One Small Step for a Plan

Well, they’re at it again, those pesky cyclists: yes, bringing business to York Boulevard’s local merchants—even as the car-culture elitists rave ever more desperately against the community’s modest efforts to temper their tax-sucking privilege. They’d prefer to maintain their domination of all public space with speeding cars.

I snapped this morning’s photo yesterday, a Tuesday, at 10:30 in the morning—far from peak hour for the coffeehouse on the corner of York and Avenue 50, or most other businesses on the street, for that matter. (I spent over twenty years in local retail….) But Café de Leche was buzzing, and not just because of the caffeine: a row of bikes on York (and another bike parked out of sight around the corner) helped explain the rapid exchanges of cash for coffee taking place inside.

Nevertheless, the opposition remains intractable, trotting out their by now well-rehearsed rants, and even a rambling video, at last night’s Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council meeting considering bike lanes for North Figueroa. “Gut feelings” rule the day, and facts are considered annoying impediments to the goal of keeping NELA’s roadways safe for scofflaw drivers.

It doesn’t matter to them that road diets and bike lanes are good for community, for the public health, and for the vast majority of local businesses—after all, street life only slows you down when you could be crashing through the ‘hood at double the limit. Broken lives, broken limbs, and a broken economy just don’t matter when you’re afraid of losing your delusion of superiority. And actually looking at what has happened in other cities, or other parts of our own city, when bike lanes have slowed traffic and sped up commerce—well, that won’t do. Like Karl Rove, they “create [their] own reality” as a blind to indulge themselves at the rest of the world’s expense. Success in places ranging from Santa Monica to Minneapolis to New York just doesn’t matter; apparently NELA is Mars, populated by strange beings that don’t behave like homo sapiens.

Fortunately, the NIMBY blitzkrieg isn’t working; democracy has proved to be messy indeed, as Rove’s cohort Donald Rumsfeld once (insincerely) observed. It has also proved to be effective. In meeting after community meeting, the anti-bikelane ragers have been outvoted by margins of two or three to one. Even at last night’s Arroyo Seco NC meeting, where the rules seem to have been set up to bias the votes against bikelanes, the final tally was 41 for, 16 against. (You had to be vetted by the council before you could venture an opinion.)

The preponderance of support for the bike lanes has not stopped neighborhood council boards from voting against them before, since personal prejudice usually trumps observable reality, but the tallies will probably put some backbone into the city council, and may, with luck, result in a work order implementing the North Fig bike lanes at long last.

They would cross the new ones now in place on York, and both York’s and Fig’s lanes would connect to the freshly-approved facilities on Colorado.

Then give them a few short years to draw more customers and merchants to the calmer, convivial streets…and watch the neighborhoods bloom!

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