Today the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed the Los Angeles Bike Plan. It is no longer a draft document.
Everyone’s goal at the March 1, 2011 Council session was to do whatever necessary to get the plan passed today. Councilman LaBonge needed to give his equestrian constituents something they could live with so that the plan could move forward. The result was an amendment (underlined) to policy 3.3.5:
Continue the existing off-road bicycle trail and analyze and explore opportunities for additional off-road bicycle facilities and continue to abide by LAMC section 63.44 B16. Any proposal to consider the use of mountain bikes on City park trails must first be thoroughly reviewed and analyzed by the Board of Recreation & Parks and its staff.
This simply puts in writing what will have to happen anyway before any changes to bike access to City Parks could be made. It was enough to placate the equestrian community, and did not really change anything. It was enough of a deal to get the Plan passed.
Being short on time, public comments were limited to 20 minutes. Mark Langton, Steve Messer and Jim Shanman all addressed the Council supporting the plan. Members of the Bicycle Advisory Committee and LACBC also spoke in favor of the plan. In fact, everyone in the room except the 30 or so equestrians in the room love the plan. Some of the equestrians even spoke in support of the Plan, as long as it included LaBonge’s amendment, though several of them still called for the removal of all off-road elements.
One of the unfortunate consequences of the equestrian lobby’s usurping of the whole Bike Plan process is that they had begun to create a division between road/urban cyclists and mountain bikers. The road cyclists have been angered by the fact that every public hearing about the Bike Plan has been overrun by equestrians complaining and lobbying as hard as they can against anything off-road in the plan. This has been a distraction from getting the transportation elements of the Plan completed and passed. Considering the size and scope of the plan, this very small section has garnered more attention and controversy than any of the road and transportation elements, especially in the last twelve months. It is a relief to put that behind us.
Their arguments that off-road cycling does not belong in a bicycle plan doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. A bicycle can be used for commuting off-road, if suitable trails exist. The road cycling portions of the plan do not and cannot distinguish between recreational and transportational riding. A bike is a bike, and this is a Bike Plan.
It has been a long process to put together such a comprehensive plan. The on-street and transportation elements of the plan have been lauded by cycling, transportation and livable communities advocates as the most well-thought out plan possible. It is a much better plan that the 1996 plan that it replaces (except of course for us in the removal of the off-road pilot programs that had never happened). One of the major differences in this plan is that it has an implementation strategy and accountability, with regular reporting on its progress. The onus is now on the City to follow through and implement the plan. LACBC staff were going straight from the Council Chambers to immediately begin working with the City, planning the first “paint on the ground” of the plan, a very good sign.
The Mayor will be signing the plan in a Ceremony at City Hall tomorrow, March 2nd at 9:30 a.m.
Now it will be up to us to continue developing relations with City Council members to ensure that the studies of off-road bicycle issues move forward. We won’t be seeing any new trails for bikes in the City anytime soon, but we have a document to guide us in working with the City of Los Angeles.
Our thanks to the City of Los Angeles Planning Commission, Department of Transportation, Bicycle Advisory Committee, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, and all those who helped make this plan what it is today.
Video of the entire council proceeding (You will need to have Microsoft Silverlight installed to view the video):