Pilot Programs v Standards, the Quest for Complete Streets

6_16_09_complete_streets.jpgNot a street in L.A.

Earlier today, the City Council Planning Committee heard how the City is addressing the state mandate to bring "Complete Streets" planning to Los Angeles.  For those of you who don’t remember, last fall Governor Schwarzenegger signed A.B. 1358 into law which required municipalities to construct streets that are safe and accessible for all users when municipalities redo their general transportation elements.

While the city isn’t planning to update our general transportation plan anytime soon, despite claims from the City Council otherwise, the Planning Department was able to respond to Councilman Ed Reyes and the rest of the committee by claiming that everything is fine.  The city is well on it’s way to be a leader in complete streets.  You can read their full report here.

In their report, they do point to many laudable pilot programs as proof that the city is really serious about making bicycling and walking a priority in their planning.  Most of these are a step in the right direction, for example: the Los Angeles River Improvement Overlay, the Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan, and the standards for Downtown Streets.  However, they also listed the Bicycle Plan as proof that they’re moving forward.  Even though I was listening to the hearing on my laptop, I could almost hear the LACBC’s Doroty Le’s eyes roll when she described the claims that the plan "would make L.A. one of the most bicycle friendly streets in America" as "overstated."

Joe Linton, who wrote about this issue at the Green L.A. Transportation Working Group Blog, also testified that while it’s great that the city is moving forward with a series of great pilot programs; the City should focus on re-working it’s street design to better accomodate everyone that uses it, not just the cars but bicycles, pedestrians and, yes, even horse people.

I tend to agree with Linton that these select few great projects prove the rule that in general our transportation planning is extremely car-centric.  But what do you think?  Is the city’s path to creating a transportation grid that works for all users going to come about because of a series of progressive pilot programs that show the way or because of an overhaul of the way we do design our streets?

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