Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Action Alert: Making A Push At Wednesday Night Planning Commission Meeting


View Agensys Bike Access Issues in a larger map. Based on Barbara  Fillet's diagrams I also plotted out the area onto a google map to help illustrate why connectivity matters here, and how problematic existing alternative routes are going around the block to connect from Stewart, which is already classified a bike route

Planning Commission Meeting
Wednesday, September 1st, 7PM
Santa Monica City Council Chambers, SM Civic Center on Main Street

Things are moving fast and time is ticking on the bike access through proposed Agensys redevelopment of city land issue. The planning commission meeting this week is one of our last chances to voice community support for bike access through the property. So those of us who have been following the issue, primarily folks involved with Santa Monica Spoke, concluded our best shot to see bike access a reality is make as much noise as possible this Wednesday. This project is a fairly simple and perfect opportunity to create safer and more pleasant bike access through that neighborhood of Santa Monica, but really this is more than just about this particular property, it's about sending a message to the planning commission, to developers, to the council, that cycling concerns matter, and should in the future be addressed in planning matters from the outset.

Agensys seems to be dead set against bicycling for some reason. While earlier I heard liability concern was one of the reasons, I also just heard from a reliable source, that the city offered to take on full liability for a cycling path, and even reduce the rent proportional to the land use for the bike path, and the answer was still no. So the opposition to cycling access would seem to have little to do with money.

One of my concerns is that if the path through the property goes ahead as pedestrian only, with signs for cyclists to dismount, some cyclists just trying to find a safe route will try and ride through anyways. This would create more safety issues than if cycling was incorporated into the design, and it would make cyclists looking to avoid major high traffic intersections into rule breakers, and reinforce the notions many hold cyclists. It would dramatically improve connectivity to the Cross Roads school, and I imagine some kids would want to use the path to ride to school.

Unless there is some serious enforcement it is simply human nature that any path of travel free of car traffic, people will want to use, to walk to bike, to skate, what ever it may be. So we should start acknowledging this fact and design accordingly. Pedestrians walk all over bike paths, cyclists often ride on pedestrian corridors. We need to start acknowledging that everyone wants ways to get around that aren't driving, but the alternatives are often diverse. Any place with a bike path should have a pedestrian walkway, and pedestrian paths should have a bicycle path as well. Or if segregation of traffic into separate facilitates is impractical, you can do as some beach towns have done and designate pedestrian priorities zones where cyclists have access but must ride at slower speeds.

Bill Bauer In The SMDP referred To Barbara Fillet (pictured here with husband Kent Strumpell), a long time SM resident and advocate to designate Michigan a bike route, as a "hard core" cyclist. She was characterized as self interested and only wanted the path for her and her "friends". Barbara loves to ride her Brompton folding bike which she can easily take on the bus, and likes to protect her ears from wind with custom helmet mounted ear muffs. She sees safe routes to schools as essential to city development. Hardly my idea of a "hard core" cyclist.
I think perhaps some of this whole thing comes from some misplaced fear of the "hard core" riders. Any of the roadie types, the actual hard core riders, trying to train and go fast, will often avoid any kind of more constrained area or where reducing speeds is required. I do a lot of intensity training my self, and I often even avoid the designated bike only paths at the beach to do so. Opting for the street routes instead, because I know I can maintain higher average speeds off the path, and not have to worry about people walking or anything else that often slows things down or presents unpredictable risks that in theory shouldn't be there because the path is "bike only". 


Here is a look at some of the public that would benefit from greater bike connectivity in the area. Since nay-sayers like Bill Bauer have likely never stepped foot to pedal for a bike ride in Santa Monica, maybe these photos can offer proof a public exists in Santa Monica that actually wants to feel safe riding a bike in this town. A look at the sprawling mass of bikes at the bike valet off of the bike path for the Twilight Dance Series is another favorite image of mine to show how many people in SM are willing to ride when you provide the facilities for it.

If you want to see bike access a reality for that block, especially if you are a Santa Monica resident, I highly encourage you to show up with a 2 minute or less little speech about it, or even just be in attendance if your too nervous to speak. I know it can be a bit boring at times these public meetings, but if we can start reliably getting attendance at these things, this is a powerful way that we can change the political landscape. Some of the more ambitious bike projects proposed for Santa Monicas original 1995 bicycle master plan were shot down because opposition was mobilized and cyclists simply weren't at the time. We have to flip that around, and I see enough bikes on the streets of Santa Monica these days, that if we wanted to, and came together, we could become a real political force.

Planning Commission Meeting
Wednesday, September 1st, 7PM
Santa Monica City Council Chambers, SM Civic Center on Main Street

Letters of support for bike access, and disappoint that it wasn't included in initial planning would also be beneficial:


Contact Info:
Santa Monica Planning Commission:  
jaypjohnson@earthlink.net, HKoning@KEArch.com, gwynne@pugh-scarpa.com, TedSMPlan@gmail.com, GNewbold@gmail.com, Jim_Ries@hotmail.com, parryj@gte.net,
Planner in charge of project: brad.misner@smgov.net

Santa Monica City Council:  Council@smgov.net

City Manager Rod Gould:  Rod.Gould@smgov.net

Planning Director Eileen Fogarty:  eileen.fogarty@smgov.net

Contact Info For Agensys's parent company can be found here

Monday, August 30, 2010

Update On Malibu Discussion, and Malibu Safety Commission Meeting Wednesday Night

Some people have been asking what's up the Malibu situation. I admittedly got sidetracked with other issues, my brain is often trying to be in far too many places at the same time. The latest is that an informal meeting was held with Ted Rogers of BikingInLA and the LACBC board, along with safety commissioners Susan Tellem and Chris Frost, LaGrange member and BAC Vice Chair Jay Slater, and a representative from the Sheriff’s Department.

The gist of this meeting from talking to Ted is that it was a pretty productive conversation with no animosity. It was acknowledged that problem drivers are what pose the greatest risk, and an additional sheriff is being brought on to help police PCH. Cyclists would not be given any kind of special targeting, but if they see rules broken that pose a risk, mainly running reds, they will hand out tickets. There was apparently some continued misunderstanding of riding more than one abreast. However after hearing the LAPD interprets 2 abreast riding to be legal (there is no law explicitly forbidding riding more than one abreast), there was openness to talk across departments to ensure consistency in law enforcement across PCH, which is policed by Malibu, Los Angeles, and Santa Monica, depending on which portion you're on.

Cycling will be discussed at this weeks public Malibu Safety Commission meeting for those who want to give input. I'm torn with the other Wednesday meeting, to discuss a bike connection to Michigan in Santa Monica, but I think it would be good if we had a few cyclists representing in Malibu as well.

Wednesday 6:00PM
Malibu City Hall - Council Chambers
23815 Stuart Ranch Road

Upcoming Meetings That Addess Bike Route Through Proposed Agensys Property

This Wednesday is the Santa Monica Planning Commission meeting, of which the Agensys proposal and surrounding city yards area will be a central topic. Some people from Spoke are planning to show up, and like all issues that are contentious, the more bodies we have in support the better.

Planning Commission Meeting
Wednesday, September 1st, 7PM

Santa Monica City Council Chambers, SM Civic Center on Main Street

The next city council meetings are the 14th and 28th of September, with the final decision for Agensys lease being on made on the 28th.

There are a few alternative proposals being talked about, from integrating with already proposed pedestrian path, an adjacent bike path, to a fully separate bike path at southern property edge. Each idea has it's own challenges, but if we don't get bike connectivity here through to Michigan, I think it will be a real missed opportunity toward building safe routes to the Crossroads school and SAMOHI campus.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Images From The SMMOA & C.I.C.L.E. Tour Da Arts II

SMMOA Tour Da Arts

The Tour Da Arts was a great cultural event with crafty time, hula-hoops, art, music, drama and bikes and more bikes. Oh and lots of free cliff bars. A fun day, and one that perfectly illustrates the magic you can create with a roaming field trip on bikes. Hundreds turned out, and there were lots of families with their kids too. Thanks to Asuka Hisa from the Santa Monica Museum of Art, C.I.C.L.E., and others who put this together. Cycling in Santa Monica  is on the cusp of going mainstream, the culture change is happening already. We just need a little more safety in the streets and I think we'll see ridership really take off. My complete set is on flickr here, and the official event photography is here.

SMMOA Tour Da Arts
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Challenging The Defeatist Mentality Of Letting The Bully Win

 SUV With Dealer Plates Blocks High Traffic Cross Walk
(SUV with tinted windows and dealer plates blocking entire crosswalk and wheel chair ramp at the Santa Monica Pier.)

Human conflict, violence, and war still exist, but for the most part, human society has long ago moved past, big man with big stick takes your meat. We have created police to protect the formalized rights granted our citizens, and given police the power to carry out the mission of protecting those rights. We do not tolerate a big bully with a club enforcing their will on others, that is anti-democratic. Yet in conversations about cycling, one of several echoing refrains that comes up time and time again, is cars are bigger, so they win, cyclists and pedestrians lose, so get out of the way. We don't tell kids that are smaller or weaker, don't go to school because you might get hurt by the bigger kids. Why do we tolerate this line of thinking on the road?

Here is a quote from the LA Times comment board, from the recent story circulating of the 81 year old driver that failed to yield while making a left turn and plowed into a group of cyclists, resulting in serious injuries and a helicopter emergency airlift for 3 of the 4 riders involved. I picked the comment below out because it typifies anti-cycling or mode bias sentiment. Like most of these sorts of comments, it follows a pattern, and could easily be interchanged with comments from a hundred different news stories on bicycling.
"Whose to blame? Sounds like the driver didn't give the cyclists the right of way or just flat out didn't see them. Hope they heal, but I hope this doesn't fuel the 'renegade' cyclists seeking equality on the road, but rather shows that they aren't safe and need to realize that the big dog is always gonna beat the little dog no matter how much barking the little one does."
This wasn't the only comment like this, and some were far more blunt in saying bikes shouldn't be allowed on public roads for their own safety. Do we want a civilization that gives free reign to motorists to be bullies? Some citizens have guns, many do not. Do we tell the citizens that don't, hey don't go outside, you aren't as well armed? Besides what should be apparent and serious ethical flaws with such line of thinking, it does not hold up when you apply it to attitudes toward other vehicles of various sizes.

No one questions the fact that a 16 wheel semi-truck will smash a car to bits in a collision, but we don't hear these same motorists call to remove cars from truck traffic. Cars drivers are allowed to drive on the same roads as buses and cross intersections with trains. Collisions between a car and the much bigger train, truck or bus are all instances where a car, in spite of all it's whizbang crumple zones and fluffy air bags, is simply no match. What about cars of different sizes, should we ban smart cars from sharing the road with SUV's. Like most comments by bike haters, they only want to apply their logic in a way convenient to their own interest. They think cyclists don't belong, so they only apply their line of thinking toward cycling.

If you really follow down this path of logic, only large trucks should be allowed to use the roads and highways. They are after all the biggest dogs on the road. I'm sure truck drivers would love that, maybe they could deliver on time without all the inefficient cars in their way. Since I think most people would object to only trucks being allowed on the street, we have to figure out a way to coexist, and make our streets work and serve all users, efficiently and safely.

As a society, America has viewed a ballpark rate of 40,000 annual traffic fatalities as reasonably acceptable collateral damage in getting from A to B. That has to change. It's much more than a cycling issue, most of those killed are not cyclists, they are drivers and their passengers. For all the safety features of the modern automobile, in America we still lose on our roads the equivalent of about 6 jumbo jets loaded with passengers crashing every month. Most of them people who were inside a car. Could you imagine the uproar if passenger planes started falling out of the sky at that rate?

Planes have a lot of safety specific features, like modern cars do, but there is no replacement for a good pilot. We need safer drivers on our roads. Drivers who are well educated, responsible, and are not intoxicated, intexticated, or falling asleep at the wheel. Drivers who still have the mental capacity to handle the demands of turning left (one study found each additional year of age after 65 increases the odds of getting into a crash involving turning left by 8 percent).

We need to put life before license.

So no, we will not back down and let the bully win. If fighting for the rights of cyclists makes me a renegade, so be it. This little dog will keep on barking.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bike Path Proposal Hot Potato At Site Of Proposed Agensys Development

For those not yet aware, the cancer research and bio-tech company Agensys, which is already based in Santa Monica, is seeking to expand and build a new facility. A property near the Bergamot Station art complex and future expo stop, owned by the City of Santa Monica is being negotiated for a 50 year lease. The plan calls for a pedestrian only path through what would become the new facility, but bike advocates have also been calling for a bike path at the Southern property edge, which create a more direct and safer route to connect with Michigan Ave. Michigan is already a pleasant residential street to ride, and one proposed to be a potential bike route or bike boulevard in LUCE. One of the goals of LUCE, and part of the reason this issue is debated, is to break up "super block" developments and create new path ways and encourage active transportation.


Barbara Filet and Kent Strumpell, who have been passionate advocates for promoting Michigan as a bike route, and bridging the gap to reaching it from Stewart St. and communities further East in Santa Monica, wrote a primer document on this Agensys issue for the SM Spoke blog, and what they envision an eventual Michigan bike route to look like. I highly recommend checking out their document for more comprehensive details and maps concerning the issue. Also in their proposal is a short bike path on Caltrans property to connect where Michigan dead ends at the freeway to get to the 20th St. bridge. Plans to make 20th St. a bike route with sharrows, and new tree and sidewalk treatments are already under way as well.

Bike Path IconThere has been a lot of no, we can't and liability talk from Agensys lawyers on this issue, and the City has been divided on how important a bike route connection here is. My take on this is, the sliver of southern property edge Barbara has proposed for a bike path is easily doable. Since the buildings are being demolished and rebuilt anyways, there is a lot of flexibility and it is in accordance with the principles of LUCE. Liability is often the go to bull shit response to saying no to bikes, as if accommodating cars didn't also create liability. Pedestrians sometimes get hurt in parking lots, should we stop developing parking lots, or mandate drivers be air lifted to the sidewalk from their car so they can't get hurt?

This is City owned property that would be leased with a 50 year term. If we can't even get a developer to agree to a bike route on a property owned by the city, that sets the precedent that future developers can simply scoff at bike route proposals for any future developments. There is a fear if the city forces the issue, that Agensys may up and leave for elsewhere. No one wants that, nor do the cyclists, but really I think the city has the upper hand here.

This property will be sitting right at ground zero for expo-line train commuting from across the region in a few years time. Thus a deserible location for business growth for obvious reasons. Agensys is also a company already positioned in Santa Monica, and would not take relocating, and making life more difficult for employees who may be living where they are to be close to work, very lightly. The recent trends of skilled workers coming out of college and universities has been toward moving to urban communities where walking, cycling and transit are more prevalent. Sure as some nay sayer comments on the LAist post pointed out, there is cheaper real estate for Agensys elsewhere, and probably fewer development agreements for them to deal with. However it is the human capital that drives business, and hubs like major rail stations are going to become increasingly desirable as time goes on.

Councilmen McKeown has been vocally on the side of including a bike route through the property, as have the Parks and Recs commission, but not everyone on the city council is convinced. The SM Daily Press article on the topic mentions that councilmen Bloom pointed out Michigan isn't even a bike route yet. This is a rather dubious comment to me because, A, Michigan though not officially a bike route, is already used like one because it is a great street to ride due to wide width, low traffic volume, and shaded trees. It is also the best direct connection to the high school, where efforts are underway to improve bicycle ridership. And B, Michigan is prominently listed as a future bike route in the LUCE planning document.

This is a 50 year lease, and an easy way  to dramatically improve connecting Michigan to Exposition and the Stewart St. bike route. Alternative routes around the cluster of properties all involve high traffic intersections and more left turns, which are prohibitive to less experienced or less confident cyclists. Does councilman Bloom envision that Michigan will not become a bike route in the next 50 years? That does not bode well for a commitment to a planning document numerous citizens spent countless meetings providing input to, crafting it's goals, principles and route plans, and finally passed by the council years over due.

The last point I'll make, having read about the development of bike route improvements in a number of different cities featured in the book Pedaling Revolution, is that Davis California, the first LAB Platinum Bicycle Friendly City, built a lot of it's bike route network through developer agreements.  Because Davis made a commitment to requiring developers to accommodate bicyclists early on, as the city built out, it built out with bike paths. Those developer built bike paths, combined with on street facilities, and a city wide cross departmental commitment to supporting cycling, resulted in dramatically higher bicycle ridership and commuting than anywhere else in the country.

The cycling movement has been building momentum, and I saw hundreds of Santa Monica residents, young, old, men woman, boys, and girls, riding for the SMMOA Tour Da Arts. If development lawyers want a fight with cycling advocates, I say let's bring it on. The time for cyclists to shy away and scrounge for some space in the gutter and door zone is over, we need to pick fights, and demand a seat at the transportation table. We need safe routes to school for our kids, and this rather short and simple bike path proposal is a great way to start knocking down barriers that divide our community.

Some are calling this issue the first test of the recently passed LUCE document. Is Santa Monica committed to progressive planning principles supported by it's citizenry, or is Santa Monica committed to winning prestigious awards for it's planning, rather than it's actions?


Related News Stories (Most of these are based on SM Daily Press story, which does not include full details of proposal):
SM Daily Press
LAist
Curbed LA

Primer Document For Proposal By Barbara Fillet and Kent Strumpell:
SM Spoke

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Updated Speaker List For Bikeside Talks This Weekend

I've updated the list of speakers for this Saturday's Bikeside Talks at Cynergy, and was excited to see our Santa Monica councilman Terry O'Day, who is running to retain his spot in the coming election, was confirmed as a speaker. The complete list of speakers is here:
  • "Cool Ass" Mike Bowers presents 1000Bikes.org, his non-profit project to give foster kids and their families bikes.
  • Terry O'Day, cyclist & Santa Monica City Councilman up for re-election, will talk about Santa Monica's ongoing bike progress
  • Betsy Butler, Dem for State Assembly, will come by and share her views on bikes and state government.
  • Stephen Box, candidate for LA City Council (district 4) will rock the house as always.
  • Gary Kavanagh, blogger for Gary Rides Bikes and bike activist in the Santa Monica Spoke, will deliver his talk "Redefining Freedom Of Mobility Beyond The Motoring Age"
  • Cory Wilkerson, Burbank City Planner, will explain how he crafted an award winning bike plan on a shoe string budget.
  • Felicia Williams of CICLE will talk about CICLE's amazing Urban Expeditions ride, and talk you into attending Sunday's festivities at the Santa Monica Museum of Art.
  • Finally, we'll screen the documentary film about the Blood-In Hit & Run protests by Rick Darge, and talk about Bikeside's campaign to change state law - Life Before License.

New York Times "Green" Blog Delusional On Energy Efficiency In Transportation

 transportation

A real pet peeve of mine is how often mainstream "green" media spends it's time trying to sell new cars, often ignoring or disparaging more efficient modes like riding a bike or taking transit and misinterpreting data in the process. The following quote from the New York Times article "Delusions Abound on Energy Savings, Study Says" stood out to me from their report on a research paper titled "Public perceptions of energy consumption and savings".
The top five behaviors listed by respondents as having a direct impact on energy savings (turning off the lights, riding a bike or using public transportation, changing the thermostat, “changing my lifestyle/not having children” and unplugging appliances or using them less) yield savings that are far outweighed by actions cited far less often, like driving a more fuel-efficient car.
This jumbled mess of a paragraph lumps together a bunch of data from the recent research paper to reach conclusions that are not supported by the paper it self in anyway. The New York Times is delusional if it believes you can buy a giant hunk of metal and plastic that sucks down gas, though less than some other ones, and come out with more energy savings than riding a bike or taking transit.

The paper was focused on perceptions of energy use relative to reality of differences in curtailing use and increasing efficiency. Most of the paper is focused on home appliances and not transportation. The paper does make a few conclusions on transportation, but not what the New York Times "Green" blog makes it out to be. The paper found that people vastly underestimate how much more efficient trains are compared to trucks in hauling goods (10x more efficient), and that they pretty accurately guess that planes use a lot more energy than other modes.The researchers also found that those surveyed pretty closely understood the energy savings of a car tune up, reducing traveling speed from 70 to 60, and driving a car with 10mpg more in fuel efficiency.

No where does the paper seem to suggest or conclude anything about public transit use and bicycling relative to driving other than it was listed by survey participants as the 3rd most energy efficient change one can make in an open ended question. The main conclusions from the paper were that people tend to perceive activities like turning off lights more often as being more important than more energy efficient bulbs, which is not true. Similar conclusions were made about other home appliance uses.

Maybe the New York Times bloggers should actually read the research they are reporting on, instead of making up their own bull shit conclusions. If they wanted to report on transport efficiency, maybe they should have looked at a graph of transportation mode energy use instead of a paper focused on psychology and home appliances.

This Saturday Bikeside Speaks (And I'll be one of the speakers) @ Cynergy Bike Shop, Followed By Bike-In Screening Of Disposible Film Festival And An After Party (Updated Speaker List)


Bikeside Speaks returns with it's 7 minute talks followed by Q&A, format, this time in Santa Monica. I missed it the first time around, but this time I will be there, and as one of the speakers. I've titled my talk "Redefining Freedom of Mobility Beyond The Motoring Age" and it will incorporate key ideas from some of my recent reading, as well as personal experiences. I want to touch briefly on some historical context of transportation in the United States and Los Angeles, and how driving became synonymous with freedom, an important part of the American ethos, even while restraining freedom for formerly accepted uses of the street. I believe to change our road culture to once again respect pedestrians, cyclists and public transit, we must advance the ways in which these modes can represent freedom, and challenge assumptions that hold the automobile as the dominant symbol of freedom of mobility.


The talk also includes 53rd District Democratic Candidate Betsy Butler,  Mike Bower (AKA “Cool Ass Mike”) of 1000 Bikes – a non-profit project to put bikes in the hands of foster kids and their families, and livable streets activist Stephen Box, who is now a candidate for City Council District 4 in LA.

Update, More Speakers:
  • Terry O'Day, cyclist & Santa Monica City Councilman up for re-election, will talk about Santa Monica's ongoing bike progress.
  • Cory Wilkerson, Burbank City Planner, will explain how he crafted an award winning bike plan on a shoe string budget.
  • Felicia Williams of CICLE will talk about CICLE's amazing Urban Expeditions ride, and talk you into attending Sunday's festivities at the Santa Monica Museum of Art.
  • Alex Thompson will wrap things up with discussing Bikeside's Life Before License campaign and screening the short video documentary of the Blood In Protest at the Beverly Hills Court House.
In addition to the talk, there will be a screening of the Disposable Film Festival and a Specialized bike raffle, with all proceeds going to Bikeside. I heard a couple of food trucks will be in attendance as well. Should be a fun night, hope you can make it out.

Cynergy Bike Shop
2300 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90404 (map)
  • 6:30pm – 8:30pm Bikeside Speaks! (RSVP on Facebook, Tweet-vite)
  • 8:30pm – 11pm “bike-in” screening by the Disposable Film Festival (RSVP on Facebook)
  • After party at the Hotel Erwin on Venice Beach (map)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Follow Up On The Bike Summit Hosted By Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa

Villarigosa's Bike Summit At Metro Headquarters

I don't have time for a full write up with analysis and my thoughts on everything that was discussed just yet, but I wanted to say a few things and put my photos up. First of all I want to thank Villaraigosa for making this meeting happen. As I had mentioned it was only a year ago I wrote a fake press event about the Los Angeles mayor taking cycling issues seriously as an April fools joke. Apparently Villragosa himself thought it was pretty funny because after I mentioned it during my 1 minute public speaking time, he followed up after the meeting to check it out.

Villarigosa's twitter feed.

I'd like to thank everyone who took time out of their schedule to attend, I think it sent a strong message that in spite of an inconvenient time for most people, we filled the room with cyclists. Finally I'd also like to thank Sgt. David Krumer of the LAPD, who came up to me personally, having never met previously, to inform me the case my wife Meghan had against an aggressive MTA bus driver, that had been dormant, was reopened and being investigated. He recognized after my public comment the last name and guessed correctly Meghan and I were married. It left an impression, and I can see why many activists who have been involved with recent reform efforts within the LAPD have held Sgt. Krumer in such high regard.

I'll write some more about the event this week, in the meantime, the pictures are below.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Some Quick Updates: Mayor's Bike Summit On Monday, Santa Monica Ciclovia Campaign Launches Website, and First Life Before License Planning Meeting This Weekend

• The Santa Monica Ciclovia Planning Effort Launches Website
Momentum and planning efforts are continuing to build, and the website finally gives it all a central home.
    • This Sunday Bikeside is having it's first planning meeting for Life B4 License Campaign
    Sunday 8/15, 1-3 PM @ Hollywood Adventist Church. I won't be able to attend this weekend, but plan to be involved in this campaign, which I think is a critically important issue. I hope a lot of people turn out to help make it happen.

    Villaraigosa

    • Mayor Villaraigosa's Bike Summit On Monday Morning @ 9AM
    9:00 - 11:00 a.m. on August 16, 2010 in the Board Room of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, One Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles 90012

    LA Streetsblog has some different perspectives on this event, and has been covering the development of this from when Villaraigosa was first injured after a cab cut him off while he was riding a bike on Venice Blvd. Alex Thompson has critisized the timing and planning of this bike summit, and I tend to agree (it certainly doesn't fit my schedule very well, or anyone with a day job for that matter). It's not planned for the best turnout or outcome. However I also think it is a step, and I would hope it leads to better things down the road. I do think the highest turnout possible of the cycling community is in our best interest since we will directly have the attention of a man who has the power to actually make things happen.

    Some readers may recall a year ago for April Fools I made a prank blog post of Villaraigosa finally acknowledging the importance of supporting cycling in Los Angeles after being completely silent on the matter for so long. Some people believed it, others knew right away it was a joke, but it was something that at the time felt sadly absurd that he might speak so strongly about bicycling. Well now about a year later the Mayor of Los Angeles has battle scars from street riding and is hosting a bike summit.  Whether it is well planned or not, I think we have to capitalize on this opportunity. I'll be taking time off work to be there.
      
    Villaraigosa also announced via his twitter account, a google page for collecting questions and voting their popularity, that will supplement the questions of those who attend. If you can't make it, or even if you can, it's another opprotunity for input.


      Sorting Through The Maze Of Laws Concerning Bicycling On The Sidewalk In Los Angeles County. Reminder, It Is Illegal Throughout Santa Monica.

       Sidewalk Closed

      I'm very much an advocate of bicycling belongs on the street, that sidewalk riding often results in more collisions, and streets should be made to feel safe to ride. However the reality is some people are sidewalk riding, and this is especially common where streets feel hostile to cyclists, either because of the infrastructure and or the speed and attitude of the drivers on the street. So we should pay attention to how the law applies to sidewalk riding. Where sidewalk riding is illegal but little effort is made to make the streets feel safe for bicycling, it becomes clear that a municipality is trying to squeeze bicycling out of the picture all together by forcing cyclists into a position of feeling in danger or breaking the law.

      For anyone who has every been confused by where it is and isn't legal to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk, the LADOT bike blog has started an informative series on just that question, aiming to sort out the sidewalk riding laws across all the various jurisdictions and cities of Los Angeles County. In the City of Los Angeles it is legal to ride on the sidewalk so long as without a "wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property." In some cases such as Beverly Hills, the ordinances are quite complex. Sidewalk riding is illegal there in any business district, which is defined as streets with 50% or more of buildings being commercial, but what is and isn't considered commercial business for the purposes of this law is a list that includes some things less obviously thought of as a business, like churches.

      Sidewalk Riding On 11th St

      (While this can create serious conflict with pedestrians, notice no one is walking here)

      For those not already aware, it is explicitly clear in the Santa Monica municipal code that sidewalk riding is illegal. In practice it is still fairly common, especially on streets like Lincoln Blvd. However from my observations reading the SM Daily Press Crime Watch column, and letters written into me, the sidewalk riding ordinance, and cycling violations in general, are often just a pretext for conducting drug searches. It seems like every other story that turns up in a keyword search for bicycle in Crime Watch, is either a stolen bike, or a bicyclist busted for drug possession after a minor traffic violation like sidewalk riding or absence of a front light. I don't know what the standard policy is of the SMPD, but I'm guessing they probably don't go sniffing for drugs in the trunk of every motorist they pull over for a minor traffic stop, especially one that is a fix it ticket, like no lights on a bike is.

      As a word of caution here, if you are pulled over while cycling, you do not have to comply with a bag search. Don't let an officer intimate you into doing so, but try to be respectful in the process. Riding a bicycle on a sidewalk, or without a headlight, is not sufficient probable cause to believe you are carrying drugs or contraband. If this has happened to you, feel free to send me your story. I have had letters written into me about these kinds of cases, but often with no follow up on what the outcome was. Keep in touch, these stories need to be told. Although keep in mind I am not a lawyer and my advice should not be taken as official legal council.

      If Santa Monica wants to ban cyclists off of sidewalks, than it ought to be prepared to defend cyclists from motorists who honk and yell at cyclists on the road. As of this time, I don't think Santa Monica has done enough to educate motorists and cyclists alike of what bicyclists rights are. As long as motorists feel they can freely harass cyclists with unnecessary and uncalled for honking and yelling, and using their horse power and engine revving to intimidate, some people will ride bicycles on the sidewalk no matter what the law has to say on the matter.

      This creates obvious conflicts with pedestrians, and I myself as a pedestrian have been brushed or nearly struck by bicyclists on the sidewalk. There are also a lot of sidewalks that go unused much of the time, because zoning separations have made many places undesirable to walk in because homes and goods and services are spaced so far apart. These often empty sidewalks invite cyclists afraid to ride in the street, and very little effort is made on the part of the city to inform people that sidewalk riding is in fact illegal. West Hollywood at least puts up signage informing cyclists that sidewalk riding is prohibited in certain places, and those places all have bike lanes adjacent.

      On the flip side of this, in Santa Monica we have almost as many pedestrians on the bicycle only portions of the beach path as we do cyclists. Does the SMPD patrol the beach path and issue citations to pedestrians blocking the flow of bike traffic, followed by searching their bags for drugs? If so I had trouble finding any such stories. Many cities are rife with double standards in their treatment of cyclists, and Santa Monica is no exception.

      Monday, August 9, 2010

      Approaching An Intersection, A Haiku

      The car horn honks loud
      I'm unfazed while car goes round
      We all stop for red

      Friday, August 6, 2010

      Rethinking The Way I Ride And The Routes I Choose, Life Outside The Door Lanes Of Santa Monica

      Santa Monica Door Lane / Bike Lane
      (An update to my previous "Gary Vision" graphic from last year. A commenter on a blog in Florida also made this spoof of the original image featured on my blog, calling the red door zone the death zone, where I had formally been riding the oh s**t zone, and the actual lane, for car/bike in green. Which inspired me to revisit the image as if the paint on the street reflected the reality cyclists face with highly compromised bike lanes. )

      I was under the impression I asserted my self pretty well on the road, but as I had been following along with the instruction my wife went through to become a certified bicycling instructor by the League of American Bicyclists, I've begun to rethink assumptions I held about safe riding. I would usually control a lane when there is near by parking (to avoid door zone), but sometimes hold that one third of the way over position. When riding in the bike lane I would ride to the far left of the bike lane to avoid doors, but admittedly that often results in cars to the left passing a little too close for comfort. I realized despite my assertiveness as a cyclist, I was still sometimes exchanging my personal safety for the sake of not upsetting motorists.

      Now I really get what the LAB means by lane control, if the lane is too narrow to share side by side with a car with safe passing, regardless of other factors, just control the center position of the lane, it's always safer. Drivers will pass with more distance because they know that have to get over and cannot put the squeeze on you trying to stay in the same lane. Most drivers understand that by turning their wheel a little bit to the left, and then a little bit to the right, they can actually go around. Some drivers will not understand that something in front of them not shaped like a car could be in the road. They may honk at you or worse yet, in rare cases shout to get out of their way or get on the sidewalk (sidewalk riding is illegal in Santa Monica). If you can, try to remain clam and zen. Just think of it as their way of saying they see you, and that is a good thing, considering how often "Well I didn't see" is used as an excuse in all kinds of motorist caused collisions.

      The safety instruction has also changed how I feel about bike lanes. I've always thought the design of most bike lanes in Santa Monica were total crap. Too narrow, shoved much too close to opening car doors, too inconsistent, and with often poor intersection positioning. The more I think about it, the more I feel like bike lanes as they currently exist in Santa Monica constrain safe riding rather than promote it. They are obviously the product of highly compromised politics born in the 1995 plan, and for the most part have been repeatedly painted down unchanged in design ever since.


      Seperated Bike Lane With On-Street Bicycle and Motor Bike Parking
      (For comparison, check out this bike lane I saw in Paris on my honeymoon. Separated bike lane facility that uses parking, with on-street bike parking, as a buffer from other traffic. Our city being built out, and without enough space is often an excuse for impotence in redesigning streets in the Los Angeles region. Paris is making things happen, and their bike and bus lanes are all relatively new developments. Paris is a real built out city, built out long before Los Angeles was even a twinkle in a real estate developers eye.)

      When bike lanes are present, you are obligated to ride in them, except when necessary to leave the lane because of hazards or to make an upcoming left turn, signaling first of course. Also if the speed of other traffic is as slow or slower than you are traveling, you can leave the bike lane. But what if the whole bike lane is hazardous? On certain blocks where the bike lane is especially narrow, or positioned entirely wrong, clearly the safest place to ride is always outside of the bike lane however. The law is phrased to be flexible, but I'd rather the safety of a bike lane be clear than have to argue semantics with an officer who disagrees.

      14th St. Sharrow Markings In Santa Monica

      Especially since sharrows can be used to promote safe riding without having to allocate separate space, I don't understand why they aren't used more often. I'd prefer more streets with sharrows over more door lanes. Sharrows are purely psychological, they can encourage riding out of the path of doors, and have an amazing ability to calm the number of motorists who honk at you. They simply reaffirm the existing legal rights of cyclists, and can change road way behavior with a bucket of paint and a stencil.

      Broadway Ave. between Cloverfield and 20th is narrower than most other blocks of Broadway, and like most blocks that happen to be a little narrower and are part of a Class II bike route (aka bike lanes), the squeeze is put on the space of the bike lane, not the car parking, the regular travel lane, or center turn lane. This particular block is also constantly full of delivery vehicles and the turn over rate of parked cars pulling out and opening car doors is extremely high in the work commute rush and lunch hour time periods. When I ran back through my mind, I realized nearly every close call moment I've had riding on Broadway was on those few blocks.

      So during a ride down that stretch during lunch a few weeks ago, which was especially congested with cars sticking into the bike lane at every angle and driveway opening that day, I got the idea to try something different. Since then I've been protesting the Broadway Ave. bike lane, my formerly usual route, as much as possible, and taking 2 lanes each way roads like Colorado Ave. instead. Controlling the center of the right lane as outlined by LAB instruction. On Broadway I always used to ride in the far left sliver of the bike lane to avoid car doors, but this also results in approaching cars giving me less passing distance. At least on Colorado, I can both ride where it is safe from doors and get decent passing room.

      I did have one driver put the squeeze on me in the first week doing this, but compared to the almost daily near misses I would have riding Broadway, I much prefer life outside the door lane even if the occasional driver proclaims from their window I have no such right to be in the road. If drivers want cyclists to stick to official "bike routes", perhaps they should join cyclists in asking for bike routes that don't suck.

      So as I ride currently in Santa Monica I am routing to avoid bike lanes all together, which to my initial surprise has significantly reduced the number of times I've had to evade or make a hard braking to avoid collisions. Additionally there are times where destinations I am trying to reach necessitate riding on a street with a bike lane, but rather than ride in the bike lane I am riding completely outside of it.

      While the city may wish to obligate me into shoving my self into the path of opening car doors, my personal safety comes first, so screw the bike lane, or as I refer to them now, door lanes. If the SMPD would like to write me up a ticket for riding outside an available bike lane, I'd gladly accept and would come prepared to argue in court that some bike lanes in Santa Monica are sub-standard facilities unfit to be obligated to ride in. CVC 21208 section (3) permits leaving a bike lane to "...avoid debris or other hazardous conditions" after all.

      Based on the safety literature provided in the League Of American Bicycling course instruction, I think it is perfectly reasonable to argue that on some streets in Santa Monica, the entire bike lane represents a hazard because of it's insufficient width and proximity to opening car doors. I'd like to see legislation to address careless door opening, but the truth is, even if that did exist, I would not trust door lanes, I mean bike lanes. Just because something is both illegal and has a defined fine attached, some people will still do it.

      Drivers who are driving usually, hopefully, are paying attention to what they are doing, but the moment the ignition is off, they are in another world, and concern for something like an oncoming cyclist is the last thing on their mind as they open their door. As a cyclist, you have to as much as possible take safety into your own hands. We cannot trust drivers to not swing their car doors in our path, we don't have a crumple zone, we are the crumple zone. And as long as bike lanes are designed without consideration for our safety we shouldn't so easily trust bike lanes either, and demand cities do them correctly or go back to the drawing board.

      Substandard Bike Lane Width For Potential Door Zone Risk

      Some may question why make so much fuss over car doors, isn't it that faster oncoming traffic behind that is more dangerous? There are a few reasons why door zones should be avoided entirely. First of all after you account for intersection and driveway collisions from turning cars, always the most dangerous situations for cyclists, the next most frequent motorist at fault collision with a cyclist is opening car doors, about twice as frequent as being struck from behind. Additionally, those intersection collisions are more likely when riding in the door zone, because you reduce your visibility and buffer to traffic turning at driveways and intersections. This neat little animation, though not about door zones in particular, illustrates how lane positioning effects intersection conflicts.

      Depending on the speed of the cyclist and the speed of oncoming traffic, the speed differential between you and a non-moving door may even be higher than the moving cars. The physics of speed differential is a large part of what creates the severity of an impact. Lets take Broadway for example. If car traffic is going the posted speed limit of 25 mph, and I am hustling along at 20 mph, there is only a 5 mph difference between me and the cars, but a 20 mph difference between me and a stationary door. However even if I was riding a much less bike racer sort of speed, of say 15 mph, that is still 10 mph differential between me and a car, and a 15 mph difference between me and a door.

      So not only is it more likely to be hit by a door than hit from behind, that impact with the door can in some cases be more severe than being hit by a car. To top it all off, depending on how you make impact with a door, in the most horrible dooring cases, a cyclist falls into the path of oncoming traffic after being struck by the door or after their evasion of the door. As if running into a car door and flying off your bike wasn't bad enough, it could be topped off with being run over. This is how most deaths by car door happen, it's not the door it self, it's the motorist pushing you into on-coming traffic that will be surprised to suddenly find you in their path without warning, and may not have sufficient time to brake or evade. An especially tragic example of this potentially deadly side effect of being doored, happened recently to a mother in New York. In trying to avoid sudden impact with a car door that was suddenly opened, she was still clipped by it, and then taken out by a bus. Being in the door zone turns cyclists into traffic ping pong balls, and presently most cycling infrastructure actually encourages this.

      Bike Lane With Right Hook Setup

      I don't think cities like Santa Monica are really intending to put cyclists in harms way on purpose, though that may be the outcome. I think it is the product of years of political compromise to the motoring majority, which unfortunately seems to put space for parked cars before safety or quality of life outside the metal boxes.

      I also think Santa Monica like most cities lacks perspective on the risks associated with door lanes. In one of the round table discussions members of Spoke had before Jennifer Phillips left the city, a representative from Transportation Management said their data didn't suggest the accident risk I was saying about the Broadway Ave. bike lane. First of all, I seriously doubt the accuracy of data avalible for door collisions, since many bike collisions, especially ones that don't result in an immediate hospital trip go unreported. My experience from the one time I was hit by a car, riding in the bike lane interestinglyca enough, is that SMPD, like most police departments in America, discourages cyclists from reporting collisions, much more so than incidents between two motorists.

      In the same round table room at the time was SMPD deputy chief Phillip Sanchez, now the Police Cheif of Pasadena. He was a veteran of the Santa Monica police force, and is an avid road cyclist. He was struck by a car door riding on Main St., a street with a bike lane that is for the most part entirely in the door zone. He didn't even file a police report for the door collision he was involved in. Additionally, the number of times you have to swerve around to avoid car doors, drivers pulling out, drivers cutting you off, weigh strongly on the feeling of safety, even if you don't actually get hit. Without further elaboration on how Santa Monica collects it's data, I am inclined to believe any data Santa Monica has on bicycle hazards is incomplete at best.

      Santa Monica likes to look progressive on issues and it has pointed out the miles of bike routes it has as a badge of honor in the past. However quality of bike routes is more complicated to discuss, and bike lanes if done right, take up more space than presently allocated. What good is having miles and miles of bike routes if they usually die off before a destination and are mostly crap anyways. Some of the best streets to ride, like Michigan are not even bike routes, though it is planned to become one. Meanwhile Lincoln Blvd., largely regarded as a death trap by many, full of aggro drivers and nightmarish intersections like Lincoln over the 10 freeway, is a bike route. As I've mentioned before without quality control of what the various classes of bike route mean, the distinctions become mostly meaninglessness.

      We have the beautiful beach bike path, but that does little for cycling as transportation. I can't use the beach path to get to the mid city office district, I can't use the beach path to pick up groceries, or go shopping. The bike path is first and foremost a recreational facility, and that is how it is commonly used. It is officially bike only, but everyone knows that is a joke. It's also so poorly integrated into the rest of the city that most people throw their bike into the back of a truck or on a car rack and drive their bike to the beach parking lot to go for bike ride. In it's current state I can't imagine the beach bike path reduces car trips, but most likely induces them, made possible by countless acres of parking real estate for cars on beach front property.

      Ocean Ave Cluster F*#k Bike Lane

      What we call bike lanes in most places are really just left over bits of road way. That space between the parked cars and other traffic, is one of the most dangerous places on the road for a number of reasons. Something Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa learned the hard way. Yet we put cyclists, one of the most vurnable road users, right in the hot spot. We should not accept the garbage of unwanted road space as our lane of travel and call it progress just because it is in theory bike only space. Much of the time bike lanes have cars turning across it, double parked in it, or I have even seen taxis squeeze through them on Ocean Ave., nearly taking off side view mirrors, as a short cut. Bike lanes as bike only only space only exists if it is enforced, and design is such to make it clear they are bike only and practical for that segregation.

      All it takes is one incident riding at the wrong place and time to have a driver's car door put you through facial reconstructive surgery or worse. I don't aim to find out the hard way.

      Now after saying all this I want to point out I am not anti bike lane, only anti door lanes. Some cycling advocates promote the idea of purely vehicular cycling, and that there should be no separated facilities. Especially as of late I have been riding very much to the letter of vehicular cycling, but I'm not in the camp that is against bike lanes. I think separate facilities that feel safer from other traffic on key routes are an important stepping stone to getting people to consider bikes as transportation and can form the core, to borrow a term from Bikeside, the backbone, of a cycling network. The experience of cities the world over is that if you build good infrastructure for cycling, people will ride. They key word there is good infrastructure.

      One of the reasons besides the obvious safety issues, that I have decided to take a more critical approach to these sub-standard bike lanes is that I think poorly done infrastructure can stunt the development of fostering a truly thriving cycling culture, and actually provide ammunition and justification to opponents of bicycling.  When bike lanes are done poorly, rather than feeling inviting for anyone to ride as they should be, they are still mostly populated with the same hard core riders that would exist regardless of whether bike lanes were there. As well as for the most part being underutilized for the real estate they take up. When drivers who despise cyclists see bike lanes with a low traffic flow, some cyclists still riding on the sidewalk anyways, and some cyclists trying to avoid doors hovering at the line or just outside the bike lane  (in their way as they see it), it paints a picture that justifies seeing cyclists as second class citizens of the roadway.

      An experience that left an impression on me of what is wrong with our bike routes, is when my wife's parents visited from Indiana and we all went out together by bike to a restaurant at the border of Santa Monica and Brentwood. The entire route was all class II bike routes for the whole trip, and being led by Meghan and my self, both highly experienced cyclists. My father in law said later, he was pretty terrified at first, but once he adopted a fatalistic attitude he became a lot more comfortable with the ride. Meghan's mom I think had an easier time with the experience since she was on the back of our tandem with me in the drivers seat, so she didn't have to think about the traffic mess, but simply trust that I knew what I was doing.

      Feeling as though one must adopt a fatalistic attitude to ride is not how someone should feel riding on what should be the best cycling routes the city offers. Bike Date hasn't been blogging as much lately, but his heartfelt posts about his concern for safety with his kids in tow with the poor design of Santa Monica bike lanes, highlight so clearly what is wrong here. As an individual cyclist he feels fine controlling a vehicle lane when necessary to avoid doors and such, but when he is slower and wider with a kids trailer on the back, he doesn't feel comfortable chancing being rear ended with kids back there. If a bike route doesn't feel safe to have kids with you, or your parents are nearly given a heart attack riding, than our bicycling infrastructure is quite simply a failure.

      So I urge that as soon as possible, Santa Monica begin the process of updating it's Bicycle Master plan, so we can finally move past thinking that is 15 years out of date, and finally accept bicycling as a real transportation choice in this city. LUCE has been passed, the years spent waiting for it can't be the excuse anymore. The citizens of Santa Monica have bikes, they want to ride them, and want to feel safe doing so, and know that their bike won't be stolen when they get back from their errand.

      Thursday, August 5, 2010

      Cause for Creativity: Tour da Arts, vol. 2, at the Santa Monica Museum of Art on Sunday, August 22

      Sunday the 22nd the Santa Monica Musuem of Art and CICLE are putting on what sounds like an awesome combination of cycling and cultural events around town. The Bikerowave will also be there at the start helping people with their bikes and topping off air pressure. I missed it due to a schedule conflict the first time around, but I don't want to miss it this time.Word has it the registration for the free event is filling up fast, and the bike rentals that were being offered are already tapped out. If you want to be apart, register ASAP. Check the link for registration, full details, and times for the different workshops and events.


      (from release:)

      Cause for Creativity: Tour da Arts, vol. 2Sunday, August 22

      Reduce your dependency on oil and pedal on over to SMMoA for our second annual Cause for Creativity: Tour da Arts event offering a spoke card art workshop, cultural bike tour, and an exhibition closing party. 

      Depart from SMMoA and make a first stop at The Broad Stage to hear live music with cellist and cycling enthusiast Ben Sollee. The next stop at Virginia Avenue Park will feature Katie the Curst, scenes from an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, presented by The Actors’ Gang and directed by Lisa Wolpe. Return to SMMoA for an exhibition closing party and bike-themed festivities.

      Certified cyclists from C.I.C.L.E. (Cyclists Inciting Change thru Live Exchange) lead the bike tour, which proceeds at a moderate and social pace and obeys all traffic laws.

      What to Bring: A bicycle in good running order. All participants under 18 must wear a helmet and be escorted by a parent or guardian. Children under age 9 should be on a tag-along, bike trailer, tandem, or other safe child-carrying device.

      Bike Rentals: Reservations Full. FREE bike rental opportunity provided by Perry's Cafe and Rentals!
      Cause for Creativity: Tour da Arts, vol. 2 is made possible in part by the City of Santa Monica and the Santa Monica Arts Commission, HBO, and Nordstrom.