Strange Changes

The extension of the York Boulevard bike lanes almost to South Pasadena has illustrated some peculiar transmutations in the Los Angeles County planning world….

We knew from our first ride that there was a gap between the end of the LA lanes and the beginning of South Pasadena’s. Or vice-versa, of course, if you were heading from SoPas to LA, when the gap is considerably more problematical.

The first impulse, which Pigeon Master Josef acted upon, was to lay the blame on the LA side of the line. This is natural, as the county’s biggest city has a history of building scattered, disconnected, and uncoordinated bicycle facilities.

But in this case, the natural procedure felt a bit wrong.

For one thing, LADOT engineer Tim Frémaux had told me not long ago that the bridge that carries York over the Arroyo and the 110 freeway didn’t really see much traffic, and that a full road diet would be no problem there.

For another, the majority of the gap was on the South Pasadena side of the line. The fresh paving laid down by LA stops at the border, of course, and the gap is east of that.

So I emailed a contact in the South Pasadena city government, and he revealed something that surprised me: it was South Pasadena who scotched LADOT’s plan to road-diet the bridge from four motor lanes to two, leaving room for bigger and safer bike lanes. In other words, South Pasadena wanted two full-width lanes going west across the bridge—even though motor traffic volumes don’t merit it, and apparently never have. I quote my sources response below:

The City of LA presented to the City of South Pasadena Public Works Commission, those plans included a westward bound lane drop as you talked outlined in your e-mail and would have connected the South Pasadena bike lanes and the City of LA bike lanes. The Public Works Commission was concerned about traffic bottleneck so they did not approve the dropping of the westward bound driving lane and the City of LA change their plans to no longer have the westward bike lane connect but to have the eastward bike lane to connect which was approved. Upon implementation of the project to our staff’s surprise the eastward bike lane wasn’t connect and when South Pasadena City staff inquired they were informed that the connection was not going to be completed by the City of LA as part of the project.

The City of South Pasadena would still like to complete the eastward bike lane, as the lane geometry would allow it, but we currently do not have identified funding for that project and would need to contract out to strip the bike lane.

In other words, SoPas is okay with completing the eastward-bound bike lane, but is crying poverty; and it was “concerned” about westward-bound traffic, so kicked LADOT in the teeth and prevented an effective road diet that would have given bicycle users wide, comfortable lanes without impeding measured motor traffic in the least. “Concerned” sounds like that old planning devil, “gut feelings”—nothing more than an admission of ignorance.

The other big surprise, as Josef discovered and wrote about yesterday: John Fisher, who was much vilified by the bicycle community when he was part of the LADOT, seemed to be championing the road diet and bike lanes that South Pasadena’s commissioners cut down—an impression strengthened by a quote from Tim Frémaux on Streetsblog LA a few days ago.

So South Pasadena, which had seemed so much more progressive in its bike plan than LA, suddenly closes its eyes, puts its hands over its ears, and starts chanting “Na-na-na-I-can’t-hear-you” as it lurches towards a Beverly-Hills-like intransigent pandering to diminishing motor traffic, while John Fisher is pushing bike lanes and road diets!

Strange changes, indeed….

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Bike The Vote! NELA NC Election Guide and Bike Ride for Saturday, April 26, 2014

Bike lanes on North Figueroa Street – will they ever happen? Not without the backing of neighborhood councils and a broad coalition of local people behind the idea.

We’re doing our part here at the Flying Pigeon, working with the LA County Bike Coalition’s Ride Figueroa and the local community group Figueroa For All, to produce both a “Bike The Vote!” ride and a #fig4all Voter Guide.

We’ve come out to party & eat pan dulce together, we’ve come out to engage bike lane opponents together, we’ve ridden our bikes together, we’ve shopped together, our kids have made posters together, we’ve hand made sashes and signs, we’ve done a lot together – now let’s vote!

Bike The Vote!
Get ready to flex your sexy bike muscles this Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 10 a.m. on a jaunt up the North Figueroa corridor to take part in as many Neighborhood Council elections as possible!

Meet at the Flying Pigeon LA bike shop at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 26, 2014. We ride at 10:15 a.m. for the Greater Cypress Park Neighborhood Council election, then onward to the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council, and finally the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council election. You don’t have to be a registered voter to vote, you don’t have to be a U.S. citizen, but you do have to be a “stakeholder”. Generally a “stakeholder” is someone who:

Stakeholders live, work, own property in the neighborhood or who declare a stake in the neighborhood and affirm an ongoing and substantial community interest and who are 14 years or older.

There is a Facebook Event for this ride.

Voter Guide!
(THIS WILL BE UPDATED AS WE CONTINUE TO RECEIVE FEEDBACK FROM CANDIDATES – IF YOU SPOT AN ERROR, EMAIL info@flyingpigeon-la.com AND WE’LL FIX IT ASAP!)

There are few things more powerful than a list of candidates a group of like-minded people can vote for! We can make a big difference in the politics of our neighborhood by voting for the following people who we consider the most bike-friendly candidates running in various elections:

Greater Cypress Park Neighborhood Council
Polling Hours: 10 am to 4 pm
Cypress Park & Recreation Center (Auditorium) (2630 Pepper Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90065)

  • Carlos Hinajosa aka “Gnarly Charly”
  • Michael Gunn Gonzales
  • Alejandra Cortez
  • Rory Booten Olsen

 

Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council
Polling Hours: 10 am to 4 pm
Ramona Hall Community Center Lobby (4580 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90065)

  • Harv Woien
  • Lynda Valencia
  • Martha Benedict
  • Eric Pierson
  • Padraic Cassidy

 

Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council
Polling Hours: 9 am to 3 pm
Highland Park Senior Center (6152 N. Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA 90042)

  • President:
    Monica Alcaraz
  • First Vice President:
    Aaron Salcedo
  • Second Vice President:
    Diego R. Silva
  • Secretary:
    Johanna A. Sanchez
  • Treasurer:
    No Endorsement
    At-Large Directors:
  • Edward L. Braun
  • Javier Cabral
  • Miranda A Rodriguez
  • Amirah Noaman
  • Susanne Huerta
  • David Andrés Kietzman
  • Miguel Ramos
  • Graeme Flegenheimer
  • Jessica Ceballos
  • Carlos Reyes
  • Harvey Slater
  • Boo Caban

 

Non-Figueroa-based NC Elections:

Glassell Park Neighborhood Council

Stakeholder status for Glassell Park is through a self-stated affirmation of interest in the community.

  • Molly Taylor

Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council

(THIS WILL BE UPDATED AS WE CONTINUE TO RECEIVE FEEDBACK FROM CANDIDATES – IF YOU SPOT AN ERROR OR OMISSION, EMAIL info@flyingpigeon-la.com AND WE’LL FIX IT ASAP!)

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A #fig4all or car-only crater in 2050? Bike Oven & James Rojas dream big on Saturday, April 26, 2014

fig4all 2050 - a vision quest with James Rojas and craft supplies, this Saturday, April 26, 2014

fig4all 2050 – a vision quest with James Rojas and craft supplies, this Saturday, April 26, 2014

What is North Figueroa Street to you now? What should it be in 2050? What are the connections to our past and our system of government we want to emphasize with the street and buildings around us?

Noted Latino Urbanist James Rojas will be facilitating a visioning workshop at the Bike Oven at 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 26, 2014, open to any and all in the community, to rethink our most important stretch of public right of way. The Bike Oven is located at 3706 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90065.

Food and drink provided.

This will be a good opportunity to explore the various bike lane options, community housing issues, cultural identity, access to parks, pollution, food, the future, and our collective and individual dreams for our neighborhood.

It will also be a fun time and you’ll get to hang out with neighbors and make something with your hands and imagination that others will document and appreciate.

Figueroa For All 2050 at the Bike Oven (3706 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90065) on Saturday, April 26, 2014

There is a Facebook Event for this event.

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South Pasadena commissioners worth suing: Steven Ray Garcia, Alexander Main, Mathew M. Pendo

The Westbound bike lane “liability issue” the City of South Pasadena needs to be sued to fix.

Imagine you are building a house. You take your plans to the plan check office in city hall and something bizarre happens: the officer at the desk is adamant that none of your doorways will be taller than 5 feet. What?! Why? The officer throws some vague legalistic language at you, but the reality is that the officer is 4’8″ and hates people taller than that. He wants a world built to his idea of normal and you and your 5′+ future occupants are not what he considers normal. You can’t back out now – loan documents have been signed, your name is on the lease and payments will come due soon. This has to get done now. The inspector insists that you install dangerous-by-design doorways. What do you do?

You might try and appeal to a higher power in the city – ask to see the building code, planning law, or industry best practices that say you have to build something so dangerous. You might head to city council and address the matter in the political arena as an aggrieved constituent, or with neighbors, or members of a trade or industry group opposed to dangerous doorways. You might hire a lawyer and try your luck in the courts. All of these options mean wasted time and resources – things that are always in short supply in the construction  business.

If you’re the LADOT you skip those steps and say, “F(& it.”, and install the 5′ tall doorways, except we’re not talking about a house here, we’re talking about the York Boulevard bike lanes crossing a bridge over the Arroyo Seco and potentially connecting with existing bike lanes on Pasadena Avenue in the City of South Pasadena a few hundred feet away from LA city limits.

The “officer” turns out to be three South Pasadena Board of Public Works commissioners, Steven Ray Garcia, Alexander Main, and Mathew M. Pendo, who decided that instead of doing the rational thing, the safe thing, and taking Pasadena Avenue down to one lane in each direction as it crosses over the York Bridge, that they don’t like people doing anything but driving at excessive speeds. These three commissioners insist that an “expensive” bike lane network connection in their city (.1 miles of bike lane, 528 feet, that will cost approximately $4,000 dollars to stripe) is not worth doing. These commissioners decided that bike riders being dumped into 35mph+ car traffic lanes for 528 feet, heading into a curve, is an acceptable outcome and will keep all road users safe.

From the meeting minutes:

MINUTES OF THE
PUBLIC WORKS COMMISSION CONVENED THIS
13TH DAY OF NOVEMEBER, 2013 AT 7:00 P.M. AT THE
AMEDEE O. “DICK” RICHARDS, JR., COUNCIL CHAMBERS
1424 MISSION STREET
7. DISCUSSION/ACTION ITEMS:
A. York Blvd. Bike Lanes

[...]
Commissioner John Fisher commented that if we leave the lanes as is, with the four lanes, there is no room to add the striping. He noted the City of South Pasadena has adopted a bike plan and this is a part of the network that has been adopted. We have bike lanes coming from the west and we have bike lanes coming from the east. So, all we are talking about is connecting the two over the bridge.

He stated we have normal lane widths and buffering between the opposing flows of traffic and between motor vehicles and bicycles, which appeals to him from a safety standpoint. He stated regarding the ideas of striping, if we are to add additional lanes we would have to take a lane away because of the narrow widths of the bridge. Under California Law, this is the appropriate way of stripping as you approach an intersection a bike lane is always dashed. Motorists and bicyclists are to share the lane. The advantage to this is if we have bicycle traffic as expected, that motorist can use that space to turn right onto San Pasqual. He stated he thinks this is a better operation and consistent with the bike network that the City has adopted.

Commissioner Mathew M. Pendo disagrees and he mentioned one of the things we need to take into consideration is the possibility of accidents. There are a lot of things we need to look at before moving forward.

Commission Alexander Main stated he is a cyclist, road cyclist and a commuter cyclist and he has gone over this bridge. He is a supporter of bike lanes, but not over the bridge because it’s too narrow. He stated with bridges there is a lot of debris along the curbs and it causes bicyclists to go inward. It’s a lot of traffic. He is not in agreement to reducing it to two lanes.

Commissioner John Fisher stated the proposed re-striping provides buffering between the curb and motor vehicles and between east bound traffic and west bound traffic. If it’s the sense of the commission not to install bicycle lanes over the bridge, then we need to take a look at the existing network we have created and may need to remove the bike lanes leading up to the bridge. If we are telling bicyclists by striping bike lanes that this is the network that they can use and then you drop them they may be exposed and at risk.

Commissioner Clinton Granath suggested looking at other alternative routes either North or South of the bridge. He question if the City of Los Angeles could unilaterally build this over to our city limits?

Deputy Public Works Director Furukawa stated he asked that of LADOT and they would stop the striping west of the bridge and drop the lane on their side of the bridge.

Discussion continued about other alternatives.

Chair Garcia gave his concerns about creating this fairly pricey bike lane system not only in South Pasadena, but also in the City of Los Angeles and then having the bike lanes disappear at the bridge. He stated from a liability stand point, we may have some obligation to provide something, but he is not convinced this is the best something to provide. Based on the evidence and the issues presented he has a difficult time favoring this. Chair Steven Ray Garcia asked if there were any more comments and there were none. He called for a motion. He then suggested using the same motion from the previous meeting with Commission Fisher making the motion and seconded by Commissioner Granath.

Motion was as follows: to approve the bike lanes as presented with the understanding that in three months after it has been fully implemented, a report will be brought back to the Commission on how well its working or not working, on safety, congestion and ridership. (Fisher, Granath)

By roll call 2 –ayes (Fisher, Granath) and 3 – noes (Garcia, Main, Pendo) motion failed.

Meeting Minutes from November 13, 2013 South Pasadena Public Works Commission hearing. Bold text added.

On July 9, 2007 the City of Los Angeles counted the number of cars at the intersection of York Boulevard and San Pascual Avenue – on the Los Angeles side of the York Bridge. On that day, 8,602 cars drove from South Pasadena to Los Angeles and 10,806 drove from Los Angeles to South Pasadena over a bridge that was 4 car lanes wide – a massive oversupply of road width given the number of cars driving.

Given this low car volume, when tasked with striping bike lanes across the York Bridge the LADOT wanted to remove a travel lane in each direction. Doing this would have no impact on the low peak hour car trips across the bridge, but it would deal with one particularly nasty section of Pasadena Avenue approaching the York Bridge.

Pasadena Avenue has a westbound bike lane that stops 528 feet short of the York Bridge in order to maintain two full car travel lanes over the bridge. There is a cement curb on one side and a cement median in the middle of the road – altering either cement fixture means tens of thousands of dollars in demolition and repaving work.

 

Just a short gap in lane striping keeps LA disconnected from South Pasadena.

A 528 foot gap in lane striping, and a huge gap in rational decision making, keeps LA disconnected from South Pasadena.

To fit a bike lane in this 528 foot stretch of Pasadena Avenue without messing with these expensive options, the City of South Pasadena would need a few thousand dollars (based on LA’s bike lane costs, I estimate this .1 mile stretch repainting to cost ~$4,000) to cover old lane markings and lay down some new thermoplastic paint for large merge arrows for cars and a bike lane for bikes. It was decided in November of 2013 by South Pasadena Public Works Commissioners Steven Ray Garcia, Alexander Main, and Mathew Pendo that the City of South Pasadena wanted to send bike riders straight into the path of motorists for a 528 foot stretch, on a westbound curve, between the end of the bike lanes on Pasadena Avenue and the beginning of the bike lanes on the York Bridge.

What we are left with is a dangerous and unacceptable situation created by three men who damn well knew what they were doing when they voted down John Fisher’s motion on November 13, 2013.

The road bed was torn up and repaved. Thousands have been spent to stripe the road in a dangerous new configuration. The York Bridge road diet needs to be completed at a cost of several thousands more: one car lane in each direction and a bike lane connecting Pasadena Avenue to York Boulevard. The only people I can think to blame at this point are South Pasadena Public Works Commissioners Steven Ray Garcia, Alexander Main, and Mathew Pendo.

If you want to leave them a message you can leave a comment here (which I will forward to the commissioners at their next meeting), you can tell it to @SouthPasadenaCA on Twitter, or you can contact them directly through the US mail, phone, or email their one staff person:

South Pasadena Publc Works Commission
1424 Mission Street
South Pasadena, CA 91030
Phone (626) 403-7240

Staff Liaison:
Leaonna DeWitt, Public Works Assistant, ldewitt@southpasadenaCA.gov

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Now You’re Talking!

This week I am privileged to heap unmixed praise on LADOT for what they did in the southeast corner of Highland Park. For yesterday, on my way to South Pasadena (as usual for a Tuesday), I pedaled along the nearly-finished extension of the York Boulevard bike lanes. And part of them will be buffered lanes, as you can see in the first photo, though the markings aren’t quite done yet.

They now continue southeastward from Figueroa past Avenues 63, 64, 65, and 66, and San Pascual Avenue, and continue right over the York Boulevard bridge over the 110 freeway and the Arroyo to the border with South Pasadena.


The new bike lanes on York between Fig and the bridge…


And on the bridge itself….

Where that little city’s own bike lanes take over, albeit after a gap of a hundred yards or so.

This is great news for both local riders and commuters, as there’s a good deal of bike-borne traffic between Highland Park and South Pasadena, what with roadies, students, shoppers, and folks going to work and back.

I was told by a DOT engineer a couple of years ago (when I raised this issue to my contacts in the agency) that York (specifically the bridge) didn’t actually see much motor traffic there, and was over-engineered, with lanes to spare. This, of course, led to speeding and other forms of scofflaw driving, so the narrowing of the curb lane on the wide parts of York, and the removal of one motor lane on the bridge, will make the passage safer for all—drivers, cyclists, and folks trying to cross the street on foot.

Equally important is that it will further connect residential and commercial neighborhoods in that part of NELA with nearly door-to-door bicycle facilities, enticing the less-bold among us out of their fossil-fueled armor and back into the community.

Now the formerly isolated lane on San Pascual makes a bit more sense.

The big lack here is, of course, the missing lanes on Figueroa Street. But that’s not the DOT’s fault: the lanes had been funded, designed, and scheduled, but when Gil Cedillo replaced Ed Reyes as council member a few months back, he put many of his predecessor’s projects on hold, in an apparent frenzy of petulance. Now he has graciously scheduled a whole new round of community meetings to duplicate the dozen or so we went through over a year ago to win approval from both stakeholders and bureaucrats. Time (and public money) wasted….

Nevertheless, with lanes on Eagle Rock/Cypress from Fig to Colorado, fresh new lanes on Colorado, the now complete lanes on York from Eagle Rock Boulevard to South Pasadena, and lanes on Avenue 50, San Pascual, and other smaller streets, we have an actually usable if not quite complete set of bikeways serving both local and long-distance riders in and through the area.

And that’s worth talking about!

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York Boulevard Bike Lane: 528 feet of a failure to communicate


This one stretch of road, 528 feet long, merges 35+ mph cars with bike riders heading to the newly striped York Blvd. bike lanes.

528 feet, .1 miles, 160.9 meters. Anyway you write it, the distance between the newly striped York Boulevard bike lanes in Los Angeles and the bike lanes on Pasadena Avenue in South Pasadena is a full measure of a failure to communicate.

The York bridge has been a no-mans land for anyone on foot or on a bicycle for several decades. Poor street design has kept the communities of Highland Park and Garvanza in Los Angeles culturally separate from South Pasadena. The installation of a safe bike lane across the York bridge has the potential to turn South Pasadena’s derelict commercial corridor, and the lonely Ostrich Farm development, on Pasadena Avenue around. Those same bike lanes can help bring weekend bicycle tourists, and weekday bicycle commuters riding through to Downtown LA, into Highland Park’s many cafes and shops. Most importantly of all, Garvanza residents would only be a short bike ride away from beloved Trader Joes on Mission in South Pasadena.

So why didn’t this 528 feet of Pasadena Avenue have any amenity for bike lanes connecting to Los Angeles? It wasn’t helped by the City of South Pasadena’s decision to fire the talented Dennis Woods, the former Transportation Manager for the small city. Woods is responsible for the quick turnaround in bike planning, projects, and state bike project aid that came to an abrupt end with his sacking in October of 2013.

Pasadena Avenue should have had it’s four lanes narrowed from 11 feet down to 10 feet, taking the spare space and adding it to a westbound bike lane feeding into the York Bridge. 300 feet of Pasadena Avenue should have lost “car parking” (which I have never seen used in the 10+ years I’ve passed by this stretch of road) to connect the bridge with eastbound bike lanes laid down under Dennis Woods’ supervision a few years ago.

[UPDATE on April 21, 2014: The City of Los Angeles Department of Transpotation made numerous efforts to communicate its desire to remove two travel lanes on the York Boulevard bridge in order to connect Pasadena Avenue's bike lanes with those on York Boulevard. The South Pasadena Public Works Commission voted 3 to 2 to keep this stretch of road dangerous and to allow the danger to be multiplied by the enticement of a bike lane 528 feet beyond a deadly bend in the road leading up to the westbound bike lane on the bridge.]
As for the City of Los Angeles, where to begin? How hard is it to pick up the phone and call the tiny staff in the South Pasadena Public Works or City Manager’s office? Email works too. The city council office responsible for the project, the very bike-friendly office of councilman Jose Huizar, didn’t have the time or resources to connect with the road designers in South Pasadena to say, “Hey, can we help scrounge $10,000 to help you guys pay for 528 feet of lane restriping?”

I visited the South Pasadena Public Works department last week to ask them for a comment on the project and was treated to the delightfully frustrating experience of talking to someone, who shall remain nameless, with a low grade version of Aspergers syndrome who’d clearly been blasted by enough “constituent concern” over the years to be unable to answer the simple questions I posed (i.e. “Are you aware that the City of LA is going to connect bike lanes to Pasadena Avenue and what is your city going to do?”)

The bike lanes across the bridge are barely an amenity, and serve more as a gutter lane for broken down cars than as a safe means of travel between South Pasadena and Los Angeles. They do represent a brightening flame of community connection – but that flame is still weak. Two car lanes should have been removed on the bridge. A buffered lane on each side of the bridge should have been installed. Traffic volumes leading up to the intersection of York and North Figueroa are shockingly low.

I am not going to address the huge design flaws of the bike lanes at the intersection of York and North Figueroa. I’ll leave that to the LAPD responding to what I am sure will be numerous fresh car vs. everything collisions.

Just a short gap in lane striping keeps LA disconnected from South Pasadena.

Just a short gap in lane striping keeps LA’s new bike lanes disconnected from South Pasadena.

So, 528 feet. The full measure of professional incompetence. The York Boulevard bike lanes are a huge leap forward from where we were, but still come up dramatically short. The good news is that the money required to restripe 528 feet of Pasadena Avenue is quite a small sum. The political will and the ability of two dysfunctional city planning apparatuses to execute that restriping is what has got us here, and has me still worried for my life, and the fate of our civilization, when riding between the two cities.

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Spoke(n) Art Ride on Saturday, April 12, 2014

Join us this month on another Spoke(n) Art bike ride on Saturday, April 12, 2014 at 6 p.m. at the Flying Pigeon LA bike shop.

The Spoke(n) Art Ride is a slow-paced, monthly, tour of galleries open for NELAart’s Second Saturday – a special night when area galleries and studios open their doors to the public until the wee hours.

Meet at the Flying Pigeon LA bike shop at 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 12, 2014.

The ride will ride depart at 6:30 p.m. to tour art galleries and other happenings in the community. The ride will return to the Bike Oven (3 blocks away from the Flying Pigeon) at about 10:00 p.m. for an after party.

Don’t have a bike? No problem! Flying Pigeon LA rents single speed beach cruisers with blinkie lights for $20. We have a fleet of bikes – just make sure to show up at or before 6 p.m. to ensure you get a bike! Things get hectic at start time, with over 100 riders congregating at the shop before we leave.

For more general information about the ride, please check out the Bike Oven’s Spoke(n) Art page.

We obey major traffic lights on this ride, we are polite to gallery owners and the general public on this ride. This ride is about art, community, the city, conversation, and living the good life without damaging the lives of others. If you want to “get faded” and “mash” – please do go on another bike ride. Seriously, this is Saturday night, you are free to do as you please. Don’t ruin our fun and we won’t ruin yours.

If you want to keep up with the ride, or post updates and photos of it using your phone – we will be doing the same! Use the hashtag #spokenart on Twitter and Instagram or spokenart on Flickr and we can all check out your perspective on the night.

There is a Facebook Event for this ride.

Any questions? info@flyingpigeon-la.com or just leave a comment below.

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Afterglow

What, no photos of CicLAvia?

Nope, not a one. The event is so popular and so well-documented four years on that I felt I could attend as a civilian, as it were, for the sheer joy of it. CicLAvia has plenty of momentum now, and even the city’s often thick-witted officialdom seems to understand that it brings nothing but benefits, and plenty of them, at a very minor cost in automotive convenience for a very few people.

My favorite illustration of that is at the car crossings, where what at first looked like a vast crowd of cars represented, if you did a quick count, maybe fifteen or twenty people waiting to cross the route. Whereas, when traffic officers blocked the way to let those motorists through, they held back the progress of several hundred people on bikes and on foot.

Health, pleasure, and booming business followed the happy hordes as they pedaled, skated, strolled, or ran along Wilshire—while the unliberated streets of the city just saw the usual parade of speeding, honking cars eternally headed somewhere, or perhaps nowhere, else.

So rather than riding with my attention focussed on finding photo ops, I just rode, under a shining spring morning, along a route that I ride often but on which I am usually on red alert, scanning traffic in all directions for the inevitable clueless fool who might take me out of this magnificent world.

We started off with our “feeder ride,” possibly the shortest one ever scheduled for a CicLAvia: three hundred feet from our driveway to the corner, since we in fact live in the Miracle Mile. I was nominal leader, with Gina on my wing, and our downstairs neighbor Ali on one of our Bromptons following after. Scooting left to the marquee of the El Rey theater, we picked up another rider and headed east.

I indulged the wishes of our entourage and pointed out the spectacular architecture along the way—the area hosts a number of Art Deco buildings, as well as some significant though less-appealing Modernist and International Style edifices, plus a good bit of vernacular architecture. Of course there was MacArthur Park, looking a bit fresher after a refurb, and Lafayette Park, and the towers of Downtown, the stunning sanctuary of Wilshire Boulevard Temple (which was open to all), and, back at home, Hancock Park with its Tar Pits and (of course) LACMA. That area was crowded with erstwhile cyclists lazing on the grass. Pigeon Master Josef was there on his bakfiets, with kid Valentina in the box and wife Susan on a cruiser, as well as Jimmy Z and his kid in his own bakfiets…while up on the mound housing the Page Museum, Wolfpack Hustle’s Don Ward, aka “Roadblock,” led an advocacy meeting with Silver Lake and Atwater residents discussing the Glendale/Hyperion bridge.

The sun shone, the breeze blew, happy people laughed out of sheer delight, and the noise and stink of car culture were held at bay for a few brilliant hours.

Two more CicLAvias to go this year, with the hope of more in future years.

Who knows? Maybe someday, perhaps, we’ll catch up to Bogotá, Colombia, where it all started forty years ago. That city liberates seventy-five miles of streets for its ciclovías—and does it every week.

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Another OMG ATSAC article, should be WTF?!

 

“The relationship between Angelenos and traffic is a dysfunctional one. In a city without much weather, we obsess, instead, over traffic.

So a trip to ATSAC is sort of a traffic pilgrimage. ATSAC is the Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control center located under City Hall East, downtown. The computerized system monitors and controls every traffic light in the city, making real-time adjustments based on traffic conditions at about 4400 intersections. ATSAC was first used to route vehicles around the Coliseum during the 1984 Olympics; now it’s one of the largest and most sophisticated traffic control systems in the world.”

-”Inside the nerve center of LA traffic surveillance” April 1, 2014 by Gideon Brower on KCRW’s Which Way L.A.

Every article on ATSAC takes a “gee whiz” angle to this story instead of the more appropriate “WTF?!” stance.

Let me explain:

Have you ever tried to build something in LA? It costs thousands to perform a traffic survey when you want to build something in this town. That is millions of dollars every year being spent every time someone builds something in LA paying to have some jerk on the side of the road, or some little metal box with black hoses crossing the street,  counting  cars passing through intersections.

ATSAC uses loop detectors to record this data and somehow we never “know” what car traffic volumes are in hearings on development – forcing people to waste time and money hiring someone to stand on a corner and do the same job that ATSAC is doing already.

Further, in Los Angeles’ city hall in meetings with the mayor or council (the highest level of local governance in the city) it takes at least A MONTH for a traffic survey to be performed by again sending some jerk to go out and count cars. ATSAC is, again, recording all this data continuously. The MyFigueroa project is right now being held up for a month, and for what? You guessed it: a traffic survey!

How much did ATSAC cost? It started with the 1984 Olympics and was completed under Villaraigosa’s term. It has cost us millions and millions of dollars to digitize and control traffic signals in LA and the maintenance costs for that system are not cheap either.

And yet … and yet we take all this data and we throw it in the digital dumpster every month.

If ever someone was looking for a sign that we, as a people, are stupid and feckless the ATSAC system and its use would be it.

There are multiple pHds in transportation studies and environmental justice, sociology, politics, fine art you name it waiting to be explored if we could look at this ATSAC data going backwards in time. If it was stored and we could see what happens when there are parades, earthquakes, new developments – so we can let reality help us make public decisions instead of stupid anecdotes about how much “traffic” there is in LA!

The ATSAC data needs to be:

  • Permanently retained
  • Published online
  • Be web-accesible with an API for coders
  • Integrated as a layer in Navigate LA

How hard would this be? If the mayor reached out, I am sure one of the academic institutions in LA would be over the bloody moon to host this data. Hell, let’s find out what the LADOT needs to pipe this data out to the world and we can DIY it in one of those coding festivals the iPhone and Prius crowd loves so much.

 

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Network Elegance


I joined the regular meeting of the Bicycle Plan Implementation Team just yesterday, downtown in the scuffed and dreary fluorescent-lit City Hall East building, and sat through three hours of quite intelligent yet ultimately discouraging palaver over the future for human-centric transportation in LA.

The plan itself is quite well-thought-out (though that is in great part the result of the city’s current bicycle community rising up against the perfunctory and inadequate first iteration of the 2010 Bicycle Master Plan). It comprises overlapping webs of long-distance routes along watercourses, striped lanes in arterial connector streets, a “Neighborhood Network” of low-stress side streets, and even some intended cycletracks.

However, as the meeting developed, it began to seem that this was really a wish list, not a project timetable by any means. We were warned that City Planning has no real power beyond advising the Council of what it considers to be worth doing, and that any individual council member can push through or entirely blockade any project.

Those of you who have been following any of the various bicycle and neighborhood blogs around town are all too aware of this: how council members have successfully stalled projects on Fourth Street, North Figueroa street, Westwood Boulevard, and Lankershim Boulevard, were stopped forme bike lanes from plans for the Glendale-Hyperion bridge refurb by a huge public outcry, removed most of the green from the busy Spring Street lane, and have threatened the future of the entire (already-budgeted!) MyFigueroa project.

Los Angeles doesn’t even have any real bikeway networks yet, except in part of Downtown and a corner of Venice Beach; we have dribs and drabs of bikeways scattered about like threads on a sewing-room floor, stuck in where the road was wide and the planning easy, but rarely tied together. (Though to be fair, this is scheduled to happen in East Hollywood around Virgil/Hillhurst soon.)

Meanwhile, European cities with far narrower roads have found room for bikeways weaving their neighborhoods together—and found health, happiness, and prosperity as well. And it’s not just Eurozone economic powerhouses such as Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands: our little neighbor Santa Monica is reaping the benefits of bikeways as well, and stepping up its program.

Look back at the photo that heads this column: while LA is still taking trembling first steps into the Bicycle Millennium, Santa Monica is refining the already-excellent network that knits its neighborhoods to its business districts: the long-established and hugely-popular bike lanes on Main Street now have green paint at intersections and other conflict zones, and sharrows are being placed in yet more left-turn pockets, to remind dunderheaded drivers that cyclists have full rights to the road.

Meanwhile, streets such as Fourteenth north of Wilshire have seen painted buffers added to their own facilities, and the little city is adding door-zone markers to many of its standard bike lanes.

SaMo is well into the second phase of its bikeway network, while its much richer neighbor LA is still scribbling sharrows onto forgotten backstreets to rack up miles for bragging rights.

It’s time for LA to concentrate on building usable, connected networks in parts of town that have dense neighborhoods surrounding retail districts and employment centers—which are everywhere in LA. No more tattered rags of bikeways dropped in lost corners of town when no one’s looking. A little network elegance will pay off big time, if we dare to do it.

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