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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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Is Reynolds the Antidote to L.A.’s Defeatist Attitude on Transportation?

Seleta Reynolds (left) goes for a walk in DTLA with out-of-towner Janette Sadik-Khan. Photo:##http://www.gjel.com/blog/los-angeles-hires-seleta-reynolds-what-it-means-for-walking-and-biking-in-socal.html##GJEL Accident Attorneys##

Incoming LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds (right) goes for a walk in downtown L.A. with out-of-towner Janette Sadik-Khan. Photo:GJEL Accident Attorneys

Should Mayor Eric Garcetti have hired someone with more Los Angeles experience to run Los Angeles’ Department of Transportation? With San Francisco’s Seleta Reynolds chosen as the incoming department head, there’s been a small buzz that only someone with direct experience with our region can handle making L.A. a better place to live. It has to be someone with local experience, they say.

As someone who is not from the area originally, and was only an Angeleno for six months when I became the first editor of Streetsblog Los Angeles, allow me to say that idea is complete hogwash.

For some reason, people that live and drive in Los Angeles have sat through so many traffic jams that they have come to believe that idling in endless traffic is a natural phenomenon.  They also believe a harmful corollary: that things that have worked in other areas to make people’s commutes better will not work in Los Angeles. Because “this is Los Angeles.”

It’s the reverse of exceptionalism.

Because over the last six and a half years, we’ve heard that Los Angeles, and Angelenos are so enamored with our vehicles that we will never be able to walk, much less ride a bike or ride transit, even though wild dogs can learn to ride transit. Following the passage of Measure R, many are starting to accept that transit is a viable option in Los Angeles, although the anti-transit theory it still pops up in some cities on the Westside.

Nowadays, we hear some mix of theories from “smart growth won’t work in Southern California,” to “road diets won’t work in Southern California” to “people won’t bicycle in Southern California.” These sort of self-defeating prophecies sap the energy out of transportation reformers, jade community activists, and generally have a corrosive impact on those seeking to make our streets safe for everyone.

By reaching outside of LADOT and Metro staff to find a new department head, Eric Garcetti is signaling the end of the pessimism and reverse exceptionalism that have marked our transportation discussions over the past years, decades, and even generations.

It is a new day, and Seleta Reynolds is a new leader. 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 Round-Up: LAX, Open Streets, New Reps on Technical Committee

Concept rendering for new LAX rail station. Green Line and Crenshaw Line light rail  run at grade, below future "automated people mover." Image via Metro staff report

Concept rendering for new LAX rail station at 96th Street and Aviation Bo. Green Line and Crenshaw Line light rail run at grade (visible in the middle right), below future “automated people mover” (visible in the upper right). Image via Metro staff report [PDF]

At yesterday’s Metro Board Meeting, directors approved a handful of initiatives that have great implications for the future livability of the Los Angeles Region. Here is the re-cap:

Technical Committee Adds Pedestrian and Bike Representatives

The Metro Board approved adding two new active transportation representatives to the agency’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). In addition to new TAC members representing bicycle and pedestrian transportation experts, the motion [pdf] approved yesterday also added a non-voting public health representative.

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) and Safe Routes to School National Partnership have pushed for long-overdue Metro TAC expansion. The TAC includes a representative from the Automobile Association of America, but no one advocating for active transportation. Earlier this year, Streetsblog previewed TAC expansion. Since that earlier article, the somewhat half-hearted proposal was strengthened by a March 2014 motion from Metro boardmember Mike Bonin.

Here’s what the LACBC’s Eric Bruins had to say about yesterday’s Metro board action:

It’s about time for Metro to embrace multi-modalism throughout the culture of the agency, including their advisory committees. This committee is involved in the nuts-and-bolts of decision-making at Metro, so it’s important to have people at the table constantly viewing agency actions through a lens of how they impact walking, biking, and public health throughout the county.

Open Streets Events Expanding Throughout L.A. County

SBLA covered the expansion of CicLAvia-type open streets events when Metro staff recommendations were circulated about a month ago. As LongBeachize previewed, representatives from the city of Long Beach attended the Metro Board meeting, expressing their concerns over Metro’s selection criteria. Metro awarded funding to only one event to each applicant city before funding any additional events hosted by the same city. Proportionally, this puts the cities of Los Angeles (population 4,000,000) and Long Beach (population 500,000) on equal footing with Lawndale (population 34,000) and Culver City (population 40,000). (Population figures here.)

Though Metro board member John Fasana expressed that Metro should “re-tool” in future open streets funding cycles, the board approved the staff recommendations unchanged. Lots more ciclovías coming to lots of neighborhoods over the next couple years!

Rail Connection with LAX Approved

Despite boardmember Mike Bonin expressing some concerns (including very low ridership projections, a focus of this L.A. Weekly article) at last week’s Metro Programming Committee meeting, yesterday’s LAX approval went very smoothly. The Metro board approved a preferred alternative for connecting rail to LAX. It’s a new rail station, located at 96th Street and Aviation Boulevard, where LAX-bound riders can board an Automated-People-Mover (APM). Depending on operations decisions, still to be determined, the new station will serve the existing Metro Green Line, Metro Crenshaw Line (under construction) and possibly even Expo Line trains via Crenshaw. (Editor’s note: this would be way in the future – there are no current plans to connect Expo and Crenshaw tracks.) Both Mayor Garcetti and Bonin stated that they expect the 96th Street Station to be more than just a transfer point, but indeed a full-featured world-class gateway to Los Angeles.

With the LAX connection conceptually decided, there’s still lots of environmental studies, design and operation decisions, finalization of features that will be designed/built by LAX itself, and about a decade of construction before the riders can experience it.  Read more…

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Council Transportation Committee Gives Enthusiastic Thumbs Up to Seleta Reynolds

When I covered the Transportation Committee Hearing for Rita Robinson to take the helm at LADOT in 2008, there were 10 people in the room who were not City Council staff, Council members, or Robinson herself.

photo (23)

Margot Ocanas, LADOT Pedestrian Coordinator, and Seleta Reynolds chat before today’s hearing. Photo: Damien Newton

At today’s confirmation hearing for Seleta Reynolds, there was standing room only.

Reynolds, flanked in the audience seating by Nat Gale with the Mayor’s Office and transportation planning rock star Janette Sadik-Khan, was affable and open, while chatting with well-wishers, future staff, and advocates.

There was a feeling of optimism in the room that had been noticeably absent in previous LADOT general manager confirmation hearings.

“Streets are really the keys to so many issues that city’s face in the 21st century. They must be organized, they must be safe. But they can also be huge assets to the community,” Reynolds opened her testimony. “That’s really needed to be a great, world-class city.”

“One of the things that frustrates people here is that people feel that a lot of development projects don’t get evaluated properly when it comes to traffic,” challenged Transportation Committee Chair Mike Bonin before launching into a discussion of the current transportation evaluation metric: level of service (LOS) as compared to the proposed change to vehicle miles traveled (VMT). ”What are your thoughts about LOS vs VMT?”

While Reynolds is not a fan of measuring the impact of a project based on its impact on car traffic, as both LOS and VMT do, she didn’t take the bait.

“The fundamental issue with Level of Service is that the only thing it tells about a project is the negative impacts,” she responded. “It’s a disincentive to providing ways for people to have options on ways to get around.”

But the debate over measuring transportation impacts happening in Sacramento in the governor’s office, provides opportunities for Los Angeles.

“There is a chance for L.A. to develop its own metrics,” Reynolds continued. Then she gave a list of other metrics that should be considered, like public health, economy, and safety.

“Imagine how different things will be if we’re evaluating the benefits of projects,” she concluded.

The answer seemed to please Bonin. ”It would be improper for me to give you a standing ovation,” he joked before moving into the next series of questions.

Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Tom LaBonge were not present at the hearing and Councilmember Paul Krekorian offered little more than a warm welcome to Reynolds. This left Councilmember Bernard Parks with the role of inquisitor.

“The last thing people want to hear in a car is about slowing traffic,” pushed Councilmember Bernard Parks. “How do you implement these (safety) changes without getting rid of the space for vehicles?”

Reynolds responded that there isn’t a magic bullet that will fix every problem, but noted that safety and access need to be the top issues for every road user.

“We need to make sure people can get where they go to get access to jobs, to school, to home,” she countered. “They need to have a way to get there, and that needs to be an important part of every redesign of a street.” Read more…

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What World Cup Soccer Tells Us About Using Public Space in Los Angeles

Join 4000-5000 people watching South Korea

How often does Los Angeles find 4,000-5,000+ people assembled in public space? Come to Wilshire Blvd. and Serrano Ave. in Koreatown, on Thursday June 26th at 1 p.m. and experience it. If South Korea can upset Belgium on the 26th, there could be additional outdoor viewings, which grow bigger and bigger as Korea progresses toward the final. Larger image and full K-pop audio experience at Radiokorea.com

I assume that most Streetsblog readers who have any interest in sports turn elsewhere for insightful sports coverage. We barely cover competitive bike racing here. I don’t claim much in the way of sport expertise, nonetheless, as a somewhat-closeted soccer fan, I am going to try my hand at writing about the World Cup Football. It’s not Football in the American sense though, it is, of course, Soccer.

For the uninitiated, there’s a big international soccer tournament that’s being played right now in Brazil: World Cup 2014. It is already being watched by record numbers of television viewers worldwide.

LA Mayor Garcetti Talks World Cup from KPCC on Vimeo.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, in the above video, connects the World Cup with Los Angeles traffic. He suggests that if just enough people skip work and instead watch the games, then L.A.’s streets and freeways could flow more smoothly.

But, there are some other aspects of World Cup Soccer that get me thinking about L.A.’s streets and public spaces.

First off, let me acknowledge that there are plenty of serious downsides to all this. This is the guys cup, the women’s will take place next year and will be awesome and receive virtually no attention. Plenty of folks from the host nation, Brazil, are protesting the warped priorities of spending billions on stadiums while ignoring much-needed stuff including housing, transportation, health, etc. Streetsblog readers have seen the way big sports stadiums plague neighborhoods and create massive parking craters. The international soccer governing body, FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association,) is a corruption-plagued old-boys-network, and they’re raking in the dough on this tournament. Like other sports and many other aspects of daily life, there’s plenty of racism expressed by soccer fans.

So, what’s the upside?

Soccer crosses cultures and national boundaries. As Mayor Garcetti mentions in the above video, Los Angeles is home to huge populations of immigrants from many of the nations playing in the World Cup.

Most days, it’s not easy for me to strike up a conversation with immigrants from Mexico, Korea, Cameroon, etc. in my neighborhood. Now, when my family is out walking, we’ll spot people proudly wearing their national team’s kit (soccer-ese for shirt) and we’ll at least have a short conversation about how their team is doing.

Nationalism and patriotism can be really destructive, generally, and especially in support of U.S. militarism. I find nationalism comforting, though, when it takes the form of immigrants proudly supporting the soccer team from their home country. Latin Americans get behind colonial teams overcoming their imperialist colonizers. African immigrants similarly rally behind teams from their continent. Though there’s never quite a level playing field, there are upsets. The U.S. is fun to root for, precisely because we don’t dominate soccer the way we do other sports and other arenas. Read more…

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Mayor Garcetti Nominates New LADOT Head: Seleta Reynolds

Seleta Reynolds (right) then serving as President of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) giving a 2010 award to Leslie Meehan of Nashville. Photo: APBP

Seleta Reynolds (right) then serving as President of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) giving a 2010 award to Leslie Meehan of Nashville. Photo: APBP

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has nominated Seleta Reynolds to be the new general manager for the city’s Transportation Department (LADOT.) From preliminary research on Reynolds’s background, this looks like great news. Reynolds currently works for San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) where her focus had been livable streets, with a focus on building more equitable streets.

Reynolds’ Twitter feed @seletajewel celebrates great bike and walk facilities.  Reynolds is featured in Streetsblog San Francisco articles explaining Bay Are Bike Sharepushing Caltrans on standards for protected bicycle lanes, and arguing for better motorist education for bicyclist safety.

Updated: Read our follow-up post, including a brief interview with the nominee here.

Mayor Garcetti’s full press release follows after the jump.  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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Just How Great Will Those Great Streets Initiative Sites Become?

Mayor Garcetti announced six Great Streets, including Figueroa pictured here, that will become more accessible to wheelchairs, pedestrians, strollers and bicycles. photo Flying Pigeon L.A.

North Figueroa Street is on Mayor Garcetti’s new Great Streets Initiative list. Photo: Flying Pigeon L.A.

Yesterday and today, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the sites for his Great Streets Initiative. The mayor’s Streets initiative now has an initial budget of $800,000. SBLA previewed six of these Great Streets announced during Garcetti’s State of the City address. The full list now includes 15 street segments, one per City Council District. Here is how Garcetti describes Great Streets:

We’ll saturate your street with services. We’ll make your street accessible to pedestrians, wheelchairs, strollers and bicycles–not just cars. We’ll create an environment where new neighborhood businesses can flourish. We’ll pave the streets and make them green streets — clean and lush with plant life, local art, and people-focused plazas.

Below is the list, from yesterday’s L.A. Times article:

District 1: North Figueroa Street between Avenue 50 and Avenue 60
District 2: Lankershim Boulevard between Chandler and Victory boulevards
District 3: Sherman Way between Wilbur and Lindley avenues
District 4: Western Avenue between Melrose Avenue and 3rd Street
District 5: Westwood Boulevard between Le Conte Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard
District 6: Van Nuys Boulevard between Victory Boulevard and Oxnard Street
District 7: Van Nuys Boulevard between Laurel Canyon Boulevard and San Fernando Road
District 8: Crenshaw Boulevard between 78th Street and Florence Avenue
District 9: Central Avenue between MLK Boulevard and Vernon Avenue
District 10: Pico Boulevard between Hauser Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue
District 11: Venice Boulevard between Beethoven Street and Inglewood Boulevard
District 12: Reseda Boulevard between Plummer Street and Parthenia Avenue
District 13: Hollywood Boulevard between La Brea Avenue & Gower Street
District 14: Cesar Chavez Avenue between Evergreen Avenue and St. Louis Street
District 15: Gaffey Street between 15th Street & the 110 Freeway


View Great Streets Initiative in a larger map

The street mileage is listed here. The total mileage is 12.4 miles.

I want to be excited about any effort to make streets more livable, more walkable, and more bikeable, but frankly the initiative feels a little timid. One step forward for every dozen-plus steps backward.

Read more…

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A Warm Welcome To SBLA Summer 2014 Intern Aviv Kleinman

Streetsblog Los Angeles' 2014 intern Aviv Kleinman

Streetsblog Los Angeles’ 2014 intern Aviv Kleinman

There is a new face at Streetsblog Los Angeles this summer. Our latest intern Aviv Kleinman grew up in Los Angeles and currently attends SUNY Binghamton.

Here’s Aviv’s introduction in his own words:

Since I was very young, I’ve had a strong affinity for transportation.

With my wooden train set and any other toys and props I could find, I would spend nearly every Saturday morning on our living room floor constructing my own intermodal transportation systems, teeming with both freight and passenger rail systems, cargo-bearing trucks, passenger buses, cars, boats, and mobile construction machinery. I would sit for hours fascinated and transfixed by these many systems.

Many years later, that fascination has only grown.

I’m currently a Senior at Binghamton University, studying Urban Planning and Environmental Studies. It is my goal to become a Transportation Planner who can make improvements in transportation infrastructure to both reduce our damaging footprints on this Earth and to get us to where we need to go, faster, more comfortably, and more efficiently.

Transportation speaks to me. Wherever I travel in the world, whichever city I learn about, I always try to understand how people move around, and how people get to where they need to be. I find that the methods people around the world use to travel to and fro say a lot about their culture, and truly shape how they act in the world.

Read more…