An open letter to the Los Angeles City Council — Don’t let LA down on Wednesday

You’re scaring us.

After putting off the motion from Councilmembers Huizar and Reyes to repaint the Spring Street Bike Lanes from last Friday, to Tuesday, to today, we have to wonder what’s going on.

Like whether negotiations have been going on behind the scenes that we haven’t been privy to. Or if the vote has been repeatedly postponed to reduce the number of bicyclists who can attend to argue for the motion; after all, it’s one thing to clear your schedule for a single day, quite another to clear it over and over again.

Paranoid, I know.

But that’s what happens when the lies — yes, lies — of the film industry seem to take precedence over the safety and preferences of the city’s citizens.

Starting with the absurd claim that a little bit of green paint is chasing thousands of film industry jobs out of the city, when in fact, filming in Los Angeles is up over the last year.

Then there’s the lie that no other city in country has green bike lanes, or at least this particular shade of green. When in fact they’ve been in use in cities across the country, from Portland to Chicago and New York, with more coming every day. And the new bike lanes on San Francisco’s Market Street seem to be a very familiar hue.

And don’t get me started on the ridiculous claim that the lanes are impossible to remove in post production. Or that the real problem is the reflected glow from the lanes; I can color correct video to remove unwanted tints in just a few minutes on my laptop, with a lot less computer power — and skill — than even the lowliest production house employs.

Then again, a little paint — or any of the attributes of a modern city, for that matter — never stopped the Hollywood of old, which knew how to hide problematic things before filming ever began.

John Ford, Frank Capra or Stanley Kubrick would have just covered the street with hay or a black mat to hide the offending paint. FilmLA could easily invest in a mat that could be rented to production crews on a daily basis for minimal cost.

Or just give me a couple of hours and a box of gaffers tape, and I guarantee there won’t be a hint of green in the dailies.

Then there’s the claim — okay, lie — that supporters of the bike lanes have repeatedly backed out of compromise solutions that would work for everyone, from changing the paint to a less reflective hue to dramatically reducing the surface area to be painted.

I’ve talked to people directly involved in the discussion. And each one has made it clear that it was the representatives of the film industry that backed out after everyone thought they had an agreement.

Which raises the question of what, exactly, they want.

The only answer that makes sense is they want the bike lanes to go away. Not because they actually cause a problem, but because the film industry wants to stop any future changes to what they consider their street.

But it’s not.

It’s not a Hollywood back lot. It’s our home.

We live and work here. We ride our bikes for transportation and recreation, to work and shopping, nights out and meetings — sometimes with you. And sometimes, just because it’s fun.

Those green lanes, as battered and faded as they may be, have been a huge success.

And even motorists support bike lanes, including, yes, green ones.

According to a letter you’ve already received from the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council, the number of people bicycling on Spring Street increased 52% in the first year after the lanes were installed, with another 40% increase this year.

More impressive, the number of women bike riders on Spring increased 100% on weekdays, and 650% on weekends. Women tend to be more risk averse when it comes to bicycling; the fact that they are responding to this street to such a degree suggests just how safe they feel in the green lanes.

In other words, the green lanes are doing exactly what they were designed to do.

If you vote to let them die, as the film industry is selfishly demanding — and as we fear you will in the face of your continued silence —  you will send a clear message that the convenience of wealthy special interests outweighs the safety and desires of the general public.

It will also tell the bicycling community that the hard-won bike plan you approved a few years ago isn’t worth the ink on the pages. Let alone the paint on the street.

Because we’ll know that any bikeway, anywhere, can be removed on the whim of a few well-connected opponents. And that your support for our lives and safety, let alone the livability of our city, runs neither deep nor wide.

Please, I beg you, prove us wrong and dispel our fears.

Send a clear signal that you are sincere in your desire to end car culture and reshape L.A. into the livable, walkable, bikable world-class city it should be.

And that this is our city, not a Hollywood back lot.

Because Hollywood will survive, and thrive, with or without these bike lanes.

We, and the city we love, may not.

3 comments

  1. boyonabike says:

    Brilliant! I hope the city council members all read this and take it to heart.

  2. […] A Plea to the City Council Not to Screw Up Spring Street (Biking in L.A.) […]

  3. gottobike says:

    Green paint or ghost bikes? Is this the compromise the film industry expects? I certainly would not expect supporters of bike lanes to accept this nor would I expect our elected officials to buy into a plan that compromises public safety.

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