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Posts from the "Bike Writers Collective" Category

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In California’s 36th District, Transportation Emerges as a Major Issue

5_18_10_harman.jpgHarman meets labor.
"I'm on the team!...I'm right here on the Love Train with sisters and brothers in organized labor, the environmental movement and the business community to make this happen right now!" exclaimed incumbent Congresswoman Jane Harman at a rally yesterday for the 30/10 initiative at the Green Line Station near LAX.  (Watch her full speech, Streetscasted here.)  The 30/10 initiative would use federal loans and grants to leverage the half cent sales tax passed by L.A. County voters for transit projects to complete a thirty year program in 10.

5_18_10_wino.jpgWinograd at the Bikerowave. Photo: Bikeside
"I endorse the Cyclists' Bill of Rights.  The first tenet is that cyclists should be able to travel safely and free of fear.  We need voices in Washington that are committed to this vision.  And I am committed to this vision."  Challenger Marcy Winograd asserted at the Bikerowave on Venice Boulevard on April 7, just before being endorsed by Bikeside. (Watch her full statement, from Scoop L.A.'s You Tube page.)  The Cyclists' Bill of Rights is an expression of the twelve right that all cyclists deserve that was put together by the Bike Writers Collective.

In a way, the two statements and venues are symbolic of the campaigns and candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 36th Congressional District which includes much of the Westside and South Bay.  The well-heeled Harman, one of the richest members of Congress, is supported by much of the establishment, including the organized labor groups that surrounded her yesterday as well as most politicians and even the Sierra Club's Political Action Committee.  Winograd is running to Harman's left, with support from smaller, but community based organizations such as Bikeside, and the Progressive Democrats for America; and seems to be at home surrounded by riders and people at work.

But the two candidates' positions also reflect a new political reality for candidates in Southern California.  Los Angeles now has an organized community dedicated to green transportation or Livable Streets causes.  It's now smart politics to embrace transit and bike riding in the "Car Capital of America."  Both Harman and Winograd are embracing two key programs in the Livable Streets platform in Los Angeles: accelerating transit expansion and securing cyclist rights.

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What Is the Backbone Bikeway Network and Why Is It So Important?

2_8_10_backbone.jpgOriginally posted on 2/1 at Westside Bikeside

2_9_10_sfv.jpgOriginally posted on 2/3 at JeremyGrant.com

2_9_10_harbor.jpgOriginally posted on 2/8 at Soap Box LA

Last week, the LA Bike Working Group began to release parts of "L.A.'s Best Bike Plan" in the form of the Backbone Bikeway Network maps and started a new conversation about the state of bike planning in Los Angeles.  The maps, first published on three members of the steering committee's blogs, moved to LAist and then on to the mainstream media.

It's nearly impossible not to compare the maps of the Backbone Bikeway Network (Backbone) to those of the Draft Bike Plan offered by various city departments and put together by Alta Planning.  It's also impossible not to notice a key difference in philosophy.  While the Draft Bike Plan is all about providing safe alternatives to biking on main thoroughfares, the Backbone is all about making it safer for cyclists to ride on these same major thoroughfares that LADOT is trying to take cyclists off of.

In the post announcing the Backbone at Westside Bikeside, Dr. Alex Thompson explains:

The Backbone Bikeway Network will get you from Downtown to West LA, Crenshaw to Valley Village, and LAX to Hollywood.  The Backbone doesn’t have neighborhood level detail, because that’s not what a citywide system is for – this system gets you 5 and 10 and 20 miles across town.  It goes on major streets – arterials – unlike the proposed Bike Plan, and it gets you within striking distance of major destinations like Dodger Stadium and City Hall.

There's a lot to discuss about the Backbone: what is it, the philosophy behind it, the process that created it, and where we go from here.  We'll discuss all of that after the jump.

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Less Anger, More Posterboard at 2009 Bike Plan Meeting

10_29_09_bike_plan_2.jpgThere was no power point presentation. Instead LADOT, City Planning and Alta Planning just made mini-presentations in front of a series of poster board. The balloons were not related to the presentation. For more images, visit the Streetsblog Flickr page.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived at last night's Bike Plan meeting for the Westside was that the format had completely changed from the 2008 meetings.  In 2008 the format consisted of a public presentation and "Q+A" session which last time devolved into a contentious debate over the state of cycling and the ability of the city to deliver on its promise of better cycling in the city.  Last night there were three sets of posterboards manned by staff from Alta Planning or the city and tables with maps for people to draw comments.  All city and Alta staff took comments on large paper note pad.

"They're learning," joked Stephen Box, who helped organize protests about the public outreach and content of the plan in 2008 and the Bike Working Group meetings this year.  But LADOT Bike Coordinator Michelle Mowery said the new format would allow for people who aren't usually heard to make their case:

It's been really great, because too often we don't hear from shy people...We're getting tons more comments than last time (in the winter of 2008) and it's been great for me.  People are sent to me with specific issues on their commutes, on their streets, and I can help fix many of those problems.

Jordan Turner, the point of contact for the plan, agreed with Mowery that the format was the right one and that comments continue to pour in, both good and bad.

We're hearing from a range of people, a range of comments from everything from people that like the plan to people that want us to start over.

When asked what has been a theme running through the comments from all the meetings thus far, Turner answered

People are focused on implementation.  They want to see stuff on the ground.  Most people seem happy that we're doing this, that we're thinking and planning, but what they really want is to see something happen.

Indeed, what we're actually going to see come out of the plan seemed to be on the mind of most in attendance.  Mark Peterson of the Bike Writers Collective was handing out ride cards mocking the Bike Plan as the "Plan with no teeth."  He explained that a lack of timelines and clear accountability makes for nice reading, but he doesn't believe we'll actually see any of these projects.

Some of this stuff has been in a plan for thirteen years.  There's no time parameters anywhere.  When will this get done?

That's not to say that there weren't those in attendance who support the plan, or at least parts of it.  Biking In L.A.'s Ted Rogers noted that it's "a good start" while two LACBC Board Members gave the plan a qualified thumbs up.

Kent Strumpell, who also serves on the Bike Advisory Committee and on the Bike Plan Citizen Advisory Committee, after notied that the Bike Plan is just that, a plan, and not an enforcement document.  However, he pointed out that the matrix in Appendix B gives certain jobs and action items to specific departments creating accountability within the city.  He also noted that the plan creates policies that will empower local bike activists to get the most that they can from the developers and the city from project mitigation funds.

Giving a less enthusiastic pat on the back was Dr. Michael Cahn who managed to call the plan a "monument of seriousness and a monument of failure because it embraces incremental-ism."  Cahn did seem overall supportive of the plan opening with, "It's wonderful to sit down with a five hundred page pdf put together by smart people that takes bicycling a little seriously."

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Gov. 2.0? Activists Mimic Bike Plan Site

10_27_09_dot_com.jpg
10_27_09_dot_org.jpgWhich one is which? Images: labikeplan.org and labikeplan.com

The other day, I noticed that some of the stories reviewing the Draft Bike Plan on Streetsblog were receiving incoming links from what I thought was the city's Bike Plan Website.  Given the strong critiques of the plan and the city, I was surprised that the City Planning would link to the pieces written by Stephen Box and Joe Linton.

In short, they weren't.

The Bike Working Group, the folks working on the alternate Bike Plan, holding their own workshops and having their own public outreach built their own website that is so similar in layout and design to the city's official site that I thought I was looking at the real deal for a couple minutes.  Apparently I wasn't alone, I've gotten emails from Neighborhood Councils and even the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition that have linked to the Bike Working Group's site at labikeplan.com and not the city's site at labikeplan.org.

At the unofficial site, each tab takes you to a different link that goes to a different story criticizing the plan.  If that isn't enough to tip you off that you're at the "unofficial" site, the images at the top include a picture of Ron Peterson in the hospital after the Mandeville Canyon crash and a cyclist being led away in handcuffs by the LAPD.

The other difference is the Bike Working Group lists both their meetings and the city's meetings; while the official website, at labikeplan.org only lists the upcoming public meetings sponsored by the city.  Incidentally, the next unofficial meeting is this weekend.  For more information visit, you guessed it, labikeplan.com.  For information on the city's outreach meetings, feel free to visit whichever site you prefer.

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Bike Working Group Gives Cyclists a Chance to Talk Bike Plan This Weekend

10_13_09_dr_t.jpgAlex Thompson presents the Bicycling Bill of Rights. Photo: Stephen Box

(update: The LA Bike Working Group event to review the Bike Plan has had to change time and venue.  The new location and time is Saturday, 2pm, at the Hollywood Adventist Church, 1711 N. Van Ness Ave., Hollywood, CA 90028.  We’ll be in the Fellowship Hall on the NW side of the parking lot.)

The Bike Writers Collective is calling up the LA Bike Working Group to take on LA's Draft Bike Plan, reviewing it, discussing it, and then working together to make it a powerful visionary document that supports the rights of cyclists on the streets of Los Angeles. All LA cyclists are invited to join in as the spirit of Government 2.0 takes over the Los Angeles City College Faculty Lounge at 1pm this Saturday, October 17, 2009.

The Draft Bike Plan was released on September 24th and the comment period is scheduled to close on November 6th, a window of 42 days for public participation. This is the first of many objectionable elements to the Draft Bike Plan and the City's idea of civic engagement. The LA Bicycle Advisory Committee voted unanimously to "demand" that the comment period be extended until Jan 8, 2010. The Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils also voted unanimously to support the fight for an extension of the comment period. Now it's up to the cycling community to prepare those comments.

Riding a bike in Los Angeles has always been a demonstration of self-sufficiency and independence. At first it simply meant carrying a spare tube, some tools and a pump. Somewhere along the way it grew to include carrying a pocket guide to the law, some key phone numbers and some bail money. Then the Department of DIY took things into their own hands and now the cycling community finds themselves confronted with the fact that if they want a decent Bike Plan, they're going to have to make it themselves.

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Anger and Optimism Expressed Over BMP Maps

6_1_09_bmp.jpgBMP Map for the Westside and Downtown

Last Friday, the city released the first piece of its Bike Master Plan when it posted the draft area maps that will make up the framework of the engineering portion of the Plan.  "Word on the street" is that the City's Planning Department , the body that is in charge of the BMP despite the widely held belief that it's the LADOT Bikeways Division, didn't want to release the plan piecemeal.

If the reaction from advocates and bloggers is any indication of the general feelings towards the plan, then the instinct to withhold wasn't a bad one.

Complaints over the maps released last week range from the content of the plan to the outreach efforts by Planning to even that the Maps were released as low resolution pdf.'s and not a more user friendly technology.  Los Angeles Bike Coalition founder Joe Linton in the comments section from Friday's story provided what was the most positive comment on the maps and it wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement.

If anyone was expecting bike paradise tomorrow... then I'd suggest tempering your expectations. How about rolling up your sleeves, and composing a comment letter to the City Planning Department with suggestions of what you want in the plan. Best to ask for what you'd like to see - please don't just say that the draft plan sucks and is embarrassing... without saying your opinion of what a good plan would be.

That being said, most of the rest of the comments I received said that the draft plan sucks.  Eric Knutzen, of the Bike Writers Collective and Homegrown Evolution sums up a lot of the complaints:

First off I feel left out of the process, not having been allowed to see the plan while it was in progress and before it went to LADOT (presumably to be gutted of anything that would impede motor vehicles). 

As for what has been delivered, it all hinges on if anything substantive is done with the streets categorized as "bicycle friendly streets". Curious that "sharrow" is not mentioned in the description of this category and neither is "traffic calming", two critical components of a bicycle boulevard which, I'm guessing, is the phrase that was used in earlier drafts of this plan (at least that's the terminology from the outreach meetings). Perhaps this will be cleared up when we see the whole thing.

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Bike Friendly Fridays: Bike to Work Week

For one week a year, transportation agencies around the country and around L.A. County put their best face forward to the cycling community by programming a series of bike-friendly events intended to encourage and support better cycling.  The majority of the events, with the notable exception of Bike Writer's Collective Bike Not to Work Day, were programmed by either the team of Metro and the LADOT or CICLE and the City of Pasadena.

Of course, I'd rather have the City of Los Angeles produce a Bike Master Plan than plan a week of bike events, but what can you do?

In addition to the series of events that mark Bike Week, Metro wants bike commuters, either regulars or those just trying it out for for one day, to register on their website to let them know and qualify for prizes such as free trips and bikes.  For a full list of events, summaries and my Bike Week schedule and opinions read on after the jump:

While I have listed summaries of the events below, for full event listings check out the websites for Metro's Bike to Work Week and Bike Week Pasadena.

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Streetsblog.net

Streetsblog.Net Looks at Bike Rider’s Bill of Rights

(editor's note: I more than understand that the whole point of Streetsblog.net is to help local transportation reform activists see what's going on in other parts of the country.  Even so, it's still weird for me to see a story on the Cyclists' Bill of Rights on NYC Streetsblog.)

2634274379_a374cec9f0.jpgLooking for "the support of educated law enforcement" in LA.
Maybe it's a Ray LaHood hangover, but today on the Streetsblog Network we're keeping the focus on the positive call for change on the home front.

Leading the charge is a post from SoapboxLA on the Cyclists' Bill of Rights recently voted on in that city, where a booming cycling community is challenging LA's car-centric mindset on a daily basis. Soapbox highlights the third item on the Bill, which addresses the need for police to understand and uphold cyclists' civil rights:

"Cyclists have the right to the full support of educated law enforcement."

In all fairness to the sensitivities of our law enforcement partners, we ain't there yet! And until we get there, we should be working together to make it happen…

Sure we're partners when we're at City Hall or in a Committee meeting or when there's a press conference, but late at night, when the street is dark, that's when our Civil Rights get tested and that's when cyclists call for the support of educated law enforcement…

Los Angeles is the second largest city in the country. We should be a Great City, setting the standard for Civil Rights, but instead, LA looks for the minimum and argues for mediocrity.

Inspiring stuff. There's more good news from Transit Miami, which celebrates a year of growth for cycling awareness and infrastructure (even if the mainstream media wants to ignore it
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LA Magazine Takes a Glance at Bike Culture

12_18_08_la_mag.jpg
Photo by Dustin Snipes for LA Magazine

Los Angeles Magazine takes a long hard look at our burgeoning and growing bike scene.  Writer  Matthew Segal rides the rides and talks to the people who make up the menagerie that is biking in Los Angeles.

The main piece, Spokespeople, talks to many people that any regular Streetsblog reader should be familar.  Segal rides CRANK MOB, Critical Mass and a bunch of the other social rides that make up the scene.  Segal notes the growing popularity of these rides, and the corresponding growth in bike commuting and other daylight activities.

Spokespeople also goes into the politics of bike riding and spends over half the article talking about Stephen Box, Alex Thompson and the difference between the tactics that people in the movement employ.  If you're a rider who wants to get as much into the people and personalities of the movement, Spokespeople is a must-read.

The other articles focus on the different organizations that round out the movement:

  • Road Rules is sort of a hybrid article between the Cyclists Bill of Rights and the rules and laws by which we should apply.
  • Repairs looks at the bike co-ops, for any of you that missed the video.
  • Want to Ride breaks down the largest and best known of LA's group rides.
  • Cycling the Links gives a list of some of the best places to get news on bikes and bike culture.

First the Wall Street Journal, now LA Magazine.  Is this a sign that the Bike Movement is finally going mainstream?  Once the press is on board, it's only a matter of time before the pols follow.

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City Council “Passes” Cyclists Bill of Rights

12_9_08_festival.jpg
Stephen Box Discusses Cyclists Rights at the "Festival of Rights"

It's been an eventful 24 hours for those cyclists engaged in the battle for better recognition of cyclists rights.  Last night was the "Festival of Rights," the third annual protest of the ban on bicycles during the Griffith Park Festival of Lights except on special nights in November.  Today, the Los Angeles City Council gave a partial endorsement of the Cyclists Bill of Rights but will wait for reports from various City Departments before giving a final nod.

The purpose of the yearly yearly civil disobedience at the Festival of Lights is to show that despite the objections from city agencies, cyclists and drivers can share the road and legally the city has no right to bar cyclists from the festival.  Ride organizer Stephen Box wrote to me that most of the cyclists actually followed a police car through their festival on the way home with no issues.

This afternoon, the full City Council took up the Cyclists Bill of Rights, as written by the Bike Writer's Collective and as introduced by Councilman Bill Rosendahl.  Rosendahl read the Bill of Rights into the record, and after a brief Q and A with LADOT Bike Coordinator Michelle Mowery, the Council appeared ready to vote on the adopting the Cyclists Bill of Rights as a guideline for city agencies pending the outcome of the reports of city departments.

However, Councilman Tom LaBonge had some changes he wanted to see.  First, he found the "Third Amendment" which states, "Cyclists have the right to the full support of educated law enforcement."  While he didn't have a problem with the basic idea, he was worried that the language was inflammatory to the local police by implying that they were uneducated.  Mowery spoke to the large amount of laws that fit in the Motor Vehicle Code and that it's nigh impossible to know the entire code.  However, she stated that LADOT is working to continually educate the LAPD about the rights of cyclists.

LaBonge was also worried that children would get the wrong idea about cycling because the document fails to cover the responsibilities of cyclists as well as their rights.  He'll have a chance to edit the document before final passage.  The final document, after being examined by the LAPD, LADOT, Bureau of Street Services, and City Planning, will go through the Transportation Committee, which LaBonge vice-chairs, and Parks Committee, which LaBonge chairs, before heading back to the Council for a final vote.

Photo by Enci

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