Why Non-Cyclists Should Care About the LA Bike Plan

Enci at the LA Bike Working GroupThe City of Los Angeles has a new Bike Plan on the table that is supposed to be the new guideline for the next 5 years for a bikeable LA and there is a lot of contention about the process, public participation, funding and other issues about how this plan came about, costing our taxpayers $450,000, being a  year late and looking nothing as close to or as good as anything cycling related that I’ve seen in my travels.

This is from Los Angeles Draft Bike Plan vision, Section 1:

Goal: Make the City of Los Angeles the most bicyclist-friendly large city in the United States by 2020 so that at least 5% of all daily trips and 5% of home-to-work trips are by bicycle.

This is a very small goal for 2020 when a recent census of Portland Oregon shows that 6% there biked to work in 2008. This makes Portland No. 1 in bicycle commuting among the 30 largest cities in the country and the 2nd in the world. And in 12 years LA is hoping to put less cyclists on the road then Portland had last year?!

Los Angeles is a city that is perfect for riding a bike, at least what concerns the weather and the topography. It’s mostly sunny and most of LA is flat.

I love riding my bike here with the exception of the times when drivers honk at me, push me into the curb or into the door zone, when I get something thrown at me, when law enforcement tries to twist the law, or when someone tries to tell me what their assumption of the rules of the road is but have never read the “book”.

By the “book” I don’t mean the DMV manual or the AAA magazine, which twist the law in favor to our car biased society. By the “book” I mean the Municipal Codes, the California Vehicle Codse, and various sections of the State Codes that pertain to the rights of cyclists on every street in the City and County of Los Angeles as well as in the State of California.

Los Angeles and California have quite a few laws about cycling and bikes and also laws that address the Infrastructure of our streets that pertains to cyclists, Engineering, Bike Facilities, Safety and Education Programs, Policies, and Design standards amongst others.

These are quite boring things to pay attention to when we have so many more things to worry about but since I traveled many countries and three continents, I can’t help but notice things and compare.

The Bike Plan proposes a lot of monitoring, studies, workshops, discussions, and funding opportunities for the next 5 years but addresses nowhere in the plan what their exact data looks today and what it will look like in five years. There is no immediate plan to improve our city to be more bikeable.

The maps in the Draft Plan show that proposed bike routes and lanes aren’t proposed in the neighborhoods where the public 1 1/2 years ago asked for. There are no bike elements proposed in the neighborhoods where the city is the most congested and where cycling would be the best solution to relieve traffic.

The numbers from existing bike facilities to what the public wants and to what is proposed, doesn’t match up, it just shows clearly that what the public wanted has been rejected.

Bike Paths are high on the list of this Bike Plan. Paths that are a recreational facility, where the LADOT claims no liability when a cyclist gets injured, paths that draw crime, blight, and that get closed down when it rains, when crime goes up, when the LADOT has no more funding to keep it maintained.

This Bike Plan unfortunately looks more like a funding scheme and like someone really doesn’t care much about LA’s bikeable future.

But I care and I think you should care too! Why?

Los Angeles has 4 million residents and out of those 4 million, I bet everybody knows someone who knows someone who rides. If not in person, face to face, but maybe as a facebook friend, or maybe there is a cyclist in the building where you work or live, or you just drove past one on the road who will get off their bike at the same coffee shop that you regulate.

“So what?” you ask. “Why should I care about those cyclists?” you wonder. Well, there are many reasons why we all should care, especially because of our economy and our health.


“Yeah, whatever, we know that biking is a healthy exercise, but I rather run inside the gym where the air is better.”

The air is actually not better inside the gym because the gym has carpet, paint, synthetics, misc. chemicals (window cleaner, carpet cleaner, other peoples deodorants and parfumes, etc.) sweat and germs. The gym is not aired out and the air is stuffy it is wasn’t for the air conditioner keeping the stuffy smell out. And if we encourage biking, the air outside would be better because we wouldn’t burn so much CO2 that causes asthma, that lowers peoples immune system, that kills crops and plants and trees, that heats up our atmosphere.

Also, the health of your neighborhood is at stake when streets become cut-through roads for the commuters. There is noise pollution as well as air pollution, kids can’t play on the street and old people can’t go outside to enjoy an afternoon walk because the streets are dangerous. A healthy neighborhood has cyclists and pedestrians which means that streets are meant for people in the community not those who want to get out of your neighborhood quickly.


“Don’t tell me that cycling is better for the economy. In my car I shop more because I can carry more. And I contribute to the economy by buying the car and buying gas and all that comes with owning a car.”

If we help our neighborhood become bike friendly, our local businesses will benefit from it, not Target, or Walmart or Exon or Mobil. When I bike, I tend to stop anywhere because I don’t need to worry about parking space or because I’m not pushing the gas pedal to get home quickly. I stop at random stores, I stop to talk to the homeless, I stop because I see someone I know, or just because I feel like getting a drink or buying a book.

More cyclists on the street prove to be healthy not only to businesses but also for the safety of the community because with cyclists there are eyes and ears open to happenings.

Also, bikes don’t wear out the streets because they don’t weigh that much, which means that less money needs to be put into street repair and more money can be put into beautification or your neighborhood improvements.

This Draft Bike Plan is suggesting to make LA a bikeable city in 12 years, but there are so many things that can be done to make LA more safe for cyclists, like enforcing the law when cyclists are endangered or hurt and demanding respect from those who don’t bike.

We are all humans, regardless of what mode we use to travel and Respect would be a great start and it shouldn’t take 12 years for that.

These are just a few things that I think are easy to care about. It is easy to care about things that can benefit our neighborhood, our economy, our safety and that can benefit our family. We need to care about all these things and more to become a strong and vibrant city that we can be proud of.

This Bike Master Plan needs to be big. It needs to be big, not for me and for those who already manage the challenges of this city but it needs to resonate with all those people who know someone who rides or who will ride a bike in the near future.

Visit to find out about the upcoming workshops, look around the site to find out what the community things about this plan.

Then submit your comments and ask for a bikeable neighborhood and the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights as is, which many Councilmembers, Neighborhood Councils and Community Organizations already endorsed but the LADOT refused to put in the Bike Plan. Ask your representatives to get involved with the Bike Plan that is not only for cyclists but for your neighborhood and your community.

I hope you will join me in making LA the most bike friendly city in America!

5 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. 1

    Beautifully said. So much so, I hope you don’t mind if I link to your post. I’ve been trying to think of ways to explain this issue to my family and friends, but you’ve done it so succinctly and logically, I have to share it.

  2. 2

    The City of LA has clearly seen the rise in the ranks of bicyclists, they’ve seen our community complexify, our rides multiply, our culture solidify, and they don’t like it one bit. The Draft 2009 Bike Plan is a deliberate attack on bicyclists here in Los Angeles, meant to curtail our growth before we start really shaking things up. Your guess is as good as mine as to why the City has taken this stance (maybe Jaime de la Vega just can’t take driving behind bicyclists in his Hummer anymore). But I suspect a large part of it has to do with miscommunication. While plenty of by-bicyclists-for-bicyclists media exists, I predict very little of it makes sense beyond the already converted, or even to those bicyclists who may ride, but have not already formed an identity of themselves as such. So this article is a step in the right direction; as our movement builds capacity we need to be deliberately targeting “non-bicyclists” (though unlike the Draft Plan, I believe EVERYONE is a potential bicyclist, and that bicyclists are everyone), framing the debate as much more broad and inclusive and building bridges with new allies. To continued success in this direction,

  3. 3

    I’d love to see more support for multimodalism. There are more and more cyclists using Commuter Express buses, and people of all socio-economic levels have been using Metro for ages.

    For most of L.A., biking is part of the solution. Most of us aren’t able to cover the distances we need to on bikes, but we can cover parts of them. Infrastructure that supports that is essential to mass transit and civic sanity.

  4. David #

    I attended a recent public presentation of the bike plan. It was pretty uninspiring. It seemed to me that most of it was generic bicycle planning stuff that could have been pulled from any bike plan. I saw very little detail about specific projects and applications. I saw no original thought. It’s basically, squeeze in a bike lane here and there and call it a day. Pretty discouraging overall.

  5. 5

    Whoops. That should have been “using Metro and bikes.” It’s the combination that is under-supported.

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