Advocates Love the Backbone Bikeway Network

2_10_10_reseda.jpgGetting off the Backbone in the Valley. Photo: Fire Monkey Fish/Flickr

Since the maps for the Backbone Bikeway Network burst on to the scene last week, it seems that the discussing the maps, the Backbone, and the concepts and theories behind it is all anyone in the cycling movement wants to do.  Following up on Tuesday’s story, I had the chance to speak with, or email with, many of the advocates and leaders of the bicycling movement in Los Angeles.  The near unanimous verdict?  They love it.

Bicycle Advisory Committee Chair Glenn Bailey calls the plan "a worthwhile proposal," while Ted "Biking in L.A." Rogers gives a more descriptive "absolutely frickin’ brilliant."  CicLAvia’s Stephen Villavaso, who is also a professional engineer and LACBC Board Member, raves about the public process, while Roadblock can’t help but note that the plan is simple in it’s brilliance and should be easy for the city to implement. 

Even representatives for the Bike Coalition and C.I.C.L.E. can’t help but praise the plan.  For the LACBC, Aurisha Smolarski notes that the plan highlights the deficiencies of the city’s Draft Bike Plan, while Joe Linton, campaigs director for C.I.C.L.E., wrote an essay that starts by giving "huge props to the Bicycling Working Group."

After the jump, you can read the full statement from all six cycling superstars in their entirety.  For the record, I put them in alphabetical order by last name.

Glenn Bailey – It’s a worthwhile proposal that should be seriously considered by the planning department.  It looks like a very common sense, workable proposal.

Joe Linton – Huge props to the LA Bicycle Working Group for seeking and receiving
mainstream media attention. Streetsblog covers the problems with bike
planning in Southern California, but the L.A. Times and KPCC have been
silent while the city scandalously works to dismantle the minimal bike
network they approved in 1996. The BWG was able to bust the bike plan
dialogue into the mainstream media!

The 2009 draft L.A. City bike plan is so disappointing and so disrespectful that it really made the Bicycle Working Group’s Backbone
Network (Backbone) necessary. I see the city draft plan and the Backbone
as nearly opposite ends of a continuum. The city plan is about the
least possible that the city could do for bikes (without extreme
measures like banning us.) The BWGBN is about the best possible that
the city could conceivably do for bikes (without extreme measures like
banning cars.) Given that politics is the art of the possible, and
immersed in compromises and negotiations, it’s difficult for me to see
either of these plans being approved – neither the downgraded dregs of
the existing city draft, nor the grand vision from the BWG.

I strongly support the city designating bike lanes for the entire Backbone (plus more – Backbone is just the backbone
bike lanes; there should also an entire circulatory system for all
types of riders – additional bike lanes, road diets, bike paths, bike
boulevards.) At the same time, I anticipate that wholesale approval of
the Backbone is unlikely. Maybe it’s because I’ve become pessimistic from
the lack of smart bold citywide livability moves coming out of Antonio
Villaraigosa’s and Gail Goldberg’s Planning Department. There are a few
excellent smaller planning initiatives that I applaud, but, for
citywide initiatives, they just haven’t yet shown themselves capable of
shedding outdated car-centric assumptions, often reinforced by many
Department of Transportation staff. The Backbone raises the bar, putting
pressure on Goldberg’s Planning Department to step up and do real bike

Roadblock – What I love about the Backbone Network, beyond what Enci says about not forcing cyclists to zig-zag through side streets to get places and that places you on the main thoroughfares.

The plan itself is something that voters can chew on that they understand.  It’s a measurable plan that the general public can grasp.  They can look at it like its a subway map.  It makes sense.  It’s a great first step in a process that could take thirty years.  This plan can get done much quicker.

Ted Rogers – My first reaction was ‘absolutely frickin’ brilliant.’  The question that comes now is execution.

I originally thought they were planning bike lanes on every street listed, but I see it could be anything from bike lanes to repaving the street to fixing the signage.

But still, it’s the first attempt I’ve seen to make a plan that allows cyclists to go anywhere in the city, the lack of which in the Draft Bike Plan was its major fault.

Aurisha Smolarski – LACBC agrees that the 2009 LA Bike Plan Draft is not providing a
cohesive bikeway system for cyclists. The Draft Plan needs to greatly
increase the number of designated bike lane miles to incorporate more
infrastructure on arterials and major connector streets. The LA Bike
Backbone Network has served to highlight some deficiencies in the 2009
LA Bike Plan Update process and content.

Stephen Villavaso – The proposed Bicycle Backbone Network is a simple and strong
statement about equality of mobility. It provides cyclists
with regional access and connectivity the way a regional network
should. Both the process and the product directly contrast the process
of developing the City’s Draft Plan and its proposed network. The
Backbone Network does not replace the need for neighborhood level
plans, as the Bike Working Group steering committee has stated, but it
does provide a regional system of greater utility than anything we’ve
seen from the City thus far.

First of all, the BWG’s process of developing a preferred network with
the cycling community demonstrates a commitment to understanding their
needs. During the meetings held by BWG, comments were immediately
addressed and discussed in an open forum. At city meetings, the process
of collecting comments which are often never seen again, leaves the
community waiting and guessing. It is widely believed that the comment
process is merely a formality and it’s well understood that it
guarantees nothing in the form of actual changes to a plan.

The Backbone Network places cyclists on the major thoroughfares
getting riders across town and where they need to go, instead of
restricting them to minor collectors and neighborhood streets which do
not connect to important origins and destinations. The fact that the
Draft Plan’s proposed network was disjointed and severely lacking in
regional connectivity was mentioned time and again during the comments
period, and the community is waiting to see how the City will address
this in the Final Draft Bike Plan.

I support making the Bicycle Backbone Network an official city
adopted and implemented network of bike lanes, road diets, and sharrows.

  • Well, it’s got my vote!

  • Agreed with the issues raised so far in favor. It’s benefits are undeniable, really.

    It’s simple, it’s cohesive, and it serves a currently unserved transportation need.

  • murdercitykid

    Am I missing something? Where is the Backbone? When I look closely at these maps I see massive gaps. The corridors appear to be arbitrary and the same criticism made about the first LA maps can be made about these. It looks like someone took a fat marker to a piece of tracing paper. It seems no regard was made to the actual existing conditions along these corridors. That is the same type of planning that LADOT has been doing for years.

    Many of the selected corridors have parallel arterials with lower traffic volumes and a nicer tree canopy. Those are the streets that I enjoy riding on. I think we need to look at these more in depth and maybe get on our bikes to ride some of these before we recommend them as the “Best Plan”.

  • minibikebar

    You’re kidding me, right. I get one street in your plan! I agreed with murdercitykid.
    Start over, please. And this time look at the big picture. Now, I have to meet with my City Council member and transportation deputy and say…no, we really want more then just that bike lane in my area. Just great!

    I’ve been working with them on multiply recommendations in my area. Now, you just gave the City Council office’s and the Mayor’s Office an out not to put more bike lanes in my area.

    I need to go listen to Horseshoes and Handgrenades to clear my head.

  • @murdercitykid @minibikebar

    You guys are jokers who haven’t read what the creators of the Back Bone Network have written and said about these maps. These are not arbitrarily laid out, and these do not replace nor reduce the need for neighborhood-level bike systems.

    Regarding giving the mayor and council an “out” to ignoring your requests, that is a real laugh as they’ve been busy ignoring your requests for years. The authors of this map have been at the forefront of demanding that voices like yours are heard, and have done so many times in public and private through the written word, protests, private meetings, bike rides, art work and general hell-raising.

    Save your half-informed criticism for those that deserve it – the mayor and councilmembers that would ignore you!

  • Umberto Brayj I am getting very tired of you making personal attacks and put downs against people who have a different point of view other than yours. Stating that someone hasn’t read it or haven’t spent as much time reading it as those that agree with your view is irritating and discourages having a open forum with differing views.

    Murdercitykid brings up a good point that some parallel streets with less vehicle volume are more comfortable to ride than the much busier streets. There is a large segment of the potential bicyclists who would never ride on a busy street with fast moving traffic with or without bicycle lane stripes.

    Due to limited funds, putting the Back Bone Network as the priority would almost certainly push back creating any of the bicycle friendly street routes that are on the LADOT bicycle plan for encouraging kids to ride to school. Bicyle friendly street routes would greatly increase the pool of bicyclists by targeting half of the population (women) that are much more cautious about riding on busy streets than men and also people who are going to school and don’t drive.

    Or do hard core riders realistically believe that a great deal of women and kids would love to ride a bicycle on a busy street if they only some paint on the road to protect them?

    A women I work with who rides one hour one way to work several times a week sticks to the quieter side streets and the side walks for fear of getting hit by a fast moving car and she is a cyclist with years of experience. She is very representative of a large silent part of the potential bicyclists out there.

    Using the lowend number of 2 million dollars a year that is intended for bicycling coming from proposition R, it would take at least three years to complete the Back Bone Network to the exclusion of any other bicycle infrastructure project. Now you’ve got a bare bones network that bicyclists would have a hard time connecting to due to lack of infrastructure elsewhere.

    It’s unrealistic to believe that with limited funds you can introduce hundreds of miles of additional lanes for bicyclists on busy streets without impacting the start of creating bicycle friendly neighborhood streets.

  • minibikebar

    I was kind of a jerk yesterday, with my comments concerning the backbone plan.
    I came back from Haiti on Tuesday after being there for a month
    And I see the “stick figure” map for Los Angeles and, I admit it, I flipped out.

    I guess I want to see a “Verizon” bicycles map of Los Angeles not an “AT&T” bicycle map. That said if we can put the Verizon and the AT&T maps together I think Los Angeles will be a great place to ride for everyone.

    Diemen, hope you don’t mind but as I said I just came back from Haiti, you can’t understand the total destruction and the lack of water, food, medical care and housing there. Please give to the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Clinton fund, etc to help.
    And it will only get worst when the rainy season hits. Please help
    We rode bikes to get around Post-au-Prince.
    Below is a worth while cause. up to send bikes to Haiti

    Thursday, January 28, 2010


    Near Port-au-Prince, where thousands of people around Haiti’s capital have lost their houses, and are living out of makeshift camps, a bicycle can go a long way.

    Haitian-born Ronald Mompoint, owner of Saveur Creole on Grove Street, is collecting bicycles to send to people in his earthquake-ravaged homeland where he has many family members and friends.
    So thinks Ronald Mompoint, owner of Haitian-cuisine restaurant Saveur Creole, 131 Grove Street.
    As with many Haitians residing in Montclair, Mompoint was devastated by news of a 7.0-magnitude earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of people and caused countless buildings to crumble.
    The country has been ravaged by the earthquake, and Mompoint predicted that even after emergency aid, public transportation will be a problem, the price of gas will increase and cars will be difficult to manage.
    “Once the emergency response is settled, people will need to move from point a to point b, and cars are not the best option at this point,” he said.
    His solution for basic mobility? Bicycles.
    “I want to donate 200 to 300 bicycles,” the restaurateur said. “Biking will have a positive impact.”
    Mompoint, who grew up in Haiti and still has his grandmother, uncles, aunts nieces and nephews there, said he biked everywhere as a child.
    He is meeting with friends tonight, Thursday, in Montclair to organize the logistics of transporting bikes to Haiti, and allying with nonprofits working there. He will start collecting donations at his restaurant in mid-February.
    “A transitional effort can happen by having people get back to biking. It’s a green concept that works,” said Mompoint.
    Shipping bicycles to Haiti had been problematic for Pedals for Progress, a New Jersey-based group that sends donated bicycles to local partners in developing nations.
    Founder Dave Schweidenback has sent five containers, each containing 450 bikes, to Haiti between 1994 and 2000, with limited success. Some couldn’t get through customs. The director suspects Haitian authorities stole many bikes.
    Stephane Mortier, a Pedals for Progress trustee and Montclair resident, has offered to help Mompoint attain his goal.
    “Getting a bike means [people] can go further to the market, further to get a job,” Mortier said. “It’s a great means to develop the local economy.”
    To contact Mompoint regarding his effort, call 973-687-5612, or e-mail
    Contact Lina Khouri at

  • Gah! You are introducing more straw-man arguments than I can deal with at once!

    Limited funds?! Limited funds?! You’ve got to be kidding me, because this plan can be built, using the City’s own $28,000/mile estimate, for around $5 million – which is still chump change if we leverage several pots of dedicated bike-only money with state and federal grants.

    Here are some non-MEASURE R (not Prop R) funds the city gets that are for bicycle and pedestrian planning:

    Local Transportation Fund
    .025% of Sales Tax goes to planning bicycle and pedestrian facilities
    2007-2008 Total Revenue: $4,687,411

    Prop C Anti-Gridlock Transit Improvement Fund
    LA gets a cut of Prop C sales tax money to “improve transit service and operations, reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality, efficiently operate and improve the condition of streets and freeways utilized by public transit, and reduce foreign fuel dependence.”

    The City receives funds from a 20 percent share of the revenues collected based on a per capita allocation. Funds may be used for public transit, paratransit, and repairing and maintaining streets used by public transit.

    Total collected 2007-2008: $83,182,491
    Total that went to projects with bike in the name: $780,000
    Unallocated Balance: $579,949

    Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Trust Fund
    $4 per vehicle fee collected by the state, allocated based on population, to go to programs to reduce mobile source air pollution.
    Total Revenue 2007-2008: $5,417,766

    Further, this network is not for the “hardcore” (am I now part of that “hardcore”?), but is designed to take into account the needs of the City’s transportation cyclists, who:

    “… 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”
    -MTA Enhanced Public Outreach Program, 2002

    This is a plan put together by a dedicated group of unpaid volunteers, and when you stand the work they’ve done up against the $500,000+ piece of garbage created by the city and their consultant there is no comparison – the all-volunteer plan kicks ass. More to the point, this is a rallying point behind which an entire city of cyclists can push for political change – which has been the lone stumbling block all these years (not money, not space on the streets, not “car culture”, or a lack of “hardcore” advocates).

    I am sorry if I come across as brash and rude – but I’m not a happy guy, and I don’t have any obligation to be nice to people bad-mouthing a great idea because they haven’t read enough about it!


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