Conflict and Commitments: Swords Clash at May’s BPIT Meeting

By Max Berson

Two Tuesdays ago, I headed to City Hall knowing that the parties at the Bike Plan Implementation Team were in disagreement.  In fact, in my last article, I did my fair share to stir the pot.  I called out City agencies for neglecting to take input from the community when determining which cycling projects would receive priority.  In conversation with other activists, I heard concerns that some great target streets were not even on the City’s radar.  The strongest push from the community was for a clear mechanism for changing the focus.  And, of course, I hadn’t heard anything from the City.  In general, I was expecting some tension.

I was not expecting a firefight.

Not ten minutes into the meeting, community representatives hijacked the City’s agenda to express their frustration.  Joe Linton criticized the black-box nature of the decisions coming from Planning and DOT.  Alex Thompson complained that the target keeps shifting: Last month, the conversation was about the Top 10 list, but at this meeting, Planning wanted to discuss the 40-mile package of projects up for an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).  Glenn Bailey brought up the fact that the City Attorney’s advice to conduct the costly EIR was not delivered in writing, and therefore not subject to public scrutiny.

Claire Bowin of City Planning, who facilitated this month’s meeting, was more focused on the printed agenda provided by her Department.  She attempted to steer the conversation back to the points that were published in advance of the meeting, but the advocates around the table took exception.  In our eyes, the agenda constituted part of the problem, as it was generated behind the closed doors of City offices, rather than as a collaboration with all stakeholders.

Though the fog of war hung heavy over the table, some points of light did shine through.

In the middle of the meeting, Tim Fremaux of LADOT presented the Department’s ideas for how to treat Cahuenga, Barham and Lankershim to connect Hollywood to North Hollywood.  I appreciated his sharp analysis of the current road conditions.  For example, when he addressed the impact of cycling facilities on the businesses along this route, he was careful to take into account the types of businesses.  The car dealerships will need different treatments than the coffee shops – a distinction that other engineers have missed in previous presentations.

Finally the meeting resulted in a handful of initial commitments.  Jill Sourial, representing Ed Reyes and Council District 1, proposed that a future BPIT meeting be dedicated to a workshop on how the City gathers and analyzes its traffic data.  Kang Hu of DOT agreed to establishing this baseline.  Rick Risemberg garnered a commitment from the City to distribute data and relevant statutes to the BPIT mailing list.  Kang Hu said “It will be done.”  Finally, Nate Baird pledged that he would more clearly express on LADOT Bike Blog when important documents have been updated.

To be sure, these concessions don’t represent great watersheds for the cycling community, but they do show that the BPIT is taking steps in the right direction.  While cyclists didn’t win big when it came to the actual implementation of the Bike Plan, the communication channels are more open than they were a month ago.  Now it’s on to the follow-up process, where we make sure that commitments are realized and the community’s needs are addressed.

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3 Responses to “Conflict and Commitments: Swords Clash at May’s BPIT Meeting”

  1. I curious what sort of biking facilities Tim Fremaux of LADOT was referencing when making the distinction that different types of businesses will require different types of bike facilities citing car dealerships vs: coffee shops. If what was implied is that car dealerships don’t need bike racks, I want to note that I frequently use my bike when dropping off or picking up my car for service at the dealership and there’s always the problem of where do I park it when paying the cashier and picking up the car.

    Let’s not overlook some practical applications because we all to often paint these issues as car vs: bike.

  2. Mr. Fremaux commented verbally that, for example, street parking for cars would not be such a high priority in the vicinity of the dealerships, because the dealerships are essentially parking lots to begin with. On the other hand, preserving street parking in the artsy district would be more important, for the obvious reasons.

    Unfortunately, neither the presentation, nor the in-person discussion brought up the topic of bicycle parking. Instead, we focused on the on-street facilities for bicycle riding. DOT has published the presentation (PowerPoint), if you would like more detail.

  3. I’m REALLY curious how Cahuenga and Barham will be treated. I grew up on Barham Blvd and was hit by a car while riding a bike when I was 16… I’ve personally witnessed no less than 20 violent car crashes on that street (including one that wiped out our front wall and several where people died on the scene) and the LADOT never did a thing to reduce car speeds and in fact worked hard to remove parking and widen the road over the years. I seem to recall that they upped the speed limit and in widening the road induced heavier rush hour traffic. Our family finally gave up and moved to the suburbs… where the LADOT is now engaged in the exact same behaviour!

    Barham is the defacto 101N to 134E interchange since Universal blocked efforts to build a freeway transition serving such a purpose in the 60s and 70s. That street is a death zone.

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