LA Bike Master Plan: Green LA Girl misses the point (2/100)

No sooner had I published my first piece of 100 on the LABMP (draft LA Bike Master plan) than my friend Siel came out with a post critical of my complaints, and Bike Girl’s complaints (good read, go here!)  Siel agrees in passing with criticisms about the short deadline preventing neighborhood council (NC) participation, but lays down some stiff criticism:

I guess my point’s that the “I’m a busy cyclist and need more time to read 212 pages!” complaint seems a rather selfish one when combined with the “they take too damn long just to write 212 pages!” complaint . . .

If you, like Bike Girl, are complaining that there’s no meeting in your ‘hood, spend that energy contacting your neighborhood council or local transit group and only commence complaining if your org’s request for a special presentation gets turned down by the city.

Those are serious criticisms, and from a blogger of repute.  Do they have any merit?

No, they do not.  Let’s see why they lack merit:

Siel writes that Bike Girl should contact her NC or “local transit group” (umm, what would that be?) and request a meeting.  The fact is DOT and Planning have been denying most meeting request on the basis that they were short funds and staff, and they’ve been denying the requests since before the budget crisis, way back in early ’08.  They’ve denied some pretty big names too.

Like LA City Councilman Ed Reyes, of the 1st district.  Councilman Reyes, chairman of the Planning Committee, requested in this motion, dated December 19th, 2007, a meeting for community input on the LABMP in his district.  He went on to request a number of things, asking that the 1st district be used as a pilot project for advanced bike amenities like bicycle boulevards, and requested that those items be included in the draft LABMP.  The motion was seconded by Rosendahl (now Transportation Committee Chair), and passed by the council.  So of course Planning and DOT did as instructed right?

Wrong.  Reyes never got a meeting in the 1st District, his request to serve as a pilot district was ignored, and most of his suggestions are left out of the draft plan.  So request a meeting all you like, but don’t be surprised if you’re denied.  DOT ignored a motion passed by Council requesting a meeting, so unless your name starts with B and ends in Obama, good luck.  Requests from people whose names begin in J and end in Biden will also be entertained.

Siel writes that the complaint about the comment deadline is unfair when juxtaposed with the complaint that the plan is late.  I don’t agree at all.  The people producing the plan are professionals.  In the case of Alta Planning, who contracted to produce the draft, they were paid $450,000 to write the plan.  I think, given that these are city employees paid a good deal to do their job, or consultants paid a pretty substantial sum to do theirs, it is reasonable to expect the plan be on time.

What’s more, with the plan dropping at a random time of year, with almost no warning, we are left in a tough place to react.  Siel writes that the complaint is selfish.  Yes it is.  We are selfish for wanting to have sufficient time to consider the plan.  After all – it is OUR city, and OUR government, and we have every right to have input and CONTROL.  Moreover, it is selfish because we want 3 months to review a plan while officials and consultants only had 18 months to become familiar with it.

The fact is that it’s not our fault the plan is overdue and underdone.  In no way should the lateness of the plan undermine our opportunity at review and critique.  The need for bike facilities is urgent, but not so urgent that we can’t have time to take part in deciding which facilities should be built.

Moreover, if you think slowing the process down is delaying bike improvements, ask yourself why LADOT refused CalTrans’ offer to fully fund bike lanes on Topanga Canyon Boulevard, and installed peak hour parking instead.  Bike lanes on Topanga Canyon Bl were an element of the 2002 LA Bike Master Plan by the way, so you can see how much LADOT respects the LABMP.

What about Siel’s other criticisms?  Equally poorly formed.  Siel writes that:

Once you take out the 15 pages of front matter, 17 pages of maps, and 4 pages left intentionally blank — plus the many pages of diagrams and charts (like the one above) that seem to make up at least a quarter of the remaining pages, we’re really talking about 130 pages, many with cute photos and illustrations to push you along.  (emphasis mine)

Those cute illustrations are incredibly relevant, and contain volumes of information.  Apparently reading the bike plan for Siel does not include a careful examination of the bike maps, which detail DOT’s plans for placing (or not placing) bike lane, paths, routes, and bike friendly streets.  For myself, in developing a motion for the Mar Vista Community Council (passed last month), I spent 3 hours analyzing the maps of Mar Vista, just one of 89 neighborhoods.  The maps, diagrams and charts are the most information packed sections of the plan, and demand MORE analysis, not less.  Here’s a cute illustration for you – please read and react in 5 seconds!

LABMP map shot

Siel goes on to make some activism suggestions:

As I used to tell my students, simply commencing reading will take you a much shorter time than complaining, blogging, Facebooking, and tweeting about how long it is before commencing reading.

I’m glad we’ve finally simplified activism to reading and blogging.  Organizing meetings, discussing the plan with groups, energizing cyclists to get involved – these are no longer necessary.  Please disregard Facebook y’all – it is no longer a good way to get your message across.  Complaining is senseless – it serves no purpose!  Negative feedback is outdated.  Rate all your teachers a 10 out of 10, movies get two thumbs up, and get on with it.

It’s actually totally fair to defend people’s right to have time to review the plan.  Quite righteous really.  While I might be a shiftless freelance bum, some people who have a lot to contribute to the process have kids, a 9 to 5, and laundry to do.  An organized movement to shift the deadline is a constructive way to include them, and the Neighborhood Councils.

Last, I’ve got to harp on Siel’s uncritical reading of the LABMP release memo.  She took the offer of a meeting literally!  Don’t you know who you’re dealing with here?  This is Los Angeles, where departments ignore specific directives from City Council with impunity.  In LA yes means no and no means no.  This is the town where LADOT has been forced to the table with the Neighborhood Councils to draw up an agreement on the community input process.  Why?  Because they so consistently do things like limit input to 42 days.  The draft of that agreement states that community input will last at least 60 days.

At one point, Siel quotes straight from the press release:

“. . . approximately 696 miles of new bikeways and new policies related to implementation, education, enforcement, engineering, parking, transit integration, maintenance and evaluation . . .”

This is a press release – the most concentrated form of bullshit known to man.  I think we deserve, and her readers need, a basic level of critical analysis, lest we inadvertently become cheerleaders.  In a later post I’ll give just that critical analysis, break down that 696 figure, and show you just how concentrated the bullshit is.  Bring your gas mask!

Alex Thompson

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

3 thoughts on “LA Bike Master Plan: Green LA Girl misses the point (2/100)

  1. so I took up greenLA girl’s suggestion to call in a request for a bike plan workshop, being that I’m new to the scene and not yet cynical (maybe best put; still naive). Anyhow, my call went straight to Jordan Turner who quickly gave me a date that would work for him (the week of Oct19) and actually asked if I knew anyone in the Hollywood area who would like to host a workshop! So, I mean, nothing has really happened yet, and I told Jordan I would email him about our conversation to keep in touch as the date approaches, but I’ve become a little confused by all the different conversations I’ve been having about the bike plan…

    If the bike plan is such shit, or rather, EVEN IF the bike plan is half decent, and the real issue is that LADOT won’t listen to anyone’s comments (not even city councilmembers’) to improve it, and further, won’t even implement those projects already on the bike plan, why even bother to extend the deadline for bound-to-be-neglected comments on this half-assed bike plan? Why beat a dead horse?

    I’ve heard numerous people say the bike plan has no teeth. Like those damn magic eye posters, I don’t really understand how to see that the Draft Bike Plan has no teeth, but I’ll take historic precedent and my own experience riding every day to know that nothing is being done to forward biking in this city. People say we have to give the bike plan teeth. Some say this requires sending the plan through a full EIR (like pasadena is apparently doing with their plan). I don’t know how an EIR gives a bike plan teeth, seeing as I thought EIRs were to mitigate NEGATIVE effects a project would have, not enforce the seemingly positive effects that something like a bike plan would be teeming with. And from my brief stint with the San Francisco Bike Coalition, whose DOT handled their EIR, that shit show took 2 years of teeth and nails, though I suppose emerged battled hardened.

    Anyhow, why don’t we flash-fail this Bike Plan (before November) get the council to move it into an EIR stage (anyone know what that entails?) and rock the public comment portion of the EIR?

    Then we’ll pull bikeways out of the LADOT and maybe I’ll finally be able to make it to the Oven riding up glendale Blvd without risking my ass every other day.

    Someone answer these questions and help me achieve this dream.

  2. I wouldn’t take the existence of an EIR for the Pasadena plan as too much of an indication of seriousness. I think they feel compelled to do it because of the legal mess that SF got itself into (and if LA doesn’t plan on doing an EIR, they might want to take note…), and they are unlikely to include any plans that would have significant impacts (requiring expensive detailed study). In contrast, the proposal to make the loop around the Rose Bowl one way for cars, opening up the inside lane for purely non-motorized traffic, apparently has an EIR pricetag that’s large enough to discourage the City from entertaining the proposition too seriously (nevermind the NIMBYs). Rich Dilluvio said:

    With regards to the Rose Bowl Loop this project as many people know came as a result of the City Council’s direction to work on some type of solution to all the issues of traffic safety at the Bowl. One of the options Mr. Selvans mentions includes a separate lane for Bikes and a one-way loop for motor vehicles. This option if chosen by City Council as the preferred option would entail a significant EIR that would take several mounts if not more than a year to accomplish. Any time you change a roadway to a one-way street it generates a full blown EIR/CEQA study which is also very expensive. Thankfully this is not the case for the EIR that is done for the BMP.

  3. after sitting at the BAC meeting for an hour last night I realized that no project can remove a lane of traffic without an EIR. How cyclists imagine that we’ll be able to fit onto many already crowded and dangerous streets without taking lanes is beyond me. The EIR will have to be done sooner or later, either now, or 5, 10, 15 years down the line. My position seems to be more and more so everyday, might as well duke it out now, determine what we all know to be true (removing a lane of car traffic and replacing it with bicycles will improve the entire transportation network, as well as the entire quality of life in this city) and get that 5% number in half the time. Though I suppose a hypothetical bike path (class 1) could be done if it weren’t on a road and didn’t remove traffic (expo line path?)

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