Monday, March 22, 2010

L.A. Street Summit, The Time Is Now, Let's Kick Some Ass

Standing Room Only For Keynote Speakers At L.A. Street Summit

The L.A. Street Summit, formally the L.A. Bike Summit, has grown noticeably since last year both in scale and scope. Hundreds of people motivated by a range of interrelated interests, from safer streets for cyclists and pedestrians, to ecological sustainability, and racial and class equity in access to transportation, descended on the campus of Los Angeles Trade Technical College to listen, to exchange ideas, and plan a new path foreword for the Los Angeles region.

Janette Sadik-Khan of the NYCDOT inspired everyone with the highly ambitious and revolutionary transformations she has overseen on streets in New York City. 200 new miles of bike lanes in 3 years time, much of Times Square turned into a pedestrian plaza, pocket parking lots turned into public plazas all over the city, and a 50% reduction in traffic fatalities in many places are results that speak for them self. On the topic of bikes, she said "Biking is not an alternative mode of transportation, it is a fundamental mode of transportation." With political will, change is possible and doable, and it doesn't take much money. As Sadik-Khan pointed out, most of what they have been doing is just using buckets of paint, some brushes and putting in beach chairs and shade umbrellas. Bringing this point home in the closing talk, by urban planning consultant Ryan Snyder, he pointed to the 1 billion dollars we are spending to widen the 405 in L.A. and put in 8 miles of car pool lane. For 1 billion dollars we could create hundreds, perhaps thousands of miles of bike lanes, sharrows, and retrofit sidewalks all over the entire county. Even in this time of a depressed economy, what is lacking is not dollars, what is lacking is the political will.

It is our job to make the case to the public that our ideas are worthy, and in the best interest of our everyone. Livable streets is a human rights issue, it is an environmental issue, and it addresses many of the biggest threats to public safety and health our society faces today. Issues like air pollution, obesity, automobile fatalities, global warming, foreign oil dependence, our quality of life and the bonds of our social connections. It is our role as activists to push until our leaders are either forced to act, or replace them with leaders who will.

I took a lot of notes in the talks and in the 3 workshops I attended. As I sort through the information I'll share my thoughts on what's next, and what we can all be doing, big or small, toward making our ideas realities. For further coverage of the event, I'm sure Damian Newton of L.A. Streets Blog will be hard at work this week compiling the information bomb that was this event.

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