It hasn’t been easy watching the City Council this past year.
Especially the Transportation Committee.
I’ve watched as council members requested a response from various city agencies on issues ranging from the long-delayed Sharrows pilot project to the LAPD’s flawed response to the Hummer Incident. Only to see them sit back and accept lame excuses from the people who supposedly work for them — to the point that I’ve wondered who really runs this city.
Sort of like watching someone tease a caged animal that has long ago given up fighting back. And yes, I have seen that, in a less enlightened time and a far less enlightened place; it evokes the same sort of stomach-twisting pity I’ve felt watching our government in action.
Maybe that changed yesterday.
After a seemingly endless delay in the scheduled 2 pm start time that left cyclists wondering if the committee had blown them off — followed by visibly livid committee member Richard Alarcón storming out of the meeting just moments after the members finally arrived and an impromptu hearing on the issue of overnight RV parking in Venice — the nearly bike-only Transportation Committee meeting finally began.
And truncated though it was, it was worth the wait. If only to watch committee Chair Bill Rosendahl get his back up and start demanding answers from the people who work for this city.
Because of the late start, two items — updates on the Sharrows program, which has been delayed to near-infinity, and the proposed bike-sharing program — were dropped entirely.
A third motion to increase the number of bike parking spaces required for new developments was touched on briefly, only because an audience member wanted to comment on it after going out of his way to attend the meeting. Although why it should be limited to new developments is beyond me, when City Hall doesn’t even offer adequate bike space.
From the beginning, Rosendahl ran the short-handed meeting with a firm hand. In addition to the Alarcón storm-out, Bernard Parks was missing in action and Tom LaBonge had to leave before the last, and most important, issue was discussed — leaving just Rosendahl and the recently elected 5th district representative Paul Koretz.
When the representatives from LADOT and the Planning department mentioned Federal funding that may be available in connection to the new bike plan, Rosenhdahl asked, “Do we need a resolution to get that? Because I want to get that money.”
He followed up with a list of 12 hard-hitting questions prepared in conjunction with bike activists Stephen Box and Alex Thompson; to be honest, though, the limited responses offered were far less important than the fact that someone was finally starting to ask them.
Bike Coordinator Michele Mowery’s insistence that the plan the city presented was the one that Alta Planning delivered brought audible murmurs of “bullshit” from the audience — or it could have just been me. Her answer may have been technically correct, but very few people actually believe this is the plan that Alta wanted to deliver.
She also was taken to task by audience members for “playing the race card,” suggesting that L.A.’s diversity makes it more challenging to build to a functional bikeway system than it is in a city like Portland — “a homogeneous community that is very white, and very progressive with respect to transportation,” while L.A. is a “very diverse, disjointed city of 4 million people.”
Dr. Alex has already written a very hard-hitting response to that; if you haven’t read it, click here and read it now. Well, maybe when you’re done with this. But seriously, read it.
Complementing Rosendahl’s newly newly demonstrated commitment, Koretz was also a pleasant surprise.
Throughout the meeting, he spoke very little, sitting quietly until audience members were making their comments. Then he interrupted briefly to note that he also rides a bike, but isn’t comfortable riding on L.A. city streets. And asked if this plan would allow inexperienced cyclists to get where they want to go.
The overwhelming answer was no.
Rosendahl responded firmly to my comment that all the work spent on this bike plan is a waste of time unless there was a commitment to actually build it — unlike the 1996 plan, which had no apparent use other than as a very large and clumsy paperweight.
He insisted that he will make sure the final plan is built — the first commitment any city official has made to this plan, including the people responsible for it. “There’s been enough talk,” he said. “No more words, it’s time for action.”
That attitude was also in evidence when representatives of the LAPD appeared to update the council on recent cycling cases, including the Hummer Incident, as well as the West L.A. case I wrote about recently — noting that no arrest has been made, but the matter has been referred to the City Attorney for possible charges.
When the respected Commander Greer — recently promoted to Assistant Commander of the Detective Bureau — mentioned that a report has been completed on the Hummer case, but not yet approved, Rosendahl said he wanted a copy prior to the next meeting, approved or not.
And in a huge win for cyclists, Cmmdr. Greer announced that all officers below the rank of Lieutenant will be required to complete a brief online course on riders’ rights and responsibilities, created by a group a bike officers. Rosendahl pushed them to take a step further, insisting that the department needs to create a bike training module for the police academy — something I’ve repeatedly called for on here.
Of course, it wasn’t all good news. The Commander noted that Lt. Andre Dawson, recently appointed by Chief Beck as the point man for cycling complaints, will no longer be involved in the process and asked that cyclists no longer contact him.
However, the committee saved the best for last.
The most important issue of the evening — and yes, by then it was evening — was the proposed anti-harassment ordinance.
After hearing from several cyclists, Koretz said he’d heard a few stories about the problems cyclists face on the roads, but had no idea it was so widespread. With that, he made a motion to forward the proposal on to the Public Safety Committee, which was quickly seconded by Rosendahl — meaning that it carried, since they were the only two members left at that point.
However, it was not quite the win that LAist suggested last night. What passed was merely a proposal requesting that the City Attorneys’ office write such an ordinance, similar to the one that recently became law in Columbia, Missouri. Mowery suggested that it cover such topics as hurling projectiles at cyclists, threats or verbal abuse, using a vehicle to intimidate cyclists, and passing too close to — or buzzing — cyclists.
Its small win, the first step in what will undoubtedly be a long and complicated process.
But it’s a win.
And for once, I left with a smile on my face
And without a knot in my stomach.
Will Campbell has a front road seat to a bike wreck. Paul Krekorian, author of the failed Safe Streets bill, is the city’s newest council member. Sharrows pop up in Glendale — legal ones, this time. Wilshire Boulevard is 75 years old; Flying Pigeon keeps up the fight to make Figueroa bike friendly. The Pigeons are also featured on the VOA’s Persian TV. Bikerowave claims success with their recent swamp meet. Photos of the CalTrain bike car. A Tucson mother fights for a memorial for her cycling son — and politely corrects thoughtless car-head commenters. Copenahgenize reminds us that us that New York’s recently removed bike lane results from a conflict between the Hasids and the Hotties; city hall isn’t denying a deal was made, while Bike Snob suggests maybe cyclists should act like grown-ups. New bike lanes in Philadelphia have resulted in a doubling of bike traffic; just imagine what they could do here. Bikes remain banned from a primary street in De Soto, Kansas; old car-head thinking from a town that shares its name with an old car. A biking Asheville lawyer argues for equilibrium on the roads. Trust the geniuses at MIT to create a combo bike rack/tire pump. A cycling schoolgirl plunges 90 feet into a Scottish gorge and lives to tell the tale. Finally, Brit cyclists are in a tizzy over the bike-hating Mail’s obviously staged photograph, standing in a bikeway to force a cyclist onto the wrong side, then taking — and publishing — a photo of it.