LA backpedaling on Bike Plan

BPIT Lumovision - LACBC bottle, LADOT Bikeways engineer head, crowded room, Bike Blog Chris

When the Bike Plan sailed through the Los Angeles City Council a couple of months ago, it seemed like we’d all be coasting down brand new bike lanes in no time. After all, bike facilities have a nice chunk of money behind them (money set aside for bike and pedestrian projects that is not tied to the General Fund). Cities like Long Beach have shown us how to quickly and inexpensively move to make city streets more friendly to bike riders, pedestrians, and local businesses.

With political momentum, money, and the good example of our neighbors what could go wrong?


This is LA, baby, the land of stalled plans and an intransigent pro-car bureaucracy.

Joe Linton, LA Creek Freak and CicLAvia organizer, dramatized the matter in a recent post thusly:

Yesterday’s meeting was particularly frustrating because the city is proposing to spend 500 thousand dollars to spend “12-18 months*” to decide whether it will implement 100-200 thousand dollars worth of bike lane projects. The main issue is whether the city has to spend huge amounts of money studying environmental impacts before proceeding with implementing approved bike lanes. Here are a few excerpts from the meeting… I’ve definitely reworded them, putting them in my own words.

City Staff: We asked consultants who get paid to do expensive studies, and they said the city should pay to do expensive studies.

Public: Did you talk to cities, like Long Beach or Burbank, that have been successful in bike project implementation?

City Staff: No. The consultants said we should pay and delay, so that’s what we’re doin’.

What are we to do? This isn’t about money, it isn’t about environmental law. This is pure politics – how many people can we get on the phone at the mayor’s office; how many letters and email to the mayor; facebook wall posts to Antonio Villaraigosa; how many tweets to @villaraigosa nad @mobilitymaven can we get?

Can we get LAist and GOOD magazine to cover the story? Can we get other more local blogs to cover the reaction to the news of the City stalling on plans to implement the Bike Plan?

We need to push back on this unnecessary, and expensive, “plan and delay” strategy. Otherwise this Bike Plan will join the rest on the shelves at City Hall, “studied” to death by overpaid contractors and city staff while the situation on the streets is unchanged.

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  1. Posted May 5, 2011 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Joe’s numbers here are mistaken. Here are the actual numbers from the Planning office–and yes, I do trust them, since the data are available for outside review:

    There are currently 21 projects total[ing] 43 miles planned to be bundled for CEQA review.

    We’re estimating $500,000 for the EIR.

    Typically, each bicycle lane costs $50,000/mile which at 43 miles would amount to $2,150,000.

    Also, as was repeatedly asserted by Planning, the various bundles for review will be started at six month intervals, with the reviews overlapping, specifically to minimize delay.

    I agree that the city should be looking at other municipalities to see what they’ve done. But if we want this plan to succeed, we should do what we can to forestall NIMBYism.

    Even Portland still has pushback against bike projects and has cancelled a couple recently.

  2. Posted May 5, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Got some more info since the last comment….

    The “expensive consultants” Planning used, who recommended the CEQA review, were Wilbur Smith Consulting, who worked on the Oakland and San Francisco bicycle master plans, as well as CHS Consulting Group, who worked on the San Francisco bicycle master plan.

    In other words, effectively reviewing what other somewhat more successful cities have done in bicycle planning…at least a little.

    There are plenty of issues about which we can legitimately rag at the City, but making accusations without doing some basic research first destroys our credibility.

  3. Posted May 10, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    “each bicycle lane costs $50,000/mile”
    This must include the costs of consultants, because it only costs $10k a mile to stripe new bike lanes. It’s just pain (well, thermoplastic)!
    The LA Bike plan itself claimed a cost of 10k per mile for bike lanes, so 50k must include other costs.

  4. Andrew L
    Posted May 16, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    @ Joseph E: Painting bike lanes in LA often means narrowing the auto lanes, which means DOT might also have to do the following:
    1. sandblasting the existing 12′ lane lines and repainting them to 10′ wide lanes
    2. realigning any existing in-pavement auto detectors at actuated signals
    3. painting the bike lanes
    4. sandblasting and painting/repainting parking space striping (if narrowing parking lanes)

    For all of the tasks I mentioned, this could come out to $100K / mi. Costs may also vary depending on whether DOT paints bike lanes during regular repaving. $50K / mi is pretty reasonable.

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