Tag Archive for LA StreetSummit

A last unleavened look back at StreetSummit

A few random thoughts on StreetSummit before we move on to other topics.

Just a portion of those in attendance for StreetSummit

New York Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan credited her amazing success in transforming one of the nation’s most crowded and built-out cities to the support she’s received from the city’s highly motivated mayor.

In Los Angeles, where the traffic demands of a built-out city are often used as a reason for attempting little and accomplishing less, our transportation officials have yet to receive a level of support that would give LADOT leader Rita Robinson the political cover she needs to begin the long overdue transformation of L.A.’s transportation picture.

Whether she has the will or desire to take action is another question. As is whether L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa will move beyond his newfound support of CicLAvia and his bold 30/10 plan, and use the political freedom provided by his final term in office to truly transform the livability of this city. And in the process, effectively position himself for higher office.

Or we can continue to follow an unsustainable auto-centric traffic model until it kills us — literally and figuratively.

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Meanwhile, Long Beach’s seemingly sudden transformation into SoCal’s most bike-friendly community followed a different pattern.

While the city’s Mobility Coordinator Charlie Gandy — the man once named America’s #1 Bike Advocate and the closest thing we may ever see to our own Sadik-Khan — gave credit to the support he’s received from elected officials and the business community, other members of his panel told a different story.

Professional cyclist and Long Beach Bike Ambassador Tony Cruz, BikeStation President and CEO Andrea White-Kjoss and Long Beach Bicycle Festival Director Mark Bixby talked about their 10-year struggle to change local attitudes that began long before Gandy arrived in the city. And refusing to give up despite the knee-jerk anti-bike opposition they initially faced.

When they failed to place a bike boulevard on one street, they simply moved to another street and got the support of local residents and business people before going forward. And kept plugging away until attitudes slowly shifted.

That’s the same model that has lead to whatever limited success we’ve had here in L.A. — and the one we’ll most likely have to follow in the absence of an unexpected turnaround from L.A.’s mayor and transportation officials.

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As the photo to the right shows, one of N.Y.’s boldest moves has not only proven to be exceptionally popular, but extremely effective, as well.

Closing a long swath of Broadway to vehicular traffic didn’t result in the disastrous gridlock many people predicted. Instead, it actually improved traffic flow while reducing injuries.

We know that because the city tracked vehicular and pedestrian traffic, as well as accident and injury rates, both before and after the transformation.

So there’s no argument that it hasn’t been a success. And no one has to guess what effect it’s had. It’s all right there in black and white. Or sort of a bluish grey and green, anyway.

Their stat tracking ability has also allowed the city to set definitive goals going forward — like doubling bicycle commuting and cutting traffic deaths by 50%. That’s in addition to more concrete goals like continuing to stripe bike lanes at a rate of 50 miles a year.

And that is the key argument in transforming our own streets.

Do we want to continue to follow the L.A. model of moving ever more cars through our streets, with ever decreasing efficiency — while adding bike lanes at an annual rate less than 5% of New York’s? Or do we want to ensure that more of the people who use those streets get home safely, even if that means arriving at your destination a few minutes later?

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That was something else Charlie Gandy addressed.

What has fueled Long Beach’s rapid transformation was a shift in transportation priorities from moving more cars to livable streets. And changing the city’s privileged class from motorists to pedestrians, bicyclists and businesses, along with a willingness to accept a certain level of congestion in order the achieve other goals.

And that seems like a reasonable trade-off to me.

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Going back to Sadik-Khan’s discussion of the Broadway transformation, given the success of the project, it’s easy to forget that it started out as an experiment. Broadway was initially closed on a temporary basis; it was only a few weeks ago that the closure became permanent.

And that was something else she stressed.

Bike infrastructure is relatively inexpensive — especially compared to other forms of transportation projects. “You can do a lot with a paintbrush and a paint can,” she said.

And it doesn’t have to be permanent.

“You have to experiment, try things out,” she insisted. “If it doesn’t work, okay, you move on and try something else.”

“There’s no risk, except falling behind and not being imaginative.”

We can only hope that LADOT was paying attention.

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One last thought before moving on to today’s linkage.

The panel I hosted on bikes and political action at StreetSummit resulted in a clear mandate for a Los Angeles branch of Austin’s successful League of Bicycling Voters. In fact, over 80% of the people who attended the workshop put their email addresses on an impromptu interest list.

More on that soon.

I also left with an invitation from Charlie Gandy to come down to Long Beach and take a look at what they’re doing down there.

And I plan to take him up on that.

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Josef Bray-Ali may say he’s running out of ideas, but this last one’s brilliant — changing the laws that require parking spaces for residential or retail development to allow bike parking, instead.

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L.A. is a bike Mecca — or at least it was, 113 years ago. The LACBC reports on the East L.A. meeting for the county bike plan, and will work with the South Bay Bicycle Coalition to develop a plan for the South Bay region. Dr. Alex is highly critical of LACBC’s leap into planning and LADOT’s new blog — and takes Damien to task for being too “balanced” in a story about LADOT’s new blog. Stephen Box takes Metro to task for the non-opening of the long unplanned Bike Room at Hollywood and Vine. Learning to ride in L.A. from the perspective of a veteran driver. Mark your calendar for Bike Night at the Hammer Museum on April 8th. Riders on San Francisco’s Wiggle wobble, but they don’t fall down. A 40-year old cyclist must have caught some serious air to cross onto the other side of the road and hit a car head on; thanks to Opus the Poet for the link. The California Bicycle Advisory Committee is scheduled to discuss bike boxes on April 8th. Road rash is a common — and painful — part of cycling. Tell me about it. Even in these Tea Party days, most Americans support safe walking and biking. If an attractive, cycle-chic woman can be invisible on a bike, there’s no hope for any of us. A busy Portland bridge gets a lovely 15-foot wide bike lane. Free bike use for hotel guests in DC. Contending with BPRs (Bike Path Racers) while riding at rush hour in Seattle. A follow-up to Sunday’s information-free story about a cyclist in my hometown critically injured in a left hook collision. The L.A. Times discusses bike sharing in Los Angeles Mexico City (sorry, from the description of car culture-crowded streets and rude, uncaring drivers, it’s hard to tell the difference). Lance, Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins all get invitations to this years Tour; Dutch teams get shut out despite the Netherlands start. AMEX demands compensation from a Dutch cyclist who damaged a rental car by allowing it to run into her. London’s long-planned bike sharing program — or scheme, as the Brits would say — becomes a reality July 30th. Britain’s pedaling posties are being phased out for safety reasons. Buy a home, get a bike. After surviving the war in Afghanistan, a British soldier dies trying to dodge a 15-foot pothole on his bike. Israeli cyclists protest a ban on riding in national parks. Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority encourages people to ride bikes; Dubai Police respond by confiscating them.

Finally, more proof that bikes are entering the mainstream — a full-head helmet wearing bank robber makes his getaway on a red BMX bike, just days after a similar BMX getaway near Seattle; no report on whether they attempted to leap any cars as they fled.

Happy Passover!

Why StreetSummit was just the 2nd most inspiring thing I saw this weekend

Simply put, StreetSummit was amazing.

Even if it did mean dodging buses and an inattentive angry motorist on Olympic on the way out, and jarring most of my internal organs loose riding the potholes and broken pavement that pass for a designated bike route on Venice Blvd on the way back.

Janette Sadik-Khan during her presentation at StreetSummit

But the event itself more than made up for it, from NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn’s rock star performance, to the assembled mass of bike and pedestrian experts and advocates eager to learn and share their own knowledge.

I’ll share more of my thoughts another time. For now, allow me to thank everyone who made this event possible, as well as the speakers and presenters who gave me far more to think about than I’ve been able to filter through my overly clogged gray matter on the few hours sleep that followed.

And a particular thanks to the LACBC, whose bike valet service allowed me to leave my car at home and take that bone-jarring ride. Because somehow, driving there just seemed so wrong in so many ways.

Panelists (from left) David Vahedi, a note-taking Aurisha Smolarski, Kent Strumpell and Marcel Porras

On a more personal level, I want to especially thank Marcel Porras, Aurisha Smolarski, Kent Strumpell and David Vahedi, who shared their insights and expertise on the political process in the workshop I hosted. As well as everyone who attended and helped turn an hour-long session into one that felt at least a couple hours too short.

As expected, I learned a lot more from all of you than you got from me. And if you’re one of the 23 people who put your email address on the interest list, you can expect to hear from me in the next week or two; if you don’t — or if you have any other questions or comments — email me at bikinginla at hotmail dot com.

But as for that headline, Saturday’s StreetSummit was followed by Sunday’s L.A. Marathon, which took a new Stadium to the Sea course that brought it just a block from my apartment. And offered a 5 am wake-up call courtesy of the loudspeakers from the set-up crew.

Leaders of the Elite Men's group

It was impressive to see those world-class runners pass by. As well as the great mass of people pushing themselves beyond what they thought they could do.

I was also surprised to see the large number of cyclists participating in an event that had billed as being bikeless this year.

It's hard to see the big smile this competitor gave me when he saw my camera

But what blew me away were the wheelchair competitors, some of whom raced up the small hill near our home with a smile, while others struggled up one agonizing pedal crank or wheel push at a time, the pain of each and every accumulated mile clearly showing on their faces — yet refusing to quit.

For the cyclists, it was a small hill; for many others, it was huge

And humbling me for every time that one more mile felt like one mile too much.

They showed to me, and to everyone applauding on the side of the road, that three pedal-cranked wheels — or two slapped by gloved hands — can be every bit as cool as our two. And a lot better than any four.

I’ve said more than once on here that I usually ride solo.

But I’d roll with these guys anytime.

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The Times architecture critic raves about NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan’s talk at Occidental College on Thursday; the Urbanophile was clearly inspired as well. Streetsblog provides a full audio recording of the speech, definitely worth a listen if you missed it. Inspired by StreetSummit, Riding in Riverside promises to share an online tour of our oft ignored neighbor to the east; I’m looking forward to it. Thanks to Curbed LA for the heads-up that City Council President Eric Garcetti tweets that some stimulus funds will be used to help keep cyclists safer — and concludes “Go bikes!” Another bike thief — and stroller stealer — busted in the Westchester area. An Philadelphia-area teenager is killed in a collision with a bus an hour after getting a new bike; police suspect the brakes weren’t working. Mississippi’s governor signs a new three-foot passing and anti-harassment law — and as Cyclelicious points out, it also includes a ban on blocking bike lanes — while Illinois considers toughening theirs and adding an anti-harassment element. A cool head gets a good result following a close call. Republican legislators ridicule DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and spending for bike infrastructure projects. A look at bike and pedestrian safety in San Angelo, Tx. Anchorage plans an aggressive new bike plan designed to double the number of cyclists while cutting car-bike collisions by a third. Halfway from Alaska to Argentina by bike. A bike route planning website that isn’t Google comes to Toronto. Britain’s outgoing chief medical officer calls for an 800% increase in cycling. London’s Guardian looks at the success of cycling in Britain; I’d argue that it’s not a success as long as riders keep getting killed. A new recycled-rubber coated bike rack won’t scratch your paint. Thirty South African cyclists set off to mark Mandela Day. Thousands of riders take over the freeways in West Australia.

Finally, what Lance should have done instead of boosting Tony Kornheiser’s ratings, while a local DC area rider says apology not accepted. And Clear Channel, the nation’s largest radio network, bans all discussion of cycling — professional or recreational — as a result of the controversy; guess they never heard of anyone running errands or commuting by bike.

And on a personal note, congratulations to GT, who ends his own personal 383-day recession by starting a new job this week.

A little more Sadik-Khan and a lot of links

Following up on last night’s standing room only presentation at Occidental College, New York’s Commissioner of Transportation and Oxy graduate Janette Sadik-Khan — the woman who added 200 miles of bike lanes to the city’s crowded streets, and continues to add lanes at a rate of 50 miles per year — will be a featured guest when KPCC’s AirTalk with Larry Mantle looks at StreetSummit, beginning at 10 am today. If you miss it, visit their site later for a recording or podcast.

And in case you missed last night’s speech — or like me, you got there late and had to watch it on a TV screen in the lobby — I’ve been assured that she will reprise her speech at Saturday’s L.A. StreetSummit 2010 at LA Trade Tech College.

She’ll take the stage promptly at 10:30, so get there by 10 am to make sure you can register and make it inside in time. Then stick around for all the other sessions, including a certain session on bikes and politics at 1pm.

Personally, I’ll get there by 9:45 to make sure I don’t miss out again.

Update: Damien Newton offers a great review of last night’s speech.

And that’s the main difference between the “new” NYCDOT and the “current” LADOT.  While NYCDOT is constantly pushing the envelope, and seeing dramatic success in reducing car dependency; the LADOT has resisted all efforts to change business as usual.  NYCDOT is concerned about moving people, LADOT seems more concerned about political gamesmanship and protecting their jobs and the failed status quo on our streets.  This “goofus and gallant” comparison was in-part inspsiring and in-part depressing.  All you have to do is compare Sadik-Khan’s delighted boast that her department completed 2,000 hours of outreach to LADOT General Manager Rita Robinson’s excuse making that her departmentcan’t afford to send representatives to Neighborhood Council meetings or properly staff Bike Advisory Committee meetings.

As Sadik-Khan talked about how easy it is to make some of these changes, some in the room got a little quesy.  It’s easy to paint bus-only lanes?  Sorry, that takes decades of studies and environmental reviews.  NYCDOT has a goal of fifty miles of new bike lanes ever year?  Well, here in L.A. we can bring a Sharrows pilot program on a couple of streets to fruition a mere three years, and counting, after the city starts studying it.  To be fair, yes, there is an effort out of the Mayor’s office to change L.A. into a transit town in the next decade through leveraging Measure R funds in the “30 in 10″ program.  But New York had a more extensive subway system than L.A. will have even under “30 in 10.” As recently as five years ago their city was gridlocked with car traffic and pollution with no end in sight anyways.

I highly recommend reading the full story.

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The LACBC is one of just five groups nationwide to receive an REI/Bicycle Friendly Community Grant. A Metro driver hits a cyclist on Sunset and blames the rider for vandalizing the bus — then refuses to exchange information as required by law. A fresh start between cyclists and semi-bike friendly Santa Monica. When a cyclist locks her bike to a fence at an Amtrak station in Davis, an employee cuts the lock and tosses it over a fence where it is promptly stolen (thanks to George Wolfberg for the heads-up). Women are encouraged to complete a brief 10 – 15 minute survey on cycling to help planners understand why women do — or don’t — bike. Saying “I ride a bike, too” doesn’t mean you’re an expert on cycling. Advice for polite and practical cycling. A driver nearly hits a cyclist after running a stop sign, then tells the rider to “get off the f-ing street.” Brooklyn police are cracking down on cyclists who leave bike lanes, even to pass double-parked cars. A truck driver is nearly charged with hit-and-run after stopping to aid an injured cyclist. A Nashville writer concludes that cyclists are scary. New York’s Police Commissioner aids a woman injured in a collision with a cyclist. A leading Brit road safety group encourages cyclists to ride to the left (our right) in the middle of the block, but take the lane at intersections. The new BMW bike offers proof that cycling is the new golf.

Finally, a new British drivers’ group puts the twit in Twitter. With the motto “Drive more. Drive faster,” they insist bikes are for poor people, speeding saves lives and farms should be paved for parking.

Why do we drivers pay for nice smooth shiny black stuff and then let Lycra wrapped numpties pointlessly pedal on it in their stupid circles?

But before you get too upset, bear in mind that the groups is called the Association of British Nutters. Maybe Tony Kornheiser can open a U.S. branch.

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