LADOT: No Timetable on Sharrows Pilot Program; LACBC: How’s Next Month Work?

1_14_10_roca.jpgI (heart) Long Beach. Photo: Russ Roca/Flickr

Yesterday, the City Council Transportation Committee met to discuss, once again, what the heck is taking so long to bring a Sharrows program to Los Angeles.  For over two years, the program has been a top priority for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, and funding has been in place for a pilot program for over six months.  Conversely, the above painted-lane Sharrows program in Long Beach took four months to move from Mobility Coordinator Charles Gandy’s head to the street.

Of course, as we’re often reminded, this isn’t Long Beach.

Explaining the delay, LADOT Senior Bike Coordinator Michelle Mowery stated that just because funding was in place, it didn’t mean that the project would automatically move forward.  Because some of the money is to be allocated to LADOT, some to the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and some to LACBC, there are a variety of bureaucratic issues that need to be worked out.  But we’ll definately be Sharrows on some L.A. streets sometime.  She wouldn’t say when, but definately sometime.  Maybe even this year.

Despite her somewhat dour presentation, Mowery tried to sound an optimistic tone. The wait would be worth it, that Sharrows would make the streets more safe.  When discussing a report by Alta Planning on the impact of Sharrows in Los Angeles, she said:

“…studies show that Sharrows do two things.  It moves cyclists out of the door zone.  It also, and this addresses Councilman LaBonge’s point, has cyclists moving in the right direction.”

Mowery was referencing a related story from Councilman Tom LaBonge where he complained about cyclists riding the wrong way in the street.  Despite an LACBC cycling counts report that showed that only six percent of cyclists travel in the wrong direction; this story ended up being a focal point of the meeting for much of the rest of the afternoon.

Before the public had its chance to speak, Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl tried to pin down the LADOT on a timeline and required that the department return next month days with an update.

“My problem is with the black hole of history (for this project) in the past.  I want an update in thirty days.  I’m impatient with this issue.”

Next, the public had a chance to speak.  LACBC’s Aurisha Smolarski testified that she had been in touch with the Bonet Foundation and SCAG, two of the major funders of the project, and that they are getting impatient as well.  However, there is a plan to begin the outreach associated with the program next month that would have the Sharrows on the ground in May.  This is hardly a lightning fast timeline.  Last May, Smolarski told me her dream was to have the Sharrows on the ground by Christmas of 2009, but when dealing with a buerocracy as large as LADOT, just getting them on the ground would be a victory of sorts.

Ramon Martinez defended the “wrong way” cyclists by noting that in the absence of a robust system, people are going to do what they deem most safe.  Of course, many times these people are wrong and putting themselves in greater risk, but Los Angeles had a system as intricate as those in other major cities such as Portland or New York, or other local cities such as Santa Monica and Long Beach, than fewer cyclists would make bad choices.

Another issue that arose was the “D.I.Y.” Sharrows that appeared in Northeast L.A. last month.  LaBonge asked about them.  Mowery grumped that removing them will cost money, but that the city would do them.  However, Jeremy Grant testified that the Sharrows are actually working and that cyclists are riding safer on the “Sharrowed” streets because there is less conflict between modes.  Grant suggested that instead the city should either leave them be or make them official.  LaBonge responded that there’s a legal issue in leaving them down, if a cyclist was involved with a crash in the area.  However, the Sharrows are still there, at least for now.

In other news, the Committee also discussed bringing a bike share program to Los Angeles, although it seems as though LADOT is counting on Metro to bring one to some of their transit hubs.  LAist has more details of their discussion here.

Rosendahl also let slip that February 24th is the tentative date for his “town hall” between cyclists and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.

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