Wednesday, February 27, 2008

L.A. Bike Master Plan Meeting Round 1

Tonight I went to the Los Angeles Bike Master Plan Meeting in the Valley. It was in Van Nuys, on Van Nuys Blvd on what could be argued by many to be the most bike unfriendly street in the valley but hey, at least there is a Bike Master Plan meeting. I would say there were a total of 40-50 people in attendance, including folks in suits, people in every day clothing, and folks in clothing modified for commuting. There seemed to be a good diverse group of bike commuters and mixed commuters and there was some good discussion regarding both, without there being a lot of tangent discussion...

The actual presentation was given by a dude from Alta planning named Brett. Alta is the consulting firm that is working with the city on the bike master plan, and has given a really basic frame work with some ideas and direction and that's about it. This series of meetings is only part 1, a planning and discussion phase which will lead to more this summer and fall. One thing that wasn't real clear was when actual implementation would take place. The presentation really just consisted of defining the three types of bikeways which include bike paths, bike lanes and bike routes. It also discussed options for improving these bikeways, adding bikeways and converting current motor travel/parking lanes into bikeways. Included in this discussion was also issues that getting in the way of doing those things. They showed a bunch of slides with pictures of roads that had been converted. There were some great examples of "Sharrows" or roads that are single lane, and have signage and markings indicating that the FULL lane is to be shared with cyclists.

One issue that Brett seemed to note was imperative was closing all the "Gaps". Anyone who rides in L.A. knows what the gaps are. These are areas where there is no connection between bike routes, lanes or paths. Regarding this, an interesting fact is that in L.A. city there are only about 350 miles of bikeways to the more than 7,360 miles of road. That's a pretty lame number. Less than .5% of the roads in Los Angeles are bikeways. What was missing was any sort of discussion in the presentation about Education, whether it be rider or driver education. It was brought up later by a number of audience members but I really thought that should have been a component built into the presentation. The presentation was definitely just about the infrastructure.

Over all I thought the meeting was enlightening, and that it showed that there is some commitment on the part of the city to get things rolling. I talked with a few city officials after the meeting and they seemed to be very committed to greater bicycle integration into the total commuting picture. There definitely seems to be some issues with how much money is alloted to L.A. county, and then how much of that goes to bicycle integration, but the folks I talked to let me know that you should go to to find information on who to write to say "Hey, we need greater bike integration!". I took the liberty of finding the page for you so you don't have too. Hear is the page for the Link for the Board Members. Now you have no excuse, go and write them.

After I had talked to the city officials I made my way back over to the maps. They had maps laid out on tables with high lighters and pens so you could mark your favorite routes and leave comments. The valley maps were covered in notes.

And these guys had a lot to do with that. They are guys who live and work in the valley, guys who commute and ride for recreation. Boom, just like that you have "Utility" and "Recreation" covered.

If I was going to create a "Valley Bicycle Commuter Advisory Board" in this whole process these are the guys I would want on that board. Between the four of them they had intimate knowledge of pretty much the entire valley floor.

The point that I thought was most important, and a point that I think city planners need to think about the most is that it behooves them to not only create greater infrastructure for existing cyclists, but also to do more to promote cycling as a valid, nay "the Preferred" form of transportation in Los Angeles. Bottom line is we have too many cars on the road, we have a public transportation system that fails at best, and we have crumbling roads and bridges with little federal and state money to maintain and repair them. Bicycle Commuting does everyone right. It takes the strain of heavy cars off the roads, thus putting less pressure on them. It also helps to reduce the amount of CO2 we put into the atmosphere, since bicycles are zero emission. So essentially by spending a fraction of what the government spends on fighter plane we could create infrastructure, education and promotion that would kill two of Los Angeles' biggest problems. If you want to get involved you can start here: LA Bike Master Plan Public Involvement Page. My recommendation is to take the survey. TAKE IT!

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