(This is my fourth and probably, for now, last tale from the East Coast. We’re nearly packed and I’ll be in L.A. and writing real L.A. stories full-time starting next week. -Joe)
As I mentioned in the first installment of this series, I’ve been living in Jersey City, one subway stop from NYC. Jersey City is a sort of inner-ring suburb of NYC, but located in a different state. Jersey City is fairly population-dense, very walkable, and well-serviced by subway, bus, and light rail. For an L.A. County benchmark, Jersey City is roughly the same population as Glendale, in a bit smaller area. “JC” is a big city in its own right, but it’s small in comparison to our taller neighbor across the Hudson River. Hence, I think that the Jersey City bikeway implementation story might be most applicable to L.A. County cities like Torrance, Pomona, Glendale, Pasadena and like. Good sized cities, but small in comparison to the city of Los Angeles.
When I moved here in 2012, Jersey City had two very short on-street bike lanes. One is 5-blocks long, painted as a sort of Earth Day 2012 publicity stunt. The other bike lane is even shorter; it’s on a widened bridge in a state park.
The local bicycle advocates formed a non-profit, called BikeJC. BikeJC hosts rides, and pushes the city to do more for cycling. When I arrived, I got in touch with BikeJC and did some volunteering with them.
BikeJC leaders worked with the city to create a bicycle plan in 2006.
BikeJC leaders worked with the city to create another bicycle plan in 2010.
When, during election season in 2012, longtime Mayor Healy rolled out another bicycle plan, some BikeJC leaders were understandably discouraged. The mayor touted 55 miles of bikeways, lukewarmly declaring:
We’re obviously not going to put them [bikeways] in high-density traffic areas. But a lot of our side streets can accommodate bike lanes and we intend to do that.
The press quoted the 55 mile figure. The fine print, though, was that the city was committed to striping only the first 3 miles, which would be done the summer after the 2013 election. Like many bike plans, there was little political will, no timeline, and little confidence that implementation would actually happen.
Then longtime Mayor Healy lost an election. Read more…