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.
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.