Every two years, Metro issues a Call for Projects to provide funding for local transportation improvements. The Los Angeles Department of Transportation applies for funding across a range of projects, one of which is Bikeways. This year, Bikeways applied for funding for two outreach programs and six infrastructure projects. Four of the six infrastructure projects are bike paths. The other projects are a bundle of fifteen bicycle friendly streets (BFS), an outreach program for those BFS, a Car Free Day, and two bicycle corrals in each council district. A map of the projects can be found
In November, the City Planning Commission rejected the draft bicycle master plan, largely because the plan’s commitment to bicycle lanes was too weak. It was only after adoption of the Backbone network of lanes that the plan won approval. Furthermore, without a strong commitment to lanes, the plan would never have received support among the cycling community. The inclusion of the Backbone was a ringing endorsement that bicycle lanes are the most important facility for creating a supportive environment for cyclists in Los Angeles.
Metro’s 2011 Call for Projects was LADOT’s first test to back up that endorsement and show it was serious about implementing facilities that would be both useful and have strong community support. LADOT failed this first test.
The 2011 Call for Projects application contains zero bike lane projects. Instead, LADOT submitted projects that are more of the same-old facilities that don’t do much of anything for anyone. The biggest example of this is a project to add a section of bicycle path along Ballona Creek. The section goes less than a mile, from Fairfax Ave to Venice Blvd. It is “stand-alone” and won’t connect to the existing Ballona Creek path. It also duplicates a facility less than a fifth of a mile away on Venice Blvd. For this project, LADOT applied for 2 million dollars. LADOT also applied for funding of a 1.25 mile section of path along the LA River headwaters and a mile-long bridge and path across the LA River downtown. Total facilities: 3.25 miles. Total funding applied for: 16.1 million dollars. By LADOT’s own numbers, the same amount of funding would stripe 575 miles of bike lanes.
Looming larger, though, is the fact that LADOT’s projects are so removed from Metro’s application guidelines. Metro’s materials stated particular projects would receive priority: lanes and paths that are gap closures, facilities close to transit hubs, sharrows, road diets, enhanced bicycle routes, bike parking, wayfinding and signage, and bike sharing.
This is a list of useful projects that the community would certainly support. Yet, it seems LADOT decided to ignore these guidelines almost entirely. Only the bike corrals and the bicycle friendly street projects come close to any of the priorities. There are no lanes, no transit access, and no sharrows. Can it really be that Bikeways had no projects that satisfied these priorities and were suitable for application?
It seems unlikely that Metro would approve funding for facilities as useless as the stand alone Ballona Creek path and as expensive as the Taylor Yard bridge. The LADOT Bike Blog stated that those two projects were included at the request of councilmembers. That fact is what leads us to the real problem with these projects—LADOT Bikeways is afraid of fighting to put in useful facilities. They would rather do a politically easy and useless project like Ballona Creek than a politically hard but worthy project like continuing the lane on Santa Monica.
I want to have faith in LADOT. I want to have faith that, as a cyclist, they care about my needs and safety. I want to have faith that, as an Angeleno, they are working towards a healthy, safer, sustainable city. I want to see LADOT emboldened by community engagement, roll up its sleeves, and fight for a worthy project. For now, though, it seems we will have to wait.
Ed. note: This post originally stated that the 2011 Call did not include bike parking projects. The 2011 Call includes an application for bike corrals to be installed by council district.