What are we fighting for?

This Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. at Franklin High School in Highland Park Councilman Gil Cedillo will hold a public meeting regarding the LADOT’s proposed road diet and bike lanes on North Figueroa Street. After the meeting, we have been told by Cedillo’s staff in personal communication, the councilman will render his verdict.

Such a strange “process” we’ve been through to get here! The bike lanes and road diet are already legally approved by the full LA City Council, they are already funded through a bicycle program set-aside in Measure R sales tax revenue, and they are already designed by the LADOT – how can Cedillo’s “approval” even matter at this late stage?

We’ll leave that one to the Larry Mantles, Warren Olneys, and Raphael Sonensheins of Los Angeles County to figure out.

In the meantime, what is it that we’re fighting for? What I mean is, what is the LADOT’s proposed road diet going to look like? Is it really that radical of a departure from what we have now on North Figueroa Street?

Take a look for yourself at these volunteer-created renderings of North Figueroa Street:

North Figueroa at Avenue 28 in Cypress Park as the LADOT plans it. Please note: the buffer for the bike lane disappears and a car lane re-appears heading South to allow more cars to access the 110 South and 5 South freeway entrances nearby.

A photoshopped image of the what the LADOT’s proposed buffered bike lanes would look like at Woodside and North Figueroa (running alongside Sycamore Grove Park) heading South towards Downtown LA.

A photoshopped image of what the LADOT’s proposed buffered bike lanes would look like just past Cypress Avenue and North Figueroa (across the street from Nightingale Middle School) heading North towards Highland Park.

Here is one more image, this one is a bonus. This is an image of what Figueroa For All would like to see. That is, not just a buffered bike lane but a protected cycle track (!) with pocket parks, more crosswalks, curb ramps, bus pull-in areas, and some programs in local schools to get more kids walking and biking. We realize you can make a rendering of all that! Anyway, here is something to think about:

North Figueroa at Avenue 28 as Figueroa For All would like to see it: a design for everyone! Safety first! Humans and the best of city life at the heart of the design.

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The Hart D. Fisher show. (Photo via FlyingPigeonLA)

The Hart D. Fisher show. (Photo via FlyingPigeonLA)

As expected, Tuesday evening’s Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council’s Sycamore Grove Local Issues Committee Special Meeting turned out to be a farce in every sense of the word. This special meeting was demanded by the very vocal bike lane Opposition. But as the old adage goes: “Give someone enough rope and they will hang themselves.”

The meeting was hosted by Sycamore Grove Chair, Sergio Vidal-Echeverria and Sycamore Grove representative, Joseph Riser. The two-hour event consisted of quick one minute general comments from local stakeholders (residents, business owners, students, shoppers, vested interests) who spoke in favor or against the LADOT Bike Plan for North Figueroa Street. The comments were vastly in favor of bike lanes on Figueroa for safety, traffic calming, traffic relief, commuting, health, recreation, pleasure, building community, and the children who live here.

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“A cyclist cut me off while driving my car, delaying me five seconds, and although I had a few beers, I was able to text my scorn about it…”

The second portion of the meeting was dedicated to giving Hart D. Fisher 15 minutes to rant against bike lanes. (Yes, the Sycamore Grove Local Issues Committee held this meeting at Fisher’s demand to show a 15 minutes video presentation against bike lanes.) The starved-for-fame, Fisher ironically did not get his entire 15 minutes of fame in this case. A good portion of his allotment was wasted by botching the video presentation. When he did get the video working it was just a re-hashing of the exact same tired and false claims that the opponents said during the comment period. (e.g., “The bike lanes will block emergency vehicles…” “The bike lanes will take away hundreds of parking spaces…”) Veteran ASNC member, Joe Riser mercifully cut Fisher short, explaining that he was misled to believe that this would be an alternative route presentation, not a editorialization of the Opposition’s viewpoint. The always volatile Fisher eventually had to be ejected from the room for violating California Penal Code § 403 (Disrupting a public meeting).

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The lonely 16 opposition voters. (Of particular interest: Lummis House director on the right didn’t vote against bike lanes this time, and poor anti-bike Jack Goldhammer seen in orange, does not seem to know what’s going on.)

After the Opposition’s fail-tastic portion died a quick and painful death, it was time for an actual real-life professional who is paid by us stakeholders to manage theses actual real-life city plans. David Somers from the City of Los Angeles Department of CITY PLANNING was kind enough to attend and answer a few questions. His portion was brief and without any LADOT staff in attendance, he could only speak about the bike plan from his department’s perspective. The most important take-away from Somers is that North Figueroa bike lanes could be installed by August. (That is a slight setback considering previous statements indicated a late June installation.)

At the end of the meeting, the Sycamore Grove Local Issues Committee took a show-of-hands poll that resulted in 41 In Favor of bike lanes on Figueroa, and 16 Against. This vote, the previous Montecito Heights vote, along with the letters, and online ASNC Bike Lane Survey will be presented to the full ASNC Board on June 24th.

The bike lane opposition is dwindling. Only 16 people voted against bike lanes, and this was supposed to be their meeting! At this point, there only seems to be three men dedicated to opposing safer streets and new bike lanes on Figueroa: Tom Topping, Publisher of the Blvd Sentinel, John Nese from Galco’s, and Hart D. Fisher from 911 N Avenue 57. Alternative Bike Plan map maker, Charles Fisher has not even attended the last two meetings. (Hope he is O.K.)

The North Figueroa bike lanes were approved with the city-wide 2010 Bike Plan that our elected City Council voted in favor of. Furthermore, the plan has been signed-off for installation this summer by LADOT General Manager, Jamie de la Vega and City Planning Director, Michael Logrande. These Neighborhood Council meetings are for all intents and purposes, just for the record and have very little bearing on the outcome. If anything, the Opposition has worked to undermine the validity of Neighborhood Empowerment by demanding endless hearings at the neighborhood council’s expense.

Come this August, with all likelihood, there will be buffered bike lanes on North Figueroa Street despite the fear-mongers efforts. It will be wonderful and look nothing like this.

BOOM

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Today it was announced to stakeholders via email from David Somers of the Los Angeles Department of City Planning, that the installation of the bicycle lanes on Colorado Blvd and North Figueroa could begin in early Summer!

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The 50 page Department of City Planning Recommendation Report for Northeast Los Angeles, dated May 24, 2013 is a juicy tome of research and urban planning that focuses on our immediate community. The document covers the Environmental Impact Report, the OFFICIAL Public Hearing held at the LA River Center on February 13, 2013, the responses to each given concern, Traffic and Safety Assessments of the affected streets, Mitigation Measures, data tables, and traffic lane configurations. It is a very thorough document that manages to articulate and examine the plethora of concerns thrown at them by the opposition.

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LADOT Approval from General Manager, Jaime de la Vega.

Today, Los Angeles Department of Transportation General Manager, Jamie de la Vega approved the Los Angeles Department of City Planning’s recommendation. On June 14th, The Determination becomes final.

So what are we getting?

“8.1 miles of new bicycle lanes (including 5.1 miles of a combination of standard and buffered bicycle lanes along N. Figueroa Street from San Fernando Road to Colorado Boulevard and 3 miles of a combination of standard and buffered bicycle lanes along Colorado Boulevard from Glendale City limit (200’ east of Lincoln Avenue) to Avenue 64)”

When are we getting it? As early as next month. (Possibly before District 1 Councilmember, Ed Reyes leaves office on July 1???)

This is victory. This is victory for the women, men and children who want to ride their bikes around their communities of Northeast Los Angeles. This is victory for people of Greater Los Angeles who commute by bicycle and use Colorado Blvd and Figueroa Street nearly every day. A victory for the so-called “Outside Interests” who want to ride to our neighborhoods and see a movie at the Highland Theatre, or buy a coffee at Swork, or a soda pop at Galcos, or a taco at La Estrella. This is a victory for safer streets, where slower speeds will save lives and help prevent collisions between everyone who uses the road. This is a victory for the residents of Figueroa Street north of York Boulevard who will gain parking space, and driveway access with the removal of a southbound lane. This is a victory for Northeast Los Angeles, who all-too-often gets left behind when it comes to infrastructure and services. This time, in this instance, despite those who would have us maintain the status quo and instead implement sub-standard road designs, Northeast LA will be on par with the best neighborhoods of Los Angeles, on par with the cities of Santa Monica, Glendale, South Pasadena, Long Beach, and an ever-growing number of places that understand BIKES BELONG.

UPDATE 5.31.13: Despite all indications otherwise, according to Josef Bray-Ali, who was contacted by LADOT, the bike lanes are not a done deal and yesterday’s notification is merely a formality. Furthermore, public comment is still being accepted. So hold off sending those bouquets of roses to your favorite city officials, and attend the 289th public bike lane forum scheduled for 7PM, Monday at Center For The Arts, Eagle Rock. That said, yesterday’s news is still very good news, and every indication points to the bike lanes becoming a reality, and that reality will not be achieved until the paint hits the ground.