$30 million for two miles of bike path? No thanks.

Bill Rosendahl and Paul Koretz sponsored a motion to spend $30 million dollars on 2 miles of bike path (report by the Chief Legislative Analyst – pdf), extending the beach bike path further north.  That’s FIFTEEN MILLION DOLLARS per mile.

Resolution (Rosendahl – Koretz) to include in the City’s 2009-2010 Federal Legislative Program SPONSORSHIP and/or SUPPORT for legislation and/or administrative action to provide funding to extend the Marvin Braude Bike Path from Temescal Canyon Beach Parking Lot to Coastline Drive.

We all love to spend other people’s money, but this will mean less money for something else, and nevermind the fact that the State of California, and Federal Government of the United States are in terrible budget crises as well.  Maybe less money for gang prevention, or less money for housing, or less money for worthy, effective, high impact bike projects.   And believe me, if you’re evaluating projects at a federal level and you see $15 million for 2 miles of bike path, which is more costly than most roads, you’re going to reject the project and move on.  That’s probably why this motion looks for legislation, since legislation is the best way to get approval for a $30,000 hammer.

Bike lanes cost $28,000 per mile, according to the City’s draft Bike Plan, so for $30 million dollars we would get just over 1000 miles of bike lane for the same price tag.  Bill Rosendahl and Paul Koretz both sit on the LA City Council Budget & Finance Committee, and so they are intimately familiar with the City’s unexpected $200 million shortfall this year, and the expected deficit of $400 million next year.

So, would you rather have 1000 miles of bike lane in the city, connecting people to destinations they want to go to, or $30 million spent on a bike path into the hills of Malibu?  Howabout $1.5 million spent on a real bike plan, or perhaps $150k a year to hire a top notch bike czar?  Howabout $80k a year to go to bike theft, or $150k a year to go to outreach.  Nope, so sorry, we don’t have the funds!

$30 million spent on a bike path is almost half what the city spent on bikes in the last 15 years, and it’s going to two miles!  This is after cyclists have specifically expressed a preference for inner city infrastructure which gives an immense return on investment.

We’ve got a federal government that’s losing a trillion dollars a year, a state government on the verge of bankruptcy, a city government on the verge of bankruptcy – we cannot afford to spend money stupidly.  This is a travesty, and I encourage you to call all city council persons and ask them to vote no on this motion.  This is a huge failure by our leaders to set priorities appropriately.

(UPDATE: Some have pointed out that maybe the city can get federal money for this.  Firstly, I doubt it – the County rejected the project in 1995, and I’m sure that CalTrans and the Feds also like to get something significant for their money.  Secondly, is it responsible to be spending federal money on bike projects at a cost of $15 million per mile when the federal government has a gigantic deficit?)

Alex Thompson

Bikerowave co-founder, Cyclists' Bill of Rights co-author, President of Bikeside, and Math Phd. HULK SMASH straight from Michigan!

12 thoughts on “$30 million for two miles of bike path? No thanks.

  1. And…of course…it will be designated as a trail, a Class I multi-use trail that comes with no legal protection for the cyclists. This will be a “ride-at-your-own-risk” recreation facility that the LADOT fought all the way to the State Appellate Court to clarify, come with no legal protection for the cyclist. (unlike streets which come with a performance standard and legal responsibility on the part of the host agency)

  2. Here is my letter to Councilman Zine:

    With regards to Council File 10-0002-S4, I would like to voice my opposition to the $30,000,000 2 mile bike path extension. I fully support bike path and lane plans, but this plan is too much money for too little benefit. The city draft bike plan quotes 1 mile of bike lane at $28,000. I would rather have 1000 miles of bike lanes throughout the city than 2 miles of path along the coast. Please, I urge you not to support such irresponsible use of our money.

  3. First off, let me agree… If I were the city and I had $30M in my pocket, then there are a multitude of better ways to spend that money making L.A. better for bikes. Yes.

    but I read the situation a bit differently… from my reading, this is the city council endorsing lobbying the federal government to spend their federal money on this bike path.

    The city motion doesn’t say L.A. is going to spend our own money to build this project (that’s a non-starter.) The motion as I read it is to support possible federal transportation funding to be allocated to L.A. to build this project. They’re carving pork in Washington DC, and the city wants some federal transportation pork. I haven’t done the research, but I would bet that So.Cal. legislators are also asking for that federal transportation money to go toward projects that I expect you and I think are shortsighted/wrong… stuff like widening and tunneling the 710 Freeway.

    Federal money comes with a lot of administrative strings attached. The city has to do lengthy federal environmental review, etc. Because of those hurdles attached to fed $, the city of L.A. won’t use fed $ for projects under $1M… so bike lanes, being very cheap, just don’t need federal funding. And then the question becomes… what sort of transportation investments do we want locally that make sense to pay for with L.A.’s share of federal transportation monies? The beach bike path has some flaws (the $30M price tag seems to indicate that it’s going to be over-built – will it look like an elevated freeway?), but in my calculus, it’s probably a better use of federal transportation dollars than most of the car-centric projects that I suspect would otherwise be on the city’s list.

    I don’t mean to be gung-ho in favor of the beach bike path extension as a top priority for me or for C.I.C.L.E. … but I would not be opposed to it being on the city’s wish list for federal monies.

  4. I have absolutely no problem with requesting these funds. There is no local or state money at risk; this is simply a hail mary pass to the feds to see if they will fund it. There are currently federal funds available for shovel ready projects; this project is already fully planned and ready to build if the funding becomes available.

    The money they are requesting could not be used to fund neighborhood councils or balance the budget, nor does it mean that funding to build out the bike plan won’t be available at a later date. Seems to me this is a total non-issue. If the funding is made available, great; if not, we’re no worse off.

    And the benefit of building this wouldn’t be simply to see pretty scenery. It would allow cyclists to bypass an exceptionally dangerous section of PCH where they are currently forced to share a lane with cars traveling high speed, and open up access to wider sections of PCH for riders who aren’t comfortable taking a lane under those conditions.

    Yes, it has a high price tag. But long as there is no cost to the city, and it doesn’t take away from future funding for on-street infrastructure, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

  5. Bikinginla hit the nail on the head: this is the most dangerous part of accessing PCH for miles and miles and miles. If it were a choice of this path or a city-wide network, of course I’d support bike plan implementation. However, that’s not the choice before us. As a PCH commuter, this is the stretch that determines whether or not I ride to work in Malibu. If the council wants to show support for cycling (even primarily recreational) with this resolution, why not?

  6. Fellas – it’s very simple – if you want to get up PCH, propose an on-street solution. It’ll be 1/10th as expensive. I’ve ridden that stretch many times, and though scary, there are many other areas in equal need of attention, and with greater ridership.

    This is as expensive as a road, and $30,000,000 round number price tag smells fishy. It’s disrespectful of real projects that have real benefits and are much less costly to put this porky proposal on the table.

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