LABMP: What is the LA Bike Master Plan? (3/100)

By Alex Thompson

I realize that maybe I’ve gotten ahead of myself.  If you’ve been paying close attention to bike activism in Los Angeles since early 2008, then you’ll have heard of the Bike Master Plan (LABMP), and you’ll have gleaned some sense for what it is, and, if nothing else, that it’s important.  Let’s get a bit deeper.

In short, the LA Bike Master Plan should describe the City’s plan for cycling policy and improvements in Los Angeles.  The reality is that very little from previous versions of the LABMP has been implemented.  If the purpose for the LABMP is to organize and guide cycling policy, it would appear to be failing.  The actual motivation for Los Angeles maintaining a bike plan is far different.

Los Angeles first developed a bike master plan and adopted it in the mid 90’s (updated) revamped and began regularly updating it’s plan in the mid 90s, probably in order to qualify for federal transportation money.  It was not, as you might have hoped, to make Los Angeles more bike friendly.Rather, federal law changed so that, if a city wanted to qualify for federal funding for projects, they must have a “General Plan” for the city.  That General Plan must include a Transportation Plan, and that Transportation Plan must include planning for pedestrian and cycling facilities.  So, if a city wanted federal money, even if you want it just for making parking structures and golf courses, then it needed to have bicycle plan.  Otherwise, no federal dollars.

Cities can’t maintain their infrastructure without federal financial support.  City tax receipts are a smidgen by comparison to the kind of money that the federal government pulls in on a per capita basis.  Just think about how much income tax you pay to the feds and California, vs how much city tax you pay.  Projects such as the Expo Light Rail line, at nearly a billion dollars in cost, will break the back of a city, even one as mighty as Los Angeles.   Federal dollars can fund those projects with relative ease, so federal support is a necessity.

So, if the federal government requires you to have a bike plan, even if you’re a city as hostile to cycling as mid 90s Los Angeles, you create a bike plan.  If the federal government also requires that you update your plan on a regular basis, you do that too.

Alta Planning consultants, who contracted with Los Angeles to assist with drafting the new Bike Master Plan, described the LABMP as a “funding document.”  Indeed.

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8 Responses to “LABMP: What is the LA Bike Master Plan? (3/100)”

  1. Overall, generally you are correct. a couple items though:

    The first LA bike plan was around 1984 – with the olympics.

    Also, I don’t know of a federal requirement for a bike plan. The plan helps make federal $ easier to get – cities with plans get extra points on their applications for Metro funding, There is a state requirement for a bike plan – though, for LA, that’s a smaller pot of $ than the federal $ via Metro.

  2. The federal requirement is for bike planning in a municipalities long range transportation plan, not necessarily separated from the LRTP itself. It can be found by following this link, also linked above:

    http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=4326b3462801c075d9d260366f1f811e&rgn=div5&view=text&node=23:1.0.1.5.11&idno=23#23:1.0.1.5.11.3.1.12

    I can’t find a record of plan prior to 96 – can you?

  3. Overall I agree with your general point: The justification for the bike plan i that it helps the city get funding. The justification for the plan isn’t necessarily to plan to truly make L.A. a bike-friendly city. I think it’s really good that you bring this up, because I think that some folks assume something along the lines of “oh… LA is doing a bike plan, they must be really enlightened and really be doing and planning good things for bikes” – not necessarily the case.

    I checked the link, which was interesting and something I wasn’t entirely aware of. It seems to me that there’s a requirement for a mobility plan in a required general plan… and according to the link, the mobility element includes “Existing and proposed transportation facilities (including major roadways, transit, multimodal and intermodal facilities, pedestrian walkways and bicycle facilities, and intermodal connectors)”

    It’s not a critical point, but I wouldn’t quite say that that mobility plan “must include bicycle facilities” or that “federal government requires you to have a bike plan.” It seems like there are cities in L.A. County (I am guessing now – probably Bellflower – and maybe Burbank until recently… maybe others) that did not specifically have a bike master plan, but actually got bike path projects funded by Metro (with federal monies.)

    It seems like cities can do their mobility plans and include or not include bike stuff – and stay on the fed’s good side either way. I’ve never heard of a city being turned down for federal monies because of insufficient bike planning. I wish!

    Alex Baum has a well-worn paper copy of the 1983 or 1984(?) bike plan, that I saw with my own eyes once. It was actually interesting how much of the 1996 corresponded to the 80’s plan – I remember it included Fletcher Drive, which we (at the LACBC) were campaigning for, which still hasn’t been implemented. (except momentarily by DIY-ers!) I will see if I can get my hands on it and scan it and post it online.

  4. These are great points, and I wonder if it’s possible to find out exactly where the money went that was procured to (supposedly) implement projects contained in past Bicycle Plans.

    According to the introduction of the 1996 Bicycle Plan (posted on the LADOT bicycle services site), the ’96 Plan “replaces and supersedes the Bicycle Plan adopted by City Council in July, 1977.”, so it’s possible that 1977 is the first year for the L.A. Bicycle Master Plan.

  5. Bicycle tickets should fund bicycle infrastructure exclusively. Then I wouldn’t feel so bad about my $460 ticket.

  6. Thanks for presenting this easily overlooked point that helps explain the behaivor of LADOT and our elected officials. Cyclists are not viewed as a partner in creating viable transportation solutions for our city, we’re merely a nuisance. The plan is nothing more than a hollow document so that a bureaucrat somewhere puts a check in a box saying, Yes, LA has a bike plan.

  7. 1975 was the year of the first plan. The Transportation library in the MTA building at Union Station has it on file. It’s an exciting plan and rather ambitious. The 2009 plan could learn a lot from it. Go check it out. And the library is super fun, in the nerdy way a good library can be.

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