City aims to increase bicycle use
To a commuter, Los Angeles may be a huge city with clogged freeways and constant bumper-to-bumper traffic. But to a cyclist, itâs a city of endless opportunity.
The Los Angeles Department of Transportation is attempting to take advantage of the cityâs flat surfaces and static climate to make it a bike-friendly city with its 2009 bicycle plan. The plan, which LADOT is publicizing through a number of workshops offering members of the public a chance to comment and make suggestions, could alter roads across the city, including a number of those around USC.
The plan concentrates on making a citywide bicycle transportation system by building 696 miles of new bike lanes â the 5-foot line on the side of a regular street â and separate bike paths. It also plans to install and improve bike signage and parking, emphasize bike safety through education and regulation and increase efforts to fund the plan.
â[The 2009 bicycle plan] is a complete revision of the 1996 and 2002 plans which were essentially the same plan,â said Michelle Mowery, senior project coordinator of bicycle planning and outreach of LADOT. âWe took information [from previous plans] and figured out what was still feasible and merged it into the new plan … itâs a huge rebuild.â
Although the plan is a long-term proposition, with LADOT expecting the process to take more than a decade, they are hoping to use the workshops to give the community a chance to add their input.
Around USC, the plan proposes a bicycle lane on Adams Boulevard, a bicycle lane that goes along Exposition Boulevard until Vermont Avenue and encourages bikers to use more âbike-friendlyâ streets like 29th Street.
Jefferson Boulevard, according to Mowery, is cited in the plan as a âpotentialâ bicycle lane because LADOT would have to compromise by stripping the street of its side-street parking to gain the five feet needed for a bicycle lane.
Some students might enjoy more bike lanes and routes around the campus, but several who attended one of LADOTâs interactive workshops at the Bethune Regional Library in Exposition Park on Saturday, were skeptical.
Eric Bruins, a senior majoring in public policy, planning and development, and a member of the USC Cycling Club, said the plan is a good step for the community, but will need work for it to become a reality. Bruins said he was especially concerned about work along the proposed âExpo Lineâ route, which is frequently used by USC staff.
âThere was an engineering decision somewhere along the line that [a] bike path doesnât fit, so they moved it to bike lanes, which is fine for [the cycling club] because weâre used to riding on the roads, but itâs going to be hard to convince [students],â Bruins said. âThey lost a huge potential biking constituency when they made that decision, and I donât think they realized that.â
But potential changes would require official analysis into their environmental and traffic impact.
According to Brett Hondorp, principal of Alta Planning and Design, the engineering company that works with LADOT to design the lanes, the city is very careful when making those decisions about possible bike lanes.
For the plan to become a reality, it must go through several transportation, planning and subcommittees before reaching the City Council for approval.
âThe timeline is vague at this point,â Mowery said, âbecause the bike community is asking that the time is extended.â
Some community members, such as former USC photography professor Lisa Auerbach, who attended the workshop, were skeptical that the plan will ever become a reality.
âWords like âencourage,â words like âshould:â Theyâre pretty hedging terms … It sounds good on paper, but when you actually get to the meat about what they are going to do, itâs not there,â Auerbach said.
Bruins added that many of these obstacles are a result of bureaucracy.
âItâs not a planning problem, itâs a political problem,â Bruins said. âThere are so many steps along the way that are really [just] political opposition.â
LADOT believes the plan is necessary to get people to think about bikes as a form of transportation rather than recreation, Mowery said. The city hopes to see 5 percent of Los Angeles commuters regularly use their bicycles by 2020, but achieving that will require work from all sides.
âIf we continue at the level of interest we have had for the last ten years, in twenty years this could happen,â said Mowery. âBut we need to get everyone excited.â