more than 200 riders of all origins, stripes, and ages rolling in harmony through the streets of a community I love so much made my heart feel like it might burst.

Decoration on the bike of a ride participant. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Decoration on the handlebars of a ride participant. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

A bursting heart, however terribly cheesy it may sound, was actually quite apt for the day.

The Ride4Love is the East Side Riders’ (ESRBC) signature event, timed to coincide with Valentine’s Day and intended to highlight both the beauty of and the challenges remaining in the Watts community.

Giving back to the community has always featured heavily in the event, either through more direct action, like feeding the homeless, or by setting an example of positivity for the community by showing that the African-American and Latino communities are stronger when they ride together as one.

Determination. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Determination. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Recognizing that they were a largely local group, the community was thrilled to see them. Read more…

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Central Ave and Westwood Blvd Bike Lanes Preserved in Mobility Plan

TRUST South L.A.'s Samuel Bankhead giving public comment in favor of Central Avenue bike lanes at yesterday's Planning Commission hearing. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Safe streets advocate and TRUST South L.A. boardmember AsSami AlBasir El gave public comment in favor of Central Avenue bike lanes at yesterday’s Planning Commission hearing. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At its meeting yesterday, the Los Angeles City Planning Commission unanimously re-affirmed keeping bikeway designations for Central Avenue and Westwood Boulevard.

Unfortunately these facilities are likely to remain in the plan, but not move closer to on-the-ground improvements due to anti-safety positions staked out by City Councilmembers Curren Price and Paul Koretz. Price and Koretz had introduced motions, 15-0719-S9 and 15-0719-S3 respectively, requesting Central Avenue and Westwood Boulevard be removed from the city’s approved Bicycle Enhanced Network (BEN).

The City Planning Commission turned down the anti-bike amendments while voting unanimously in favor of a handful of amendments to the city’s approved and contested Mobility Plan 2035. The commission affirmed plan changes to formally acknowledge equity and community outreach, as well as a number of largely technical amendments.

The City Planning Department (DCP) 108-page staff report [PDF] affirmed the need to keep bikeway designations for Central and Westwood:

In response to motions from Council Districts 5 and 9, the second Addendum to the Mobility Plan EIR considered the removal of Westwood Boulevard (from Le Conte Ave to Wellworth Ave) and Central Ave (from Washington Boulevard to 95th Street) from the Bicycle Enhanced Network. While the councilpersons expressed their interest in having these segments removed, staff recommends that these segments be retained in the BEN. Both Westwood Blvd. and Central Ave serve as important north-south corridors for persons who bicycle and it would be premature at this time to foreclose the opportunity of improving these corridors for bicycling in the future. Language has been included in the Mobility Plan […] which reinforces the conceptual nature of these network assignments and further articulates the opportunities that exist in the future to consider alternative corridors. This level of flexibility is intended to provide opportunity to study such corridors as Westwood and Central along with potential parallel alternatives at whatever point in the future the corridors are prioritized for implementation. (emphasis added)

Planning staff opened the hearing affirming DCP’s position that the bike lanes were important to keep in the plan. A representative of the Fire Department (LAFD) spoke in support of the plan, stating that LAFD would further study “any kind of impacts” to emergency response times.

Councilmember Paul Koretz testified before the commission, lamenting Westwood Blvd’s inclusion in the Mayor’s Great Streets initiative, calling protected bike lanes “pretty dangerous” and disparaging thousands of cyclists that use Westwood every day by suggesting, “only the most aggressive people take it.” Councilmember Price sent staff to testify against Central Avenue bike lanes; they asserted that even protected bike lanes there would not be “low stress.” Councilmember Gilbert Cedillo’s staff also testified in support of Price and Koretz, and against bike lanes.  Read more…

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VerdeXchange Day One Highlights: Phil Washington, Earl Blumenauer

Day one of this year’s VerdeXchange conference is over. By the time you read this, the second and final day is already underway; Tuesday will feature discussions on the Los Angeles River, sustainable buildings, the sharing economy, new mobility models for cities, and much more! The full program schedule is here. Streetsblog L.A. is a media sponsor; follow @StreetsblogLA on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

Below are a couple of highlights from the first day.

VerdeXchange's 21st Century Transit panel (left to right) Jeff Morales, CA High-Speed Rail Authority, Deborah Flint, L.A. World Airports, Phil Washington, Metro, and Renata Simril LA84 Foundation. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

VerdeXchange’s 21st Century Transit panel (left to right) Jeff Morales, CA High-Speed Rail Authority, Deborah Flint, L.A. World Airports, Phil Washington, Metro, and Renata Simril LA84 Foundation. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro’s CEO Phil Washington spoke alongside the CEOs of L.A. World Airports, Deborah Flint, and the California High-Speed Rail Authority, Jeff Morales. All these leaders spoke the need to build seamless, complementary, balanced transportation systems. Washington decried the “three-decade infrastructure vacation” throughout the United States where the nation has neglected to build and maintain the transportation infrastructure needed for future generations. The Metro CEO emphasized that local jurisdictions and private industry have played their roles, but that the federal government has been weak in dragging its heels to pass its re-authorization bills.

Washington made two important announcements:

  • The second phase of the Metro Expo Line will open in May. A mid-2016 estimate has been expected since Metro took control of the substantially completed rail line ten days ago, but no opening date has been publicized.
  • USDOT approved phase three of Metro’s Westside Purple Line Subway for expedited treatment. This should speed up the federal processes to all for an accelerated schedule, potentially extending the subway to UCLA in time for a possible 2024 Olympics.

Congressmember Earl Blumenauer

Congressmember Earl Blumenauer

Streetsblog caught up with Oregon Congressmember Earl Blumenauer. Blumenauer is a leader on livability issues, especially bicycling. At VerdeXchange, he was speaking on a sustainable agriculture panel. Below is a very brief interview.  Read more…

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#DamienTalks SGV2: Albert Ho on IWillRide and Wes Reutimann on the Puente Hills Landfill Park

puente

A view from the future Puente Hills Landfill Park.

This week, #DamienTalks with Albert Ho of the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority. Albert has been a booster of the project dating back to the mid aughts, helping to found the IWillRide campaign as an interested college student, managing the website early in his career and then working for the Construction Authority.

Albert talks about his experiences advocating for the project, touches on some of the highlights of the line extension, scheduled to open on March 5. Towards the end, we reminisce about our days of yore, sitting in the back of Metro Board meetings together, trying to come up with the wittiest tweet about the meeting.

Next, #DamienTalks with Wes Reutimann, the executive director of Bike SGV. Reutimann discusses the upcoming scoping meeting for the Puente Hills Landfill Park. The park promises to be one of the largest tracts of open space on the Southland. There will be an environmental scoping meeting this Wednesday, January 27 (for more information on the hearing and the park click here.)

Bike SGV is hoping that there we be a safe network of bicycle lanes leading to the park and a network of bike facilities within the park to create the largest bike park in California. If you can’t make the scoping meeting, click here to read and sign Bike SGV’s petition.

If, like me, you are unfamiliar with what a bike park is, here are examples in Marin County and Fresno County.

We’re always looking for sponsors, show ideas, and feedback. You can contact me at damien@streetsblog.org, at twitter @damientypes, online at Streetsblog California or on Facebook at StreetsblogCA.

Thanks for listening. You can download the episode at the #DamienTalks homepage on Libsyn.

#DamienTalks is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of Downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit foothilltransit.org. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

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Would You Vote for a Measure R2.1 with No Dedicated Walk/Bike Funding?

UCLA researchers found that new Multi-Modal Level of Service metrics are not so great for measuring what's helpful for people walking and bicycling. Photo via Flickr user pranavbhatt

Will Metro’s new sales tax serve people who walk? Photo via Flickr user pranavbhatt

Metro has five rail lines under construction today, with new Gold and Expo Lines set to open this year. Metro’s recent rail infrastructure expansion was fueled by countywide sales taxes. On top of existing Prop A and Prop C sales taxes, in 2008 voters approved the roughly $40 billion Measure R.

Forty percent of Measure R goes to expanding Southern California rail.

Twenty percent of Measure R goes to expanding Southern California freeways.

What percent of Measure R is dedicated to walking and bicycling?

None.

There should probably be a small asterisk on that “none” because a small percentage of Measure R funding has made its way to walk and bike projects. There is a fifteen percent “local return” that goes to cities to fund transportation projects, and some cities, notably Los Angeles, spent a modest percentage of their local return on walk and bike projects. Most local return throughout the county goes to car infrastructure.

Metro is gearing up for Measure R2.1. The new sales tax initiative is expected to be on the November 2016 ballot. Early estimates showed Measure R2.1 raising $120 billion over the next 40 years. Recent estimates anticipate about $100 billion. Metro is still nailing down what will actually be in Measure R2.1, through a complicated trying-to-sound-neutral process of weighing regional project requests, which will ultimately be shaped by politics and polling. To get to the two-thirds majority necessary to pass a new sales tax, Metro needs to strike a number of delicate balances. Projects need to span various regions and appeal based on voters’ current travel modes as well as their future aspirations.

Though Metro has not dedicated sales tax initiative funding to walking and bicycling, other transportation funding measures throughout California have. These include measures in San Diego, Santa Barbara, Marin, Alameda, and San Francisco counties. Measure BB in Oakland’s Alameda County, with twelve percent reserved to walking and bicycling.

In 2015, walk and bike advocates estimated L.A. County’s unmet need for walking and bicycling infrastructure at roughly $20 billion. In a Metro staff report released this week, the agency basically concurred with advocates’ estimates. Metro estimated the countywide annual walk and bike funding needs to be between $550 million and $1.5 billion. Multiplying those estimates times 20 years results in $11 to $30 billion total; this range matches advocates earlier $20 billion estimates.

PrimaryTravelMode

19 percent of county commuters primarily walk or bike. Will Metro’s new sales tax support and expand these active transportation modes? Chart via LADOT Vision Zero

A coalition of active transportation advocates is pushing for ten percent of Measure R2.1 to be dedicated to walk and bike projects.

Move L.A.’s latest straw man proposal dedicates five percent for walk and bike, with more first/last mile funding that could support walk/bike facilities.

Metro has not weighed in yet.

But you can weigh in right now – via comments below.
What would make you support or reject a November 2016 transportation sales tax measure? Would you vote against it if there is less than ten percent set aside for walking and bicycling? Can Measure R2.1 spark the complementary expansion of biking and walking the way that 2008’s Measure R did for rail and freeway expansion?
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New Griffith Park Traffic Plan Promising But Flawed

Concerned stakeholders during last night's public comment on the proposed Griffith Park shuttle plan. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Concerned stakeholders during last night’s public comment on the proposed Griffith Park shuttle plan. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The L.A. City Department of Recreation and Parks has released a new “Griffith Park Action Plan” [PDF] designed to deal with car congestion primarily from Hollywood Sign visitors. Last night, DRP and City Councilmember David Ryu hosted a community meeting to receive public feedback on the proposal. Nearly 200 people attended the forum, where DRP and Ryu received over an hour of public testimony critical of many aspects of the proposal.

Griffith Park’s car traffic woes have been exacerbated by former Councilmember Tom LaBonge catering to rich Beachwood Canyon homeowners pressure to reroute Hollywood Sign tourist traffic. Last year DRP attempted to resolve traffic problems by temporarily adding free parking on formerly car-free park roads; the trial was soundly criticized by park stakeholders.

DRP went back to the drawing board and came up with a new park traffic plan. The plan [PDF] was recently released in the form of Mitigated Negative Declaration documentation asserting DRP’s right to proceed with plan implementation. The plan was profiled at the Los Feliz Ledger, CiclaValley, and KPCC.

What is in the Griffith Park Action Plan

DCP proposes a free “park wide shuttle” that would mostly take visitors from the Greek Theater parking lot to an official Hollywood Sign vista point about a third of a mile above the Griffith Observatory.

GriffithParkShuttleProposal

Proposed “park wide shuttle” routes in Griffith Park. Image via Los Feliz Ledger

Shuttle operations would be paid for through parking revenue. DCP would add parking meters to East and West Observatory Road. Existing free parallel parking on the two-way Observatory Road would be converted to diagonal paid parking on a one-way loop.

The Good

Overall, DRP is looking in the right direction. The problem is too much car traffic; in the words of Ryu, Griffith Park is “being loved to death.” Griffith Park Superintendent Joe Salaices emphasized that “reducing the amount of cars is the number one goal,” later reiterating “I’d love to see no cars in the park.” Tackling a “too many cars” problem means giving visitors better options to arrive by other means.

The DRP proposal to add parking meters sends the right message. Paid parking helps to disincentivize visitors arriving by car. Revenue from the 150 metered parking spaces, according to Salaices, is estimated to be $500,000 annually. All the revenue would be dedicated to Griffith Park purposes, including operating the shuttle and paying park staff.

Public comment on paid parking was mixed. Cyclist Don Ward testified that “charging for parking is long overdue” while another speaker opposed paid parking asserting the importance of parks being reliant on General Fund revenue.

The Bad

Overall, despite good intentions, DCP fell into a tired bureaucratic pattern of publish and defend. Though their plan was described as an initial phase, DCP staff largely defended decisions they had already been made in advance of public input.

The proposed shuttle shuttle service is unlikely to be sufficient to make a dent in Griffith Park traffic. According to Salaices, 390,000 visitors came to observatory-area viewing during the 2015 spring break. To deal with these visitors, DCP is proposing four or five 21-passenger shuttles. One public speaker opined that the “shuttle plan doesn’t add up” by addressing only “one percent of the problem.”  Read more…