Light Appears at the End of a Long Bike Plan Tunnel

The Backbone Bikeway Network, now part of the plan...
The Backbone Bikeway Network, now part of the plan...
The city of Los Angeles’ update to its 1996 Bicycle Master Plan has been years in the making, and it looks like there’s finally some light appearing at the end of the bike tunnel. City work began in 2007, with an initial round of public meetings in early 2008. Shifting 2009 drafts drew near-universal derision from local cyclists. A revised 2010 version appeared somewhat better, but failed to win City Planning Commission approval on November 5th 2010.

Since November’s continuance, the City Planning Department (DCP) has worked with the commission and with local cyclists and made additional modifications to the plan. The newly modified Bike Plan is anticipated to be approved when it is heard by the City Planning Commission this Thursday December 16th at 8:30am. The meeting will take place at the Van Nuys City Hall, 14410 Sylvan Street, Van Nuys 91401 – located three blocks north of the Metro Orange Line Van Nuys Station.

There are quite a few modifications listed in the staff report on the city’s Bike Plan website. A flurry of important changes were made during negotiations the day of the November Planning Commission hearing, and detailed in this earlier Streetsblog article: elimination of proposed/potential categories implying burdensome environmental review, specifying minimum lane widths, and others.

Perhaps the most prominent change in the latest proposed draft is the inclusion of the Backbone Bikeway Network. The earlier 2010 draft included a largely-arterial bike facility network that appeared to be based on the Bicycle Working Group’s Backbone Bikeway Network, but was watered down and labeled Citywide Bikeway Network. Bikeside‘s Alex Thompson worked with DCP to incorporate a full-featured Backbone, actually called the “Backbone Network.” The draft plan now includes a “707 mile Backbone Network [that] will enable access to major employment centers, transit stations and stops, and educational, retail, entertainment, and other open space and recreational resources.”

This Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition calls it A Plan We Can Support; their article outlines additional recent changes regarding: education, re-paving, accountability, safe routes to school, prioritization of low-income areas, and bike counts.

Once the Bike Plan receives Planning Commission approval, it goes to City Council Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee, which is expected to hold a joint hearing with the council’s Transportation Committee. Not yet finalized/released for Planning Commission, but expected to be heard by PLUM and T-Committee is a new draft of the 5-Year Implementation Strategy.

After committee approvals, the plan goes to the full City Council, then to Mayor Villaraigosa. At that point, the hard work of implementation gets underway. An activated community can accelerate program and facility implementation, even going beyond what’s specified in an approved plan. Seemingly-visionary plans can also gather quite a bit of dust on city shelves. If Los Angeles’ livability advocates truly want to see needed changes on the ground and in the streets, then they will need to work with communities and city staff to ensure that the new Bike Plan is implemented without delay.

  • Good article Joe! I’m glad you’re wrote this up because I haven’t been able to write up the non-Backbone improvements yet. I’ll see you on Thursday at the Commission, right?

  • @Alex – Between the Bikeside article
    http://www.bikesidela.org/las-sexy-backbone/
    and the LACBC article
    http://lacbc.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/la-bike-plan-a-plan-we-can-support/
    there wasn’t a lot left to write. Thanks to everyone who’s been pushing on this – dating back to 2007 – seems like eons ago.

    I’ll be there Thursday.

  • I would like to fund a writer to cover the bike plan process and implementation on North Figueroa Street. I’d do it myself, but I have no time for it these days.

    I think this is the only way to keep those in power honest: buy our own megaphones and blast out information about things online. Maybe there is a coalition of bike shops in town that can all pitch in to create a “bike plan implementation reporter” or something full time.

    They could interview community members to show various amounts of support for facilities and programs, interview staff and officials overseeing the plan’s implementation, attend and report on meetings. There is one thing I know about LA and “plans” – if nobody is there to excoriate and investigate those working on a project in the press, things rarely go well.

  • Erik G.

    Can I bicycle (or walk) on Sepulveda from Manchester (or Century) to Imperial as this map indicates?

    I thought the tunnel under the runways was off-limits to human-powered transport, even though one can freely drive a Ryder Rental Truck with anything aboard through unmolested.

  • “Can I bicycle (or walk) on Sepulveda from Manchester (or Century) to Imperial as this map indicates?”

    You will be able to once the bike plan is implemented, at least!

  • Four groups/commissions are to be created to follow and coordinate this bike plan – is that realistic? Is that what other cities have done?

    This plan names the:
    City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee (3.2.1.A), (already exists)
    the Bicycle Plan Implementation Team (3.2.2.A ),
    the Network Working Group (3.2.2.B)
    and the Regional Bicycle Plan Implementation Team (3.2.3.A)

  • Josef – that section has just been revised and staff will be asking just to create the BPIT, so it will be not those 4, but these 2:

    City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee (3.2.1.A), (already exists)
    the Bicycle Plan Implementation Team (3.2.2.A )

  • Roadblock

    I love that they adopted the Backbone Bikeway Network name and it IS huge cause for celebration, but lets not forget, as Damien opined here on Streetsblog some time ago that the bike plan could be the best bike plan ever designed, but it is the IMPLEMENTATION schedule of said plan that is going to put that beautiful design on the streets. Alex himself pointed out that in the late 70’s there was literally a “Backbone Network” included in the bike plan and we can see as per the condition of the streets today that without the teeth of an implementation strategy that Backbone faded into oblivion.

    Tomorrow the Planning Commission is set to adopt this plan. Lets ask ourselves if there is enough teeth in the implementation strategy/schedule of this document to move forward. The last thing we would want is for this generation’s Backbone Bikeway Network to fade into history as it did in the past.

  • Hi. I lived directly on Sepulveda Blvd in Culver City. My first question is basic: Does this plan partly or in detail ignore the interlaced cities like Beverly Hills and Culver City, all the independent cities in the south… indeed this is an L.A. City and not County plan? Also I looked through the downloads… are there visualizations of what the core routes would look like?

  • @Todd:
    This plan is indeed only for the City of Los Angeles. Each city has its own plan, and LA County has a separate plan for bike facilities in unincorporated areas of the county (like East Los Angeles, Willowbrook and other patches that don’t belong to one city).

    Unfortunately, there is no state-wide or count-wide plan.

  • @Joseph: Thanks. But it seems like the main routes go through other cities and unincorporated areas, yes? If not… well… are there other urban areas outside of California (I know that San Diego is a bit like this) which have this unique and sometimes problematic territorial set-up?

    p.s. My father moved us to Culver City towards the end of the years of Busing, but this was okay since the schools were fairly diverse, in particular the single high school. Also we could buy fireworks in Culver City….

  • I hate how there is a gaping hole where Hawthorne Blvd should be. It’s a shame that what was once a trainline is now an over-wide waste of space.

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