To a commuter, Los Angeles may be a huge city with clogged freeways and constant bumper-to-bumper traffic. But to a cyclist, it’s a city of endless opportunity.
The Los Angeles Department of Transportation is attempting to take advantage of the city’s 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 — the 5-foot line on the side of a regular street — 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.
“[The 2009 bicycle plan] is a complete revision of the 1996 and 2002 plans which were essentially the same plan,” said Michelle Mowery, senior project coordinator of bicycle planning and outreach of LADOT. “We took information [from previous plans] and figured out what was still feasible and merged it into the new plan … it’s a huge rebuild.”
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 “bike-friendly” streets like 29th Street.
Jefferson Boulevard, according to Mowery, is cited in the plan as a “potential” 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 LADOT’s 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 “Expo Line” route, which is frequently used by USC staff.
“There was an engineering decision somewhere along the line that [a] bike path doesn’t fit, so they moved it to bike lanes, which is fine for [the cycling club] because we’re used to riding on the roads, but it’s going to be hard to convince [students],” Bruins said. “They lost a huge potential biking constituency when they made that decision, and I don’t think they realized that.”
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.
“The timeline is vague at this point,” Mowery said, “because the bike community is asking that the time is extended.”
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.
“Words like ‘encourage,’ words like ‘should:’ They’re pretty hedging terms … It sounds good on paper, but when you actually get to the meat about what they are going to do, it’s not there,” Auerbach said.
Bruins added that many of these obstacles are a result of bureaucracy.
“It’s not a planning problem, it’s a political problem,” Bruins said. “There are so many steps along the way that are really [just] political opposition.”
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.
“If we continue at the level of interest we have had for the last ten years, in twenty years this could happen,” said Mowery. “But we need to get everyone excited.”