LADOT’s John Fisher on the Future of the American City


There are few names that draw such heated debate in the bike community than "John Fisher," one of the assistant general manager’s at LADOT; but the man viewed by many as the most important figure at LADOT when it comes to department policy.  After all, General Manager’s come and go, but John Fisher is a fixture.

Recently, the popular monthly magazine The Atlantic featured an interview with Fisher as part of it’s "The Future of the American City."  There’s a lot of car-talk in the interview, but both the interviewer and Fisher find some time to talk bicycling and pedestrian issues.


I bike to work every day
and I find myself constantly wishing that all the cars on the road would
disappear. What do transportation engineers take into account when considering
bikers and pedestrians?

In the last few years, there’s been a real emphasis on
improving the environment for other modes of travel, for bicyclists, for
pedestrians, and for the handicapped. We try to make our streets safer for
pedestrians. We have a major program to put in flashing lights and a warning
sign that will flash only when a pedestrian is crossing, called a smart
crosswalk or smart activated pedestrian warning. We’re trying to become
credible with the motorists–when these lights are flashing, there really is a
pedestrian, so yield to the pedestrian.

We’ve looked at some of our streets and determined that some
are mainly for through travel but others are for retail and pedestrian
friendliness. We’ve looked at how to make the sidewalks wider, how we can
provide more streetscape features such as decorative lighting, trees, and crosswalks.

With bicyclists, there are activists in many of the major
cities demanding more facilities for bicycles, so we’re looking at how we can restripe
our streets to accommodate bicycle lanes. I think in time there will be some
streets where we’ll deemphasize the streets for vehicular travel and make them
available for bicycle travel.

While the parts on pedestrians sounds encouraging, the part on cyclists is a little depressing.  At least it’s an honest appraisal of where the LADOT is in their thinking.  It sounds like the advocates pushing for bike boulevards and road diets have their work cut out for them.


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