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Tom LaBonge – The Grinch Who Stole Our Green Christmas!

Originally posted on LAist by Stephen Box

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For the past two weeks Councilmember Tom LaBonge has been proudly welcoming visitors to the 12th Annual LADWP Holiday Light Festival at Griffith Park, announcing with a straight face that this year’s Festival demonstrates the DWP’s commitment to a “Greener LA.”

Tom deserves credit for maintaining a straight face as he makes this outrageous claim because this Festival is far from Green! Granted, there is a lighting display at the entry that clearly states “DWP – Going Green” and there was the token preview “Bike Night” along with the five “Pedestrian Only Nights” the week of Thanksgiving but other than that it’s business as usual.

Gridlock. Idling automobiles. Exhaust fumes fouling the air. Traffic backed up on the 5 Freeway. Los Feliz Boulevard jammed up. Riverside Drive backed up. Crystal Springs Drive loaded to the curbs with motorists waiting hours to get to the mile long Light Festival so that they can enjoy it from the comfort of their family vehicle.

This event is automobile-centric. Pedestrians are allowed on the east side of Crystal Springs with the traffic between them and the light displays. (It is suggested that peds hold their breath for the duration of their visit to the Park. The fumes from the idling autos are thick!)

Through it all comes the ultimate insult to the color Green, a BAN on cyclists.
That’s right! Councilmember Tom LaBonge, the DWP, the LADOT and the Department of Recreation & Park(ing) have once again overruled State Law and declared the Griffith Park Light Festival to be BICYCLE-FREE.

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Kim Hughes of the DWP explained that “the LADOT traffic consultants felt that the significant automobile traffic for the Light Festival made it dangerous for cyclists on Crystal Springs Drive so there will be NO bicycles allowed during the Festival except for the Bike Night preview on November 18th.”

As much as one may appreciate the City of Los Angeles’ concern for the safety of cyclists (cough, cough!) this is the same battle cyclists fought when the Griffith Observatory reopened and Rec and Park(ing) intended to exclude bicycle access. In the end cyclists prevailed but segregating or excluding cyclists is a reoccurring solution that the LADOT comes up with as they struggle to squeeze more autos into limited space.

While access to the Festival of Lights might not be a significant transportation issue to most, allowing the LADOT to address gridlock by removing cyclists from the mix is a serious issue that must not slide by without a loud and prohibitive response from the cycling community.

The cycling community is joining with the Sierra Club, the local Neighborhood Councils, Homeowners Associations and Community Organizations in urging Tom and the DWP to host a “car-free” Light Festival.

Imagine! A park, tailgate parties at the Merry-Go-Round and the Zoo parking lots. People out of their cars enjoying the Holidays in the largest Urban Wilderness Park in the United States! Perhaps even enjoying the great outdoors and each other! Walking, riding their bikes, talking, singing, meeting old friends, making new friends. Ah, to Dream!

Until then…the visitors sit in automobiles, idling in gridlock, eyeing signs that indicate how long the anticipated wait is as they inch through the “Park” with the windows rolled up to keep the exhaust fumes out. Well, it IS called a Park and they park, literally!

Tonight, cyclists “Storm the Bastille” as they ride to the December meeting of the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee, urging their representatives to…ah…REPRESENT!

After all, it’s the law. CVC 21200 defines the rights and duties of bicyclists as being the same as drivers of vehicles. Section 21 states “…no local authority shall enact or enforce any ordinance on the matters covered by this code unless expressly authorized herein.”

There are no codes providing express authorization of municipalities to regulate cycling on non-freeway roads.

Since the City of Los Angeles has no express authority to regulate cycling on non-freeway roads as required by CVC 21, the prohibition of cyclists on Crystal Springs Drive is in conflict with the CVC and is unenforceable.

Fight for a “Greener LA!” Hop on your bike and “Storm the Bastille!” See you on the Streets!

Photo of Speech by Stephen Roullier