On Monday, a month after he broke his elbow in a bicycle accident, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa hosted a “bicycle summit” at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) headquarters, to discuss cycling issues and hear suggestions from the community on the latest draft of the city’s 2010 Bike Plan.
“It was a positive move forward,” said Aurisha Smolarski, campaigns and communication director for the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition. “What’s really important now is insuring that the mayor continues with the promises he made.”
On Villaraigosa’s mind was his new proposal for a mandatory helmet law regardless of age. The mayor was wearing a helmet during his own accident on Venice Boulevard last month which he said prevented further injury.
“I believe strongly that every cyclist should be required to wear a helmet,” Villaraigosa said in a statement on Tuesday, reflecting on the summit. “When I fell off my bike I hit my head first, then I shattered my elbow. If it wasn’t for my helmet, I might not be here today. I know not every cyclist supports this, just like not every motorcyclist supported their helmet law.”
A helmet law, however, was not the main topic attendees wanted to focus on. They instead used the opportunity to push more ways to make Los Angeles friendlier for cyclists.
Ryan Snyder, an independent transportation planning consultant, was one of more than 200 cyclists at the two-hour summit. He was impressed with the mayor’s willingness to listen to the community and took the opportunity to directly offer city officials three suggestions.
“First, the mayor could use his position on the Metro Board to help increase the pie for bicycle and pedestrian projects,” Snyder said. “Second, it would be very important for the city to rewrite the street manual (a city document filled with such cycling related issues as street classifications). Third, he could help to initiate a cultured change within the Department of Transportation.”
Snyder’s last point is addressed in the executive summary of the 2010 Bike Plan where it states, “The city’s traditional autocentric focus on facilitating vehicular movement has rendered many of the streets unfriendly and even hostile to all but the most confident bicycle riders.”
The 2010 Plan is a joint venture of the Department of City Planning, the Department of Transportation, the Technical Advisory Committee, a committee supervised by Metro that evaluates all transportation proposals for Los Angeles County, and Alta Planning + Design, a consultant group for the City of Los Angeles.
Highlighted at the summit was chapter five of the Bike 2010 Plan, which mentions a Five-Year Implementation Strategy dedicated to creating 200 miles of bike lane. It also states that the city plans to complete the Citywide Bikeway System of 1,633 miles over two decades. No start date is listed.
Jeff Jacobberger, chair of the Mid-City West Community Council, was encouraged by the summit since the mayor spent most of the time listening to suggestions, rather than speaking. However, he believes the draft plan is not ambitious enough and hopes to change ambiguous language to tangible plans that could be implemented.
“For a lot of people in the room, twenty five years is not in their lifetime,” Jacobberger said. “The draft really hasn’t come up with something new since the last version in 1996. It should be implemented much more quickly.”
Last week, Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, 4th District, proposed the installation of “bicycle stairs”, channels on the sides of pedestrian staircases that allow bicycles to be transported with greater ease, in an effort to make cycling more accessible in the city.
“It’s become more important than ever to consider alternative forms of transportation,” LaBonge said. “It’s important to consider cyclists in our plans and implementing bike stairs, sharrows and bike lanes, thus demonstrating to the people of Los Angeles that we can live in harmony.”
The Bicycle Coalition is currently working to create a public service announcement geared towards educating cyclists and motorists on sharing the road, viewing cyclists as having the same rights as motorists.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” Smolarski said of the 2010 Bike Plan. “We need more committed language. We can’t settle for just bike routes or bike paths; we need more bike lanes.”
To view the current draft of the 2010 Bike Plan, visit www.labikeplan.org. To join the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition and learn more about cycling rights and safety tips, visit www.la-bike.org.
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