What L.A.'s New Bike Plan Means For Cyclists—and the City

Today, Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa signs a comprehensive new bike plan for the city. We asked local experts what it means for cyclists.

Despite Los Angeles' near-perfect weather, mostly-flat terrain, and an enthusiastic biking community, cyclists in L.A. still remain second-class citizens behind those piloting automobiles through the city. After yesterday's City Council ruling, that all could change. The 2010 Bike Plan, to be signed this morning, is perhaps the most ambitious pro-cyclist action in L.A. history, designating a 1,680-mile bikeway system and sweeping new bike-friendly policies.

The plan promises several changes for L.A. bikers: the Citywide Bikeway System [PDF] will introduce three new interconnected bike path networks—Backbone (long crosstown routes on busy streets), Neighborhood (short connectors through small streets) and Green (along recreation areas)—throughout the city, a new pledge for Bicycle Friendly Streets will make streets more pleasant for riders and walkers, and a series of education programs and safety policies will help cars and cyclists co-exist (you can download the entire plan here). Of course, this is just a plan, and one that's long overdue—for more on that, read last week's cover story in the LA Weekly. The real challenges may prove to be finding the proper funding to drive the plan towards implementation. That will take some massive commitment on behalf of the city.

But what will these changes really mean for the average L.A. biker? And how does this help Los Angeles move towards a culture that truly values those on two-wheels? I asked several bike experts who have been working closely with the plan to help explain what a plan can do for biking in L.A.

What is a bike plan, and what does it mean for biking in L.A.?

"It's a planning document, a guideline for what new things the Department of Transportation will do to accommodate cyclists over the next decade," says Jennifer Klausner, executive director, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. "But it also heralds the beginning of the cultural shift we have been looking for, because the process of getting the document to this point (greatly improved) has been more collaborative that any bike plan that preceded it, and it has real political support, as evidenced by its unanimous approval."

Painting sharrows on L.A. streets as part of a pilot program. Photo by LACBC

What's the single most important issue the plan addresses?

"By recognizing that bicyclists have different needs, and by addressing them, the plan is something that should improve conditions for everyone who rides a bike to get from point A to point B," says Damien Newton, the editor of LA Streetsblog. "If you need to get across town, the inclusion of the Backbone Bikeway Network ought to help. If you just want to ride locally to the grocery store or to pick the kids up at school, a series of local networks are in place in the plan."

What physical changes will riders start to see?

"Right away, there are going to be some awesome bike lanes (white stripes on arterial streets)," says Josef Bray-Ali, co-owner of the bike shop Flying Pigeon. "Developers will hopefully get a nice bike parking-for-car parking swap towards the end of March (great way to cut down on construction budgets!). Further on, we'll have some big projects that remove car lanes to install protected bike lanes, a ton of smaller neighborhood bike networks that make shopping and getting to work easier." The DOT has already highlighted ten corridors where they will improve the streetscape to make it more friendly for bikers, notes Newton. One of which is along Figueroa in downtown, a project we covered here before.

How will the bike plan make biking safer on L.A. streets?

"The key, and this is the real key, is that bike lanes offer the city an opportunity to reduce the dominion of cars in the city by removing car lanes, slowing cars down in residential and commercial districts, and by focusing bike planning efforts on the city's most dangerous intersections," says Bray-Ali. "By slowing and reducing car volumes on our streets, we'll make the street safer for all user groups and make walking, using the bus or train, and bicycling much more appealing to people—and not on some recreational trail in a riverbed, but right outside their doors, on the way to school or work."

A new bike corral installed in Highland Park is a first for the city. Photo by LACBC

What about mountain bikes? Are they included in the plan?

"I wish it would have included increased off-road trail access for mountain bikers," says Klausner. "It does not, and in fact, takes away potential future trail access that was included in the previous (1996) plan. This plan does not change the fact that mountain bikes are illegal on trails in all L.A. City Parks, and that is really a shame, and a missed opportunity for the City's Parks Department, in my opinion."

What did the bike plan not do that you wish it would have?

"There's a great part of the plan that lists some progressive transportation options (for example, separated bike lanes) but didn't say when or where they're going to put them in," says Newton. "I would love for every Council Member to embrace a different one for their district." He points to the city's first bike corral in Highland Park which opened last week, and transformed a street car parking space with 10-12 bike parking spaces.

"It's too bad that the Cyclists' Bill of Rights [a document authored by the Bike Riders Collective] wasn't included," says Alex Thompson of Bikeside LA. "We expect it will be the next time around but it really should have made it in this time. The Cyclists' Bill of Rights simply collects together cyclists rights that are already in the law, so there's really no reason why they shouldn't be in there."

The plan could create "bike boulevards" like this one proposed for 4th Street

Say I'm not a cyclist. What's in this plan for me?

"Many of the bike lane facilities will be 'road diets' so they're safer for drivers, passengers, cyclists, pedestrians," says Linton, who points out that federal studies show that these lane removals reduce overall collisions on roadways. "The same is true for the bike-friendly streets— they're safer for everyone. Car collision fatalities and injuries are a huge, huge epidemic, much greater than crime or terrorism." He also points to the other health perks: cleaner air, cleaner water, less noise pollution, reduced oil consumption, increased public health (especially reduced obesity), increased foot-traffic for local businesses, cheaper mobility, and a more egalitarian and vibrant public sphere.

Do you think this is the right plan for the city?

"I support it... but it's been exhausting," says Linton of the almost decade-long journey. "The city hired a consultant which did a good-not-great plan then the city threw it out and fucked around for another year and a half. I think that the plan is good but leaves some hard decisions for implementation. It's not visionary. We got the worst poison pills out of the really awful versions... then we said finally, 'Let's just approve this.'"

"This plan is a 70-30 mix of great new stuff blended with the wishy washy language of bike plans gone by (the 1996-2002 plan specifically)," says Bray-Ali. "There is still way too much 'Staff shall encourage' and 'Staff shall communicate' that leaves you wondering what the hell that exactly means." But he does point to some solid details provided in the plan so advocates can be more informed, like the pledge to build 40 miles of bike lanes per year, an annual bike count, an annual crash data release, bike parking reform, and a guaranteed $10 million per year from Measure R, a major transportation-funding measure passed last year.

Detail of the Citywide Bikeway System Map, which you can download here.

Where does the bike plan rank in comparison to other cities like Portland or San Francisco or even Long Beach? Is our master plan as progressive?

"L.A. is decades behind—those cities are committed to implementation on the ground," says Linton. "Our master plan is just a plan—it will take a fight with the LADOT to get one-tenth of the kind of innovation we're seeing in New York City, Long Beach, or San Francisco (or a change in leadership at the LADOT). We're already hearing that the city doesn't have the staff to implement the bike plan on the schedule that was approved."

Thompson was more optimistic. "Portland and San Francisco have more mature movements but this is L.A.," he says. "We're movie stars and we've got great biking weather all year round and we're going to give them, and Long Beach, a run for their money."

How would you describe L.A.'s bike culture?

"L.A. is already the most effervescent city to go on a group bike ride," says Bray-Ali. "I think we kick other city's butts with how many bike collectives we have. How many life-altering or downright fun, free, open-to-all-classes-and-genders rides we have every day of the week. Once you couple the people of L.A. with a city government-sponsored bike network, things are going to explode. Everyone will be on bikes, it will be the stupidest, most fun fad to slam the entire city in quite some time—think of the 1984 Olympics or the L.A. riots, or maybe both, in the way this plan will change the way business and governance is done in L.A."

"Give Me 3"posters designed by Geoff McFetridge went up around the city last year. Photo by LACBC

What will help increase the number of bikers in L.A.?

People need to feel safe on the streets before they'll embrace bicycling in traffic, says Newton. "Look at CicLAvia [a 2010 event that closed 7.5 miles of streets to cars]. Heck, look at Critical Mass [a regularly-scheduled public ride] since the LAPD began escorting the ride. When people know it's a safe option, they embrace bicycling." Also likely to be passed soon is an anti-harassment ordinance that will protect bikers from violence against them, like a road rage episode in 2008 that put two cyclists in the hospital.

Klausner says that physical changes to the city can be encouraging to potential bikers. "Infrastructure solutions serve as tangible invitations for people to come out and ride," she says. "But more people are riding bikes here and in cities everywhere these days, and even more so when gas prices increase, so we hope the question will ultimately become 'can this bike plan keep up with the expectations of an ever-expanding bike community?'" Thompson agrees that the growth will be more organic. "Each generation of cyclists is a little bigger and helps pave the way for the next—I expect to double the number of people riding in two or three years," he says. "What we really should be concerned about isn't growing cycling, which is happening, but protecting cyclists' safety as it grows."

How do people get involved with the bike movement?

"We're always looking for new volunteers who will help us out at Bikeside LA," says Thompson. "We created the original Backbone Bikeway Network proposal, and we were basically told it would never happen. Now it's in the bike plan—so we're good at what we do and we love to do cutting edge work."

Bikes parked outside City Hall during yesterday's vote. Photo by Josef Bray-Ali

In addition, the other groups mentioned here, including the LACBC are always looking for volunteers as well. You can also attend the DOT's Bike Plan Implementation Meetings. Regularly-scheduled rides like Critical Mass are open to the public, and of course there's also CicLAvia, which will open L.A. streets to biking and walking on three dates this year.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention GOOD LA's fundraiser for CicLAvia, happening this Saturday from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Atwater Crossing. There's also a public bike ride being led by Flying Pigeon from the Brewery to the CicLAvia fundraiser. With many of these advocates in attendance, it will be a good time and place to learn more about the bike plan and celebrate a new age of cycling for the city.

Top photo, of the first CicLAvia event, by waltarrrrr

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

Keep Reading Show less
via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

Keep Reading Show less