Tag Archives: legislation

what’s in a network?

According to Streetsblog, the LA City Council’s Transportation Committee is planning a bike-themed meeting this coming Friday. Damien Newton writes,

Next Friday, November 21 at 1 P.M., the Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on six different bike themed measures as well as the continuing the shuttle service to Dodger Stadium, and a RAND Corporation report outlining short-term strategies to reduce traffic.

The meeting’s agenda can be found here, via the Streetsblog article here. A follow-up to that article was posted this morning, where Damien notes that one of the items on the agenda is bringing bike sharing to Los Angeles. As he continues:

The largest obstacle?  The city’s disjointed bicycle network.

This simple statement seems to be both a blunt assesment of the city’s failure to bring provide comprehensive infrastructure for cyclists, but also bit of bar raising for the Bike Master Plan currently being developed by the city and Alta Planning.

Again, being new to this whole discussion, I know next to nothing about bicycle sharing. What thoughts I’ve worked through (most recently here) about planning and infrastructure are very much shaped by the routes I ride (mostly east/west from Koreatown to Westwood). But I’m thinking of a comment that DJ Waldie made in passing the other day in conversation with Greg Hise at the LA Public Library (another reaction to that talk here).

Roughly, he said that one of the things that marks Los Angeles politics is our collective fixation on the future. We’re so busy trying to reinvent ourselves that we sometimes neglect the process of living in the present. It was a rather penetrating comment, and so I’m cheered that in addition to discussing the admirable (though perhaps distant) idea of bike sharing, the Council is also taking up the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights and adding sharrows to city streets. Looking to the future, I suppose, while staying firmly fixed (or if you roll that way, fixied) in the present.


riding in the dark

Been a while since last writing, though the riding goes well.

Tonight’s ride wasn’t so much to speak of (down Westwood to Santa Monica, push up through Century City and split lanes through Beverly Hills until Santa Monica South widens into Burton Way; thought about crossing lanes in traffic to catch the left turn onto Sixth, but decided in favor taking the crosswalk and a moment to rest before catching up to traffic at Fairfax; move up to Fourth, split the darkness, roll stop signs east of Western, turn up Kenmore in the suddenly gathered night), but I’d like to pick up on a note or two after last week’s election.

As Gary pointed out, last Tuesday’s election was indeed a victory for transportation, no matter how cynical you are. It was not, unfortunately, an election that delivered everything that one might have hoped for, but I suppose elections never are. All that said, I have been turning over a couple of things in my head.

First is the issue of Measure R. To gloss the issue – imperfectly – the fine citizens of LA County have just voted themselves into a higher sales tax, with the increased revenues slated to be spent by Metro on a variety of transportation projects all across the county. It’s a great idea, but I just have one request: Can whomever is doling out that money or soliciting project ideas think for a moment about bicycle infrastructure from the perspective of the bicyclist? I’m not talking about designated bike lanes on every bike-friendly street; I’m not even saying that we need sharrows on every street (though that would be sweet). I’m thinking really only of the small section of Fourth Street that’s been affectionately named the Bike Boulevard. It’s a great way to sneak home from the Westside: Really light traffic, which leaves ample room to swerve past what would otherwise be maddening pavement, and beautiful scenery to either side. My complaint, I suppose, centers on the intersection of Rossmore and Fourth. There’s a light at Third that holds up traffic, but the light cycles seemed perfectly timed to leave a gap on one side of the street when traffic is coming on the other. As a cyclist trying to cross that north/south traffic, I have one of two options: Wait what seems an interminably long time until I get a break wide enough to roll across (which is what I did tonight); or wait only long enough to see a half-opening before jumping through traffic (which I’ve definitely done). Neither solution seems particularly satisfying, but I have to be clear: The issue isn’t so much the wait. It’s how absolutely invisible I feel to traffic (and on the note of invisibility: Bikes are utterly invisible to sensors at Wilton and Fourth) curving north or speeding south on Rossmore. There’s little to no street lighting – probably a function of neighborhood policies, I suppose – and the intersection is further darkened by a stand of trees about the intersection. Beautiful to look at, but absolute murder to see in. It’s kind of terrifying.

So why not take steps to increase visibility of bicyclists at what is – by most accounts – a fairly popular east/west route for LA riders? I’m not saying put in flood lights or even demanding that flashing lights go off whenever a bike approaches the intersection. It doesn’t even need a stop sign. But there must be some way to both moderate cross traffic speeds and increase the visibility of cyclists. And as planning proceeds and the debates unfold over Measure R, I’d love to see changes in the infrastructure that come out of the experience of riding a bike in this city and not from some idea of what some study said in a different place.

Second, about this whole business of California Propositions. Relic as they are of a particular moment in the Californian democratic (demagogic?) imagination, I have decidedly mixed feelings about the whole institution. That said, I’ve been thinking about ways in which the institution of the Proposition might be turned towards cycling advocacy. Taking a couple of BikinginLA’s recent suggestions as case studies, what would happen if citizen cyclists wrote a proposition that made vehicular assault a criminal violation? Perhaps it might be possible to put drivers at fault for accidents occuring in the bike lane, in the same way that a driver who rear-ends another driver is automatically at fault. Or better yet, rewrite our vehicular code to make cars more responsible for the damage which they can inflict on bikes and pedestrians. Just a thought or two.

More, I hope, soon.

thought to thought

Part of me really wants to believe that cycling this city has a kind of transformative potential, offers the possibility of new ways of being in the city. One of the things I’ve been trying to work through is the relationship between that which we know (broadly conceived here, Los Angeles; even more broadly, the city) and the way in which we come to know it. Part and parcel of the way in which we come to know things is the perspective, the position, from which they are established.

I have a long ramble of a piece over at Tamerlane (the glory of cross-posting! Like cross-pollinating only without all the botany) where I eventually reach this:

If Los Angeles is a city of the automobile, then it has become known to people through the automobile. Cars have become a medium of knowing, a kind of frame through which one looks at the city. What, then, are the implications of knowing the city through other modes of transportation?

When I say “city of the automobile”, I’m suggesting that most people assume that Los Angeles is a city in which one has to drive. That comes about, I think, because most people only drive in Los Angeles, and as a result, the automobile becomes the horizon to their knowledge, the limit of what they know. What I want to hold out is a hope that bicycling Los Angeles, seeing it as a city of the bicycle, might suggest whole new ways of knowing the city.

BikinginLA is continuing his suggestions (number eight!) for ways to improve the cyclist’s lot, and I wonder how many problems stem from the limited ways in which people in positions of power know the city. Bike Girl wanted to show Councilman Tom LaBonge a different way of knowing the city, in the hopes that taking him for a ride along that treacherous stretch of the Cahuenga Pass might convince him that something should be done.

Again, it’s nothing I have final answers for, but I’m holding out the hope that there’s something new in knowing Los Angeles from the saddle of a cycle, some promise in it that’s yet to be realized.

one more thought

Wandering the local interwebs, I came upon another helpful thought over at Ensie. Nate, who I gather is a grad student at Cal Poly Pomona, recently participated in a class discussion about Aseembly Bill 32 (which, prior to this, I knew nothing about). See the Wikipedia entry or the actual text for more info. Nate noted that it seemed kind of difficult to have a discussion about whether the state of California should support the installation of more solar panels: It seems like kind of a no-brainer.

But on further reflection and reading Wendell Berry, Nate writes,

The solar power argued for in AB 32, and the other energy solutions discussed, narrowly define our current crises as energy and pollution woes. Solar power as Berry describes it encompasses a whole humankind shift in how we live. AB 32 does some good in internalizing into our narrowly defined economy (capital and investment money) some of the negative externalities of pollution and oil consumption. But what change in consumer consumption and responsibility for pollution will it actually drive when the green house gas accounting to be conducted by the Western Climate Iniative* begins only at the jurisdictional boundaries of the committed states?

I think what he’s trying to say is that in legislating change, it seems to be equally important how one frames the issue. In construing AB 32 as a narrow response to pollution, Nate – by way of Berry – argues that the larger questions about the sustainability of our consumption of natural resources remain unasked and unaswered. As to how that gets back to this issue of legislation: When we talk about legislation, what is the problem we’re talking about? Is it the present problems faced by people who ride bicycles? Or is it also the problems posed by economic, social, and cultural models that might be ultimately unsustainable?

I didn’t put that all that well, but I hope it comes across. Maybe this way: Is the root of problems between cyclists and drivers the fact that cyclists don’t have enough legal guarantees? In part, that’s probably true. But I wonder about the extent to which cyclists’ problems stem from a larger cultural assumption that bicycling is a juvenile or puerile act and that driving is the only properly mature way to get around. Worth a thought, I think.

some legislative thoughts

It is, after all, that time of year.

A couple of months back, BikinginLA wrote a guest piece on WestsideBIKEside in which he argued that cyclists could actually effect a great deal of change if they voted as an interest group. I was reminded of that piece after reading his recent work on possible ways (especially this and this) to legislate improvements for bicycles. Also speaking about voting, Gary at gary rides bikes put up a thoughtful argument against santa monica’s proposition T.

One of the things I found most interesting about gary’s argument was his mention of the Parking Cash Out Law. As Gary explains it, the law requires empolyers that provide their employees with parking places to compensate them financially if the employee decides not to use his parking place. in Gary’s case, it seems, that adds up to a monthly subsidy of $120 per month. It’s a brilliant idea and a brilliant law (find the state government’s information on it here). Gary’s mention of the Parking Cash Out law also reminded me of the recent tax break written into the $700 billion bailout package passed two weeks ago.

Those two laws, I think, speak to the best possibilities of legislating: By giving people a financial incentive to change their behavior, behaviors actually change. That brings me back to several of the recent changes suggested by BikinginLA. While I’m in complete agreement with them, I think there is more to be said about ways in which you can legislate people out of their car. I don’t mean to make driving illegal. Rather, I’m trying to suggest that there’s an incredible amount of value in laws that give people an added incentive to get on their bikes and stay out of their cars. And to be sure: One doesn’t happen without the other. Everything BikinginLA is suggesting – much of which boils down to an issue of equal access, I think – is important. But beyond that, I think it might also be profitable to think about ways in which subsidizing bike might be an equally important legislative project.

And in the meantime? Alex’s story about the most recent Taco Tuesday is really encouraging. He writes, “Imagine 35 blinking lights coming out of complete darness, along a path that is feared by residents and cyclists alike.  It was a strong visual demonstrating that more use, not less, is the solution to the path’s problem.”

This legislation that has been the recent topic of discussion won’t happen overnight, but between now and when it happens, I think it’s important to take up Alex’s comment and broaden it: All over the city, in spite of the city’s faults and rude drivers and NIMBY Burbank residents (with Will Campbell’s letter in response) and whatever else have you, more use might be the best present solution.