Tag Archive for L.A. Council District 5

L.A. Council District 5 — David Vahedi

As I noted recently, I was approached by representatives for both of the candidates in the May 19 runoff election for L.A.’s 5th Council District, each of whom offered to discuss bicycling and transportation issues here. As a result, I sent each candidate a list of five questions.

Here is the response from David Vahedi, current Board Member of the Westwood South of Santa Monica Homeowners Association and a co-founder of the Westside Neighborhood Council, as well as pro-bono attorney for Friends of Animals and other rescue organizations. He is also well-versed in bicycle law, having represented cyclists in a number of important cases, and is a life-long resident of the 5th District. I’ll repost this on the CD5/SD26 page above and keep it there through the election on May 19th.

David Vahedi

vahedi-small1bicyclist was killed by an intoxicated hit-and-run driver in Echo Park recently, the latest in a string of hit-and run incidents. What can be done on the city level to reduce the rate of both drunk driving and hit-and-runs? And what can be done to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians?

Injuries and deaths caused by drunk drivers are not only senseless, but absolutely maddening. For the last 30 years, while the public has demanded tougher sanctions for drunk driving, the alcohol lobby has used campaign contributions to water down enforcement. A perfect example is the current proposal by an Assemblyman to require breathalyzer ignition locks installed on convicted drunk drivers vehicles. After more political contributions and pressure he has capitulated and the bill is now only for a pilot program in four counties.  

More germane to Los Angeles is the fact that we are the most under policed city in the nation. For the last 15 years we have talked about a 10,000 member police force, but are only finally reaching the milestone later this year if the city council shows back bone and supports the Mayor’s goal. 

While we should have 15,000 officers to be at parity with New York, Chicago, and other major cities per capita, we just lagging behind. Most frustrating to me is the fact that just a 2.2% shift in the general fund budget of LA would pay to hire an additional 1,000 officers. I cannot believe we cannot find and cut 2.2% of inefficiency to make this happen.

If you want to cut down on drunk driving and hit and runs you need the cops on the street to make it happen. More importantly, as I wrote during the primary, educated cops on the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights and enforcement of laws to protect cyclists will start us in the right direction.

Finally, I am very proud that my neighborhood council was able to raise $5,000.00 to purchase 5 police bicycles for the WLA Division. These bike officers have been seeing first hand and citing vehicle drivers for their knucklehead moves that put all cyclists at risk. 

The Los Angeles City Council recently gave approval to the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights. Are you familiar with this document, and if so, do you support these rights as written? Are there any you disagree with, and why? And what would you consider the next steps to transform those rights from mere words into tangible action?  

I was lucky enough to see the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights shortly after it was drafted by the BWC and other leaders in the community in the Spring of 2008 when several friends e-mailed it to me.

I fully support the bill. I would like to strengthen the bill to include that all future road construction projects should require as part of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) an independent section on how the project would benefit and encourage safe bicycle riding so we stop squandering the opportunity to add to a safe riding experience and encourage people to get out of their cars. 

Please see my primary election responses below for how we can as city leaders stop talking about protecting cyclists and actually start doing it.

There is often a high level of tension between cyclists and drivers in Los Angeles as they compete for limited road space, as illustrated by last year’s incident in Mandeville Canyon. What can the city do to help reduce that tension, and encourage both sides to safely and courteously share the road?  

While we all have witnessed some bonehead moves by cyclists, the majority of the tension in Los Angeles lies with inattentive drivers who are wedded to an idea that they own the road and that driving a car is a right. 

As mentioned earlier, I have been promoting getting more police officers out of their cars and onto bikes. I will continue this on the city council. Bike officers are a proven method of reducing crime and promoting community policing (it is easier to stop and interact with citizens on a bike, than in a car.) 

More importantly, these officers are more likely to cite for dangerous driving that put cyclists at risk.

Also as mentioned earlier, we have failed to incorporate the biking community in dozens of road projects that for very little additional costs could have added segregated bike lanes.

What role, if any, do you see bicycles playing in city transportation policy and improving traffic flow within the city?

As mentioned earlier, all road projects, whether requiring an EIR or not, must include a real dialogue on how the project incorporates and encourages safe cycling.

Are there any other issues you want to address, or any additional comments you’d like to make to the bicycling community?

I would like to share my comments written during the primary which I have included below. As always, Please do not hesitate to contact me at home (310) 557-9677 to talk about any issue. I look forward to working with your group and other groups to make Los Angeles a world class city for cyclists.

Council District 5 Candidate Statements: David Vahedi

For the past week, I’ve allowed candidates in the March 3 city election for the L.A. City Council District 5 to use this blog to address the bicycling community. You’ll find statements from Adeena Bleich, Robert Schwartz and Robyn Ritter Simon below. You can see the original invitation here, and all the statements received so far by clicking here.


Thank you for the opportunity to write specifically about bicycling issues in relation to my candidacy for Los Angeles City Council, 5th District.

vahedi-small1Whether you are an avid weekend cyclist or a person who depends on a bicycle to get to work or school, the City of Los Angeles has failed miserably to create an infrastructure that encourages cycling.

As you are aware, in my life long district, the 5th, we have very few Class One Bikeways. We must build more and I am dedicated to achieving this goal even if it means I will have to tap my office holder accounts to realize this dream.

As you will see from my Website at  Votevahedi.com, Westside button, I have been a long time advocate for a continuous Class One Bikeway along the Exposition Light Rail Line from Downtown to Santa Monica. I will be a strong voice for this project on the city council.

Another problem we must tackle is the unwillingness of most motorists to appreciate the exposed nature of cyclists and that when a vehicle fails to follow the traffic laws, especially around a cyclist; the result is often severe bodily harm or death for the cyclist. LAPD must be constantly reminded to take cyclist safety as a top concern along with educating drivers. Furthermore, there are many simple things the City can do to protect riders, from highly fluorescent lines indicating a bikeway to placing concave mirrors at known dangerous crossings.

We must also create a true hotline with rapid response for both potholes and street surface issues that are not only talking away from the positive experience of cycling, but also resulting in many serious injuries to riders.

There are also two issues in the legal arena that must be addressed and changed. Many cyclists are unaware that if they are injured on any class of bikeway due to the negligence of the city, that the city is 100% immune from liability. This is the result of the courts extending immunity for trail and paths in the mountains to bike paths, including all classes of bikeways.

This extension of immunity followed after a cyclist broke his neck on Sepulveda Blvd., near Mulholland Highway, after the asphalt collapsed under his bike. The city was aware of the unsafe conditions and the cyclist sued to recover his damages. On appeal, the higher court specifically found that cities and counties have immunity even where they had “actual notice” of the danger.

As an attorney, I have litigated this immunity issue when a client was injured on the Venice Bike Path when a DWP manhole had a piece of metal protruding from it. The DWP, when originally notified of the danger, put a cone over the metal which was soon knocked off, exposing a 13  inch piece of metal 1 inch by 1/16th of an inch that could not be seen. Amazingly, the LAPD officer on the rescue scene was able to break the piece of metal off at the base just like a hangar protecting other cyclists and doing what the DWP should have done in the first place.

There is currently a culture at city hall arising from this immunity that puts the repair of bikes path at the bottom of the list. This must change. The city should adopt the public policy that it will not invoke the immunity if it is determined that they had “actual notice” of the danger and failed to act prudently.

The second area of law that needs to be addressed is that of presumption. Specifically, that if a cyclist is injured in a bike lane in a cyclist versus vehicle accident, there is a rebuttable presumption that the driver of the vehicle was negligent. This presumption will work in two ways to protect cyclists. First, recovery of damages will be less expensive and time consuming for the cyclist, and I strongly believe that insurance companies will do a much better job to educate drivers to be more prudent and aware of cyclists’ rights to share the road.

While I most likely cannot make this important legal change directly from the council, city councils historically have been very successful in influencing the legislature to make statewide changes to law.

Please do not hesitate to contact me at home (310) 557-9677 to talk about any issue. I look forward to working with your group and other groups to make Los Angeles a world class city for cyclists.

Sincerely,

David

 

Council District 5 — why does it matter?

For almost a week now, I’ve let the candidates for L.A.’s 5th City Council District write my blog for me — and I’ve been assured there’s at least one more statement from a candidate on its way.

I feel kind of like Tom Sawyer, when he convinced everyone else to paint the fence for him. They do the work, I get the week off.

However, I do feel a dangerously high level of snarky comments building up, which I fear may escape in a massive eruption of unbridled wit and sarcasm unless I find some socially acceptable outlet. So you may want to hide the women and children until this is over. Unless you are a woman and/or child, in which case you’re on your own.

But why does all this even matter?

Chances are, if you live outside CD5, you may think this election doesn’t effect you. And even if you do live inside the boundaries of the district, you may not think that who gets elected really matters — after all, it’s not like this city is the poster child for functional government. Although the state legislature is making it look better with every passing day.

But as Damien Newton pointed out in linking to this series, whoever gets elected will represent a big step up over our existing non-responsive representative. The simple fact that these three candidates took time out from their busy campaigns to state their positions on bicycling speaks volumes about how seriously they take these issues, and how responsive they would be in office.

One of these six people will be the one we turn to when we need to address the lack of cycling infrastructure in this city. He or she will also be responsible, along with the other members of the council, for turning the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights from mere words to meaningful change, as well as addressing the future of transportation — and quality of life — in this city. And by extension, for every city in the surrounding metro area.

This same person will be the one you’ll reach out to whenever you have a problem or concern in this district — and hope that, unlike the current occupant of the office, he or she will actually listen to you, and do something about it.

It matters. Not just for the 5th District, but for the 4th, 12th and 15th. And every other district, and for every other cyclist, in the city.

In a race with this many candidates, and the notoriously low voter turnout in this city’s local elections, a single vote could actually make a difference.

Your vote matters. Your support matters.

It all matters.

No really, it does.

 

Indiana considers a new bicycle safety law, including making it illegal to harass or impede a cyclist and requiring at least three feet of clearance when passing a bike. A similar measure has just passed the Colorado Senate, despite opposition from what may be the nation’s most anti-bike sheriff — who for some inexplicable reason, doesn’t believe his officers are capable of understanding the concept of one yard. (Note to self: must resist the urge to move back just to vote against this idiot.) The nation’s cyclists are urged to fight for our share of the stimulus funds before the gas-burners get it all, while Bay Area riders get a new off-road bikeway above an existing BART tunnel after nearly two decades of trying.

Council District 5 Candidate Statements: Robyn Ritter Simon

Last week, I offered each of the candidates in the March 3 city election for the L.A. City Council District 5 seat an opportunity to address the bicycling community. The first response in the series, from Robyn Ritter Simon, appears here. You can see the original invitation here, and all the statements received so far by scrolling down or clicking here.

 

Let’s Get Moving!

By City Council Candidate Robyn Ritter Simon

rrsgreenedited-small-web2I have been doing some research on bike paths in Los Angeles and I have concluded that there are simply not enough of them! Studying the current Class I, II and III routes on the official Bikeway Path Map (www.ci.la.ca.us) I am struck by how many bike paths run through areas I would not have expected. More importantly, there are dozens of groups out there dedicated to supporting cyclists (some can be found through www.labikepaths.com) but I see very little support coming from the councilperson’s office in our district.  On the campaign trail I have been very focused on discussing the need for a comprehensive transportation infrastructure, which in my view also includes supporting and encouraging cyclists specifically through increased awareness of current bike routes and by increasing the amount of bike access.

For those of us who live, work, or commute in L.A. (who are not cyclists) we know gridlock is at an all time high! We are stuck in our cars spending time away from family, loosing productivity, and even rest. This must end! I am running for City Council to be a problem solver.  It is a big problem when we spend more hours commuting to and from locations in the City then with our family. Angelenos want transportation solutions. Voters supported Measure R in November, which puts into place the funding necessary to invest in our transit infrastructure.  Now we need leadership down at City Hall to get the funds applied swiftly and safely and get our mass transit built now!

There are immediate things we can do to alleviate traffic gridlock. For example, I support synchronizing our signals to increase traffic flow, and installing more left hand turn signals. But these remedies will never really address our long-term transit needs.  We need a comprehensive and detailed plan that includes mass transit and alternative modes of transportation like biking!

My view is that we must invest in light rail and subway and make these modes biker friendly.  I only support Expo being built if it is built safely and I support grade separation at several stops including Overland Avenue.

I believe voters recognize that we must find alternative ways to commute if we are ever going to get out of our cars and get moving. We need to invest in light rail, subway, and as I said before, building more bike paths to encourage cycling and make it attractive as an alternative way of commuting.

When my teenage son, Brandon, started driving and gas prices skyrocketed – we told him that he had to drive less. We saw a significant decrease in normal traffic patterns city wide. When people’s pocket-books are impacted, they will change their commuting behaviors and look for most cost efficient alternatives.   The price of gas has gone back down for now but we all need to step up and realize (for the greater good, for our health, for our kids, for our future!) we must find ways to solve – once and for all – the mess that is L.A. transit/traffic.  This absolutely includes getting more people out of their cars and onto mass transit and bike paths.

I hope you will join me in my fight for getting Angelenos moving! Join my campaign at www.RobynRitterSimon.com. I look forward to hearing from you! You can reach me at my office at 310.836.8550 or at Robyn@RobynRitterSimon.com. The election is March 3rd!

 

Next up: David Vahedi has said he’s drafting a statement for us; I’m still waiting to hear from Paul Koretz and Ron Galperin. If you know anyone in their campaigns, please urge them to participate — I’d hate to give the other candidates an unfair advantage. Also, the Times has an article in which the candidates discuss the current dispute over billboards on the Westside. There are other issues that matter, after all.

Council District 5 Candidate Statements: Robert Schwartz

Last week, I offered each of the candidates in the March 3 city election for the L.A. City Council District 5 seat an opportunity to address the bicycling community. The first response came from Adeena Bleich, and was posted on Friday, the second, from Robert Schwartz, appears below. You can see the original invitation here, and all the statements received so far by clicking here. 

 

schwartz-robert-web2Thank you for the opportunity to write something to your readers.

Let’s face it. Be you cyclist, driver, transit user or use many modes, L.A.’s streets aren’t an easy place to navigate and getting around can be difficult. The city can, and must, become a safer place for everyone to get around.

Before I get into specifics, let me say that while I am not a regular bike rider, I do have a great appreciation and respect for those that do use their bike for transportation. Not only are you doing the best thing for the environment, you also seem to be having a lot more fun doing it than those of us who are more reliant on our cars. Because I value what bicyclists do for Los Angeles, I frequently seek the advice of Damien Newton so that I can I understand the needs of those who don’t always travel by car.

You mention the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights in your article, and it’s certainly a good idea to enumerate all of the rights that you have as users of the road, but the Bill of Rights is a starting point, not an ending point for what the City Council can do.

First, we must make sure that as a City Councilmember, I have a good idea of your experiences as cyclists. One of the best ways to do that is to make certain that my staff and I are in regular contact with my representative to the Bicycle Advisory Committee. Each Council Member can appoint one person to sit on this board, and I will make sure that whoever sits on this committee for me will work with my office to make sure your views are heard and that we know what is going on on the street.

Second, we await with interest the results of the city’s Bike Master Plan and will make sure the City moves quickly to move projects from paper to the street. It’s important for a city to have a plan, and not just build projects whenever funding is available or because a politician wants to go to a ribbon cutting; but it’s even more important that the plan does more than gather dust. The City’s draft plan is due soon, and after more feedback from the community we should have a final plan approved early in the next term for the incoming City Council.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly of all, I need to hear from you so that I can best understand your experiences and needs. If there are streets or intersections that are unsafe, as your City Councilmember I want to know where they are so that we can get to work to make them safer.

As I said at the start, every L.A. commuter deserves a safe and comfortable trip. Working together, I hope we can make that happen for all Angelenos, but especially those choosing to commute on two wheels instead of four.

If you want to contact me, join my campaign or just learn more about it, please visit my website at http://www.RobertForCityCouncil.com.

Council District 5 Candidate Statements: Adeena Bleich

As noted the other day, I’ve offered each of the candidates in the March 3 city election for the L.A. City Council District 5 seat an opportunity to use this blog to address the bicycling community. I’m posting their statements in the order I receive them, without editing or comment; first up is Adeena Bleich.


Adeena’s Plan To Get Angelenos Out of Their Cars

adeenalogo1“It’s not enough to just build a mass public transportation system; we need to build love for bicycling, buses and other means of transportation.”

Adeena Bleich

An Improved Transportation System Must Encourage Bicycling

The City of Los Angeles is light years behind other major cities in terms of innovation and solutions to gridlock.  We will have the Subway to the Sea and trains throughout the city, but there is so much we can do now. We must encourage Angelenos to get out of their cars by making new alternatives available.

Adeena believes that a comprehensive transportation system must include a bicycle plan that takes us where we need to go, whether it’s commuting across the City or just running out to the supermarket.

Adeena will work with the City of LA and Department of Transportation to ensure a bicycle service plan that achieves greater safety, road maintenance, and connectivity.  She supports these initiatives to encourage more Angelenos to utilize bicycles as a viable transportation alternative:

  • Promote a flex bike program
  • Develop more bike lanes on major thoroughfares and more bicycle racks in shopping centers and business corridors
  • Promote development of the West Los Angeles Veloway with a bicycle path that links Westwood Village to Santa Monica and to beach bike paths
  • Improve our bus system in coordination with a bicycle program
  • Improve our existing infrastructure by synchronizing lights, adding left turn signals, and making sure we are not doing construction during commuting hours

“We need a comprehensive and balanced approach to get our city moving again. We must act on bicycle and other alternative transportation strategies that we can achieve today while we plan for a more sustainable tomorrow,” stated Bleich.

For more information, go to www.adeena2009.com.

 

Next up on Monday will be Robert Schwartz, who responded as a comment to the previous post. Robyn Ritter Simon has also expressed an interest; I’ve yet to hear from Paul Koretz David Vahedi or Ron Galperin.

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