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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Ouch

 

Gil Cedillo and the beleaguered LADOT Bicycle Program he just desimated.

Gil Cedillo and the beleaguered LADOT Bicycle Program Department he just threw under his City allocated Dodge Charger.

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: 

KPFK Bike Talk

Streetsblog Los Angeles

Orange 20

The Eastsider LA

Biking In LA

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.

Streetsblog Fundraiser

Los Angeles Bike Map as created at The Hammer Museum's Bike Night 2013.

Los Angeles map of NELA as created at The Hammer Museum’s Bike Night 2013.

TONIGHT is the annual L.A. Streetsblog Fundraiser at Flying Pigeon LA.

There will be cake, there will be ice-cream, there will be beer, there will be dancing, there will be bikes! (It is a bike shop after-all.) Of special interest to Fig4All is a bike tour that will highlight the history of North Figueroa street as a branch of the Pacific Electric Railroad, Route 66, and its future as part of the City of Los Angeles Bicycle Network.

Friday, June 14 for a ride and after party at 6 pm.

$10 Donation.

Flying Pigeon LA
3404 N. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90065

Moot

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).

20130611-224305.jpg

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.

Yay, Another Meeting

asnc meeting

So, remember last month on May 16th when proponents and opponents of the North Figueroa Street Bike Lanes gathered at the Montecito Heights Senior Citizens Center to hear, question, and give comment on the Bike Lane Presentation for the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council given by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation and the Department of City Planning? Well that was for the ASNC’s Montecito Heights Local Issues Committee, tonight is the meeting for the Sycamore Grove Local Issues Committee; where it will look almost identical to last month’s meeting, except with more emphasis on the Opposition’s “Alternative Bike Plan.”

Bike Lane non-friend, Ann Walnum and the Opposition's "Alternative Figueroa Bike Plan." as drawn on a map from the now defunct, Thomas Brothers Map Co.

Bike Lane non-friend, Ann Walnum and the Opposition’s “Alternative Figueroa Bike Plan.” as drawn on a map from the now defunct, Thomas Brothers Map Co.

This Alternative Bike Plan is probably the most amusing document seen in the Los Angeles bike lane debate. It was designed by Highland Parker, Charles J. Fisher who is a well-regarded historian, (and known for his twice-weekly walks to move the 18 cars he parks on Avenue 57.) Fisher created this Alternative Route that works to maintain the historic marginalization of bicyclists in Los Angeles.

First and foremost: Fisher, nor any of the other leading opponents to bike lanes are engineers or city planners. As to why this document would be considered by any neighborhood council is beyond logic. The map shows his zig-zag route that would take cyclists away from business districts (the opposition thinks people only ride bicycles for recreation, not for shopping or getting anywhere). At one point, his route would force cyclists to ride into oncoming traffic, at another a $350,000 traffic signal would have to be installed. (Remember, this Right-wing-leaning group of opponents are outraged that the cost of re-striping lanes is estimated at $50,000 a mile.) On the map they show schools, the majority of which are not accommodated by this route. Also on the map they identify “Problem Intersections,” the definition of which one can only assume is the one’s where they are forced to yield to other users of the roadway.

The 2010 Los Angeles Bike Plan was crafted by professionals and the public at planning and implementation forums. After hearings by the full City Council it was finally approved years ago. This was totally a public process. Yet, one man draws lines on a map without any expertise or supporting data and is expected to be taken seriously.

Be there tonight to mock this plan, or better yet, speak-out against those who would prefer to keep Figueroa Street an unsafe street where pedestrians and cyclists are at the mercy of drivers who insist on driving as fast as they can without regard to their fellow road user. Be there to remind the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council about Erick Borboa, a pedestrian who was killed by a speeding driver just outside the meeting place in Sycamore Grove Park, exactly six months ago this night.

30 year-old Figueroa Street pedestrian, Erick Borboa, killed on December 12, 2012 by this speeding truck.

30 year-old Figueroa Street pedestrian, Erick Borboa, killed on December 12, 2012 by this speeding truck.

ARROYO SECO NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL (ASNC) SYCAMORE GROVE LOCAL ISSUES COMMITTEE
SPECIAL MEETING
Ramona Hall Community Center
4580 N. Figueroa Street, L.A. 90065
Tuesday June 11, 2013 6-8:15PM
(Metro Gold Line, Southwest Museum Station; Metro Bus Line 81)

BOOM

themap

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!

dcossrrsummary

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.

ladotdeterm

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.

Bike Lanes Are No Problem For LAFD

Cyclists ride by Highland Park's Los Angeles Fire Department No. 12 on Figueroa.

Cyclists ride by Highland Park’s Los Angeles Fire Department No. 12 on Figueroa.

A popular complaint from the Bike Lane Opposition is that First Responders will be hampered by stripes in the roadway used to create bike lanes.  This claim has been championed by Highland Park resident and bike lane opponent, Hart D. Fisher who makes it a point to shout at the Neighborhood Council meetings that, “LAFD No. 12 is opposed to bike lanes on Figueroa Street.”  While such claims always seemed dubious, the Eagle Rock Patch  now confirms that in fact, “The Los Angeles Fire Department has ‘no concerns’ about the transformation of auto traffic lanes to bicycle passageways.”

According to the article, Tim Fremaux, from the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, has been in contact with LAFD’s Captain Luke Milick, who oversees LAFD’s Hydrant and Access Unit. Captain Milick is responsible with making sure that fire apparatuses are not impaired with access on roadways due to construction or obstruction. (E.g., Prohibiting parking of cars on narrow Mount Washington roads during Red Flag Alerts.)  To quote directly from Patch:

“’Captain Milick has no concerns associated with re-striping of roadways to include bike lanes, regardless of whether these projects involve removing traffic lanes,’ Fremaux wrote in his e-mail.”

And why would they be concerned?  The well-trained personnel of the Los Angeles Fire Department know how to navigate across road stripes and around traffic.  If anything, the bike lanes will add more space for First Responders to navigate.  In emergencies, cyclists are especially capable of getting off the street and onto the sidewalk, while drivers can pull over into the bike lanes to free up space for emergency vehicles to use.  The important thing is that we all remember to Pull To The Right.