On Wednesday, February 6th, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition held a Northeast LA Bike Ambassador meeting at the Audubon Center in Debs Park to share details of their meeting with District 1 Council Member Gil Cedillo‘s office regarding North Figueroa. At Council District 1’s request, LACBC’s Planning and Policy Director, Eric Bruins met with Gil Cedillo’s staff the first week of January just before we held a die-in outside his alleged residence. This follows the December City Council Meeting where Figueroa For All supporters went en masse to denounce his plans to prevent bike lane installation with diagonal parking. This is where Gil Cedillo responded by calling us “Bullies” for challenging him.
Bruins spoke very kindly about Team Cedillo, and how from their perspective, they came into office with the impression that they had a “clean slate,” unburdened with the already approved plans in their newly acquired district. He also mentioned that from their perspective, they are “mystified” as to why Figueroa road safety advocates are so upset.
According to Bruins, Team Cedillo is planning to apply for a May 2015 State of California Grant that could provide funding in late 2017 for Complete Streets features on North Figueroa between Avenue 55 and 60. (This section of Figueroa has already been selected to be part of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Great Streets Intuitive.) Of the three options offered, two of them include a road diet with bicycle accommodations.
This latest development from Gil Cedillo’s office is proposed as a pedestrian project only. (They really really dislike bikes.) Apparently, the data on pedestrian deaths is finally getting through to them. (Maybe more cyclists have to be struck and killed on Figueroa before they start considering bikes too?) This Livable Streets awakening has inspired Team Cedillo to create a plan with help from LADOT for curb extensions on Figueroa that would reduce the crossing distances for pedestrians. By reducing the crossing distances to accommodate pedestrians, it could also create room for non-motor vehicles users such as people using bicycles in a bike lane. This approach would actually leap-frog one of the original reasons for the Figueroa buffered bike lanes in the first place: To make the road narrower so people using their feet have less area to cross in front of people using their cars. The main fiduciary difference is that the original Figueroa buffered bike lanes could accomplish the same goal with transportation funds already paid for by Measure R. Instead, Team Cedillo is betting on a long-shot California State grant to do similar at a much higher price for just five blocks of North Figueroa.
According to Bruins, Team Cedillo plans to do a weekend pop-up demonstration event for four blocks of Figueroa over an upcoming weekend as soon as March. What’s worrisome is that unlike the Great Streets initiative in other City of Los Angeles neighborhoods where the Mayor’s office has taken the lead, this particular project on Figueroa is being led by Cedillo’s office. If any of their previous efforts are an indication, the Great Streets initiative in Team Cedillo’s hands means that Highland Park’s Figueroa won’t likely get one. But the kicker of the evening came with Bruins’ news that Team Cedillo would like us to do outreach to Figueroa businesses and try and sell them on this street plan they are putting forth. (Again, this theme of absolute consensus that Cedillo keeps using as an excuse.) No surprise, the room with mostly veterans of this Figueroa battle, were not receptive to Eric Bruins proposal to do outreach for the CD1 office.
It seems odd to many observers and activists that LACBC would be willing to work with Cedillo’s office considering their incompetency thus far, and how this project does little to help fulfill the 2010 LA Bike Plan that so many generations of LACBC members and staff worked for so many years to achieve. Is chasing incrementalism worth our trouble when all it takes is for ONE PERSON to sign a work-order that lets LADOT do their job? Maybe we are wrong, but has Team Cedillo done anything up to this point that shows they are worthy of our trust? We are understandably tired of being played.
The question at this point is: Do we kowtow and put our energies into helping Team Cedillo’s attempt to get this doubtful State of California grant that could fund five blocks sometime after Late 2017? Or do we put our energies into replacing Cedillo with someone who will allow LADOT to complete the approved and already-funded pedestrian-friendly Road Diet and Figueroa Bike Lanes when he comes up for re-election in 2017?