Bicycling L.A. with City Councilmember Nithya Raman
The L.A. County Bicycle Coalition invited Streetsblog to be part of a small group ride with L.A. City Councilmember Nithya Raman. Just over a dozen riders – Raman, some of her staff, LACBC leaders, and a few additional folks involved in bike advocacy – biked about ten miles in the southern half of Raman’s Council District 4, mainly in mid-city, Hancock Park, and Koreatown. LACBC provided Himiway Bikes e-bikes to support inclusion of participants not accustomed to bicycling L.A. streets.
LACBC Executive Director Eli Akira Kaufman stated that “there really is no better way to understand the lived experience of bicycle commuters in CD4 than to get on a bike and ride the streets for yourself.” Kaufman notes that LACBC is “eager to support the Councilmember’s commitment to improve the mobility needs of Angelenos by getting to know the streets in her district and we look forward to collaborating on community-led active transportation projects that will transform Los Angeles into a more livable region for everyone.”
At the start of the ride, Councilmember Raman related that she had not bicycled on city streets since she was hit by a driver while bike-commuting in Chennai, India. Since that collision, Raman stated, she felt terrified to bike on city streets.
Due to Raman’s council predecessors, there are not a lot of bikeways in this part of CD4; the only bike lane on the ride was on Hauser Boulevard through Park La Brea. The southern part of the district does feature many fairly well-biked areas, including 4th Street, a low-traffic sharrowed bike route long preferred by cyclists and pedestrians (during COVID, parts of 4th saw more walking and bicycling than driving.) The ride also visited neighborhood traffic-calming street closures along Fairfax Avenue, and the relatively calm 8th Street – which appeared on SBLA’s list of suggested relatively easy bikeways that Raman might consider taking on. There are currently no protected bike lanes in Raman’s district.
Raman campaigned on making L.A. better for transit, walking, and bicycling. She was sworn in last December, during the worst part of COVID surge in California and L.A. County. Raman noted, “when I first took office, we were facing what was potentially a billion dollar budget shortfall in the city” and “at that point we weren’t thinking about long-term transportation planning; we were literally thinking about how we would maintain our existing infrastructure and service our city with what we had.”
Now, with the pandemic largely subsiding, Raman credited federal recovery funding for L.A. City “starting our new fiscal year at a moment where the DOT [the city Transportation Department] is once again made whole.” With LADOT starting to staff up again, “we’re at a moment where we can start thinking about what we want for the city and what we can change about the city.”
Raman stated that “as a mom of young kids” and “as someone who lives in a district – and now governs a district – that is maybe the most at risk from climate change” she feels “a real sense of pressure around the issue of how to get people options for how to get out of their car.”
“My dream for this district and for the city as a whole is that we can make it safer and easier for people to be able to move around outside of their cars: have it be not just possible, but a pleasant and beautiful experience to get around this city.” “We started six months ago,” noted Raman, “but we’re at the beginning of that process now. And I am really excited to get the entire community involved in thinking about that.”