You Want Safety? You Got It…in Santa Monica

Yes, while CD1′s Gil Cedillo utters his blandly-crafted platitudes about”safety” while undermining an FHWA-approved safety project on North Fig, Santa Monica gets down to the nitty-gritty of making life better—and longer—for all its residents and visitors.

That city’s Main Street was put on a road diet long ago, with bike lanes providing high-protein nutrition in place of the empty calories of car traffic. The program has worked wonderfully: I remember years ago when Main Street was just a few dull blocks to pass through on your way to the Third Street Promenade.

Now, Main Street thrives, sidewalks and storefronts alike packed with happy strolling throngs eager to spend time and money on the most pleasant four blocks in LA County. Bikes are parked everywhere, in sidewalk racks as well as the once-a-week free bike valet that serves the farmers market, and they spin happily down the bike lanes that line the street. Car and bus traffic continues as well, and I haven’t noticed any of the numerous establishments that get my cash there running out of supplies because of a lack of truck access.

Nor has emergency access been compromised: in fact, it’s been enhanced, as when the sirens sound, the motorists can edge into the bike lanes and make room for even the biggest of fire trucks. Not that you see them much anymore: road diets make for fewer crashes, so the paramedics tend to get bored….

But Santa Monica never quite stays still, unlike LA with its stick-in-the-mud city council. Look closely at the photo: you will see the ghost of an older bike lane, which was removed…to be replaced with a wider, safer one. With a door zone buffer!

And the narrower mixed-traffic lanes reduce peak speeds a little further, making for a safer street, and one that is easier to park cars on.

Just as it ought to be. North Fig could be prosperous, lively, and safe as well—but it remains a deadly speedway killing residents and businesses alike.

Yet it coulda been a contender….

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Thanks for Nothing. . . .

Well, he killed it, after all. “He” being Council District 1 boss Gil Cedillo, and “it” being the plan to put Figueroa on a road diet and add bike lanes to it. His “rationale”—and I use quotes here because it has no relation to rationality—is that he is not sure the road diet would ensure “the safety of all those who travel the corridor.” Read his condescending and terminally mealy-mouthed letter yourself here, if you’ve a strong stomach.

This is nonsense, and in fact must be a conscious lie. I personally sent links to fifteen studies of actual road diets that were followed and analyzed for years, and which allow for no misinterpretation. His district director, Conrado Terrazas, whom I had met at a Bicycle Advisory Council meeting, emailed me back with thanks, stating that he had “forwarded this info to our policy staff.” So Cedillo knows that road diets are the best way of “ensuring the safety of all who travel the corridor.”

It looks as though Cedillo, who long ago was some sort of liberal, is turning into a Tea Party denialist of everything that doesn’t support the self-indulgent fantasies of cut-through drivers, a decidedly outside interest that seems to be his real constituency. To these folks, any lie is good enough if it can keep them rocketing through your neighborhoods at twenty over the limit, and it’s just too bad if you get in their way. They’re important; you’re not: so please step aside or die.

The safety benefits of road diets are established fact, accepted even by such stodgy and formerly pro-speeding bureaucracies as AASHTO and the Federal Highway Administration, which refers to road diets as a “Proven Safety Countermeasure.”

None of that mattered to Cedillo, who is perhaps a cat’s-paw for some more-organized outside interest than the general mass of self-entitled road hogs he seems to be pandering to. Despite endless community meetings in which supporters of the road diet always outnumbered the reactionaries; despite the majority of neighborhood councils voting in support of the road diet; despite unanimous City Council approval; despite funding, planning, and widespread joy over the prospect of a safer, healthier and more prosperous North Figueroa…Cedillo stamped his foot and wailed, “No! I don’t wanna!”

And so the carnage will continue, and the prosperity and public health benefits the road diet and bike lanes would have brought remain on hold…till Cedillo decides to become an honest man, or at least till the election in three years.

How many more Highland Park residents will be killed or crippled in Cedillo’s name till then?

Thanks for nothing, Gil.


Bike Rack Hack Back on Track

I am notorious for calling in bike rack requests using the LADOT’s online form. Although the DOT claims not to keep track of who requested what and whether it was installed, they have told me I’ve gotten about two hundred racks put in on sidewalks all over town. About twenty of these have been, naturally, in the Miracle Mile, since I live here. Though I haven’t actually used any of these racks, since they are all within walking distance of home! As the photo shows, though, they get plenty of use without my patronage. In fact, we could use more.

There are over twenty racks on the Mile; some were here before I developed my obsession with bike parking, some were called in by others, and some LADOT put in of their own initiative. There are a very few privately-installed sidewalk racks as well, plus a large and well-used private bike corral at the Wilshire Courtyard building. That private corral is well watched by security via video cameras and proximity sensors, as a curious guard explained to me one day when he felt compelled to inquire why I was staring at the parked bikes. (There was a nice vintage roadster there that morning.)

However, not a single rack has been installed for about a year now. I haven’t stopped calling them in, and the need has certainly not diminished—more and more people are riding, and parking, bikes every day in our city. But two unfortunate happenstances coincided:

First, about a year ago, the city ran out of bike racks, and it took forever for the various interlaced bureaucracies to approve the purchase of new racks to replenish the inventory.

And second, just as the new racks came in, the rack installer retired.

Yes, there was just one man who put in bike racks—and he had to install the single-pole parking meters as well. He was a sinewy little old man named Richard, whom I met when he was installing one of “my” racks on Wilshire. I can understand that at seventy-two he might have lost his enthusiasm for manhandling a concrete drill and then swinging a heavy mallet to pound in bike rack mounting spikes.

Unfortunately, the procedure for applying for the position requires negotiating an intricate bureaucratic labyrinth, and even finding the web page listing the job so you can start is two steps short of impossible. I suggested to my neighbor, who is a mason, that he might apply, and to make it easier on him, slogged through the maze myself—which was a surrealistic experience indeed! My neighbor declined to apply in the end, but someone must have, for a day or two ago, when I wrote to what may have been the only person who actually knew what was going on (thanks to Senior Bicycle Program Coordinator Michelle Mowery, who gave me his email), I heard the good news: someone had actually applied and qualified, and the candidate is being reviewed by higher-ups right now.

It’s rather bizarre that a supposedly “progressive” (ha!) city such as Los Angeles could drop the ball on something as simple as installing bike racks for nearly a year, but it looks like the program will be re-started soon.

So put in your requests for sidewalk bike parking while you can, folks; who knows how long it’ll sputter along…before it stalls again.

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Slowly We Find Our Way

Yesterday, I attended the city’s quarterly Bicycle Plan Implementation Team meeting, and among the many questions with which I annoyed the good folks from LADOT and City Planning (during what must have been a long two hours for them) was one about wayfinding. This, as regular readers will know, is a subject dear to my heart—for what good are bikeways, when we get them, if you can’t find your way to where you want to go on them, for want of decent signage?

It’s hard for any one person to be intimately familiar with all the scattered neighborhoods of a city as vast as Los Angeles; even if you’re not a visitor, you may get lost following our bikeways now and then. Yet so often bikeway signage consists of nothing more than a flimsy tin rectangle stating that you are on a bike route or path, or in a bike lane. Which you probably already knew; the stripes aree kind of a giveaway&hellip.

When I’ve explored the bikeways of Portland, San Francisco, the East Bay, or Denver, I’ve been pleased to find that there are clear and informative signs letting you know what popular destinations lie how far off in which direction. Neighborhoods, shopping areas, rivers and hills, other bikeways, all listed on discreet but very obvious signs.

We have a few of these in the LA area, though most of them are not in the City of Los Angeles. The array of signs in the photo is on LA County land, in Marina del Rey. It is, however, very good, though a bit of a stylistic mishmash: one sign clearly indicates and names the two bike paths that intersect at this spot; another names the creek by which one is riding; and a third names nearby destinations, such as the shopping strip, the Coast Guard and Sheriff’s stations, and the Marina.

The best wayfinding I’ve seen so far in the city has been on the Chandler bike path connecting North Hollywood to Burbank. And some new signs have popped up along the Los Angeles River bike path in Elysian Valley—but those were placed by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Agency, not the city.

But at the BPIT meeting, I finally received an answer I could be happy with: the LADOT has budgeted for a citywide wayfinding project, to improve (or in most cases simply add) signage along bike routes, lanes, and paths.

We know how LA works, so there is a likelihood that the effort will take a long time to implement, or may simply peter out, if we don’t keep nagging LADOT. But apparently it’s now a public commitment—which in itself is a sign that we’re headed in the right direction.


Gil Cedillo trades our park space for votes

It was way back in 2009 when I published my first post on the abuse of Lincoln Park by several local institutions and terrible management by the City of Los Angeles. That post, entitled “Campaign for a Car Free Lincoln Park, Pt. 1“, along with a couple of follow-up posts and videos did result in some positive changes in the park.

One problem that has persisted, however, it the abuse of the park’s lawn by patrons and employees at Plaza de la Raza. Instead of using the available curbside parking (which used to be restricted during peak hours, but now is open to the public), and instead of using the newly paved and re-striped parking lot on Selig Place (which used to be abused as shuttle bus storage by nearby El Arca, Inc, but is now open to the public), instead of taking the bus, or riding a bike, or walking; instead of any of those options the patrons and employees of Plaza de la Raza drive directly inside the park and use the lawn to store their vehicles.

Is this illegal? Yes, it is. Former councilman Ed Reyes erected an “Authorized Vehicles Only” sign at the entrance being illegally used by Plaza patrons and staff – but somehow the sign never did its job (big surprise).

With a new councilman in office, one Gil Cedillo (despoiler of bike lane plans in Council District 1), is change going to come to the abused landscaping and park space at Lincoln Park?

Hah! Hell no!

Cedillo’s endorsement list for his city council run in 2013 includes the name of one Fredy Ceja, President of the Board at Plaza de la Raza. Since being elected in May of 2013, abuse of the park has continued unabated.

So, along with being anti-bike, Councilman Cedillo is strongly pro-cars-in-the-middle-of-parks. How can this be a winning strategy for local office in Los Angeles in the 21st Century?

Councilman Cedillo is up for election in 2017 – so it’s at least 3 more years of LA’s new patron saint of pollution and car-dominated, unsafe, streets and shattered communities.

Go for a drive on the lawn and foot paths of a local Los Angeles park today! Councilman Cedillo will be there in spirit, smiling, as you turn the last refuge of neighbors desperate for relief from the freeway-throttled asphalt hell-scape  local streets into another symbolic offering to the gods of combustion engines.

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How on Earth Did This Happen?

New bike corral in front of Flying Pigeon LA and Antigua coffee

There it is, folks, an official City of Los Angeles bike corral, right on North Figueroa Street—that’s right smack in the heart of CD1 capo Gil Cedillo’s all-cars-all-the-time dedicated speedway for us cut-through commuters!

I’m guessing our good buddy the council member’ll get the entire LADOT fired for this. Or maybe send out a few bulky men in black T-shirts and ski masks in a plateless Sprinter to tear it up with crowbars on some smoggy night, while the neighbors pretend not to notice. Yeah…. We can only hope.

We’re not kidding around, folks! This could be the slippery slope to safe streets, prosperous local businesses, and kids free of asthma!

I mean, come on: we know that asthma is a rite of passage for NELA’s young’uns, every bit as important as getting that driver’s license when you turn eighteen, so you too can crush your neighbors and poison their kids on the way to the Kwik-E-Mart. Just like the generations before you!

Can you imagine them kids pedaling away on bicycles? Like they was afraid of a heart attack or something? And in your way to boot!

And that’s what this mess will lead to: next thing you know, “they” are gonna start griping that they need a bike lane so they can get to this so-called “bike corral” and spend their welfare dollars at the coffeehouse on the corner. Hell, that might even lead to one of those so-called “road diets,” slowing down busy people like you and me just so some old lady can cross the street. And they call that progress!

Progress? Well, that word sounds like socialism to me, pardner! I don’t need no nanny state telling me when I can or can’t run down some damn old lady jaywalker, and neither do you.

And that radical bike shop next door, where they sell so-called “Dutch” bikes—well, they’re made in Europe, fergawdsake!, and that’s just next door to Russia. Sarah Palin could tell you all about it!

They even sell bikes for women, if you can imagina that. Hell, I think the Taliban has it right; women shouldn’t be riding no bicycles. It might give them ideas of the sort I can’t mention in print, y’know….

So get yourself right down to the corner of Figueroa and Lo-ree-to fast as you can in your biggest V-8 and take a look. This thing could be a sign of the future, and you’d better be ready for it….

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Pigeon Politburo: HLP real estate for ransom? Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at 7 p.m.

“Fuck hipsters” by Waltarrrrrr on Flickr

Join us at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at the Flying Pigeon LA bike shop for a screening of the film Real Estate For Ransom and a Q&A with Australian director Karl Fitzgerald.

Is the nefarious hipster to blame for skyrocketing housing prices and rents in Highland Park? Or are there other, less fashionable, causes?

Many of us bemoan the displacement of communities due to the rapidly rising rents and home prices in our neighborhood. What is behind all of this and what can we do about it?

Curbed LA has covered the affordable housing crisis for months, if you’re looking for some background info with up to date data.

Refreshments? They will be served. Minds? Will (hopefully) be blown.

There is a Facebook Event for this screening.

Any questions? Show up and have ‘em answered! Or email

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What Part of “Traffic Calming” Don’t You Understand?

Of course…another post on the manufactured controversy over the North Figueroa road diet in NE Los Angeles.

I’ll summarize the situation, in case you’ve been hiding in a barrel for the last few weeks:

Not long ago, after numerous community meetings, presentations, straw votes, speaker cards filled out and emails sent, etc, etc, the LA City Council voted unanimously to approve the plan to restripe North Figueroa with two new bike lanes and one fewer one general traffic lanes. The community had spoken, the Council had studied, the money was approved, and LADOT’s engineers did all the design work.

Then came an election, and termed-out council District One favorite Ed Reyes was replaced by career politician Gil Cedillo, himself termed out of his Sacramento seat and looking for a new perch in the public henhouse. And Cedillo immediately set himself to work blocking at least two community-oriented projects that Reyes had initiated. One is the sweet little Ed P. Reyes River Park, which would be a delight to its otherwise dreary neighborhood if Cedillo would allow it to open; it remains padlocked months after construction was wrapped up. The other is the North Figueroa road diet.

Cedillo is attempting to frame his concerns as worries over “safety,” which is odd, since road diets have been conclusively proven to increase street safety for all users—motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians alike. He also tried to claim that the road diet would impede emergency vehicle passage, which claim was quickly unmasked as utterly spurious and perhaps a blatant attempt at manipulatiion through prevarication.

But the real concern of the frantic ranters who loom large in Cedillo’s eyes, though they represent a minority opinion in the community, seems to be nothing more than the freedom to drive fast.

And drive fast they do, with the result that this stretch of North Fig averages nearly one death, and eighty or so injuries, each year, as a result of manic motorists and their lust for speeding.

Yet, to judge by the results of other road diets all over the US, they don’t get where they’re going very fast: the LADOT’s own calculations, which are decidedly automobile-centric, project an increase in rush-hour drive time of around forty-one seconds, spread out over five miles.

But analysis of New York City’s taxi fleet GPS data shows that road-dieted streets in that traffic-clogged city not only suffered no delays; on several such routes, motor traffic moved from point to point more quickly than before!

How can that be?

Simple. With a full-length center turning lane, drivers waiting to cross traffic into driveways and alleys don’t back other drivers up behind them, which, because of swerving, obstructs both lanes. And when drivers slow down in response to narrowed lanes and road space, they don’t rush themselves into traffic jams at every intersection. Moving more slowly, they get through more quickly, because they’re actually in motion more of the time. For example, in New York City’s Union Square area, one of the many benefits of adding a protected bike path was that, for motor traffic, “speeding decreased by 16%, while median speeds increased by 14%.”

Oh, yeah, and business receipts went up, while vacant storefronts nearly vanished. in fact, on NYC’s 9th Avenue, business income soared 49% after bike lanes went in, while on untreated streets around it, receipts tottered feebly upward by only 3%.

Aside from all this is the fact that the road diets resulted in fewer dead and maimed residents. However, this actual safety factor has no hold on Cedillo’s mind, nor on that of the car-addled cabal that seems to pull his strings.


Caught in a Lie

Example of intractable traffic on North Figueroa at noon on a weekday….

Council District 1′s bossman, Gil Cedillo, has been caught in a lie again in his campaign against the North Figueroa road diet. I say “again” because, though this recent prevarication is one of the most blatant, the entire campaign is founded on untruth: false claims that cyclists are an “outside interest,” while Cedillo panders to cut-through drivers who have no interest in the Highland Park community (except as it represents an obstacle in their commute from somewhere else to over there); false claims that his opposition to bike lanes is based on “safety,” when dozens, probably hundreds, of studies of real-world road diets have conclusively proved that the changes Cedillo is stonewalling do in fact reduce crashes, injuries, and deaths for motorists as well as pedestrians and cyclists; false claims that road diets are bad for business, when again repeated studies the nation and the world over show that they boost receipts, often by vast percentages, for the amjority of retailers along their routes.

Now Cedillo has trotted out another false claim: that the road diet will “hinder emergency response,” bringing visions of houses burning down, old folks dying unattended, and criminals running gleefully about whilst fire trucks, ambulances, and cop cars wail in frustration behind dawdling cyclists….

He even trotted out a couple of local badges who asserted in that, in their personal opinions, the road diet would slow them down.

Not that they ever claimed to have studied, or even seen, a road diet.

But at the highest levels of LA’s police and fire departments, the opinion is that the road diet would have no effect on response times. The departments were consulted for the EIR that evaluated the project before the City Council unanimously approved it in the pre-Cedillo days. Streetsblog LA quoted the relevant passage in their article on the matter:

The implementation of the proposed projects would not impede emergency access. Bicyclists would follow the same protocol as vehicles in surrendering the right of way to emergency vehicles. The design of all bikeway facilities will be governed by the Technical Design Handbook and applicable federal, state and local guidelines.

The proposed projects would comply with all City of Los Angeles fire department requirements. Less than significant impacts to emergency access are anticipated.
(CEQA analysis, page 25)

Cedillo should have read the EIR on coming into office, or been briefed on it by his staff.

Of course, since the road diet would reduce crashes, there would be fewer emergency calls to the LAPD and LAFD, a disproportionate amount of whose time is spent cleaning up after collisions….

This isn’t the first time the reactionaries have resorted to outright lying in their attempts to keep the northeast LA’s streets a speedway for the lazy and arrogant. I covered another recent effort at persuasion through prevarication in a recent post here, titled The Lies that Failed. That was during their attempt to block the revitalization of Colorado Boulevard on the other side of NELA.

Neighborhood residents also report being canvassed by council office staff and volunteers who ask what seem to be leading questions designed to elicit negative feelings towards the road diet. This assertion is supported by an email to Tom Topping, editor of the tablid Boulevard Sentinel and the loudest and most virulent voice of the odd cabal opposing safer streets. You can read it here.

One might try to be charitable and say that Cedillo is merely ignorant of the real-world facts of the matter, and really is letting himself be swayed by the foaming-at-the-mouth reactionaries leading the effort. But that can’t be so. For one thing, Cedillo, a career politician, is not exactly naive; for another, I have personally sent copies of relevant studies to his office more than once, as have others, and this material is widely available and well-publicized in community and planning journals nationwide. You can study this mass of data yourself on Google Drive.

We know Cedillo is not stupid—you can’t be as machiavellian as he is without some brains—and he can’t claim that he was misinformed. So, unless he’s a catspaw for some special interest that he’s keeping hidden, that doesn’t leave many explanations for his behavior….

You make the call.


Riff Raff

Riff raff casing San Marino, with ringleader “Chuck” in white

The Pasadena Star-News recently broke a story on San Marino, reporting on how a brave anonymous tipster revealed the city’s plan to build a bikeways network, one that would flood the defenseless little town with “riff raff” from nearby downmarket cities such as Pasadena.

What neither the tipster nor the Star-News could have known is that a cabal of cyclists, many of them disguised as elderly white guys, has been casing the city for years, preparing for this invasion! Under the shallow pretense of a monthly “Vintage Ride,” these desperadoes have been methodically surveying the sacred provinces of San Marino’s innocent gentry.

I know, because, as an investigative reporter, I have chosen to infiltrate this gang and ride with them as they plot their depredations.

And so, to ensure that no one misunderstand the danger of these incursions, I am risking my life to publish the street names and criminal specialties of these malefactors. Brace yourselves for what follows….

“Chuck”the ringleader of this ruthless band, a retired graphic artist who has worked for the likes of George Lucas and Sports Illustrated, and taught at Art Center College of Design. His lair is a sprawling hovel in the crime-ridden South Pasadena ghetto.
“Charles”formerly a classical music program director at notoriously-liberal KUSC, now a psychotherapist.
“Aaron”producer & director usually found lurking in the favelas of the Hollywood studio district.
“Brian”a librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library, a shadowy organization known to teach immigrants how to read.
“Yvonne”curator, textiles collection, LACMA.
“James”mechanical engineer.
“John”computer programmer.

And so on and on and on….

Let no one be fooled by this band of paunchy grandpas, with their scatter of younger pirates-in-training; the hard-won status of San Marino society is at risk of being elevated considerably by their mere passage through the town!

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