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Cyclists Saved LADOT Bikeways, or Did They?

5_19_09_vahedi.jpgCyclists are becoming more politically active, as these two Cyclists for Vahedi proved earlier today.

Last night the City Council passed a motion recommending that the Mayor and LADOT not include any "special fund" positions, i.e. those funded by a source not funded through city revenue which includes , in their budget cuts as part of the "Shared Responsibility" budget requested by the Mayor.  The LADOT's Bikeways program, which is funded through state funds, is included in "special fund" projects so for now, Bikeways is safe.

After a group of cyclists pedaled down to City Hall to protest the proposed cuts, the City Council backed cycling by not only asking the city to hold off on "special fund" positions and by passing two other resolutions asking LADOT to consult with them before proposing any other Bikeways cuts.

Given their role in fighting for Bikeways and highlighting the LADOT's intent to completely dissolve the program; cyclists should now find themselves better positioned to push the Bikeways division for a more aggressive approach to bringing projects from paper to the streets.

Or will they?

While cyclists certainly deserve more than what they've gotten from LADOT, and yesterday proved their interest in working with the city to improve their lot, I'm worried that yesterday we got caught up in a larger budget game.  The more I read and hear from talking to people about the memorandum posted yesterday, it appears that the LADOT was playing a shell game with its departmental funding in this year's budget.  By responding to the Mayor's request that departments eliminate 10% of their staff as part of budget cuts by recommending cuts to positions not funded by the city would require the city to send money back to the state if they were eliminated. 

In simple terms, the LADOT responded to a mandate to cut staff by recommending cuts that the city would never actually approve.  While it might have been amusing to see the City respond to a budget crisis by giving Prop. C funds back to the state; it wouldn't have been good policy or politics and probably wouldn't have happened regardless of the stand taken yesterday.

Regardless of the LADOT's intent, yesterday proves one thing that bike activists have long known but the City Council and other city leaders are still learning: L.A.'s diverse bike community is an active and fast mobilizng constituency that is growing to loud to ignore or push aside any longer.  After all, this is the second time this month that a group of cyclists has descended on the City Council and walked away with resolutions passed by the Council based on their testimony.

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