Hell freezes over, as LA is now officially bike-friendly; let’s go for three on the 3-foot passing law

By now, you’ve probably heard what the press conference I cryptically hinted at yesterday was all about.

Not that I didn’t want to tell you.

But when someone swears me to secrecy, I tend to take that seriously.

Especially when the League of American Bicyclists releases their latest list of Bike Friendly Communities. And Los Angeles, shockingly, is on it.

No, seriously.

Councilmember Ed Reyes makes the announcement flanked by members of the L.A. cycling community.

In an announcement that few of us thought we’d ever hear, the bike league named the formerly bike-unfriendly City of Los Angeles one of the nation’s best places to ride a bike.

And the oddest thing is, for once, we actually deserve it.

This award would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. When I started this blog a little over four years ago, which was my introduction to bike advocacy, Los Angeles was a very bike unfriendly city.

There were no sharrows, few bikeways connected to one another, and the only major bike lane built in recent years unceremoniously dumped riders off with no warning in the middle of high-speed Century City traffic, just a few blocks from even more bike-unfriendly Beverly Hills. And we had no voice whatsoever in City Hall or LADOT.

If we can point to any moment when that changed, it’s when a careless cab driver cut off the mayor of this city, leading to a broken arm and his Road to Damascus moment when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa saw the light and became a convert to the cause of safe bicycling in the City of Angels.

Although, to be fair, there were hints of a change in attitude when he publicly mentioned the word “bicycle” for the first time following a trip to Copenhagen a few months earlier, to the shock of just about everyone.

However, that ignores the work of long-time bike advocates like Joe Linton and Stephen Box, just to name a few, as well as the roll of the recently dormant Bikeside and the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee in demanding a better bike plan and a safer riding environment.

Then there’s the work of a revitalized LACBC fighting for justice and better support for L.A. cyclists in City Hall on an almost daily basis.

Not to mention the friendly ear provided by City Council members such as Bill Rosendahl, Eric Garcetti, and Ed Reyes, just to name a few, and the support of LAPD Chief Beck in turning one of the most bike-unfriendly police departments into one of the nation’s most responsive to the needs of bike riders.

Admit it. You never thought you’d see this.

The two Bike Summits helped galvanize bicyclists — as did the Mayor’s own Bike Summit — while CicLAvia showed us for the first time what the city could be. And L.A. Streetsblog deserves a lot of credit for shining a light on bicycling and other transportation issues, both good and bad.

Let’s also not forget Wolfpack Hustle’s brilliant victory over a Jet Blue airliner. And all the Ridazz and riders who risk the streets to carve out a place for bikes on the city’s too often unforgiving streets.

This award is yours. And you’ve earned it.

One other note.

For years, LADOT and Senior Project Coordinator Michelle Mowery have been the ones local cyclists loved to hate — Mowery especially suffered heaps of blame as the highest ranking bicycling official in the city.

But I long wondered what she could do with the actual support of city leaders, and without the roadblocks posed by senior auto-centric engineers more concerned with maintaining automotive throughput than making the streets safe for everyone.

I think the rapid changes of last few years — and this award — have given us an answer.

And reason to give her our thanks.

That’s not to say our city has suddenly turned into a bicycle paradise. Amsterdam, we’re not.

The bronze award is the lowest level the LAB bestows. It signifies the city has made significant progress, but we still have a very long way to go.

And as the L.A. Weekly pointed out, it’s hard to say the city is truly bike friendly when a full one-third of all bicycling collisions are hit-and-runs.

Then again, as the bike league’s Andy Clarke reminded me at Thursday’s press conference, I was one of the angry cyclists who demanded the LAB rescind their recognition of Santa Monica as a bike-friendly city when it was first awarded back in 2009.

And look how that turned out.

Santa Monica took that modest award, and used it as a springboard to challenge Long Beach as the most bike-friendly community in Southern California.

Maybe we’ll look back on this as the day L.A. took it’s first big step towards becoming the great city it should be. One that works for everyone who uses its streets, rather than bequeathing de facto dominance to the ones with motors.

And truly earns, not just this award, but the silver, gold and platinum levels that could come if we continue to demand and work for them.

………

In an even more surprising award, the LAB named Orange County — yes, the entire county — a Bike Friendly Community as well. And like L.A., at the bronze level.

Something I’m sure a lot of OC cyclists may take as much issue with as I did Santa Monica’s a few years back, given the county’s unacceptably high level of cycling fatalities.

But maybe like SaMo — and hopefully, L.A. — this will spur them to actually do something about it.

And congratulations to already bike friendly Claremont on its promotion to the silver level.

………

The L.A. Times has picked up a story from a Sacramento paper about how Jerry Browned has become the new term for cyclists getting passed dangerously close, in honor of our governor’s two-time veto of the state’s proposed three-foot passing law.

And they have the infinite good taste to not only quote me on the subject, but to embed my video of getting Jerry Browned by a Hollywood tour bus.

Not that they seem to realize the same devilishly handsome and wickedly charming cyclist was responsible for both.

But there’s still that problem of a two-time veto by our two-time governor. And what the hell we’re going to do about it.

That was something that came up in conversation with other riders at Thursday’s press conference. And led to a commitment to try one more time.

If for no other reason than we should refuse to give up on something so important to our safety, regardless of what any pen-wielding curmudgeon may have to say on the subject.

Maybe this time we can demonstrate our real clout, and make it clear it’s in Governor Brown’s best interest to sign it this time, if he wants to be in a position to sign anything next term. Or maybe with the new redistricting and electoral reforms, we can get a veto-proof margin in the legislature to ensure his signature is nothing more than a formality.

The problem is, we’ve lost one of the bill’s two champions.

Senator Alan Lowenthal, who shepherded both bills through the legislature, is termed out of office, and now running for Congress in the 47th District. We could do a lot worse than electing a proven bike-friendly leader to the federal government.

That leaves the bill’s other big supporter — our own Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Chances are, he’s licking his wounds after achieving apparent victory on two separate occasions, only to have it snatched away by our non-friend in Sacramento. Or at least, I would be if I was in his wingtips.

We need to encourage him to give it one more try.

That’s why I’m asking you to contact the mayor’s office by phone or email. Or Twitter, for that matter.

And urge him not to give up on us.

Ask him to use his clout as mayor of the state’s largest city, and his connections in the legislature, to pass a three-foot passing law one more time.

Then it will be on all of us to make sure we don’t get Jerry Browned again.

10 comments

  1. roadblock says:

    I’m pretty sure that’s actually Ed Reyes not Jose Huizar…

    Word on the street is that certain bike org(s) were tasked with deciding who got to share the podium in celebration of this accomplishment and guess what…. the biggest most influential most active bike “org” in years didnt get an invite… might have been nice being that the Midnight Ridazz have been fueling the bicycle revolution in LA for nearly a decade now…. But perhaps either Ridazz are too radical for the camera or perhaps not thought of in “legit” bike org circles because we are a bit uncooth or vocal or ok sometimes a little crazy and… un-funded…. but let it be known that the unsung heroes who’ve organized thousands of rides for FUN and culture and community have also done a good share of advocacy themselves. bringing literally hundreds of scrappy passionate voices to city hall out of pure passion hell even painting and postering the streets demonstrating and organizing. we did it to ask for safe streets and the endless years of chatter did just as much to convert LA that any of the non-profit orgs have. Ridazz deserved to be a part of this too… juss sayin…

    The city does not yet deserve any kind of award really… LA still consistently kills and hits and runs just as much as it did last year one suspects…

    • bikinginla says:

      Thanks for the correction, Don. That’s what I get for trying to wrap up a long post at 1 am.

      As for participation in the press conference, my understanding is that the decisions were made at City Hall, and not by any bike orgs. The only invitation I got was to stand there with my bike and look pretty, and watch the event like anyone else.

      • roadblock says:

        you deserved to be invited Ted you are one of the many who’ve been putting in work over the years chattering City Hall into responding… I’m pretty sure you remember seeing myself and others along side you. The bike org that invited you, should have thought to invite more than just their people is what I’m saying. This should have been shared with all… and would have made for a better photo op to say the least… Like I said though, this award really isnt worth that much except maybe for the politicians to now sit on their laurels.

        • bikinginla says:

          Sorry if you didn’t get an invitation, you definitely should have — you’ve been a leader in the cycling community for a long time. The LACBC did reach out to other people outside the organization, and I personally made an announcement inviting everyone through both my blog and on Twitter in an attempt to welcome as many, and as many different types of, riders as possible, while still keeping the subject of the press conference secret.

          I’m also sure that any failure to you or anyone else wasn’t intentional. The primary invitations came from the city, not the LACBC. I think we all assumed you had been invited by the city; I know I did. The LACBC also attempted to find out who had been invited to the press conference by the city, but was unable to get a clear response, and were limited by clear instructions not to tell anyone what the press conference was about.

          In the future, I will do my best to ensure that you are informed of things like this as far in advance as possible, bearing in mind that I only learned about it a few hours before you evidently did.

          As I pointed out in this post, credit for the award belongs to Wolfpack Hustle and the Ridazz as much as it does anyone else. You deserved to be there, and I was surprised that you weren’t. We’ll try to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

  2. JD says:

    Political window dressing is better than NOTHING.

  3. [...] more reasons why Los Angeles makes the cut as a bike city, see Ted Roger’s recent post on his Biking in LA blog regarding the recent inclusion of Los Angeles on the list of bike-friendly cities for the League of [...]

  4. [...] Not one mayor was harmed by a taxi in our upgrade to bronze, although we note the City of Los Angeles also was awarded a Bronze award under the leadership of hizzoner Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as covered by bikinginla. [...]

  5. Has anybody bothered to check what other cities have received these awards? To be fair, what Los Angeles has achieved in terms of getting people to cycle, and awards given, should be compared to other large cities and not college towns that naturally have a high cycling rate, such as Davis, Boulder or Urbana Ilinois (where I was raised).

    The League of American Bicyclists compiles a list of the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey annual results for the bicycle commuting modal share in the 70 largest cities.

    http://blog.bikeleague.org/blog/2012/10/infographic-bike-commuting-growing-faster-in-bicycle-friendly-communities/

    As you can see from the 2011 data results, 39 of the 70 cities had received an award and with the latest 2012 presentations, over two-thirds of them have gotten bronze or higher designations. One of the cities at the bottom of the list had a commuting modal share in 2011 of a tenth of one percent and it has a bronze award. Los Angeles has a commuting modal share that has been anywhere from 2-10 times more than that city. Sixteen of the cities that have at least two-tenths less commuting modal share below Los Angele’s rate have awards.

    The most important measure for the results of efforts to make a community more bicycle friendly should be whether there has been a significant increase in cycling over the years above and beyond the average, or the city was able to maintain a much high cycling rate than average.

    If you look at the bicycle commuting modal share starting from the major gasoline price increase of 2008 (gas prices have a big influence on the commuting cycling rate), Los Angeles has not shown any change outside of the margin of error 0.2 percent. Whereas New York city made a one-third increase and Chicago 40%.

    Los Angeles has been laying down miles of various thermoplastic symbols to encourages more bicycling from a limited segment of the population. However, to get to a point where the majority of the population would be willing to bicycle regularly, then there needs to be physical barriers on busy primary streets that separates the much greater mass and speed of the motor vehicles from the cyclist. Until then, Los Angeles is essentially trying to convince less than 10% of the population to ride a bike on arterial streets that have bike lane stripes or sharrows. What your going to end up seeing is a lot more bicycling injuries as a result of this.

    Why is it considered reasonable to expect a unprotected cyclist to ride in between two stripes four or five feet apart on a busy arterial street and yet it would be considered appalling to expect pedestrians to do the same thing? Let me remind you that one of the key driving forces behind the installation of a mass amount bicycle paths in the Netherlands, starting in the mid 1970’s, was the protests from parents about the cycling injuries and deaths that were increasingly occuring to children due to the post WWII push towards accomodating the automobile.

  6. Mark Elliot says:

    My city of Beverly Hills likely won’t even be recognized by the League’s Pewter award (for cities *thinking* about becoming more bike-friendly) because we’ve done nothing to promote cycling or made it safe or more welcoming. But maybe it would encourage at least thinking about catching up with the rest of the region.

    Oh there isn’t a Pewter award? Perhaps our best hope is that the Nobel committee will take notice and honor Beverly Hills with their new prize for bike-friendliness – an action in line with their recognition of policymakers from Henry Kissinger (for butchering the Vietnamese and bombing the Cambodians) or Obama (the Peace Prize just before his policy of extrajudicial killings and drone strikes). Our policymakers here in BH would happily hoist an award for simply being recognized for inaction, and would hoist it even higher without actually doing any work to earn it. That’s how we roll.

  7. [...] ever since I met Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists, at the ceremony honoring L.A.’s recognition as a Bike Friendly Community last [...]

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