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L.A. Wins Honorable Mention in League of American Cyclists Bike Friendly Communities Awards

1:52 PM PDT on September 15, 2011

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It seems like every time the City of Los Angeles and bicycles are mentioned in the same sentence, some controversy is involved.  Yesterday, the League of American Bicyclists released its list of "Bicycle Friendly Communities" and the City of Angeles received an Honorable Mention for the second time in four years.  The League's Award has proven somewhat controversial with some seeing it as a sign that things are getting better, while others are wondering what in the world the League was thinking.

The League of American Bicyclists regularly awards communities, states, universities and other organizations awards for bicycle friendliness.  The awards are bronze, silver and gold.  The Honorable Mention category is more of an encouragement for city's on the right path to keep trying.  A League spokesperson tells L.A. Weekly that the Honorable Mention is for the quality of the Bike Plan, and not because of the actual state of things on the streets.

"The League of American Bicyclists made the correct decision to keep LA at the level of Honorable Mention for its latest round of Bicycle Friendly Community awards," writes Ron Durgin, a local League Certified Bicycling Instructor and President of Sustainable Streets.  "In four or five years, if the City of LA delivers on some of its aspirational promises, it may be ready to elevate its status as a Bicycle Friendly Community until then, it should be grateful for the Honorable Mention nod."

The LADOT agrees with Durgin's assesment.  "We are honored to have been nominated and we are committed to making Los Angeles more bicycle friendly every year," commented Jaime De La Vega, the General Manager of the LADOT.

But not everyone feels that even honorable mention was merited.  In fact, at least several hundred people don't.  Over the last several weeks, Bikeside surveyed Los Angeles' bike community on whether or not local cyclists feel that L.A. is "bicycle friendly."  70% of respondents said that the city was NOT bicycle friendly.  "L.A. doesn't even deserve an honorable mention," surmized Bikeside President Alex Thompson.

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After giving the city a pat on the back for the Honorable Mention, Alexis Lantz of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition lays out a road map for Los Angeles to get from Honorable Mention to the medal round for the next round of Bicycle Friendly Community Awards.

"The new bicycle plan provides the path for the city to becoming a bicycle friendly community and plan implementation has just begun," Lantz begins.  "The city needs to address all five E's, education, encouragement, enforcement, engineering, and evaluation. In particular we want to see the city make good on the promise to implement 40 new miles of bikeways each year, and they need to stay true to the plan, bicycle lanes cannot be downgraded to sharrows as long term solutions. We also want to see the city implement innovative, high quality infrastructure such as protected bike lanes or cycle tracks.

We also need more education programming for all Angelenos whether they're behind the wheel or on two. And we need the city to measure their progress through safety data and annual bicycle counts and really evaluate the work they are doing and how they are meeting the goals of the bicycle plan. "

And that's what nearly everyone seems to agree on, that regardless of one's feelings on this Honorable Mention, the city has some ground to cover before being considered truly bicycle friendly.

"I don't think that L.A. could quite be considered bike-friendly," sumarizes Joe Linton, a Bike Coalition founder who is currently working on CicLAvia.  "Though there's some progress, including CicLAvia and some new bike lanes, the city continues to prioritize cars and continues to drag its feet on bicycle  facility implementation. We need to see a real bike network emerging before L.A. can be considered bike-friendly. Any L.A. cyclist who's recently bicycled an hour in Long Beach or San Francisco can see and feel the difference between L.A. and a bike-friendly city. "

For the record, Long Beach received a bronze star, and San Francisco a gold one.

But Lantz and City Council Transportation Committee Chair also submitted an alternate theory.  The award shouldn't be looked at as an award for city staff, as much as an award for the city and it's bike community.

"Thanks to the leadership of the bike community, we now have a Bike Plan (along with a 5-year implementation plan) that will help improve mobility and create a true multi-modal transportation system in the City of Los Angeles. In addition, we also have a bicyclist anti-harassment ordinance, the first of its kind in the nation, that strives to define the rights of cyclists on the road," added Rosendahl. "The honorable mention by the League of American Cyclists acknowledges we're on the right path but recognizes that we have a long way to go in creating liveable streets for everyone in the City of Los Angeles. I'm 100% committed to working with our communities to realize a vision of true mobility here in L.A."

Or, as Lantz put it, "We feel the bicycle friendly community award is about more than just what the city is doing, it's also an acknowledgement of the thriving and diverse bicycle community that is helping propel the city forward, which Los Angeles definitely has - so let's continue to build the momentum to make Los Angeles a bicycle friendly community. "

For more on the League Awards and Los Angeles, visit Biking In L.A. or L.A. Weekly, which seems to be on some sort of weird crusade against the bicycling community these days.

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