Tag Archive for crumbling streets

An open letter to the L.A. City Council — let’s move forward, not retreat to our auto-centric past

Dear Council Members,

It was just three years ago that CD11 Councilmember Bill Rosendahl famously stood before his fellow council members and declared that “The culture of the car is going to end now!”

True to his word, the City of Los Angeles has made remarkable progress in the last 24 months, rapidly expanding rail lines, moving forward on the long-promised Subway to the Sea — or Brentwood, anyway — and most improbably, being named a bronze level Bicycle Friendly Community.

Although pedestrians seem to be lost in the process, as the city continues to remove crosswalks as it build others.

But now the city is threatening to backslide into the same old car-focused past that has repeatedly driven the many communities that make up our city into decline over the last half-dozen decades.

A new proposed bond measure promises to repair our crumbling streets, yet contains not one word committing to improvements for anything but motor vehicles, returning us to the bad old days of automotive hegemony that CM Rosendahl had promised was in the past.

On the surface, it seems like a good idea, though not everyone agrees; some are quite vocal in their opposition for a number of reason.

Yet no one can deny that our streets are crumbling. Too many L.A. streets now resemble the cobblestones of Europe, as a broken patchwork of pavement causes collisions and needless costs for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians alike.

And fixing them now makes sense, sparing Angelenos the estimated $750 a year in added repair costs, not to mention the untold cost to repair countless broken bikes — and broken bones — suffered by cyclists who hit potholes or swerve dangerously to avoid them.

Historic low interest rates mean the city can borrow the money at favorable rates, and repave the streets now at a fraction of the cost it would cost in decades to come. And since the bond will be funded by a relatively insignificant increase in property taxes, the work can be done without adding to the city’s debt burden.

The problem, as always, is in the details.

Or the lack of them, as far too much as been left out of this measure.

Like a commitment to implementing bikeways contained in the city’s new bike plan as those streets are repaved, dramatically cutting the cost of implementation since those streets would need to be repainted anyway. And potentially cutting the time to build out the bike plan from 30 years to perhaps half of that, or less.

Worse, there is absolutely nothing in this massive bond issue that promises to repair the city’s broken sidewalks, estimated to cost $1 billion to $1.5 billion. Leaving a massive obstacle to creating more livable and walkable communities, while failing to give people an incentive to get out of their cars and off our highly congested streets.

My own wife has been injured twice as a result of tripping over broken sidewalks, suffering first a broken foot, followed by wrenched knee that continues to cause her problems to this day. How many others have been similarly injured, or simply stopped walking in their own neighborhoods because it’s simply not worth the risk?

Clearly, this will not be an easy measure to pass.

It will require a two-thirds majority, something very difficult to achieve as the recent failure of Measure J demonstrated, despite getting over 66.1% of the vote.

Which means you’ll need every vote you can get for passage, including the support of bicyclists and pedestrians. And right now, we have no incentive to support it — let alone vote yes in May.

In fact, as far as I’m concerned, this is dead in the water unless significant changes are made.

The city needs to make a firm commitment to building out the bike plan as streets are repaired, and rebuilding our streets using best practices that benefit all road users — based on the new mobility plan currently being finalized, rather than the outdated version it will replace.

It also needs to include provisions to fix our sidewalks. After all, while most Los Angeles residents are drivers, we’re all pedestrians at one time or another. And this will never be the great city it can and should be until we are free to walk when and where we want, safely and enjoyably.

Let’s also not fall into the old trap of treating infrastructure as separate elements; streets and sidewalks and crosswalks should be rebuilt as a single Complete Street designed to move people, not vehicles, and bring renewed life to all our communities. And they should incorporate Safe Routes to Schools, while providing necessary access for the disabled.

Granted, CD12 Councilmember Mitch Englander has promised that much of this will addressed down the road.

But with all due respect, you’ll excuse us if we don’t settle for promises than can be broken down the line. These matters need to be included in the ballot measure, locked in as part of the bond issue.

This morning’s City Council session will be visited, not by three ghosts, but by a phalanx of impassioned bicycling, pedestrian and safety advocates determined to fix this bond measure before it goes to the ballot in order to win their support, and the support of countless like-minded Angelenos such as myself.

Listen to them.

Then act on the suggestions they make.

The success of this bond measure, the livability of our city and the safety of its residents depends on it.

Sincerely,

Ted Rogers
Bikinginla.com

A meditation on bicycling and driving in the City of Angels

One quick note: I emailed Paul Koretz and Ron Galperin again yesterday to offer the use of this site to address the cycling community. If they still don’t respond, I can only conclude that they’re just not that into us.


I don’t drive much anymore.

You see, our apartment is walking distance from just about everything I need. And these days, most of my clients accept that I can work just as well, if not better, from home. So my car spends far more time in the garage, covered in dust, than it does on the road these days.

But every now and then, I need something that isn’t within easy reach, and isn’t practical to do by bike.

Like today, for instance.

So I was reminded once again why I’d much rather be on my bike than slog through weekday traffic in L.A. — especially now that our rapidly crumbling infrastructure is making traffic slower and heavier than ever. But the drive helped me solidify a few thoughts that have slowly been taking shape within my overcrowded head.

For instance, I’ve long thought that L.A. drivers don’t respect the rights of cyclists. Behind the wheel, though, it becomes obvious that’s just not true.

Because it’s not just us.

They don’t respect pedestrians, buses, small animals or other drivers, either.

Not all of drivers, of course. Probably not even most drivers. But you don’t have to observe traffic very long to realize that too many people drive too aggressively and too carelessly.

They drive too fast. They pass too close. They cut off other vehicles. They turn without signaling. And they seldom, if ever, willingly yield the right of way.

In other words, exactly the same things we cyclists complain about.

But when you’re safely cocooned within a couple tons of steel, it may tick you off, but it’s usually not life-threatening. It’s just that the same actions that could cause a minor fender bender between two cars can result in serious injuries when a cyclist is involved.

Because we don’t have fenders. Or any other protection other than a helmet and a thin layer of chamois between our legs.

So it’s nothing personal. They don’t actually hate us.

They just really suck as drivers.

 

The Times continues their series exploring the issues with the candidates for CD5 with an examination of development on the Westside. Now the Google lets you check local traffic conditions before your ride. Under the heading of WTF: S.F.’s mayor calls for $20,000 bicycles for the planned Baghdad by the Bay bike sharing program. Meanwhile, my hometown takes a more populist approach. San Diego can’t figure out who’s responsible for a botched road resurfacing that’s injured four cyclists and counting (second item). Ubrayj asks what happened to the money budgeted for the city’s recently suspended bike licensing program, and offers some good insights into funding bike programs in a recent comment. Stephen Box questions why the city insists on restaurant parking, but won’t provide a promised bike rack.

And finally, don’t forget to register for the Los Angeles Bike Summit on Saturday, March 7 at L.A. Trade Tech College — looks like yours truly will be a late addition. But be kind, I bruise easily.

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