Councilmembers, Lemme Save You Some Time

[[image:bray_mini.jpg::inline:1]]Los Angeles City Councilman Ed Reyes recently introduced a motion to promote cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. A call to his legislative aide, Ms. Rebecca Valdez, confirmed the inspiration for the councilman's legislative suggestion.

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Published January 17, 2006 by C.I.C.L.E.
Contributed by Josef Bray

Top Photo: Bicycle Brigade in Burbank, CA at the Lockheed Vega Aircraft Corporation, in 1942. Employees living within four miles of Lockheed's plant were allowed to purchase bicycles through the company and resell them to the company when the need for them didn't exist anymore. (photo from the Library of Congress)

[[image:bray1.jpg::inline:1]]Los Angeles City Councilman Ed Reyes recently introduced a motion to promote cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. A call to his legislative aide, Ms. Rebecca Valdez, confirmed the inspiration for the councilman's legislative suggestion.

"He recently got back from a trip to a Nordic country," Ms. Valdez corroborated, "he saw that you could build a transportation network using bicycles – and make it work."

Having a growing group of cyclists exploding on the streets of his, and neighboring, council districts could also have played a part. The bicycle "scene", which honestly has been exploding the past two years, is best viewed from the homepage of the Midnight Ridazz and the premiere bicycle event calendar for Southern California, bikeboom.com.

At the end of the resolution, things get down to brass tacks – and there really isn't much going on in with this resolution (though kudos for at least bringing this issue up!). Councilman Reyes is asking for a study of the cycling and pedestrian topic, to see what can be done to improve things using city departments:

"I THEREFORE MOVE that the Council direct the Department of City Planning and the Department of Transportation to report on the feasibility of developing a policy and/or ordinance that would call for the consideration of bicyclists and pedestrians in the planning, design and construction and reconstruction of all transportation projects."

Councilman, and members of the City Council, I'll save you several million dollars in staff time spent "studying" this issue.

Bicycling and Walking = Transportation!

What cyclists, and pedestrians, are essentailly clamoring for is to have their means of transportation recognized officially as "transportation". As things stand right now, the very definition of transportation in Los Angeles (and in the State of California), is basically this: "travel by private automobile".

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Pictures can sometimes say it all. The cover of the MTA's recent Call For Projects guide. The bikes and peds are pushed to the side.

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This is from pg. 19 of the MTA's 2007 Call for Projects guide

Funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure (referred to as "other modes of transportation" by transit engineering types) typically come out of special funds set up just for them. Sometimes, a bike path, or pedestrian facility, will be built as part of a road widening project – but never will money be spent to reduce the capacity for a road to carry as many cars as possible.

What would it mean to change the official definition of "transportation"?

1. It would mean that general transportation funding can be spent on pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure projects – at the expense of automobile traffic, not as an "extra" to be added on to road widening projects, and not in recreational projects that do not serve some functional transportation goal (i.e. no more pointless "bikeways" to nowhere, like the river bike paths).

2. Automobile projects would be clearly identified as such, and the measure of success for a transportation project would not be in the total number of car trips and the speed of those trips. Slow automobile speeds (i.e. 20 mph or less) bestow a benefit to cycling and pedestrian transportation – as well lower the rate of injuries from crashes, and an increase in foot traffic in business districts. We can move more people, using less public money, by allowing people to walk or bicycle.

3. It would also mean that bicycling and walking are studied and used as a measure of a successful transportation project by the traffic engineers at the LADOT, the MTA, and CalTrans. Bicycling and walking are currently segregated from measurement and funding as being alternative "modes of transportation".

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This Is Not Just About Bicycles

Stated this way, the topic can seem narrow, and almost comical, in a region like Los Angeles. Yet, one cannot help but notice that many business districts in Los Angeles have been destroyed by a focus on autmobile transportation. Our highway network, and our massive surface streets dedicated solely to automobiles send City residents to the ever expanding periphery of the region to purchase goods and services. Want some examples of business corridors that have been shuttered by freeway construction? Here is my list: Highland Park along Figueroa, Cypress Park Blvd. in Cypress Park, Broadway in Lincoln Heights, and Adams Blvd. west of Crenshaw and east of Normandie.

There has been a lot written about this phenomenon in Los Angeles. Here is an excerpt from a 2002 report entitled "The Arroyo Seco and Highland Park: A Community History" by Dr. Jan Lin and Jean Won of Occidental College:

"The completion of the Arroyo Seco Parkway in 1939, however, presaged the beginning of the end of Figueroa Street as the main commercial thoroughfare between downtown and Pasadena. Since World War II the Northeast Los Angeles region has continued to be bypassed with the development of the freeway system, which fostered commercial and industrial decentralization and the growth of peripheral suburbs. The middle class began to move to the suburbs while many of the working class moved to South Los Angeles for manufacturing jobs. Commercial life on Colorado and Eagle Rock Boulevard declined with the emergence of the Eagle Rock Mall, which was itself superseded by other shopping malls and pedestrian commercial zones in Glendale and Pasadena. The Figueroa Street corridor of Highland Park has similarly suffered decline."

Developing infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists, first and foremost, is an economic redevelopment tool – slower automobile traffic, and increased foot traffic, help create a thriving climate for businesses. After that, pedestrian and cycling infrastructure address many of the fundamental issues a city government faces: public safety, quality of life. and evironmental responsibility. Don't take my word for it, check out alternative transportation darling Enrique Penalosa in this recent interview with NYC Streets Rennaisance.