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Meet the new Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition Executive Director, Tamika Butler

Last night, the Board of Directors for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition met to approve the appointment of their new executive director. This morning, via email, they introduced the bicycling community to their new leader, Tamika Butler.

Image via LACBC.

Image via LACBC.

“I’m really proud of the process and results of the search and couldn’t be more excited about Tamika as our next Executive Director,” says LACBC Board President Steve Boyd in a press statement. “Tamika is the ideal leader to write LACBC’s next chapter.”

While Butler’s name might be new to many in the bicycling advocacy community, her resume is full of impressive advocacy experiences. Currently, she works as the first Director of Social Change Strategies for the Liberty Hill Foundation. During her career she has also served as employment lawyer at the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center and as California Director of the Young Invincibles, an advocacy organization aimed at improving the lives and opportunities for young Americans entering the workforce.

“I am thrilled to have the privilege to become the next Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and look forward to continuing the success, growth, and cutting-edge work of the organization. Biking in Los Angeles County has personally changed my life and deepens my love of the region every time I go for a ride,” writes Butler in the same press statement.

“We’re lucky to live and bike in a county full of diverse communities that motivate this talented staff and me to push towards building a healthier, more vibrant Los Angeles County. I am excited to start pedaling, dig deep, and get to work with our members and partners, within and across sectors, as we race to the front lines of the nationwide movement to create bikeable, safe, and sustainable neighborhoods.”

For more on Butler, read the press statement put out by LACBC here or read this interview with Butler when she started her work with Liberty Hill.

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At End of 2014, LA County Bike Coalition Head Jen Klausner To Step Down

L.A. County

L.A. County Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Jennifer Klausner announced today that she is leaving the LACBC as of year end. This 2011 photo shows Klausner (center at podium) celebrating the passage of the city of Los Angeles’ 2010 Bicycle Plan. Klausner is flanked by (left to right) LADOT AGM Amir Sedadi, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Controller Wendy Greuel, and City Councilmember Tom Labonge. Photo via LACBC

Via an email to L.A. County Bicycle Coalition membership this morning, Executive Director Jen Klausner announced that she is leaving her position as of the end of 2014. The organization is at the start of a search process to find her replacement.

Below is an excerpt of her resignation announcement:

Now, with great pride in the good work of LACBC, its extraordinary staff and Board, growing network of local chapters throughout the County, and you, our membership, without whom we could do none of this, I announce that I will be stepping down from my role as Executive Director at the end of 2014. I will continue to support the organization from a different perspective, as I will be looking to get some dirt under my wheels, while attending to other responsibilities and projects.

Our Board President and a dedicated committee have already started to search for a talented new Executive Director to lead LACBC on to new challenges. We will post a job description on our website soon. If you have questions about the search process, or possible candidates to recommend, please email our Search Committee at EDSearch@la-bike.org.

Read more…

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Editorial: Respect Your Advisory Committee, Build a Safer Hyperion Bridge

Members of the Glendale Hyperion Bridge Community Advisory Committee, city staff, and elected officials walk the bridge during their final meeting on August 7. Photo: Don Ward

Members of the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge project Community Advisory Committee, city staff, and elected officials walk the bridge during their final meeting on August 7. Photo: Don Ward

There has been quite a bit of proverbial water under the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge. Under a great deal of community displeasure in 2013, the city of Los Angeles set aside an outdated bridge retrofit plan and formed an advisory committee to decide the future of the historic span.

The 9-member Glendale-Hyperion Viaduct Improvement Project Community Advisory Committee is a broad cross-section of the local communities. It includes representatives from nearby elected city bodies: the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council, Los Feliz Neighborhood Council, and the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council. Rounding it out are folks representing historic preservation, parents from local schools, and concerned non-profits: Friends of the L.A. River, the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition, L.A. Walks, and the Los Feliz Improvement Association.

The committee has been meeting roughly every other month since December 2013. It reviewed design options and technical studies, and discussed how the bridge could best serve the diverse future transportation needs of all adjacent neighborhoods. The available technical studies focus on delays to car traffic, with no thorough evaluation of safety, health, or environmental outcomes. Even using these stacked-deck car-centric studies, bridge bike lanes and sidewalks not only appear feasible, but perform better than the existing bridge configuration.

At the committee’s final meeting on August 7, they were unable to come to a full consensus on a final recommendation for the configuration of the bridge.

So, as folks do in democracies, they took a vote.

The final vote was 6 to 3 in favor of the “Option 3″ road diet configuration. Option 3 reduces one car travel lane, resulting in three car lanes (one northbound, two southbound), two bike lanes, and sidewalks on both sides of the bridge. The Community Advisory Committee completed their task; their advice to the city is to include two sidewalks and two bike lanes on the new bridge.

Option 3 is a compromise. Read more…

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Active Streets Participants Explore Vermont Square in South L.A.

Participants in the Active Streets walk gather behind the Vermont Square Library.  Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Participants in the Active Streets walk gather behind the Vermont Square Library to debrief about the walk. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

“This is such a pretty neighborhood!”

It was a comment I heard several times over the course of the Active Streets event held at Vermont Square park (48th and Budlong) last weekend.

For people unfamiliar with South L.A., the neighborhood appeared to have defied expectations. It certainly defied stereotypes — the winter sky shimmered, the almost two-block-long park behind the homey library sparkled, people’s well-kept homes and yards looked inviting, and the streets were largely clean and peaceful.

It didn’t mean there weren’t issues, of course.

On the short walk the two dozen participants took around the neighborhood to document pedestrian issues, everyone stopped to snap photos of broken asphalt at the ends of driveways and alleys and the dislodged fire hydrant on a quiet corner that a drunk driver had likely slammed into.

Some idiot knocked over a fire hydrant. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Some idiot knocked over a fire hydrant. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

The residents didn’t seem as taken with the state of the alleys as the non-residents did.

So many of the alleys have been gated for so long that, while they don’t love them, neighbors don’t always notice them the way that they might be put out by the aggressive, in-your-face blight that is a vacant lot. Read more…

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Holiday Food for Thought: A Better Way to Bike Share?

Colin Bogart (LACBC) and Diego Binatena, an Eagle Scout who put together a bikeshare program for two residential facilities for the homeless, stand next to the newly donated bikes at PATH in Hollywood. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Colin Bogart (LACBC) and Diego Binatena, an Eagle Scout and Olympic cycling hopeful who put together a bike share program for two residential facilities for the homeless, stand next to the newly donated bikes at PATH in Hollywood. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Gesturing toward the new bicycles that he and Eagle Scout Diego Binatena had just locked up to the rack at one of PATH‘s residential facilities, the LACBC‘s Colin Bogart noted that the bikes represented the ultimate in self-sufficiency.

For the recipients of the new bikes they may be that and much, much more.

Megan Colvard, Associate Director of Community Engagement at PATH — the largest provider of permanent supportive housing and other services to the homeless — looked at the bikes as a way to help mitigate the social isolation that those they serve often experience. Eric Hubbard, Development Director at Jovenes Inc. — one of the few organizations in the region that focuses on helping homeless youth access supportive housing, skills training, and employment support — felt the bikes could be one more tool in helping their youth go from Invisible to Invincible.

In addition to all that, I realized, Diego Binatena, the 17-year-old Eagle Scout who had put together the mini-bike share programs for PATH and Jovenes, may have come up with a more manageable and easily replicable approach to bike share than any of the proposals we’ve seen so far.

I looked at the gangly Olympic hopeful and wondered if he really grasped the extent of what he had just done.

It’s entirely possible that he did.

A Scout since first grade and son of Santa Monica Housing Authority Administrator Julie Lansing, community service and helping those in need had always been an important part of his life. So had biking. Just this year, he won a number of races, including the California Junior State Road Championships and was recruited by the USA Cycling National Team to race in Europe.

When it came time for him to do his Eagle Scout Service Project — a project intended to deliver benefits of some significance to the community while demonstrating the Scout’s ability for leadership — marrying his love for bicycles with his desire to help the homeless in a bike share program seemed like a good way forward.

After hearing that the LACBC had bikes they might be able to donate to his project, he headed for the drawing board. Read more…

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Riders Reclaim Central Ave. for Bikes for a Few Happy Hours

Members of the World Riders proudly roll up Central. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

For much of the time that I lived in Sevilla, Spain, I lived adjacent to the surprisingly still-formidable walls that once surrounded the old city and were constructed (for the second time) in the 11th century.

History was everywhere you looked, often making the connection between past and present seamless. Because so many of the festivals revolve around tradition and take place in the historic spaces, regardless of whether you felt reassured or oppressed by history and tradition, you were always conscious of where you were and who had gone before you.

In L.A., the transient nature of people and constant turnover or transformation of structures means that tapping into that past is often much more of a challenge.

It doesn’t help that some of our historic corridors, like Central Ave., have fallen into disrepair or are overshadowed by negative stereotypes and/or characterizations of present-day problems. The wariness of visitors to explore Watts, for example, means that most are unaware that the Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC), located at 108th and Central, is home to a wonderful civil rights museum that houses a recreation of a ship’s slave hold, a Mississippi Delta scene from the Reconstruction Era, and rooms with more modern artifacts, including a jail cell, “Whites Only” signage, a diner counter, photographs, sculptures, and blackface/minstrel memorabilia.

Other sites have taken on a new life that offers few clues to the past. The Lincoln Theater (located at 23rd and Central), a historical monument and once a key venue for African-American entertainment, like many spaces along Central, has since been converted into a Latino church. The boisterous preaching and song that filter out through the doors of what is now Iglesia Jesucristo de Judá on Sunday mornings bear little resemblance to the soundscapes jazz greats created in the past. The Dunbar (at 42nd and Central), also a important historical site in jazz and African-American history, has recently been converted into senior housing. While the interior has been gorgeously remodeled and stocked with memorabilia from the era, the absence of a musical venue open to the public means the burden of conjuring the glory of the past falls largely on the observer. Or, on engaging with local residents who have roots in the area, a number of whom are still around.

The fact that you must scavenger hunt for history is also part of what makes events like Sunday’s bike ride along Central from Watts to Little Tokyo so special.

Riders take a lunch break at a park across the street from the Dunbar Hotel. Photo: John Jones III, East Side Riders BC

The ride was part of the Experience Central Avenue campaign, a collaborative effort by TRUST South L.A., Community Health Councils (CHC), and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC), to engage communities on the future of Central Ave. Given that the LADOT will be implementing bike and pedestrian improvements along that corridor over the next few years, now is the perfect time to revisit the physical and social history of the area while looking for ways to both celebrate that past and make the area more accessible for all.

The partnership between these organizations, whose constituent bases reside both north and south of the 10 freeway, meant that there were a lot of new faces in the crowd on Sunday. In fact, I was pleasantly stunned to see such a diverse crowd rolling at least 80 deep towards me when I met the riders around Central and Manchester. South L.A. staples, the United Riders of South L.A.,  were out in force and were joined by the World Riders (a newer group based near USC), Shuntain Thomas and family (who organize the Peace, Love, and Family ride), and some residents from along Central who had learned about the ride at CicLAvia. The participation of the LACBC enticed students from the planning school at UCLA and other members and supporters, many of whom had not visited the area previously.

The history lessons Andres Ramirez (from CHC) offered at each stop gave many new insights into the area. Read more…

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By the Numbers: Counting Bikes and Pedestrians in Watts

A boy walks in front of the Watts Obelisk. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

As the cloud of sarin gas descended on the scene, party-goers once happily doing the Carlton dance were suddenly writhing on the ground in agony.

Huh?

I rolled over and looked at the clock. It was 4 a.m.

Thanks, NPR, for invading my weird retro dream.

I rubbed my eyes and stumbled toward my coffee maker.

Why did I agree to count bicyclists and pedestrians so early in the morning, so far away from my bed?

Early as the start to the day was, it made for a nice ride to Watts. The streets were practically empty and the air was fresh as I struck out around 5:45 a.m. I could almost feel the city yawning, stretching, and scratching its head.

As I parked myself along the train tracks near the intersection of Grandee and 103rd (the 103rd St. stop on the Blue Line), I looked around for my fellow counters. I didn’t see any. The busy site was all mine.

Even so, it turned out not to be too hard to keep track of the flow of people.

Foot traffic moved completely in tandem with public transport.

As soon as a bus pulled up at the stop in front of the Watts Station house, 10 uniformed kids would come walking in my direction. A train arriving would bring older students and people on their way to work.

Very few people passing through the intersection had walked or ridden their bikes from somewhere else in the neighborhood. Which turned out to be a good thing because, about 45 minutes into the count, I realized that there were two other counters kitty-corner to me, hidden behind a telephone pole about 1000 ft away.

Shit.

How did that happen?

I contemplated just staying where I was because it seemed clear that there would be little overlap. People heading to or from the Metro or bus stops that passed in front of them would reach their destinations without ever crossing my screenline.

In the end, I went over to check in with them. From there I went to a couple of other sites to see if they were in need of partners (they weren’t). Then I spoke with Martin from the LACBC and went back at my original post.

“Who are you?” demanded a woman wrapped from head to toe in a black hijab as I settled back in. “Who sent you here? Do you have permission from the MTA?”

Ah, hello, Wyjeah. Read more…

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Los Angeles Needs You for Bicycle and Pedestrian Counts

“I never see people ride on the existing bike lane, why should we extend it?”

To find out more about the 2013 bicycle and pedestrian counts, visit the LACBC's L.A. Bike and Ped Count website.

“The census shows that less than 1% of people bicycle, even if a new bike lane doubles the amount of people biking, it’s not worth losing a travel lane/parking lane.”

“Nobody walks in my neighborhood.”

As advocates, you are likely to hear some version of each of these comments. In people’s desperation to cling to their car culture, it seems car culture warriors will trot out the same tired arguments, no matter how often they are beaten down.

But you know what never loses and argument? Data. Cold hard facts are the best answer to conjecture. And the best data comes from the data we collect ourselves.

“This bicycle and pedestrian count is a massive undertaking, requiring 450 volunteers for 900 hours of counting.  But the data is worth the effort,” explains Eric Bruins with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. “Because of the counts in 2009 and 2011, we know that bicycling increased 32% during that time generally, and 101% at locations that added new infrastructure.  There have been over 150 miles of new bikeways added since the last count, making this year’s count critical for measuring the effectiveness of those investments.”

For the 5th time, the LACBC is doing the work that the City of Los Angeles should be doing and holding a series of bicycle and pedestrian counts next week. This year, Los Angeles Walks is joining them, for a truly multi-modal event. While the counts are next week, volunteers need to go through a short training course being held tonight, tomorrow night or Saturday. Read more…

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Livability Advocates Dominate #RoadBond Hearing, Press Ignores

On Wednesday, the City Council Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee ordered city staff to study funding options for a bond proposal to fix city streets.

Wait 'til this year? Photo:The Source.

You may remember Council Members Joe Buscaino, who happens to chair the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee, and Mitch Englander proposed a property tax increase to fund a bonding system that would repair all of L.A.’s decaying streets in a ten year period.

The proposal never made it to the May ballot after complaints that the process was being rushed. The two members then held six hearings throughout the city to solicit feedback from across the city. On Wednesday, Englander reported on those efforts and presented the findings of those reports.

The “big news” from the report is that a future proposal would include more funding than just a property tax bond and that a work plan would be submitted before any funding plan went to the general public.

The Council motion asked city staff to look into twenty six issues relating to the bond program. Many of those issues had to deal with diversifying funding streams, creating a citizens oversight committee, and a work plan for the billions of dollars that would be spent on street reconstruction.

However, at least six action items from the report asked staff to look into funding sidewalk repair as a part of a bond proposal and the feasibility of creating a “green street,” “complete streets,” “living streets” and “great streets” program. The request was passed unanimously, with Buscaino and Council Members Gilbert Cedillo and Curren Price all voting to move it to the full Council.

As with the City Hall hearings on the proposal last winter, environmental and Livable Streets advocates dominated the hearing offering nine of the ten public comments. As in the winter, the Daily News writer present managed only to quote the one person present who was concerned about a tax increase and one representative of the Neighborhood Councils that wasn’t even present.

Since the Daily News decided to ignore the advocates for livability, Streetsblog would like to highlight their concerns. Read more…

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The L.A. Zoo Opens Its Doors for Adult Only Thursdays with Discounts to LACBC Members

The Los Angeles Zoo is holding its Roaring Nights events on the next three Thursday nights. Basically, the zoo becomes an 18 and older venue for a couple of hours with bands, food trucks, new chances to interact with the animals (elephant feedings!) and no kids. While this sounds like fun, it was a small sentence in the middle of the press announcement that caught my eye.

Biking to the Zoo is encouraged, and the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition (LACBC) will provide free bike valet for all of the Roaring Nights events.

For the first time ever, the L.A. Zoo is having a bike valet. If this isn’t a sign that biking is catching on in Los Angeles, I’m not sure what is. In fact, the zoo is actually offering a discount for LACBC members for the Roaring Nights series as they are their other sponsors and current members of the zoo.

The full press announcement can be found after the jump. Read more…