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