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Help City Planners Prioritize Mobility Enhancements and Programs

L.A. at night from Radio Rd. in Montecito Heights. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Over the last few weeks, emails from staff at LA/2B (the effort to integrate Complete Streets principles and community input into the Mobility Element of the City’s General Plan) have been popping up in my inbox, encouraging me to participate in prioritizing the programs proposed for the Mobility Element's Action Plan in their online town hall.

Which means it's my duty to turn around and encourage you to do the same, especially if you live in South L.A. or Boyle Heights.

"Boo," you say, dismissively. "I'm busy and I don't know diddly about planning. Why should I care?"

Great question.

The General Plan was last updated in 1999. With regard to mobility, much has changed since then, particularly in the level of support for biking and pedestrian infrastructure, transit-oriented development, and the idea that it is both possible and desirable to create livable neighborhoods within the city limits.

More importantly, much is changing with regard to South L.A. and Boyle Heights. Not only are these areas finally being seen as just as deserving of livable neighborhoods and (to a degree) as potential destinations, residents are highly dependent on transit. Planners have struggled to get feedback from these areas thus far. Consequently, their participation is even more important to ensuring that mobility enhancements fit their needs and aspirations for their neighborhoods.

Where do things with LA/2B stand right now?

Over the past two years, planners have been working to define the larger goals, objectives, policies, and programs that reflect Angelenos' visions for mobility. Part of this included identifying arterial streets, corridors, and districts that should be targeted for enhancements that will facilitate all modes of movement.

Most recently, they held scoping meetings to solicit feedback on the corridors and districts selected for review in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) (maps and information about Vehicle-Enhanced Networks (VENs), Bicycle-Enhanced Networks (BENs), and Transit-Enhanced Networks (TENs) can be found here. The Pedestrian-Enhanced Destinations (PEDs) are still being revised based on input received at the scoping meetings and from community organizations, including yours truly, LASB).

While the EIR is underway, planners are looking to get feedback on programs in the Action Plan that will help further the goals and policies of the Mobility Element. These "programs" according to LA/2B, are "specific actions that will carry out the Plan in the short-term and are defined by measurable benchmarks and assessment tools; they are important to the incremental achievement of the Plan’s goals and policies."

The programs are broken up into 17 categories (including Analysis, Data, Communication, Education, Enforcement, Engineering, etc.) which will ideally be all be part of the final plan. But, because of limited funds, they will likely only be able to recommend a selection of programs to the Council that should be acted upon for the upcoming year.

Which is where you come in.

They would like your help in identifying the issues that are most pressing to you and the programs you feel will address those issues and needs best.

In other words, they want to know your opinion on what kinds of educational information (safety, "I brake for people campaigns," etc.) they should be putting out to the public, what kind of media they should be using (radio, TV, social media, etc.) to get their message out there, what kinds of data (bike/ped counts, collision data, before/after data, etc.) they should be relying upon to help make their decisions, what kind of analyses should be applied to evaluate the performance of existing infrastructure and to proposed projects to encourage shifts in behavior, and what kind of design you feel might best serve your community's streets, among many other things.

It matters that planners get a wide range of feedback because conditions vary significantly across the city. Take, for example, the popular idea that increases in bike infrastructure is good for business. Using changes in economic activity along bikeway improvements to guide analyses might work in some parts of town. In lower-income areas, however, where people are more likely to ride out of necessity and have limited disposable income, a more appropriate measurement might be the reduction in collisions or hit-and-runs. Or fewer tickets handed out to cyclists by law enforcement for riding against traffic.

Speaking of law enforcement, the suggestion that officers are trained better in bicyclists rights' and responsibilities and in the evaluation of collisions might be a good start, but not enough. In South L.A. and other communities of color, for example, officers tend to see bicyclists as easy targets. Many riders of color report being stopped regularly, frisked, and then given bogus tickets (such as not having bike lights during the day time, riding on the sidewalk, or impeding traffic) to justify the stop and search. Youth frustrated by being handed ridiculous tickets may not pay them or show up for court, meaning that they end up with warrants for their arrest. So, the next time they are stopped on their bikes, they are liable to be taken in to the station. In such cases, the bicycle becomes a vehicle for the criminalization of youth and they are deterred from riding. Any training officers should receive on bicyclists' rights should also address this dynamic and be paired -- to the extent possible -- with evaluative criteria that help ensure this practice finally comes to an end.

Other questions are designed to get your opinion on how infrastructure implementation should be prioritized. Do you prefer a focus on the bicycle backbone network or a network of bicycle and pedestrian improvements that will help you get to recreational sites within your community? Or would you like to see alleys greened in ways that would help clean them up and take them out of the shadows? The answer probably depends on the specific mobility habits or aspirations of people in your community.

There's a lot for you to think about, in other words. And the more feedback you can offer, the better. Actually, the more feedback you leave will probably unfortunately create more work for the hard-working two-person LA/2B team. But, it will help to give a more accurate picture of the needs of communities and make clear that one kind of solution does not fit every neighborhood the same way.

Or, you may come up with some kind of miraculous new analytical tool that can capture all of L.A. at once. Who knows? Either way, they'd love to hear from you.

To take a look at their online town hall and the categories of programs currently up for discussion, please click here.

For more explanation of what each of the categories of programs entails, please click here.

You are also welcome to send your feedback to them via email, phone call or snail mail, should you prefer.

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