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Mayor’s Bike Summit – a bit of hope, a bit of frustration

Full room during the bike Summit. Photo by Enci

LA’s Mayor and highest ranking cyclist, Antonio Villaraigosa, hosted LA’s city sponsored Bike Summit in the Metro’s Board Room, drawing an expectant crowd of about 300 cyclists, all eager to hear of the Mayor’s new-found sensitivity to cyclists on the streets.

Just one month ago, Villaraigosa was riding a bike in the Venice Boulevard bike lane when a taxi cab pulled out of a parking space, causing the Mayor to fall, breaking an elbow, and developing a serious fixation on safety for cyclists on the streets of Los Angeles.

This was quite a change for a guy who made it through his first term without uttering the word “bicycle” let alone doing anything to support any form of active transportation.

We’d almost given up on him, having waited five years for any sign that he would actually acknowledge and support cycling as a transportation solution. Stephen and I rode to his first inaugural speech and stood in the streets, full of hope, as he assured us that he was going to make LA the Greenest Big City. We were even more hopeful when he chose our neighborhood council as the first place to visit as the Mayor of LA. It was a beautiful day, Time Magazine had just written about him and people excited about the future of LA.

Stephen took the mike during public comment at the Hollywood United NC meeting and asked Mayor Villaraigosa what he will do for cyclists in LA. The Mayor changed the subject and started to talk about something else. Stephen repeated the question but never got an answer, let alone was he able to get the Mayor to say the word “cyclist” or “bike” or “bicycle.”

But that was then and this is now.

Mayor's Bike Summit - long line of cyclists. Photo by Enci

The Mayor’s Bike Summit gave us great hope that things were changing. I arrived on time for a meeting that started late, but half the audience couldn’t get though security to see it begin. The waiting line to the board room was so slow because the security guards didn’t know what to do with the tools that cyclists carry on them which delayed the crowd getting in.

When I finally got inside, the Summit was in full session.

After the Mayor spoke to the public he allowed public comment, one minute each and cyclists were ready to speak and be heard.

People from all walks and all ages came up to the microphone. Some were smiling, some were angry, but everybody had a strong message. People commented about street safety, the mismanagement of the Department of Transportation and the inability to get the people from Bikeways to move in the right direction. The Draft Bike Plan was criticized and there were pleas to expedite the 30/10 Plan so that we might live to witness the car culture change into a “people first” culture. Everybody thanked the Mayor for listening and everybody was very polite, hoping to reach the Mayor, to soften his heart and to make him move into the directions of a sustainable, bicycle and pedestrian friendly city.

From the many beautiful comments, from Dorothy Wong to Roadblock, from the kid and his father to my husband Stephen, who gave the Mayor the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights, an “I Bike LA” T-Shirt and a spoke card, one that really moved the people was the comment from LA’s official Bicycle Advisory Committee chair Glenn Bailey. He had a hard time getting through his speech because of the applause he received after each item, calling on the Mayor to make our streets safe for cyclists.

Glenn Bailey, Chair of LA’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, speaks to the Mayor during public comment. Photo by Enci

Statement by Glenn Bailey

Good morning Mayor Villaraigosa, fellow cyclists.

On behalf of the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, thank you for the opportunity to participate in the Mayor’s Bike Summit.

The BAC, was established by Mayor Bradley 35 years ago to make recommendations to the City on all bicycle related matters. It is composed of an appointee of each of the fifteen Councilmembers and four from the Mayor. For most of Mayor Bradley’s twenty years in office, his office staffed the Committee. As a result, when the Mayor’s office called a City department about a bicycle matter, they were usually responsive.

Several days ago the Mayor’s office requested the top bicycle priorities of the BAC. I invited each BAC member to respond and those suggestions have been compiled and submitted to your office as an “unofficial” list.

Mr. Mayor, last December in an interview from Copenhagen you stated that Los Angeles has to do a much better job for bicycling. We couldn’t agree more:

  • A better job for bicycling means safely accommodating bicycles on all projects, on all streets, without exception.
  • A better job for bicycling means the prompt repair of potholes, cleaning debris, and other hazardous road conditions.
  • A better job for bicycling means the vigorous enforcement against the blocking of bike lanes by delivery vehicles, unhitched trailers, or anything else. (Audience: trash cans!)
  • A better job for bicycling means a transit system that integrates cyclists in every aspect of its operation, not just when it’s convenient to do so.
  • A better job for bicycling means providing convenient and secure parking at every City building and park, including at City Hall itself, and at all commercial and retail locations.
  • A better job for bicycling means holding the line, in fact, rolling back the recent increases in speed limits.
  • A better job for bicycling means a properly trained police force that enforces the law equally and fairly and that protects and respects the rights of cyclists.
  • A better job for bicycling means vehicular hit and runs will be fully investigated and prosecuted for the crimes that they are.
  • A better job for bicycling means a visionary and robust City Bicycle Plan that is implemented each and every day, not just sitting on sitting on a shelf for five years awaiting its next revision.
  • A better job for bicycling means installing at least fifty miles of bicycle lanes every year for the next three years, rather than the five mile annual average of the past fourteen years under the current 1996 Bicycle Plan.
  • A better job for bicycling means incorporating the City Council endorsed Cyclist’s Bill of Rights in the operation of every City department and every action taken by the City and its employees.
  • And a better job for bicycling means welcoming and encouraging cyclists to participate in every step of the decision making process, the outcome of which affects our very lives.

Thank you for listening and for your support.

Glenn’s comment was inspiring and that alone made it worthwhile to attend the Summit. As much as I appreciate the Mayor for hosting this event, there was little offered in the way of a commitment to change the streets of LA and to make them safer for cyclists. No mention was made of education and enforcement strategies. The only promise the Mayor made was when he said he was going to go to Sacramento to lobby for a law requiring helmets for all cyclists.

Mayor Villaraigosa sat with Art Leahy, CEO of Metro, the new Planning Director Michael LoGrande, DOT General Manager Rita Robinson and Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese. They nodded, made a few comments that didn’t amount to much, smiled and found excuses why LA is not as bike friendly as other cities.

The Mayor repeated that him falling off his bike was an “accident” determining the intention of the Taxi driver, a professional who is licensed and regulated by the Department of Transportation.

The Mayor made much of the Measure R funds (half of the 10% “set aside” out of the 15% “local assistance” = 0.75% for cyclists!) that voters passed last year for transportation improvements over the next 30 years. 0.75% for Cyclists! WooHoo! (Most of that 0.75% will go to Bike Paths, not to making the streets of LA safer for cyclists.)

I couldn’t see anybody from the Mayor’s staff taking notes of the cyclists’ concerns, ideas, suggestions, queries, asks, demands and pleas. Everyone appeared to be paying attention but it remains to be seen if there is any record or if there will be any followup.

City Councilmember and Transportation Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl dropped by and spoke passionately of his proposed anti-harassment ordinance. Rosendahl has been a strong supporter of cyclists and a champion for the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights.

The Metro staff was kind enough to provide bike valet for the cyclists, but those who used the bike racks in the parking structure, returned to find their bikes stripped of accessories, a reminder that we have a long way to go.

An even more dramatic reminder took place that morning when a cyclist died after being hit by a truck in the Valley.

The Mayor didn’t address theft, death, hit & runs, speed limit increases, education for motorists, stricter regulation for professional motorists in the city family, street maintenance, and many of the other issues that cyclists brought to him. In fact, two hours after he began, with over a hundred cyclists speaking, the Mayor had little to say, simply concluding with his thanks and a promise to come back next year to review LA’s performance.

The impact of the Summit remains to be seen. In many ways it was a success just because so many cyclists came together to address safety on the streets. It was exciting to see so many old friends, some who came from as far as San Pedro and Sunland Tujunga, some from Santa Monica and Altadena.

The next move is up to the mayor but he needs to be specific about what he is going to do. Promises of long-term plans fail to inspire when there is so much he could do today to change the world.


1 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. 1

    Great summary. I think you also captured what a lot of us felt. Lots of questions asked, excuses given, but no real answers–and maybe that’s just how we have to start. Maybe we have to start at square one with the Mayor. What I’m still undecided about is wondering if the Mayor was actually listening or just sitting through letting us speak. We’ll see.


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