Tag Archive for Michelle Mowery

Michelle Mowery in the LA Times, the most heartless hit-and-run driver yet, and a Saturday memorial for Milt Olin

The Times’ Patt Morrison interviews LADOT Senior Bicycle Coordinator Michelle Mowery.

It’s a good piece for the most part, with an eye on where we’re going; using Copenhagen as a role model can’t be a bad thing.

Although I have to admit, I cringed in a few places.

Like where she responded to a question about licensing cyclists by correctly addressing the need for better education, without discussing why licensing is a bad idea. Let alone questions about bikes running red lights, without pointing out most riders don’t, and we’re not the only scofflaws on the road.

Others readers I heard from objected to a seemingly flip response to the question of parents who don’t wear helmets even though their children do.

And Morrison brings up the nonexistent traffic jams on 7th Street following the road diet that added bike lanes, with no refutation from Mowery — let alone a tacit admission that it could have resulted in a significant increase in pollution from idling cars.

Right.

Still, she has some good things to say, and it’s a good look at the woman who’s the closest thing this city has to a bike czar.

And who deserves a lot of credit for the changes we’ve seen on the streets in recent years, as the city has done the seemingly impossible by becoming officially bike friendly.

………

In the single most horribly heartless report I’ve ever seen, a Florida man drives for two miles after striking a cyclist, with the rider embedded in the car’s rear window. Then after arriving home, he pried the rider out of the glass, and dumped him behind a dumpster to die before hiding his damaged car from his girlfriend.

Fortunately, a landscaping crew found the victim nearly over two hours later, albeit in critical condition with a deep gash in the forehead, nearly severed ear, and spinal injuries that could leave him paralyzed.

Police arrested the driver at a body shop later that same day, as he attempted to get his car fixed before the damage could be discovered.

If there’s any justice, he’ll face an attempted murder charge for deliberately dumping the victim and leaving him to die.

And a very long sentence in a very unpleasant pen.

Wait. Attempted manslaughter? Seriously?

………

A memorial will be held for fallen cyclist, entertainment attorney and former Napster CEO Milt Olin at 2 pm this Saturday at the Jim Henson Company Lot, 1416 N. La Brea. The family asks attendees to carpool and RSVP here.

Still no word on the official cause of the collision that took his life, though rumors are rampant that the 16-year veteran sheriff’s deputy behind the wheel was using the patrol car’s laptop computer while he drove.

………

The LA Times says the LAPD should focus on riskier behavior than jaywalking; Streetsblog’s Damien Newton offers arguments against the crackdown. Meanwhile, Streetsblog Sahra Suliaman asks for community involvement in the planned Slauson active transportation corridor. Better Bike reviews the recent meeting to remake bike-unfriendly Santa Monica Blvd; there may be hope for Beverly Hills yet, thanks largely to the efforts of Better Bike’s Mark Elliot. Santa Monica hosts an important meeting on the planned MANGo project on Saturday, January 7th. Downey’s new mayor has supported bike lanes since he was eight years old; let hope he still does. Wolfpack Hustle announces the official results of their 2013 race series. As we’ve been telling you, wayfaring signs really are coming to the LA River; no, really. Celebrate the season with the LACBC’s East LA Holiday Bike Parade. A bird-flipping Benz driver threatens to kill a Highland Park cyclist; could be another test case for the city’s anti-harassment ordinance.

Coronado’s temporary bike corrals may not be. Annual National City bike giveaway needs more bikes. Now you can ride the last leg of the Amgen Tour of California just like the real pros. but without the EPO and clenbuterol and stuff. Trek’s John Burke backs plans for a Santa Barbara bike network. San Francisco’s fire department opposes safety measures that could protect cyclists and pedestrians. More green lanes in San Francisco, and a parking protected bike lane. Oakland truck driver fatally drags a cyclist two blocks after hitting her; he may not have known he hit anyone. Sonoma County sting stops people driving away from the courthouse after their licenses have been suspended; wait, you mean the judge was serious about that?

Alta offers advice on how to avoid collisions, and what to do if you don’t. The seven habits of highly effective bike cities. Now you, too, can honk your horn in an obnoxious manner, or not. Drunk ND driver hits a cyclist, then backs up and runs over a pedestrian coming to the rider’s aid. Wisconsin hit-and-run driver who killed a 61-year old bike rider had 13 previous traffic violations in the last four years; so why was he still allowed to drive? Maybe bike lanes aren’t the cause of Buffalo’s traffic congestion. New York’s DOT launches a new campaign against reckless driving. Road raging New York cyclist arrested for bashing in a driver’s window for no apparent reason, if you believe the story. Philadelphia now allows you to tweet about blocked bike lanes, and they’ll actually do something about it. Boston police still won’t identify the officer who killed a cyclist last July. Bikes are the new enemy for misguided conservatives.

Canadian bike safety taught via Legos. UK driver gets six years for killing a cyclist while driving drunk and without a license. Riding a bike cross-county, and with a pig. Riding a London bike share bike up Mt. Ventoux before the rental period expires; then again, Boris Bikes are turning up in Gambia, too. UK bike rider takes the long way home — from South Korea. New German fitness shirt promises to manage your e-bike for you; but if you’re riding an e-bike, why do you need a fitness shirt? Ninety-four percent of Turkish motorists think they’re better drivers than they really are; I suspect that would hold true everywhere. Kolkata bans bikes, or maybe not. Saudi groom rides his bike into his wedding hall on a dare. Gambia cracks down on dangerous cyclists. Aussie world-champion time trialist Michael Rogers claims his positive drug test for clenbuterol resulted from tainted meat; why not, it’s worked before. An Australian concrete company bars a bike path. Road raging Kiwi driver gets 32 months in prison for attacking a triathlete.

Finally, a Missouri woman won’t face charges for fatally running down a bike rider at 82 mph. But her ex-boyfriend will, after flashing a gun and chasing her through the streets; he’s charged with second degree murder in the rider’s death.

Seriously, there are no words.

Thanks to John McBrearty and Rich Alossi for their generous donations to help support this site.

Groundbreaking L.A. cyclist anti-harassment law nears final approval

A first-of-its-kind new anti-harassment law could prove as inspiring as City Hall itself.

In the end it was a false alarm.

For a brief period Thursday afternoon, there was a flurry of online activity suggesting that the groundbreaking new Bicycle Anti-Harassment Ordinance had unexpectedly become law.

It hadn’t.

Instead, it was something almost as big, but not quite as final.

I first heard that this law was in the works when I appeared with LADOT Sr. Bike Coordinator Michelle Mowery on Larry Mantle’s AirTalk program on KPCC back in November ’09. She told me confidentially that she had been working quietly behind the scenes with members of 11th District Councilmember Bill Rosendahl’s staff to develop additional legal protection for the city’s cyclists, though in a far different form from what we see today.

So give credit where it’s due. Because this wouldn’t be happening at all if she hadn’t been pushing for it.

Yesterday was that the City Attorney’s office officially unveiled the final draft of the ordinance. The confusion came from the inclusion of Council Rule #38 in the City Attorney’s letter accompanying the draft, which said that because it didn’t require enforcement by an city officer, board or commission, it didn’t require review by “any such City officer or entity.”

To those of us who lack a legal background and aren’t grounded in the minutiae of city regulations, that sounded like it might not need further approval by the City Council to become law.

It does.

Fortunately, after a mad flurry of emails, texts and tweets Thursday afternoon, City Council President Eric Garcetti and his staff helped us unravel what had really happened, and what the next steps will be.

It turns out that Rule #38 simply means that the ordinance doesn’t need to be reviewed by any other city department, such as LADOT or the police department. Instead, it will go straight to the Transportation Committee for review, leading up to a hearing before the full Council; if they approve it, it goes to the Mayor for his signature.

And assuming Mayor Villaraigosa signs off, it will then become law, most likely 30 days after signing unless otherwise noted. L.A. cyclists will then be protected by this innovative ordinance — as near as I can find, it’s the first of its kind anywhere that makes the harassment of cyclists a civil, rather criminal, violation.

Which means that you’ll be able to take drivers — or anyone else — who threatens your safety or refuse to recognize your right to the road to court yourself, rather than relying on the police to determine if a crime has been committed, and the District Attorney or City Attorney to file charges.

And because your case will be heard in civil court, it requires a lower burden of proof; just a majority of jurors will have to agree instead of the unanimous verdict required in criminal cases.

It also doesn’t preclude criminal charges, so you can pursue your own case against someone who threatens you without jeopardizing any possible criminal case.

Of course, it won’t work miracles.

While it sets a new standard for other cities and states to follow in ensuring cyclists a safe place on the road, you’ll still need to prove your case. As all too many of us have learned the hard way, it’s not easy to get the license number of a driver who just ran you off the road. And you’ll still need to gather evidence and witnesses so it’s not just your word against theirs.

But with a potential judgment of triple your actual damages or $1,000, whichever is higher, plus any punitive damages the court may impose, it should act as a significant deterrent to hot headed motorists.

In addition, the provision for attorney’s fees should make it much easier to find a lawyer who’ll take your case despite the relatively small potential judgment. Which means that whatever money you receive as a result will go to you instead of your attorney — something I learned about the hard way when the small settlement I received in a road rage case was eaten up by attorney’s fees; in fact, I would have owed him if he hadn’t written off the excess.

So it should be an effective tool to fight back against things like this that occur countless times every day in every part of the city. And it should also serve as a model for other area cities, since harassment and threatening behavior is hardly confined within L.A.’s borders.

We still have some significant hurdles to jump before this becomes law, though. While the drafting of the ordinance enjoyed unanimous support from the council, we haven’t heard from the motoring public, who may not yet be aware this law is being considered.

But now we finally have an actual draft in our hands.

It was a just over a year ago that Council President Eric Garcetti offered me his personal assurance that he would stay on top of the proposed ordinance and keep it moving forward. Yesterday he reacted to the release of the draft by saying “This is a long-overdue recognition that our streets are shared and bicyclists deserve to be free from fear on our streets.”

It looks like he’s kept his word.

As has Rosendahl, who has been driving — or perhaps, pedaling — this ordinance since the very beginning, famously declaring that “The culture of the car is going to end now!”

There are other people to thank, of course — not in the least of whom is Deputy City Attorney Judith Reel, who had the brilliant idea of treating harassment as a civil violation.

But let’s save that until we’ve actually crossed the finish line.

Because we still have some work to do in the meantime.

Learn more about the Anti-Harassment Ordinance in Chris Kidd’s excellent step-by-step analysis at LADOT Bike Blog. And I’ll give you as much advance notice of any hearing as possible.

.………

Here’s the full draft of the proposed ordinance:

ORDINANCE NO. _________

An ordinance adding Article 5.10 to Chapter IV of the Los Angeles Municipal Code to prohibit harassment of bicyclists because of their status as bicyclists.

THE PEOPLE OF THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES DO ORDAIN AS FOLLOWS:

Section 1. Article 5.10 is added to Chapter IV of the Los Angeles Municipal Code to read as follows:

ARTICLE 5.10

PROHIBITION AGAINST HARASSMENT OF BICYCLISTS

SEC. 45.96.00. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE.

After public hearings and receipt of testimony, the City Council finds and declares:

That the City of Los Angeles wants to encourage people to ride bicycles rather than drive motor vehicles in order to lessen traffic congestion and improve air quality;

That harassment of bicyclists on the basis of their status as bicyclists exists in the City of Los Angeles;

That existing criminal and civil laws do not effectively prevent the unlawful harassment of bicyclists because of their status as bicyclists;

That riding a bicycle on City streets poses hazards to bicyclists, and that these hazards are amplified by the actions of persons who deliberately harass and endanger bicyclists because of their status as bicyclists; and

That because people have a right to ride a bicycle in the City of Los Angles and should be able to do so safely on City streets, it is against the public policy of the City of Los Angeles to harass a bicyclist upon the basis of the person’s status as a bicyclist.

SEC. 45.96.01. DEFINITIONS.

The following words and phrases, whenever used in this Article, shall be construed as defined in this Section. Words and phrases not defined herein shall be construed as defined in Section 12.03 of this Code, if defined therein.

A. Bicycle. A device upon which any person may ride, propelled exclusively by human power through a belt, chain or gears, and having one or more wheels.

B. Bicyclist. A person riding a bicycle.

SEC. 45.96.02. PROHIBITED ACTIVITIES.

A person shall not do or attempt to do any of the following:

A. Physically assault or attempt to physically assault a Bicyclist because, in whole or in part, of the Bicyclist’s status as a Bicyclist.

B. Threaten to physically injure a Bicyclist because, in whole or in part, of the Bicyclist’s status as a Bicyclist.

C. Intentionally injure, attempt to injure, or threaten to physically injure, either by words, vehicle, or other object, a Bicyclist because, in whole or in part, of the Bicyclist’s status as a Bicyclist.

D. Intentionally distract or attempt to distract a Bicyclist because, in whole or in part, of the Bicyclist’s status as a Bicyclist.

SEC. 45.96.03. REMEDIES.

A. Any aggrieved person may enforce the provisions of this Article by means of a civil lawsuit.

B. Any person who violates the provisions of this Article shall be liable for actual damages with regard to each and every such violation, and such additional amount as may be determined by a jury, or a court sitting without a jury, up to three times the amount of actual damages, or $1,000, whichever is greater, as well as reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs of litigation. In addition, a jury or a court may award punitive damages where warranted.

C. Notwithstanding Section 11.00(m) of this Code, violations of any of the provisions of this Article shall not constitute a misdemeanor or infraction, except where such actions, independently of this Article, constitute a misdemeanor or infraction.

D. The remedies provided by the provisions of this Article are in addition to all other remedies provided by law, and nothing in this Article shall preclude any aggrieved person from pursuing any other remedy provided by law.

Sec. 2. Severability. If any provision of this ordinance is found to be unconstitutional or othervvise invalid by any court of competent jurisdiction, that invalidity shall not affect the remaining provisions of this ordinance, which can be implemented without the invalid provisions, and to this end, the provisions of this ordinance are declared to be severable.

Sec. 3. The City Clerk shall certify to the passage of this ordinance and have it published in accordance with Council policy, either in a daily newspaper circulated in the City of Los Angeles or by posting for ten days in three public places in the City of Los Angeles: one copy on the bulletin board located at the Main Street entrance to the Los Angeles City Hall; one copy on the bulletin board located at the Main Street entrance to the Los Angeles City Hall East; and one copy on the bulletin board located at the Temple Street entrance to the Los Angeles County Hall of Records.

Who’s the man behind the curtain of L.A. bicycling?

Sometimes it seems like the standard mantra of L.A. cyclists.

Ask the city’s bike riders who’s responsible for miserable state of L.A. cycling and the horrible lack of infrastructure in what should be one of the world’s best cities for biking, and chances are, you’ll hear one name come up far more than once.

Michelle Mowery.

After all, it’s an easy case to make. As LADOT’s Senior Bicycle Coordinator, she’s the highest-ranking bike official in the city bureaucracy. And she’s been on the job since the adoption of the still unimplemented 1996 bike plan.

A period during which the city striped a grand total of 46 miles of bike lanes — a whopping average of just 3.3 miles a year — only 28 miles of which were included in the ’96 plan. That compares to New York, which has created 200 miles of bike lanes in the last two years alone, and continues to stripe at a rate of 50 miles a year.

Just one problem, though. Love her or hate her — and I’ve heard from a number of people in both camps — she’s not the one responsible for the city’s continued failure to make room on the streets for bikes.

I dare you to find the Bikeways Department on this chart; click to enlarge.

The simple fact is, even though she’s the city’s top bike official, her position just isn’t that important in the LADOT hierarchy. She has no authority over the engineers who design the city’s streets and no real power to move any project forward.

In fact, LADOT considers the Bikeways Department she heads so unimportant that it doesn’t even show up on their own flowchart. It took master bike wonk Josef Bray-Ali to ferret out just how far down it truly ranks in the department’s structure.

Any project she recommends has to be planned and designed by the department’s notoriously car-centric engineering staff, and approved — or more likely, modified or killed — by someone higher up the food chain.

The simple fact is, even New York DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan or Long Beach Mobility Coordinator Charlie Gandy would probably be unable to accomplish anything within LADOT as it currently stands. Especially in the same low-level position Mowery holds.

From the outside, it’s impossible to tell if she’s the anti-bike obstructionist some people think she is. Or if she’s been fighting a 14-year losing battle on behalf of bikeways as others contend.

But considering that she was the driving force behind the City Council’s all-but-forgotten anti-harassment ordinance — remember that one? — it might be the latter.

Or at least somewhere in between.

So if Mowery’s not the one ultimately responsible for the city’s failure to support cycling, who is?

Meet John Fisher.

It would be easy to point the finger at LADOT General Manager Rita Robinson. As head of the department for nearly three years, she’s the one in charge.

In theory, at least.

Despite rave reviews for her role in reforming the Bureau of Sanitation before coming to LADOT, she has, by all indications, been unable to bring much needed change to the Department of Transportation.

Robinson’s problem, it would appear, is the same one Mowery faces.

She’s not an engineer.

So while she can give all the direction she wants, it’s ultimately up to the engineering staff to design the streets, and tell her what is — and isn’t — possible.

And the top engineer, and second in charge at LADOT, is John Fisher.

Now, don’t misunderstand. By all accounts, Fisher is a highly respected traffic engineer, recently featured in an interview with the Atlantic. But you only have to look at the streets of the L.A. to detect a significant pro-car bias in the 11 years he’s held his position, despite his protests to the contrary.

Why did my name become associated with this issue as Umberto Brayj suggests? To what did I respond “no”? I do not supervise the Bikeway Section. But I certainly support a bikeway network and well-developed bikeway amenities. I was the one who sponsored San Francisco’s experiment with sharrows and pushed to have it adopted by the California Traffic Control Devices Committee. I also supported Long Beach’s experiment with the green lane. Further, I was also personally involved in developing State guidelines to ensure that bicycles can be detected at intersections and that there is sufficient signal timing to accommodate them.–John Fisher

Of course, it’s one thing to support sharrows in San Francisco and quite another to paint them on the streets of his own city. I also haven’t seen any green lanes in Los Angeles; but then, it’s a big city, right?

Though I’d have to suspect that if Fisher really supported a bikeways network like he claims, we’d have one by now. And L.A. cyclists wouldn’t feel like they had to beat their heads against the wall just to get a few sharrows painted.

As Joe Linton, one of the city’s leading bike activists, put it in a response to Fisher’s comments:

It’s laughable that you’re suggesting that you’ve shown bike leadership by stating your role in projects located in San Francisco and Long Beach. If you’re into these sorts of projects, then implement them in the city where you work – Los Angeles.

It’s also telling that you call bikeways “amenities.” Amenities are things that are nice to have, but not really necessary. Bike and pedestrian facilities need to be treated as an integral part of a safe transportation system… not as amenities.

Most deceptive of all is your implication that you’re not responsible for bikeway projects because you “do not supervise the Bikeway [sic] Section.” Do you really think that Streetsblog readers are so unsophisticated that we don’t know that to implement on-street bike lanes, the Bikeways Section must get approvals from the operations folks that you supervise? It’s your operations engineers who say “no” to implementing on-street bike projects. This includes your staffer Ken Firoozmand who last year lied about LADOT’s plans to kill the Reseda Boulevard bike lanes. You have ultimate say over bikeways on L.A.’s roads, and for your tenure at LADOT, you’ve failed to create streets that are safe and convenient for bicycling and walking.

Or as the previously mentioned Mr. Bray-Ali put it:

When it comes time to install bike lanes by narrowing lanes, removing travel lanes, traffic calming, you guys jump around with “CEQA lawsuits” and “crosswalks are dangerous” talk. Menacing council staff with “policies” that don’t even exist…

The “Department of No”, the “Department of Yes, We Can’t” – these are nicknames you guys have earned through your actions. Why fight with the citizens you serve? Does the Institute for Transportation Engineers swear you guys into some sort of brotherhood from which there is no escape?

Then there’s this comment from Ramonchu in response to the Streetsblog article about Fisher’s Atlantic interview:

…The city has not a single street standard that reflects anything other than how much traffic to move through it. If Fisher were serious about any of this, which he absolutely is not, he’d be moving even half as fast as the NYCDOT, who painted 200 miles of bike facilities in 2 years…LADOT did just under 2 miles last year.

Fisher is the one name every bicyclists should learn and use; he’s the man who keeps your wife, sister, girlfriend and mother absolutely shocked that you ride a bike every day, as he regularly stonewalls bike-friendly projects that would get large numbers of people on their bikes. And, as someone who has a senior role, and has had a senior role for a long, long time, in an organization that controls streets that kill a number of people nearly equal to the homicide rate, I’d go so far as to say he’s a man with a large amount of blood on his hands.

So is John Fisher the one responsible for the department’s overwhelming focus on automotive throughput and the massive failure to implement the 1996 bike plan — let alone virtually anything else to support bicycling in Los Angeles, including the woefully watered-down first draft of the new bike plan intended to replace it?

The jury’s still out.

But it doesn’t look good.

If Mr. Fisher really supports bicycling, this would be a good time to step up and prove it. And get some paint on the street, pronto.

And if not, it’s long past time for the mayor to step in and do something about it.

Correction: As I have long said, if anyone finds an error in anything I’ve written, I am happy to correct it. As Alex Thompson points out, LADOT does not have an official #2 position — they have two. In the newly revised proposed L.A. bike plan, both Amir Sedadi and John E. Fisher are listed as Assistant General Manager, directly below Rita Robinson. However, as Thompson points, Sedadi is in charge of parking in the City of Los Angeles, and therefore unlikely to have any authority over biking infrastructure; Fisher is and remains the highest-ranking engineer within the department.

………

Speaking of sharrows, LADOT’s blog explains the what and why’s. LAPD will soon give higher priority to car vs. bike collisions. How to lock your bike to keep all or part of it from being stolen. Culver City’s two-year bike and pedestrian plan outreach ends this weekend. LAist says cyclists want action, not words, from the mayor. Pasadena’s famed Fork in the Road is finito. Green LA Girl tells you how to trade in your old bike on a new ride and turn an old jogging stroller into a bike trailer. The AIDS/LifeCycle ride will arrive in L.A. on Saturday. Some cyclists stop for red lights, and maybe the rest should. The Race Across America — a non-stop competitive ride across the continent — kicked off on Tuesday for women, Wednesday for men. Tucson police offer a free, voluntary website to register your bike in case of theft; not a bad idea for the LAPD to consider. D.C.’s new Pennsylvania Ave. bike lanes take space from cyclists to give back to angry drivers. Scotland needs to increase spending on bicycling projects, or risk missing their target of a 10% boost in ridership. Volunteer speed gun operators in the UK are startled by a naked cyclist; maybe he was just a few days early. A Canadian cyclist gets clotheslined by fishing line strung over a mountain bike path. An Aussie study shows that investing in a new bicycle network would deliver $3.88 for every dollar invested; thanks to the Trickster for the heads-up.

Finally, courtesy of our friends at Cyclelicious, having an angry dog on your wheel is bad enough, now imagine being chased by a bear — which can probably run faster than you can ride. Also from Cyclelicious, a look at former L.A. D.A. Gil Garcetti’s new book Paris: Women and Bicycles; you might know his son Eric.

Today’s post, in which I prepare to talk bikes on KPCC

The closest I’ve ever come to being on the radio was when I was a kid, and talked the local late-night DJ into playing Pink Floyd’s classic Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict.

Which I’m sure had nothing to do with the suspension he received the next day.

That’s about to change.

Wednesday morning, I’m going to be on the AirTalk program, along with LADOT Senior Bikeways Coordinator Michelle Mowery, on Pasadena public radio station KPCC.

It’s a sequel to last week’s lively discussion about the Good Doctor’s trial and well-deserved conviction. I’m hoping to correct a number of misconceptions from the original show and the online comments that followed, such as the idea that it’s illegal to ride two-abreast and that it’s safer to ride on the sidewalk — or illegal to ride on the sidewalk.

Wrong on all counts.

No, really.

Here’s how they describe the upcoming program:

Topic: PAVEMENT WARS – PART 2: Last week we talked about the assault, battery and mayhem convictions of Dr. Christopher Thompson, who attacked a group of cyclists on Mandeville Canyon Road by swerving his car in front of them and jamming on the brakes, seriously injuring two of them. Response to the segment was overwhelming. However, many KPCC listeners raised questions about the laws that govern cyclists. Are cyclists required to yield for passing cars? Are bikes permitted on sidewalks? What are the rights and responsibilities of California cyclists? And what is being done to improve conditions for bikes?

You can tune in from 10:20 to 11 am Wednesday, November 11 at 89.3 FM. If you’re stuck at work or outside their broadcast range, you can connect to the live streaming broadcast on their website at www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk. Or come back later in the day to download a podcast of the program.

It should be a very interesting discussion.

And I promise not to make Larry Mantle do anything that will get him suspended.

………

Stephen Box offers a powerful reminder that the Good Doctor’s conviction is just one case out of many that never get that far. Will Campbell explains why he’ll just go for a bike ride during next year’s Stadium to the Sea L.A. Marathon. LACBC offers their comments on the new bike plan, while Long Beach is on a mission to become the most bike-friendly community in America. L.A. used to have a state-of-the-art elevated bikeway. Seriously. More great shots from Russ and Laura’s West coast bike tour. Seattle has a new cycling mayor. D.C.’s cycling mayor clogs traffic; or maybe it’s the media trucks who follow looking for a story. Finally, New York added 200 miles of bikeways over the last three years; now bike commuting is up 66% in just two years. Coincidence?

Today’s post, in which I make nice with LADOT

I don’t think I have many fans at L.A.’s Department of Transportation.

Or any, for that matter.

The feedback I’ve gotten, limited though it may be, is that I’ve been unduly harsh in criticizing the agency. And that the flap over the bike lanes on Reseda Blvd could have been handled better.

I can live with that.

The end result was that the long-promised bike lanes on Reseda finally turned into paint of the streets, with a promise of more to come — and no peak hour lanes on the boulevard.

As for any criticism of the agency, you only have to ride these streets for awhile to understand that criticism is not only deserved, but necessary. And not just LADOT.

Los Angeles is decades behind most American cities when it comes to biking infrastructure. Meanwhile, the cycling community has been growing exponentially, putting more riders — and more inexperienced riders — on streets that were not designed to accommodate them.

If anything, I’ve tried to hold back, in light of the impossible position bikeways staff find themselves in, stuck in a department — and a city — that doesn’t understand, let alone support, cycling.

And yes, this is me holding back.

Really.

Like anyone else, LADOT and its employees are welcome to comment on anything I write. If you like something I have to say, say so; if you don’t, say so. And if you have more to add to the story, or corrections, or just want to tell me I’m full of it, you can find my email address on the About BikingInLA page.

Convince me I got the story wrong, and I’ll be happy to correct it. If not, I’ll gladly share your side of the story — then offer my best arguments to show why I think it’s wrong.

So I was a little surprised to attend the West L.A. bike plan meeting last night, and discover just how helpful and determined to make a difference everyone was.

Even after they found out who I am.

Whatever you may think of the plan — and yes, I do have reservations — it’s clear that there are people within the Bikeways Department who really do give a damn about making this a better place to ride.

I spoke with one employee who talked about working with a street crew into the wee morning hours to convert old parking meters into bike racks. And how he was working on a plan to put abandoned bikes — which are currently sold off to wholesalers for pennies on the dollar — to better use, such as offering them to non-profit co-ops like Bike Kitchen or Bikerowave, or donating them to organizations that serve the underprivileged, whether here in L.A. or in underdeveloped countries like some other cities do.

Both of which are plans I can support, without the slightest reservation.

I was also pleasantly surprised by how helpful bikeways coordinator Michelle Mowery was when I suggested how a minor change in signage on a street I ride regularly could encourage cyclists to use it more.

At first she said it couldn’t legally be done. But then she made some alternate suggestions to solve the problem — and offered to pass it along to the right people who might be able to do something about it.

Then again, maybe it’s not so surprising.

Because we’re all going to have to work together if we want things to get any better around here.

Whether we agree with each other or not.

I’ll offer my take on the bike plan next week. Meanwhile, LACBC continues to press for more time to respond to the plan, and offers suggestions to improve it — with attribution. Dr. Alex reports that LADOT is woefully inadequate in regards to the plan, while fellow Westside Bikeside writer Mihai ask why the plan can’t reflect the 720 bus route. C.I.C.L.E. says the new bike plan is a step backwards, and asks why we can’t have multiple bike coordinators. Damien discovers the difference a .com vs a .org can make. And phase two of the Department of DIY’s write-your-own-bike-plan takes place this Saturday at 1 pm.

………

Start making your plans for next years Bike Summit — now with added pedestrians! (Seriously, it’s fun, informative and free; what more could you want?) A Boston cyclist writes about trusting total strangers with his life everyday. Portland asks if the local cycling scene is too white. Do mandatory helmet laws make cyclists safer — or just reduce the number of riders on the road? A UK student helps save the life of a critically injured cyclist. A writer Down Under says reduce speeds so cyclists can live. Finally, a photo bike tour of Nashville, and a lovely one of Scotland — and before she says it, let me remind you that the weather up there in Bobby Burns land isn’t always like that.

More songs about buildings and bikes: A panel discussion with David Byrne

Byrne-BugI’m not easily impressed.

Especially not when it comes to celebrities.

Maybe it’s because I’ve met more than my share over the years. Then again, maybe that’s why I’ve met more than my share, whether through work, mutual friends, volunteer work or just everyday encounters. In other words, pretty much the way you’d meet anyone else.

And in my experience, the rich and famous are pretty much like anyone else. Except richer. And, uh, more famous.

So that’s exactly how I treat them — like I would anyone else. For the most part, they’ve seemed to appreciate that, though there have been some notable exceptions.

A few have impressed me, though. Like Stevie Ray Vaughan. Rev. Al Green. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. And Gov. John Connally, who was critically wounded in the Kennedy assassination.

I have a feeling David Byrne would be on that list if we ever happened to meet.

Not just because he was the lead singer of one of the most influential and impossible to imitate bands of the 80s. One of the few bands that didn’t sound like anyone else, before or since, and formed a large part of the soundtrack for my blissfully misspent youth.

But also for what he did during and after his tenure in the Talking Heads. Like collaborations that pushed the bounds of music, founding the Luaka Bop record label and promoting the work of musicians from around the world. Along with a simultaneous career as a world-class artist — including a series of New York bike racks designed to subtly capture a sense of the city.

Which is only appropriate, because he’s been riding his own bike throughout New York and around the world for over 30 years — leading to his own unique perspective on urban livability, including his take on our own humble city:

If a city doesn’t have sufficient density, as in L.A., then strange things happen. It’s human nature for us to look at one another— we’re social animals after all. But when the urban situation causes the distance between us to increase and our interactions to be less frequent we have to use novel means to attract attention: big hair, skimpy clothes and plastic surgery. We become walking billboards.

It’s also lead to Bicycle Diaries, his ironic and insightful observations of the world around him, as seen from behind the handlebars.

And next week, it will lead him to Los Angeles for a panel discussion “examining the bicycle’s role in transforming the urban experience” at the Aratani/Japan America Theatre in Little Tokyo on Friday, October 2.

Okay, so it’s not free. But the $25 admission — $20 for Library Associates — goes to support free cultural programs at the Central Library downtown.

Also on the panel will be Bicycle Kitchen co-founder Jimmy Lizama, UCLA urban planning professor Donald Shoup, and Michelle Mowery, Senior Bicycle Coordinator for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation — the people who introduced the term “currently infeasible” to the world of bike planning.

And if that doesn’t make for an interesting conversation, I don’t know what will.

Stop making sense, indeed.

Bicycle valet services will be provided by the LACBC. For more information or tickets, visit www.lfla.org/aloud/.

………

Santa Monica’s Cynergy Cycles offers a free lecture on Cycling For Health & Performance Wednesday at 7p. Treehugger notes that it’s illegal to ride a bike in a swimming pool in Baldwin Park. The Cato Institute says D.C.’s new state-of-the-art bike station is just a $4 million bike rack. The Iowa Bicycle Coalition asks why drivers are seldom held accountable for hitting cyclists. The Biker Chicks ask how to avoid a right hook on a group ride. If you’re in Portland tomorrow, here’s your chance to ride naked in a Flaming Lips video. Evidently, Scottish truck drivers actually look out for cyclists. The UK’s Daily Mail complains about Lycra louts who never say thank you, while Cycling England says drivers should be held responsible for cycling accidents. Finally, Catholic Charities brings their message — and breakfast — to Portland’s bikeways; throw in absolution for any gestures I might make on the way, and I’m there.

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