Tag Archive for L.A. Metro

Metro speaks, but could maybe do a little more listening; New York county official says never ride on two wheels

I tried.

No, really, I did. I blocked out this past Tuesday evening over a week in advance to attend the latest Metro Bike Roundtable at Metro Headquarters.

Then as so often happens, I just couldn’t make it work out on a day when I found myself pulled in too many directions with too many deadlines.

Fortunately, a friend and sometimes contributor was also planning to attend, and graciously agreed to fill in for me at the last minute, though she requested that I keep her name out of it.

Here’s her take on the meeting.

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The so-called “roundtables” aren’t what they used to be. They’re useful, and good at what they are, but they’re nothing like the first exciting year of bike roundtables. Mind you, I’m not whining. The initial roundtables were absolutely instrumental in shaping policies & implementing some terrific changes. Now, though, they’re just lovely informative meetings with a series of brief presentations along with updates on new & ongoing projects.

Significantly, the meetings continue. They haven’t been squelched without reason by Metro or killed by lack of interest. And important people show up. By “important people” I mean “the folks who are generally enthusiastic about bikes & knowledgeable about what’s going on,” if you accept this as a definition. BAC reps, politicians’ staffers, community leaders, lone wolf activists, they were all there. True believers like Lynne Goldsmith (in gorgeous black easy-to-pedal-in boots) & Dave Somers (DCP here representin’, YO!), LACBC & SRTS. And a schlub or two like me. The mix is good, but attendance is a lot smaller than the very first SRO meeting, and it’s really no longer about soliciting input.

I wish to repeat that I’m not in any way criticizing the importance of these meetings, because they’re more than informative. They’d be exponentially more helpful if they allowed for more input from the community, and were followed by a happy hour. No, I’m not joking about the happy hour thing. Shiny happy people talking bikes? For an extra hour? NOT a bad idea. There’s certainly no point in trying to suggest this, or anything, because the roundtable no longer focuses on collecting input.

For example, I would have liked to point out that the new wayfinding signage that allegedly directs riders from the El Monte Transit Station to the San Gabriel River Path is insufficient. Of course, I base this exclusively on the tiny data set of “my repeated failures to locate it.” On the most recent visit, I asked for directions from no fewer than nine people (including two Sheriff’s deputies, four cyclists, the Foothill Transit customer service girl & a security guard), in addition to walking around and getting yelled at/threatened for hovering at the invisible boundaries of off-limits areas. Next time, I’ll attack from the river path, and work my way back. It would have been useful to get this info at the roundtable so I could use it myself and disseminate it, but now I face the added hassle of exploring and then writing a strongly-worded letter to the people who are patting themselves on the back for accomplishing the task of installing invisible signage. Also, when I do eventually find the signs, I will cringe at my own goddamn stupidity, and Metro will never apologize for or even acknowledge their complicity.

The subject of the useless stair rails at the aforementioned transit station came up as well. Metro’s thrown a study together, because in the future they’ll be installing the ramps at other stations. Well, hopefully not the same type of ramp, because as stated, the ones at El Monte suck. There’s just no euphemism. I have dozens of pictures of people giving up and just carrying their bikes, and I feel really bad for the folks who struggle — the ones who really need to use the elevator but attempt, with hope and gallantry, to use the little ramps. These ramps are an expensive kick in the dignity of multi-modal transit users. Incidentally, these rails do not accommodate any of my bikes (all fixes), period. Pedal strike, you know. Which is fine ’cause I feel like a total bad-ass hauling a 19 lb. bike up a couple flights. Not so fine for the guy with bad knees and two full-time jobs and a heavy Walmart “mountain bike” and the added burden of shame for looking like a simpleton who’s too stupid to figure out some self-explanatory stair rails.

Anyway, there was cheerful stuff on the agenda too. Planning for Bike Month is well underway, with the following laid out for Bike Week so far:

  • May 10th: Get Ready and Fix Your Bike!
  • May 11th: Bicycling is for Everyone Celebration!
  • May 12th: Kick-off Bike Week LA
  • May 13th: Blessing of the Bicycles
  • May 14th: Guided Ride Day: Bike Lanes and More!
  • May 15th: Bike to Work Day
  • May 12th-18th: Bike Local

This was copied verbatim, but personally I think they need more exclamation marks. It’s nice to see maintenance/repair clinics on the list, and I’m particularly impatient for more details on the guided rides. “Bike Local” will encourage ridership because everybody likes a discount. Also, on May 3rd, there’ll be a ride in conjunction with Union Station’s 75th anniversary.

The 2014 messaging campaign will be revealed in May, and will build off the success of “Every Lane is a Bike Lane.” (As an aside, I was rolling homeward from Bike Night at the Hammer in a group that included two prominent biketivists when a group of drunks hollered “EVERY LANE IS NOT A BIKE LANE!” at us. So the message definitely reached its intended demographic, though its educational effect is questionable.)

Metro’s already submitted an application for an OTS grant to fund their bicycle safety campaign in 2015.

Metro will continue to sponsor CICLE’s group rides, the next one being Saturday’s Ride for Love (and what nobler reason is there?!) in Watts.

The exciting Open Streets timeline was presented. The final application package was revealed at last month’s Open Streets Program Workshop, and applications are due by March 14th. In June, the Metro Board will make their approvals of recommended events, and in summer, they’ll execute agreements for funding Open Streets events for Fiscal Year 2015. It’s gonna be CicLAvia-a-Go-Go in L.A. County!

And about Bike Share. Last fall, Metro initiated a bike share industry review. Last month, they reported the results of this review to the Board. They’ve identified potential pilot (“Phase 1″) locations, and are preparing to launch an implementation plan. They’ll be reporting back to the Board with an update in April. The identified pilot sites are in downtown LA, Pasadena & Santa Monica, and the program includes future coordination with the City of Long Beach.

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Just a couple other quick notes.

In case you missed it — and I can’t imagine how with the furor that has erupted in the bikeosphere over the past few days — a representative of the Suffolk County NY Legislature responded to a high school student’s urgent pleas for bike safety by telling him to give up and get a car.

The young man’s own mother had been hit by a car, as had four friends. But this auto-centric jerk — and I use the term advisedly — offered little sympathy and no hope for those on two wheels.

I have lived in West Islip most of my life and my personal feeling is that no one who lives in our hamlet or for that matter in Suffolk County should ever ride a bicycle or a motorcycle. I cannot tell you how many constituents over the years have told me that they are taking up bicycling for pleasure and exercise. I have told them not to do so but they usually do not listen – 90 percent of those people eventually were hit by an automobile many like your mother with serious physical injuries.

So instead of lifting a finger in his official capacity to make the streets safer for the people he was elected to represent — especially with such an astounding rate of injury — he insists streets are for cars.

And if you don’t like it, tough.

Let’s hope his constituents run him out of office. Hopefully on two wheels.

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As noted the other day, Santa Monica’s city council has unanimously approved the city’s first neighborhood greenway, as well as Safe Routes to School improvements around Santa Monica High School; Santa Monica Next and Santa Monica Lookout offer more information.

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The Voice of America says bike trains beat LA traffic.

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Touring Westwood by complimentary hotel bike.

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The LAPD is cracking down on traffic crime in the Northeast division; now if they could just extend that throughout the city our streets might finally be a little safer.

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San Diego has a new pro-bike, pro-gay Republican — yes, Republican — mayor.

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Nicholas Santiago has reportedly pled guilty in the semi-hit-and-run that took the life of 78-year old Moorpark cyclist Bernie Cooper. Santiago’s car hit Cooper’s bike with so force his body was found in the branches of a nearby tree; he left the scene before returning to take responsibility.

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A Palo Alto columnist looks at the laws governing cyclists. And somehow manages to get it wrong.

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Top South African track cyclist Jeanne Neil was killed after getting trapped between two other riders while competing in a Cape Town keirin race.

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Finally, in case you’ve wondered just why our streets are so dangerous, consider this:

A drunk Portland nanny picks up four kids from school with a BAC over four times the legal limit, pulls to the curb, cries, passes out, hits a bike rider, flees the scene, lets the kids out, passes out again, then fights with paramedics who come to help her. And gets probation and a suspended license — even though it was her third offense.

Too easy to get, too hard to lose.

Update: I knew I forgot something. LADOT announces that the city’s first Bicycle Friendly Business District is coming to Northeast LA. Maybe Westwood can be next, if the local councilmember can be convinced that bikes are good for business.

Metro supports your right to the road, PCH cyclist beaten in Malibu, $25k reward for hit-and-run driver

I like it.

Metro is introducing a new bike safety campaign leading up to May’s bike week. One that may finally convince at least some drivers that we’re not confined to a tiny strip of roadway next to the gutter.

13-1362_otd_bike_traffic_safety_30sheet_jl_lo

I hope they show this to law enforcement agencies, too.

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A cyclist riding with his wife on PCH in Malibu last month was severely beaten by two men after recording an argument with another rider on his cell phone.

The two men, described as Persian or Middle Eastern in their 40s or 50s, were in a black two-door Bentley without permanent license plates. After they noticed the man recording their argument with the cyclist, they got out and demanded his phone, then punched and kicked him, and took his phone after knocking him to the ground, before driving south on PCH.

The victim suffered a concussion in the assault.

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Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge joins with the CHP to offer a $25,000 reward to find the hit-and-run driver who critically injured cyclist Damian Kevitt by dragging him nearly a quarter mile onto the 5-Freeway near the L.A. Zoo.

Meanwhile, Cal Poly Pomona professor Boyonabike offers his thoughts on the tragic death of cyclist Ivan Aguilar on campus last Thursday; a highly recommended though heartbreaking read.

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Bike scribe Padraig of Red Kite Prayer could use a few prayers and/or good thoughts for a new baby who’s not out of the woods yet.

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The 13th Annual Nation Bike Summit kicked off in Washington DC on Monday with the National Women’s Bicycling Forum, which heard inspiring words from freshman Congresswoman, double war amputee and cyclist Tammy Duckworth. How to diversify bicycling in three easy steps. And Frank Peters of cdmCyclist provides photos from the first day.

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For anyone interested in somewhat colder pursuits, my Iditarod veteran brother is offering his insights into this year’s dog sled race.

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Traffic planning star and L.A. native Janette Sadik-Khan, commissioner of the New York Department of Transportation, spoke at the UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs Complete Streets Initiative last week, and rocked the house as usual; I’m told she got a standing ovation at the Bike Summit, too. Streetsblog offers a guide to today’s city council election. New bike lanes on Vermont are a small step forward. Los Angeles Cycle Chic looks at a CicLAvia wedding. Better Bike reminds those who live in the Biking Black Hole to vote today if you ever want to see improvement in the city; the new Request for Proposals to remake Santa Monica Blvd through Beverly Hills doesn’t look promising. A Santa Monica woman is charged in the hit-and-run death of a tow truck driver on PCH in Malibu last month. Santa Monica Spoke wants your help to deliver Meals on Wheels by bike later this month. Walk Bike Glendale gets that city’s city council candidates on the record for their stands on, yes, walking and biking.

Cyclelicious looks at the bicycling bills under consideration during the current legislative session — including one disastrous proposed law that would remove government liability for any injuries that occur as a result of bad bike lane design or maintenance. Whittier approves a new bike plan focused on improving safety. San Diego considers a bike safety resolution, even as local advocates express their disappointment; Bike SD calls on local riders to attend Tuesday’s council session as a result. North San Diego County drivers will get a wider freeway, while cyclists will get two new bikeways, including a 27-mile pathway along the coast. Temecula will update its trails and bikeways master plan. A Texas attorney dies after jumping into the chilly San Francisco Bay during the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon. After a Marin County cyclist collapses while riding, a sheriff’s deputy uses a portable defibrillator to save his life.

USA Cycling celebrates Major Taylor, America’s first cycling hero, who broke the color barrier over a hundred years ago. Oregon’s largest newspaper starts a new bicycling blog written by their riding reporters. Portland businesses seek out bike front properties. Washington legislator Ed Orcutt apologizes for saying cyclists should be taxed because our heavy breathing contributes to global warming; I guess a tax on sexual activity is out of the question then. Arizona considers reforming their three foot passing law, which currently makes it legal to kill a cyclist if he or she is riding in a bike lane. Utah cyclists may soon be able to ride through red lights that don’t change for them. A Colorado dump truck driver faces a $1000 fine and up to one year in jail for carelessly killing a cyclist. Texas bike wreck survivor and bike safety blogger Witch on a Bicycle unveils his $500 contest to design a tattoo to cover a large fish-shaped scar on his leg.

Biking in crime-ridden Guatemala City is possible after all. Mikael Colville-Anderson, author of Copenhagenize and Copenhagen Cycle Chic, makes his return to his native Calgary. Rising British cyclist Junior Heffernan is killed in a collision with a car in his first race with his new pro team. A British bike rider is hit in the face with a branch thrown at her from a bridge. Did an angry Brit driver punch out a cyclist because he hates bikes or because the rider gave him the finger because he was angry? The BBC cans their long-time cycling commentator in favor of a much younger colleague. UK health professionals warn against creeping requirements for helmets on charity rides, a practice that is virtually universal in this country. Lance could lose his French Legion of Honor medal in the wake of his recent doping scandal. Multiple world champion cyclist Marianne Vos enters her first ever mountain bike race in Cyprus — and wins, of course. Retroactive tests of 50 South African cyclists shows evidence of EPO use. Melbourne celebrates the World Naked Bike Ride; yes, there are naked pictures, whether that makes you want to click on the link or avoid it. Two Kiwi cyclists are hit in separate collisions at virtually the same spot half an hour apart. A Japanese bike mechanic is still wrenching at 85.

Finally, Indian bike advocates call for licensing cyclists, with a small cash payment if one gets killed, saying that will encourage more people to ride; I’d think it would have exactly the opposite effect. And a study from the University of Duh shows that cyclists who are hit by moving vehicles are four times more likely to suffer severe injuries than riders involved in non-vehicle accidents.

Now put this down and get out and bike the vote if you haven’t already.

Hollywood blocked bikeways may be common, but not legal; moving story on fallen cyclist Alex Romero

It something we’ve all gotten used to living here in the greater metaphorical Hollywood.

And something we shouldn’t have to.

If you’ve ridden much around this city, chances are, you’ve found your way blocked by a movie crew, TV set or a commercial photo shoot at some point, forcing you to wait until the scene or shoot is over.

Or maybe you’ve run into my pet peeve — movie crews parked along the side of the road, with orange safety cones placed in the middle of the bike lane to protect their precious trucks from passing cyclists, forcing you out into traffic with little or no warning.

And often as not, with no legal basis.

Take the photo shoot Todd Munson encountered on his way home last week on the Ballona Creek Bike Path.

They were set up near the eastern end. When I rolled up they had a scrim set up that was a good 10 feet high and as wide as the path. Because of it, I had to come to a full stop and announce my presence before they even noticed I was there. Based on how “fashionable” they all were I’m guessing they came from the nearby Smashbox Studio.

When I realized how much I was “hassling” them by having to move their equipment to make some room, I asked if they had a permit for the shoot. Everyone just sort looked at each other and mumbled incomplete sentences. The guy who was apparently in charge was the one covering his face in the first photo. The amazing thing to me was that nobody including him was at all apologetic. The best they could do was “Hey man, we didn’t think anyone would be here.” And a couple of them even tried getting tough.

The other funny part was that girl in the red shirt in photo number 3 asked that I not take anyone’s picture.

Good times.

Problem is, unless they did have a permit, what they were doing was completely illegal. Section 21211 of the California Vehicle Code reads:

21211.   (a) No person may stop, stand, sit, or loiter upon any class I bikeway, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 890.4 of the Streets and Highways Code, or any other public or private bicycle path or trail, if the stopping, standing, sitting, or loitering impedes or blocks the normal and reasonable movement of any bicyclist.

But it doesn’t stop there. It goes on to prohibit parking or placing anything on the bike path that would block it, as well.

(b) No person may place or park any bicycle, vehicle, or any other object upon any bikeway or bicycle path or trail, as specified in subdivision (a), which impedes or blocks the normal and reasonable movement of any bicyclist unless the placement or parking is necessary for safe operation or is otherwise in compliance with the law.

Of course, there are additional subsections specifying a handful exceptions, none of which apply in the situation Munson encountered. Or to the overwhelming majority of cases you might encounter that would delay your ride more than a few moments.

Then there’s the matter of blocked bike lanes.

As we’ve discussed before, bike lanes are considered traffic lanes by the LAPD, just like the larger lanes to their left. And just as it’s illegal to block any other traffic lane, it’s against the law to block a bike lane — whether with trash cans, orange cones or double parked vehicles.

The question is whether L.A.’s favorite industry enjoys a special exemption when it comes to their trucks.

The afore mentioned Mr. Munson, who seems to be having a rash of bad luck with this sort of thing lately, reached out to myself and Tony Arranaga, who works in the office of 11th District Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, after a recent encounter with bike lanes blocked by a movie crew on San Vicente Blvd in the Brentwood area.

Tony was kind enough to connect us with Geoffrey Smith, Director of Community Relations with FilmLA Inc, the agency responsible for overseeing the massive amount of filming that takes place in this city on a daily basis.

Once again, I’ll let Todd explain the situation:

The specific incident I encountered occurred in Brentwood along San Vicente last Thursday morning (3/24). A film production had vehicles parked on both sides of San Vicente near the golf course and had laid out large cones along the respective bike lanes.

The cones were placed on the outer edge of the bike line cutting down its width to the point that it was no longer safe to use. Any cyclist who chose to stay in the bike lane was faced with a lose-lose situation as they were forced to ride dangerously close to parked vehicles. Should a door swing open or a crew member walk out from between the vehicles, the tightly spaced cones to the immediate left eliminated any chance for a safe escape.

The only option for a cyclist wishing to avoid this mess would be to exit the bike lane and ride in traffic. This option was equally undesirable and dangerous as motorists tend to treat San Vicente as a mini freeway- especially during the morning rush hour.

Attached is quick diagram I made with the help of Google Street View illustrating the dangerousness of the situation.

To reiterate what Ted stated, those cones served no functional purpose other than creating a life-threatening situation for cyclists. Should the status quo be allowed to remain, it’s not a matter of if but when a deadly accident will occur.

That drew the following response from Smith, who answered promptly the next morning:

1)      No, the company should not have put cones in the bike path. It seems that the Transportation Captain was perhaps a little overzealous in trying to let everyone know that there was a trailer parked on the street. Why he felt that the general public would fail to see a trailer 8’ wide by 7’ high will undoubtedly remain a mystery.

2)      Yes, a company can close a bike path BUT, it requires submitting a traffic plan to DOT, showing what alternate route(s) are being created, via cones, barricades, signage, so that bicyclists are not forced into traffic. DOT has to approve of the closure before it will be allowed.

3)      As an FYI, FilmL.A. is 24/7. If you should run into this situation again, PLEASE call us 213/977.8600 ASAP. Let us check and see a) if there is a permit and b) if they have a closure of the bike path.

4)      I am also annoyed if they were parking on both side of San Vicente. Parking on the north side is not allowed.

I don’t know about you, but I’m putting that phone number in my speed dial.

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Dj Wheels, who has been very busy keeping up with local bike-related criminal cases lately, shares the news that 19-year olds Patrick Roraff and Brett Morin will face trial for the death of rising pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado in Highland one year ago.

Roraff and Morin were allegedly street racing at around 70 mph when Roraff lost control and hit Alvarado, who died on the side of the road, far from his family and friends in Mexico.

According to the Press-Enterprise, the two will be arraigned on May 12th on a single count each of vehicular manslaughter.

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Chances are, you’ve never heard of the San Fernando Valley Sun. But maybe you should.

Once again, they’ve written movingly about the death of yet another teenage Valley cyclist murdered by a hit-and-run driver.

Just six months ago, it was Danny Marin*; this time, it’s Alex Romero, run down by a speeding driver on De Soto Avenue in Canoga Park last week.

Consider the heart-rending pathos in the first paragraph alone:

Tomorrow, April 29, Maria De La Paz “Pacita” Romero will have to find the strength to bury her teenaged son. “Empty. I feel empty,” Maria said as she attempts to describe the loss of her son, German Alex Romero, a 17-year-old promising soccer player whose life was tragically cut short last week when he was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Canoga Park.

Remarkably, Romero’s family doesn’t bear any animosity towards the still unidentified driver; his mother saying “God bless him” of the man who killed her son.

The family would also like Romero’s death to serve a positive purpose. Their desire is for new bicycle markings to be placed on the street where he was killed, as well as additional lighting, a traffic light and cameras.

“We would like Alex’s sacrifice to be worth something,” Fuentes said. “He came to this earth for 17 years to give light to everybody, motorists and bicyclists, so that we may be more careful to make ourselves aware of everybody who’s on the road.”

Seriously, stop whatever you’re doing, and take just a few minutes to read a very well-written story about the massive hole a heartless driver has left in what appears to be a remarkable, and remarkably forgiving, family.

But don’t be surprised if you find a few tears in your eyes before you’re done.

*Unfortunately, the original Sun story is no longer available online.

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Finally, the LACBC reports that the peak hour restrictions limiting bikes on Metro trains have been lifted, effective immediately. While the bike ban has been widely ignored in recent months, the action of the Metro Board means you can now take your bike on any Metro train, any time, to any destination.

As train cars come in for servicing, they will have seats removed to create additional standing and storage room to provide more space for bikes, as well as other large objects such as strollers and shopping bags.

Open letter to Metro and LA County DPW — making the Marvin Braude Bikeway a transportation corridor

Pedestrians often block cyclists on the bike path, despite numerous bike-only signs

If you’ve ever tried to ride the beachfront bike path through Santa Monica and Venice, chances are, you know what the problem is.

Despite countless bike-only signs along most of its length, the path is plagued by the seemingly inevitable conflicts between cyclists, skaters, joggers and pedestrians, as we all fight for a few feet of space on what should be the crown jewel of SoCal cycling.

The problem stems from a traditional lack of enforcement, which has caused countless residents and tourists to believe the path is open to everyone. Not mention location, since the bike path is situated directly on the sand, while pedestrian walkways, where they exist, are often well away from where most people want walk.

Now the County Department of Public Works is preparing a proposal that might solve that problem for a relatively lengthy section of the bikeway.

The County is submitting an application in Metro’s Call for Projects for a pedestrian walkway that would parallel the bike path from Ocean Front Walk north to Will Rogers State Beach. Something that would provide other users a space of their own directly on the sand, while freeing room for bikes on a path that was built for our use — but which many riders avoid because it’s often too crowded to ride.

Problem is, they’ve made a similar request before. And were turned down because the project was seen as benefitting recreational riders, rather than commuters.

This, despite the fact that simple observation indicates that at least some commuter cyclists already use the bike path as an alternative to PCH and crowded Santa Monica streets. And more commuters would use it if there weren’t so many non-cyclists clogging their way.

As a result, I’ve written the following letter in support of the project.

I urge you to write a letter of your own asking Metro to fund the pedestrian walkway, and send it to L.A. County Bikeway Coordinator Abu Yusuf, who has agreed to forward our letters to the right people and include them in the application.

Since Metro’s focus is on transportation, rather than recreation, your letter should stress how a pedestrian walkway would make it easier for you to commute to work, class or other situations, and make you more likely to use your own bike as opposed to other methods of transportation; feel free to use my letter as a guide.

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January 11, 2011

Gail Farber
County of Los Angeles Department of Public Works
900 South Fremont Ave
Alhambra, CA 91803-1331

Dear Ms. Farber,

It has come to my attention that the Department of Public Works for the County of Los Angeles will be submitting an application for funding for the Marvin Braude Pedestrian Walkway Gap Closure Project in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s 2011 Call for Projects.

As you are undoubtedly aware, the Marvin Braude Bike Trail is one of Southern California’s most popular bikeways, drawing a very high volume of bicyclists, pedestrians, skaters and other users. While there are nearby walkways along other sections of the bike path, there is no pedestrian walkway along the section between Ocean Front Walk in Santa Monica and Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades.

As a result, bike riders and pedestrians are forced to compete for a limited amount of space, creating inevitable conflicts between various users, as well as congestion that greatly reduces the path’s utility for transportation riders and dramatically increases the risk of serious injuries.

Closing the proposed gap closure between the existing walkways would allow both bicyclists and pedestrians to travel this section of the Marvin Braude bikeway with greater safety. It would also provide access to local transit hubs, as well as the Exposition Light Rail Transit line that is currently in the beginning stages of being extended to Santa Monica.

In addition, moving pedestrians onto a separate pathway would increase the viability of the bikeway as a transportation corridor for bicyclists by providing safer access for riders commuting to the many activity, shopping and employment centers in the Santa Monica, Venice and Malibu areas. It would also encourage people who do not currently use their bikes for transportation to consider it as an alternative to driving or other methods of transit.

I myself have often considered using my bike for transportation to work or meetings in the area, but have usually rejected it at least in part due to the congestion and safety hazards caused by pedestrians and other non-bike users on the bike path.

I strongly urge the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to move this vital project forward by approving funding for the Marvin Braude Pedestrian Walkway Gap Closure Project in the 2011 Call for Projects.

Sincerely,

Ted A. Rogers
BikingInLA.com

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UCLA will host a day-long Complete Streets workshop Downtown on Friday, February 25th; participation is open to registered attendees; thanks to @Maddz4planning and @kneel28 for the heads-up. Bikerowave is offering a free bike-fitting workshop at 6 pm Saturday, January 15th; few things will improve your performance and enjoyment more than a bike that fits right. CicLAvia ventures into L.A. cycling’s undiscovered country, scouting streets for a possible South L.A. route. Bikeside encourages cyclists to walk precincts for the newly beardless Stephen Box. LADOT Bike Blog introduces LADOT’s Assistant Coordinators. Flying Pigeon looks at the January Spoke(n) Art Ride; the next one takes place on Feb. 12. Gary writes about the lessons learned from Long Beach’s bike planning. One of L.A.’s best wrenches, who I never seem to get over to see even though he works just down the road, offers some breathtaking views of the city from a recent off-road ride.

A Huntington Beach cyclist sues the city after falling while crossing railroad tracks. San Clemente requests funding for a possible bicycle freeway. Would new bike racks encourage more San Diego cycling? Santa Cruz officials consider moving the 1800-mile Pacific Coast Bike Route off a busy main road and onto a quieter, more picturesque street. Even famed bike builder Gary Fisher is a victim of bike theft.

Streetsblog says we’re all pulling for AZ Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords; a vigil will be held for her and the other shooting victims on Tuesday evening. Commuting to work could save your life. Bike Portland’s Jonathon Maus says it’s time to tone down the rhetoric on our streets, as well as our political discourse; I couldn’t agree more. People riding bikes aren’t jerks, they’re just like you. Does the Mary Poppins effect keep cyclists in regular clothing safer? New Belgium’s Tour de Fat raises over $300,000 for bike non-profits, including C.I.C.L.E. and LACBC.  Ohio bike lawyer Steve Magas — one of the out-of-area lawyers you’ll find over there on the right — looks at the official stats for cyclists killed in that state in 2010, and lowers the count by two. Make phone calls directly from your bike with this awkward, butt-ugly innovative helmet with built-in phone; thanks to Just Another Cyclist for the link. Tips to quiet your ride. Fears of unbridled gentrification rise as streetcars return to Lego City; yes, it’s written with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

I confess, there were times I felt like a cowboy riding around the Mountain West, but turn my bike into a horsie? No. Just no. A top British barrister says the courts have to do more to protect cyclists. A Spanish mountain biker charged with doping offenses has committed suicide. The London Olympic Velodrome could be the world’s fastest track. British Olympian James Cracknell says he’s lucky to be alive after getting hit by a gas tanker near Winslow AZ last July; I think everyone who’s followed the story would agree. A Surrey cyclist raises over £90,000 for charity by riding 100,000 miles. Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde remains banned. A German biker didn’t think cycling through Siberia would be so darn cold.

Finally, the solution to dooring could be as simple as stop riding your damn bike on the street, according to antidooring.org, which also notes that every car on the road can replace up to six bicycles; I sincerely hope this is tongue-in-cheek. An Ohio used car dealer is willing to give joggers and cyclists a 15% discount if you just promise to stay the hell out of his way. Maybe it would help if we all took this pledge.

And RIP to Peter Yates, director of Breaking Away, the movie that got me on a bike three decade ago. Arrivederci, papa.

Stephen Box, his campaign, and our game changer

Today, Damien Newton, editor of L.A. Streetsblog — by far, the city’s most influential source for transportation news — steps in with a guest commentary, as I continue packing in anticipation of my first move in 17 years.

Damien tackles the topic of Stephen Box and his campaign to unseat Tom LaBonge as councilmember for L.A.’s 4th Council District. However, he stresses that this piece reflects his personal opinion, and doesn’t reflect the position of Streetsblog or any other organization.

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Photo by Alex Thompson

Usually a City Council election is about the incumbent, and whether or not he deserves to be returned to City Hall.  However, for any cyclist who follows politics in Los Angeles knows, there is one election on the docket for 2011 that is different: Stephen Box’s challenge of incumbent Tom LaBonge in the 4th Council District.

The election of Stephen Box to the City Council would be a watershed moment for cyclists.  No offense meant to Eric Garcetti, Ed Reyes, Bill Rosendahl or even LaBonge himself, but Box has had a laser-like focus on improving safety for cyclists in the city and beyond.

But it’s not just that Stephen understands what’s important to cyclists, he also has an understanding of City Hall and the levers of power that means his ideas can become reality.

The cyclists/LAPD task force was a direct result of Stephen’s advocacy with the police department over the years.  Heck, watch Stephen interact with the police before a Critical Mass ride, and you can forget who is the authority figure and who’s the advocate as police officers happily mug for the camera with Box and his wife, Enci.

Or, just read the newest edition of the Bike Plan and run a search for the word “Backbone.”  Stephen was the leader of the citizen’s group that created the Backbone Bikeway Network after a series of public meetings in 2009.  While a lot of people worked hard to get the Bike Plan changed from the wretched first draft that was dropped in 2009 to what we see today; Box’s imprint, and that of the entire Bike Working Group, is all over the most recent proposal.

Sometimes being a leader means doing something you aren’t particularly thrilled about.  Saddled with a newborn and trying to find the funds to keep Streetsblog going, I had to sit out much of the end of the debate on how Los Angeles will spend its local return funds from Measure R.  The idea of a bike/ped set-aside had originated at the back of the Metro Board Room between myself and LACBC’s Dorothy Le in the summer of 2008, and Box had tried to talk us out of it.

He argued that trying to get a small piece of the pie for bike/ped facilities was the wrong strategy.  Instead we should be pushing for every road project to have a bicycle and pedestrian component.  A fair point.  At the time, I used a football analogy that we were trying to move the ball, but he was going for the touchdown.  A group of people that all wanted the same thing, better designed roads and streets, but had different ideas and plans how to do that.

The point, Stephen wasn’t a fan of the set-aside strategy.  Fast forward to this year.  Both Rosendahl and Mayor Villaraigosa are pushing for 10% of the city’s local return funds to be set-aside for bicycle and pedestrian projects.  The LADOT was agreeing, but was using a budget trick that would have stripped out nearly $20 million of the $60 million that would have been dedicated to cyclists and walkers.

Photo by Enci Box

I read the LADOT’s reports and I missed it.  So did the staff for Council Members Rosendahl, Parks, Alarcon, Koretz and LaBonge.  They missed it.  So did the Bike Coalition (who have been champs on this issue, make no mistake.)  Stephen didn’t.  He called the LADOT out for it during a Transportation Committee Hearing.  Rosendahl directed them to fix the “error.”  And they did.

And remember, he didn’t even like the idea of a “set aside.”

Let’s also remember that he’s not paid for any of this.  In fact, he’s often paying his own money for materials or even a trip to Sacramento.  He doesn’t always win, after all he’s been the poster boy for the fight against raising speed limits on local streets, but it’s not for a lack of effort.

After convincing then Assemblyman Paul Krekorian to introduce legislation that would have pushed back against limit increases that were popping up throughout the valley, Stephen and Enci took a trip to Sacramento, on their own dime, to lobby for the legislation.  It didn’t pass, but if Los Angeles had put the muscle into lobbying for it that Stephen and Enci did, it would have had a much better shot.

Supporters of LaBonge could point to his history of advocacy for issues such as better bicycle facilities on 4th Street, his voting record at the Council, or the annual Tour LaBonge summer bike series.  Others could argue that LaBonge’s record, which includes obstructing the Bicyclists’ Bill of Rights and originally supporting a plan for the Griffith Park Observatory that didn’t include bike parking.  But the reality is that LaBonge’s record shouldn’t matter when discussing this race.  When it comes to bike issues, Box is a once in a generation chance to get a real champion in City Hall.

Conversely, a lot of people have problems with Stephen’s combative style.  Other advocates have complained to me about it and I’ve known some city staff that just can’t stand him.  More than once I’ve been on the other end of some of his pointed criticism, but it’s because he’s always focused on the results.  And for a one-man army armed with only his brain and a social media-network, the results are impressive.

And I would argue that neither Box’s personality nor LaBonge’s record are the issue.  Whether cyclists as a group can embrace this candidacy and push it over the top is.

And while there are plenty of reasons to support his campaign, as cyclists, we honestly shouldn’t need to look beyond our spokes.  Box will be a great Council Man for Neighborhood Councils, for government transparency, for neighborhood empowerment and for always focusing on results, not intentions.

There’s a reason Box won Streetsblog’s “2009 Livable Streets Person of the Year” award and that Alex Thompson bluntly refers to him as “literally the single most important bike activist in Los Angeles ever.”  His record of advocacy is second to none.

He’s also our game changer.  There’s only one Stephen Box, and we may only have one chance to get him in City Hall.

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In a bizarre case that just doesn’t seem to add up, the L.A. Times says questions remain in the shooting death of Beverly Hills publicist Ronni Chasen. According to Beverly Hills police, Chasen was shot in a botched robbery attempt by a bike riding ex-con — despite the tight grouping of shots, which would have been difficult to achieve from the saddle of a bike. Let alone the lack of bullet casings at the scene or the fact that nothing appears to have been taken. And evidently, according to the police theory, leaving the bike he was reportedly devoted to at the scene.

As a writer for the Huffington Post put it —

How many robbers in America ride a bicycle seven miles to commit a robbery, approach from the passenger side of a single occupant vehicle, shoot with deadly accuracy, center mass, through the passenger window and then leave after taking nothing? Then, potentially leave their bicycle in the area and walk seven miles home? Take the bus? Hitchhike? More than that what about all the firefighters, ambulance, and police that rolled out no one saw him, interviewed him or anything?

So he kills her but doesn’t have time to grab her purse or anything of value from the scene? That really does stretch the notion of “botched robbery.” Not impossible, but very “weird” nonetheless.

Personally, I suspect Joe Anthony, aka @ohaijoe offered a more credible theory when he suggested that it could have been road rage.

At least that theory makes a little sense.

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Transit advocates and cyclists are outraged as the Metro Board discards the recommendations of their own staff and LADOT to exempt the multi-million dollar condos along Wilshire Blvd in the Westwood area from the planned Bus Rapid Transit, or bus-only, lanes.

The lanes would run on either side of Wilshire Blvd; impact on traffic would be manageable, while encouraging alternative transportation and moving more people more efficiently.

Yet somehow, the entire board voted unanimously against the recommendations of the people paid to know what the hell they’re talking about — as well as a room full of people arguing passionately in favor of the extending the BRT the entire length of Wilshire. The attitude of the board seemed to be summed up by County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who responded to the comments with “I respect people’s right to pontificate, but the rest of us have a responsibility to make sure things work.”

Yes, he actually said that.

And yes, the rest of the board voted with him to support the desires of the very wealthy few over the needs of everyone else in the room, exempting an approximately 1-mile stretch from Selby to Comstock.

Personally, I intend to remember that quote the next time Zev asks for my vote.

Pontificate, my ass.

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Finally, Chris K, wrench-meister and author of (just) Riding Along, offers up a guest post on Pedalr that they call their best blog post yet. And Long Beach may drop their heavy-handed bike licensing requirement.

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