Update: Did LA Cyclists Just Get Hosed by Unanimous Vote?
12:30 PM PDT on June 19, 2013
(Update, 3:28 p.m.: Council Member Huizar sends along a rendering of the new design. The text of the final motion can be found here.)
The verdict is in. And it looks like Hollywood won.
The Los Angeles City Council just voted unanimously to replace the Spring Street green bike lanes with a new treatment hashed out behind closed doors — without hearing a single comment from the many bike riders present in the room.
Instead, the lanes will be restriped in white, with a narrow, four inch line of reflective dark green paint inside each line.
Hardly the highly visible lanes Downtown bike riders now enjoy, and which have resulted in a significant increase in bicycling on the street.
The council members called it a compromise that works for everyone. But many bike advocates walked out of the room feeling like they'd lost.
And knowing they hadn't been heard.
After repeated delays, only a handful of bicyclists were in the crowded council chambers when the City Council took up the long-awaited discussion of repainting the green bike lanes on Spring Street.
And those who had somehow managed to free their schedule for a third day in less than a week sat through a full 90-minute tribute to outgoing Councilmember Dennis Zine — including crediting the former LAPD officer credit for the capture, if not conviction, of a speeding Justin Beiber — before the matter came up.
Then again, the speakers also gave him credit for getting four miles of bike paths installed along the L.A. River, as well as other bikeways throughout his district.
The question was whether he, and the other councilmembers, would vote to keep the popular, and highly successful, green bike lanes on Spring.
Popular, that is, with nearly everyone except Hollywood filmmakers. Despite the inexplicably one-side coverage from the city’s paper of record.
Those green bike lanes have proven hugely successful, resulting in a 51% increase in ridership on Spring the first year alone, with an additional projected 40% increase this year. In addition, it’s seen a 100% increase in weekday women riders — and a 650% increase in weekend ridership among women.
All this even though the paint on the bike lane has been cracked and faded since the initial installation, as LADOT has struggled to find paint that would adhere to the street’s uneven blend of concrete and asphalt.
Which was fine with the filmmakers, who complained that the stripe of green paint made it impossible to film on a street that has long stood in for business districts around the country and decades long past.
Evidently, their extensive research revealed that gangster-era Chicago or 1960’s New York City didn’t have many bike lanes, let alone green ones.
And that, unlike virtually every other anachronistic fixture on any other filming location in the entire history of Hollywood filmmaking, it was impossible to hide, shoot around or cover up. So working with Film LA, they reached an agreement to let the bike lanes fade into oblivion, despite their obvious success and popularity.
And that’s where things stood until Councilmembers Ed Reyes and Jose Huizar filed a motion to repaint the bike lanes, while finding compromises that would satisfy the stated objections of the film industry.
The negotiations have been ongoing ever since, resulting in at least one previous apparent agreement between the city, bicycle advocates and representatives of the film industry to alter the shade of green to make it less reflective, and greatly reduce the amount of pain on the street.
Yet, despite the claims of the industry, it wasn’t enough to satisfy them, leading representatives of the film industry to walk away from negotiations, rather than the other way around.
And despite the well-documented fallacies behind their arguments, they still managed to garner significant support from some members of the council, including Hollywood-adjacent Council Member Tom LaBonge, as well as newly elected Mayor Eric Garcetti.
The resulting compromise that was approved today was worked out in what insiders describe as intense negotiations in which everyone walked away unhappy with the final result, but all sides agreed not to oppose it, leading to the council's unanimous vote.
The design that will end up on the street still must be approved by the California Traffic Control Devices Committee (CTCDC) since it’s considered an experimental treatment:
- A four-inch, dark green reflective stripe on the inside of each bike lane striping;
- A white bicycle symbol and arrow within a standard size dark green reflective area at the start of each block;
- White bicycle symbols and arrows at driveways, and at the end of each block in “storage” areas, and
- Resolution of the existing merge zones.
Basically, it offers a mid-range approach; a step up from the treatment used on First Street, while a step back from the full lane green currently employed on Spring. It will retain the current buffer zone, and feature full lane green blocks in the conflict zones.
The paint color to be used is one of the shades approved by the Federal government for use in bike lanes, and matches the shade used in New York — eliminating one of the industry’s objections that the street could no longer stand in for the city.
Whether it will be as noticeable, or feel as safe to riders, remains to be scene.
However, as Eric Bruins, Planning and Policy Director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition points out, it is a much more cost-effective design, which will speed the rollout of similar lanes across the city if it proves successful.
And as Rick Coco, Communications Director/Senior Advisor for Huizar’s office suggests, the industry’s stance was that the bike lanes should be removed entirely, so anything less than that should be seen as a victory.
I’m not sure the bike advocates who were prepared to fight for their bike lane before the council, but not given an opportunity to speak, would agree right now.
But I’ve heard from multiple sources that bike riders owe genuine thanks to Huizar for refusing to give in and insisting that some form of green bike lane had to remain on the street.
It’s not a victory. But it’s not a loss, either, even if it may feel that way right now.
The green bike lanes will remain on Spring Street.
But they’re going to look, and feel, very different.
And Hollywood didn't win, after all.
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