Showing posts with label Local Politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Local Politics. Show all posts

Friday, October 22, 2010

Gary Rides Bikes Endorsements For Santa Monica City Council

I think bicycling as an issue has been somewhat neglected in years past in Santa Monica. However with the LUCE finally passing, changing trends in transportation, and groups like Spoke making bicycling more present in the public sphere, bicycling is a topic that's become an election issue. The Santa Monica Daily Press got each candidate on the record on bikes, and all felt compelled to at least say something positive for bicycling development.

It's easy to just say something nice for a single question in the paper. This was partly why I decided to send out my own questionnaire to get some more perspective on where the candidates are coming from in regards to bike planning issues. I think it's a postive sign for cycling's growing acceptance as a constituency that everyone has agreed on some level of support, even candidates who otherwise disagreed on many other things. Santa Monica Spoke also hosted a candidate mixer and forum to speak with some of the candidates as well. It was a great way to bring community members and the candidates together to talk about our concerns, and made for a very productive evening.

After some careful consideration I've decided to endorse Kevin McKeown and Ted Winterer for the 4 year seat election, and Terry O'Day in the 2 year seat election. 

Santa Monica Spoke, City Council Mixer & Forum To Discuss Bicycling
(McKeown at Santa Monica Spoke Meet The Candidates Event)
McKeown, as he pointed out in his questionnaire, has been riding a bike for a while, the same bike since the 70's, and has consistently been a supporter for bicycling in his time in office. Though support wasn't always there in the rest of the council. As the Spoke group started to develop, McKeown was always approachable and responsive to our concerns and recently helped work out a compromise in the Agensys developer agreement that included some additional funds being added that will be used for seeding bike projects in the Bergamot district. He also helped get Richard McKinnon appointed to the Parks and Recs commission. McKinnon, who is also on the steering committee of Santa Monica Spoke, has been using his position on the parks commission to advocate for bicycling in every way possible, and has been heading the effort to bring a Ciclovia style event to Santa Monica.


Santa Monica Councilman Terry O'Day Stops By The Park For A Picknick With Family
(Terry At Santa Monica Spoke's Park[ing] Day Event with his mother and daughter)
Terry O'Day comes from a background as an environmentalist (he is currently an executive director of Environment Now), and from conversations I've had with Terry he really seems to get it. He met with Santa Monica Spoke at one of our very early public meetings, gave a great talk at Bikeside Speaks (which he rolled up to on his Specialized bike). He also recently came down to see our Park[ing] Day installation and enjoyed a picnic in our pop up park with his family.

There has been a push by some to say Terry is in the pocket of developers (the group SMCLC sent out an attack e-mail with some misleading accusations about O'Day) because of his opposition to the initiative Measure T. As some readers may recall, I was also strongly opposed to the measure for a few reasons, primarily because of the constraints it would have put on mixed use development, which is exactly the sort of development I think cities ought to be doing to create more vibrant and walkable communities. Terry is a smart guy with innovative ideas, and is passionate about the environment and affordable housing, and I believe deserves our support in the election.

Santa Monica Spoke, City Council Mixer & Forum To Discuss Bicycling
(Ted Winterer on the right, candidate Jon Mann on the left, At Santa Monica Spoke Meet The Candidates Event)

Recently Ted Winterer was notably the strongest supporter on the planning commission for bicycling accommodation in the Agensys redevelopment project. He has also been very supportive and approachable in talking with local bicycling advocates. He was a co-author of Measure T, the contentious measure which as I mentioned, I was opposed to. However he seems open to input and different ideas and has a real community focus. I think he will be a strong advocate for making the plans in LUCE have real teeth and has adamantly said the LUCE "No new net auto trips" goal should be more than a feel good policy statement. We need more political leaders who are willing to take a stand in representing their constituents interests and I think Winterer is someone who will do that.

It was hard to narrow down these picks, as many candidates have expressed support for cycling, and some candidates who I disagreed with on many issues had some great ideas for making Santa Monica more bike friendly. One of the shockers for me was in the Santa Monica Daily Press Squirm Night. After listening to Terry O'Day and Republican Robert Kronovet disagree on nearly everything, when my question about bike safety came up, Kronovet was highly enthusiastic about making safer bike lanes, fully separated ones, and that Pico Blvd should have one (Kronovet is the chairman of the Pico Improvement Organization). Susan Hartley at the candidate mixer pitched a novel idea to turn Broadway into a mini-Ciclovia on weekends to create a dedicated safe route for residents and visitors to bike across town, to reach the Downtown area and Beach.

No matter who is elected, I think we will have some receptive ears to cycling concerns on the council, but it will be important for the cycling community to continue organizing and be involved in the process. Particularly the budgeting process, which Terry O'Day has pointed out starts in January. Councilmen like McKeown have always been a safe vote for bikes on the council, but turn out helps sway on the fence voters, and we won't get majorities sitting on the side lines.

Remember to get out there and bike the vote. It's a big election for California this year, with a lot at stake. I encourage everyone to read up on all the candidates and the ballot measures.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Candidate Questionnaire: Terry O'Day (2 year Santa Monica city council seat)

1) Do you ride a bike, and if so, describe it?

Specialized road bike – it has narrower tires than mountain bikes, but wider than most racing bikes. There’s a detachable kid seat on the back. My next bike would have narrower tires (I thought commuting would require something more rugged, but I think that’s not true in SM), and fewer gears (currently 18), since they seem to provide more maintenance headaches than cycling efficiency. Not to mention I have a grudge with Shimano right now due to their efforts to kill our marine protected areas in California.

2) If you ride, what kinds of trips do you make by bike, how often, and do you ever ride with friends or family? 

I ride less often these days, since my kids are in two different schools. I’m riding 1-2 days per week and I go to school drop-off, my office, and community meetings. When I have to go downtown SM, bike is most preferred because it’s easier for traffic and parking reasons.

3) On the Council, what will you do to ensure the goals set by the LUCE plan for various bicycling improvements, are seen through to completion in a timely and accountable fashion as we move forward. Additionally for incumbents, what are any notable actions you’ve done on the council in the past to improve the environment for bicycling in Santa Monica?

First, we need a bike action plan that shows the practical, immediate steps to quickly improve bikability and safety in SM. Second, we need city staff dedicated to bike issues and meeting with our bike community regularly. Third, we need to shift some resources in our budget that are currently dedicated to street improvements toward bike safety improvements. As a councilmember, I have begun this shift. I am pressing for the first item – the bike action plan. We are implementing the second – staffing at the city. I introduced the motion to dedicate city funds to bike education in our current budget.

4) $20,000 was recently budgeted by the council specifically for bicycling education. How do you think that money would be best spent?

I would like to see the funding spent on a) a conference that attracts some of the best people in the country to share ideas about making SM bike-friendly, b) providing bike education classes for the community, and c) enhancing the highly successful Bike-It Day of our schools and expanding it to become a city-wide event with other agencies and employers.

5) How would you work to improve the safety of our streets for all users?

In addition to the bike education programs mentioned, and increasing the number of bikers on the road (both of which improve safety), in the short term, I want to see us immediately deploy ‘bike boxes’ which indicate to bikes and cars where to stop your bike at intersections. I want to immediately paint lanes on every street that presently has the width to accommodate a lane but no paint yet. Also, hosting a regular Cyclovia to attract attention to bikes. In the medium term, I want to connect our lanes to destinations and neighborhoods in a more rational way. I want to develop a ‘bike boulevard’ demonstration and a ‘Safe Route to School’. When Expo is developed, it needs to accommodate bikes in the first instance.

6) In the interest of improving multi-modal connectivity, would you support upgrading Big Blue Bus racks to ones that can house 3 bikes? As some bus stops in the city are being upgraded, would you ensure bike parking considerations are made at important bus stops in addition to the coming expo-rail station stops?

Yes to all!

7) What will you do to ensure that resources for bicycling are distributed equitably through out the city?

We are currently upgrading our parking meters and installing payment center – removing old meters. We should be converting those old posts to bike parking and massively increase deployment of safe bike parking. (Note from Gary; this is mostly in response to the context I provided in that some parts of the city have no bike parking at all.)

8) What would you do to ensure it be common knowledge that bicycles belong on the street, and that everyone, including drivers, understand the various rights, rules and regulations as they pertain to cycling?

I actually think this is the most difficult area of all the questions you pose because the city has the least amount of influence over behavior of drivers, many of whom live throughout the region. Proper signage, including street paint like sharrows will help. Safety in numbers will help too. By increasing the number of bikes on our streets, we change behavior of drivers. Police enforcement bears mentioning, but would never reach all behavior on the road.


9) How would you propose improving bicycling connectivity to the beach bike path, to promote more synergy with beach riders and local business, as well reduce driving trips to the beach by residents who live close enough to ride there?

SM is in the midst of renovating the pier bridge and the california incline. Those projects may be able to create a better connection over our bluffs in the mid-to-north part of our city. In the South, we simply need better signage and dedicated crossings. These could provide a vibrant connection to Main Street businesses.

Bonus) Finally, you can also include any comment you’d like to say to my readers, on any topic you’d like.

Thanks, Gary, for being such a great activist. I encourage your readers to join the council during its complete budget process, which begins in January with priority setting and concludes in June with an adopted budget. Come tell us to put our money where our mouth is. Thanks!

Candidate Questionnaire: Pam O’Connor (4 year Santa Monica city council seat)

1) Do you ride a bike, and if so, describe it?

Don’t have a bike right now. I had bad knees for the past few years that limited me. Now have new knees, so…(See bonus questions for last time I rode a bike.)

2) If you ride, what kinds of trips do you make by bike, how often, and do you ever ride with friends or family? 
N/A


3) On the Council, what will you do to ensure the goals set by the LUCE plan for various bicycling improvements, are seen through to completion in a timely and accountable fashion as we move forward. Additionally for incumbents, what are any notable actions you’ve done on the council in the past to improve the environment for bicycling in Santa Monica?

LUCE provides the umbrella for developing a multi-modal transportation system. However, a more detailed Bicycle Master Plan needs to be created to lay out specific bicycle network elements. Some streets can become “complete streets” with roadway shared but others may not be easily made safe for bicycle travel because of the intensity of vehicles and parking. But Santa Monica has a strong street grid that will allow for “complete corridors”—i.e. dedicated bike lane on a parallel street (thus the corridor is “complete” with bike route on the safer street). Other residential streets with less traffic would be shared. On the Council and as a Metro Board member and as First VP of SCAG I have promoted multi-modalism (pedestrians, bikes, transit). Coming out of SCAG’s Integrated Planning Task Force (which I chaired) SCAG has just begun a “Wiki for bike and pedestrian planning (http://bikepedwiki.scag.ca.gov/) which is a participatory planning process for bicycle and pedestrian improvements throughout the region.


4) $20,000 was recently budgeted by the council specifically for bicycling education. How do you think that money would be best spent?

As a Councilmember I am a policy-maker, not the project manager…but I expect that city staff would first look at ways to leverage the funds to get the most out of them, look for best practices to implement, and identify other funding sources to enable ongoing bicycle education for everyone (drivers, pedestrians, bike riders, school children, seniors).

5) How would you work to improve the safety of our streets for all users?

See answer to Q3—need to identify appropriate streets for bicycle lanes (and some streets with heavy traffic, future dedicated bus lanes would not be appropriate for the bike lane). And Q4—need for ongoing safety education (there will always be a new rider, a new driver, etc).


6) In the interest of improving multi-modal connectivity, would you support upgrading Big Blue Bus racks to ones that can house 3 bikes? As some bus stops in the city are being upgraded, would you ensure bike parking considerations are made at important bus stops in addition to the coming expo-rail station stops?

Yes to 3-bikes rack and yes to better bike parking. But there is a capacity limit, as there will be with bike parking. I think we also need to investigate bike-sharing programs as another option (i.e., Paris, London, Minneapolis).

7) What will you do to ensure that resources for bicycling are distributed equitably through out the city?

That will be part of the Bicycle Master Planning—identifying all the elements needed for an effective bicycle netsork including bike parking.


8) What would you do to ensure it be common knowledge that bicycles belong on the street, and that everyone, including drivers, understand the various rights, rules and regulations as they pertain to cycling?

See Q4—the education program has to be ongoing (new drivers, new bicyclists). Also traffic enforcement is needed for drivers and bicyclists. In Paris with the introduction of the Velib bike-sharing program there were more bicyclists on the streets and they are allowed to use the dedicated bus lanes. This was only possible with proactive enforcement of traffic rules: drivers and cyclists each had to adhere to rules of the road.

9) How would you propose improving bicycling connectivity to the beach bike path, to promote more synergy with beach riders and local business, as well reduce driving trips to the beach by residents who live close enough to ride there?

Again, that is part of the Santa Monica bicycle Master Plan that must be developed and on a regional level, through planning such as SCAG’s bicycle wiki for planning. At Metro (I am on the Metro Board of Directors and Chair of Metro’s Sustainability Committee) the next “Call for Projects” will encourage funding to those projects that promote bicycle and pedestrian improvements. As the Sustainable Communities Strategy for Los Angeles County (part of SB 375 which requires reduction of GHG from light vehicles) is undertaken at SCAG (I am First Vice-President of SCAG) multi-modal travel support for bicycling will be an important way to improve travel options that reduce GHG thus focusing attention on the investments needed to support safe cycling.


Bonus) Finally, you can also include any comment you’d like to say to my readers, on any topic you’d like.

When my knees were still ok (about 4 years ago) I got to try out the bike sharing program in Lyon, France (which pre-dates Paris’ Velib). It was great!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Candidate Questionnaire: Jerry Rubin (4 year Santa Monica city council seat)

1) Do you ride a bike, and if so, describe it?

Not for quite a while (See final comment section).

2) If you ride, what kinds of trips do you make by bike, how often, and do you ever ride with friends or family?

Sounding good!  Maybe I should look into getting a bike.

3) On the Council, what will you do to ensure the goals set by the LUCE plan for various bicycling improvements, are seen through to completion in a timely and accountable fashion as we move forward. Additionally for incumbents, what are any notable actions you've done on the council in the past to improve the environment for bicycling in Santa Monica?

I am a big supporter of the positive LUCE goals for bike improvements.
4) $20,000 was recently budgeted by the council specifically for bicycling education. How do you think that money would be best spent?

A bicycle riding brochure emphasizing bike safety and etiquette as well as the positive health and environmental benefits.


5) How would you work to improve the safety of our streets for all users?

Education,education,education!  Also, more bike lanes, bike parking and street signs.

6) In the interest of improving multi-modal connectivity, would you support upgrading Big Blue Bus racks to ones that can house 3 bikes? As some bus stops in the city are being upgraded, would you ensure bike parking considerations are made at important bus stops in addition to the coming expo-rail station stops?

Three bike racks sounds positive.  More bike parking availability, including parking lots could be positive.
7) What will you do to ensure that resources for bicycling are distributed equitably through out the city?

[Note from Gary; I included a specific example of bad parking availability and insecure lock up in my context for question which Jerry responds to in parentheses.]

(People who chain their bikes to trees should be aware how easily a thief can just slide the bike over the top of the tree.) Seriously, I would support  a town hall/ neighborhood community group meeting to get input on bike parking expansion opportunities.

8) What would you do to ensure it be common knowledge that bicycles belong on the street, and that everyone, including drivers, understand the various rights, rules and regulations as they pertain to cycling?

All bike education programs should be geared to include all other vehicle drivers as well as pedestrians. Shared responsibility is the key.  But, bike riding on Santa Monica sidewalks is very dangerous and should be reemphasized as to its illegality. Bike riding on the sidewalk certainly goes against Santa Monica's ongoing efforts to promote a pedestrian friendly environment.
9)  How would you propose improving bicycling connectivity to the beach bike path, to promote more synergy with beach riders and local business, as well reduce driving trips to the beach by residents who live close enough to ride there?

More bike friendly signs. More connectivity. More beach bike parking. Valet bike parking is excellent!

Bonus) Finally, you can also include any comment you'd like to say to my readers on any topic you'd like.


I have never had a car in my life. I walk and take our fine Big Blue Bus mostly. But I'm getting interested again in getting a bike just for the exercise and fun of it.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Candidate Questionnaire: Kevin McKeown (4 year Santa Monica city council seat)

(Kevin took some extra time to compile some photos to go with his answers and I have included them with the appropriate questions below.)


1) Do you ride a bike, and if so, describe it?

Yes, a 1977 Miyata Liberty bought new at Helen's Cycles. This was back when the Miyata was made with 1024 high-tensile steel tubing, and while it's not a light bike, you can't argue with 33 years of durability! Here it is about a year old, (picture1) and more recently (picture2) just after I rode it in the Ocean Park Association's Main Street Fourth of July parade.


2) If you ride, what kinds of trips do you make by bike, how often, and do you ever ride with friends or family?

There have been times when I rode daily as basic local transportation. I've also taken my bike on the back of my car on a number of road trips, riding everything from the rim of the Grand Canyon, to the bike path along the edge of Manhattan and across the Brooklyn Bridge. I now sometimes ride with my wife Genise, a less experienced rider who makes me aware of how challenging some of our local streets can be.

3) On the Council, what will you do to ensure the goals set by the LUCE plan for various bicycling improvements, are seen through to completion in a timely and accountable fashion as we move forward. Additionally for incumbents, what are any notable actions you've done on the council in the past to improve the environment for bicycling in Santa Monica?

I'm one vote of seven on the City Council, but I'm always a vote for bicycles. I've insisted on bike lanes when streets were reconfigured. In the new neighborhoods to be created from old industrial areas of Santa Monica, I plan to push for complete separation of cars and bikes, as is commonly done in Europe. I took this photo (picture3) a few years ago in Helsinki. Even where that proves cost-prohibitive, I want clearly painted bike crossings like this one (picture4) I saw last winter in Barcelona.


4) $20,000 was recently budgeted by the council specifically for bicycling education. How do you think that money would be best spent?

On educating motorists as well as bicyclists. The lack of understanding that bicycles have a right to be on the road is appalling.


5) How would you work to improve the safety of our streets for all users?

We need to learn to demand and design complete streets. I've studied how successful cities integrate bicycles with cars (and often light rail or trams as well!). Sometimes this means separation (picture5), but other times all it takes is a cheap coat of paint (picture6) to make it abundantly clear that bicycles have a place on the road, even in areas of demanding traffic maneuvers. At intersections, we need to make our traffic signals aware of bicyclists, or at least install crossing buttons where cyclists can reach them (picture7), like in the Netherlands.


6) In the interest of improving multi-modal connectivity, would you support upgrading Big Blue Bus racks to ones that can house 3 bikes? As some bus stops in the city are being upgraded, would you ensure bike parking considerations are made at important bus stops in addition to the coming expo-rail station stops?

I was the Councilmember who seven years ago successfully pushed for the current 2-bike racks on all Big Blue Buses (picture8). Now that upgrades are available, we should phase them in. I've already been adamant about bicycle access at future Expo stops, including the ability to get bikes onto Expo trains, and have been pushing for more bike parking throughout the city. We're still a ways from the facilities at this shopping center in Copenhagen (picture9), but we should insist on getting there.


7) What will you do to ensure that resources for bicycling are distributed equitably through out the city?

Encourage bicycling throughout the city. We will naturally need to place the resources where the need is greatest, and growing ridership will justify amenities.

8) What would you do to ensure it be common knowledge that bicycles belong on the street, and that everyone, including drivers, understand the various rights, rules and regulations as they pertain to cycling?

I wouldn't mind in the least being as forthright about the matter as the Irish (picture10). We've made a start with sharrows, and I've already suggested painted (not just striped) lanes. The city funding for "bicycle education" has to be used for drivers as well as bicyclists. For our part, we have to stay off the sidewalks. As justifiable as it may seem for safety reasons when confronted with heavy traffic, riding on the sidewalk generates immense ill will towards cyclists, and is, in effect, a capitulation to the
canard that we don't have a right to the streets themselves.


9)  How would you propose improving bicycling connectivity to the beach bike path, to promote more synergy with beach riders and local business, as well reduce driving trips to the beach by residents who live close enough to ride there?

I recently drew this map (picture11) to show city planners how pathetic our current connection from the city proper down to the bike path really is. That convoluted red line is the route I have been following for 34 years. I will insist that the new Pier bridge not only accommodate cyclists, but
encourage them. Likewise, I am working with engineers on the California Incline reconstruction to include safe ways for bicycles to access the spiral-ramped cycle/pedestrian bridge across PCH.



Bonus) Finally, you can also include any comment you'd like to say to my readers on any topic you'd like.

All we have to do is make bicycling attractive enough (picture12), and the world will follow us.


If you agree with what I've done and what I plan to do for bicycling in Santa Monica, please help me get re-elected:

http://www.mckeown.net

Thanks!

Gary Rides Bikes SM Council Candidate Questionnaire

As I mentioned in my post about tonight's informal meet the candidates night with Santa Monica Spoke (hope you can come), I also sent out some questions to the Santa Monica candidates on behalf of you, my blog readers. Each candidate that replies will get their own post with their answers. For some of the questions I also included some context of existing conditions. In the interest of not making each subsequent post in this series incredibly long, I will only include the questions in future posts, and not the full letter and sentences explaining context. So everyone can see the full letter, I have copied it here below.





Dear Candidate For City Council,

I’m writing to you to offer a unique opportunity to dialogue with the growing community of residents and visitors who ride bikes both for transportation and fun in Santa Monica. This same offer is being given to each candidate running for Santa Monica City Council in the November election. Attached are a series of 9 questions (a few are related multi-part questions) on bicycling and transportation related issues. Some are prefaced with some additional context. For any candidate who offers their responses, I will publish their answers unedited on my local cycling blog Gary Rides Bikes, with a separate blog post for each candidate.

For those unfamiliar with my blog, it’s focused on my bicycling adventures, and opinions on bicycling issues. Sometimes also covering the politics of transportation and urban planning, set primarily in Santa Monica, where I both live and work. Bicycling as a mode may represent a minority in transportation trips compared to driving, but it’s a minority that is growing, and becoming increasingly motivated and engaged. They are seeking out sources of information of cycling issues such as my blog, and want to see improvements made to safety in the streets, through education, enforcement & accommodation in infrastructure design. Making the streets safer for cycling, so more people are willing to try, is also imperative if the city is to meet it’s transportation management goals in reducing car trips.

My readership has steadily grown despite few efforts to advertise. Monthly web views are typically over 2,000 separate visits and over 3,000 page views from over 1,500 unique visitors. There are also over 200 readers who use external applications to subscribe to the blog through the RSS feed, and 232 people follow me on twitter as well. The cities with the highest readership are Los Angeles followed by Santa Monica, with Santa Monica readers spending more time reading and clicking through content than visitors from other areas, and are more likely to be return readers. A number of other local blog writers for transportation and cycling issues are regular readers and also frequently link to and reference material from my posts. Gary Rides Bikes is also syndicated on the national Streets Blog Network of select local transportation blogs from regions around the Country.

Based on the answers to the attached questions, past experiences and some research I’ve already done, I also intend to offer a few endorsements. I will promote the endorsed candidates to my readership with links to their campaign websites on the blog and repeated on Twitter leading up to the election. Many local cyclists have a lot of trust for what I have to say, which is why I don’t take making a public endorsement lightly. When I wrote about some of the anti-bike lobbying AAA has been behind, and promoted Better World Club as an alternative, I had many readers write in to tell me they dropped their AAA memberships and changed service to Better World Club almost immediately. I did a lot of homework before making that judgment call, and seeing the answers to these questions will help me make sure I am aiming my cycling readership in the right direction in November.

Thank you for your time,

Gary Kavanagh
Santa Monica Resident of the Pico Neighborhood
garyridesbikes.blogspot.com


So here we go, the questions (Please return your answers to garyridesbikes@gmail.com) :

1)
Do you ride a bike, and if so, describe it?

2)
If you ride, what kinds of trips do you make by bike, how often, and do you ever ride with friends or family?

3)
On the Council, what will you do to ensure the goals set by the LUCE plan for various bicycling improvements, are seen through to completion in a timely and accountable fashion as we move forward. Additionally for incumbents, what are any notable actions you’ve done on the council in the past to improve the environment for bicycling in Santa Monica?

4)
$20,000 was recently budgeted by the council specifically for bicycling education. How do you think that money would be best spent?

5)
Context:
The recent sustainability report card noted that collisions between drivers and cyclists had increased 78% in the past 3 years, while bicycle ridership grew 11% last year. The California Office of Traffic Safety report from 2008 rates Santa Monica as having some of the highest, and in some cases the highest number of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities and injuries in traffic collisions for California cities of comparable size. 711 victims were injured or killed in all traffic collisions in Santa Monica in 2008 (212 of which were cyclist or pedestrian involved). Making traffic collisions clearly one of the biggest threats to public safety.

Question:
How would you work to improve the safety of our streets for all users?

6)
Context:
The Los Angeles MTA has recently discussed the possibility of upgrading bike racks on buses to house 3 bikes instead of 2, as some municipalities have done in places of high bicycle ridership. Bike parking is also in high demand at major transit connections, both for major bus stops as well as rail stations, but facilities are sometimes lacking or insufficient to meet demand.

Question:
In the interest of improving multi-modal connectivity, would you support upgrading Big Blue Bus racks to ones that can house 3 bikes? As some bus stops in the city are being upgraded, would you ensure bike parking considerations are made at important bus stops in addition to the coming expo-rail station stops?

7)
Context:
Speaking of bike parking, attention has been given to installing lots of bike racks in the downtown area, which still can be overwhelmed at peak times. However, in many neighborhoods in the city bike parking accommodation is completely lacking. I’ve documented on my blog people attaching to trees and even shopping carts at the 99 cent store on Pico Blvd, a street that currently has almost no bike parking.

Question:
What will do to ensure that resources for bicycling are distributed equitably through out the city?

8)
Context:
In Santa Monica I encounter less hostility from drivers than most other cities and neighborhoods I’ve spent time cycling in or through in the Los Angeles region. However, even in Santa Monica, cyclists, myself included, have been harassed or intimidated on a semi-frequent basis by drivers who either do not understand, or do not respect bicyclists’ right to ride in the street. Sometimes this harassment takes the form of unprovoked honking, or sometimes shouting from a car window. Or more dangerously, drivers sometimes make aggressive maneuvers with their vehicle toward a cyclist. This intimidation to get off the street results in high rates of bicycle ridership on sidewalks, even though sidewalk riding is illegal in Santa Monica, and puts cyclists into frequent conflict with pedestrians. This puts cyclists in the position of being despised by both some drivers as well as walkers.

Question:
What would you do to ensure it be common knowledge that bicycles belong on the street, and that everyone, including drivers, understand the various rights, rules and regulations as they pertain to cycling?

9)
Context:
The beach bike path through Santa Monica is a crown jewel in the network of bicycling facilities in the Southern California region, and attracts riders both locally as well as from far and wide. However there presently are few direct connections from the street grid to the bike path, and many of them are not especially bicycle friendly, and there is no way-finding signage directing cyclists how best to connect to the beach path. This disconnect is reflected in Google’s “Bike There” mapping feature which often skips the bike path to recommend PCH as a bicycling route because of the lack of bike route and street grid connections to the bike path.

Question:
How would you propose improving bicycling connectivity to the beach bike path, to promote more synergy with beach riders and local business, as well reduce driving trips to the beach by residents who live close enough to ride there?

Bonus)
Finally, you can also include any comment you’d like to say to my readers, on any topic you’d like.

Thanks again for your time.



Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bike The Vote 2010 & SM Spoke Hosting Informal Public Social Meeting With The Candidates

The election is coming up fast (be sure to register if you aren't already!), and Monday was the Santa Monica Daily Press's Squirm Night, where some tough questions were presented to the local candidates, making for some occasionally awkward and revealing moments. Local politics can actually be pretty entertaining with the right questions. I encourage everyone to get informed and involved. National and State level elections often command the biggest attention, but it's at the local level that policy and candidates often have the most direct impact on your daily life. For bicyclists, local politics are huge in shaping the quality of our riding experience as we navigate all the local streets.

If you want to hear more about the candidates, as well as local measures, Santa Monica actually has a great website, smvote.org, with short videos with candidate's views on some various topics of local concern, and a calender of some of the upcoming election related events along with links to various voter resources. The Santa Monica Daily Press also has answers to a questionnaire for each candidate. A question on making Santa Monica more bike friendly is in there as well, so each candidate is on the record in some form on bikes. Due to the lack of specifics a single question can get into, I also sent a letter with questions to each candidate of my own, and any candidates who return answers will have them posted to this blog.

Finally, Santa Monica Spoke managed to squeeze in an election event amidst all the others going on, for this Thursday Night. It will be an informal gathering with a chance to meet some of the candidates as well as mingle with other area cyclists and advocates. It's a unique opportunity to talk face to face with council candidates, and some incumbents seeking re-election, and share your concerns,  I'll be there as well, and I hope you can make it out. There will be some snacks and drinks and such as well. Be heard, this will be a chance where you aren't constrained to a 2 minute comment.

Newsletter Blast From SM Spoke Below (Which you can subscribe to here by the way):


is hosting an informal
Meet the Candidates,
Social Mixer

Thursday October 7,  6.30pm 8:45pm*
Informal Meet and Greet and Social Mixer with Santa Monica City Council
We want your comments and ideas... Lets TALK BIKES!
Converse with the candidates, hear their thoughts on Santa Monica
It's a no speeches, up close talk with City Council Candidates about Bikes and Santa Monica.


Current list of Attendees: 
Kevin McKeown,
Terry O’Day, Bob Holbrook
Jon MannDavid GanezerSusan HartleyJerry Rubin
Regrets:
Pam O’Connor (out of town)
Gleam Davis (back to school night)
Robert Kronovert (out of town)
Location, Date & Time: 
Thursday, October 7th from 6:30 to 8:45pm
502 Colorado, (south east corner 5th and Colorado)
click here to RSVP
 
*Snacks and refreshments will be served
Plenty of secure bike parking in the enclosed Patio. 

And please, make sure all our friends in the community know about this and are coming
Look for Updates on this event at:
SMSpoke.org

Monday, September 28, 2009

Illegal To Ride, Santa Monica Outlaws Riding Unlicensed Bicycles.

Santa Monica Critical Mass December
(A teenage girl receives a ticket in Santa Monica for not coming to a full and complete stop at a stop sign and a warning for riding without a helmet as a minor.)

Some readers may recall there was a debate between cyclists and the City of Los Angeles over the use of a local municipal code on bicycle licensing, primarily a program started long ago for theft deterrence and returning stolen bikes, instead being used as a way for the LAPD to harass cyclists and write citations. After pressure from the cycling community at a series of city council meetings and the one L.A. police station with bike licenses being overwhelmed for license requests they were not prepared to fulfill, a moratorium was put in place to prevent any further issuing of tickets under the law.This summer, the law was taken off the books in Los Angeles.

I have not heard of a specific ticketing incident for riding without a bicycle license in Santa Monica, but I started to research things a little. My interest got peaked when I was walking by a police office in downtown Santa Monica and a flier was posted in the window concerning bicycle licensing. This immediately raised a red flag to me considering the drama that played out over bicycle licensing in Los Angeles. So I started to look it up in the Santa Monica municipal code, a bookmark I keep handy next to the California Vehicle Code.

Santa Monica does have a bicycle licensing law on the books that includes some disturbing details that would seem to be in conflict with the California laws that govern the implementation of local bicycle licensing. I think it is also worth pointing out here that the C.V.C. grants city or county governments the right to establish bicycle licensing, and gives guidelines and certain restrictions for such systems. The C.V.C. does not require bicycle licenses state wide, and does not impose any restrictions of it's own upon bicycle riding without a license unless required by a local government. This is in sharp contrast with the bicycle license page of the Santa Monica government web site (buried under finance) which reads "The State of California requires a bicycle license for any bicycle used on any street." I cannot find anything in the list of laws in the C.V.C. concerning bicycles to back up such a claim. Thus it would appear the Santa Monica government website is lying. To me this suggests the Santa Monica government is passing the buck by implying it is the State that makes this a requirement when in fact it is the city's fault you are required to have a license. The State allows cities to do this, but it does not require that they do.

So what are those disturbing details in the Santa Monica municipal code on Bicycle licensing? How about for starters this statement, "shall be punishable by a fine not exceeding two hundred fifty dollars". Wait a minute, in the California Vehicle code it specifically states in C.V.C. Division 16.7 - Registration and Licensing of Bicycles, Section 39011; "No fine imposed for any violation of an ordinance or resolution, which is adopted pursuant to this division, shall exceed ten dollars ($10)". So the state of California says fines for not having a bicycle license in a municipality that require them should not exceed $10, but Santa Monica thinks up to $250 is a suitable amount. I'm not a legal expert, but something seems fishy here.

And it only gets worse from here. The Santa Monica law goes on to say the infraction may also be made a "misdemeanor, which shall be punishable by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars per violation". So a fine of $10 for not having an official sticker on your bike that costs $3 has ballooned to something that could potentially cost you $1000 and show up on your criminal record in Santa Monica. But that's not all folks, you could also get "imprisonment in the County Jail for a period not exceeding six months, or by both such fine and imprisonment."

Now we have truly stepped into the world of the absurd. The bicycle licensing law is barely known to anyone, and I'm sure very few of the thousands of cyclists who pour through the town both from within and from popular cycling neighboring areas such as Venice Beach have ever heard of it. Yet nearly all of them, myself included, are law breakers within Santa Monica city limits for not having an official sticker. All those happy people riding home from the Farmers Market with baskets full of fresh vegetables, a bunch of outlaws. Chances are you, my readership, concentrated most heavily in Santa Monica and neighboring areas, are at risk for police harassment at anytime in Santa Monica borders for simply riding a bicycle without a special sticker on it.

Santa Monica Critical Mass December
(Santa Claus receives a ticket for riding too far to left on the roadway. Ticket thrown out in court after a written declaration defense.)

The reality of being detained for lack of a bicycle license is probably very slim. However if an officer doesn't like you for any other reason, maybe you look homeless, maybe an officer thinks you look like an anarchist, maybe he just plain doesn't like you dressing like Santa Claus, the officer could use a bicycling licensing violation as a pretense to detain you in the absence of any legitimate traffic violations. Thus Santa Monica, voted a Bronze "Bicycle Friendly" city by the League of American Cyclists, empowers it's police force with the ability to harass almost any cyclist on the road by making nearly every cyclist in it's borders a criminal.

Bicycle licensing as it currently exists, where it exists, is like a license plate, not a driver license, and has nothing to do with educational requirements or operation of a bicycle. It is simply a means to identify ownership. It is a legal requirement, however there is almost no attempt at communicating this requirement. You don't hear about it at bike shops, you don't hear about it at city events, and you typically won't hear about it existing at all unless you know where to dig as I just started doing.

What is also odd here, is that while punishment is clearly spelled out and quite severe for not having a bicycle license sticker, not having a license plate on a car is treated as a parking ticket if you are away from the vehicle, and a fix it ticket if you are present. This is what I gathered from reading accounts of license plate violations and every article I could find on the topic. I had trouble tracking down specific official information for fines and punishment but I'm guessing a misdemeanor and 6 months jail time are not potential punishments for the lack of of license plate, and yet it is for a bicycle sticker in Santa Monica. According to an LAPD police woman asked about tickets for lack of a license plate on a car it is a $25 fine as a parking ticket and can cost about $100 as a fix it ticket. This is of course backwards considering an automobile license plate is essential in tracking down potentially fatal hit and run drivers, while incidents of bicycles severely injuring or killing others is incredibly rare. Not that a bicycle license could serve much purpose in identification in a hit and run as they are too small to read without close inspection.

There is no useful purpose for bicycle registration apart from a means for the police to return stolen bicycles, a goal somewhat suspect since thieves routinely remove all stickers and may even grind down serial numbers on bicycles. If the fee were raised it could perhaps become a revenue stream for bicycle improvements, but a high fee would discourage ridership, which is already much slimmer than it should be and most progressive city planners recognize the benefits of increased bicycle ridership in lowering congestion and parking demands. Also if the fee were more significant it would become quite taxing for those of us who own multiple bikes (I have 5 bikes at present), which is easier to do than owning multiple cars, especially if you are aren't paying into car ownership. So if the only useful thing about our bicycle license legislation is to return stolen bicycles, which it mostly fails to do and private companies can do better, why is it written to be so punitive to cyclists and a mandatory requirement to ride? It makes no sense any way I look at it, and even if it were effective at returning bicycles it should be a voluntary program.

Considering that the City of Los Angeles tossed it's bicycle license requirement legislation after its ridicules nature was exposed in public forum, this puts Santa Monica as the odd one out in this regard. Santa Monica is relatively small independent municipality surrounded by the City of Los Angeles, and it makes no sense for Santa Monica to be so radically different in this regard. Especially since Santa Monica makes it a point of pride of being bicycle friendly. Empowering the S.M.P.D. with the means to harass almost any cyclist traveling in it's borders with the threat of severe fines or even jail time does not sound very bicycle friendly to me.

This law should be removed from the books, and I intend to contact the City Council on this issue. If it becomes necessary perhaps we can start a petition and gather a presence at a future Council meeting to bring this absurd legislation to light. The success of revoking the bicycle licensing program in L.A. sets a great precedent for scraping it in Santa Monica. My hunch is this law, started in the 70's and last updated in 1995, is probably completely off the radar of most city officials. Antiquated laws sitting around on the books are nothing new, for example Santa Monica's legislation concerning safe operating speeds for mounted horses and other animals. However horseback riding in Santa Monica is something I have never seen, while bicycle travel is thriving component of transportation here. As such, the laws concerning bicycle travel should be up to date, fair, and reasonable. The fact that thousands of people are regularly in violation of the law simply by riding a bicycle in Santa Monica without an official sticker is not an acceptable situation.


Update:
Alex Thompson has added his 2 cents to the matter, and also uncovered an additional C.V.C. that specifies that local bicycle licensing requirements to ride are to apply to residents, however the Santa Monica law is written to apply to everyone. Also handy he includes the appropriate city e-mail addresses if you want to let the city know how you feel about this law.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ride To Santa Monica's Bronze Awarding For "Bicycle Friendliness", This Friday

Faded Bike Lane Text

As I've already made pretty clear in my posts since the announcement that Santa Monica had earned a bronze award from the League of American Bicyclists, I do not believe the city deserves the distinction. However, since it is getting this shiny prize, I would like to be in attendance. If for no other reason, the off chance of getting to talk to city officials about cycling outside the confines of a 2 minute monologue. Or at the very least a chance to rant with other like minded bicycle activist types while politicians pontificate about how awesome they are.

The ride to this little ceremony at City Hall is being put on by the LACBC as part of their Car Free Fridays, and Santa Monica Spoke, a group that has been brewing over the past couple weeks with the intent of becoming a local chapter of the LACBC. Although my general busyness with my real job and being sick lately has gotten in the way of being more directly involved so far, I'm in this new group and will be following it's development. Some cross posting between here and the Santa Monica Spoke blog is likely in the near future.

The ride meets tomorrow, Friday morning, at 8:00am on Pearl St. by the Santa Monica Community College library, across from Sustainable Works, and leaves at 8:10am. Apparently it's leaving at 8:10 sharp, so don't presume this is rolling on bike time. Hope to see you there, and maybe with some nudging and pressure from us in the months and years ahead, Santa Monica may one day actually be worthy of recognition for it's commitment to cycling.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Santa Monica, Home Of Beach Day Traffic Disasters And Near Death Experiences Riding To The Video Store.

Pier Pigeons
(Typical traffic conditions at Downtown Santa Monica intersections)

Meghan and I decided to ride our tandem over to the local video store extraordinaire, Vidiots, to pick up a couple movies for a double feature. Vidiots by the way has a pending issue with the city over their famous window paintings that change seasonally and are full of movie references. They violate some obscure window painting signage law on the books about percentage of window space that is painted, though they have been a landmark here for over a decade. Typical bureaucratic morasses, but if you would like to voice your ire over this, they have a petition in the store.

We decided to take Broadway to Ocean to Pico to be in bike lanes and bus lanes for the majority of the ride. This should have been a relatively uneventful trip, but on a popular beach day sort of weekend, which will increasingly become almost every weekend, it can become a minefield of close encounters of the automobile kind. The better the weather for cycling, the worse the drivers, which makes cycling much more stressful precisely when it should be more pleasant. Ironically if more people rode bikes to the beach and downtown Santa Monica, than we wouldn't have so much traffic, but since so many do drive, and drive like such god damned maniacs, it discourages cycling. It doesn't help that the all the bike lanes dead end as soon as you hit downtown. There are the bus lanes which cyclists are allowed to ride in, but anyone who has seen a busy day in downtown Santa Monica knows that bus lanes are really right turn lanes for motorists and through way lanes for swerving taxis and clueless tourists.

It is not uncommon on busy days Downtown for intersection rules to become optional, and rights of way to become fuzzy guidelines. Motorists stranded in the intersection blocking oncoming traffic and trying to nudge their way through stuffed pedestrian crossings is a common sight. As we approached Ocean, a city worker in a City Of Santa Monica stamped pick up truck decided he was above the rules of the road and skipped out of the backed up Eastbound traffic on Broadway and crossed the double yellow lines to drive the wrong way, barreling right toward us as we moved into the left lane for our turn. We shouted at the driver as I steered us a safe distance away, and he scowled at us and seemed aghast that we dare question his "right" to drive on the wrong side of the road for a short cut. The City of Santa Monica, always setting the example for traffic carnage.

We finally get to Vidiots after some sketchy conditions on Ocean as drivers cut us off to make right turns without signaling and some temporarily parked vehicles in the bike lane. After we picked up our movies we used the nearby pedestrian crossing to get to the other side of Pico, walking the tandem, as this is the easiest way to get going back the other way. Meghan hit the flashing pedestrian button as an extra precaution. As an extra extra precaution when I walk a bike through a crossing I always put the bike on the side facing oncoming traffic as an extra shield. In the case of our monstrous steel tank of a tandem, I couldn't think of a better shield.

Well sure enough some ass hole on a cell phone comes barreling down Pico and slams the brakes just short of a foot from the bike I was about to throw into his car if he went an inch closer. Just as the first driver came to a stop an irate women behind him drove swerving around him, again using the wrong way traffic lane as a shortcut, only to realize she had to stop too because we were trying to use the damn crosswalk. This of course left her stopped on the wrong side of the road. Meghan had already started yelling at the first driver, who sheepishly tried to hide his cell phone when he realized he had been caught red handed. At the end of my fuse for the day I flipped off both of the drivers and was just short of pulling my u-lock. We often talk of cycling rights, but pedestrian rights are just as important and just as violated. Meghan was really jittery, worrying that I could have been hit.

We took Main St. cutting across using the new bike lane by City Hall to skip the carnage on Ocean on our way back to Broadway. The ride back was less eventful, but we were both quite on edge, and quite frankly pissed off at the total disregard for human life that was far too frequent for a simple ride to the video store. A stop at the Co-Op for some snacks calmed our nerves, and we decided to walk the bike home from there instead of ride. Santa Monica does not deserve the Bronze award from the League Of American Bicyclists, and the LAB has lost a lot of creditability in my eyes for how casually they pass these awards around. If they spent some time riding these streets instead of reading what looks nice on paper, they would realize what a farce it is to be awarding Santa Monica.

Santa Monica at this point may be doing a better job than most places in Los Angeles, but Los Angeles is absolutely terrible, so that's not a real basis for comparison. Right now in Santa Monica there is a half-assed commitment to support cycling, until the whole ass is committed, no more shiny awards. Until the city devotes half as many resources as it does to harassing critical mass as it does to ticketing maniac drivers who routinely endanger the lives of cyclists and pedestrians, not to mention other drivers, no more shiny awards. Until an experienced road bike racer with impeccable bike handling skills can feel safe riding in the city, let alone a normal person, no more shinny awards. Until city employees respect the rules of the road, instead of driving like they are the sole owners of the pavement, no more shinny awards.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Class III Bike Routes, A Perfect Example Of Government Patting It Self On The Back For Acomplishing Nothing


Routing is everything when it comes to having a good bike ride, whether that be for leisure, to test the limits of your body, or just trying to get to work in one piece. However, when you start looking for routing information for cycling in L.A., you run into this idea of bicycle route classification. Class I bike routes are things like the Beach Path, or Ballona Creek, completely segregated from automobile use. Class II routes are roads which feature bike lanes (although unfortunately almost always in the door zone). Class III routes are where things get really gray and mushy despite their inviting green color on the Metro and Santa Monica bike maps.

Class III bicycle routes are essentially a road which meets one or more of a few conditions, and has periodically a posted "Share The Road" sign. Usually these routes are through way roads that cut through low traffic residential areas. A road like that makes sense to ride on, a more chill low key pace (usually), and traffic should be light enough drivers can go around safely even if the road is fairly narrow. One such road I ride frequently is 17th north of Wilshire, where it goes from being a class II route with a bike lane to a class III bike route with no bike lane, but though mild paced residential. However, some major boulevards get the distinction of being a bicycle route if they feature lanes which are wide and or a wide shoulder, and of course the little "Share The Road" signs no one notices. The problem here is that several of these major boulevards which are Class III bike routes, are some of the worst roads to ride a bicycle on in all of Los Angeles.

A street with which I have an unfortunately long history of riding, due to it's proximity to where I went to College, is Lincoln Boulevard, a class III bike route. Talk to anyone about riding a bike on Lincoln, and you won't find a single one who enjoys the experience. The drivers are aggro, the wide lanes which in theory make sharing space easier, entice drivers to speed, making close calls a lot more scary, the shoulders are tore the F up, and there are frequent buses. When traffic is backed up, as it often is, the lanes are wide enough to split lanes easily, but you constantly have to watch for unsignaled lane changes and people scooting up along the shoulder to cut around when parked cars are not present. As of this writing, one particular pot hole on the northbound right lane in Marina Del Rey is so wide it takes up more then half the right lane, and is certainly deep enough to wreck some carnage on road bike tires. Sprinkle some broken glass and miscellaneous garbage that settles in the cracked surfaces for good measure.

That is Lincoln Blvd. in a nutshell, I could go on, but you get the idea, and if you've spent much time riding lengths of it you know what I am talking about. One of the problems with accepting this is that are some class III routes which are pleasant to ride, but they all get that same seemingly friendly green line on the bike map as a monstrosity like Lincoln. When the standards for what a class III bike route is varies from chill ride to death traps of every hazard imaginable, the standard is rendered meaningless. A map of bike routes in a city should be something anyone can pick up, from the experienced local, to the clueless tourist, and figure out a decent way to get around.

Another problem with accepting the status of Class III bike routes as they are now, is that it gives city government a number they can point to and ensure everyone, yup they are doing a good job. The city can say we have X number of bike routes and Y numbers bike route miles, and smile and make everything sound swell. The truth is these numbers are padded beyond belief with junk miles, of roads no cyclist would choose to ride unless there were no alternative, or they are hardened by years of road riding and used to abusive conditions. Lincoln Boulevard, Sepulveda, and Olympic, are all epic long roads which are class III bike routes for much of their length, and they all suck terribly for bike riding.

The City of Santa Monica was recently awarded a bronze rating for bicycle friendliness by the League of American Bicyclists. While I view Santa Monica as more cycling friendly then just about any other city in LA county, when you look at it from a national level, and especially international level, Santa Monica is hardly up to snuff despite it's "green" image. I give Santa Monica a copper rating for bicycle friendlessness, and the City of L.A. an unrefined piece of rock rating. So how does the League Of American Bicyclists come up with their ratings? Well one of the significant factors is mileage of bicycle routes, and guess what, Lincoln Blvd., which cuts through Santa Monica, pads this number. Lincoln Blvd. should not be allowed to count toward the friendliness of anything, let alone "bicycle friendliness" until such time that it goes through a complete overhaul of road engineering and urban planning.

So maybe before anyone gets too excited by this bronze award, and all the supposed routes for cycling in Santa Monica and LA County, we should take a step back and realize that some bike routes as they exist today are less than worthless when it comes to accommodating cycling. This loose idea of what a cycling route is, also detracts from the bike routes which actually are pleasant to ride, because one cannot always trust the lines on the map. Perhaps if city officials actually rode bikes along some of these streets they might have thought twice about drawing so many green lines.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hummer Incident Update; Council Meeting

I was unable to make it to the L.A. City Council meeting where cyclists brought up their concerns on the renegade hummer incident, but many did, and made their voices and our interests heard. My thanks to all those who could make it out there, if we keep being a thorn in the side of the city, they are going to learn they can't get away with ignoring us. For complete coverage, check out Streetsblog L.A., the go to source for alternative transportation reporting in Los Angeles.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What's Cooking In Long Beach

I came out to the Long Beach Bicycle Festival on April 4th, primarily to watch some criterium bike racing in a proper urban setting. Crits are usually relegated to out of the way industrial centers where not a soul moves on the weekend, and thus cheap permits for race organizers. I would have liked to join in the racing, but they did not have a race for entry level riders. So Meghan and I feeling in a transity mood, took the BBB 3 to the Green Line and finally the Blue Line to downtown Long Beach and walked to the race. It was also of interest to me to see how this event was to dove tail with the efforts to foster better cycling conditions in the LBC.

What made this a lot more notable than most races and bike events I've been to was the scale and scope that went beyond just racing. There were tons of people out to watch, many probably never having been to a bike race, and folks enjoying the food and booths setup along the Promenade. Bike advocates were advocating, my friends from Team Midnight Ridazz who are doing AIDS LifeCycle again were out fundraising. I picked up one of their t-shirts. Similarly to the Brentwood Grand Prix I raced in last year they featured in the middle of all the other races, a few kiddie races. Watching a mixed field of little kids, some of whom are out for blood, others out for a stroll, and on every sort of not made for racing bike, is quite entertaining.

Long Beach Grand Prix, Little Kids Race, To The Starting Line

Watching the Long Beach police and fire department only race was fun, but also rather sad. A core group of riders from the police force and fire department formed a peloton and basically left everyone else in the dust to be lapped multiple times. We took this opportunity to get some lunch at the wonderful little vegan cafe Zephyr, before the main event, the Mens Pro 1/2 race.

Men's Pro 1-2

Watching the pros and semi pro riders race was a whole different animal. They flew through turns and sprinted out of them like a whip. In the straights their tops speeds could be felt as the rush of displaced air fanned out at the crowd like a wave. In addition to break neck speeds, it takes endurance as the pro 1/2 race was the longest duration at 80 minutes. In the final third or so of the race, a 9 man break away formed that grew a respectable gap, and maintained it lap after lap to the finish line through focused paceline formation riding. In the end the break away had to break up to see who would take it, and John Murphy of Team OUCH, took the win with an impressive display of raw power.

The evening wasn't over yet, with a bicycle fashion show following the pro race, and most hilariously City Council tricycle racing following the fashion show. As live music play outside, in the adjacent bar the night's events were closed with Gold Sprints, the experience of which I wrote about earlier. The whole day was quite a lot of action, and I tip my cycling cap to the City of Long Beach for putting on such a top notch event for cycling, which included even more fun the previous night which I did not see. Also of note was a chance to hang out with The Epicurean Cyclist in his homeland and finally meet the woman who appears in all of his touring photos.

Long Beach Bicycle Festival Fashion Show
Long Beach Bicycle Festival Fashion Show Long Beach Bicycle Festival Fashion Show
Long Beach City Council Tricycle Racing

Long Beach has been embarking on some ambitious, by L.A. County standards, plans to improve cycling conditions and grow ridership. This includes bicycle boulevards, bike lanes, bike parking, and other improvements. I think Long Beach is a place to watch, and may very well out do Santa Monica in bicycle friendless in the near future, considering the lag induced coma that has been trying to get the LUCE process rolling. This event if nothing else proves Long Beach is putting cycling in the spotlight.



Complete Photo Set On Flickr

Friday, April 10, 2009

Putting Villaraigosa In The Cross Hairs

I was expecting maybe some people to start believing my April Fools post with the Los Angeles Mayor praising bikes as transportation, but I was thinking by the end people would realize it was almost too good to be true. Also my linked sources led to photographs of fantasy figures like unicorns and leprechauns for those who check up on those things. A few more people than I was expecting completely fell for it, but I attribute that as much to idealism, something we all need more of, than just being gullible.

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

There is a very good reason I targeted Villaraigosa with the post. He is at the top of the food chain in Los Angeles, and as such has the most influence to actually get things done and change priorities in the various departments and agencies that effect transportation planning. He's even had the ear of Obama on a few occasions. At the L.A. Bike Summit we had four amazing visiting keynote speakers from 3 different cities talk about progress they have made in advocating for cycling, and the challenges they still face. Dhyana Quintanar & Bernardo Baranda of Mexico City, Noah Budnick of New York City, and Eleanor Blue of Portland. All 3 of these cities have ambitious plans to improve conditions and ridership numbers for cycling, and all 3 of these cities have a Mayor that is on board and working with cyclists to make these cities better places to ride.

We can and should continue to make our voices heard with the LADOT, Metro, the City Council Transportation Committee and others, but until we have the ear of the Mayor, we will be getting the scraps under the table if that. Despite a direly lacking implementation of L.A.'s previous bicycle master plan, and the ongoing delay to craft a new one, according to Villaraigosa, "Los Angeles is on track to become the cleanest and greenest big city in America." Other mega cities like Chicago and New York have been stepping up commitments to improve conditions for cycling and growing ridership, where is the commitment from Los Angeles? We must demand that any government which claims it self green show support for cycling as an important component in a sustainable, successful and diverse transportation system. Adding another lane to the 405 and re-timing some lights on Pico and Olympic are nothing more than shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic.

I wrote the fantasy post not to suggest it could never happen, but to make it feel real that it could. We have been making headway with City Council members, and it does seem cyclists are getting more noticed, particularly after the summer gas crunch. If you want the support of the Los Angeles leadership for cycling to become a reality, I highly encourage joining meetings, public events, and letter writing campaigns when ever you have the time to pitch in. Politicians listen to numbers, and since the LADOT does not count us in traffic studies (it's about moving cars, not moving people to them), we need to make our selves heard by every means possible.

If you become a member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, which helps fund full time advocates who crunch through the political process, or if you just sign up for their newsletter, you will get periodic e-mails with events and action alerts. Sometimes I pass action alerts on through my blog, but sometimes I don't have a chance to and they are sometimes on short notice. Membership doesn't cost much and is good for a 10% discount at some LA bike shops, but if you are short enough on cash you are worried about how you'll pay for the next inner-tube after it's been patched too many times, than at least sign up for the newsletter if you would like to get more involved.