An open letter to CD1 Councilmember Gil Cedillo on improving safety and livability on North Figueroa

Courtesy of LACBC

Courtesy of LACBC

Dear Councilmember Cedillo,

Seldom does such a defining moment come so early in a council member’s time in office.

But that’s exactly what you face in deciding whether to install bike lanes on North Figueroa; a choice that will define your legacy long after you leave office.

For better. Or for worse.

And right now, things aren’t looking good for you. Or the people who live, work or travel through your district.

But let’s be honest. It’s not about bike lanes.

As you should be aware by now, North Figueroa has long been a dangerous street for bicyclists and pedestrians, as well as motorists. In fact, the street has averaged nearly one traffic fatality a year, and over 82 injuries, over a 10-year period.

It’s a roadway where dangerous design and overcapacity encourage speeding and overly aggressive driving, risking innocent lives and discouraging the non-motorized transportation that could ease traffic and benefit local businesses.

In a process that began five years ago, the street was studied and discussed in an extensive series of public meetings. And the overwhelming consensus among local residents — your constituents — was that the roadway needed to be reconfigured to calm traffic and improve safety.

Bike lanes were just a part of a larger plan that would benefit everyone by increasing pedestrian access, reducing dangerous driving and improving livability throughout the North Figueroa corridor.

Combined with the recently approved MyFigueroa project on South Figueroa, it would establish one of the city’s most complete streets from end-to-end, where average people could feel comfortable strolling casually or enjoying a leisurely bike ride to local shops and restaurants. As well as encouraging people to get out of their cars to commute to work and school, taking pressure off our city’s overcrowded and fume-choked streets.

The project was approved, funded and shovel-ready when your predecessor left office.

All you had to do was sign off on it.

Instead, you’ve engaged in a year-long campaign of obfuscation and foot-dragging, repeatedly refusing to engage with local residents questioning why you were delaying such a beneficial and desperately needed project.

221162813-Bike-Lane-Community-Meeting-5-8-14-Flyer-English-FinalAnd now you are proposing an alternative approach, a complicated series of sharrows similar to ideas that have already been considered — and rejected — before you ever took office.

Yet sharrows will do absolutely nothing to slow traffic and improve safety on and around Figueroa. They will not improve walkability or encourage shoppers to stroll the street. And they will do nothing to entice anyone but the most confident bicyclists to risk their own safety by riding directly in front of impatient drivers.

In other words, your proposal fails to address any of the concerns that prompted the city and the residents of Northeast LA to reimagine the North Figueroa corridor in the first place. It represents a failure of imagination and leadership for which you and your staff should be ashamed.

And it begs the question of why you have backed off on a proposal with such overwhelming support — including, at one time, your own.

Some say it’s due to a desire to place your own stamp on the street, rather than allow your predecessor build on his own legacy. Others have suggested that it’s political payback to an anti-bike lane opponent who helped throw the election your way.

True or not, neither reflects well on you.

The mere fact that people in your district would question your motives for such inexplicable foot-dragging speaks to the confusion and betrayal they feel.

You have a rare opportunity to demonstrate genuine vision and leadership in creating a truly Great Street that will benefit everyone who lives, works or travels anywhere on or near it. And bring greater growth and prosperity to an area that desperately needs it.

Or your can decide to keep things more or less as they are, maintaining a dangerous auto-focused street that risks the lives and safety of everyone who travels or crosses it, as well as an almost inevitable decline for what is and should be a vibrant community.

Despite extensive criticism — including mine — Curren Price, your colleague on the City Council, showed genuine leadership in forging an agreement to keep the MyFigueroa project on track.

Will you do the same, and support a more livable North Figueroa that will stand as your legacy long after you’ve left office?

Or will you stand in the face of progress — and your constituents — to maintain a future of danger and decline?

The decision is in your hands. We can only hope you make the right choice.


Ted Rogers

Note: There will be a community meeting tonight at Nightingale Elementary School to discuss the proposal to replace the planned road diet and bike lanes with sharrows, from 6 to 8 pm, 3311 North Figueroa. The anti-bike lane factions are expected to be out in force, so supporters are urged to attend to demonstrate the support this project has among bike riders, pedestrians and the greater community.

And if you haven’t already, sign the petition to show your support.


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