Bloated CAO cost estimate weighs down Measure HLA, and draconian ebike regs threaten drag on micromobility

Just 315 days until Los Angeles fails to meet its Vision Zero pledge to eliminate traffic deaths by 2025.
So stop what you’re doing and sign this petition to demand Mayor Bass hold a public meeting to listen to the dangers we face walking and biking on the mean streets of LA.

Then share it — and keep sharing it — with everyone you know, on every platform you can. Just 42 signatures to go to reach 1,000!

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Measure HLA continues to lead the news, and appears to be the hottest issue on next month’s ballot for Los Angeles.

The ballot proposal, which does nothing more than require Los Angeles officials to keep their official commitments to the bicycling, walking and transit communities, would require the city to build out the already approved Mobility Plan 2035 whenever a street in the plan gets resurfaced.

Despite being passed nine years ago with the overwhelming support of the city council, just five percent of the plan has been built in the years since — meaning an overwhelming 95% of the plan remains vaporware, with just eleven years remaining before it’s supposed to be completed.

Although implementing the plan this way, as streets are resurfaced, will take considerably longer.

Then again, we were told within weeks of its passage that the plan is just “aspirational,” anyway.

The Los Angeles Public Press describes it this way.

Measure HLA, also known as Healthy Streets LA, would require the city to implement Mobility Plan 2035 every time it repaves 1/8 mile of street or repairs 1/8 mile of sidewalk. If it fails to do so, any resident of the city of LA can sue to force compliance.

If passed, the measure could change how the city designs and builds transportation infrastructure. But it could also change the city’s identity as a sprawling metropolis built for cars — where everybody drives and nobody walks, bikes, or takes the bus unless they have to.

Last week, the city tried to sandbag the ballot measure with an astounding estimate of up to $3.1 billion — yes, with a B — to fully implement the measure.

But among the financial tricks they used to inflate the cost was rolling the full amount of street repaving, sidewalk repairs and other costs into the measure, which the city will be obligated to spend whether or not it passes. Along with shoehorning the full cost of the measure into an artificial ten year horizon, raising the projected annual costs to ridiculously high figures.

This is how Streetsblog’s Joe Linton described the report from City Administrative Officer Matt Szabo, which he accurately described as “scaremongering bullshit.”

In November, the CAO had forecast bike lanes to cost L.A. $350,000 per mile.

That was roughly double current city costs. L.A. Department of Transportation’s higher quality facilities (for example parking-protected facilities like San Vicente Boulevard) cost just under $200,000 per mile.

Today, the CAO upped its bike lane figure to $1.76 million per mile. I had to look at that number several times – not a typo: $1.76 million per mile of bike lane. Really.

The CAO bike lane cost today is about nine times what LADOT currently spends for a mile of its best bike lanes. And the CAO applies this cost to the Mobility Plan’s protected and unprotected bike lanes.

Other outlets picked up the misleading $3.1 billion estimate, while lacking the context or willingness to put it in perspective.

However, other sources focused on the powerful pro-HLA billboard that says more pedestrians have been killed on LA’s Vermont Blvd than in the state of Vermont.

CityWatch’s self-appointed urban planning expert, who somehow seems to think his expertise as a dermatologist gives him unique insights into the field, says he’s a big hell no on HLA, arguing that it’s a sheep in wolf’s clothing for road diets and transit-friendly housing, while complaining about “councilmembers and paid mercenaries parade around promoting ‘Healthy Streets’ that empower developer and other monied interests.”

Although I suspect many of the people working to pass HLA would love to paid for the countless hours of volunteer time they’re putting in on the campaign.

Former councilmember and retired LAPD supervisor Dennis Zine is also a no on HLA, arguing that it will “further reduce vehicle traffic lanes and cause additional gridlock on roads that are already over capacity,” even though the Department of Transportation says it ain’t necessarily so.

Also writing for CityWatch, civic activist Tim Deegan makes the bizarre argument that HLA will empower progressives, as if no conservatives ever walk, bike or use transit, and hurt the homeless in some unspecified way, as if they somehow won’t benefit from safer streets.

But at least one writer for CityWatch takes the time to consider both sides, while appearing to come down on neither.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports Mayor Bass is standing on the sidelines by refusing to take a stand on HLA.

But at least that’s better than stabbing us in the back like she did with her flip flop on a proposal to merely study the practicality and support for removing the useless Marina Freeway, and replace it with housing and a massive park.

According to the Times, supporters include city councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Eunisses Hernandez, Heather Hutt, Nithya Raman, Hugo Soto-Martínez and Katy Yaroslavsky, along with City Controller Kenneth Mejia.

Councilmembers Bob Blumenfield, Tim McOsker, Traci Park and Monica Rodriguez are opposed, though only Park is actively campaigning against it.

And neither Bass nor Council President Paul Krekorian have voiced support for either side.

Finally, the Daily Breeze and other SoCal News Group papers appear to oppose the measure. But since the story is hidden behind their draconian paywall, we may never know.

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The other topic gaining a lot of traction over the weekend was the effort by some legislators to reign in the booming popularity of ebikes.

A New Jersey state senate committee approved a bill that would require insurance and registration for ebikes and their riders, while admitting the bill is flawed in its present form, but insisting someone else will fix it.

A writer for CleanTechnica says New Jersey would be foolish to require ebike insurance and registration, which threatens to put the brakes on micromobility through over-regulation.

Advocacy groups say it would harm working-class residents while requiring a form of insurance that doesn’t yet exist.

Meanwhile, Key Biscayne, Florida responded to the death of an elderly woman who was struck by a teenaged ebike rider while riding her bike by approving a temporary ban on all ebikes and e-scooters.

Which is kind of like banning all cars because a single driver is accused of causing a crash, even though they may not have been at fault.

Okay, it’s exactly like it.

Yet everyone appeared to comply with the ban, as police didn’t ticket anyone for breaking it over the weekend. Although I’m very surprised no one violated the ban to challenge it in court.

GCN considers what seems to be lost in all the other arguments, with advice for beginners on how to stay safe riding an ebike.

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On the same subject, longtime Orange County bike advocate Bill Sellin forwards the following comments from ebike instructor, presenter, author & consultant Clinton Sandusky, with his permission. 

As promised, here are my personal thoughts/bullet points (not representing any organizations I am a part of) on this proposed (Bill Text – AB-2234 Vehicles: electric bicycles. (ca.gov)) by Assemblymember Boerner:
First, I certainly appreciate Assemblymember Boerner’s efforts now and in the past in trying to make riding conventional and electric bicycles a more safe and enjoyable experience here in California! I believe this bill in its current form is highly flawed, will not have the results hoped for, and therefore should not proceed forward for the following reasons:
  • It would make significant changes to existing laws (some of which have been in effect since 2016) way too fast. A more reasonable first step in addressing electric bicycle safety would be the passage of Bill Text – AB-1778 Vehicles: electric bicycles. (ca.gov) — which would raise the minimum age to operate a Class 2 electric bicycle to 16 and require the wearing of a helmet for all persons.  Of course, adherence and enforcement even to this other proposed bill would be a challenge.
  • I have a big concern with the educational component of this bill! Making education mandatory, especially for persons who do not possess a valid driver’s license, poses many problems. 1. How effectively would it be adhered to and/or enforced? 2. The current CHP online course only provides knowledge-based learning vs. more important and needed skills-based (on-bike) learning.  3. We need to take a page from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) from decades ago and first look at and highly promote voluntary education and training.  Adult to youth riders MUST be exposed to a variety of relevant, quality and effective online and in-person bicycle safety and training programs provided by recognized statewide and national organizations.  4. What would the financial burden be to bicyclists taking a course of their choice, whether a no cost or cost-based course?  Will there be provided state or local governmental vouchers?
  • My final concern is a Constitutional one. In California, all classes of electric bicycles are currently defined as a “bicycle” Law section (ca.gov) and a bicycle is defined as a “device” Law section (ca.gov) — not a “vehicle” Law section (ca.gov). Therefore, bicycling (including riding electric bicycles) in California is a right, not a privilege (like for drivers of vehicles) and must not require a valid driver’s license or issued “skills wavier” to operate.  A skills wavier would also be a logistical nightmare to administer, more appropriately by the DMV and not the CHP.

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Sean Price forwards the following warning for bike riders on PCH. My apologies if it’s hard to read; making it big enough to see seems to blur the content.

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Writing for the New York Times, author Caroline Paul describes what happened when her mother changed her life by taking up bicycling in her 60s.

Besides being trash-talked on a bike ride with her own mom, that is.

Turns out, my mother’s cycling habit meant that she was checking many of the boxes — health, novelty, community and purpose — needed to age well. (For others, this might come in the form of a language class, a book club, a commitment to mastering a plank.) Yet when my mother went biking, there was something more: She was embracing attributes like exhilaration, exploration, awe, a little bit of recklessness. This provided the final pillar for healthy and fulfilling aging: Dr. Levy’s positive mind-set.

But how? My mom didn’t live in a bubble; she had not escaped subliminal toxic messaging. It was the bicycling, with its demands for physical vitality, the uncertainty of every ride, the grit on the uphill, the inherent wheeeeee aspect of fun on the downhill — all powerful proof of that messaging’s mendacity. As her own beliefs were being subverted, her biking adventures also drew surprised and admiring reactions from peers and from those much younger (like her own children). Wow! Badass! was the elated response, which boosted her own passion for the sport, and her life. (Another thing not expected of older women: passion.)

Thanks to Tim Rutt for the heads-up.

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It’s now 61 days since the California ebike incentive program’s latest failure to launch, which was promised no later than fall 2023. And 31 months since it was approved by the legislature and signed into law — and counting.

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The war on cars may be a myth, but the war on bikes just keeps on going.

Bike riders are forced to dodge a series of curb stones randomly littering a Glasgow, Scotland bike lane for the past month, which are virtually impossible to see after dark.

A whopping eight men in their 20s, 30s and 40s have been arrested in the murder of a British bike rider, who police allege was intentionally run down by the 24-year old driver; the others face charges for assisting in the coverup.

A motorbike rider in the UK is “terrorizing” bicyclists by riding on local bike paths.

A Yorkshire, England cab driver got out of his vehicle to confront a bicyclist in the video below, squaring up to exchange punches before slamming the bike rider against a car.

But sometimes, it’s the people on two wheels behaving badly.

An ebike rider in New South Wales was fined a total of nearly $1,500 for violating the Australian state’s strict ebike rules for operating an unregistered and uninsured motor vehicle, presumably by violating power and/or speed limitations. Meanwhile, a woman was fined a total of more than $2,500 for violating the same restrictions while riding with her child.

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Local 

The Los Angeles city council voted to instruct city workers to look for ways to close the $100 million funding gap to close remaining gaps in the LA River bike path.

After West Hollywood gave away 50 free bicycles to encourage residents to get around without a vehicle, recipients rode an average of nearly 30 miles a month in a mix of recreation, transportation and commuting. Yet surprisingly, only 20% thought WeHo needs more bike lanes.

Long Beach continues its struggle to meet Vision Zero goals, despite a significant drop in traffic deaths last year.

 

State

Goleta proposes transferring funds promised for a new car, bike and pedestrian bridge to building roundabouts in the Old Town area, after price estimates for the bridge soar to $275 million.

San Francisco is setting new storage and charging rules for lithium-ion ebike and scooter batteries in an effort to reduce fires.

San Francisco will consider design changes to the controversial Valencia Street centerline bike lane, despite a new report indicating it has met the goal of improving safety.

 

National

A writer for CNET says her Apple Watch, combined with an iPhone, changed the way she rides a bike, eliminating the need for a separate bicycling computer.

He gets it. A Seattle writer says if he paid attention to drivers the way they pay attention to him while walking or biking, he’d be dead by now.

Once again, a group of bicyclists were heroes when four Washington state bike riders successfully fought off a mountain lion that attacked a woman riding with their group, subduing the puma by pinning it under a mountain bike frame; the victim was hospitalized with injuries to her face, neck and jaw, but is expected to survive.

A Las Vegas driver learns the hard way that if you’re going to flee the scene after killing a bike rider, take your damn bumper with you. And don’t tell your wife.

In yet another example of keeping a dangerous driver on the road until it’s too late, a Florida woman blamed her drug addiction after she was sentenced to 15 years behind bars, with another 15 years probation, for the hit-and-run death of a man riding a bicycle; she was somehow still driving, despite 11 previous felony convictions.

Florida investigators concluded the woman who plowed her car into nine bicyclists on a group ride last month suffered an apparent medical issue — then appeared to refute their own conclusion by ticketing her for failing to drive in a single lane, unknowingly operating a vehicle while license was suspended, revoked, canceled or disqualified, and failure to provide proof of insurance; one victim remains hospitalized with significant brain trauma. Although how it’s possible to not know if you have a valid license, or to be held responsible if you’re having a medical problem, is beyond me.

 

International

Condé Nast Traveler recommends the world’s 19 most scenic bike paths, ranging from the British countryside to breathtaking views of Mount Everest.

It took London police less than 24 hours to infiltrate a bike theft ring using a bait bike, jailing ten people and recovering 60 stolen bikes worth the equivalent of $167,000.

Actor Matthew Broderick is one of us, taking a break from performing Plaza Suite with his wife Sarah Jessica Parker, with a casual bikeshare ride through the streets of London.

English police recommend registering your bike, after someone got their stolen Cannondale road bike back four years after it was stolen. You can do that for free right here with Bike Index

Just days after a new study suggested turbans worn by Sikh bicyclists can be nearly as effective as bike helmets in preventing injuries, an English man said his turban protected his head when he came off his bike on a wet road and slid underneath an oncoming car.

A pair of bike riders in the UK were also heroes, as authorities look for a couple who paused their bike ride in a valiant, but unsuccessful, attempt to save the life of a 25-year old man they found lying unconscious near a cycle track.

An Irish bike club suffered its second tragic loss in less than a year, when an amateur cyclist and father was killed by a Dublin, Ireland driver.

Velo describes Kortrijk, Belgium’s annual Velofollies bike expo as the best kept secret in bike shows, offering a surprising array of commuting, cargo and urban bikes.

A Sri Lankan company introduced an innovative ebike-based “Eco Hauler,” which is really just a cart towed by an ebike. But still.

An Aussie bike rider politely tells drivers to use their damn turn signals, already.

 

Competitive Cycling

The Vuelta a Andalucía “Ruta del Sol” was shortened from five days to just three due to farmer protests in the area.

A Dublin writer decries traditional gender roles and stereotypes that have limited the participation of women in cycling.

Tragic news from South Africa, where talented teenaged cyclist and national U19 time trial champ Jessie Munton has spent the last month fighting for her life in the ICU, remaining in a coma since she was struck by a driver on a January training ride.

Velo looks back at former Tour de France champ Stephen Roche, saying he was more popular than the pope, JFK or any other celebrity — in Ireland, anyway.

Always wait until you cross the damn finish line to celebrate your victory.

 

Finally…

Riding around the world without leaving the comfort of your home. Get your toddler the latest in e-balance bike technology. Bike riding on Mars means less air, but fewer drivers.

And we now have a new world record holder for the tallest tall bike.

Although the LA-based builder of former record holder StoopidTaller Bike didn’t need no safety rope.

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Be safe, and stay healthy. And get vaccinated, already.

Oh, and fuck Putin

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