Maybe things haven’t changed at Caltrans after all.
As we mentioned a few weeks back, Jeanie Ward-Waller, deputy director of planning and modal programs at state highway agency, was unceremoniously transferred from her position last month.
In other words, demoted.
The reason, according to a new report from Politico, is that she stood up against a plan to circumvent environmental rules on Sacramento-area road construction projects, announcing her intention to file a whistleblower complaint.
Caltrans’ chief deputy director, Michael Keever, notified Ward-Waller on Sept. 14 that she would be terminated from her role Oct. 4 and placed on administrative leave until then. In a letter seen by POLITICO, he offered her the option of returning to her previous role at the agency or one administrative level above that.
The former policy director for the California Bicycle Coalition, aka Calbike, had worked at the agency since 2017. She was promoted to her most recent position three years ago by former Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin, who is now serving as state Secretary of Transportation.
Apparently, even that was not enough to protect her when she spoke out against the agency circumventing its own rules, as well as state climate regulations.
Ward-Waller said in an interview — her first since her termination — that she had objected to two construction projects on Highway 80 because, she said, Caltrans’ state and federal permits improperly understated their environmental impacts…
Ward-Waller alleged that Caltrans improperly described the first project as “pavement rehabilitation” when it will actually widen the road to accommodate new lanes. Because of that, she said, it’s illegally using state funds that are intended only for road maintenance, not widening.
She also said the projects should have been considered as one and that by “piecemealing” them into two, Caltrans was able to streamline permitting for the first project, avoiding a full evaluation of alternatives under the California Environmental Quality Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
Ironically, the news broke just one day before California Clean Air Day.
Maybe it’s time for Caltrans to clear the air about their own failure to live up to their clean air goals. And stop punishing high-ranking employees for standing up to them over it.
About damn time.
Anyone who has been paying attention knows there has been a cloud hanging over CD12 Councilmember John Lee ever since his role in the Mitch Englander bribery scandal came to light.
Now the Los Angeles Ethic Committee is accusing him of failing to disclose gifts he received in excess of the allowed limits in 2016 and 2017, when he was the top aide to the disgraced and now convicted former councilmember.
He also stands accused of misusing his city position, and aiding and abetting his old boss in misusing his council seat.
The only question is what took so long. Okay, that’s the second question.
The first is why he never faced criminal charges for his role in the bribery scandal; smart money says he turned on Englander, and earned a free pass by working with the FBI to provide key evidence in the case.
According to the LA Times,
The accusations arise from Lee’s time as chief of staff to Englander, who pleaded guilty in 2020 to lying to federal investigators when he was caught in a pay-to-play corruption investigation. Lee, referred to as City Staffer B in the federal indictment, was on the now-infamous trip to Las Vegas when Englander received an envelope with $10,000 in a casino bathroom. The trip, we learned from the Ethics Commission’s accusation, was to celebrate Lee’s pending move from City Hall to the private sector.
On that trip, according to the accusation, a developer and a businessperson put Lee up in a hotel suite, gave him $1,000 in casino chips (which, Lee told investigators, he lost playing baccarat), wined and dined him, and spent $34,000 on bottle service at a nightclub. The value of the trip far exceeded the $470 gift limit for city officials.
Lee did not include the trip or gifts on his disclosure forms when he left city service that month. After the FBI contacted Englander around Sept. 1, 2017, as part of its investigation, Englander sent two $422 checks to the businessperson, one from himself, the other from Lee, for “Vegas expenses.” The checks were backdated to Aug. 4 to make it appear that Englander and Lee had reimbursed the businessperson before the FBI inquiry, according to the accusation.
Unfortunately, the most the Ethics Committee can do is issue a fine, which will amount to a relative slap on the wrist, no matter the amount.
And it’s unlikely Lee will have the integrity to step down, regardless of whether that’s the right thing to do after skating on criminal charges.
I can’t speak for you, but after five councilmembers convicted, charged or implicated in corruption scandals over the last few years, I’m beginning to lose faith in our city leaders.
Okay, that’s a lie.
I lost faith in them a long damn time ago.
Maybe we just need to show up with a cargo bike full of unmarked bills to finally get some action on safer streets around here.
BikeLA, the advocacy group formerly known as the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, is hosting their annual Bike Fest this Saturday at the Highland Park Brewery in DTLA’s Chinatown neighborhood.
Here’s how they describe the event.
LA Bike Fest is BikeLA’s 2nd Annual Fundraiser and Celebration of bike-minded people from daily commuters to weekend warriors and everyone in between. A Pedal-Powered Party where attendees are encouraged to ride to and from LA Bike Fest via the healthiest, happiest, most sustainable, and equitable transportation available – THE BICYCLE. Taking place on Saturday, October 7 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Highland Park Brewery, a hop, skip and roll from the Chinatown Metro station, the event is open to all ages, but you must be 21+ to be served beer. The $25pp ticket (purchased in advance; $35 at the door if capacity allows) includes free bike valet (along with minor bike repairs), one beer or non-alcoholic drink, a commemorative BikeLA bandana, music, 360°photo booth, an online silent auction, and a fully supported group bike ride to the venue.
Join fellow BikeLA supporters, local chapter members, elected officials, with the shared desire to transform Los Angeles into a better place to live and bicycle. In addition, BikeLA’s 2023 Spoke Award Honorees will be honored during LA Bike Fest: Laura Friedman, Assemblymember, 44th District, a leading advocate for making California a more bikeable region for everyone; Sunset4All, a community-led vision to create 3.2 miles of pedestrian improvements, protected bike lanes, safer access to schools, transit upgrades, and more; and Tafarai Bayne, Chief Strategist, CicLAvia, a Los Angeles native who has worked on urban development and planning issues for 23 years, emphasizing the dynamics impacting working-class communities. Bike LA’s honorees are passionate, dedicated, and collaborative in making Los Angeles a more bikeable region for everyone.
Highland Park Brewery will have a bar in a designated area where additional beer can be purchased as well as offering a special menu (including a vegan option) available for purchase. This year’s silent auction will be online this year. For those who can’t make it to the event but want to show support, can still bid on a wide variety of awesome auction items. The auction is set to tentatively launch on September 29th. Visit https://www.la-bike.org or sign up for email announcements HERE.
Ticket proceeds and additional donations help raise crucial funds to support BikeLA’ advocacy and programming to make Los Angeles more bikeable for everyone.
Unfortunately, the 2 pm cutoff means I won’t be able to attend due to another commitment.
But hopefully you can make it, and quaff a nice Festbier or two for me.
Here’s your chance to tell Redondo Beach you’d rather see protected bike lanes on Manhattan Beach Blvd, instead of the thin painted lines the plan currently calls for.
I mean, you would, wouldn’t you?
Safe streets advocates:
Redondo Beach is planning a $5M resurfacing proj along 1 mi of Manhattan Beach Blvd (Aviation Blvd to Inglewood Ave).
— South Bay Forward (@southbayforward) October 3, 2023
The war on cars may be a myth, but the war on bikes just keeps on going.
Statistics are a dangerous thing in the wrong hands. No, even if 75% of people killed while riding bicycles weren’t wearing a helmet, that doesn’t mean 75% of bicycling fatalities were due to not wearing one. And even that stat is highly debatable.
But sometimes, it’s the people on two wheels behaving badly.
A 24-year old Los Angeles man was busted for riding a bicycle while under the influence. And yes, that’s a thing in California.
Police in New York are still looking for a hit-and-run bicyclist who slammed into a 59-year old woman last month, while riding salmon in a bike lane on a bikeshare ebike; the victim remains in a coma two weeks later.
Several women have complained of being frightened and harassed by male bicyclists in London’s Richmond Park, who mistakenly assume they aren’t permitted to drive on streets that are otherwise closed to motorists. Seriously, don’t do that. No matter how right you may think you are.
The aforementioned LA Times asks if Los Angeles could follow San Francisco’s lead in banning right turns on red lights, which could go a long way towards preventing crashes with bike riders and pedestrians.
The former Biking Black Hole of Beverly Hills continues its surprising bike-friendly turnaround, announcing plans to install bike lanes on Beverly Blvd between Santa Monica Blvd and Doheny Drive.
Pasadena public school students will be walking to class today to mark National Walk and Roll to School Day, as well as the state’s Clean Air Day. Which probably isn’t what they’ll be breathing as they walk to school along the Rose City’s busy streets.
A Los Angeles man has been booked on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and felony assault for knocking a woman off her ebike and strangling her on Santa Monica’s Main Street after yelling incoherently, for no apparent reason.
A Leucadia woman is calling for a law mandating helmets for ebike riders, after her 69-year old husband suffered a fractured skull when he hit a curb and went over his handlebars just two blocks from their home; he remains in a coma weeks after the crash. Although to be fair, the same thing could happen hitting a curb on a regular bike.
Solano Beach is just the latest SoCal city to adopt an ordinance cracking down on scofflaw ebike riders, though it sounds like all they’re doing is recommitting to enforcing existing regulations, while creating a diversion program for ticketed bicyclists.
This is who we share the road with. A San Francisco woman is in critical condition after she was struck by a hit-and-run driver while crossing the street and tossed into the path of a driverless cab, which came to a complete stop on top of her leg, pinning her underneath.
Sacramento is planning to slow traffic by installing a number of speed bumps throughout the city, in an effort to improve safety on the city’s deadly streets.
A 73-year old Wisconsin man faces charges for driving under the influence after hitting a nine-year old boy riding a bike with his two brothers; the boy faces a long road to recovery after waking up in the hospital, and asking if he was dreaming. A crowdfunding campaign to help pay his medical expenses has raised nearly half of the modest $9,000 goal. Drinking may be a disease, but getting behind the wheel afterwards is a choice — a very bad one.
Chicago hit-and-run victims call for better protection for bike riders on the city’s streets.
Tragic news from Florida, where a high school senior was killed by a 78-year old school bus driver just as he was arriving at school on his bike, and was left crossed by the driver as she pulled into the school parking lot; a crowdfunding campaign for the victim’s family has raised over $19,000 of the $20,000 goal. Once again raising the question of how old is too old to drive — especially a vehicle that large and full of children.
This is how Vision Zero is supposed to work. After a bike rider was killed in a right hook by the driver of a cement truck, officials announced the intersection in downtown Hamilton, Ontario will undergo a review to improve safety. You can probably count on one hand the number of times that’s happened after any crash in Los Angeles. And have enough fingers left over to let them know what you think about it.
A Manchester, England city councilor is feeling the heat after a bike rider was injured by a stoned driver on the same section of roadway where two other bicyclists were killed last year, after he was responsible for having a protected bike lane ripped out in 2021.
An English man credits the doctors who were riding behind him with saving his life when he suffered a heart attack during a charity ride.
Leading British cyclists fire back over the Conservative government’s plan to restore automotive hegemony to the country’s poor, put-upon motorists, arguing that everyone should feel safe enough to choose walking or biking, and that every person on a bike frees up space for people who actually need to drive.
Good idea. Instead of just installing ghost bikes at the site of fatal crashes, advocates in the UK left a half dozen on the steps of the county hall to represent the six people killed on county roads so far this year — and to make sure officials and the press actually saw them.
A $29 million road improvement project in the UK may have to be redone over fears that bicyclists riding on the segregated bike lane could crash into pedestrians using the narrow sidewalk, which is less than three feet wide in places.
Belgian bicyclists may soon be able to take the motorcycle license exam on their ebikes.
Students at Kenya’s Moi University are ditching East Africa’s traditional low-powered motorcycles known as boda-bodas for bicycles, describing them as more convenient on campus and better for the environment.
Bicycling highlights the “astonishing, heroic story” of Ayesha McGowan, as she successfully achieving her “wildly ambitious” goal to become the first Black American woman in the pro peloton. As usual, you can read it on Yahoo if the magazine blocks you.
Thirty-nine-year old Frenchman François Pervis failed in his attempt to become the fastest person on two wheels last month, when he fell 3.1 mph short of the 89.39 mph record for the fastest human-powered vehicle; his previous attempt last year nearly left him paralyzed after crashing at 80 mph.
It looks like the nascent National Cycling League will survive for a second season after signing a number of cyclists to contracts, including L39ion of Los Angeles rider Tyler Williams, who will ride for the Miami Nights. Apparently, pro sports have officially run out of good team names.
And it’s not too late to get this for my birthday.
One of the best things about bicycles is that even a person of modest means can afford to buy and maintain the bike of their dreams.*
* I’m having something very similar made. pic.twitter.com/91DehEqVIk
— Bella Chu (@bellachu10) October 3, 2023
Be safe, and stay healthy. And get vaccinated, already.
Oh, and fuck Putin