Inside the Mandeville Canyon Task Force

Last night, Councilman Rosendahl’s Task Force on bicycle safety issues a in Mandeville Canyon met for the first time. Occasional Streetsblog contributer Kent Strumpell was there, and offers these notes from the meeting. Some of the highlights include many points of agreement between the community and the cyclists and that there will be a public community forum sometime this fall.

The Mandeville Task Force was attended by close to 30 participants including representatives from the three home owners groups, cyclists representing Velo Club La Grange, South Bay Wheelmen, Team Helens and others, city bikeways staff, LACBC and BAC reps, local police officers including the local captain, a representative from the city prosecutor’s office, a Public Works commissioner, a criminal psychologist and of course Councilman Rosendahl and staff. I apologize that I did not keep good notes on the names of the participants.
Rosendahl immediately made it clear that the Task Force was not a substitute for a town hall meeting on the larger issue of tensions between cyclists and motorists. He plans to convene a meeting of that nature in the fall, where all will be invited including the media. Tonight’s meeting, however, was to focus on the situation on Mandeville Canyon, though it was anticipated that some of what comes out of this group could inform the citywide debate. Elaborating on what he stated in the meeting announcement, Rosendahl said participants on both sides of the issue expressed concerns that a large meeting would be chaotic, encourage the media to focus on polarizing viewpoints and not be productive. Judging from the generally constructive outcome of this initial meeting, this seems like a wise choice. The Councilman remained for the entire meeting and provided a firm hand when needed to keep the discussions productive.
After introductions, Councilman Rosendahl got the discussion started by giving participants the opportunity to express their views and concerns. The tone of the comments was respectful and constructive. Both of the homeowners’ groups and La Grange distributed handouts that summarized their concerns and suggestions.
Homeowners acknowledged that the road has clear recreational value and should remain open for a variety of uses. They pointed out that it is, however, the neighborhood they live in, is narrow and needs maintenance. Their concerns about cyclists focused on the behavior of those who don’t follow the rules, who speed, ride two abreast, blow through stop signs, are noisy in early morning hours, use coarse, aggressive language towards motorists who encounter them and the hazards that silent, speeding cyclists present to pedestrians.
Cyclists stressed their desire to find solutions that will allow them to continue to use the road safely and with courtesy towards residents. They pointed out that they have made efforts in the past to work with the homeowners groups to address issues in the canyon, but these efforts have not been consistent enough to have much effect. Representatives from the riding clubs admitted that there are a few cyclists who exhibit bad behavior, but that these are far outnumbered by those who make an effort to be courteous and safe. They cited a major concern with speeding motorists, some of whom make dangerous passing maneuvers to overtake cyclists who are traveling at or near the speed limit, and some who drive aggressively around cyclists. There was widespread acknowledgment that the road surface is in such poor condition that this often forces cyclists to ride farther into the road. Sometimes trash containers are placed where they force cyclists towards the center as well.

The Councilman then asked the two sides to separate and caucus amongst themselves to identify their primary concerns and take a stab at finding solutions. When they returned, the homeowners group listed their primary concerns as:
1. Lack of accountability, ie, cyclists are anonymous and problem riders can’t be identified. Their proposed solution was some form of license plate that cyclist would be required to display. This idea was ruled impractical because it would require statewide legislation to enable it.
2. Lack of adherence to laws.
4. Lack of enforcement.
5. Cyclists who are unaware that motorists are near them and don’t move over to allow them to pass.
The cyclist group identified these issues:
1. The need for safe interactions between cyclists and motorists. Aggressive driving can prove deadly to cyclists.
2. Lack of understanding about how driver behavior affects the safety of cyclists and how to drive safely around them.
3. The need for repair of poor road surface conditions.
The bike riders then identified these strategies for addressing the problems:
1. Education. Create guidelines in the form of "rules of the road" to be distributed to cyclists via the internet, email, at bike shops and possibly on sign boards at both the bottom and top Mandeville Canyon. Also, collaborate with the homeowners groups to develop corresponding guidelines for motorists to provide guidance on safety factors for cyclists and how to drive around them. For instance, rather than honking (which seems to elicit adverse reactions), motorists should try to only tap their horn a couple times. Also, motorists need to understand that the harsh words they sometimes get from cyclists are not personal but reflect an instinctive reaction when they are put in a dangerous situation by a car.
2. Road surface conditions should be repaired and maintained so that cyclists can more safely ride closer to the right.
3. Traffic calming. It was acknowledged that this has been a controversial issue (residents of upper Mandeville have made legal challenges when lower Mandeville homeowners planned or implemented speed humps!). Nonetheless, at least speed "feedback" signs could be used, which display a motorist’s speed and have been shown to be effective.
4. Provide a means for homeowners to file complaints about and descriptions of unruly cyclists to the clubs so they can attempt to self discipline any members who warrant this. Could be an email address or website. It was pointed out that perhaps 40% of the cyclists who ride on Mandeville are not affiliated with the clubs, so they could not be controlled.
When the homeowners were asked what solutions they could offer, they said they would "match" the education and other programs offered by the cyclists.
Bikeways staff pointed out that there might be opportunities to incorporate initiatives into the city’s bicycle plan, which is being updated, to address issues brought up in this meeting.
Next steps
1. A site tour will be organized involving Department of Public Works, cyclists, homeowners, police and LADOT to survey Mandeville and Westridge for pavement problems and other conditions that affect cyclist safety and road positioning. This group will summarize its findings and formulate recommendations.
2. Minutes of tonight’s meeting and the sign-in sheet will be distributed.
3. Cyclists will develop their rules of the road guidelines, as well as collaborating on guidelines for motorists.
3. A future meeting of the Task Force will be scheduled.
4. A town hall-type meeting will be scheduled for the fall.

My apologies if I left out any important points, but I wanted to, at least, get out a brief report.

Image: Silent Sensei/Google Earth

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