Yesterday, Tuesday May 3rd 2011, when I should have been doing important stuff (like raising funds for CicLAvia), I took my afternoon off to attend the city of Los Angeles’ monthly “BPIT” meeting. The “Bike Plan Impedi… er… Implementation Team” is a monthly meeting where, theoretically, city staff meet with interested non-city staff and figure out how to implement the city’s Bike Plan… or not.
Yesterday’s meeting was particularly frustrating because the city is proposing to spend 500 thousand dollars to spend “12-18 months*” to decide whether it will implement 100-200 thousand dollars worth of bike lane projects. The main issue is whether the city has to spend huge amounts of money studying environmental impacts before proceeding with implementing approved bike lanes. Here are a few excerpts from the meeting… I’ve definitely reworded them, putting them in my own words.
City Staff: We asked consultants who get paid to do expensive studies, and they said the city should pay to do expensive studies.
Public: Did you talk to cities, like Long Beach or Burbank, that have been successful in bike project implementation?
City Staff: No. The consultants said we should pay and delay, so that’s what we’re doin’.
City Staff: We met with a city attorney and they said that we should do these studies.
Public: Even though the city’s own guidelines** say we don’t need to?
City Staff: Yes – pay no attention to those guidelines. Time to delay is now.
Public: Did you get the city attorney to put that in writing?
City Staff: No. The city attorney just verbally said we should pay and delay, so that’s what we’re doin’.
City Staff: We decided that we need to study, pay and delay on these projects but not on those projects. And some of the projects we told you we weren’t going to delay – well, we’re delaying those… and some of the projects we were going to delay, well, we decided maybe not to delay.
Public: How did you decide which projects to delay? What’s the threshold?
City Staff: Well, it’s a complicated engineering thing, you wouldn’t understand it. It’s really complicated. Trust us.
Public: Please share your data and results with us so we can review it. [repeat five or six times]
City Staff: Well, if you insist, we’ll reluctantly share our data, in a couple weeks or so, but we don’t think you’ll understand it. (following on indignantly) We’re all on this team together. Why don’t you trust us?
Public: We don’t trust the LADOT [Department of Transportation] because the LADOT has lied to us before.*** Show us the data. If you want trust, build it.
And that’s the topsy turvy world of the BPIT. It occurred to me that bicyclists should really let the Mayor Villaraigosa and councilmembers know that the bike plan they touted, with 40-miles of bikeway per year is being delayed and demolished before our eyes.
Here’s a sample letter to the mayor – you can post it via email at his website:
Honorable Mayor Villaraigosa –
Please make sure that you make good on your promises to implement bike lanes. The Departments of Transportation and Planning are blocking and delaying these projects. Please exercise your leadership to make sure bike lanes are implemented at the 40-50 miles/year specified in your plan. Don’t delay.
Thanks for your attention to this important matter!
Send an email to the mayor and to your councilmember.
* Regarding “12-18 months” for environmental review. City staff clarified that the clock doesn’t start on this until, at earliest, this fall. My hunch is that “12-18 months” is a euphemism for 2-4 years.
** City of Los Angeles Environmental Quality Act Guidelines, adopted July 31st 2002, Council File Index 02-1507, page 15 listing of projects exempt from environmental clearance, #13 “The creation of bicycle lanes on existing rights-of-way.”
*** For the most egregious and well-documented example of LADOT lying about bike lane stuff, see the Reseda Boulevard bike lane lies, where the LADOT in writing said it had no plans for additional car lanes, even though those plans had already been reported in writing by the LADOT. Told in gory details here.