Neighborhood Focused Bicycle Plans

Thanks to hard-working bicycle activists like Joe Linton and Stephen Box
who’ve read through the L.A. draft Bike Plan, Angelenos who care about
bikes can get the skinny on the 212-page draft without wading through
the typo and error-riddled document themselves. That said, I’d love it
if this draft were not so big and intimidating so that more people
would be encouraged the actual document — which is why David Byrne’s latest blog post got me thinking.

In his post about “An Evening With David Byrne
— an L.A. event that happened earlier this month — Byrne opines that
“LA, like Austin in a way, is so spread out that it has more obstacles
to overcome” — and presents some ideas:

I suggested to the city rep that one might try adding
bike lanes, etc. in specific neighborhoods, little by little, and not
try to instigate a whole citywide program. Downtown, Santa Monica and
Venice would be obvious candidates. Her response seemed to imply that
the state of LA politics and bureaucracy makes that impossible — if one
hood gets something, they all want it.

Byrne’s suggestion got me thinking: Would it be possible to get
multiple bike plans going in various L.A. neighborhoods — with shorter
drafts of the plans that cyclists in that area could get through more
easily? Might that get cyclists more engaged and active in the areas
that they live or work in?

I think we still need an overall master bicycle plan to weave those
neighborhood plans together — and thus the city’s bike infrastructure
together — into a more comprehensive system. But considering the fact
that at the moment, neighborhood councils seem to lack the time even to
comment on the master plan, as Alex Thompson at Westside Bikeside’s pointed out, perhaps having a greater focus on neighborhood based bike plans — headed up by individual neighborhood councils — could work.

Certainly, neighborhood councils have been more receptive to adopting the Cyclists Bill or Rights, as Stephen Box points out. And efforts like the LA County Bicycle Coaliton’s 4th St. Bike Blvd. already seem to be along this neighborhood-focused vein. Plus, bike plans that focus on smaller areas — like the Burbank Bike Master Plan — seem to be creating more optimism and less angst.

That said, I live in Santa Monica, not the City of L.A., and thus
don’t have a neighborhood council. For those of you who do: Do you
think we could look to neighborhood councils to push through smaller
bike plans in their communities? The pedestrian and cyclist-friendly work of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council certainly seems like a step in that direction –

  • There is a precedent–specific plans that supplement the city General Plan are adopted for certain areas; similar community based bike plans could supplement the citywide bike plan

  • It’s not like good ideas haven’t been put before Mowery – it’s just that she isn’t the elected official or high-level bureaucrat to implement them. Seriously, she is so far down the organizational chart, I now think we’re lucky to have gotten the (often lame) bike facilities we have now.

    Sure, small neighborhood-based projects … whatever. It will likely work – but then again, starting that still requires the type of hard fight with LA’s entrenched road planning technocrats to allow bicycles and walking to supersede the interests of automobile speed, mobility and volume.

  • Mark

    Use seeclickfix and make your own community-sourced bike plan. It’s easy using a custom watch area, and generates more outsider participation.

  • M

    On one hand, I’d say it is a good idea. Generally when things are handled on more of a local basis, people can make better informed decisions in terms of understanding how the current traffic moves, the current problems and trends within the neighborhood, etc. The problem with little neighborhood centric bike lane additions is that they can easily become useless. After all, what happens when the bikers in the bike lane get to the end of the lane on the border of the neighborhood? Are they expected to merge with normal traffic and how will the car drivers perceive this action? Should they turn around and go home or find the nearest bike lane that takes them where they need to go? What if one neighborhood decides to paint lines on a major street while another decides to divert all of their bike traffic down dedicated, isolated bike paths? Some people seem to think bike paths should only be completly isolated paths that don’t follow a path that represents the places that current car traffic moves while others think that bike paths should go through the same areas as the cars currently do. It seems that all is takes is a few of these semi-complete paths to be painted and never taken any further for people to get frustrated with the idea and dismiss it as useless.

    It’s a starting point, I suppose, but considering how many neighborhoods LA has and that the boundaries aren’t always obvious, it seems like it could lead to a frustrating situation. Who would drive a car on a street that only exists in one neighborhood and abruptly stops at the entrance to a new “neighborhood”? As I live near Burbank, the current situation is already a little frustrating as Burbank plows ahead with bike lanes while the neighborhoods that I enter Burbank through aren’t on the same page. As a result, despite the fact that I bike in Burbank every weekend, I’ve never done so on a bike path.

  • Where “people” think bike lanes should go, and where bike lanes will be effective at putting more people on bikes, benefit local commerce and positively impact safety and livability are two very different topics.

    “People” think all sorts of inane things about bike lanes – but when you stick to the facts,

    “Bicyclists need access to the same destinations as drivers of automobiles. Origin and Destination Survey results show that the most common destinations for bicyclists are concentrated along major arterials, especially in areas with intense commercial activity”

    Additionally, done properly, bicycle facilities are cheap and fast to implement once you’ve jumped through whatever political/legal hoops are required to install in exchange for degraded automobile access and speed.

  • angle

    I have been thinking along these same lines.

    I think that a single shared street, if it is targeted to give a small group of residents easy access to a local shopping strip, could have enormous potential for getting “ordinary” people to use bikes for transportation. If “non-cyclists” see that there is a safe, traffic calmed street that will take them to a useful destination a short distance away, it is my experience that they will be willing to consider cycling once or twice a week.


More on the Bike Plan: Strength and Weaknesses

(As you may have noticed, Streetsblog is running a series gathering different people’s opinions on the Bike Master Plan.  You can read statements by a group of different bike activists from Monday,  Dan Koepel on Tuesday, Kent Strumpell in the comments section yesterday and now LACBC Founder and Green L.A. Transportation Working Group Chair Joe […]

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