LA’s Mobility Plan 2035 is a morally bankrupt symbol of a crumbling society …

A feral cow munches on plastic bags near an open sewer.

The bottom line for Los Angeles’ Mobility Plan 2035? Anyone who supports the current plan shouldn’t be allowed into any house of worship.

Please, let me explain.

When you build a house in Los Angeles you have to follow the building code – fire alarms, proper sewer lines, hot and cold water to the house, electricity, a structure that will not collapse in moderate earthquakes, a structure that allows people to get in and out as safely as possible in a fire.

Some of the more byzantine building codes (why a 2.5″ diameter handrail when a 2.25″ is just as good?) are simply there to establish some sort of baseline level of safety and eliminate any guesswork or fudging by an architect, engineer, general contractor or building inspector. Other parts of the building code are there due to hard won experience in the building trades, urban planning SNAFU’s, and public health research – usually through tragedies later found to be easily preventable through proper design, monitoring, or maintenance.

The health and sanitation reasons for making it mandatory to, for example, close off all the sewer lines to the environment (i.e. no open air sewer lines feeding to the street, a trench, or a local stream) are obvious to us. Open sewers breed the conditions for large scale health problems in a human population – cholera, dysentery, malaria, typhoid fever, etc. Closing off what were once open trenches of human poop, kitchen waste, and animal waste pooling in trenches in many cities has led to longer human lifespans and happier lives for many people who would have died or lost months or years of their lives fighting an easily preventable group of diseases.

Now we arrive at the problem I have with the Mobility Plan 2035 update in Los Angeles: the city’s streets produce the equivalent health effects of having open air sewers, except that it isn’t cholera or typhoid that is consuming lives and resources – we’re facing an epidemic level of obesity, growing rates of depression, heart disease, traffic injuries and deaths, and other negative social effects. These health problems are directly related to the way streets are designed and built. Just as open sewers lead to higher rates of fatal cases of diarrhea, the streets of Los Angeles lead to social isolation, excessively sedentary lifestyles, and all the miserable physical, psychological, and social problems that come with those conditions.

Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Health knows the effects of poor street design so well that they issue clear recommendations in their annual reports. They perform community health surveys regularly and their data can be broken down to the city council district level and potentially census block. There is no excuse that “we don’t have the money to monitor this” since the County provides material a 2nd grader could understand about the effects of poor street design on community health. The City of Los Angeles doesn’t need to collect health data – but it sure as heck needs to make sure measured health outcomes are a part of the legal framework for street designing.

We can just about predict the rates of childhood obesity, adult depression, and heart attack rates based on the pattern of streets, intersections, and sidewalks in a community – the same way we can predict that untreated effluent mixing with stream water used for bathing and drinking will spread cholera and dysentery.

It is at the level of a moral crime to allow street design to proceed without saying “it is illegal for us to design a street that will predictably lead to the current rates of depression, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, etc.” It is a sin given how much we have collectively studied and understand the effects of a car-only road system.

Community health outcomes must be directly tied to the planning, measurement of performance, and continual reevaluation of our streets.

To support the Moblity Plan 2035 without these health measures is to commit a moral and ethical crime not only against your fellow human, but against civilization itself. We collect together in cities to provide for our mutual benefit. Our government is empowered with the ability to tax us, police us, take property, and adjudicate our affairs in the trust that it will provide for the good life to all citizens. If we cannot muster the courage to tie road and street planning to clear evidence of health epidemics that are tearing through our population, well, why have a city at all? What is the point? We need to get this right or I don’t see any reason to have a city in the first place.

You can get me down off my soap box in the comment section below or online @flyingpigeonla on Twitter or be sending an email to info@flyingpigeon-la.com

If you’d like to join in the morality play for the soul of our civilization at the heart of the Mobility Plan 2035 you can:

First, read through the plan by downloading a draft copy here.

Then, you can either bust out your laptop or your typewriter and email my.la@lacity.org

or

Send a snail mail letter to:
Los Angeles Department of City Planning c/o My LA
200 N. Spring Street, Rm 667, MS 395
Los Angeles, CA 90012

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Brewery Ride on Saturday, April 5, 2014

We’re going on another mellow bike ride to sample high quality beer. Join us! This month we’re making the trek to The Greyhound Bar & Grill in Highland Park.

Meet at the Flying Pigeon LA bike shop at 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 5, 2014. We are going to roll out at 6:30 p.m. on a slow-paced cruise to a local purveyor of high quality beer – this month we’re heading to The Greyhound Bar & Grill in Highland Park.

We are going to ride on N. Figueroa Street to the doors of Councilman Gil Cedillo’s district office to raise awareness about the Figueroa For All movement to have bike lanes (which are being stalled by the cnoucilman’s office) installed on N. Figueroa. You can find out more at the Fig 4 All website.

The Greyhound is located right across the street from the councilman’s office and cell phone reception is great – so spend some time emailing, tweeting, or leaving a voice message for the councilman about your desire for a safe and bike-friendly North Figueroa.

Plan to be back at the Flying Pigeon LA bike shop at around 8:45 p.m.

Don’t have a bike? No problem! We rent them on our rides for $20.

More information about our rides can be found on our Shop Rides page.

There is a Facebook Event for this ride

Any questions? info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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Flying Pigeon LA inventory on March 24, 2014

More wandering around and talking about stuff in the shop like the eccentric Christianias we are trying to find homes for, used Gazelle Tour Populairs, Brompton demonstrator bikes, dynamo lights, Klean Kanteen bottles, and other good stuff.

Any questions? info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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The Two Figueroas

As you probably know if you read this blog with any frequency, the MyFigueroa project, which would convert a traffic-harried stretch of the other Figueroa, the one linking USC to Downtown, into a multi-modal greenway with a showpiece cycle track, has been threatened by business-as-usual blindness among some stodgy but influential entities along the street. Chief among these has been the Shammas car dealer cabal, which instituted a lawsuit against the plan to open Figueroa to transit users, cyclists, and walkers. However, USC and a museum or two in Exposition park also got itchy over the feeling that they would no longer have a car bong sluicing visitors into their corporate gullets…even though there are now three Expo Line stops between the school and the park, with more capacity than any street. And the bikeway itself, once folks got used to feeling they were actually permitted to ride on Fig, would be able to bring more people in than all the turgid traffic jams that car salesmen must dream of in their smoggy somnolence.

This area’s council member trembled with fear when he heard the wheeler-dealers whining (perhaps fear of losing the campaign contributions of the corridor’s fat cats), and for a long time it looked as though the MyFigueroa project would not be able to start before a Federal deadline attached to its funding, and so lose its grant.

However, as Joe Linton reports in Streetsblog LA, a strident public outcry led to some backroom dealings (fortunately involving steady supporter José Huizar of the city council and hard work by technical staff, plus the personal involvement of Mayor Garcetti), further bolstered by a meeting last Tuesday packed with a compelling variety of MyFig supporters. After the public comment period and a show of hands, leading to the revelation of the secret deal (but not of many details), it looked as though the project now has a decent chance of moving ahead. That is, as long as we the people spend some more public money on redundant studies assuaging the anxieties of the corridor’s backwards-looking bigwigs. Let’s keep our attention on developments; it ain’t over till it’s over. (And sometimes not even then, as users of the formerly-green Spring Street lane can attest.)

But there’s another Figueroa, the one NELA knows and would love to love, if it weren’t so abusive of neighborhood residents and businesses. This is North Figueroa, championed by Fig4All, born out of the very same Flying Pigeon LA that hosts this blog.

With the terming-out of Ed Reyes and the ascendancy of the petulant Gil Cedillo, the project—which had been ready to sail ahead—finds itself in the doldrums. Cars continue to speed at far over the limit on a bleak street lined with schools and struggling businesses, and cut-through motorists are structurally privileged over merchants and residents. The street is overbuilt for the traffic volume it sees, and so drivers ratchet up the horsepower and blow past storefronts and through crosswalks all day long—as well as any pedestrian hapless enough to dare crossing the asphalt desert that the smeared windshield perspective of past decades has burdened us with. Despite repeated public meetings, announcements, and straw votes always overwhelmingly favoring a simple and inexpensive road diet and bike lanes for this neighborhood corridor, the project drifts.

It’s particularly ironic since the sole major institution in the area is Occidental College, alma mater to: Janette Sadik-Khan, who revolutionized New York City’s transport priorities to favor walking, bikes, and transit, and so boosted the local economy; our own ur-advocate Joe Linton; and well-known community organizer Barack Obama.

Considering that North Figueroa is bracketed by a four-lane freeway on one side, and a major light rail line on the other, there is no human reason to keep it as yet another car bong driving local communities and commerce into the gutter.

Mayor Garcetti was a major force in the development of the growing consensus on the more-glamorous MyFig project. Perhaps it’s time for Hizzoner to take a jaunt around Elysian Park and help out a struggling neighborhood that is waiting for a Complete Street of its own on North Figueroa to bring it back to life.

We are LA too.

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NELA CicLAvia Feeder Ride on Sunday, April 6, 2014

We are leading a group ride from our shop on Sunday, April 6, 2015 at 8:30 a.m. to CicLAvia. Meet at our shop (located at 3404 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90065) and join a large group of neighbors on a peaceful and safe ride to the Downtown LA start point for CicLAvia.

We are going to close our shop for the day to enjoy CicLAvia but will be open for about 30 minutes from 8 a.m. until we depart for DTLA to inflate tires, do quick bike inspections, sell locks, water bottles, etc. We’ll be back at the shop after 4 p.m. to check in our rental bikes and hang out.

What you will need for this ride:

  • a functioning bicycle
  • and a smile!

Need a functioning bike for CicLAvia? We have got you covered! We rent bikes for CicLAvia.

What you will NOT need for this ride:

  • helmet;
  • signed release;
  • reservations.

Parking at the shop is available on-street. We have a lovely cafe, Antigua Cultural Coffee House, as a neighbor if you want to get here early and relax before the ride.

The Flying Pigeon LA bike shop is located adjacent the Metro Gold Line between two stations: Cypress Park/Lincoln Heights or Heritage Square.

The shop is also conveniently served by the 24-hour 81 bus and 83 bus lines run by Metro.

There is a Facebook event for this ride.

Any questions? info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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The Infection is Spreading


The infection is spreading…and it’s good news! Since in this case it’s the infection of bicycle infrastructure, which, like the beneficial bacteria in one’s guts that people gulp down yogurt to feed, keeps the system healthy.

Last week, in Venice Beach, just around the corner from Santa Monica’s happy length of Main Street, a couple of LADOT bike corrals arrived, bracketing either end of Abbot Kinney Boulevard’s bustling little retail corridor.

They were instantly packed with bikes—which is no surprise, as the street swarms with velos day and evening, and the sidewalk bike racks are generally at capacity. Fixies, beach cruisers, and numerous city bikes spill over onto parking meters and signposts all along the street. (The city bikes are often the cheap and excellent Linus brand, purchased at the factory outlet on the boulevard itself, and available here at the Pigeon).

This was long overdue, as Santa Monica’s increasing network of bike lanes, green streets, and bike corrals is spurring ridership beyond its borders; so, even though the LADOT corrals are of a design I don’t favor, I’ll take ‘em! Better too-little-too-late than nothing and never, which is what LA cyclists put up with for decades.

And LADOT is making some sort of effort to establish a connected network in Venice Beach, with striped lanes appearing on several streets leading off from Windward Circle, though the ones I’ve explored don’t go far into the neighborhoods they seem intended to serve. It took a bit of a fight to get LA’s end of Main Street there a set of proper bike lanes, but they did go in a couple of years back. Now, if the city would just stripe Venice Way to past the library, where the sharrows already on Mildred (I suggestion I made years back) would connect it to the bike lanes on West Washington and the off-road path to the Marina! This route already sees heaps of bike riders, so it needs a facility.

I must say that we are finally starting to see these efforts at creating networks, not just freestanding bits of bike stripe here and there, in other parts of the city as well. Though there are still isolated bike lanes that start and end in blank gray space on Glendale in Atwater, on Rowena, through Park La Brea, on Crescent Heights for a few hidden blocks south of Pico, etc etc, the agenda for the April 17th webinar on the second year implementation of the 2010 bike plan shows a good number of projects dedicated to connecting open-ended network segments. This is vital to enticing the more-casual rider to use a bicycle on the streets for practical purposes.

It’s that more-casual rider who is the future of cycling…and a healthy city.

That is, a city not suffering from so much gas….

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Infrastructure Envy

Poor Los Angeles, having to put up with people like me whining and nagging about its slow ooze into the Bicycle Millennium.

The problem is that the whining and nagging are so often justified. LA does do some things well—the sidewalk bike rack program was going great guns until recently, when the city ran out of racks, and its sole and only bike rack installer retired. Now, the bike rack request page, which last year said installations would resume in November, updated the page to promise March, which has now been changed to April. I suggested a mason I know with whom I discussed starting a side business installing racks on private property (something DOT is not permitted to do), and they have referred him to the mazes of a General Services Department approval process. So now even sidewalk racks are on hold.

However, the city did sound the trumpets about the recent installation of two bike corrals on Venice Beach’s Abbot Kinney Boulevard.

While I have my reservations about the particular design LADOT has chosen (and already bought twenty of), LA is still at the sad stage where you take what you can get, and fight for better afterwards. (Though David Hembrow thinks that is a dangerous paradigm.) So I am happy that there are two bike corrals on Abbot Kinney, a street swarming with bikes, and one whose sidewalk racks are not infrequently full-up. Portland-style bike corrals are better, but we’ll take these for now, thank you!

But let’s face it: just around the corner from those new corrals, on Santa Monica’s segment of Main Street, are three bike corrals, which have been there for years, and which see heavy use—especially the one in front of Peet’s and the Ben & Jerry’s.

Meanwhile, the city has often stood in the way of progress towards a bikeable, walkable human-scale streetscape, with such well-known debacles as the initial institutional opposition to bike lanes on the Glendale-Hyperion bridge, the removal of 33 much-used bike racks from Larchmont Boulevard, the continued reluctance to put North Figueroa on a road diet, the abject bending over to a car dealership objecting to the MyFigueroa project joining Downtown to University Park, and the glacial pace of striping lanes on all but the easiest, widest streets. (Though at least the city is standing behind the bike lanes through the second Street tunnel, and finally went ahead with the Colorado Boulevard orad diet—all the above documented on this very blog as well as Streetsblog LA and many other venues.

It’s not just LADOT at fault here—often the agency is being held back by the city council or individual members thereof playing their own little political games. But the result is very slow progress.

In a way, it’s fortunate that LA has Beverly Hills to look down on—a city so backwards that it makes us look good. That town recently voted a decisive “No!” to bike lanes along the soon-to-be-rebuilt portion of Santa Monica Boulevard that creeps through Botox Central. Even though LA and West Hollywood themselves have bike lanes on their segments of Santa Monica leading up to BH on either end.

But being better than the worst shouldn’t be good enough for LA. We’re the county’s biggest burg; wouldn’t it be nice if Santa Monica and Long Beach and Culver City and Temple City could look up to us and wish they had what we have…instead of the other way around?

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Get Sum Dim Sum Ride on Sunday, March 16, 2014

Join us at the Flying Pigeon LA bike shop at 10 a.m. On Sunday, March 16, 2014 for a slow paced ride to Chez Antoine in Highland Park. We are going for crepes!

The ride departs at 10:30 and returns around 1 p.m.

We are going to make a stop at local councilman Gil Cedillo’s office to take a group photo and encourage the councilman to support a Figueroa For All.

There is a Facebook Event for this ride.

Any questions? info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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Green thumbs keep prisoners hands clean

The trend to start a garden, ride a bike, keep bees and chickens, mulch, collect rain water, brew beer, and the like should not be confused with the twee affectations of the much maligned “hipsters” of the U.S. Gardening, like riding a bike to get around, is a serious solution to many of the problems that we face as a civilization.

While hordes of Americans delude themselves into thinking that iPads represent the next great leap forward for humanity, it is a select band of prisoners in the state of Washington and here in California, at San Quentin Prison, show us the true way to a righteous and happier future. Lo, it all comes from gardens.

Great news about cost savings, recidivism rates, and reduction of environmental damage emanate out of the Sustainability in Prisons Project in the Washington State Department of Corrections.

Even better news out of San Quentin, where a similar gardening program has been implemented and has shown similar results.

It is pretty neat to think that the same trend that is sweeping the front and back yards of Angelenos is busy helping the incarcerated find a meaningful life after being in prison. As the noted permaculturist Geoff Lawton has said, “All the worlds problems can be solved in the garden.” I guess so long as those problems aren’t gardening problems, I’ll agree.

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Playing ball in Los Angeles is illegal

LAMC Section 56.16: “No person shall play ball or any game of sport with a ball or football or throw, cast, shoot or discharge any stone, pellet, bullet, arrow or any other missile, in, over, across, along or upon any street or sidewalk or in any public park, except on those portions of said park set apart for such purposes.”

I recently attended a talk by Dr. Richard Jackson, one of America’s leading experts in how the ‘built environment’, including architecture and urban planning, affect health. In his presentation, Dr. Jackson showed slides of the growing obesity rates in Los Angeles County and described what has happened to our kids health in the past 20 years as “child abuse”.

Along with the problems a kid faces these days when she wants to walk or bike around the neighborhood, that same kid faces a wall of cultural and (in Los Angeles) legal limits that prevent the most mundane activities of childhood.

Case in point is the law above, Los Angeles Municipal Code 56.16, which makes playing catch on the sidewalk or street an unlawful act.

We can have 100 CicLAvias a year but if kicking a soccer ball to your buddy on the sidewalk in front of your apartment building, or throwing a football in the street, is a crime you can expect nothing fundamental to change.

What would it take to strike down this ridiculous law? In Los Angeles, we have a 15-person city council and it only takes 8 of those 15 to agree on the matter to strike down a stupid law like this. Assuming we can build an effective “Legalize Playing” lobby (I can’t believe how ridiculous we are that we need a lobby to make playing legal in LA), I think we can get it done.

The first order of business should be play-ins wherein we all throw balls to each other in front of City Hall with signs to protest LAMC 56.16. Next, barring our arrest, we should walk the halls of the 3rd floor of city hall and create a simple list with councilmembers names, their lead staffer on this issue, and whether or not that councilmember supports a repeal of LAMC 56.16.

Our proposed amendments to LAMC 56.16? It should look like this after we’re done with it:

(Repealed by Ord. No. xxx.xxx, Eff. xx/xx/14.)

It’s either that, or childhood remains illegal in Los Angeles.

Many thanks to Jeff Jacobberger for posting this municipal code to his Facebook page.

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