If you attended Thursday’s meeting, then you know how “Council District 1 Dysfunctional” it was. We demanded a safer North Figueroa and after badgering Councilmember Gil Cedillo’s office for nearly a year to take action on the already-approved North Figueroa Bike Lane project, he finally responds by hosting a meeting at Cypress Park’s Nightingale Middle School on Thursday, May 8th. Out of the 350+ attendees, the room was overwhelmingly in favor of the Figueroa Bike Lanes /Road Diet. Cedillo’s office split those chosen to give a one minute comment into groups of 19 In Favor, and 19 Against. Cedillo’s office furthered their “Neutral Opinion” on the project by enlisting anti-bike lane NELA authority figures to give their “Professional Opinions.” In an event that was intended to bring the community together, many attendees described Cedillo’s Community Bike Lane / Road Diet Meeting as being “Rigged,” that they were, “Hoodwinked,” and “Bamboozled.”
After a decade-plus of LA City Planning, Los Angeles Department of Transportation, City Council, Neighborhood Councils, and Environmental Impact Report meetings, Gil Cedillo opened this meeting by saying the purpose of the night’s gathering was because the “2010 Bike Plan wasn’t sufficiently debated.” He then handed it off to LADOT Bike Program and LA City Planning to make their presentations on the great benefits of implementing the 2010 Bike Plan on Figueroa, and the lacking benefits of sharrows.
Following LADOT’s presentation, various senior city department employees were called on by Cedillo to give their “Professional Opinions” on how a road diet and bike lanes would affect their road use. (Note: NOT the OFFICIAL Policy from their given departments.) While his statement was hesitant and convoluted, NELAPD Captain Jeff Bert said, “Bike lanes would REDUCE response times.” On the other hand, Cypress Park-based, LAFD #44 Senior Captain, and Cedillo ally, Edmundo Elguea said that in his “Professional Opinion” the bike lanes would “Slow down their response time.” (Contrary to the official opinion of his department.) LADOT Parking Enforcement’s Sgt. Lucero Mesa said, “His bureau was not in favor of it.” (Bet that’s news to LADOT.) A senior officer from LACMTA’s bus operations gave the most neutral of statements, saying Metro would work with whatever was implemented. (It probably helps that he was a County employee and not a City employee.)
Cedillo’s Cheif of Staff, Arturo Chavez then moderated the public comment section by having 19 Supporters, followed by 19 Opponents speak for one minute on the project, no questions, just statements. It was chaos. It was as if a substitute teacher was dropped into a classroom of 350 hostile students hellbent on rebellion. It may not have been the “Consensus Building” event that Cedillo billed it as, but it was certainly entertaining. More details on what was said can be seen here: Fig4ALL flickr.
Following the event, KPFK’s Bike Talk interviewed Gil Cedillo, where he talked about this process being a “Robust debate,” that, “We need to come together and reconcile this.”
That this meeting, “Adds somewhat to where we were. …Important to have a more comprehensive audience. …Compels us more to a point of reconciliation of what I think are shared values.”
Cedillo also gave this gem on whether the Figueroa Bike Lane Project in his district is going to happen:
“My sense is that we have to bring EVERYBODY together and work toward consensus, and that takes time. I’ve worked on projects that have taken 16 years. I don’t know why it delayed, why it faltered… What I’m focusing on now is how we can bring these groups together.”
That’s our Cedillo, a man of action. And all this trouble for a paltry (by Los Angeles standards) 26,000 cars that use Figueroa daily.
The meeting shows that we have made progress. In what may be a first for any community bike lane hearing anywhere, none of the opposition speakers trotted-out the tired rant about bicyclist running stop signs and traffic lights. Another point of victory was the lack of outright anti-bike lane sentiment. Opponents spoke more about motor traffic and less about their hatred of bike lanes and cyclists in general. Many took the NIMBY route, saying they were in favor of bike lanes but just not here. What was especially encouraging were the new faces speaking on the opposition side who weren’t particularly against the project but expressed fear for themselves and their children’s safety. That is exactly what we are fighting for: Safety.
In response to this meeting, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition has called on supporters to engage with Cedillo by calling his City Hall office at (213) 473-7001 and his Highland Park office at (323) 550-1538. Cedillo stated that he is willing to meet with people on this, so let’s meet with him. Let’s “Take-The-Lane” of his Calendar and lobby our cause. Besides, the small staff in his Highland Park office at 5577 North Figueroa are lonely, the public hardly ever visit. Let’s stop in and give them a break from surfing the internet all day. As a bonus, the place is air conditioned, and has some great art from Avenue 50 Studio.
We need to more outreach like the Fig4ALL volunteers that walked Figueroa two weeks ago. Because, after nearly a year in office, Cedillo’s office is obviously not reaching-out to the Figueroa community. Ignorance and complacency is Cedillo’s best asset, while Education and direct action is ours. Because we ALL want to be safe using Figueroa regardless of whether we walk, bike, or drive, and this project is first and foremost designed to accomplish a safer Figueroa for ALL.
Links to more on the May 8th Meeting:
The next Cedillo Figueroa Bike Lane Meeting is scheduled for Thursday, June 12th at 6PM. As of this post, Cedillo’s office is planning to use Monte Vista Elementary located at 5411 Monte Vista Street in Highland Park. Unless they’re planning for the meeting to take place out on the asphalt playground, there’s no way 350 people are going to be accommodated. Expect it to be moved.