Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.
This afternoon, I sat in City Hall and watched as L.A.’s City Council unanimously passed a widely praised new bike plan. Tonight, I got a call from a friend who got clipped by a car on her way home.
The more things change, the more they stay the same, indeed.
I got up early to take the 1 to 1.5 hour bus ride downtown, arriving to find the council chambers filled to overflowing with Teamsters. They were there, I’m told, to support a proposal to disincorporate and annex so-called city of Vernon — the city where businesses outnumber residents and local government seems more akin to a fiefdom operating on a code of omertà.
The long, passionate discussion meant it was well after noon before the room emptied out enough to let us in. And because of the late hour, we were at risk of being pushed off to another day.
As a result, Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, who has championed the plan from the beginning, made a simple request. He could hold the quorum together long enough for a vote on the motion if we agreed to limit comments in favor of the plan to just 10 minutes.
I looked around the room, counted the cyclists — including several members of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, as well as the LACBC and Bikeside — and decided that mine could wait for another day.
I’ll let others fill you in on the nuts and bolts of the hearing. But there were a few standout moments.
For instance, Bikeside’s Alex Thompson lead things off by knocking it out of the park, saying this plan makes L.A. competitive with any other city in the U.S. — better, even, than the widely praised plans of New York and Chicago.
Flying Pigeon LA owner Josef Bray-Ali said the plan includes propoals to document “the trail of blood on our streets.” And said that this information needs to be collected and made public.
The LACBC’s Alexis Lantz stated that our streets are currently biased against those too young or too old to drive, as well as those who choose not to. This plan, she said, will create complete, healthier streets, and she noted that the support of the council would be critical to its implementation.
The BAC’s Jeff Jacobberger pointed out that bikeways have already been placed where it’s easy, so now it’s time to put them where it’s hard, which may mean removing parking or a lane of traffic.
New Chair Jay Slater says the BAC stands ready to work with the city to implement the plan, insisting that it should not go the way of the failed 1996 bike plan. And outgoing Chair, and current Vice Chair, Glenn Bailey quoted William Mulholland, saying “There it is. Take it;” noting that we can’t turn back the clock, but we can educate drivers and cyclists to take back the streets.
Then there were the dueling comments from cyclists who support allowing mountain biking in city parks, and the equestrians dead set against any mode of parkland transportation with wheels instead of legs.
In the end, the plan was adopted, with a motion by Councilmember Tom LaBonge that the issue would be studied and that nothing in the plan would change existing policies in the meantime.
Although it should be noted that virtually every horseman and horsewoman, as well as a couple representatives from the Sierra Club, insisted that they support cyclists who ride for transportation; it’s just recreational riders in city parks that they oppose.
Which of course leads to the question of whether horses in the park are recreational, or if they’re used for transportation.
Then there was the comic relief provided by two commenters appearing on video from the Valley City Hall, who seemed to think that a three-foot passing law had miraculously been included as part of the plan. And insisted that no driver could possibly pass a cyclist at such a dangerously extravagant distance.
So if you get buzzed riding in the valley, you can start there in your hunt for suspects.
Meanwhile, Council President Eric Garcetti noted that he’s supported bikeways since he was seven years old, and takes pride in the design standards included in the plan that say Los Angeles embraces bicycling.
And Rosendahl said the plan isn’t the final word, and that if changes are necessary, “I’m not leaving; if the people re-elect me, I’ll be here for another five years.” He also suggested that once the plan is built out, “If you get me a safe place to ride, I’ll get on that bike.”
With that, LaBonge had BAC Chair Emeritus Alex Baum — the only remaining original member of the BAC, appointed by the late, great Mayor Tom Bradley — call for a vote on the motion. And it carried unanimously, with all 12 members voting in favor.
As for my remarks, I had intended to point out that the adoption of the bike plan wasn’t the end of a long and difficult process.
Rather, it’s the beginning of an even longer and more difficult one. Because now it’s up to all of us to ensure that the lines on that map turn into paint and signs on the street, and that it doesn’t end in failure like the last one.
I was also going to ask that we use this plan as a springboard to accomplish something that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. Or last year, even.
That the city commit itself to zero bicyclists killed on our streets by 2020.
It wouldn’t be easy. It would take education, enforcement, and genuine commitment from the Mayor, City Council, LAPD, LADOT, Street Services and Planning, as well as the entire cycling community.
But it is achievable. And using this plan as a springboard, we could make the last bike death in this city the last bike death in this city.
As for my friend, she was shaken up, but it sounds like she’ll be okay.
And when she called the police, they took her seriously, and sent a patrol car to her home to investigate what they said was a clear case of a hit-and-run.
And that alone is a big change.
Celebrate the passing of the bike plan when Mayor Villaraigosa plans to sign it at a rally and press conference on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday, from 9:30 am to 10 am.
Mark your calendar for March 9th, when L.A.’s groundbreaking new bicycle anti-harassment ordinance is scheduled for a final hearing with the Transportation Committee before moving on to the full council for adoption; more information as it becomes available.
Two other brief notes:
Frank Peters of cdmCyclist reports that agreement has been reached to ensure that bike lanes will be included on the soon-to-be-rebuilt Gerald Desmond Bridge in Long Beach — and that they won’t be cut from the plans, even if it comes in over budget.
And Road.CC says that Brazilian banker Ricardo Neis, who was recorded plowing down dozens of cyclists participating in the Porto Alegre Critical Mass, will be charged with attempted murder.
Clearly, Brazil gets it.
And evidently, Caltrans — and L.A.’s leadership — is starting to.